Author Archives: all words on me

BWS 13.01.21 report: “Supporting Indigenous Authors: from the archives to the Indigenous Voices Awards” with Deanna Reder

Cree-Métis scholar Deanna Reder is Chair of the Department of Indigenous Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. In 2018 she was inducted into the College of New Scholars in the Royal Society of Canada and is the co-Chair of the Indigenous Voices Awards.

Supporting Indigenous Authors: from the Archives to the Indigenous Voices Awards

My name is Deanna Reder and while my family is from all over the Canadian Prairies, and my Cree-speaking Cree, or Nehiyow, and Métis, or apistowkustan, relatives, are from Northern Saskatchewan, I have had the great privilege to live and raise my children in Vancouver’s lower mainland over three decades. I write as an uninvited guest on the traditional, unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) Peoples and I teach in the Departments of Indigenous Studies and English at Simon Fraser University. My research focuses on the large, neglected archive by Indigenous writers who historically have had difficulty accessing publishing {1}.

When Dorianne Emmerton first reached out to invite me to the Brockton Series, she suggested that I could advise on how writers could best avoid anti-Indigenous stereotypes and instead write sensitively and respectfully about Indigenous peoples.

I feared that the first imperative I know about writing might be considered by you, by Creative Writers, to be cliché—the adage to write what you know. But I know enough from my experience teaching a spectrum of students—from the first-year university classroom to Masters and Doctoral programs—that this itself is a problem. Should you have graduated from the conventional Canadian school system, especially if you did so more than five years ago, then you typically know very little about Canadian history from the perspectives of Indigenous peoples. And in my assessment, I mean no disrespect. I am commenting on curriculum constructed around the logic of colonization that justified settlement: the belief in terra nullius or empty land, that Canada was empty and free for the taking, that Indigenous people had died out or were simply out of the picture, and that this was land upon which a new country could be built.

Now the “you” I address does not include those who have benefitted from amazing, transformative Social Studies teachers in high school, or graduates of Indigenous Studies departments at universities; and this doesn’t address those of “you” who are Indigenous writer yourselves. But even in 2021 the majority of students I teach have been only taught the settler history of the community they were raised in or the stories of the “pioneers” of their province, and little about the histories of members of the original nations. So forgive me if my words don’t apply to your situation, but instead consider whether most Canadians know the history from Indigenous perspectives.

I have had graduate students who are public school teachers themselves—solid citizens, elegant writers, hardworking researchers—who were never taught how Canada displaced Indigenous peoples. That is why, after all, the 2007-2015 Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued ninety-four calls to action {2}, many that repeatedly insist on curriculum development so that Canadians—especially teachers, lawyers, social workers, healthcare professionals—will be taught at minimum the history of residential schools, used to separate First Nations children from their communities and cultures as a way to undermine First Nations autonomy and vitality and encourage assimilation.

So this lack of knowledge creates a conundrum. Now it is always possible that a writer might wish to create a universe that is significantly different from the one we inhabit—like the world without adults in the Peanuts comic strip or in the Teen Titans Go cartoons. But if writers sketch out Canadian landscapes or cityscapes and exclude signs or references to Indigenous peoples then they enact a literary form of terra nullius.

And yet Canadian writers are cautioned by the words, recorded by Stó:lō writer Lee Maracle, at the famous debates in 1988 in Montreal, at the Third International Book Fair {3}; Secwepemc editor Viola Thomas implores: “Don’t buy books about us, buy books by us.” So I am not suggesting that you tell Indigenous stories. As Menominee writer Chrystos states: “We have a Voice.” This isn’t about writing our stories. Indigenous creators have told and recorded stories in various mediums since forever. And in my work looking at the archive, I see however that long before there has been a viable publishing industry in Canada, there have been Indigenous peoples who wrote and attempted to get manuscripts published, without success in their lifetime: Kainai war veteran Mike Mountain Horse; Cree cleric Edward Ahenakew; Métis activist James Brady; Cree activist Joseph Dion; Secwepemc/Ktunaxa dramatherapist Vera Manuel. Etc.

But this is about your writing, how you might describe your world. In his recent book Seen But Not Seen eminent historian Donald B. Smith examines several famous historical figures as a way to ask why it was that they, like Canadians generally, didn’t recognize Indigenous societies and cultures as worthy of respect. Smith begins the book by remembering his childhood and how little he was taught about Indigenous people in general. He begins, as I urge all my students to do, with something that is foundational to Indigenous inquiry: the acknowledgement of the writer’s—of your own—particular position, even as it is dynamic and changing and complex. It is self-reflection based on respect for your perspective, your genealogy and then expanding that respect to the territories where you live, to uncover the stories encoded upon the land, the shifting names of the territories where you live, maybe even the treaty histories and the names and histories of people who lived there before and now. All of this is even before you write, so it is a long process but this approach based on respect will guide you. Embrace the humility that results.

Beware also of the overwhelming influence of American culture internationally, that has circulated the American national myth about “cowboys and Indians” that reverberates in a lot of what is identified as Indigenous in North America. So often what we expect an Indigenous person to look, dress, speak, act and live like is influenced by this Hollywood history. Navigating stereotype is emotionally charged. I recommend the NFB film Reel Injun as a way to review common tropes. Plus, it is funny. Recognizing stereotype as a way to avoid replicating it, is an important step.

But what can be surprising is that stereotype reverberates throughout a complex set of systems, and stereotype influences Indigenous aesthetics too. Often Indigenous creators will use images from popular culture to undermine or maybe even just amuse. I teach my students how to marvel at the ways that these creators can adopt and adapt these images for their own purposes. But for non-Indigenous creators, this is not as easy to do. So tread carefully.

There might be some who will urge you to stumble in without this level of respect or care. Should someone offer an Appropriation prize, back away carefully. But without taking up too much air space on the history of how the 2017 scandal unfolded, I want to share with you how with the support of a lot of allies, many pushed back, and believed and insisted that Indigenous writers still need support and space and opportunity to write.

In 2017, I was just about to become the President of the Indigenous Literary Studies Association (ILSA) {4} and through a complex set of events I and other members of the ILSA executive became the stewards for over $110,000.00 that helped us fund the Indigenous Voices Awards {5}. I am very proud to say that we are now coming up to our fourth year. In 2018 our very first poetry prize winner in English was Billy-Ray Belcourt who went on to win the Griffin award; our very first poet to win the unpublished category in English was Smokii Sumac, who the following year, had his first book published that took the 2019 prize. Recently American poet and editor Tracy K. Smith chose a poem by Francine Merasty for inclusion in her collection, The Best American Poetry 2021. And the IVAs (pronounced the eye-vahz) is the only literary awards IN THE WORLD that gives prizes to emerging Indigenous writers in FRENCH.

I urge all of you to go to www.indigenousvoicesawards.org to learn more, maybe to donate, and then on the 21st of June to watch our website and join us for our online gala. In 2018 we held our gala in Regina to celebrate our first group of authors; in 2019 we held our gala in Vancouver. All along the way writer, and patron Pamela Dillon and Penguin Random House supported us to put on mentoring events for the shortlisted writers. And then with 2020 and COVID we despaired because we wouldn’t be able to physically gather and instead had to go online. However, it is through our recorded gala, still available for view on-line {6}, that we caught the attention of the Giller Foundation, and discovered a national audience.

I’m not really sure how Creative Writers ought to write about Indigenous people, although I am convinced that the process begins by listening. I invite all of you to look for our podcast on National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st; and listen to these emerging Indigenous voices.

Endnotes

{1} See www.thepeopleandthetext.ca

{2} See http://trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf

{3} See “Native Myths: Trickster Alive and Crowing” by Lee Maracle in Language in her eye: views on writing and gender by Canadian women writing in English. Edited by Libby Scheier, Sarah Sheard, and Eleanor Wachtel, eds. ECW Press, 1990. P. 185.

{4} See www.indigenousliterarystudies.org

{5} See www.indigenousvoicesawards.org

{6} See https://indigenousvoicesawards.org/2020-ivas

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BWS 13.01.21: Kirby

KIRBY is the author of WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE CALLED? (Anstruther Press, 2020), THIS IS WHERE I GET OFF (Permanent Sleep Press, 2019), SHE’S HAVING A DORIS DAY (knife | fork | book, 2017). Forthcoming POETRY IS QUEER (Palimpsest, Fall 2021) and NOT YOUR BEST no 2 [editor]. She is the publisher, book fairy at knife | fork | book [Toronto] jeffkirby.ca.

from Poetry Is Queer out Fall 2021, Palimpsest Press

It’s just after 7pm the first of the year and I’m thinking how long I want to continue. Play this out.

I’ve put on some serious poundage since this whole mess started [“We all have Cher!” my friend Christopher chimes]. Breathing is laborious. Hell, going anywhere is.

I step onto my balcony. There’s light flurries made magical in the orangey-glow of the lamps along Church. I light the lantern and a pre-roll, as I do most nights. Someone has to keep this corner pretty.

People are out. Walking. To where? Everything’s pretty much closed. Sucks living in a city you can’t enjoy.

I could go for a walk. It’s mild.

I miss peoples faces.

“Stay home. Don’t go outside. Period. A message from your Ontario Government.”

Thank God she’s on the second floor.

Make a tall GnT w/fresh cucumber (salad, possibly dinner)… A gummy? Sure! She’s watching RuPaul tonight.

Go to my room, my current cell of sorts, what to play? Red House Painters. Really doll? Well… Exactly. Deep fucking well. “Mark Kozelek’s pain is our gain.” There’s comfort in the familiar.

And that’s more than I can ever give you.

Suzanne, early on, “I know not to worry about you, cause you enjoy your own company.”

The fact that I’m accustomed to being alone as a homosexual for as long as I can remember. That’s just home base.

This strange thing happened.

That family zoom call with Suzanne Christmas Eve, one day out of the hospital, the one I would have left if not for how much it mattered for my mom to see all four of her children’s faces.

“I did this,” she said.

Not sinking in until days later that she was—is still—someone, that this is who she is, a person who lived to do exactly this, be the mother of four.

We are so alike. The single wish to be seen, recognized as/for who we are.

My sweet friend Dre who made me come full stop face to face at a party, “Kirby, I’m right here, in front of you, see me,” but to see him would mean my desire for him [for Rex for David for Randy for Ron for Alex for Vincent for Chris for] would been seen and I didn’t want that, not that night.

Not my desires exactly, they were in fact quite tame, often welcomed.

No, these are the last remnants of being wrong for being. Here. At all.

That old View-Master.

“I’m not going to protect you from my love.”

Body, remember, not only all the times you have been loved
Not only the beds where you have lain down.
But also those desires which for you
Shone clearly in the eyes,
And trembled in the voice – and some
Chance accident brought them to nothing.
And now, when all that is in the past,
They seem very like those desires
To which you gave yourself – how they shone,
Remember, in the eyes that looked at you;
How they trembled in the voice, for you, body, remember.

[C. P. Cavafy trans Robert Liddell]

Is it time?

Not tonight. A romantic notion. A thought.

“Hey Mom, I heard what you said the other night…”

“Why? What did I say?”

“That you did this.”

“What?!”

“That you had us four kids.”

“O, yes, I loved having you four kids.”

“Happy New Year, mom.”

“You too, loved your call, bye, bye-bye.”


Kirby visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Laure Baudot
, Dominik Parisien, and Sonal Champsee. Our guest speaker, Cree-Métis scholar Deanna Reder, will give her talk on, “Supporting Indigenous Authors: from the archives to the Indigenous Voices Awards”.

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 13.01.21: Laure Baudot

Laure Baudot’s work has appeared in publications including The Antigonish ReviewThe Danforth ReviewFound Press, Prairie Fire, and Wasafiri Magazine of International Contemporary Writing. Her debut collection of short stories is This One Because of the Dead (Cormorant Books 2019). Her karate blog can be found at here. Currently a psychotherapist-in-training, she lives in Toronto with her husband and three children.

Behind the Front – a Health Care Worker’s Family Pandemic Journal

20 July 2020

6 a.m.

I read in the Globe that Comet Neowise, a comet with a split tail, will be visible in our hemisphere for the next few nights.

We have three children. We lost most of our childcare in the beginning of the pandemic, and getting up early is the only way I can write, exercise, read. My husband is an E.R. doc. I have contract jobs, so when Dear Husband (DH) isn’t at the hospital, we take turns doing our desk work. He has considerably more and better paid work than I, and since he took a pay cut early in the pandemic and we need the money, we have an agreement that he will lay claim to most of the working hours.

My four-year-old (Young Son or YS), rises at 6:30. I try to persuade him to watch T.V. so that I can do some yoga, to no avail. Unlike his older siblings, he hates T.V. I give up and try to do yoga anyway. When I’m in downward dog, he climbs on top of me and drapes himself over my back. I can smell the sleep on his pyjamas.

10 a.m.

D.H. puts two loaves of bread in the oven and then tackles his mountain of paperwork, while I wrangle YS into his shoes so we can go out. The playgrounds are shuttered, but YS has recently learned to ride a two-wheeler. For two hours, we circle a small soccer field. He bikes while I jog, my pounding feet punctuated by my exclamations of encouragement. “Good job, buddy! Great biking!”

At exactly 11:15, I talk him into going home. I’ve committed a half an hour a day to working on my novel. Carol Shields said once that when her kids were young she wrote between the time she picked up their socks and when they came home for lunch. I recite her words to myself when I feel the desperation that comes from parenting young children, which leaves no time or energy for intellectual work.

Karl Ove Knausgaard captures parents’ complex feelings toward their children when he writes about dealing with his toddler’s tantrums:

The corrosive part, of course, is the awareness that being nice to them is not of the slightest help when I am in the thick of it, dragged down into a quagmire of tears and frustration. And, once in the quagmire, each further action only serves to plunge me deeper. And at least as corrosive is the awareness that I am dealing with children. That it is children who are dragging me down. There is something deeply shameful about this. In such situations I am proably as far from the person I aspire to be as possible. (My Struggle, Part I)

I persuade YS to watch Peppa Pig, and I get to work. My limited time frame forces me not to censor myself. Later, when I share snippets to my writing group, they will praise the work. They will make me feel like I’m producing some of the best material of my life. For now, I park my kid in front of a screen and write with the desperation of a person walking through a desert who glimpses an oasis, who runs to catch up to it before it reveals itself to be a mirage.

2 p.m.

DH leaves for work. He takes nothing with him. He keeps his work bag in the car. It’s the early stages of the pandemic and nobody knows whether the virus is transmissible via surfaces, so he keeps his work materials out of the house.

At work, he will don his greens, cap, mask, shield, and isolation gown. For eight to ten hours, he won’t eat, drink, or pee – for one, it’s too tiring to remove and replace his PPE to do these tasks. Some people are still downplaying the importance of PPE, but he believes that being in the presence of others without PPE is hazardous. Months later, when colleagues get sick and COVID outbreaks are declared in the hospitals, he will feel vindicated in his decision never to remove his equipment during his shifts.

23 July 2020

8 p.m.

Today, I had childcare. I got some work done, and by the evening I’m so energized by a feeling of accomplishment that I take an evening walk with DH. As we walk through Christie Pits, we notice passers-by craning their necks, some with binoculars.

“Right,” I say. “The comet!”

We circle the park again, straining to see the astronomical sight. But the cloud cover is too great, and we see nothing, not even constellations.

24 July 2020

4 a.m.

Hoping to glimpse the comet, we leave the children still sleeping and drive to the darkest park we can think of, in the city’s west end.

The humidity is rising, and the combination of fog and the yellow bulbs from the park’s lamplights lends some corners of the landscape a yellowish, eerie glow. We stand in the middle of a soccer field and look up. Even in this supposedly dark place, there is too much light from the city beyond to see more than a handful of stars, sparking from a few, black patches.

8 p.m.

DH has a day and night off. In a last effort to see the meteor, we put YS to bed and leave him and his older brother in the care of my teenage daughter, and drive out of the city. We’ve never gone so far from the youngest without an adult present before. Driving west on the 401, I stare at the reddish glow of the sunset through the clouds and fret.

“They’ll be fine,” says DH.

We arrive in a little town on Lake Simcoe. It’s pitch black. We leave the car on a side street. We thought we might sit on a beach, but the beach is fenced off. We debate jumping the barrier but decide not to. We plant ourselves in a parkette, only to be driven out by mosquitoes, so we retreat to the beach side of the road.

The Black Lives Movement has been active for the last few weeks, making salient issues I knew about but didn’t think of on a daily basis. DH and I have always taken night drives. Once, when DH we were both students, we drove to Niagara Falls on a whim. Fuelled by happiness, I must have been driving erratically, because I was stopped by a cop. “Have you been drinking?” he asked me, sniffing audibly when I scrolled down the window. I hadn’t, and he let us go, with a warning. Looking back, I wonder if, had I not been white, he would have let us go so easily.

Now, standing in the darkness, a stranger in a small Ontario town, I think to myself that, were I black, I might not dare take these nightly adventures, for fear of being the target of racism.

DH has downloaded an astronomy app on his phone. We pace back and forth on the rural road, hoping that the cars seemingly barrelling toward us won’t hit us, and look through the app at the sky. But, either because of the cloud cover or our inexperience in all matters astronomical, we can’t find the meteor. We do, however, manage to make out some constellations. For the first time since I was a child, I pick out Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

On our way home, we text my daughter to check on the kids. We pick up some McDonalds fries. My escape from domesticity, coupled with the mundane nature of searching for a comet, have made me feel happy. We drive toward home through a quiet city – still under lockdown – the taste of cheap oil and salt on our tongues.

Laure Baudot visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Dominik Parisien, Sonal Champsee, and Kirby. Our guest speaker, Cree-Métis scholar Deanna Reder, will give her talk on, “Supporting Indigenous Authors: from the archives to the Indigenous Voices Awards”.

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 13.01.21: Sonal Champsee

Sonal Champsee writes plays, fiction and essays. Her work has been published in anthologies and magazines such as The New QuarterlyRicepaper, and Today’s Parent. She holds an MFA from UBC, is an instructor for the Sarah Selecky Writing School, and is currently working on a novel.

What happens to a writer who can’t do more than watch pleasant television? Sonal muses on pandemic brain, not writing and the Great British Bake Off.

So, I haven’t been writing.

Whether that’s pandemic-brain or garden-variety resistance or something else entirely, I don’t know. But it’s been very clear that my capacity for mental tasks is limited. Even reading has been difficult. Television is more my speed, but not any television. No gritty dramas. No complex storylines. Nothing that requires a commitment. I’ve instead been binge-watching past seasons of The Great British Bake-Off.

What a joy the early seasons are! No kitting out an entire patisserie in thirty minutes using nothing but gluten-free flour. Instead, it’s make a cake. Bake some cookies. Make a pie. Disasters are a mousse that didn’t set, a cake that didn’t rise, a pastry that crumbled, all of which are soothed by Mel and Sue, doling out comforting words and hugs. No social distancing! How much do I long to be upset over a cake and be given a Mel-Sue sandwich? And then still have cake to eat.

And the food! I did not know the British had so many words for cake. Victoria Sandwich. Lemon Drizzle. Iced buns. I pat myself on the back, a little, since all of this deliciously spiced and sweetened British baking comes from the many places they colonized. What would a classic steamed British pudding be, without colonialism to flavour it?

There are much better cultural critiques on the Great British Bake-Off than this one, but invariably, it is a brown-skinned baker that becomes the flavour person. The one who adds mango and chili to things, who draws on their heritage to give us Jamaican Black Cake and Buko Pandan ice cream. Sometimes this is to their detriment, as the flavour can be too bold for the improbably named Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. But more often, it seems, these bakers are expected to Bring the Flavour.

It has almost become a trope. If you are brown, you will bring in your cultural background to make flavourful food, because of course you cook it frequently and are an expert in the cuisine. The white bakers will draw from other countries as well—Bake Off has shown me that British people seem to know their Indian food, even if they pronounce it funny. But this seems something they can sprinkle in on occasion, rather than an expectation. In Canadian Bake Off, it certainly feels like multicultural contestants must bring some of that multi-culture to the gingham alter.

But then, if they didn’t bring this in, who would?

Isn’t it better that Chetna makes the same kachoris she makes at home, rather than some random blond making them for the first time based on a blog about someone else’s singular trip to India? Isn’t it better that Nadiya made a wedding cake decorated with sari fabric motifs instead of someone else trying it because they saw it on Indian Matchmaker?

I don’t have answers. I have experiences.

Certainly, as a young writer, who also wasn’t writing much, there was a time when award-winning desi-Canadian literature would exclusively take place over there. Back home, although India has never been my home. And so already, without having started, I was afraid because I didn’t want to write about a country I had never lived in, and yet still felt expected to present and explain. I never wanted to include South Asian characters, because it felt as though they must be stories about The Struggle, and not stories about anything else.

Certainly, I have hit upon these same expectations in writing workshops. With literary agents. In my own writing classes, where my brown-skinned students will ask me, am I really expected to write about The Struggle, and then will turn in stories featuring white characters to avoid it.

And yet, I loved those stories set in India, and immigration stories, and stories about The Struggle, in that I could still recognize something of myself in them. As familiar as mom’s cooking, which is food I never make.

And yet years later, my stalled novel in progress is still largely set in India. And I wonder, is this creating more expectations for desi writers? Should I even write this at all?

Ultimately, though, I think the answers can be found in the Great British Bake Off. When Nadiya, with her headscarf and perfect eyebrows and increasing confidence won. Through tears, she declared, “I’m never ever going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say ‘I can’t do it.’ I’m never going to say ‘maybe.’ I’m never going to say ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can, and I will.”

And she has.

Sonal Champsee visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Dominik Parisien, Laure Baudot, and Kirby. Our guest speaker, Cree-Métis scholar Deanna Reder, will give her talk on, “Supporting Indigenous Authors: from the archives to the Indigenous Voices Awards”.

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 13.01.21: Dominik Parisien

Dominik Parisien is the author of the poetry collection Side Effects May Include Strangers (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020) and his recent work has appeared in journals such as MaisonneuvePRISM InternationalQueen’s Quarterly, and The Literary Review of Canada, among others. Dominik is a disabled, bisexual French Canadian. He lives in Toronto.

Earlier this year Dominik collaborated with musician Forest Muran for a joint performance at the LOMP reading series in London, Ontario. Forest adapted and reinterpreted Dominik’s poetry through music.

lomp

v. (1) to collaboratively smelt artistic disciplines and perform the result;

(2) to observe (1) (see omnivore).

n. (1) an instance of lomping, usually at TAP in London, ON and taking place on the first wednesday of every month.

The organizers, Erica McKeen and Kevin Heslop, emphasize the collaborative nature of their reading series. Instead of a traditional reading, featured poets are invited to work with an artist of their choice. The collaboration can take just about any form, from visual arts to dance to music to whatever the poet considers feasible and interesting.

I asked for a musician. Much of my poetry involves the translation of bodily elements like pain and illness, and I was particularly interested in seeing some of those concepts translated into yet another form. I also wanted to work with a stranger, so I asked for a local musician they could recommend. They paired me with an artist called Forest Muran, a student of world religions who writes for concert settings and composes electronic music. Over several months we had a few video meetings where we discussed ideas. Initially, our vision was a bit narrow, largely because of my focus on the pain poems. That had been our opening conversation and we remained fixed on the subject, on that approach. Forest had superb ideas on how to engage with it, and we had a number of stimulating conversations, but we still struggled to bring all of it together cohesively, to allow for a level of variety that would make it more ambitious collaboratively. Unforeseen circumstances (my father’s surgery, the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic) delayed the reading a few times. So we had more time. And then we had even more time. So we continued to experiment with concepts, with approaches.

Our breakthrough came during one meeting when we expanded our scope, started discussing some of our artistic practice and interests more broadly. Although I am an atheist, some of my work reproduces the religious language of my childhood for the purposes of ritual. As someone familiar with different religious approaches to music, Forest started experimenting. Forest then introduced me to composer Erik Satie, with his unconventional approaches to music, and to some of Satie’s work considered “vexing” or “aggravating”. Satie’s unmusical influences brought to my mind an MRI, about which I’d written. I shared the poem with Forest and made him listen to MRI sounds online, which have an uncomfortable, aggressive, and dissonant quality. With these new elements our collaboration truly began in earnest. By bringing in more of ourselves, beyond the immediate project and concerns, we overflowed with ideas, with new approaches.

Forest later called the entire experience “thought-provoking, dramatic, and even mysterious” and I have to agree. Collaborating with peers in your field is wonderful, but working with artists in other mediums is an altogether different experience. It felt extraordinary, getting to engage with another artist that way, and getting to think about my own work in a completely different medium. It might seem intimidating at first (it certainly felt that way to me), but cross-pollination in the arts can lead to such wonderful results.

So with that in mind, here is our collaborative video. It might seem a little odd, doing a post about one reading series for another reading series, but to me it goes with that collaborative, interconnected sense.

And after you watch it (if you watch it), consider maybe doing a similar project of your own. Reach out to a friend, an acquaintance in another field, and see what magic you come up with together. You won’t regret it.

Dominik Parisien visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Sonal Champsee, Laure Baudot, and Kirby. Our guest speaker, Cree-Métis scholar Deanna Reder, will give her talk on, “Supporting Indigenous Authors: from the archives to the Indigenous Voices Awards”.

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 13.01.21

Wednesday, January 13, 2020 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Dominik Parisien

Sonal Champsee

Laure Baudot

Kirby

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

Supporting Indigenous Authors: from the archives to the Indigenous Voices Awards

Cree-Métis scholar Deanna Reder is Chair of the Department of Indigenous Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. In 2018 she was inducted into the College of New Scholars in the Royal Society of Canada and is the co-Chair of the Indigenous Voices Awards.

READERS

Dominik Parisien is the author of the poetry collection Side Effects May Include Strangers (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020) and his recent work has appeared in journals such as Maisonneuve, PRISM International, Queen’s Quarterly, and The Literary Review of Canada, among others. Dominik is a disabled, bisexual French Canadian. He lives in Toronto.

Sonal Champsee writes plays, fiction and essays. Her work has been published in anthologies and magazines such as The New QuarterlyRicepaper, and Today’s Parent. She holds an MFA from UBC, is an instructor for the Sarah Selecky Writing School, and is currently working on a novel.

Laure Baudot’s work has appeared in publications including The Antigonish Review, The Danforth Review, Found Press, Prairie Fire, and Wasafiri Magazine of International Contemporary Writing. Her debut collection of short stories is This One Because of the Dead (Cormorant Books 2019). Her karate blog can be found at here. Currently a psychotherapist-in-training, she lives in Toronto with her husband and three children.

KIRBY is the author of WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE CALLED? (Anstruther Press, 2020), THIS IS WHERE I GET OFF (Permanent Sleep Press, 2019), SHE’S HAVING A DORIS DAY (knife | fork | book, 2017). Forthcoming POETRY IS QUEER (Palimpsest, Fall 2021) and NOT YOUR BEST no 2 [editor]. She is the publisher, book fairy at knife | fork | book [Toronto] jeffkirby.ca.

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BWS 11.11.20 report: “Podcasting for Fun (And Zero Dollars)” with Dina Del Bucchia

Dina Del Bucchia is a writer, podcaster, literary event host, editor, instructor and otter and dress enthusiast. She is the author of the short story collection, Don’t Tell Me What to Do, and four collections of poetry, and most recently, It’s a Big Deal!

So you’ve been thinking about what it takes to start your own podcast, now what? Our latest guest speaker, Dina Del Bucchia has some excellent tips on how to begin!

Podcasting for Fun (And Zero Dollars)

The thing about podcasts is that they can kind of be anything you want! With podcasts you have the freedom to create and publish whatever you like. If you start your own podcast there aren’t the constraints of a broadcaster to hold you back or censor your wildest ideas. If you can afford any type of recording equipment or have access to record then anything is possible.

However! That means you are the arbiter of what’s good. You’re quality control. You’re not just doing all the work of recording and production, but making sure that every element is the best it can be. So, you’re also, probably editing, hosting, booking guests, and all the while thinking about how to make the best podcast you can make.

A podcast is a commitment. I personally am always waiting for new episodes from my favourite shows and eagerly download them on the scheduled release date. If one doesn’t show up, there’s some genuine disappointment. When I don’t release an episode on time, I feel that too.

Here are some tips on how to make that possible, by considering a few elements and making some choices up front about what your podcast is going to be.

Clear concept

Know what you want to do. Be able to describe your podcast succinctly and with ease. Consider the specificity of the idea, who the ideal listeners would be, and how you can make that happen with the resources available to you. Ask yourself a list of questions to narrow down the options. Will it be a solo podcast, an interview, improv, scripted, narrative? Will you work with others or alone? Once you’ve figured out what you want you can set out to make it happen. And if you decide to work with others make sure everyone is clear on all the important points.

Consistency

Make sure your audience can rely on you consistently and also that you can rely on yourself and anyone you’re working with to do the same. This could mean setting and sticking to a consistent release schedule that is manageable for you (weekly, monthly, etc.) or the length (thirty minutes, an hour, etc.) or it could mean the work that goes into it before you head to record, like research or interview preparation. Developing systems to prepare for each episode, and knowing how much work will go into each one helps immensely with keeping it consistent.

Quality

Decide what this word means to you. If you want the cleanest and most professional sound, then the audio quality will take priority. If you want the content to be impeccable then you’ll focus on that. When producing something on your own it might not always be possible to have every level of quality meet the standards you’ve set, but prioritize the qualities most important to you to maintain and keep consistent. As per the previous point, consistency. Sometimes podcasts feel repetitive.

Be your own audience

We often tell writers to write what they would want to read and podcasting is no different. If you wouldn’t listen to your own podcast, why would anyone else? Tone, content, guests, sound quality, even your theme song contributes to the type of show you want to create. Make sure all those things appeal to you. Don’t make something for the “market” when you are doing it for free and for yourself. Your audience will be grateful you didn’t phone it in just to get caught up in the latest podcast trends.

Know your goals

Be honest with yourself about what your podcast will mean for you. If number of downloads is important, you’ll want to focus on promotion and marketing. If you want to create something special to you then one of your goals might be to focus on the details of each episode to create that special feeling. If you know you can only manage a single season of eight episodes, then do that. Not every podcast has to be ongoing. The content will often help refine the goals. And if your goal is to create a podcast, make the most achievable smaller goals to get things up and running.

Be kind to yourself

As many of us have other jobs and commitments knowing our limitations can help us answer questions about what we want our podcast to look like and find a clear path to achieve those goals. If you want making a podcast to be part of your life you have to find the time and energy. Don’t overload yourself. Sure, I made all these rules here (they’re really tips! Not rules!) but if you have to take a break, re-jig the show or make changes, that’s okay. Do what will work for you. And have fun! The best podcasts are often ones that you can tell hard work has gone into them, but the hosts are also enjoying the work they’re doing.

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BWS 11.11.20: Larry Baer

Larry Baer was born and raised in Montreal and moved to Toronto five years ago. Partly out of sheer laziness, he prefers writing short stories over a novel, especially stories about people coming to terms with their true selves, either through suppression or expression, and the consequences of that process.

What’s the perfect way to conduct an in-person interview during the pandemic? Larry Baer serves it up in his latest interview with himself!

An interview with Larry Baer

by Larry Baer

This is the unedited transcript of an interview conducted on the patio of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Toronto. Social distancing guidelines were respected. The interviewer and interviewee were seated less than six feet apart but wore masks.

Larry: It’s an honour to meet you. May I call you “Larry”?

Larry: Yes, of course.

Larry: Larry, you haven’t been writing for very long, only a few years. Perhaps you could tell me what motivated you to start writing.

Larry: I’m sorry, I couldn’t quite make that out through your mask. Could you repeat the question? Maybe we could ask them to turn the music down.

[A server is summoned and a few moments later, our request is carried out.]

Larry: As I was saying, you have only been writing for a few years. Could you tell me what motivated you to start writing?

Larry: Sure. Part of it was just having so much time to myself as a newcomer in the city but I also realized that, after finishing grad school and settling into my profession, I craved something creative in my life. I’ve always had an affinity for and, I would say, a respect for writing so it was natural to turn to this medium as a means of creative expression.

Larry: I feel I have to ask the inevitable question: Who has influenced your writing?

Larry: There are definitely some writers whose styles and story structures I have used as models for my own. I feel like I am still developing my own style and I think my style changes from story to story. Some recent influences are Lydia Davis, Lucia Berlin and Garth Greenwell. I’m pretty sure it was Lucia Berlin who once gave the advice to her students to get out of the way of the story. I think, at this point, I’ve very rarely succeeded in doing that but when I have, I’ve really seen the difference. I think the best stories are those that don’t feel like they were written. They feel like they just are and have always been.  

Larry: Could you tell us about your creative process?

Larry: I used to think the main obstacles to writing, or really any creative act I suppose, were time and stamina. I would read about these people who raised families and had full time jobs but got up at 5am to write and I’d just be blown away by their dedication and their productivity and I still am. But I realized that for me the main obstacle to writing was anxiety. So not too little time but too much anxiety: Will I discover by writing that I am actually terrible at this? If so, what’s the point, etc. And, of course, there is the uncertainty of a blank page—where do I start, and so on. So for me it’s been less about too little time and more about too much anxiety. I find I’m often crawling through a tunnel of anxiety before I get to the writing at the other end. What has been very liberating for me is to read about the similar struggles of other people who engage in any creative pursuit, to realize it is OK to write something mediocre, to write something awful and it will get better if you keep at it. Maybe the second thing you write will be a little less awful and eventually, you write something good. I once heard Philip Roth say, in an interview he gave shortly before he died, that being a writer is great because you just keep getting better at it, the more you write and he felt that way about his own writing even at the end of a long and distinguished career, that he was still getting better at it. For me, that was a wonderful thing to hear. It gave me permission to suck at writing but to write anyway, because I will get better at it. The funny thing is that I know this very well at an intellectual level. I studied motor learning in grad school, I know that the path to expertise is paved with your mistakes. This is true whether your goal is to be a tennis pro or a piano virtuoso. But it’s also true if you want to be a writer. It’s the only way. But sometimes our emotions can be harder to convince than our intellect. So I still get anxious about my writing but less and less, the more I write.

Larry: Do you have any advice for people who want to start writing or any creative activity?

Larry: Not really, other than what I’ve just said about overcoming anxiety. I feel like I am way too new at this. But if anyone has any advice for me, I’d be happy to hear it!

Larry: You don’t have a large portfolio of work…

Larry: Yet!

Larry: Yes, of course, sorry, not yet. But in the pieces you have written, are there common themes?

Larry: I would say that a primary focus for me is exploring the space between how we are and how we wish to be and what happens when we don’t bridge that gap. I think most of us live in that space at least some of the time and sometimes most of the time. So a lot of the action in my stories is internal to the characters as they struggle through this space.

Larry: I know how much you dislike interviews so thank you for agreeing to meet with me. I hope it wasn’t too awful.

Larry: Actually, it went much better than I expected. But you do realize this is nuts, right? I mean, you are me and I am you.

Larry: Well, that is very profound. A great closer for the interview.

Larry: I think I need a drink now. Join me at the bar?

Larry Baer visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 starting at 6:30pm alongside Joshua P’ng, Zoë S. Roy, and Jamie Tennant. Dina Del Bucchia, writer, podcaster, literary event host, editor, and instructor, will give her talk on, “Podcasting for Fun (And Zero Dollars”.

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 6:15.

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BWS 11.11.20: Jamie Tennant

Jamie Tennant has covered music and pop culture both locally and nationally. He is the Program Director at 93.3 CFMU FM and the host and producer of the literature program Get Lit. In 2016 he published his debut novel, The Captain of Kinnoull Hill. His new novel is tentatively scheduled for fall 2023.


In anticipation of his appearance at our next event, Jamie Tennant shares an excerpt from his forthcoming novel, tentatively titled River, Diverted.

It’s the mid 1990s, and screenwriter River Black is still Helen Delaney, a waitress in Toronto who spends most of her spare time watching horror films on VHS. Having trouble coping with her father’s death, she decides to move to Japan and reinvent herself.

*

The blurred confusion of airport concourses and unintelligible signs. The soothing voice of the Skyliner train. The baffling intensity of the three-minute walk between Ueno train stations: crowds like schools of fish, darting and twirling without a single collision; chirping traffic signals like battery-operated sparrows; low-hanging bridges against high-rising neon. Finally, the train, where I pressed my face against the window and peered into the dark.

Behind me, a salaryman in a sharp blue sharkskin suit watched me, amused; I could see his reflection in the window. His amusement would not dissuade me. I had been briefed on sixteen dozen Japanese do’s and don’ts. Don’t stick your chopsticks vertically in the rice. Don’t eat or drink while walking down the street. Don’t pass food from chopstick to chopstick! There was no rule about pressing your face against the train window. I was going to respect this culture, but I was still going to be me.

A confusing proposition, I guess, since I’d come here to become someone else.

The window vibrated in its casing, causing my top teeth to rattle against my bottom teeth. I opened my mouth to end the chattering and stared, gape-jawed, into the invisible Japanese countryside. I let a long, low “aaaaahhh” stretch its way out of my throat. The juddering motion of the window gave my voice a rapid vibrato, and I wondered what the salaryman must have thought about this strange foreign chick bleating into the night like a bewildered goat. Sometimes I did things that felt good and looked weird. Still do.

I stood up to hit the vending machine. The train seemed to make a perpendicular shift on the tracks. I felt like a surfer on an erratic wave. With surfing on my mind, I spread my arms out for balance and launched into a mostly off-key approximation of the Hawaii Five-O theme. No one in the car seemed to notice.

At the end of the car, a row of vending machines shone with the promise of so many garishly-packaged pleasures. Beer! Cigarettes! Boss Coffee! I opted for a Pocari Sweat because, I mean, it’s called Pocari Sweat. What’s a Pocari? Why does it sweat? Neither the milky translucence of the bottle nor the blue and white label provided this pertinent information.

As I hung ten down the sideways-shifting aisle, Pocari Sweat in hand, we barrelled into a tunnel. The train shook like a plane in turbulence. I shot my arms out with a short squeal and the bottle tumbled into the aisle, and rolled to the salaryman’s shiny leathered feet.

I stepped forward, embarrassed, and kneeled to retrieve my beverage.

Sumimasen.” Excuse me. A phrase I was likely to need with some frequency. The man, however, appeared to be amused, which was a relief. When people don’t find my antics amusing, they find them annoying, and I never know which way it’s going to break.

Back in my seat, I tasted the Sweat. It resembled a sports drink, but sports drinks at home are the colour of crayons and salty enough to curl your tongue into a Twizzler. They kind of bully you into thinking you’ve been refreshed. This was more subtle and did not, despite its promise, taste like the sweat of anything.

In the window’s reflection it could see the salaryman nodding off. His head lolled forward, his chin bouncing off his sternum. The way my dad used to get after the fabled seventh brandy. Used to get. Past tense. Former tense. Dead tense.

“Dead.” I said it aloud, as if to remind myself. “My dad is dead.”

“I’m sorry,” said man in the suit, who hadn’t nodded off at all.

“Thank you.” I said, genuinely moved. “Thank you so much.”

I plopped down in the empty seat across the aisle from him.

“Are you on vacation?” he asked.

“Sort of. I’ve been fascinated with Japan ever since I was a little kid,” I continued. “Godzilla movies and anime and all that. I mean, I don’t think Japan’s all marauding kaiju and Hello Kitty. I have a lot of respect for the culture. I even studied the language a little bit. And it helps that Japan is far away from Canada, in just about every way you can imagine. I need to go through something transformative right now.”

“Excellent!” The man was delighted. Other foreigners probably answered that question with a grunt and a shrug. “What does it mean, transform…forma…?”

“Transformative. Something that will change my outlook on life and help me become a new person.”

“I understand.”

“No, I bet you don’t.” I rested my right foot on my left thigh and turned towards him, my hands held out as if preparing to catch a ball. “I’m changing everything. All my life I wanted to write movies, right? But I never did it. I just sort of wandered through a boring university degree I didn’t want, and wandered into a boring job I didn’t care about. After my dad died, my sister said to me, now’s the time, go be who you want to be, so I thought, why don’t I? Do something different, start writing, and even change my name? So that’s what I did.”

I spoke as if talking to myself, which I sort of was. Honestly, half the time I’m talking out loud, a listener is optional.

“What is your new name?” he asked.

“My name is River Black,” I stuck out my hand with jokey formality. “And you, sir, are the first person in history to meet me.”

“River.” He smiled but did not take my hand. “In Japanese, River is kawa. I think people will call you Kawa-chan, if they are your friends.”

“Well, I hope they do!”

“May I call you Kawa-chan?”

“Of course you can,” I replied. “You’re my very first friend.”

Jamie Tennant visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 starting at 6:30pm alongside Joshua P’ng, Zoë S. Roy, and Larry Baer. Dina Del Bucchia, writer, podcaster, literary event host, editor, and instructor, will give her talk on, “Podcasting for Fun (And Zero Dollars”.

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 6:15.

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BWS 11.11.20: Zoë S. Roy

Zoë S. Roy is the author of three novels: Spinster KangCalls Across The PacificThe Long March Home, and a short fiction collection: Butterfly Tears, published by Inanna Publications. Her literary fiction always focuses on women’s cross-cultural experiences. Besides creative writing, Zoë has also created several Wikipedia pages.

My Protagonists

I write literary fiction. My most recent novel is Spinster Kang. If you’re interested in it, you could take a look at a book trailer on YouTube. If you’d like to know what inspired me to create the protagonist, you could read the Interview with Zoë S. Roy, author of Spinster Kang.

Very often, some readers conclude my fiction is a family history or a memoir. A few of them assume that The Long March Home tells my family story. One reviewer thinks Calls across the Pacific is a “woman’s historical fictional memoir.” Another reviewer says Spinster Kang “has an autobiographic feel to it.” All these comments make me feel as if I lived several lives.

In an interview from Ricepaper, a question was asked about whether the protagonist in Calls across the Pacific was based on myself or anyone else. My answer was neither. The stories I heard about “the sent-down youth” during my youth in Mao’s China inspired me to write the short story, “Yearning.” The research about the escapee evolved from my corresponding with a pen pal in Hong Kong about the successful attempts by defectors from mainland China. My walk across the bridge at the Lo Wu Immigration Control Point between Shenzhen and Hong Kong confirmed to me that my protagonist, Nina, would be able to swim halfway to reach Hong Kong.

As Alan Moore put it, “use lies to tell truth.” I invent stories to show what I’ve learned from literature, what I’ve experienced in life, and as well what I’ve perceived about other human beings in the world no matter whether they live in my era or different times.

If you’re curious about what my fictional character inspiration is, you could read “My Confession: Exploring the Intersection between Memoir and Story.”

However, I have a little confession to make: Tania, the second main character in Spinster Kang, has the two characteristics, the same as that of a friend of mine: “a retired professor” and “never married.” To commemorate this friend who passed away last month, I’m enclosing a photo of myself with her in 2016.

Zoë S. Roy visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 starting at 6:30pm alongside Joshua P’ng, Jamie Tennant, and Larry Baer. Dina Del Bucchia, writer, podcaster, literary event host, editor, and instructor, will give her talk on, “Podcasting for Fun (And Zero Dollars”.

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 6:15.

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