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BWS 09.09.20 report: “Attracting Audiences: Getting the Most Out of Digital Events” with Elham Ali

ElhamAli

Elham Ali is a writer and publishing professional based in Toronto. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2014, and since completing the Humber College publishing program in 2015 she has worked in marketing and publicity at Canada’s Ballet Jörgen, Penguin Random House Canada, and Dundurn Press.

Attracting Audiences: Getting the Most Out of Digital Events

Events are an important way for authors, new and seasoned, to promote their books, even now as our current situation forces us indoors. As authors and publishers make the shift from physical to virtual events, here are five tips to help you maximize both your audience reach and the impact of your event, before, during, and after you go live.

DISCLAIMER:
In order to get the most out of the five tips, and the most out of your events, we need to clarify how we understand what these virtual events are for. Typically, an event or reading is a sales opportunity for authors, but sadly publishers and other event coordinators are all finding that there is no clear correlation between sales and virtual book events. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do them! The key is to reframe your thinking and look at virtual events as a promotion opportunity. Virtual events, like ads or interviews, are a chance for you to put your book in front of readers, to make sure people know that your book exists. Having a link to a bookseller or any sales info is still really important, but the main desired outcome now is not to sell books but to promote your book and yourself to as many people as you can.

BEFORE:
Choose your platform wisely!
I would like to start by stressing that Zoom is not the only option you have for online events. Pick the online platform that works best for both your audience and the type of event you want to have. Maybe your publisher has a great following on YouTube, or you’re part of a big writers group on Facebook, or you have a huge following on Instagram (the most underrated platform for virtual events if you ask me). Think about where you can reach the most people and host your event there.

Partner up!
If you’re only going to take one thing out of this whole post, then let it be this tip. Virtual events are missing the critical aspect of engagement that in-person events have, so create that by teaming up with someone else for your event. This also has the (massive) added bonus of expanding your reach as you tap into that person’s audience as well. Whether it’s another writer, an expert on a subject related to your book, a colleague or friend, someone from your publisher, or a bookseller or librarian, by bringing them on board they will be promoting to their audience as well which can exponentially increase the reach of your event.

Bonus tip: If you’re not sure who to partner up with ask your publisher if they can suggest another author they might be publishing that season, or if they can reach out to other publishers who might have a book that would be a good fit.

Promote well!
Find new and creative ways to attract people who may be interested in attending your event. Team up with your publisher to host a giveaway of your book in the lead-up, take questions for Q&A on your social, post your virtual event on online event listings like Open Book & NOW Magazine, or if you have the means give your Facebook event page a targeted boost. The idea here is to go beyond your own followers and reach even more people who might make be interested in attending.

DURING:
Keep it fresh!
Again, without the critical presence of an audience, doing a one person reading or presentation for a virtual event can be challenging for both you and your audience. This is your chance to mix-it up and come up with a unique program that will make your event stand-out and keep your audience engaged. Options to consider are performers or musical guests, a video or slideshow, games with your guests or even the audience.

AFTER:
Video is forever!
If you’re only going to take two things out of this whole post, let this be the second. Make sure that you record, save, and make use of the video even after the live stream is over! The idea is to maximize the number of eyes that are seeing your virtual event and thus your book. Reusing and resharing the video is a vital way to do that!

Bonus tip: Make your video accessible. Both YouTube and Facebook videos can have captions added to them after they are posted. Have your video transcribed and upload closed captioning to make your video accessible to everyone.

This final tip is free and one I give to every author I work with: don’t get discouraged! While the internet can make it feel like it should be easy to reach everyone in Canada with each livestream, turnout to online events tends to be small, but don’t let it get you down. I always say, publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.

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BWS 09.09.20: Cassidy McFadzean

Bodri_CassidyM_web-4

Cassidy McFadzean is the author of two books of poetry: Hacker Packer (McClelland & Stewart 2015), which won two Saskatchewan Book Awards and was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and Drolleries (M&S 2019), a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award. She lives in Toronto.

 

To Find a Ghost Forest

A poem from Cassidy’s poetry collection, Drolleries.

Search first for traces of charcoal
blackening the pathway, trees felled
for fuel where livestock once grazed.
Unearth clues obscured in old maps
and estate records, spectres of shadow
woods archived in the king’s Domesday.
The phantoms cling to honeysuckle,
holly, common cow-wheat, haunting
hacked-off limbs of coppiced trees.
Bluebells mark woodland turned
to pasture, a ring of hanging heads
announcing the forest’s neat graves.

 

Cassidy McFadzean visits Brockton Writers Series via GDTV on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 starting at 6:30pm alongside Fereshteh Molavi, Cyn Rozeboom, and Brian Francis. Writer and publishing professional Elham Ali will give her guest talk on, “Attracting Audiences: Getting the Most Out of Digital Events”.

 

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:15.

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BWS 09.09.20: Brian Francis

Brian Francis WEB RES

Brian Francis’s most recent work, Box 4901, premiered at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 2020 to sold-out audiences. His YA novel, Break in Case of Emergency, was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Awards. His previous novels are Natural Order and Fruit. The book version of Box 4901 will be published by McClelland & Stewart in 2021.

COVID Turned Me into a Fashion Designer

During this time of COVID-19, many people picked up new hobbies to alleviate the boredom and stress. For some, that new hobby was drinking. For others, it was baking bread that looked like giant boulders. For others, their new hobby was deciding not to wear pants during online work meetings. Definitely more comfortable, but you better hope the fire alarm doesn’t go off.

My new hobby was making hats. That’s right I became a milliner. Okay, so I didn’t actually “make” the hats. But I did add my personal flair, resulting in one-of-a-kind creations that would make Karl Lagerfeld green with envy.

It all started when I was on eBay one night and came across some old badges. Who knew there were so many abandoned badges out there looking to be resewn on something? I ordered some and decided to sew them onto baseball hats.

Hat 1 Sarnia

Here’s the first hat I made. Sarnia is my hometown and I really like the teal and gold colours in this badge. For those unaware, that’s the Bluewater Bridge. My sewing skills aren’t the best and I sewed the badge on a bit crooked, but I think this makes my hat more charming. It screams “ARTISINAL!!!

Hat 2 Pollution Stinks

The second hat I made was “Pollution Stinks. Have you ever seen a badge with a person with a clothespin on their nose? Me, neither! A word to the wise If you decide to sew badges onto trucker hats, put a thimble on your thumb because pushing needles through stiff material will have you inventing all kinds of new swear words.

Hat 3 Happy Camper

The third hat I made was “I’m a Happy Camper. Between you and me, I’m not much of a camper, but I wore it to a cottage this summer, so that counts for something. Besides, being a happy camper extends to more than just burnt marshmallows and Deep Woods Off. It’s a life philosophy.

Beaver Lumber Badge

Here’s my latest badge. It arrived in the mail last week. For any Generation Z people reading this, Beaver Lumber was the best hardware store ever. And where else have you seen a beaver mascot in white coveralls? I haven’t found a hat to sew this onto yet, but believe me, I will.

I hope you found a new hobby during COVID-19. And if you didn’t, it’s never too late to discover your arts and crafts side. The sky really is the limit. Just watch your thumbs.

 

Brian Francis visits Brockton Writers Series via GDTV on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 starting at 6:30pm alongside Fereshteh Molavi, Cyn Rozeboom, and Cassidy McFadzean. Writer and publishing professional Elham Ali will give her guest talk on, “Attracting Audiences: Getting the Most Out of Digital Events”.

 

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:15.

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BWS 09.09.20: Cyn Rozeboom

CRozeboomElephant

Cyn Rozeboom has worked in the arts sector for over 30 years, as a fundraiser, communications specialist, artist, and administrator. In her current role as Executive Director of Tangled Art + Disability, she delights in working with her team to subvert the status quo with joy and love.

 

Musings on an Upcoming Presentation

I’ll warn you now. I am going to start one place and end somewhere completely different.

I am delighted to be presenting some of my poetry publicly this September 9. I’m also delighted to be offered some blog space to promote the series. The opportunity was presented just as I was heading off for a vacation into cottage country a couple weeks ago and so I went into northern Ontario hoping find organic metaphors that would support the theme I’m working around with the collection of poems I intend to present.

Specifically, I was looking for dichotomies, either/or choices that break the world into an eternal battleground between opposing forces. I thought I’d be inspired by nature into some profound assemblages of words that justify the divides I feel constantly pulling me in contradictory directions.

ohImGonnaBeProfound1

I was confident at first – looking around, the turbulent blue of a freshwater lake rose up from my feet to meet the thin calm cyan of the sky and there – there, in the middle – AHA! That chaotic green band! Surely there, THERE it was – the messy in-between… between… air and water? Which was…. Trees? Ground? Movement? Wait a moment, that sounds deep but… is it really now? Earth is just another element. What about fire? And no one can fault either sky or lake for lack of change. The more I thought about it the more forced, and painful, then… pretentious my efforts felt.

In fact, the more I relaxed, the more the divides blurred. The water was just water – home for a whole slew of living mayhem, the mayflies drying out on the screen doors weren’t doing much besides moulting, even the tiny frogs who scattered before my feet did not seem conflicted, despite their amphibiousness. They were perfectly positioned for where and what they were.

mrCroak

Any contradictions I felt in this scenario were my own making – my brain wanting to pull what is whole apart, to assert my cleverness through dissection and unravelling. This restless tension was coming from inside, my own internal whirring.

Stop imposing your conflictedness on the world Cyn. Let it be what it is, and be in it.

A breath, a slowing, and a looking around. And what did I actually find? Mr Croak.

Mr Croak

don’t like other dudes
being in his space
Mr Croak
Owns this nook

Fear his shine
His massive bones shifting under supple skin

Mr Croak says
You get the fuck out, you
Or I’ll

JUMP

At you

Scared?
I bet you are.

 

Cyn Rozeboom visits Brockton Writers Series via GDTV on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 starting at 6:30pm alongside Fereshteh Molavi, Brian Francis, and Cassidy McFadzean. Writer and publishing professional Elham Ali will give her guest talk on, “Attracting Audiences: Getting the Most Out of Digital Events”.

 

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:15.

 

 

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BWS 09.09.20: Fereshteh Molavi

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Born in Tehran in 1953, Fereshteh Molavi lived and worked there until 1998 when she immigrated to Canada. She worked and taught at Yale University, University of Toronto, York University, and Seneca College. A fellow at Massey College and a writer-in-residence at George Brown College, Molavi has published many works of fiction and non-fiction in Persian in Iran and Europe. She has been the recipient of awards for novel and translation. Her most recent novel, Thirty Shadow Birds, was published by Inanna Publications in 2019. She lives in Toronto.

THE TALE OF A TAIL

Mr. Other, having gone to bed at night and gotten up in the morning, found out, not that the world had become upside down, but that he had developed an itching around his tailbone — a maddening itch that could drive anyone wacko.

For a couple of days, Mr. Other ignored it in the hope that it would be nothing important. It turned out, though, that it was.

Mr. Other thought that maybe it was an abscess or a boil, popping out right at the worst spot; he decided to get to the bottom of it.

First, the right hand, and then the left, both came and went again and again with their examination and investigation at the right time and the wrong time, appropriately and inappropriately. Eventually they reported to Mr. Other that what popped out on the wrong spot was neither a boil nor an abscess, but a tail.

Aghast, Mr. Other feverishly tried to deny it. He held a hand mirror back and front, right and left, to see it with his own eyes. He didn’t see anything. That he didn’t, along with the itching, drove him nuts. At last, he surrendered to fate. The itching instantly went away. He sighed with relief and sent his right and left hand to verify that he no longer had a tail. They reported back that it was still there.

Mr. Other wanted to die, but he didn’t. The more he thought about why such a thing had happened, the less he understood. Finally he made up his mind to stop questioning and to try to find an answer.

Mr. Other, as long as he could remember, had always seen himself among tailless people, which meant that either he had not seen their tails, or had not heard them claim to have any. Such being the case, he had to hide his secret. He used many tricks to do it.

However, Mr. Other was devoutly thankful that the tail did not dangle from the middle of his forehead. He lived cautiously, fearful that his secret would be revealed. But the damned tail wouldn’t cooperate. It grew too long to be kept hidden.

Mr. Other took time off work to devote himself to finding a cure. But Western and Eastern medicine were no help. He started to think about docking his tail, and sought out the best surgeon in town, who worked in private practice.

After the surgeon examined him, he nodded and said, “I’m very sorry.” Mr. Other neither understood why the surgeon was sorry nor pulled up his pants. The surgeon said, “It’s not my area of expertise.” Mr. Other stared at him.

The more the surgeon explained why he couldn’t do anything, the less Mr. Other understood, and the more he was determined not to pull up his pants until he did. The surgeon said, “I just don’t dock tails.” Mr. Other protested that he was going to pay him a hefty fee. “You pay to pull your pants down.” Their dispute grew so heated, the surgeon called his assistant, a big guy with a moustache, to eject Mr. Other.

Before the assistant arrived, Mr. Other thought he would cover his tail so that no stranger’s hand and eye could reach it, and focus on what he should do. With his tail between his legs, he might rush into the street, only to be arrested for the crime of having a tail. Or, tail covered, he might maintain a respectable appearance and head home to hang himself with his own long tail. And the third option was…

Mr. Other’s thread of thought was interrupted by the assistant’s arrival, and the third option got lost like a fugitive part of the elastic band around the waist of his underpants. But then he was inspired by the thought that he could pull down the pants of others.

When two burly cops arrived and escorted the now calm and proud Mr. Other out of the office, the surgeon, bewildered, was scratching hard his itching tailbone.

 

Fereshteh Molavi visits Brockton Writers Series via GDTV on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 starting at 6:30pm alongside Cyn Rozeboom, Brian Francis, and Cassidy McFadzean. Writer and publishing professional Elham Ali will give her guest talk on, “Attracting Audiences: Getting the Most Out of Digital Events”.

 

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:15.

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Brockton Writers Series 09.09.20

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Fereshteh Molavi

Cyn Rozeboom

Brian Francis

Cassidy McFadzean

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:15.

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

 If you’d like to donate, please do so here.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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GUEST SPEAKER

“Attracting Audiences: Getting the Most Out of Digital Events”

ElhamAli

Elham Ali is a writer and publishing professional based in Toronto. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2014, and since completing the Humber College publishing program in 2015 she has worked in marketing and publicity at Canada’s Ballet Jörgen, Penguin Random House Canada, and Dundurn Press.

READERS

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Born in Tehran in 1953, Fereshteh Molavi lived and worked there until 1998 when she immigrated to Canada. She worked and taught at Yale University, University of Toronto, York University, and Seneca College. A fellow at Massey College and a writer-in-residence at George Brown College, Molavi has published many works of fiction and non-fiction in Persian in Iran and Europe. She has been the recipient of awards for novel and translation. Her most recent novel, Thirty Shadow Birds, was published by Inanna Publications in 2019. She lives in Toronto.

CRozeboomElephant

Cyn Rozeboom has worked in the arts sector for over 30 years, as a fundraiser, communications specialist, artist, and administrator. In her current role as Executive Director of Tangled Art + Disability, she delights in working with her team to subvert the status quo with joy and love.

Brian Francis WEB RES

Brian Francis’s most recent work, Box 4901, premiered at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 2020 to sold-out audiences. His YA novel, Break in Case of Emergency, was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Awards. His previous novels are Natural Order and Fruit. The book version of Box 4901 will be published by McClelland & Stewart in 2021.

Bodri_CassidyM_web-4

Cassidy McFadzean is the author of two books of poetry: Hacker Packer (McClelland & Stewart 2015), which won two Saskatchewan Book Awards and was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and Drolleries (M&S 2019), a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award. She lives in Toronto.

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BWS 08.07.20: Waubgeshig Rice

Waubgeshig Rice

Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation on Georgian Bay. 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 spent the bulk of his journalism career at CBC, most recently as host of Up North, the afternoon radio program for northern Ontario. He lives in Sudbury with his wife and sons.

A few weeks ago Waub celebrated the birth of his second son, Ayaabehns. In a letter to his newborn son, Waub introduces him to the world he now inhabits and the hopes he has for the future.

 

Dear Ayaabehns,

The first month of your life has been historic, my son. You entered a world in the midst of great upheaval. A worldwide sickness has ravaged communities and sent societies into isolation. A social revolution to support Black lives and end racism has mobilized people around the world into action. And your birth into a healthy and happy Anishinaabe family is a triumph for your people and your culture.

When your mother and I first learned about you, we couldn’t have imagined what the world would become by the time you finally arrived. We lived a peaceful and comfortable life with your big brother in our Anishinaabe homelands of what’s otherwise called northern Ontario. We were thrilled that you’d be joining us, and we prepared our family and home with love and care. You and your mother hit all the important milestones in a healthy way, and it seemed as routine as it could possibly be.

But with just three months before your anticipated birth, a global pandemic was declared. We didn’t know what that would mean for your arrival. We isolated with your brother at home as best as we could. We became a little frightened. Still, you brought us hope and joy just by making your way to us. We knew you would be a wonderful blessing to our family, just as your brother was. 

Many people responded to the pandemic by finding ways to make their communities better. They talked about how they could better grow food and share it with everyone. Some took initiative to teach themselves better skills to help their families and the people around them. It became a hopeful era of renewal, all while staring down the end of the world as we know it. You became a new beginning for our family in so many ways.

And then, tragically, a man named George Floyd was murdered by police in a city far from us. He was yet another Black person to die at the hands of police. It was the latest heartbreak for a collective community that has been historically brutalized by authorities on this land. I’m sorry to tell you this is the reality for Black and Indigenous people like you in the world you are entering. You’ll eventually learn of the injustices your own Anishinaabe ancestors have survived.

But the response to this senseless death has been nothing short of revolutionary. The Black Lives Matter movement has swept the globe and prompted widespread social change, from institutional overhaul to address systemic racism, to the toppling of statues of historic racist figures. You will still experience racism in your childhood, but it will thankfully pale compared to what I endured growing up in the 1980s and 90s. 

You will also learn that Black and Indigenous people walk parallel paths and survive similar struggles. And in the moments that our tracks do converge, we are much stronger together. That spirit of unity is growing already powerful in your young life, and it’s an example for communities and nations everywhere. Whether we’re collectively facing deadly forces like a pandemic or racism, coming together is the ultimate expression of resilience and survival.

And your name in your people’s language is survival, too. So are the few Anishinaabemowin words and phrases I share with you every day. I promise to be a fluent speaker before you become a young man. This language wasn’t supposed to survive, nor was your culture or history because of what Canada did to us. But here you are, already resisting and thriving. You are our light, our inspiration, and along with your generation and each that follows, this land’s great hope.

G’zaagin! I love you!

G’dehdeh (your dad)

 

Waubgeshig Rice visits Brockton Writers Series via GDTV on Wednesday, July 8, 2020 starting at 8:30pm alongside Kamila Rina, Ryanne Kap, and Marlo K. Shaw.

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BWS 08.07.20: Ryanne Kap

RyanneKap

Ryanne Kap is a Chinese-Canadian writer from Strathroy, Ontario. Her work has been featured in Grain MagazineScarborough FairRicepaper MagazineFeelszine, and The Unpublished City Volume II. Following her BA in English and creative writing at the University of Toronto Scarborough, she will be pursuing an MA in English at Western University.

 

Last Times

Shortly after the world shut down, I moved out of my basement apartment in Scarborough. I’d been planning to stay right until the end of my lease to make the most of the remaining time, but obviously those plansalong with everyone else’swere derailed.

So instead of having a small get-together with champagne and Papa John’s, my mom drove up and we packed my undergrad existence into her Subaru Crosstrek and my Honda Fit. A couple weeks later, I drove back to the apartment to gather the leftovers.

Before leaving, I took pictures of my room, the bathroom, and the kitchen. Just in case I forgot what they looked like. Or what it had been like, living away from home for the first time. With someone I could call a best friend. With a couch we always ate dinner on, and posters from Fan Expo, and a dark spot of mold on the wall, and those multi-legged bugs that show up when you least want them to.

I tried not to make it a moment, standing in that bare space like in the series finale of Fresh Prince or Friends, but there’s something about an emptied-out apartment that really gets to you. It felt like the end of everything. I was graduating from UTSC, moving back home, saying goodbye to the first chapter of my life that felt like it really mattered.

I left Scarborough in the dark, like I was on the run. When I arrived home two and a half hours and 246 kilometers later, the soft sorrow of never living there again sank in.

Since then, I’ve spent much of my ample free time thinking about what I would’ve done in that last few weeks, if I’d had all of April to stay.

I would’ve gotten a day pass and gotten off at every station between Kennedy and Yonge, just to see what was there. I was never able to avoid the cliché of a small-town girl in the big city; subways were still magic to me. I loved the pigeons flitting in and out of the stations, the rats staring up from the tracks.

I would’ve spent less caffeine-fueled nights on campus. I would’ve stayed home in the apartment. I still wouldn’t have slept, but I would’ve stayed up with my roommate debating Marvel movies and which celebrities we implicitly trusted instead of working on endless assignments.

I would’ve cooked more. I would’ve made dumplings, a dish I was so proud to have learned the recipe for. I would’ve stocked up at the Asian grocery store after a lifetime of never knowing there was such a thing.

I would’ve walked through every building on campus. Past my favourite professors’ offices, to the secret levels and study spaces I’d never explored before. I would’ve even paid one last visit to the cramped bathroom at the end of the humanities’ wing, the one I hated more than anything.

I would’ve stopped by north residence, glanced nostalgically at the window where my room was in first year. Remembered late-night treks for gas station slushies, the first time getting lost downtown, crying on my way to a 9 a.m. class after getting dumped the night before.

I would’ve taken the person I loved on one last proper date. I would’ve thanked him for everything, knowing that even that all-encompassing word wasn’t sufficient.

I would’ve gotten another berry lemonade Jones from the convenience store across the street. Stopped by the library branch that was always closed when I needed it to be open. Gone to Pickering just for pizza at Lamanna’s. There’s a whole subsection in my head for all the food I would’ve had one last time.

But even if I’d had all these goodbyes, it wouldn’t have given me any more closure. I’m not the kind of person who can easily cope with last times.

Exhibit A: my Opa’s been dying of cancer since 2016, and over the last four years every visit has had the threat of being the last time we see him, the last time I tell him I love him. It’s always the last time, until it isn’t. The inevitable keeps getting postponed, but my gratitude has long been overshadowed by stress. I cry when I don’t mean to and panic in the bathroom when I go to see him. It’s like a Groundhog Day of goodbyes, and I’m just waiting for the cycle to finally end.

Even as I left Scarborough, I knew it wasn’t really the last time either. I have people there I plan to visit, alumni events I’ll probably show up for.

But the problem with an ending that never comes is that it makes it more difficult to accept the endings that have already come true.

Going back to Scarborough won’t change the fact that my life as I knew it there is over. I’ll never walk through that campus as a bright-eyed/burned-out undergrad. I’ll never wake up in that basement apartment to the sounds of the neighbours fighting upstairs.

Not all of it needs to be mourned. My life has changed and reformed plenty of times before this. There are next chapters, and all that.

But in this, a time of uncertainty and collective grieving, I find myself holding on to those hypothetical last times, to that hypothetical closure. If I can imagine all the things I would’ve done, then it makes them that much closer to being real.

In this alternate timeline, some parallel version of April, I stay in Scarborough. I say goodbye to all the places, experiences, and people I need to. It still feels like a loss, but one I have time to come to terms with.

And then, when I’m finally ready, I come home.

 

Ryanne Kap visits Brockton Writers Series via GDTV on Wednesday, July 8, 2020 starting at 8:30pm alongside Kamila Rina, Waubgeshig Rice, and Marlo K. Shaw.

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BWS 08.07.20: Kamila Rina

Kamila Rina - headshot 1

Kamila Rina is an autistic and multi-disabled immigrant Jewish non-binary bi poet, a sexuality/gender/disability educator, and a survivor of long-term violence. They have been published internationally, including in Room MagazineBreath & ShadowMonsteringDeaf Poets SocietyWe Have Come FarCarouselAugurFrondMary, and Queer Out There. Find them at KamilaRina.com.

 

My friend, the award-winning writer Jade Wallace interviewed me this week while scrupulously observing social distancing precautions (so, via email).

Jade: Describe your ideal writing space, real, fantastical, or otherwise.

Kamila: Oh I love this question! I always want to write among plants. Many many plants. Sooooo many. Occasionally I’ve perused Writer Instagram (a very different animal from Writer Twitter) to satiate my hunger for seeing writing spaces that I would like to inhabit but don’t (yet). I think my 1st place for Writing Spot Envy goes to a garden in the English countryside, with a laptop on a large wooden table, some climbing vines on trellises, and fields of No People Just More Plants stretching out around the writer. Lucky lucky writer.

But I would also accept:
a park with trees all around, or at least a lot of edible plants;
a hammock hanging between large-crowned trees (though that one is definitely a fantasy, as my disabled body requires both a laptop and more physical support than found there, to be able to write);
a large plant-filled room;
a balcony with a plethora of planters and climbing plants (I have some excellent memories of my childhood balcony with a curtain of fragrant sweet peas climbing up thin fishing lines on all three sides); or
a back deck overlooking fruit trees and a vegetable garden.

In reality, I write wherever I can, which is often on the subway between errands, or on my couch, with a side view of a shelf of some hardy succulents I haven’t neglected to death yet.

Jade: Reading spaces are important as well. You have written about, and worked toward, increasing the accessibility of various public events. What are some common hindrances to accessibility that you have noticed at literary readings in particular and how might they be addressed?

Kamila: Oh gosh, so many — and I know the (queer) literary communities I hang out in are currently putting in work toward disability inclusion, but accessibility is not yet nearly as much a cornerstone of our event organising as it needs to be.

…You know, I’m just going to focus on the second half of the question; otherwise this answer will be an essay in itself.

So in my plans for a Literary Community That’s All Accessible All The Time, I see a mandate for spaces with level entry, wide doorways, power entry buttons, strictly enforced wide aisles, designated wheelchair and walker spots, and large single-stall washrooms with grab bars, levered taps, and lap space under the sinks. ASL interpretation would be provided at all readings; it is expensive but what if we just considered it a necessary part of holding a reading? Events would have live captioners and/or project the reading texts on a screen. (Providing a text script is crucial for folks with audio-processing issues.) And would have attendant care and child care as a matter of course. Any books sold at a reading would be available in multiple formats. All folks intending to attend a literary reading would be mindful of the need to arrive stringently scent-free, the way most of us are currently mindful to keep 2m away from the nearest person not living in our household. Event spaces would make arrangements around their cleaning and renovations practices, when scheduling readings. And would make a plan for bringing down sensory loads in the space the day of.

Some of these objectives heavily depend on extra funding, of course. I hope/believe we will find ways to build that in over time? Passing around a hat for ASL donations? PWYC (including all the way down to $0 of course) entry to events, with proceeds going to the accessibility budget? Applying for grants?

But there are also things we can do right now, without much extra capital. Scent-free awareness and policies, enforced. Designated accessibility greeters/problem-solvers. Providing or projecting the text for all material read. Wide aisles. Priority spots at the front for mobility device users, lip-readers, and scent-disabled folks. At least a few solid comfortable chairs, reserved for disabled folks. Sensory load decrease reorganising, done at the same time as putting out the chairs. Finding out about availability of alternate formats (audio, PDF, eBook, braille, large print) for the featured books, and pestering publishers to provide those formats.

Anyway, I guess this is my Soapbox Moment, asking that all of us who work in or visit literary spaces prioritise access and agitate/plan for at least some accessibility features at every event we’re part of.

Jade: How do you conceptualize the relationship between poetry and personal identity?

Kamila: I know it’s different for everyone, and I am not prescribing this for all other poets, there is a lot of amazing poetry out there that achieves different yet also valuable aims, but: I feel like I pour all of who I am into poems. All the anguish, all the joy, all the hard and impossible and not-yet-resolved and weird and sharp and soft and squirmy. At its best, my work shows all of me, imagines who I still want to become, creates a bridge or a way to accept parts of me that are hard or inconvenient, plainly provides representation/reflection for other folks with the same marginalised identity labels, and wrestles with privilege and witnessing. At its best, I hope it does for others what my favourite poets have done for me over time: holds up a mirror, says: here’s a hard thing, and/but you are not alone, says: here’s a way forward.

Jade: Of the many available creative literary genres—fiction, playwriting, etc.—why do you find yourself reliably drawn to poetry?

Kamila: The first thing I think of is this line from Audre Lorde “…even the form our creativity takes is often a class issue. Of all the art forms, poetry is the most economical. It is the one which is the most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper.”

I first read it as a queer teenage poetry-scribbler, in one of the very first feminist/radical books I got to access in the tiny town where I attended high school after immigrating to Canada. I’ve never forgotten it. As a young adult I used to write poems on scraps or reused paper — back when I was even poorer but also somewhat less disabled. I wrote on the backs of various flyers or handouts (I was so poor, that affording a fresh package of writing paper was a challenge; back then I took home every single handout from everywhere, and book excerpts and helping materials given out in my trauma support groups, just to be able to write), in (donated at said support groups) notebooks on transit, on the backs of receipts.

Then the disability that affects my arms kicked in, and I needed to write using voice recognition software, or on a laptop with a really gentle keyboard. When I got my first laptop (it was a hand-me-down with a cracked screen, but it had the nice kind of keyboard and I LOVED it), I was giddy to once again be able to write on the subway, on the bus, while waiting in a doctor’s office, while eating lunch in a park. Time stolen from dreary errands. A way to process or capture something beautiful or distressing.

The first time I got a publication accepted into an Important Literary Journal, it was a poem I had originally furtively scribbled on reused paper on the subway, as the event I was describing was happening. Poetry is the most immediate of writing forms. As a poor and disabled person, I’ve never had the time and stamina to be able to write longer, more focused items, like novels or short stories.

And as an autistic, I find poetry most conducive to translating the pictures that my brain makes whenever it’s processing an experience or an idea. Sometimes all I have to do is describe my internal landscape vividly enough, and voilà! a way of making sense of my experience, but also Art.

Jade: Which foods do you find most conducive to writing creatively?

Kamila: Ooooh. Well, definitely edible flowers! Nasturtiums and pansies alone can be responsible for entire poems. But also anything else that makes my brain light up in happiness/is stimmy. Vegan cheese. (I recommend the Nuts for Cheese Artichoke and Herb cashew cheese.) Chocolate-chip or lemon-coconut cookies. Green beans. WILD BLUEBERRIES. Anything that makes my brain happy opens up my (metaphorical) metaphor veins, and makes the writing flow.

Otherwise, something proteinated and not too messy that can be eaten with one hand while 90% of my eyes’ and neurons’ attention is on the computer screen. Pre-seasoned tofu chunks. Almond butter eaten from the jar with a large spoon. Cinnamon-pecan Simply bars.

 

Kamila Rina visits Brockton Writers Series via GDTV on Wednesday, July 8, 2020 starting at 8:30pm alongside Ryanne Kap, Waubgeshig Rice, and Marlo K. Shaw.

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Brockton Writers Series 08.07.20

Wednesday, July 8, 2020 – 8:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by

Kamila Rina

Ryanne Kap

Waubgeshig Rice

Marlo K. Shaw

Glad Day Bookshop via online at GDTV:

Here’s how to join:
Just add us on ZOOM: https://zoom.us/my/gladday
Meeting ID: 619-763-5308
Password is: 1970
(you can also phone in and listen: 647 558 0588)
And you can pick your own Glad Day Zoom background HERE

 

499 Church Street, Toronto

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

 If you’d like to donate, please do so here.

 

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we have decided to move our July 8th event online! Glad Day Bookstore will host our event on its GDTV Zoom channel. We encourage you to download the Zoom app to your computers, a cell phone will suffice but some of the functionalities of the app will be limited. In the next couple of weeks, watch this space to learn more about our readers and for more information on how you can participate with us online.

READERS

Kamila Rina - headshot 1

Kamila Rina is an autistic and multi-disabled immigrant Jewish non-binary bi poet, a sexuality/gender/disability educator, and a survivor of long-term violence. They have been published internationally, including in Room Magazine, Breath & Shadow, Monstering, Deaf Poets Society, We Have Come Far, Carousel, Augur, Frond, Mary, and Queer Out There. Find them at KamilaRina.com.

RyanneKap

Ryanne Kap is a Chinese-Canadian writer from Strathroy, Ontario. Her work has been featured in Grain Magazine, Scarborough Fair, Ricepaper Magazine, Feelszine, and The Unpublished City Volume II. Following her BA in English and creative writing at the University of Toronto Scarborough, she will be pursuing an MA in English at Western University.

Waubgeshig Rice

Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation on Georgian Bay. 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 spent the bulk of his journalism career at CBC, most recently as host of Up North, the afternoon radio program for northern Ontario. He lives in Sudbury with his wife and sons.

MShaw-4449

Marlo K. Shaw (She/Her) is a Toronto writer, child protection lawyer and Mom. She writes memoir, personal essays and poetry. Her work has appeared in Through, Not Around: Stories of Infertility and Pregnancy Loss, published in 2019 by Dundurn Press. Her short play, “Introducing My Crazy”, was selected to be a part of Stage Write Burlington’s Virtually Yours 2.0 play festival. She has read at the Emerging Writers Series, Bedpost Sex and Sexuality Show, Spoken Lives, and at VoicED: an Event for Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  She blogs about writing and her creative process at mkshaw.ca, and you can follow her on Instagram @marlo.k.shaw

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