Author Archives: all words on me

Brockton Writers Series 12.05.21

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Elizabeth Hirst

Ryanne Kap

Waubgeshig Rice

Therese Estacion

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.

OAC_REVISED_NEWCOLOURS_1805c

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GUEST SPEAKER

Screenwriting versus Prose

Tricia Fish is a Canadian writer who studied art; she is best known for her debut comedy feature inspired by her youth in Cape Breton – “New Waterford Girl”, nominated for seven Genies. She writes features, shorts, and television; her new series is in development with Sienna Films.

READERS

Elizabeth Hirst is a Canadian horror author, graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop Class of 2006, and an editor of books and short stories. Her writing on LGBT themes in horror fiction has appeared on Tor.com and The Scariest Part, and her novels, The Face in the Marsh and Distant Early Warning are available from Renaissance Press. Find her on Twitter and Instagram as @hirst_author, and blogging at http://elizabethhirstblog.wordpress.com.

Ryanne Kap is a Chinese-Canadian writer from Strathroy, Ontario. Her work has been featured in Grain Magazine, Feelszine, carte blanche, and elsewhere. In 2020, her short story “Heat” won first place in Grain Magazine’s Short Grain contest. You can find her online at www.ryannekap.com or on Twitter and Instagram @ryannekap.

Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation. He has written three fiction titles, and his short stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies. His most recent novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, was published in 2018 and became a national bestseller. He graduated from Ryerson University’s journalism program in 2002, and spent most of his journalism career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a video journalist and radio host. He left CBC in 2020 to focus on his literary career. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario with his wife and two sons.

Therese Estacion is part of the Visayan diaspora community. She is an elementary school teacher and is studying to be a psychotherapist. Therese is also a bilateral below knee and partial hands amputee, and identifies as a disabled person/person with a disability. Therese lives in Toronto. Her poems have been published in CV2 and PANK Magazine. Phantompains is her first book.

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BWS 10.03.21 report: “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion” with Jen Sookfong Lee

Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, nominated for International Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction PrizeThe Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book AwardThe End of EastGentlemen of the ShadeThe Shadow List, and Finding Home. Jen teaches at The Writers’ Studio Online with Simon Fraser University, acquires and edits fiction for Wolsak & Wynn, and co-hosts the podcast Can’t Lit.

In her guest talk Jen Sookfong Lee guides us through the process of supporting inclusion in publishing by getting to the heart of the matter, “how do we navigate this space in a way that honours the diversity of our stories voices and identities, while uplifting and making space for others who also need that support?”

Introduction

  • Publishing has historically been a challenging industry to navigate for BIPOC writers, as well as writers who are LGBTQ+.
  • Publishing spots have been scarce, and the types of narratives that have been allowed into the marketplace have often been ones that advance certain stereotypes about these communities.
  • In addition, jobs within the publishing industry are often held, still, by people who are born with privilege—usually white, straight, and cis. This is definitely changing and many publishers have actively tried to counteract this with inclusion initiatives, and change has been happening at the entry level. Where it is stalled somewhat is the managerial and executive level.
  • Without editors, agents, and publicists who understand the breadth of authors’ stories, the books themselves can’t be edited or promoted in inclusive and sensitive ways.
  • There are many reasons for this that have to do with access to education, mainstream popular and literary culture, and representation.
  • But the real question for us as writers is: how do we navigate this space in a way that honours the diversity of our stories, voices, and identities?
  • While uplifting and making space for others who also need that support?

THREE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO SUPPORT INCLUSION IN PUBLISHING

Ask the hard questions

  • When it comes time for you to negotiate a contract, consider an offer on your book, or appear at events to promote your work, don’t be afraid to ask questions, as many as you need to be clear that your concerns are being addressed.
  • If you are from a marginalized community, it can be hard to ask probing questions, as the pressure to be agreeable and not difficult or aggressive is heavy.
  • But you have every right to ask about how an editor will approach issues of language or race, or if a festival event you have been invited to will be accessible and inclusive, or if a publisher will help pay for a sensitivity reader.
  • It’s important too that writers with privilege ask similarly hard questions: will the event be inclusive and accessible, who else is being publishing in this issue or this season, can we share promotion resources if someone else who is marginalized needs that support.
  • Always being aware that it can be very hard for someone who is marginalized to advocate for themselves.
  • Everything that has to do with the business of writing is open for negotiation.

If in doubt, seek a second opinion

  • If you can’t come to an agreement about a contract or event, reach out to your network of
  • other writers and mentors to see what they think.
  • One thing I have learned is that writing is not a solitary activity.
  • It takes a community to care for the individual.
  • We’re fortunate to have organizations like TWUC, League of Canadian Poets, Writers’ Trust that actively try to make that community and address equity.
  • Resources that I have found helpful is the How To series published by TWUC, which includes taxes and contracts.
  • Publishing is a hard business that doesn’t offer job security or a lot of money.
  • Without each of holding each other up, none of this is possible, both in terms of business but also in terms of mental health.

Determine what you’re comfortable with

  • We all have different comfort levels for what we will write about, how we will promote our writing, and what topics we will discuss in public.
  • During the publishing process, it’s important to think about what our boundaries are.
  • For example, some of you might be comfortable talking about race in an event meant to promote inclusion in the literary world, and some of you may not.
  • As time goes on, those boundaries may change, so try to check in with yourself to reassess what you need or don’t need, and to make sure you are still staying on track with your limits.
  • This applies to burn-out and how much we work too.
  • One of the things I have noticed with emerging writers is that the industry will anoint a few new writers a year with It-person status.
  • This is particularly true if they also carry the burden of representation.
  • There is a lot pressure to keep up, to make sure you’re tweeting every day, to jump into controversial conversations that relate to your work or identity, to accept every invite.
  • But, you don’t have to.
  • My interest as a mentor or an editor is being able to help build a sustainable long term career. 
  • And that means not burning out, saying no when you have to.

Conclusion

  • When things are quiet and we’re getting a lot of rejections, we start to believe that we will never be able to reach our writing career goals.
  • I don’t just mean publication or the Giller Prize.
  • Stable housing, holidays, retirement funds—all of these are for people with regular jobs.
  • But it’s possible to have goals and to work toward them.
  • We just need to be organized and mindful of and engaged with our business practices, our boundaries, scheduling, and money.
  • We are at a transition point now where inclusion and payments are being openly discussed,
  • Without that, we can never move forward with enough cake for everyone.

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BWS 10.03.21: Laila Malik

Laila Malik is a diasporic desi writer in Adobigok, traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. She has been published in various literary magazines, thrice shortlisted for creative non-fiction prizes, and is a recipient of an OAC grant for her first volume of poetry (forthcoming).

I was thinking about all the complex and disparate iterations of personhood through time, and specifically the experiential idea of “woman”, with all its actual unruliness, against multiple backdrops of prescriptive myth and fairy tale and white-centred gendering. And I was thinking about the ways we make choices with and without clarity and compromise, and how we age against them and forget contexts and remember feelings. I was thinking about happy endings and pat outcomes, and how some things simply remain unresolved, only in beautiful new formations. And I was thinking about music, how always and every time, it threads together our fragments, allows us a kind of wholeness.

The saddest songs are in D Minor

Imagine a woman.

You could imagine a witch with two cats named Prudence and Dogma, who rides a pen instead of a broomstick under a no-moon sky, or a woman who sidesaddles a crochet needle or a chopstick from a Thai take-out place, one that she washes and reuses until it is splintered and frayed and then she uses it to aerate the compacted soil in her jasmine plant.

You could imagine a keyboard that thinks slower than fingers, or a smartphone that speaks with a halting thumb.

Imagine how a woman beholds the biceps of her friend, curled around a newborn kitten, standing in a kitchen revisiting all the other babies, you could listen to the competing rumble and purr of their voices and behold how the bag of ill-fitting shards that are brain and heart tumble, re-shatter, reassemble.

Or imagine a 25 year old brittled by a failing species choking a hapless planet, astounded by the elastic country of his lover’s abdomen, saying simply “I want to have her babies.”

Or one who can no longer find his footprint, for whom might as well becomes reason enough.

Try imagining two mammals who wanted just for a moment only to be humans together, with no ulteriors or anteriors or posteriors, only flesh and spirit breathing grace, gliding two wheels apiece into a celluloid sunset.

Now imagine her again, imagine her jasmine plant is dying and her lover the poet, the one she never allowed to touch her body, is already dead, and she is weary of dampening her daughter’s pillow in the dark, imagine her just picking one of the shards and beseeching her Creator to make her steadfast. This one, God, just let this one be me.

You could imagine a woman alone in her apartment, getting high and listening to old soul on vinyl, avoiding her mother’s phone calls.

You could imagine her mother.

Laila Malik visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin JonesNatasha Ramoutarand Andrew Wilmot. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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

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BWS 10.03.21: Andrew Wilmot

Andrew Wilmot is an award-winning writer and editor, and co-publisher of the magazine Anathema: Spec from the Margins. Their first novel, The Death Scene Artist, an epistolary horror story of body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, and self-destruction, is available from Buckrider Books/Wolsak & Wynn. For more, check out andrewwilmot.ca.

After thinking long and hard about what to write for their blog, Andrew decided to lean into the struggles and get a little uncomfortably honest.

No joke: I’ve been trying to think of what to write for this essay for a few weeks now. I could self-promote*, sure, but I’m not very fond of that at the best of times. I’ve thought about offering an excerpt from something I’ve written but lately have felt so detached from my own creative output that I simply have not been able to decide what, if anything, would be a decent showcase for my work. Also, I write a lot of body horror and that’s just not something you drop on an unsuspecting readership without warning.

I thought, too, of doing some sort of list as a fun way to introduce people to the sorts of works that make me tick—the books that have fuelled, in some capacity, my desire to write and the themes I so frequently explore. But then I realized I’m not terribly interested in offering up capsule reviews of any one thing. (But for anyone interested: read Daytripper [Moon and Ba], Hygiene and the Assassin [Nothomb], The Shining Girls [Beukes], How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe [Yu], The Inheritance Trilogy [Jemisin], and Altered Carbon [some transphobic asshole] for a solid education in all things me.)

I apologize if it sounds as if I’m rather blah about this whole thing. I’m not, I assure you. But also, I kind of am. Confused? Well then, let me introduce you to my good friend** Depression.

I’m not one to hold back re: discussing mental health. I’ve spoken many times over the years about my battles with anorexia and chronic anxiety, but I’ve not touched too much on similar issues I’ve had with depression—at least not publicly. Largely this is because, prior to 2020, it always seemed to take a backseat to the rest of the internal chaos. But the combination of finally addressing longstanding issues I’ve had with respect to my body and identity, and finally gaining something akin to stability in my professional life have helped mitigate some of that ever-present panic. Which is great, truly—I love not waking up every single day with my heart already in my throat.

But then 2020 happened, and my depression decided to kick down the door in a very real way. And a year or so later… it’s still there, crashing on my couch and not helping one iota with the rent. It’s taken me too long to recognize it for what it is, and even longer for me to reckon with how, for some time now, it has taken from me that which makes me feel most human.

Bluntly, I haven’t been writing. At all. For all intents and purposes, 2020 was the first year since probably 2003 that I just didn’t produce much of anything. It’s not even that I didn’t write; it’s that I didn’t want to write. I wanted to want to write—I felt that a lot—but the actual urge to sit and stare at a page, pen in hand? Gone.

So, what have I been doing instead? Watching things. A lot of things. Mostly horror movies. New, old, good, bad, cult—whatever I can get my hands on. Why? Because as despicable and fucked up as horror can be, it’s also my comfort food. It’s catharsis via simulated mutilation, amplified terror, and buckets of blood of all manner of quality—from “that looks way too real” to “I think this was actually just a bunch of ketchup packets.” Horror films by and large give us identifiable, quantifiable threats, often personified or portrayed in ways that are accessible and easy to understand, provided you’ve got the stomach for it. They take our fears and turn them back on us, show us what they really are. And I love them for that. Also, it’s been a good year for entertaining our worst fears. Sadly.

I’ve travelled this months-long descent into all things gory and disgusting as a means of combatting my own fears while also slowly finding my way back to actually caring about stories again—about wanting to get back to telling them and not merely letting them coast over me like so much has these past twelve months. And it’s working. I think. At the very least I feel something stirring again—a desire to plan and plot—I’m just uncertain if it’s actual desire or just this anxious gnawing in my brain informing me that I’m not currently doing enough to stay relevant.

Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s neither and I’m still figuring out how to re-light my fuse. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure. About the only thing I am sure about is my urge to be transparent—with my writing and with who I am. Because a lot of things are on fire right now, everywhere, constantly, and still so many of us feel like we have to be producing at all times or we’re failures.

But none of that is true. We are not what we produce. Our worth is not measured in book deals or story sales. I have no interest in thinking that way, though I will admit to being guilty of such thoughts, in my weaker moments. But I’ve had a year now of “weaker moments,” and I’m sick of this shit. I want out.

Why did I write this rambling screed about my mental health? Because, frankly, I had no idea what else to write. And if I’m not going to be sincere with you then I don’t know why I’m writing anything in the first place. My work is, at all times, a self-reckoning. There’s far more of me in the pages of what I produce than most people realize. And if I expect anyone to ever grapple with what I create in a meaningful way, then I have to be honest with myself, and with you.

And right now? I’m kind of a mess.

And I think I’m ready to see what comes of it.

(*I mean, I am going to self-promote at least a little bit: See here for my book, and here for an awesome little magazine I co-edit that publishes speculative fiction and poetry from queer BIPOC authors.)

(**Not actually a friend—more of a freeloading asshole that won’t take a hint.)

Andrew Wilmot, visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin Jones, Natasha Ramoutarand Laila Malik. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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

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BWS 10.03.21: Natasha Ramoutar

Photo credit: Matthew Narea

Natasha Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer by way of Scarborough (Ganatsekwyagon) at the east side of Toronto. She is the author of Bittersweet (Mawenzi House, 2020), a volunteer with the Festival of Literary Diversity, and the co-editor of FEEL WAYS, an anthology of Scarborough writing.

For the wonderful folks at the Brockton Writers Series, I, Adrian De Leon, had the chance to interview one of my best friends and co-conspirators, Natasha Ramoutar, author of Bittersweet (Mawenzi House, 2018), and co-editor of FEEL WAYS: A Scarborough Anthology. When you, dear reader, get the chance to hear her read, you might experience what she calls the ‘dreamspace’ of poetry, and listen for yourself the type of ethereal and speculative mood threaded throughout her art.

The brief conversation that follows is but a sliver of the kinds of theoretical and literary brilliance that Natasha weaves into her writing. Much like her poems, she takes you across space and time, through literary traditions, then back to our hometown of Scarborough, Ontario.

While Bittersweet is steeped in history, and particularly histories of migration and empire, to me, your book is a masterclass in a subjunctive poetics—that is, in imagining, speculating, wishing, and dreaming up new possible futures. Many of your poems ask questions that make the fantastical seem possible, e.g. “Is there a way to fry accents into our doubles?” (26). How does the subjunctive mood enable you to invent new types of verses? And how does your current work continue (or not) the work of speculation that Bittersweet does so well?

While particular histories of migration and empire serve as the backbone of Bittersweet, the collection is also an exercise of collaging together a lineage when personal and historical archives may be lost or suppressed. I naturally gravitated towards the subjunctive poetics because it allowed me to go beyond the limits of reality and the constraints of linear time. It felt important to place many of these poems in what I have come to think of as a “dreamspace,” where inconsistent, conflicting, or hazy timelines and stories could exist side by side.

Outside of poetry, the subjunctive mood is something that I find myself most comfortable working within. My fiction work has always been speculative, in part because of my interest in folklore and urban legends. In my current poetry and fiction alike, I continue to use the fantastical to explore and reinvent familiar tropes.

What is it about writing from and with Scarborough, our hometown, that enables you to stretch your writerly (and our readerly) imagination across space, time, continents, islands, and oceans?

On many occasions, I have heard others describe Scarborough as a “microcosm of the world.” Inside this microcosm, the chorus of voices of the suburb come to harmonize. I describe it as harmonization because that is what I have felt with other Scarborough artists – there is always a willingness to support, uplift, and collaborate. This kinship is something that enables me to feel audacious enough to stretch my imagination and take risks in my writing that I wouldn’t be confident in trying alone. While Bittersweet is technically a single-authored book, I owe a lot to our writing community in its creation.

What poets, and what writers, from the many traditions and literary scenes you’ve read, do you consider as part of Bittersweet’s genealogy?

I am very grateful to have had many literary traditions to draw inspiration from during the process of putting Bittersweet together. Books like Gaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman, Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return, and Carrianne Leung’s That Time I Loved You – among many, many other works – gave me a foundation to dream up different parts of the poetry collection.

What kind of future writing do you imagine your book might enable, whether in our hometown, or among audiences you haven’t yet imagined?

In the same way that [the aforementioned] texts afforded me the capacity to create my collection, I hope that Bittersweet might serve as a catalyst to further work. For me, the biggest marker of success for this collection would be if someone read these poems, felt a resonance with them, and then were spurred to work on their own art. I would like Bittersweet to be one part of larger conversations.


Natasha Ramoutar visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Gavin Jones
Andrew Wilmot, and Laila Malik. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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

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BWS 10.03.21: Gavin Jones

Gavin Jones is a writer, poet, self-publisher, and educator who is based in Toronto. He is a past student of York University and author of From Suicide Kit to Liberating Liberty, a coming-of-age LGBTQ + novel about identity, sexuality, and self-acceptance. He’s also working on two other young adult fiction books and a self help guide for youth and adults to overcome emotional trauma. Gavin is passionate about working with young people, he believes in the power of storytelling to connect with youth locally and around the world. Gavin has also established a tutoring program to assist youth from low-income families to develop learning skills in the areas of high school math, English, and science. 

Ahead of his appearance at our March 10th event, Gavin shares two poems with us – the first, Cover Up, was written while grieving the loss of his mother in 2015. It was a reflection on the strength and bravery of his mother and the community of women who helped him through that difficult time. The second poem, Remember Me, is in memory of the many people who have passed away in 2020 and a reminder to their families to cherish the living.

Cover Up

Let me cover up the scars from last night.

Let me cover up the verbal filth that came from my spouses’ mouth, the rudeness from my teenage child, the abuse from the woman whose husband I’m sleeping with.

Let me cover up the scars that were left on my face, the bruises on my body.                                                                                               

Let me put on my makeup and show off my inner confidence. I’m going to let my strength come through the beauty that shows from the outside.          

Let me cover up the stains from the tears.                                            

Let me cover up those slaps across my face.                                         

Let me cover up with the strength of a woman. I am a woman. Am I truly a woman?

Am I covered up?

I have to cover up; I can’t let others see the weakness in me! I can’t let them see how my spouse and my children are abusing me. I can’t let them see the beat down from the man who is not loyal to me.

Let me cover up. Cover up years of hurt, guilt and shame.                    

Let me cover up the hypocrisy, the lies and the pain.                             

Let me cover up my own self shame and hatred to my own self.

I am a woman; an esteemed woman. A woman who holds the highest positions, a woman who manages people, a woman who is qualified more than most men. A woman who everyone talks about, a woman who walks with confidence, a woman who walks in a room and everyone gets nervous.                                                          

I am that woman, that type of woman. A woman who wears the title, miss, mam, madam, president, CEO. Dr. Professor, teacher. I am a woman whose strength become known away from home.

I am a woman who is covered up, and what does that say about me? Does it mean I’m weak because I covered up? Does it mean I’m not worthy of my title as a woman?

Woman thou woman, our lives are filled with storms and turmoil, our lives bear the scars of captured slaves. Our lives are tears, pain, hurt and guilt.

Despite our curses, despite our fears, despite our weakness, aren’t we still women in our own rights?

I hear the bickering, I hear the noise, I hear the laughter, from other women, but I leave you with this, what would they say about us if we walked away like most men?

Remember Me

The sun will never rise on my face again. A new day shall not awaken me. The sound of nature will be heard no more, for tomorrow I’ll be gone.

The folks I loved and dreamed about will rise to my ashes, and a jar shall hold all of me. I will go where the wind goes, and I shall sing what the birds sang. I will wait, wait for the day when life reincarnates and once again, I’ll become. 

Let not the empty echoes of my body frightens you, let not the teardrops of my past pain bring you sorrow. I’ve lived without you knowing me, I’ve cried tears of bitterness without you hearing me. My prayerful devotions have let me in monasteries and sanctuaries. I’ve died many times in front of your eyes and I’ve lived within your dreams. 

Wipe away those bitter tears, and pick up the pieces of your broken heart. While my soul rests for another joy, talk and laugh about the memories of old. 

Remember the dreams I’ve shared with you, remember the Joy’s we had, remember my pain and what I’ve overcome, remember me in the light of your beautiful world. Remember me in the darkest time, remember me when the shadows come, remember my tears, those loving and lonely, remember all that I am when I’m away in my new home. 

The sun will never rise on my face again. A new day shall not awaken me. The sound of nature will be heard no more, for tomorrow I’ll be gone, but I will wait, wait for the day when life reincarnates and once again, I’ll become. 

Gavin Jones visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Natasha Ramoutar, Andrew Wilmot, and Laila Malik. Our guest speaker Jen Sookfong Lee addresses how publishing is hard to navigate for BIPOC and offers practical tips for managing the publishing process in her talk, “The Business of Publishing and Inclusion”.

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

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Brockton Writers Series 10.03.21

Wednesday, March 10, 2021 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Gavin Jones

Natasha Ramoutar

Andrew Wilmot

Laila Malik

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.

OAC_REVISED_NEWCOLOURS_1805c

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GUEST SPEAKER

The Business of Publishing and Inclusion

Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, nominated for International Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The End of East, Gentlemen of the Shade, The Shadow List, and Finding Home. Jen teaches at The Writers’ Studio Online with Simon Fraser University, acquires and edits fiction for Wolsak & Wynn, and co-hosts the podcast Can’t Lit.

READERS

Gavin Jones is a writer, poet, self-publisher, and educator who is based in Toronto. He is a past student of York University and author of From Suicide Kit to Liberating Liberty, a coming-of-age LGBTQ + novel about identity, sexuality, and self-acceptance. He’s also working on two other young adult fiction books and a self help guide for youth and adults to overcome emotional trauma. Gavin is passionate about working with young people, he believes in the power of storytelling to connect with youth locally and around the world. Gavin has also established a tutoring program to assist youth from low-income families to develop learning skills in the areas of high school math, English, and science. 

Photo credit: Matthew Narea

Natasha Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer by way of Scarborough (Ganatsekwyagon) at the east side of Toronto. She is the author of Bittersweet (Mawenzi House, 2020), a volunteer with the Festival of Literary Diversity, and the co-editor of FEEL WAYS, an anthology of Scarborough writing.

Andrew Wilmot is an award-winning writer and editor, and co-publisher of the magazine Anathema: Spec from the Margins. Their first novel, The Death Scene Artist, an epistolary horror story of body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, and self-destruction, is available from Buckrider Books/Wolsak & Wynn. For more, check out andrewwilmot.ca.

Laila Malik is a diasporic desi writer in Adobigok, traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. She has been published in various literary magazines, thrice shortlisted for creative non-fiction prizes, and is a recipient of an OAC grant for her first volume of poetry (forthcoming).

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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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