Monthly Archives: October 2021

BWS 10.11.21: Mary Lou Dickinson

Mary Lou Dickinson, a Toronto writer, grew up in northern Quebec. Her first book, One Day It Happens, was published at 70. Four more books since include short stories, two novels, and a mystery. She has also completed a memoir and a self-help book on retirement issues. Click here for more information.

It is at least my third appearance at Brockton. Why am I here? An old white woman. Perhaps because I have valued and supported the diversity of this series from its inception. Perhaps because of my work in the field of violence against women. It was there that I first encountered anti- oppression and anti-racism training in the 1990s. Something that was powerful and questioned the assumptions that pervaded my life from childhood that I had resisted and fought without really understanding why. It was difficult, but a profound relief to find I could understand and continue to fight, knowing that what I had observed so long ago with the wisdom of children was a profoundly unfair society run primarily by white, privileged men. 

Or maybe because I am old?

My life has spanned beginnings in a frontier mining town where people of many backgrounds arrived to mine for gold or support that infrastructure to my present reality in urban Toronto. There were no old people in the mining camp area since it was brand new. I was always fascinated by old people since other than my grandparents in then faraway Toronto, I rarely saw anyone who had reached that stage. In an early home in Toronto, a main floor apartment of a house, the owners who lived above us were in their eighties (the age I am now). I reflect on this these days because I am encountering a prevalent ‘ism’ of which I had no previous in depth understanding. My descriptions of older people in stories were from the outside. Whereas now I am on the inside and wonder how to convey what it is like to be old as well as the ‘isms’ around that. 

The strands that have joined the various segments of my life, as well as family, have found convergence in writing, Although that writing did not come to full public fruition until my first book, a collection of short stories, “One Day It Happens,” was published the year I turned seventy. It was not hailed as the first published work of someone of that age. One reads about writers publishing their first novel at forty, fifty or sixty with great praise and some expression of surprise. Even when my first novel, “Ile d’Or,” was published three years later and favourably reviewed, this did not happen. Three books beyond that, I wonder, is my obscurity a result of being female and now, old?  When I decided to self- publish my most recent book, my fifth by then, my publisher had already accepted another manuscript of mine and I felt my timeline shortening. So, this fifth book, another collection of short stories called “Dance Season” was done through Amazon. And you can purchase copies or ebooks on Amazon

The characters in “Dance Season” are in their sixties, old to many readers. I like to think of them as at a mature age, but some of their behaviour in the stories suggests they nonetheless remain juvenile in many ways. But the characters I contemplate now when I want to try to capture this age that reflects my reality are much older than that. 

One very recent story is called “Watch Out For The Old Lady.” When you hear a bunch of teenage boys circling you and calling out this phrase, it is overwhelming. If I coloured my bangs again either the fuchsia or teal colour I favoured before the pandemic, would it merely cause humour now? Or would I suddenly appear to have individual characteristics and humanity? Or would I still be the subject of their humour and disdain? I know when I used those colours before, leaving the rest white, it elicited conversation everywhere I went, as if ageist observations had no relevance in the light of this youthful gesture.

Such questions are often what I ponder these days. How did the time pass so quickly? How did I reach such an advanced age? It is often said that one is as old as one feels. And I have maintained the reputation of being young by continuing to face life with a youthful spirit. But I know the truth of aging and physical decline that I never understood even as I cared long ago for aging parents. I won’t go into the symptoms or the conditions I have started to confront that began in the last couple of years.  Details vary from one individual to another. Just know that if you have the good fortune to live a long life even with its surprises, you will be very lucky. And that the best way to deal with that now might be to treat your older friends and relatives with kindness and respect. Enjoy them. Help them to go on achieving their dreams! Help them to deal with their new realities and challenges! 

I go to a dance class where I sit and watch most of the time because I can no longer maintain my balance and the turns and spins make me dizzy. Everyone is masked and double vaccinated. The teacher dances a few steps with me in each class I attend. And I am happy not to have to give up entirely something that has been a passion for many years. I am happy that the younger people there (not altogether young, more middle aged) are glad to see me. We talk about dance, politics, climate change, diversity, etc. This is my reality. It is different than it was even before the pandemic in ways I had not foreseen, but not because of the pandemic. Because so many changes happened to me during it. But it is enlightening to find out what another ‘ism’ feels like and try to take steps to define it from the inside rather than only from observing and describing it and wondering what comes next! 

Please don’t treat me like someone who is not here. Sometimes people ask me what I used to do. I tell them what I do now is what I will tell them about. So I do! I also recall when my mother was in hospital years ago and the doctors talked over her to me. It was as if she weren’t even in the room.  I had to let them know that they needed to talk to her directly. People have to continue to deal with me now, too! Yes, I am old, but I am still here. I am still in the room. And I am still writing and publishing and seeking a fair and just society.

Mary Lou Dickinson visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Kelly RobsonLisa Richterand Jael Richardson. Our guest speaker Deborah Dundas will take us through, “Inside the Pages: A Book Editor Demystifies the News and Reviews Process.”

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 10.11.21: Kelly Robson

Kelly Robson is a Canadian short fiction writer.  She was awarded the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and both the 2019 and 2016 Aurora Awards for best Short Story. She has also been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, Locus, Astounding, Aurora, and Sunburst awards.

Books Are Not Toys

Recently, I sent a bunch of books to the daughter of a friend-of-a-friend. Though I’d never met the kid, I’d heard stories about her passionate, precocious attachment to books. To say I found that relatable would be an understatement.

I’ve loved books my whole life. When I was a kid, most books came to me by chance, and getting enough of them was always an issue because reading was everything to me, in a way nobody seemed to understand.

When I air-dropped the reading survival pack on the book-crazy kid, her dad said, “She’s going to get spoiled.” My brain exploded. I finally understood, nearly fifty years later, why my parents were so reluctant to keep me in books.

What my parents don’t understand is that if you have eight books, and you read two of them a day, after a couple of months you basically have no books.

It turns out that my parents thought books were the same as toys: If you have some, you don’t need more. But books are emphatically not toys. Books are air and water, essential for life. Access to books is a survival issue to a book-based lifeform. I starved for them, and I’m still bitter about it.

We lived in a small town with no bookstores. The town library was in the high school, and it was full of scary older kids. Mom took me there once or twice when I was seven, but she wouldn’t let me take out chapter books because she thought they were too old for me. When my parents divorced, my mother moved to Edmonton and worked at a mall. I spent a lot of time wandering around there alone, and was thrilled to discover the library in the mall basement, but that’s a saga about the entire Black Stallion series which ended with me never going in there again, despite a kind librarian who waived a year of late fees.

So, I became not just a reader, but a re-reader, consuming books forty or a hundred times over — even the ones I didn’t particularly like. When I was a little older, and had some money of my own to spend, I discovered the Science Fiction and Fantasy section of the mall bookstore and my life got much, much better.

Today, I have all the books I could ever want. I never deny myself a book I want, but even so, I’m still a re-reader.

And I think that perhaps that skill has led me to where I am now. If I’d had all the books I wanted, I would have still loved and appreciated them, but forming the re-reading habit allowed me to steep my brain in the writing rhythms of my favorite writers. Re-reading gives me gives me skills and insights I probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

So, am I thankful for my bookless childhood? Definitely not! So let’s spread the word, books are not toys. Some kids need books, and lots of them.

Kelly Robson visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Mary Lou DickinsonLisa Richterand Jael Richardson. Our guest speaker Deborah Dundas will take us through, “Inside the Pages: A Book Editor Demystifies the News and Reviews Process.”

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 10.11.21

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Kelly Robson

Mary Lou Dickinson

Lisa Richter

Jael Richardson

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

Inside the Pages: A Book Editor Demystifies the News and Reviews Process

Deborah Dundas is the Books Editor at the Toronto Star with a broad background in the media, including stints in business, lifestyle, and national and city politics, in television and in newspapers, in Canada and while working and living in Northern Ireland. She’s reported and edited/produced on air and for print – and has interviewed some of the world’s most recognizable authors including Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Colson Whitehead, Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith and John Irving. She regularly appears on stage, television and radio and is deeply involved with the literary community, often acting as a juror or host. She studied English and Political Science at Toronto’s York University and is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of King’s College.

READERS

Kelly Robson is a Canadian short fiction writer.  She was awarded the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and both the 2019 and 2016 Aurora Awards for best Short Story. She has also been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, Locus, Astounding, Aurora, and Sunburst awards.

Mary Lou Dickinson, a Toronto writer, grew up in northern Quebec. Her first book, One Day It Happens, was published at 70. Four more books since include short stories, two novels, and a mystery. She has also completed a memoir and a self-help book on retirement issues. Click here for more information.

Lisa Richter (she/her) is a poet, writer, editor, and ESL teacher. She is the author of two books of poetry, Closer to Where We Began (Tightrope Books, 2017) and Nautilus and Bone (Frontenac House, October 2020), winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry, the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry, the Alberta Book Publishing Association’s Robert Kroestsch Award for Poetry, and longlisted for the Raymond Souster Award. She facilitates workshops with the Writers Collective of Canada, a charitable organization that promotes exploratory writing in community. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FreeFall Magazine, The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, Grain, EXILE, among other placesShe lives in Tkaronto/Toronto. You can find her online at www.lisarichter.org.

Jael Richardson is the author of The Stone Thrower, a book columnist on CBC’s q and the founder and Executive Director for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) in Brampton, Ontario. Her debut novel, Gutter Child was shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and lives in Brampton, Ontario.

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