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BWS 10.07.19: SK Dyment

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SK Dyment is a writer and visual artist. SK has an illustrated blog with The BuzzMag called Inking Quickly, and his humour and illustration work have appeared in Peace Magazine, This Magazine, Briarpatch, Open Road, The Activist, Kick It Over and Fireweed among others. Steel Animalsis is their debut novel.

 
Ahead of their July 10th appearance, SK Dyment opens up about their debut novel, Steel Animalsis, and their inspirations and journey as a writer.

 

There doesn’t ever seem to be a queer philosophical adventure fiction category, which is what my debut novel Steel Animals features, so even though people love it in their displays, because the cover design is evocative and pretty, on the shelf it becomes mysterious.

The book is based around a rag-tag group of welder friends, while two of the male friends grew up together and were intimate as teens and as young men. The book definitely has a hot relationship between a young dyke leaning to gender fluid or trans and a bisexual in it, but the plot is more widely around these other events as well. So besides the entertaining story of a bank robber who needs to learn forgiveness not to mention impulse control and not drag her new true love into a plot for revenge, there is a whole secondary event happening, as one of the teen boys has grown up to become a top man in a corrupt construction firm while the other one opposes him.

The issues of loyalty, ethics and moral issues also are themed into the plot, which weaves together with the building of a squirrel-shaped glider and a number of other playful devices and funny events of magical realism. Of course, redemption and salvation are there too, as well as the wildly terrifying and reportedly funny finale, but the loyalty theme is very catalytic and it revolves around a male love relationship while a female love relationship powers a rebuilt vintage motorcycle through the middle. To me, this is queer fiction. The book contains queer people, bisexuals, a straight couple who stray, a gay couple who bring a baby to the New York MOMA, the two hot dykes with their motorcycle romance, and it is really written for readers who are interested in the deeper contemporary questions around relationships and around the problem of corruption as well as those readers simply interested in reading something fun.

My first experiences with publishing things was in the form of cartooning, and editorial-type drawings for magazines. I decided to tackle the novel-length form a few years ago, after I had written smaller articles for student newspapers and had short stories published here and there. I approached it in a different way than some novelists, really like I was going to war at first with the prose. I forced myself to write a set amount every day and to not leave my space until I had produced tangible results and had met my required word count. I used to write with my rollerblades on, and skate around my carpeted apartment, descending the stairs finally sideways at night, one frazzled step at a time, to go rollerblading alone for miles under the moon. So the bare bones of the manuscript was developed in that way.

The influence and purpose behind my narrative voice however, was formed, as mentioned on my website www.skdyment.ca to a very large extent from my experience growing up working in the family bookshop, which I had to do after school. The shop had a massive collection of Western philosophy among other features which speaks about purpose. It was from the philosophy that I developed a sense that people abstracted intellectually on the “art of living a good life” and that the “love of wisdom” was a pursuit, but as I came of age in the 1980’s, I was aware that it was a sexist, racist society that excluded the good life based on arbitrary categories and required LGBT people to be in the closet or be fired and excluded from Canadian government jobs.

As a teenager I had another job as a night cleaner at the Department of Defence, pushing a little cleaning cart from office to office, and so I had actually seen lying next to an eighties-era shredder a list of names of Defence employees who had been reprimanded for overly-out behaviour. This was not fiction. This was a reality that was playing itself out around me while I tried to focus on my own life, and my own sprawling existential questions surrounded by Camus, Foucault, Hegel, Socrates and Plato. So besides the philosophy tomes, which had more questions than answers, I was required to evaluate boxes from people downsizing their libraries of those quickly-devoured paperback books that truly reached out by authors such as Tom Wolfe or Nora Ephron, and in the midst of this I discovered Robert Pirsig who blew my mind.

So I developed a sense, in a true tactile way, of the type of writing that people actually loved-up and grimed-up and shared with friends and that ultimately arrived in boxes for someone unknown stranger to discover, and it wasn’t the dusty philosophy books, the vast collection of military history or even the well-meaning pop-psych books that populated the shop. I told myself that I would some day write a snappy little book that ended up with that grunge effect like that, or at the very least, a debut novel that showed I knew how to write. People are telling me they find it an entertaining romp, which encourages me to write another one.

When I moved to Toronto just a few years ago, I saw the beautiful motorcycles lined up in front of Ryerson University as I sat in a coffee-shop composing essays for an art director in Canadian film who was teaching a course. I saw Ducatis and Harley-Davidson and even a Norton. Cafe racers. And I thought, this is it, if I want people to know I can write things, I’ve got to take that incredible restrained energy from that row of bikes and create a fast-paced novel that could be on the screen. And although I’ve only owned one and only had it for a little while I fancy motorcycles, they are proletarian, use very little fuel and are easily converted, they roar with energy and thrum with animal excitement.

So the next semester I took a course in publishing, and stayed up late in the Ryerson Library self-publishing the first version, which ultimately was re-edited by Inanna. I am very grateful to Inanna Press. And as I write the screenplay, I realize that the sound of a grunge music band such as the Riot Grrls might quite fit nicely as a sort melodic background growl. I did live that era, roamed Seattle and San Francisco and the West Coast as a hitchhiker. So the rebellious power chord strum of grunge and punk rock has a mood-music place in the writing. I’ve recently written a Coles notes style study guide for the book so that it can be taught in an academic setting, because there’s a helluva lot in there, hidden things, secret meanings, little poems, an encrypted code. I wanted my readers to be able to identify cultural references along the way.

Hopefully through the book people sense they  have looked into the interworkings of human relationships and found relevance, and have visited the world of poetic and philosophical abstractions while enjoying an adventure.

So now I continue to write and spend time developing fresh ideas in different forms, and I always come back to these philosophical questions. Why are we here? To cynically damage our beautiful planet, I think not. To enhance the current ways we have to tear down corruption and in the same stroke nurture an egalitarian society? That sounds like the right message to me. Without being a spoiler, the book tries to land in this optimistic place, using magic realism to take things a little past normal but also using the basic magic everyone has in them to shift culture and save everyday lives.

 

SK Dyment visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Teddy Syrette, Jenny Yuen, Terri Favro, and guest speaker Leah Bobet who will be exploring word building with a focus on character in her talk, “Worlds are Made of People.”

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BWS 10.07.19: Terri Favro

Terri

Terri Favro is the author of four books including “Sputnik’s Children”, a Globe & Mail 100 book, CBC Books top ten book and Quill & Quire best book, shortlisted for the Sunburst Award and optioned for the screen by EntertainmentOne. Terri also collaborates on graphic novels and likes robots, her family and wet, dirty martinis.

 

I sometimes think that I’m spending my life writing one big story. Every book, essay and short story seems to be about the same things: the Cold War, nuclear bombs, comic books, immigration/emigration, martinis, winemaking, hot rods, Italian-Canadians, Catholic mysticism, epic struggles between good and evil, and sexual obsession. Let’s throw quantum physics in there for good measure.

I often borrow from other stories and reference them in my work. The Proxy Bride is based on one of The Canterbury Tales (The Miller’s Tale) and influenced by classical Italian opera. Once Upon A Time in West Toronto is a retelling of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western “Once Upon a Time in the West”, reimagined in Toronto’s Italian community in the mid-1970s. Sputnik’s Children is based on my favourite “Star Trek” (Original Series) episode, a Harlan Ellison-scripted time travel story that takes Spock, Kirk and Bones back to Depression-era Chicago. Generation Robot: A Century of Science Fiction, Fact, and Speculation is based on my theory that our obsession with robots is tied up with our anxiety about nuclear self-destruction, and references robot stories back to 1950 and earlier.

Right now, I’m writing a sequel to Sputnik’s Children called The Sisters Sputnik. While Sputnik 1 was set in two very similar alternate realities (quantum physics!!!), Sputnik 2 will send my time travelling, comic book writing heroine not only to an alternate timeline (Singularity Savings Time, where vicious time travelling Nazis are trying to change the course of history) but to the past –– 1956, a year before the Sputnik spy satellite was launched. (I forgot to mention that I’m also obsessed with creating alternate histories that seem very close to what we call ‘reality’.)

Here’s a glimpse of Debbie trying to survive the fashion dictates in 1956 as inflicted on her by a sadistic housekeeper for the evil Dr. Time. As much of a garbage fire the world of 2019 seems to be, at least we aren’t expected to wear rubber girdles or douche with Lysol anymore.

 

From “The Sisters Sputnik” (work in progress):

When I first arrived at Ransomville House, I didn’t know how to fasten a corset hook or pull on a panty girdle or thumb the top of a nylon stocking into a garter snap. Okay, it’s not rocket science, but you can’t just insert your body into these self-inflicted mid-twentieth-century torture devices for the first time without help.

On my first day, the housekeeper, Miss Sexton, gave me a scalding bath, scrubbed my hair with Halo shampoo, patted me dry and dusted me with so much talcum powder that I looked like a naked, damp ghost. She explained that this was to provide enough traction for the rubber girdle to glide over my fleshy bits without getting stuck halfway up my thighs. Sexton claims to have had lots of experience teaching other girls I about the painful lengths you have to go for an hourglass shape.

I joked that she was the Nurse Ratchet of fashion, but of course she didn’t know what I was talking about. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest won’t be published until 1962. Unfortunately the Nurse Ratchet reference was prophetic. Sexton’s fashion sense is only surpassed by her sadism.

All I can say is, fuck Christian Dior and his New Look. Breasts like miniature ballistic missiles. Twenty-four inch waist. You not only have to wear a girdle under those nipped-in cocktail dresses, but under skintight capris and ski pants too. Even though I’m reasonably slim by twenty-first century standards, for the nineteen-fifties I’m a tank, my proportions all wrong for clothing designed for women whose growth was stunted by the Depression and wartime rationing. Armholes are too high, waists are too small, backs too narrow. Even hats don’t fit. I’m a hulking Amazon in a world of malnourished sprites. Sexton believes the best way to solve this problem is with an industrial strength, all-rubber girdle and long-line balconet bra with a little empty puff of air space over each nipple (to allow your breasts to breathe, dear, Sexton explained). Then comes the nylon slip (never allowed to peek out from under the hem of your dress), followed by a petticoat or crinoline. Sexton prefers crinolines because they’re more uncomfortable. Her philosophy is that womanhood equals suffering so I might as well get used to it. And oh, did I mention the sweat guards? Little cotton pads you pin inside your blouse or sweater, under your armpits, because the chemical giants of the nineteen-fifties (DuPont, Hooker and Cyanamid, whose nearby smokestacks stain the air a sickly shade of brownish-yellow) haven’t yet mastered the science of stopping us from sweating altogether. Instead, you mask your ‘B.O.’ (Sexton’s word) with deodorant or cologne before encasing your body in enough non-breathable synthetics so that you’re basically living in your own flop sweat, 24/7.

The fifties is a sweaty decade. Also, a tedious one, if you’re a woman interested in doing anything besides dressing, grooming and abusing yourself with chemicals.

Every night before bed, Sexton spritzes my hair with a semen-like liquid called ‘setting lotion’ and does it up in curlers, covering the whole structure with a chiffon turban. Very Bride of Frankenstein. I have to sleep sitting up on a mountain of pillows so the tiny plastic teeth don’t bite into my scalp. In the morning, she bustles into my room before breakfast to tug out the rollers and brush out the curls, setting everything in place with a mist of Spray Net. The hairspray goes down my throat and up my nose, giving me chronic sinusitis and releasing a fog of Chlorofluorocarbons into the air:

“That stuff is killing the planet, and me,” I cough, even though I know it’ll still be a good forty years before anyone sounds the alarm about CFCs in aerosol sprays destroying the ozone layer.

Sexton sighs: she’s getting used to what she calls my kooky warnings. “Is that what happened to your planet? I’m sure ours will be just fine.”

Periods are managed with giant sanitary napkins the size and texture of loaves of Wonderbread, belted between my legs. I’ve asked for tampons –– I know they exist in this decade, having seen the weirdly sensuous ads for them in Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal. Sexton is aghast at my request, whispering that only married women are allowed to use them or even buy them.

After my period, I’m expected to cleanse myself with something called a ‘douche’. I don’t know what that means until Sexton appears with a rubber bag, hose and bottle of Lysol. She explains that I am supposed to dilute the disinfectant with warm water and pump it up my vagina to freshen myself. I flatly refuse and go to luncheon.

The next thing I remember is I waking up to find myself naked from the waist down and tied hand and foot to the bedstead with Sexton calmly feeding the hose into me. (A non-lethal overdose of sleeping pills in my egg salad sandwich knocked me out long enough for her to immobilize and violate me.)  For your own good dear, Sexton murmurs as the stinging liquid pours out of me onto a bath towel. I sob and curse. I can taste as well as smell the Lysol as it burns its way through me.

Cleansed but still groggy, I’m untied, powdered and forced back into my girdle, garters, stockings, wasp-waisted dress and Cuban heeled pumps.

Only then does Miss Sexton judge me ready for cocktail hour with Dr. Time.

 

Terri Favro visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Teddy Syrette, Jenny Yuen, SK Dyment, and guest speaker Leah Bobet who will be exploring word building with a focus on character in her talk, “Worlds are Made of People.”

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BWS 10.07.19: Jenny Yuen

Jenny_Yuen

Jenny Yuen is an award-winning news reporter, who covers a wide variety of local, provincial and national stories, and has written for the Toronto Sun, Now Magazine, and CBC Radio. She is a proud poly partner. She lives in Toronto with her family.

 

While polygamy has been characterized as patriarchal, polyamory – fostering multiple consensual relationships simultaneously – has been known to be feminist. Polyamorous author Jenny Yuen, who has two partners, was quoted in Slutever recently on how polyamory is on the rise in North America and how talking about having multiple loving relations more openly can reduce misconceptions, stigma, and help it gain wider societal acceptance.

This New Book Offers a Fresh Take on Polyamory

Jenny Yuen’s book Polyamorous: Living and Loving More approaches the subject of polyamory with an open-mind, extensive research, and the first-hand experience to back it all up. Troy Michael Bordun talks to the author about jealousy, internet communities, and trust.

 I lived my young adulthood in downtown Toronto. It was the early to mid-2000s and I had friends with diverse backgrounds and interests across the city; yet, when it came to sex and romance, we only knew two possibilities: dating or promiscuity and (serial) monogamy. Then in 2006, the Oxford English Dictionary added the word “polyamory,” and its usage increased as the years went on. In 2017, for example, the fourth most popular Google search related to relationships was “What is a poly relationship?” and “What is an open relationship?” came in sixth. For many Canadians and Americans today, polyamory is simply part of our everyday lives.

In her first book, Polyamorous: Living and Loving More (2018, Dundurn Press), Toronto author and journalist Jenny Yuen shares the stories of dozens of polyamorous Canadians. According to a 2012 study, 4-5% of the country’s population, much like its neighbour to the South, is in some kind of consensual non-monogamous arrangement. Yuen provides the space for some of these folks to discuss their habits, preferences, and struggles. In a highly engaging style, the author articulates just how relevant alternatives to monogamy have become.

What initially struck me while reading Yuen’s book was the sheer quantity of responses from poly Canadians (I’ll follow the book’s usage of “poly” instead of “polyam” or “polya”). During my conversation with the author in October 2018, she mentioned that her own choice to pursue polyamory assisted her in generating so many productive interviews. Like Yuen herself, many are open to talking about their personal lives in the interest of normalizing alternatives to monogamy. Indeed, the first two chapters of the book exclusively detail Yuen’s discovery of and experiences with polyamory. The author also revealed that she offered her participants the opportunity to use just their first name or a pseudonym, because “not everyone has the privilege of being ‘out.’’’

Yuen is clear about the poly privilege. There isn’t a readily available poly starter kit but a few things do help people get going and maintain their partnerships, e.g., financial security, urban living, and a progressive family and community. Many polyamorists use their financial security in order to maintain multiple households, go to expensive kink events, plan a poly vacation with a poly travel agent (yes, this exists), or visit partners in faraway cites – flying across the country and staying in hotels isn’t cheap. Yet Yuen also describes how Facebook has been a vital tool for more local, community-oriented poly hangouts. Groups like Toronto Non-Monogamous BIPOC and Poly Role Models (Philadelphia) try to make events – and thus the lifestyle itself – more accessible. But as rewarding as an online community can be, it remains just that – it’s no substitute for meeting real people.

Further, although the urban lifestyle is preferable for the polyamorist (larger dating pool, bigger community, more events), Yuen ensures that her book highlights rural voices alongside urban ones.

Individuals in rural parts of the country can find ways to connect online and, if fate will allow it, arrangements can be made for a meeting. Amber, a woman who appears in Yuen’s book, was living on a remote island in British Columbia when she found the Vanpoly (Vancouver) group online. There, she met a man and, after a year or two, moved in with him, his wife, her boyfriend, and another housemate who became Amber’s boyfriend too. Now she splits her time between the island and the city. As Yuen writes, with the invention of the internet, “Polyamory suddenly became accessible with one click” for both rural and urban folks. Whether people want to learn more about it or find people to connect with, online access has proved invaluable.

But even with an internet connection, people like Cloud Edwards – a 28-year-old from Nelson, British Columbia (some 800 kilometers from Vancouver) – can still feel isolated. Edwards describes feeling rejected in his small town as most women didn’t want anything to do with a poly man and his poly wife. Polyamorous men often struggle, Yuen tells me, as men “may be the ones who instigate opening up their relationship (if they are in an existing one), but then may find their girlfriend/wife/partner finding their own partner(s) more easily and quickly. And that can lead to jealousy and other problems.” (Of course, this could happen to women in heterosexual relationships, or women and men in same-sex relationships, but Yuen finds that this pattern of struggling hetero men in poly relationships is relatively common.)

Indeed, navigating jealousy is, unsurprisingly, a considerable stumbling block for poly individuals. While Yuen only dedicates one chapter to the subject, navigating, negotiating, and overcoming jealous feelings is a thematic current that runs throughout her study. Rather than shame or condemn the negative feeling, Yuen grants her interviewees the opportunity to examine jealousy and describe ways they’ve been able to overcome it. The author indirectly offers relationship advice here: reading about all these poly folks, we learn that emotional epiphanies, working through it one day at a time, and poly counselling are just some of the options available for those who want to improve a relationship. On starting a poly life, Dr. Oren Amitay perhaps puts it best: “get ready to feel insecure and find ways to handle that.”

In addition to internal pressures within relationships, poly folks are also subjected to stigma and scrutiny from friends, family, co-workers, and the law. Yuen kindly offers her own experiences here. With a British husband, she wondered whether immigration officials would dig into her private life, and further, expressed her concern over whether she and her husband would “be persecuted” because they “chose to structure [their] relationship(s) differently than societal norms.” Yuen notes that her polycule (a romantic network of three or more individuals) consulted judges, criminal and family lawyers to ensure they weren’t breaking any laws, especially regarding the ambiguities around commitment ceremonies and “sanctioning events.” In a particularly insightful chapter, Yuen provides a history of polyamory and the law – an excellent resource for poly folks who want to know more about the risks involved when forming a polycule (in the end, the law doesn’t have too much to say about it or it doesn’t want to bother to enforce existing legislation – in short, polyamory isn’t criminal).

For the most part, Yuen says, those around her and her partners have been accepting of her lifestyle. However, Cory and Kendra from Whitehorse, Yukon, haven’t been so lucky. Yuen dedicates an entire chapter of the book to their story. “We [Kendra and I] had death threats,” Cory reveals. “Literally, I’ve had people tell me they were going to shoot me.” Eventually they fled the North, but these negative experiences hung over their lives like a dark cloud, and they suffered hardships (mental illness, geographical displacement) and consistent relationship problems (break-ups, trust issues).

Cory’s, Kendra’s, and other interviewees’ honesty make Polyamorous what it is: a true to life account of the diversity of sexual and romantic formations. Yuen doesn’t pull any punches, especially when it comes to women’s experiences in poly relationships. As Elisabeth Sheff points out in her 2006 study of poly men, polyamorous relationships still sometimes reproduce typical power relations and gender hierarchies. Yuen and her interviewees note poly trends such as unicorn hunting (a hetero couple searching for a bi-woman) and the one-penis-policy (hetero couple arrangement in which the woman can have other partners as long as they’re not male) as evidence of ongoing sexist behavior. Yuen tells me, “Women who identify as solo poly tend to feel a lot of pressure… because as the single woman coming into a triad, they can sometimes feel like it’s ‘two against one’ when couple privilege comes into play.” In the book, she provides the example of S.J, a woman often sought out as by couples asking her to be their unicorn. According to S.J., unicorn hunters often reproduce partner hierarchies and “ninety percent of the women were not even bi; they’re just trying to please their husbands.” Moreover, after hooking up with a couple, she was twice asked to babysit their children. This kind of treatment suggests that whoever doesn’t respect the monogamous institutions like marriage – in this case, S.J., who has chosen to remain childless – becomes expendable. Yuen concludes, “when everyone in a polycule isn’t treated with respect and honesty, then things go downhill pretty quickly.”

Yuen didn’t aim to write a poly guidebook, nor does she claim to be an expert. She is relatively new to the poly world, but has nevertheless provided an account that touches upon so many key themes and topics in poly communities. Tackling subjects like age, class, marginalized identities (the brief look at Indigenous polyamory is fascinating and important), and poly families, Yuen’s Polyamorous is a timely, necessary book for 2018 and for the future of poly people and relationships. The book’s strength lies in its ability to normalize the diversity of relationships and relationship philosophies.

I closed my interview with Yuen with an inquiry into the future of polyamory. She simply hopes for less stigma, and, in turn, greater acceptance. Yuen continues, “I think everyone should be able to choose who they love and how many they can love without fear of retribution, of losing their job or their children, and without a person invalidating their life choices. Hopefully, with more positive, less sensationalized media coverage, a willingness from poly communities to talk about ‘how it all works’ and dispelling misconceptions, people can better understand why others wish to practice it.” Polyamorous is a valuable step in that direction.

 

Click here to read more on how polyamory can allow women to set their own boundaries and to choose whom and how many they wish to love without adhering to societal norms. 

 

Jenny Yuen visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Teddy Syrette, Terri Favro, SK Dyment, and guest speaker Leah Bobet who will be exploring word building with a focus on character in her talk, “Worlds are Made of People.”

 

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BWS 10.07.19: Teddy Syrette

PIKE-9695

Teddy Syrette (Ozhawa Anung Kwe/Yellow Star Woman) is a 2-Spirit Anishnaabe queerdo from Rankin Reserve of Batchewana First Nation. Their short stories and poems have been published in various blog posts, anthologies and washroom stalls. Teddy currently lives in Toronto, but travels around Ontario and Turtle Island as a storyteller, artists and advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ folks. Teddy’s background in social work, theatre and bingo. They enjoy poetry (theirs), pugs (others) and polyamory.

Ahead of their appearance on July 10, Teddy shares a deeply personal essay on living with addiction, depression, and mental health.

 

Asking for help with addiction can feel shameful and make you question the value of your personhood. Add on the complexity of having ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ and you could feel very insignificant. That is how I feel. Not most times, but many times I feel inadequate. My social media presence can make it seem that on the surface I am, okay. But deep down I’m not. I haven’t been in a while. These feelings haven’t changed since I was a child. As a teenager, I denounced any form of prescribed antidepressants. I didn’t like the way they made feel. Instead of feeling all the feelings all at once, I was left feeling nothing.

Some days I feel nothing. Not the breeze creeping into the room I have sublet, in Toronto’s busy Annex area. I can barely feel the warmth of the sunshine as I sit in the park with a buddy. Everything even tastes bitter. The joy of eating the foods I love and that bring me comfort now taste muted. As a foodie, I should feel more alarmed. But I am not. My brain is coming out of the fog. That’s how it feels. I feel relieved to be out of the darkness that clouds me often. But now I am left with reflecting of my actions and inactions of this recent depressive episode.

This blog is very personal. But mental health and mental illness is personal. Our mental well-being is easier managed by others. Not me. I do my best to cope without a pill. But as someone who has lived with mental illness for almost 18 years, I am becoming open to the idea of more assistance with managing my emotional and mental parts of myself. The one thing that is helpful, is talking to loved ones and friends about how I am feeling. What causes me to be depressed and what helps me clear the fog.

There are folks who don’t understand the daily struggle of living with depression. Some days are better than others. Some days are better, but spent on recovering from the fog. When the good days are really good days, I do my best to spend them doing what I enjoy doing. And not just doing what helps me cope through depressive episodes.

I miss deadlines and don’t respond back to messages. I’m rarely on time and know that I’m not organized. I also don’t ask for help and would rather just crash and burn. That isn’t helpful and I’m aware of it. It is a tug of war, deciding if how I cope is harm reduction or enablism. Substitution of behaviours and avoidance are common themes in my makeup. But if I can account for the misgivings of my actions, why do I continue to make mistakes? Once you acknowledge a cycle of violence or harm, one should do their best to correct or stop it. Sometimes I just watch my situation get worse, like a fire, slowly burning away anything that it touches.

Taking the steps that are needed to get back to feeling worthy is slow and stumbly. Remembering what you do for work and how you get work and how you get to work becomes evident. People waiting to hear back from you are still people. Folks waiting to hear from you are family members, friends, clients and helpers. Don’t take them for granted. They very important people. Ask them for help. Apologize to them. Apologize to yourself and make a plan now, before the fog rolls back in.

Recovery is difficult. But working towards those goals can be so beneficial. They can be life saving. I apologize to those who don’t appreciate this blog. But for those who are also struggling, I feel you. I know how alone and isolating it is when we feel trapped in our mind. Please know that there are others out there who want to help. You just need to want it.

 

Teddy Syrette visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, starting at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Jenny Yuen, Terri Favro, SK Dyment, and guest speaker Leah Bobet who will be exploring the topic, “Worlds are Made of People.”

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Brockton Writers Series 10.07.19

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Teddy Syrette
Jenny Yuen
Terri Favro
SK Dyment

with special guest speaker

Leah Bobet

Glad Day Bookshop

499 Church Street, Toronto

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

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

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

OAC_REVISED_NEWCOLOURS_1805c

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

 

GUEST SPEAKER

“Worlds are Made of People”

 

Leah Bobet -- Headshot

Leah Bobet‘s most recent novel, An Inheritance of Ashes, won the Sunburst, Copper Cylinder, and Prix Aurora Awards; her short fiction appears in multiple Year’s Best anthologies. She lives in Toronto, where she picks urban apple trees, builds civic engagement spaces, and pickles basically everything. Visit her at www.leahbobet.com.

 

READERS

PIKE-9695

Teddy Syrette (Ozhawa Anung Kwe/Yellow Star Woman) is a 2-Spirit Anishnaabe queerdo from Rankin Reserve of Batchewana First Nation. Their short stories and poems have been published in various blog posts, anthologies and washroom stalls. Teddy currently lives in Toronto, but travels around Ontario and Turtle Island as a storyteller, artists and advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ folks. Teddy’s background in social work, theatre and bingo. They enjoy poetry (theirs), pugs (others) and polyamory.

 

Jenny_Yuen

Jenny Yuen is an award-winning news reporter, who covers a wide variety of local, provincial and national stories, and has written for the Toronto Sun, Now Magazine, and CBC Radio. She is a proud poly partner. She lives in Toronto with her family.

 

 

 

 

 

Terri

Terri Favro is the author of four books including  “Sputnik’s Children”, a Globe & Mail 100 book, CBC Books top ten book and Quill & Quire best book, shortlisted for the Sunburst Award and optioned for the screen by EntertainmentOne. Terri also collaborates on graphic novels and likes robots, her family and wet, dirty martinis. 

 

 

 

 

 

WriterPhotoNiceSK Dyment is a writer and visual artist. SK has an illustrated blog with The BuzzMag called Inking Quickly, and his humour and illustration work have appeared in Peace Magazine, This Magazine, Briarpatch, Open Road, The Activist, Kick It Over and Fireweed among others. Steel Animals is their debut novel.

 

 

 

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BWS 08.05.19 report: “Submitting to Literary and Genre Magazines” with Yilin Wang

yilin photo

Yilin Wang is a writer, editor, and translator who lives on the unceded traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Abyss & Apex, carte blanche, Arc Poetry Magazine, Grain, Contemporary Verse 2, LooseLeaf, and other publications. She is an assistant editor for Room Magazine and a former editorial board member for Prism International. 

At our last event, guest speaker Yilin gave us tips on submitting work to literary and genre magazines. She spoke on the topic based on her experiences as a writer and as an editor for various publications.

 

I want to start by saying that I’m not a huge fan of labeling work as “literary fiction” or “speculative fiction,” because I find that these labels can be limiting and marginalize speculative fiction writers. However, I’ll be using these terms in this blogpost because they can be useful when it comes to describing the submission process for different types of stories.

I hope that the information in this blogpost will be helpful to not only those with an interest in submitting to both literary and speculative fiction publications in North America, but also help encourage those who work for literary journals to consider what they can learn from speculative fiction publications and ways that they can create more space for speculative and genre-bending work.

How are literary and SF magazines different?

 

Style and content

SF Magazines often have a focus on narratives and plot that engage strongly with speculative elements and/or genre tropes. Some of the publications can be quite niche, publishing work that is specifically second-world fantasy (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) or science fiction (Apex, Asimov’s Science Fiction), whereas literary fiction publications tend to publish a wide range of realistic stories with some speculative work occasionally thrown into the mix. Another unique feature of many SF publications is that they sometimes accept stories up to 8,000 or 10,000+ words, whereas most literary journals tend to prefer much shorter pieces.

Submission process

When it comes to formatting, most SF magazines require all submissions to follow the “Standard Manuscript Format,” which is actually not “standard” because many literary journals have their own unique formatting guidelines instead. SFF magazines rarely take simultaneous submissions, whereas many literary journals do, which is important to keep in mind. Some SFF magazines have a very fast response time (e.g. Clarkesworld is famous for sending rejection letters in two days), although most SF and literary magazines respond to submissions within a few months.

Pay

Canadian literary journals tend to have varying pay rates that are partially influenced by grant requirements. On the other hand, the pay for SF magazines is heavily influenced by standards set out by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). The minimum pay rate set out by SFWA is currently 6 cents USD per word, rising to 8 cents per word on Sept 1, 2019. This standard rate allows for equity and transparency in the publication process for writers.

Where can you find publications to submit your work?

Here are a few good sources to consider:

How do you decide where to submit?

I recommend writers submit to publications that are a good fit, that pay writers for their work, and that have published writing and/or writers that they enjoy reading.

Additionally, when deciding whether to submit to literary versus SF publications, here are some questions to consider: 1) To what extent is the story driven by plot elements and conventions of a speculative fiction genre? 2) How speculative is the story? Does it have dragons or is it set in a different world? Or are the speculative elements more symbolic? 3) How much does the story focus on language and experimenting with literary elements?

As a queer woman of color, I also recommend that writers from underrepresented backgrounds examine the publication carefully in terms of diversity and representation. It’s important to go beyond statements saying a publication is diverse. Check for awareness of subconscious bias in the publication’s mandate and submission calls. See who is on the masthead and who the publication has featured in the past. Look for transparency in terms of the publication’s editorial process and submission guidelines.

Finally, here are my top four tips for anyone who wishes to submit to literary and/or SF publications: 

  1. Send out your work to many publications. Don’t self-reject and don’t stop submitting your work after a few rejections.
  2. Read and follow submission calls carefully. Make sure to follow any formatting guidelines and check that you fit any demographic requirements for submitting.
  3. Be honest with yourself about whether your piece is a good “fit” for the publication. Can you really see your work appearing in this publication? Have they published work similar to yours before or expressed a desire to?
  4. Keep your cover letter short and concise. Do not explain the meaning or theme of your story or poem, and instead, let the work speak for itself.
  5. Take your time with each piece. Edit it carefully and give it to beta-readers for feedback before you submit. Make sure the work is something you are truly happy with before you send it out into the world.

 

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

 

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BWS 14.11.18: Glynis Guevara

glynis_guevara photo

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

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

 

 

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

Under the Zaboca Tree 

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

Black Beach 

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

What’s Next?

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

 

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

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BWS 08.11.17: Heidi Reimer

Heidi Reimer

Heidi Reimer‘s short stories and essays have appeared in ChatelaineThe New QuarterlyLittle Fiction, Literary Mama, The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood, and Outcrops: Northeastern Ontario Short Stories. She is (still) working on a novel. Find out more at www.heidireimer.ca.

Over the past month we’ve been listing our favourite books in celebration of our upcoming eighth anniversary taking place this Wednesday. For those of us who took part, it was a challenging process to pick only eight titles among the many we’ve read. The selections, thoughtfully put forth, represent unique voices telling diverse stories. But how did these books come to be? Behind each one is an untold journey of creative process. This Wednesday, guest speaker Heidi Reimer addresses this topic in her talk, “How to Write a Novel in 10 Years: Total Rewrites, Massive Scrap Piles, and Persistence Through the Long Haul.”  

Heidi also stopped by our blog to share her top eight reads:

Middlemarch: George Eliot

State of Wonder: Ann Patchett

The Poisonwood Bible: Barbara Kingsolver

Americanah: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Clara Callan: Richard B. Wright

Unless: Carol Shields

American Wife: Curtis Sittenfeld

Wild: Cheryl Strayed

We hope you’ll join us this Wednesday to celebrate eight years of our literary series. With prizes, treats, and lively discussions, it’s an event not to be missed!

Heidi Reimer visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Spencer Butt, Jia Qing Wilson-Yang, and Puneet Dutt. 

 

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Brockton Writers Series 08.11.17

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Dorothy Ellen Palmer
Spencer Butt
Jia Qing Wilson-Yang
Puneet Dutt

with special guest speaker

Heidi Reimer

Glad Day Bookshop

499 Church Street, Toronto

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

ACCESSIBILITY INFO
The venue, including its bathroom, is fully accessible. Please refrain from wearing scents.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

OAC_REVISED_NEWCOLOURS_1805c

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

GUEST SPEAKER

How to Write a Novel in 10 Years: Total Rewrites, Massive Scrap Piles, and Persistence Through the Long Haul

Heidi Reimer

Heidi Reimer‘s short stories and essays have appeared in ChatelaineThe New Quarterly, Little Fiction, Literary Mama, The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood, and Outcrops: Northeastern Ontario Short Stories. She is (still) working on a novel. Visit www.heidireimer.ca to learn more.

 

READERS

 

Palmer-Dorothy-768x768Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a disabled senior writer, Mom, binge knitter, retired teacher and improv coach. Her first semi-autobiographical novel, When Fenelon Falls, (Coach House, 2010), about a disabled teen freeing a bear from a cage in the summer of 1969, was long-listed for the ReLit Award. Her work has appeared in NeWest Review, Little Fiction/Big Truth, and Don’t Talk to me About Love. Her memoir, This Redhead and her Walker Walk into a Bar, will be published by Wolsak and Wynn in 2019.

 

Jia_Qing_Wilson_Yang

Jia Qing Wilson-Yang is a transsexual writer living in Tkaronto on dish with one spoon territory. Her work can be found, now or in the near future, in Room Magazine, Poetry is Dead, Ricepaper Magazine, and Carte Blanche. Her first novel, Small Beauty, won the 2016 Lambda Literary award for Transgender Fiction.

 

Spencer_ButtSpencer Butt is a writer and poetry yeller based out of Toronto. He has been a featured performer at such events as Wavelength Music Series, AGO First Thursday, Art Bar Poetry Series, Laugh Sabbath, Sophisticated Boom Boom!, ROM Friday Night Live, The Vancouver Poetry Slam, and Long Winter TO. His newest book, Slouching the Dream, is available through Now or Never Publishing and can be found wherever books are sold.

 

PDutt

Puneet Dutt holds a MA in English from Ryerson. Her chapbook PTSD south beach was a 2016 Breitling Chapbook Prize Finalist. Her poetry has appeared in a number of journals and in Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. She is an editorial board member at Canthius and a creative writing workshop facilitator with the Toronto Writers Collective. Her poetry collection is forthcoming with Mansfield Press in October. She lives in Toronto with her husband.

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BWS 08.11.17: Jia Qing Wilson-Yang

Jia_Qing_Wilson_Yang

Jia Qing Wilson-Yang is a transsexual writer living in Tkaronto on dish with one spoon territory. Her work can be found, now or in the near future in, Room Magazine, Poetry is Dead, Ricepaper Magazine, and Carte Blanche. Her first novel, Small Beauty, won the 2016 Lambda Literary award for Transgender Fiction.

This year marks the eighth anniversary of Brockton Writers Series! To celebrate this occasion, some of our authors are sharing with us their eight favourite books. We invite you to do the same by creating a short video or a writing a post on Facebook. Tag eight of your friends and Brockton Writers Series! This is also a great way to update your seasonal reading list!

Jia Qing shared her list of favourite books with us. In no particular order, they are:

Kiss of the fur queen: Thomson Highway

A Safe Girl to Love: Casey Plett

Lilith’s Brood: Octavia E. Butler

Before Night Falls: Reinaldo Arenas

When Fox is a Thousand: Larissa Lai

Winter Love: Han Suyin

Autobiography of Red: Anne Carson

I Saw Ramallah: Mourid Barghouti

Jia Qing Wilson-Yang visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church Street, Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Spencer Butt, Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Puneet Dutt, and special guest Heidi Reimer who will discuss, “How to Write a Novel in 10 Years: Total Rewrites, Massive Scrap Piles, and Persistence Through the Long Haul.”

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