Monthly Archives: August 2021

BWS 08.09.21: Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of the Green Bone Saga, beginning with Jade City and continuing in Jade War and the forthcoming Jade Legacy, as well as the acclaimed science fiction novels ZeroboxerExo and Cross Fire. Fonda is a three-time Aurora Award winner and a multiple finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards. Find her online at www.fondalee.com.

Ahead of her appearance on September 8, Fonda Lee shares her Guest of Honour Speech that she delivered at When Words Collide. Read more to find out why she loves being a novelist!

Ten Reasons I Love Being A Novelist

I initially thought that for this speech, I would talk about the challenges of being a creative professional during the pandemic. The importance of being resilient, adaptable, and so on. But then, it occurred to me that it’s so rare to be unabashedly happy these days. It’s almost as if every time we talk about things going well, we must add the caveat, “given the circumstances.”

I’m launching Jade Legacy, the final book in the Green Bone Saga on November 30, and what I truly want is to be unreservedly happy about it. Writing this trilogy has been a passion project that’s consumed more than six years of my life, and it’s been wonderful to see fans getting excited for the conclusion to the series. So decided instead that I want to take this opportunity to talk about why I love my job. Writing is not my first career. Ten years ago, I decided to transition out of my corporate job in order to pursue a dream of writing science fiction and fantasy novels. There have been plenty of challenges along the way, but I have no regrets.

Here’s why.

1. I Get to Be A Control Freak.

So much in the world feels entirely out of control right now. But in my job, I get to be in complete control. I create entire worlds, populate them with people, and determine what happens. I’m the god of my story. My vision is paramount and my authority is absolute.

Other types of media require a collaborative creative effort. I’ve written for comics. I’ve seen the Hollywood scriptwriting process up close. It can be a lot of fun to work with a team in someone else’s fictional world. But for me, nothing beats being a novelist when it comes to the gratification of knowing that what you’re putting on the page is as purely yourself as can be.

2. I Get to Build Worlds.

I’m a worldbuilding junkie! It’s why I love being a science fiction and fantasy writer.

What I enjoy most about worldbuilding isn’t the setting, but the society and culture. Characters and the decisions they make are a product of the societies they inhabit. Creating the complicated interplay between character, world, and plot is one hundred percent my jam.

Many people have asked me if the Green Bone Saga is based on a place in the real world—whether that be Japan, China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. The answer is that it’s based on all and none of those places. I built the fictional island of Kekon and its capital city of Janloon from the ground up, striving to create a place that was both recognizable and entirely different. For me, that’s where the fun lies. My goal with worldbuilding is always to create a sense of versimilitude. I want the reader to feel like this place exists, that they could get on a plane to visit it. It’s why I love coming up with the specific details: the names for streets, restaurants, even luxury cars.

3. I’ll Always Have the Perfect Book On Hand.

I wanted to read a story that blended inspirations of epic fantasy, kung fu flicks, and gangster movies. I wanted a family saga featuring Asians who weren’t funny and wholesome model minorities, but sexy, dangerous alpha Asians. I couldn’t find that book. So I wrote it.

Most people who have to search for a book. I can simply spend years writing it. Ha!

4. I Already Work From Home.

Even before the pandemic and its lockdowns, I was already accustomed to working on the sofa in pajama pants. Way ahead of you all!

(Unfortunately, I didn’t account for having the whole family in my office…)

5. Anything I Learn Might Be Story Material.

My day job as a corporate strategist at Nike wound up inspiring me to write Zeroboxer, my debut science fiction novel about an athlete competing in zero gravity. My decades training in martial arts have gone into the fight scenes of the Green Bone Saga. Hawk walks I took in Ireland while on vacation went into the novella I just turned in to my publisher.

My advice to teen writers has always been to go out and live life as much as as possible. Everything you experience is fodder for storytelling.  

6. I Can Justify All My Entertainment Choices as Research.

I watched so much UFC while writing Zeroboxer. All these yakuza movies were definitely Green Bone Saga research. Reading books—in fact, consuming stories in any form—is a necessary part of my job, because I need to stay well informed about the industry. I’ve watched a lot of anime during this pandemic and I see it as 100% tax deductible professional development.

7. No One Can Fire Me.

Bad things could happen. My books could sell poorly, my publisher could drop me, I could fail to sell my next novel. All of those things have happened to authors I know. But at the end of the day, the only person who can stop me from writing is myself.

This job is filled with disappointments, but very few of them are fatal if you refuse to let them be. You can come back after a dry spell. You can self publish. You can write in a new genre or in a new category with a new name. If you’re a writer, you’re the only one who can fire you.

8. I Have Really Cool Colleagues.

When I left my office job to be a writer, I worried I might be lonely. I haven’t missed a single day in the office.

That’s because I’ve found the community of writers to be a lot more fun and interesting than any other workplace. Writers come from all walks of life—ages, places, backgrounds—but we all share a passion for storytelling. I have good friends, whom I’ve known for years, and I still don’t know what they do in their day job or even their real name.

Word of advice to up and coming authors: Find your community. With fellow writers to lean on, cheer you, and lift each other up, this isn’t a lonely profession at all.

9. I Put A Morally Good Product Into the Universe.

My former corporate jobs were enjoyable enough at the time and paid well, but I essentially helped billion-dollar companies sell more stuff. You’ve got to wonder sometimes: How many sneakers do people really need?

I have zero guilt about putting more books into the world.  Especially with so much of the market now in ebooks and audio, books are non-polluting, low carbon footprint products that bring only happiness and greater knowledge. How could we have gotten through this pandemic without the entertainment and solace of stories?

Books aren’t a one-size-fits-all widget. Your book doesn’t need to sell a ton of copies to be meaningful. It may be the perfect book for a few readers who don’t even know they need it yet.

10. My Book Could Be Someone’s Favorite Book.

Books are small potatoes compared to blockbuster movies and other more popular forms of media. Science fiction and fantasy is only one genre within the marketplace of books. And my books are just a tiny piece of that pie. And yet, I know my work is nevertheless meaningful because every once in a while, a reader will contact me to say, “You wrote my favorite book.”

Their favorite book. There are a lot of books in the world, but I wrote that person’s favorite.

In this industry, there are many external markers of success: big book deals, sales, awards, and so on. It’s easy to become fixated on them, and to forget that there’s always another human being on the other end of the relationship between writer and reader. I tell aspiring writers: Never try to write a book that will please everyone. That is impossible. Write the book that’s perfect for you. Then go out and find the readers for whom your book might be their favorite.

One of the hardest things about the pandemic for me has been missing events, book signings, and cons. Those are my opportunities to see my readers, to be reminded of the fact that when a book I wrote reaches someone, a special bond is formed between strangers. I may never meet or speak to that person. They might never contact me. But I gave something precious to someone else, and that is really, really cool.

It’s why I love being a novelist.

Fonda Lee visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Jónína Kirton, Antonio Michael Downingand C. L. Polk . Our guest speaker Tamara Faith Berger will talk us through, “Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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BWS 08.09.21: Antonio Michael Downing

Antonio Michael Downing grew up in southern Trinidad, Northern Ontario, Brooklyn, and Kitchener. He is a musician, writer, and activist based in Toronto. His 2010 debut novel, Molasses (Blaurock Press), was published to critical acclaim. In 2017 he was named by the RBC Taylor Prize as one of Canada’s top Emerging Authors for nonfiction. He performs and composes music as John Orpheus.

“I’ve been travelling for so very long. Trying to find some place that feels like home. And there are many things that you can take from me. But what you can’t take away, is the love that is found, In our sweet destiny.”


– John Orpheus on Fela Awoke (I Will Miss You)

FELA AWOKE (I WILL MISS YOU) is the first single from my album SAGA KING which is the companion to my memoir SAGA BOY (Penguin Random House). I consider them two parts of one work of art: the book is the journey of the boy, the album is the celebration of the arrival of the man. It celebrates sovereignty over oneself. 

Fela Awoke (I Will Miss You) tells the story of the death of Nigerian music legend, Fela Kuti, Jamaican icon Bob Marley and my own Grandmother, who features prominently in the first 100 pages of the memoir. It ends by repeating the Yoruba phrase Madele (which means ‘I will find my way home’), as the theme of  a quest for a spiritual home while drawing from hope, history and Black resilience runs through both the book and the album.

Click here to hear Fela Awoke

This song means everything to me. It’s a deeply personal story and it’s reaching for something more profound than I’ve ever tried to say in a song. My people are Yoruba from West Africa and, when I grew up in Trinidad, we still spoke some words after 150 plus years. So, as a grown musician, I always felt connected to Fela Kuti. In a year where life has been so fragile, this is my response. It is unique to me but feels somehow universal. 

Antonio Michael Downing visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Jónína KirtonFonda Leeand C. L. Polk . Our guest speaker Tamara Faith Berger will talk us through, “Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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BWS 08.09.21: Jónína Kirton

Jónína Kirton, a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet was sixty-one when she received the 2016 Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category. Her second collection of poetry, An Honest Woman, was a finalist in the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. 

“We don’t always get to choose what we write about…this piece definitely choose me and I am so glad it did,” says Jónína about her latest work, A Story Within Many Stories.

A Story Within Many Stories

Every word I select is at the expense of others. – Betsy Warland, Bloodroot: Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss

Much of my writing has been about loss and intergenerational trauma from the perspective of a mixed race, settler/Indigenous woman. As I tried to tell my story, the question of ‘whose story is this to tell’, presented itself over and over and yet I was obsessed with understanding/uncovering all that my family preferred to hide. Born in 1955 to an Icelandic/Irish mother and a Métis father I was a curious child and often considered ‘too sensitive’.  I had no one to tell me that my curiosity was a good thing or that my sensitivity was empathy and that this was a gift. There was no one to help me learn how to live with gifts that can make it hard to be in this colonized, patriarchal world so when my niece, Gabby was born in 2004, I knew I needed to be there for her. Sadly, economics and distance made this impossible so I wrote books thinking of her, hoping that one day she would read them.  I wanted to tell her the truth of what life is like for mixed blood women and part of this truth telling included the abuse I had suffered at the hands of my own father (her grandfather whom she loved deeply). It made me want to be even more careful, and fair, to my father. For a time, I felt like a declawed cat, but I still had my mouth, my words became sharp teeth, pointed so that they could sink deeper into the truth. So rather than scratching or clawing, creating disorganized chaos, they were like arrows landing deeply inside. Unquestionable. They became unquestionable offerings detailing abuse without an opinion about my abusers, whoever they were.  Like so many limitations, it brought creativity that I might not have been able to come to otherwise.

I am happy to say that now that my niece is seventeen, we connect regularly via social media. We have been getting to know one another. She speaks to me about her thoughts on things like social justice and has become interested in poetry. In one of our last communications, she sent me a Virginia Woolf quote that inspired this poem:

rooted

for my niece Gabby

I am rooted, but I flow.
– Virginia Woolf, Waves

I am a story within the stories of many

I am a paradox

one thing and then another

parts of a whole

that does not know itself

turning towards the invisible

I can see the limits of knowledge

the places where formulas dissolve

into knowing that can only come

when quiet and walking in a forest

where the standing ones watch and wait

for us to return to ourselves to the new stories that are waiting to unfold

I pray daily to the Ancestors and ask them to help me walk in a good way so that I can be there for my niece, for all who come behind me. One way I know of ‘being there for others’ is to be honest. I focus on this so much as it was the one thing I most wanted from my mother, my father, my aunts, and uncles. I don’t want to be one of those that bury natural curiosity and talents or gifts under a blanket of misinformation that can take a lifetime to unravel. If honesty/truth is there, we can then properly assess what is needed. That was why they called it Truth and Reconciliation. There can be no reconciliation or healing without truth. There can be no new stories until we face the past, accept the truth and then together find our way forward. ~ All my Relations

Jónína Kirton visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, September 8, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Antonio Michael DowningFonda Leeand C. L. Polk . Our guest speaker Tamara Faith Berger will talk us through, “Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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Brockton Writers Series 08.09.21

Wednesday, September 8, 2021 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Jónína Kirton

Antonio Michael Downing

Fonda Lee

C. L. Polk

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

The reading is PWYC (suggested $3-$5) and features a Q&A with the writers afterward. Books are available for sale.

 If you’d like to donate, please do so here.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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 —

GUEST SPEAKER

“Messing with the Pipes: Writing Sex with Substance”

Tamara Faith Berger writes fiction, non-fiction and screenplays. She is the author of Lie With Me (2001) and The Way of the Whore (2004) which were republished together by Coach House Books as Little Cat in 2013, Maidenhead (2012) which won The Believer Book Award, and Kuntalini (2016). Her fifth book, Queen Solomon, was published by Coach House Books in October 2018 and it was nominated for a Trillium Book Award. Her work has been published in Apology MagazineCanadian Art, Taddle Creek and Canadian Notes and Queries. She has a BFA in Studio Art from Concordia University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She lives and works in Toronto where she co-runs the literary speaking series Smutburger. 

READERS

Jónína Kirton, a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet was sixty-one when she received the 2016 Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category. Her second collection of poetry, An Honest Woman, was a finalist in the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. 

Antonio Michael Downing grew up in southern Trinidad, Northern Ontario, Brooklyn, and Kitchener. He is a musician, writer, and activist based in Toronto. His 2010 debut novel, Molasses (Blaurock Press), was published to critical acclaim. In 2017 he was named by the RBC Taylor Prize as one of Canada’s top Emerging Authors for nonfiction. He performs and composes music as John Orpheus.

Fonda Lee is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of the Green Bone Saga, beginning with Jade City and continuing in Jade War and the forthcoming Jade Legacy, as well as the acclaimed science fiction novels Zeroboxer, Exo and Cross Fire. Fonda is a three-time Aurora Award winner and a multiple finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards. Find her online at www.fondalee.com.

C. L. Polk (they/them) wrote the Kingston Cycle, including the WFA winning Witchmark. The Midnight Bargain was a Canada Reads, Nebula, Locus, Ignyte, and WFA finalist. Mx. Polk lives in the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, and the Métis Nation (Region 3).

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BWS 14.07.21: In case you missed it!

Click here to see the recorded live stream of our July 14th event featuring Kiran Bhat, Kamila Rina, Prakash Krishnan, Carrianne Leung, and guest speaker Sonia Vaillant who talked us through, “Audio books 101”.

Stay tuned for our next event on Wednesday, September 8th at 6:30pm!

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