Author Archives: all words on me

BWS 09.01.19 report: “How Can We Work Together Towards the Respectful Representation of Marginalized Identities?” with Dorothy Ellen Palmer

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Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a disabled senior writer, accessibility consultant, and retired high school Drama teacher and union activist. Her disability memoir, Falling For Myself, will appear with Wolsak and Wynn in Fall 2019. She can always be found tweeting @depalm.

At our last event, Dorothy shared stories of her experiences as a disability sensitivity reader, exploring the do’s and don’ts, the reach and limitations, the boundaries and ethics, of working collaboratively with abled writers. She also talked about how disability sensitivity reading has helped her to understand the need for sensitivity readings.

The What, Why, and How, of Sensitivity Readings 

What are sensitivity readings?

A sensitivity readings is another layer of research. After consulting traditional sources, books, journals, the internet, interviews, etc., it’s a decision to ask a living “expert” about the writing itself. It can be done for any piece of work– poems, short stories, blogs, interviews, podcasts, articles, and books. It can occur at the request of author and possibly editor and publisher.

When we think of sensitivity readings, we usually think of cultural and racialized sensitivities. We typically think of a white writer wanting extra feedback about a character who is Black, Indigenous or a person of colour, or a straight, cis writer wanting feedback about a transgender character. I want to be clear: I do not do sensitivity readings for cultures, races or identities not my own. I equally do not do sensitivity reading for disabilities not my own, for blind or deaf characters. I refer all those questions to those qualified to do so. In post 150 Canada, in respect for reconciliation, given the vile Appropriation Prize, and the current behaviour of Canadian Governments prepared to violate Indigenous land for oil, it is particularly important that settler writers seek Indigenous feedback about Indigenous characters.

In general, the need for extra research, awareness and sensitivity holds true for any writer wanting to write about any marginalized experiences not their own. I began referring students to seek out lived experience informally thirty years ago as a High School senior Writer’s Craft teacher. After I retired, my first novel When Fenelon Falls came out with Coach House in 2010. Because it has a disabled protagonist, and because I spoke openly about the fact that I am old, and both disabled and chronically ill, I began getting sensitivity inquiries on my experiences.

At first, I provided all kinds of advice for free. I loved it when it was a swap, where two authors could exchange work and help each other. As I became more skilled about how to help, and more aware of the concern of the disabled community that we are too often expected to provide our expertise and experience for free, I still do swaps, but when asked to read whole articles or books, depending on the author’s ability to do so, today I ask to be paid. I’ve accepted payments from $20 to $300 for three months feedback. Sensitivity readings will not make you rich.

 Why do writers and readers need sensitivity readings about disability?

All books produced in ableist culture will have some degree of ableism. It isn’t always conscious or overt. The use of stereotypes and tropes are often completely inadvertent on the part of abled writers, and sometimes even disabled writers. It isn’t about removing ableism so much as it it about how the author treats it. The real struggle with writing disabled characters is to give them enough of two sometimes contradictory things: realistic barriers and defeats that acknowledge their struggle with systemic ableism, and realistic successes which keep them from being tragic victims, or inspiration porn.

Depending on what the author has asked me to provide feedback about, here are five things I like to address in my sensitivity readings of novels:

  1. The use of ableist language both in narration and conversation
  2. The use of stereotypical inspiration porn, using disabled people as props to make abled people feel good about themselves
  3. The use of ableist tropes such as: making disabled lives tragic and pitiful, longing for a cure, the discovery of miraculous cures or killing us off
  4. The individual denial of ableism, creating supercrips who “overcome” all obstacles
  5. The erasure of systemic ableism, no portrayal/discussion of systemic barriers, omitting or white-washing bullying, insults, slurs, prejudices, and societal barriers

 How can we all best work together towards the the respectful representation of identities?

-Request a sensitivity reading after first draft or early enough that the author is open to change

-When other research has been thorough

– When the author’s questions are clear and they are willing to revise them and ask new ones

-When author and sensitivity reader collaborate, understanding that the book is the author’s

-When the author isn’t pandering or sanitizing, they want characters who aren’t saints, who fail, who are human beings who sometimes act badly

-When authors, editors, and publishers aren’t looking for a stamp of approval

-When sensitivity readers stay ethically in their own lane, don’t speak beyond their experience

-When we both learn things through our collaboration

When we all work collaboratively together, it is my firm belief that together we can build better books and a stronger more diverse and representative Can Lit.

 

Stay tuned for features on our upcoming writers! 

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BWS 09.01.19: Judy Rebick

JudyRebick

Judy Rebick is a life-long feminist activist, journalist and writer.  She is the founder of rabble.ca, a former President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, a leader of the pro-choice movement and author of six books, most recently a memoir. Heroes in My Head. Follow her on twitter, @judyrebick, for her latest updates.

 

Heroes in My Head is a memoir of healing from childhood sexual abuse at the same time as being a highly public feminist activist.   It’s interesting how every reader takes something different from the book.  For those who have a history of childhood trauma, and there are many, the memoir is a story of hope, a story not only of surviving but of thriving despite serious mental injuries.  Many activists have told me that they relate most to the connection of personal and political in the activism described.   For younger generations, the most interesting part of the book is the description of how hard women had to fight to achieve what we have won so far.

For me, writing the book was another step in healing and in being a writer.  Putting this story into the world has been both difficult and rewarding.  It’s not easy telling your secrets, especially family secrets.  But I am increasingly convinced that keeping secrets props up systems of domination.  Telling our stories is the most powerful way of exposing how patriarchy and other systems of domination reach deeply into our spirit.  My story is also about how fighting those systems of domination is healing as long as it is accompanied by therapeutic support.

Click here to view the video where I talk about the experience of doing the audiobook.

 

Judy Rebick visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, Janurary 9, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Jim Nason, JF Garrard, Anubha Mehta, and guest speaker Dorothy Ellen Palmer who brings up the question of “How Can We Work Together Towards the Respectful Representation of Marginalized Identities?”

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BWS 09.01.19: Anubha Mehta

1. Anubha Mehta

Anubha Mehta is a Canadian writer, educator, and artist who was born in India. With a doctorate in Political Science and over two decades of Canadian public service experience, Anubha has been awarded for innovative program planning and working with diverse Canadian communities. Anubha has always balanced academics and public service with art and has been a classical dancer, theatre-actor, painter and poet. Anubha’s publication, The Politics of Nation Building and Art Patronage (2012), was a culmination of years of her research in the late 1990s.

Anubha’s debut novel Peacock in the Snow, was launched by Inanna Publications on September 28, 2018 in Toronto. It was selected for sponsorship by City of Toronto Arts Council- IFOA’s Toronto Lit Up. On October 20, 2018, the Toronto International Festival of Authors, showcased and spotlighted Anubha in a ‘Launch of Launches’ in a packed event to a community of readers, patrons, writers and authors. Peacock in the Snow was declared as one of the most anticipated books to read for Fall 2018 by the 49th Shelf.

As an author-facilitator for the Toronto Public Library System, Anubha regularly teaches free workshops on the process of writing, tips and traps of an author’s world. A Writers Blog on her website engages writers to express and address their present challenges and Tell-Tale is space where people are encouraged to share their real life stories.Visit her website for more information.

Ahead of her appearance on January 9th, Anubha tells us about her debut novel, Peacock in the Snow.

This is a tale of a seamless, adventurous journey of a young woman across continents, cultures, and generations, to find a love that is so improbable and to uncover a secret that sets her free. It is about the tireless capacity of the human spirit to hope, strive and succeed despite impossible obstacles.

This is a story of shy and naïve Maya and how her perfect life with her new husband Veer is thrown into complete disarray when she accidentally stumbles on an ancient family secret. What begins as unwelcome behaviour by Veer’s family soon turns into something sinister. Trapped within the dark walls of her married mansion, the secret begins to haunt Maya and draw a wedge with Veer. To escape the malicious spirits lingering in the house, Maya and Veer migrate to a distant land and start rebuilding their life amongst adventure and hardship. Not knowing that the ghosts of their past have followed them, in a race against time, Maya is put to a final test. Armed with conviction and courage, she sets out to face the dark forces that lie await.

Will Maya ever be free of a dark past? Will she be able to survive so far away from home? Will her marriage stand the test of time, displacement, and hardship in a new country? Watch Anubha’s interview with Tag TV to find out more!

 

Anubha Mehta visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, Janurary 9, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Jim Nason, JF Garrard, Judy Rebick, and guest speaker Dorothy Ellen Palmer who brings up the question of “How Can We Work Together Towards the Respectful Representation of Marginalized Identities?”

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BWS 09.01.19: JF Garrard

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JF Garrard is the founder of Dark Helix Press, Co-President of the Canadian Authors Association’s Toronto Branch, Senior Editor for Ricepaper Magazine and an Assistant Editor for Amazing Stories magazine. She is an editor and writer of speculative fiction (Trump Utopia or Dystopia AnthologyThe Undead Sorceress) and non-fiction. Her contributions to business, diversity and health subjects have been published in EntrepreneurHuffington PostMoneyishMonster.comWomen’s Health and Cosmopolitan, among others. Her latest stories include The Metamorphosis of Nova in the Blood Is Thicker anthology by Iguana Books and The Perfect Husband in the We Shall Be Monsters Frankenstein anthology by Renaissance Press.

 

One of the most difficult jobs a writer has to do is to world build. No matter what genre of fiction, writers need to introduce enough elements to give readers a sense of understanding about the rules in which the story is operating in. Prior to a seminar on world building, JF Garrard thought about this subject and reflected upon the fact that she was already doing this in real life to hide a death in the family.

World Building on a Road to Hell

As an editor for Dark Helix Press, when submissions roll in, the stories can be from anywhere in the world. We publish speculative fiction, which includes horror, fantasy and science fiction. We’re a pretty open to anything. No matter what genre of story, one thing we work on a lot with a writer is world building. The term “world building” is often applied to stories which have complicated rules and magical elements. However, it is actually something built into every story because the reader needs to be transported into a world which the writer has built.

If you google “world building” you will find tons of articles on how to write from your character’s perspective or planning a magic system. I thought for this article I would use a realistic example to illustrate the concept of world building which I spoke about at a writing seminar in 2017.

Death is the perhaps the most certain and true horror all of us will experience. In the last few years a wave of deaths hit my family. Out of many things I learned from dying was how to world build because some of these deaths were not revealed to my 102 year old grandmother for fear she would die of shock. She might come back as a ghost one day and really give it to us, but until then, the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

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Here are some questions and examples which can help a writer reflect on to help connect the reader to the world a writer has created.

 Is the situation believable?

In Asian cultures, it is a norm to not let the elderly people in on bad news. The fact that I’m stuck in this situation is very believable. In a horror story, if someone is entering a haunted house, why would they do this? Most rational people would not do something unless there is a reason or motive for doing so. Although a story is fictional, there has to be elements of truth in it which will help the reader immerse themselves into the story.

 What is the setting?

The world I am building for my grandmother is in the present, everyone dead is still alive but busy or sick which explains why they can’t see her in person. In a story, the world could be in the past, present or future. If it’s in the past, people could be living in log cabins without water. In the future, a smart home computer could be a character. No long description is required, subtle details of what the character is doing will allow the reader to reach their own conclusion on where the setting is.

What is the normal day to day like?

Grandma is a smart cookie and asks a lot of details about how people are living from day to day. I try to talk vaguely about what the dead are doing and sometimes make up problems they could be facing (eg. shoveling snow was hard on their backs). She sometimes calls up my siblings to confirm stories which makes this extra challenging. In a story, the characters are usually caught in a situation which differs from their normal life. Some details about their normal day will explain why they act a certain way. A cop confronting a monster will most likely know how to use a weapon versus a teenager who works in a fast food restaurant. People kidnapped may think about their family and what they are doing at the same moment. These little things will give some perspective to the reader and help them understand the character more and why they behave a certain way. Most people identify with people that they have empathy with and can understand.

 Are there any conflicts that can break the world?

There is a lot of turmoil within the family as some are tired of world building and others insist on keeping up the facade. For one of the deaths, one member of the family told grandma and she was shattered. World building is very fragile and one little thing can break it. If a character in the story sprained their arm earlier in the story but towards the end was able to pick up a heavy chainsaw and hack a monster, there is a huge inconsistency here. Bad science is another thing to watch out for and a writer should always do their research. If a story talks about a character having Alzheimer’s diagnosed with an ECG versus MRI, PET or CT, this is very farfetched as ECG cannot confirm Alzheimer’s. A reader may or may not look into such details, but it is important to keep everything as cohesive as possible to maintain the world for the duration of the reader’s time with the story.

I hope that by sharing these examples you can draw some ideas on how to make the worlds you create richer for your readers. Writing fiction is a lot more work than most people realize and there are many things to think about when creating a robust world. We are always learning and creating here at Dark Helix Press, drop us a line if you have any questions!

 

JF Garrard visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, Janurary 9, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Jim Nason, Anubha Mehta, Judy Rebick, and guest speaker Dorothy Ellen Palmer who brings up the question of “How Can We Work Together Towards the Respectful Representation of Marginalized Identities?”

 

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BWS 09.01.19: Jim Nason

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Jim Nason is an author, teacher, publisher, and activist. His sixth poetry collection, Rooster, Dog, Crow was recently released with Frontenac House.  He has also published a short story collection The Girl on the Escalator and his third novel, Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals, was recently published by Signature Editions. Jim is a Finalist for the 2018 ReLit Poetry Award.

 

Rooster, Dog, Crow – Jim Nason: A Few Thought-provoking Questions and a Friendly interview

The book depicts a world where upside-down politics dovetails with the carnivalesque, a love triangle unfolds between a belligerent Rooster, a happy-go-lucky meth-addicted Dog, and a gender-fluid Crow. This is my sixth poetry collection and I believe I have pushed myself to the extremes of the creative mind to depict a world that is real and surreal, a place where women, men, and animals shape-shift and trade places, intermingle within each other’s feathers, coats, and skin. Sometimes these characters are the masters of decadence and desire, other times they question the very worlds they’ve invented.  The opening poem, “Rooster Wears Stilts to the Pride Parade,” depicts a self-righteous, party-pooper bird shouting: Lower your banners, swallow your whistles! To hell with this stream of green, blue and youth.

Rooster, Dog, Crow follows the Trump campaign to an apocalyptic finale. In “Flame,” Rooster, high up on stilts, claims that he learned to swallow flames/ by watching Hillary Clinton in a bright red suit deflect Trump’s abuse and lies. Rooster says, Clinton leaned into the gap/ of the next question as if the floor were/ about to part, as if she were about to be/ swallowed – red and burning and whole.

This collection asks the reader to abandon fear and commit to a life that is ecstatic with risk. The poems in this book insist that the only wrong is an unexplored life. I invite one and all to join the parade with its full range of costumed marchers, banal banners, and erogenous, music-thumping floats.

In anticipation of the Brockton Reading Series on January 9th,  I send the following questions that will allow you to begin to understand and engage with me about my new, exciting and controversial, poetry book: Rooster, Dog, Crow.

How many dogs live on the streets of Toronto?

How many Roosters reside in a single Lethbridge Co-op?

On any given morning, just before dawn, how many crows can be seen landing on the moss-covered logs that line the English Bay shoreline?

Can Roosters speak French?

Are all teenage crows gender fluid and all city dogs at risk for opioid addiction?

I will do my best to answer these and the many questions you might have about my new poetry collection, Rooster, Dog, Crow when I see you at the event.

Also, before January 9, I wholeheartedly invite you to read the following interview about the book on rob mclennan’s blogspot.

 

Jim Nason visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, Janurary 9, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside JF Garrard, Anubha Mehta, Judy Rebick, and guest speaker Dorothy Ellen Palmer who brings up the question of “How Can We Work Together Towards the Respectful Representation of Marginalized Identities?”

 

 

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Brockton Writers Series 09.01.19

Wednesday, January 9, 2019 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Jim Nason
JF Garrard
Anubha Mehta
Judy Rebick

with special guest speaker

Dorothy Ellen Palmer

Glad Day Bookshop

499 Church Street, Toronto

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

ACCESSIBILITY INFO
The venue is accessible. Please refrain from wearing scents.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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And to the Canada Council for the Arts for travel funding!

 

GUEST SPEAKER

“How Can We Work Together Towards the Respectful Representation of Marginalized Identities?”

 

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Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a disabled senior writer, accessibility consultant, and retired high school Drama teacher and union activist. Her disability memoir, Falling For Myself, will appear with Wolsak and Wynn in Fall 2019. She can always be found tweeting @depalm.

She will the share stories of her experiences as a disability sensitivity reader, exploring the do’s and don’ts, the reach and limitations, the boundaries and ethics, of working collaboratively with abled writers. She will also talk about how disability sensitivity reading has helped her to understand the need for sensitivity readings.

 

READERS

jim nason (1)

Jim Nason is an author, teacher, publisher, and activist. His sixth poetry collection, Rooster, Dog, Crow was recently released with Frontenac House.  He has also published a short story collection The Girl on the Escalator and his third novel, Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals, was recently published by Signature Editions. Jim is a Finalist for the 2018 ReLit Poetry Award.

 

 

jf_garrard_212

JF Garrard is the founder of Dark Helix Press, Co-President of the Canadian Authors Association’s Toronto Branch, Senior Editor for Ricepaper Magazine and an Assistant Editor for Amazing Stories magazine. She is an editor and writer of speculative fiction (Trump Utopia or Dystopia AnthologyThe Undead Sorceress) and non-fiction. Her contributions to business, diversity and health subjects have been published in EntrepreneurHuffington PostMoneyishMonster.comWomen’s Health and Cosmopolitan, among others. Her latest stories include The Metamorphosis of Nova in the Blood Is Thicker anthology by Iguana Books and The Perfect Husband in the We Shall Be Monsters Frankenstein anthology by Renaissance Press.

 

1. Anubha Mehta

Anubha Mehta is a Canadian writer, educator, and artist who was born in India. With a doctorate in Political Science and over two decades of Canadian public service experience, Anubha has been awarded for innovative program planning and working with diverse Canadian communities. Anubha has always balanced academics and public service
with art and has been a classical dancer, theatre-actor, painter and poet.
Anubha’s publication, The Politics of Nation Building and Art Patronage (2012), was a culmination of years of her research in the late 1990s.

Anubha’s debut novel Peacock in the Snow, was launched by Inanna Publications on September 28, 2018 in Toronto. It was selected for sponsorship by City of Toronto Arts Council- IFOA’s Toronto Lit Up. On October 20, 2018, the Toronto International Festival of Authors, showcased and spotlighted Anubha in a ‘Launch of Launches’ in a packed event to a community of readers, patrons, writers and authors. Peacock in the Snow was declared as one of the most anticipated books to read for Fall 2018 by the 49th Shelf. Visit her website for more information.

 

JudyRebick

Judy Rebick is a life-long feminist activist, journalist and writer.  She is the founder of rabble.ca, a former President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, a leader of the pro-choice movement and author of six books, most recently a memoir. Heroes in My Head. Follow her on twitter, @judyrebick, for her latest updates.

 

 

 

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BWS 14.11.18 report: “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies,” with Anne Laurel Carter

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Anne Laurel Carter grew up in Don Mills. She’s been a librarian and ESL/ FSL teacher. Her 19 books were inspired by her experiences or interviews of interesting people or by the dreamscape of her imagination. She lives in Toronto and Nova Scotia.

At our event last week, Anne stopped by to share her what strategies she uses to engage  young adult and middle grade audiences.

 

When I used to do manuscript evaluations it was obvious to me that adults writing for Middle Grade or Young Adult readers had the distinct advantage of maturity and experience compared to young students trying to do the same thing (students I taught in the school system). If the adult writers read YA avidly, studied the literature carefully, and attended writing workshops, they could acquire a good set of craft tools. They knew how to hook a reader quickly. Their 11, 14 or 17 year-old characters sounded their age and were focused on issues that concerned their peers.

However, adult writers had the disadvantage of being parents and feeling ‘wise’. Too often they tried to slip a moral lesson into their story. Subtle or from a soap box, it always weakened, if not ruined, a story. In addition, whenever benevolent adults were given secondary roles they inevitably gave ‘important advice to save the day’ or worse, stepped into a crisis scene and solved it.

The more I write MG or YA the more I remind myself that I’m not writing for a younger reader. I’m writing as a young person. I cut or minimize the benevolent adults. I evoke the emotional landscape of my character’s age by observing and remembering, vividly, the events that happened to me growing up. I recall vividly being that age.

So here are three key strategies to help you write a story that will win the interest of MG and YA readers:

Viewpoint

Nail this one. Be the character. Stay true to her age. Readers love a clear voice at a particular age. It’s compelling. When you’re totally immersed in the viewpoint of your character her voice – when it rings true – can carry the story.

For example, when I was 13 I knew I would never get married (by the way: I’ve been married twice). My mother was a frustrated, often-angry housewife. I had never heard of sexism or depression – terms I would study much later. Looking back, with the advantage of an education and some therapy, I know I transferred something about my mother onto my rejection of marriage. All of which I ignored to write a novel, Last Chance Bay, in the voice of a 13 year-old girl living in Canada during the 1940’s when most girls had limited career choices. It was easy to nail Meg’s voice in the first line: “For the longest time, right up until my fourteenth birthday I wanted to wake up as a boy.”

Story

Tell a good story. Do you have a strong premise? Younger readers demand a good story, while some appreciate literary writing they never do at the expense of story. If your writing is dense or slow or boring they won’t read on. So take your character to the edge of the cliff in your plot and push them over the edge. Don’t be nice. Crank up the stakes.

Let the young protagonist drive the action and solve the problem

MG and YA writers used to love orphan stories for good reason. No parents were around to supervise. Unexpected adventures happened. Danger. The kids had to find their way out of the climax without adult help.

Find a creative way to achieve the same thing without killing off your characters’ parents (a cliche at this point). Readers will enjoy the kids’ solutions. The less “adult” the better.

 

Stay tuned for information about our next event and features on our upcoming writers! 

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BWS 14.11.18: Glynis Guevara

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Glynis Guevara was born in Barataria, Trinidad, but has lived in Canada for more than twenty years. She attempted to write her first novel at fourteen, and even though it was never completed she never gave up her love for writing. Several years after completing high school, she moved to London, England to study law. She successfully completed a Bachelor of Laws (honours) degree and was admitted to the bar of England and Wales and Trinidad and Tobago.

Glynis enrolled as a student at Humber College School for Writers after she was laid off her job at a Toronto hospital; she hasn’t stopped writing since. She was shortlisted for the Small Axe Literary (short fiction) prize in 2012 and the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean LiteratureUnder the Zaboca Tree (Inanna Publications, 2017) is her debut novel. Her second YA novel, Black Beach was published in September 2018. She currently works as an adult literacy instructor in Toronto.

 

 

In 2005, I was bumped from my job as a technical writer / computer trainer at a Toronto hospital. I was suddenly unemployed and didn’t have a clue how I was going to close the townhouse I’d already signed the contract to purchase. I totally remember my first day at home without a job. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I decided to write about my life. I didn’t have any plans to write a novel then; I just wrote to deal with the pain. The days passed, and I couldn’t stop writing. I got up early every morning and wrote all day long. I eventually began to put my focus on drafting a manuscript called Pain of My Imperfections. Eventually, I enrolled as a student at Humber College School for Writers. I was lucky to have Rabindranath (Robin) Maharaj as my mentor. During this course, I worked on the Pain of My Imperfections manuscript.  After the course ended, I put that novel aside and began to write Under the Zaboca Tree. It became my debut YA novel, published in June 2017 by Inanna Publications.

Under the Zaboca Tree 

Under the Zaboca Tree tells the story of ten-year-old, Baby Girl as she moves from Canada to Trinidad with her dad. Baby Girl can’t recall ever meeting her mom, but she never gives up her dream of one day reuniting with her. Many people have told me that Under the Zaboca Tree seems true to life but is fiction. My childhood was very different from Baby Girl’s. I had a very stable childhood, while Baby Girl has to learn how to deal with constant changes in her life. She and I are similar in that we both love books and using our creative energy to deal with difficult situations.

Black Beach 

Black Beach tells the story of 16-year-old Tamera who lives in a tropical fishing village with her parents. While Tamera tries to find herself, she must deal with numerous issues including her mother’s illness, the absence of her boyfriend who moves out of the village to work, the disappearance of a classmate and an environmental disaster that hits her community affecting the villagers’ health and livelihood. I was motivated to write this book after reading about an oil spill in south Trinidad in 2013.  Black Beach was published by Inanna Publications (2018).

What’s Next?

Currently, I’m writing a sequel to my debut novel, Under the Zaboca. The biggest difficulty so far is dealing with a challenging health issue, but the manuscript is already written in my head. It is just a matter of finding the time to commit my thoughts to paper. The working title is Poui Season and it follows Baby Girl as she returns to Toronto for the first time at sixteen years old. Besides writing Poui Season, I’m also seeking a literary agent for my solo adult manuscript Pain of My Imperfections which I’ve revised within recent years. Pain of My Imperfections is written in a man’s voice and deals with the many trials immigrants face after arriving in Canada. The novel is based in Canada, Trinidad and Grenada.

 

Glynis Guevara visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Priya Ramsingh, Anthony Easton, Rocco de Giacomo, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

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BWS 14.11.18: Anthony Easton

Anthony

Anthony Easton is a critic, from Edmonton, and now living in Hamilton. They have written about class, gender, and sexuality—including for the Globe and Mail, Pitchfork, the Atlantic Online, Spin, CBC, among many other publications.

 

I was wondering which essays I was going to read at Brockton, and I have kept returning back to this problem of the confessional. The essays that keep coming to me, are deeply personal, and it made me nervous. The following blog entry is intended to do two things: a) it is a defense of the confessional essay b) it positions the eventual public performance. If I was being truly honest, it also means that I cannot get out of reading it out loud.

Seven Anecdotes concerning the Queer Confessional:

“ Indeed to speak or write of homosexuality at all is to run the risk of being taken as a gossip. Given that historical events have conspired to make homosexuality a subject of scandal, then gossip, as that “low” discursive practice drawn to scandalous subjects, has come to enjoy a particular affinity with homosexuality. ”

Gavin Butt, “Gossip: The Hardcore of History,” in Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World, 1948-1963

 

To be queer is to be confessional. It’s genealogies are coded, underground—the wink, the nod, the hint and the bump. It’s subtle discourses are self protective, and that self protection has encased in endless layers of discourse and code. When a queer writer (when I) speak of self, these layers refuse singular meaning, the gossip and the code–is text and subtext, surface text and under layers of desire. I am planning on reading a work of autobiography, a confession of desire, at Brockton, here are seven anecdotes about confession to prime the pump—think of it as proto confession. Think of it like when you pass along a story so others don’t get the juice first.

Anecdote One:

Heterosexuality is compulsory (thank you Adrienne Rich.) Everyone will assume you are straight, unless you tell them otherwise. They will often assume that you are gay, if you tell them you are not straight. Even in this age of the pan, the post, the non, the other—where the liquidity of gender and sex seem constantly reified, the binary continually reasserts itself. The self and the body are policed into a concordance that is profoundly discordant.  My body reads masc, myself refuses my body. Having sex with men does not preclude having sex with anyone else.

Anecdote Two:

Self identity is wily. Who we are is made by construction, I wonder if there is any permeance in it, I am not sure that it is something that we are born into. I think that we have this recency bias, and so that we assume that the stories we tell about our own sex, are stories of our time and place–but we assume that time and place is universal, but it is deeply and heavily localised, a concretion of tiny choices and small geographies–as for me, it is growing up out west a decade after the plague years, or going to high school the same year as Matthew Shepard, or growing up Mormon, or those weeks I spent in Vancouver in my late teens, or moving to Toronto in my mid 20s—this might suggest an atomized, personalized sexuality, but think of it as a set of nodes–sometimes repelling, sometimes attracting, floating into the ether. Maybe not enough to build a movement on, but we try.

Anecdote Three

This atomized, confessional mode, means that identity is constructed by how we tell stories. It is about the crafting stories–queerness is defined by a few explicit narratives. The coming out story. The first time one had sex story. The stories of discovering what turns you on, and how that turn on is different than what might turn others. The stories about the farce of cruising. The more tragic stories–we still have this internalized homophobia, the stories of rejection, of loathing, of the spit word from a passing car, from the violence of a culture. The secret of these tales is not that they exist, but that they are traded. Each time they are told, they are edited, polished to a fine sheen. When Didion tells us that we tell each other stories to live, it is not the stories that save us, it is the telling.

Anecdote Four:

These are my stories. I tell them to you. These are your stories. You tell them to me. There is this idea that the act of storytelling will bring us together. That the individual stories will magically create empathy, and that it will be an act of delightful bridge building. Here are other reasons why people tell stories: To seduce, to humiliate, to belittle, to claim space, to enact violence, to show empathy, to explain complicated truths, to entertain, to shock, to turn on, to disgust, to cause division. When a story is anthologized as an act of identity creation, one must be careful of motives.

Anecdote Five:

Each of those reasons to tell a story, each of those reasons to confess is an example of craft. This idea that I will tell my truth, denies the idea of craft. Craft can be done poorly, or be completed with technical skill, crafting a confession does not mean that one is lying. Think about the first story that one tells of one’s queerness (my queerness, your queerness.) Queerness requires finesse. The initial coming out, is practiced–first in front of a mirror, alone; then in front of a community. The story is told again and again.  Queer confessional is an act of deliberate self fashioning. When I read at Brockton–the piece that I will write has been edited by professionals, but even before I wrote it down on paper–I told the stories of it everywhere that people might confess: in doctor’s offices, on the therapist’s couch, at church, in bar rooms. The informal networks, online and off, the gossip that allows the self to emerge, is all on the page. Every queer act of writing centers on good dish.

Anecdote Six:

I hope the writing is refined. The corners knocked off, the drafts well constructed. Everything smoothed out, and then afterwards, a bit of roughness abraded, as a kind of decorative prettiness. Roughness is as much of an aesthetic strategy as smoothness.

Anecdote Seven:

In this question of what we tell, in the crafting, remind yourself that this is not the whole store. That the confession, the crafted story, so much is cut off. Sometimes it is self censoring, sometimes it does not fit the culture, sometimes the tangent distracts from the central narrative. There is so much discussion of fraud, of the confessional not being real, of people faking what could be considered real. Part of me wants to ask, do you want something real, or do you want something good; part of me wants to remind someone that the memory is fallible; sometimes one wants to remind an audience that editing is removing as much telling. The tell all’s power rests on the hint, or the ellipse.

Maybe these aren’t anecdotes as much as thoughts about how to craft a queer identity now, maybe they are ways of indicating what I am presenting will be ambivalent.

I have always done a bad job at sales.

Anthony Easton visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Priya Ramsingh, Glynis Guevara, Rocco de Giacomo, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

 

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BWS 14.11.18: Priya Ramsingh

Priya

Priya Ramsingh has been making up stories since she learned the art of cursive writing. She began to frequent libraries, immersing herself in literature and decided she wanted to write for a living. Her career took her into the corporate world to craft copy and she freelanced during her off time at a local newspaper. She finally finished Brown Girl in the Room in 2016 (Tightrope Books) after the nagging in her head became too overbearing. So far, the story has hit home with readers from across the continent who call it, ‘all too relatable.’

Her second novel is complete and she currently awaits a publisher’s interest. In the meantime, Priya writes the occasional op-ed for the Toronto Star and is the author of a monthly diversity column for Metroland Media.

 

The Journey

Stories. I was a child lost in tales. Immersing myself in pages, standing beside the characters, reeling at their losses, feeling their love, their smiles contagious, speaking their words out loud.

I began my own. Writing, for hours, in my room, alone. My imagination unfolding into words.

My grade 5 teacher was the first to call me out. You’re good, he acknowledged. Keep going.

But how?

I watched, unlike others. I saw, what others didn’t see. I asked why, over and over. Who cares? People would say. Why do you worry?

Fascination made me question. So obvious, such hatred. Fear. Giddy love. Freedom, attention seeking, pain. Where did it all come from?

Suddenly my own emotions surfaced. Overbearing. Overtaking. The words were stuck. I stopped.

I discarded the pen. I looked elsewhere.

Years passed and suddenly it was back. In front of me with a command. Write, it urged. The pen was gone, replaced by keys. I complied.

The criticisms were sharp. It needs work. It needs to be changed. They didn’t see what I saw.

I fell and stayed on the ground. But suddenly an outstretched hand. Get up. Write. Over and over. Scraped knees, bruised ego, deflation and then back up again, grasping hands that appeared out of nowhere. Thankful.

When I was down, it appeared in physical form. Write, they said.

I learned. I wrote. Acknowledgement replaced criticisms, and then praise.

Suddenly, roadblocks. And then pain. Sharp and hard, pushing me over. I held it inside until I heard the voice – write.

The words came out. A flurry, that turned into pages. Agony. Finish, it said. Don’t stop.

I finished. The anxiety was gone. Peace. Brown Girl in the Room was ready. Relief.

 

Priya Ramsingh visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Anthony Easton, Glynis Guevara, Rocco de Giacomo, and guest speaker Anne Laurel Carter presents us with tips on “Writing for Younger Readers: Three Essential Strategies.”

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