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BWS 13.09.17: Nancy Kay Clark

Nancy Kay Clark

After many years as a magazine writer and editor, Nancy Kay Clark began to write fiction, but couldn’t settle on what kind—literary, children’s, sci fi or speculative (so she writes all four). Her short fiction has been featured in Neo Opsis magazine. She is a diehard do-it-yourselfer: she launched her own online literary magazine, CommuterLit.com, seven years ago (it’s still going strong); creates chapbooks to sell, and later this year will self-publish a middle-grade novel, Gus the Fuss, and, with a group of like-minded writers, an anthology of short stories, Our Plan to Save the World. You can find her stories on CommuterLit, and on Wattpad.

Nancy drops by the blog this week to tell us why she self-publishes!

Why I’ve decided to self-publish

Yes, I know the majority of self-published novels languish among thousands on Amazon, selling a mere handful to friends and family, before disappearing completely into the great bargain bin in the cloud.

And no, I’m not a marketing magician; I do not possess a potion for success that will ensure my titles will stand out from the crowd. Nor am I delusional in thinking that self-publishing is an easy ticket to fame and fortune.

But I’m going to do it anyway and these are my reasons:

  1. As a newcomer, being picked up by a traditional publisher (large or small) does not guarantee huge sales. I’d be doing the bulk of the publicity and social media marketing myself anyway.
  2. An inability to get picked up by a traditional publisher or literary agent does not necessarily indicate a lesser quality of work. It may have more to do with budgets and bottom lines. It may be I’m not on trend, and therefore considered not marketable. My manuscript might not be to some editors’ tastes, or if it is, there may be room to publish only two first novels and mine was judged number three or four, or maybe five, but definitely not six.
  3. No matter how many times I try to convince myself of what I just stated above, rejections still eat at me. I’m tired of letting them do so.
  4. Self-publishing does not preclude submitting other work to traditional publishers.
  5. In fact, self-publishing might lead to a publishing contract. It has happened — usually to self-publishers who have worked their asses off. Nobody knows where the next hot trending book will come from and writers who have built up their sales and fan bases grab the attention of traditional publishers.
  6. I’m middle aged and thus have less writing years in me than many out there. And I’m impatient to get on with it. I do not wish to wait for my lucky break.
  7. Actually, I don’t believe in lucky breaks. I believe you have to make your own opportunities in life.
  8. It’s fun having complete creative control over the entire publishing venture.
  9. Technology has made it feasible for me to self-publish and at a reasonable cost.
  10. I want to turn rejection into acceptance. Right here, right now, I’d rather have 10 people who buy and enjoy my self-published books, than 10 rejections from publishers and agents. That to me would feel like a win.
  11. If traditional publishers offer first timers itsy-bitsy advances, and most titles won’t sell out those advances, and the publicity and marketing will mostly be up to the writer anyway, what exactly do these intermediaries offer us? Editing expertise? Yes, fair point. A good proofreader? Arguable. Necessary judgment of literary merit? I dare you to go into any large bookstore, read a few back cover blurbs from books in various genres and tell me with a straight face about their literary merit. Mostly I think traditional publishers and literary agents offer third-party validation that all those years we’ve spent writing weren’t a colossal waste of time. The gatekeepers give you a pass to that exclusive authors club. They give you status. They give you the ability to take “wanna be” from in front of “writer” on your resumé. They give you respect from your fellow writers. So…
  12. I’ve decided to give up my all-consuming craving for third-party validation—well, from the traditional publishing industry, anyway. I’m going to go directly to readers, and see what they think. Now, I just have to work my ass off to find those readers.

Nancy Kay Clark visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Fathima Cader, Drew Hayden Taylor, Saidah Vassel and a special guest talk, “From Blog to Book: A Work in Process”, by Kerry Clare!

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Brockton Writers Series 13.09.17

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2017 – 6:30pm

Brockton Writers Series presents readings by:

Fathima Cader
Nancy Kay Clark
Saidah Vassell
Drew Hayden Taylor

and special guest speaker

Kerry Clare

AT

Glad Day Bookshop

499 Church St., 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

 From Blog to Book: A Work in Process

kerryclare

Kerry Clare‘s debut novel, Mitzi Bytes, was published in March. A
blogger since 2000, she writes about books and reading at
PickleMeThis.com.

 

READERS

 

caderFathima Cader‘s recent publications include creative non-fiction in Hazlitt and Warscapes, poetry in Apogee Journal and Canadian Woman Studies: les cahiers de la femme, and criticism in The New Inquiry and The Funambulist. She is interested in all manner of borders and in the migrations of war and state violence.

Nancy Kay Clark

 

After many years as a magazine writer and editor, Nancy Kay Clark began to write fiction, but couldn’t settle on what kind—literary, children’s, sci fi or speculative (so she writes all four). Her short fiction has been featured in Neo Opsis magazine. She is a diehard do-it-yourselfer: she launched her own on-line literary magazine, CommuterLit.com, seven years ago (it’s still going strong); creates chapbooks to sell, and later this year will self-publish a middle-grade novel, Gus the Fuss, and, with a group of like-minded writers, an anthology of short stories, Our Plan to Save the World. You can find her stories on CommuterLit, and on Wattpad.

SaidahSaidah Vassell has loved stories since before she could write. As a child, she often spent her time creating entire worlds for her dolls. Eventually, her and her cousin began writing them down and that is all it took to spark a passion within her for writing.

_DSF1972 version 1Drew Hayden Taylor is an award winning playwright, novelist, filmmaker and journalist. Born and raised on the Curve Lake First Nation in Central Ontario, he has done practically everything, from performing Stand Up comedy at the Kennedy Centre in Washington, D.C. to being Artistic Director of Canada’s premiere Native theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts. Recently, he has celebrated the launch of his 30th book, and is currently directing/editing a documentary about the German preoccupation with North American Indigenous cultures.

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BWS 12.07.17: It’s Tonight!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2017 – 6:30pm

For our 2017 edition of Queer Night (though we’re always a little queer!),
Brockton Writers Series is proud to present readings by:

Terence A. Go
jes sachse
Ron Schafrick
Kai Cheng Thom

and special guest speaker

S. Bear Bergman

AT

Glad Day Bookshop

499 Church St., 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, and we are delighted to introduce Richard Belzile, who will be interpreting the event in American Sign Language! 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

“Five Things You Should Know Before You Do Anything About Your Children’s Book Idea”

BearBergman-7182

Award-winning writer, educator and storyteller S. Bear Bergman is the author of six books as well as the founder of Flamingo Rampant, a children’s press focused on feminist, LGBTQ-positive, racially-diverse children’s books, and writer of the advice column Ask Bear for Bitch Magazine. His most recent book for grownups, Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter, made several Best Of lists and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Bear is a much-loved speaker and storyteller at universities and festivals alike, because his signature blend of wit and warmth brings all the people to the yard (regardless of their sex designation, gender identity, or gender expression) (which he would like to remind you are not the same thing).

READERS

IMG_20170524_212558Terence A. Go has been dating-app free for two months and counting. A first-gen, Indonesian-Canadian spoken word artist, he has read at various venues across the city; most recently, he has featured at Naked Heart – An LGBTQ Festival of Words (2016) and Poetic Justice: A Proud Reading Series (2015, 2016) at Glad Day, and Fleurus 2 at Hart House (2013). Terence’s work has been published in Misunderstandings Magazine and Zhush Redux (2012)and he has released several collections, UNgh (2007) among them. He has facilitated OUTwrites since 2003.

JES SACHSE HEADSHOT 1 for web

Presently living in Toronto, jes sachse is an artist, writer and performer whose work addresses the negotiations of bodies moving in public/private space and the work of their care. Their work and writing has appeared in NOW Magazine, The Peak, CV2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, Mobilizing Metaphor: Art, Culture and Disability Activism in Canada, and the 40th Anniversary Edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Ron SchafrickRon Schafrick’s short fiction has appeared in The Journey Prize Stories 27, Best Gay Stories 2015, The New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, Asia Literary Review, Plenitude, and elsewhere. His collection of stories, Interpreters, was published by Oberon Press in 2013.

headshotKai Cheng Thom is a writer, performing artist, and social worker based in Toronto and Montreal, unceded Indigenous territories. Her first novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir (Metonymy Press), is a Lambda Literary Award Nominee for 2017. Her debut poetry collection, a place called No Homeland (Arsenal Pulp Press), is a also a 2017 finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ Writers.

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BWS 12.07.17: jes sachse

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Photo by Vivek Shraya

Presently living in Toronto, jes sachse is an artist, writer and performer whose work addresses the negotiations of bodies moving in public/private space and the work of their care. Their work and writing has appeared in NOW MagazineThe PeakCV2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical WritingMobilizing Metaphor: Art, Culture and Disability Activism in Canada, and the 40th Anniversary Edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves.

jes joined us for an interview ahead of their appearance on Wednesday!

BWS: You’re appearing at Brockton Writers Series as a poet, but you work in all kinds of other media, too. Tell us about your current projects in dance and in visual arts.

jes: First of all, I was so thrilled to receive an invitation to read at the Brockton Writer’s Series, joined by this amazing line up of writers.

Presently, I have two solo large scale sculptural installation shows up, both cutely (and accessibly!) across Lansdowne Ave. from each other, in my neighbourhood of Parkdale, and just north of.

At Xpace Cultural Centre, in the Project Room, you will locate Freedom Tube Lost in X Space, for which I am deeply grateful to critical writer Vince Rozario for penning such a superbly poetic curatorial essay to accompany the piece’s current imagining (which you can read here), on until July 18th.

Down the street, at The Public Studio, viewable from the Lansdowne bus as it stops at Seaforth, is the window gallery diptych found, which is part of a larger series I’m currently producing called Signs, which employs large, commercially made aluminum signage with personal messages, on view until early August. I see the diptych in sculpture as this object/ive opportunity to destruct the myth of dichotomy, so obsessively turned to in colonial Western society and the English language, to make a moment for the truer notion of conversation; ‘two things can be true at once’.

Alongside all this assemblage & metal making, I have been in residence since April of this year as one of eight emerging choreographers at Dancemakers, through an inaugural program called the Peer Learning Network, where I will be sweating it out in their old industrial, floor to ceiling windowed studios a la Flash Dance until our group showcase for friends & family at the end of August.

BWS: How does what you do in non-written media intersect with what you do in your poetry?

jes: I must confess that poetry and dance are both timid points of return. We all have languages that speak to us. The first that spoke to me as a kid was poetry. Many of the themes and motifs evaded perhaps, but the way Being Alive was told in poems landed. Later, I would understand why.

In that way I feel as though I have never not been a poet. Though perhaps a shitty one at first. But who doesn’t love a good rhyming couplet when they’re ten?

I think what I understood early on in life was that poetry was to tell the truth. And this soothed me, growing up in a small farming town in a silent house occupied by my father’s European postwar trauma. The truth became a thing I did alone but for the halcyon fields of waist high brome grass. It was idyllic space for the quiet of my gender fluidity.

I was a dancer then too, studying at the dance school my mother taught at. Though relating to my body in front of a mirror and not a field would become more wrought than the rusted metal tracks of the abandoned train where I often played.

It is both exciting and terrifying to build in these mediums again, as a visible artist in performance & sculpture, as they are places I haven’t stopped building but have nurtured in private realms, like letters to lovers & alleyway body traces toward home.

I think a choreographer and a poet and a sculptor are not so different things. In each case there is a stage, a page, or a pause; & the audience-approach a mutable, shifting efficacy.

BWS: How can your poetry influence what you do in dance or in visual art?

jes: We’re at an interesting time of cultural production and process, undeniably influenced by the hyper-democratic space of the Internet. Archive is far elusory to the current carrying of words than our sites of conversation. This has influenced deeply how I act as both artist-maker and poet. We are al/so curators.

I am a bit more afraid of poetry than dance, in the absence of the visual, and the places of its hiding. So many winters. So many dive bars writing alone to ease an ache. It’s starting to spill out though. You’ll see traces in the gentle maroon typography lining the south wall at Xpace. & in the metered metal sign diptychs. It’s an inevitability I suppose, when you’re finally able to put some of your suffering back in the ground. You begin to remember how to speak the way you first did. And that time travel is scary.

One thing that quietly broke my heart was the overheard discussion of the maybe 2010 notion that poetry was over. Ah, what a silly moment in time… I’m looking forward to being a poet again.

BWS: What can we expect on July 12?

jes: You can expect a new chapbook! & a very shy jes. I’ve called the collection of new works ‘in kind’, as it reflects the rather humbling journey of working through intergenerational trauma and suffering with/alongside queer community, and my deep gratitude for friendship and writers brave enough to share their gifts of naming pain.

BWS: We’re looking forward to it, jes, thanks!

jes sachse visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 (Queer Night!) in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Terence A. Go, Ron Schafrick, Kai Cheng Thom and a special guest talk, “Five Things You Should Know Before You Do Anything About Your Children’s Book Idea”, by S. Bear Bergman!

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BWS 12.07.17: Kai Cheng Thom

headshot

Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performing artist, and social worker based in Toronto and Montreal, unceded Indigenous territories. Her first novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir (Metonymy Press), is a Lambda Literary Award Nominee for 2017. Her debut poetry collection, a place called No Homeland (Arsenal Pulp Press), is a also a 2017 finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ Writers.

Ahead of her July 12 visit to Brockton Writers Series, Kai dropped by the
blog with the guest post below!

Letter to A Young Trans Woman Writer: An Unsolicited Survival Guide

Dearest you, essential you, incredible you,

Try not to be a writer. Try your very best. Keep the stories deep inside. It’s safer that way. (So said every jealous has-been queen to an ambitious, talented young waif.) People will tell you that you have the potential to be exceptional, amazing, an inspiration to millions, and I do not doubt that this is true. I am telling you that you also have the potential to be ordinary, contented, to inspire no one and belong only to yourself. You are more than what they see in you. You are more than what they can take from you. Remember this always.

Try not to be a writer. Keep the stories deep inside, until they ache and swell inside you like a starving, distended belly. Run to the woods and earn your living selling herbal medications to rich white women. Run to the mountains and earn your living as a maker of artisanal dyes. Run to the cities and become an investment banker, buy yourself an antique hotel to live in, and spend your weekends rolling around on a king-size bed of cash.

Keep the stories inside your body, till your bones grind and your muscles wheeze beneath their weight. Till your fingers quake and your heart skips time and your skin cracks and oozes blood from the effort of holding them in.

Then, if you still have to – if there is no choice – write.

The stories you give birth to will draw eyes, many eyes, hungry for the light of your voice. A forest of eyes and ears and hands, always reaching for whatever part of you they can see and hear and touch. Some will belong to trans girls like you. Many will belong to women and men who know nothing about your life except that it moves or entertains or titillates them.

They will want to use you for Great Purposes of their own design. They will ask you to speak on behalf of the entire universe of trans girls, and they will cast the blame your way when you get it wrong. (And yes, my darling, wise beyond your years though you are, you will get it wrong.)

They will use your body as weapon and shield in wars that have nothing to do with you. They will cast you as exotic spice in their documentaries, and hold you in their palms as a token of their open-mindedness. They will dress you up like a doll and play with you a like a favorite pet and they will throw you aside like a broken toy when they are done. Usually, you will not be paid.

Some will want to love you. Some will want to eat you. Most will not know the difference, and probably, neither will you.

Do you understand now, darling? In the words of a great witch past, you were never meant to survive. Your stories were the thread with which you wove your line to life, and now they are the rope you will hang by. Your stories are a galaxy of life-giving stars, and the brighter you shine, the easier it is for the hunters to find you. In the words of another witch, they will raise you up to tear you down.

When your first book is born, you will feel like dying. Giving birth always feels this way.  You will lie awake and wonder: Was this what I dreamed about?

And yet you must write. And you must survive. These are things I understand. So then, survive:

Read books written by your sisters and elders – trans women past and present – like your life depends on it. It does. Make an altar out of cardboard boxes covered with cloth at the foot of your bed. On it, keep dried flowers and a picture of your family (even if they tried to kill you) and plastic statues of the gods whose names you’ve long forgotten. Keep a sachet of amethyst and rosemary beneath your pillow. Pray for money, for good fortune, for long life. Yes, you deserve them.

On full moons, burn a candle for the dead. On new moons, burn a candle for the living.

Learn to keep some secrets for yourself. The forest of eyes and ears and hands will tell you that you owe every inch of your life to others to scrutinize and criticize and pore over. You don’t. Learn to say no to requests that sound like flattery but feel like consumption. Learn to say no to offers that sound like love but feel like being swallowed.

Practice spending time during which you do nothing useful to others: Write nothing. Say nothing. Do nothing. Those who still love you during these times are the ones who will love you forever. Keep them close to your heart and treat them kindly. Leave the rest.

And remember: You are more than what they can take from you. You were never meant to survive. They will raise you up to tear you down. You are a galaxy of life-giving stars, but you are also more than that. You are the great darkness of the universe. You are the silence between the songs. You are enough. You were enough before being published, you were enough before you dreamed of writing, you were enough before you began.

Love,

A Young Trans Woman Writer

Kai Cheng Thom visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 (Queer Night!) in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Terence A. Go, jes sachse, Ron Schafrick and a special guest talk, “Five Things You Should Know Before You Do Anything About Your Children’s Book Idea”, by S. Bear Bergman!

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BWS 12.07.17: Terence A. Go

IMG_20170524_212558

Terence A. Go has been dating-app free for two months and counting. A first-gen, Indonesian-Canadian spoken word artist, he has read at various venues across the city; most recently, he has featured at Naked Heart – An LGBTQ Festival of Words (2016) and Poetic Justice: A Proud Reading Series (2015, 2016) at Glad Day, and Fleurus 2 at Hart House (2013). Terence’s work has been published in Misunderstandings Magazine and Zhush Redux (2012), and he has released several collections, UNgh (2007) among them. He has facilitated OUTwrites since 2003.

Ahead of his July 12 Brockton Writers appearance, Terence visits the blog this week for an interview, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his first book’s publication!

BWS: You recorded many of the poems in your first collection and provided those recordings for this interview, so that’s how this interviewer first experienced them: aloud. It made me think about first impressions of a poem, and how they might differ when heard as opposed to being read on the page; when you write, do you think more about someone hearing the poem than someone reading it, or vice versa, or is it a combination…?

Terence: Music has always been a part of my life. Whether it be my classical training on the piano, or playing clarinet and bassoon in a high school band, or just listening to baroque and Hip-hop/R&B music growing up, I have always been attracted to the rhythms and cadences of language.

When I compose a piece, the speaker is definitely one who tells his tale aloud. That said, I am also an admirer of great architecture, and whether consciously or not, I often integrate some symmetry to my pieces in print.

BWS: The sound of the poems does come to life, and a sonic theme even seemed to emerge in a couple of them: you actually sing “Wheels on the Bus” before the sexually charged nature of the transit ride becomes apparent in “Frottage Cheese”, and in the “All in the Bawdy” series and “Commuter II” some child-like rhythms come through as well. Do you see a kind of simplistic/child-like/intuitive element as a key part of your poetry? Or of poetry in general?

Terence: I learned once that the appeal for the “sing-song” quality of children’s nursery rhymes derives in part from the same soothing heartbeat rhythms that we heard in the womb, the same way a child falls asleep to the “white noise” created by a car ride. I see the musical works of Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, and the sound of Diggable Planets partly as an extension of this aesthetic. I think most poetry has an inherent rhythm whether it is the structured meter of a sonnet or the departure from that in free verse. Much like the theme and variations of a Bach piece, I enjoy establishing a rhythm or line and playing with it, through sound and sense.

BWS: It’s been 10 years since you published your first collection. Can you believe it? How do you remember the experience now? Do you think about the work a lot?

Terence: Much to the consternation of nosy friends and family, I would rather speak of how old I feel rather than what my driver’s licence reveals. Haha. Ha. Hmm. My first collection was the result of a Creative Writing class at the University of Toronto and a group of poets who performed at Hart House and created an anthology for the evening. As I am sure is the case with many authors, I sort of cringe thinking of some of the dramatic interpretations I performed in the past (socks on my hands in a re-enactment, a broomstick with my mother’s image), but I enjoyed its free-spirited quality. I like to think that my work has matured both in subject matter (coming out, dealing with familial homophobia) and delivery, but I still find it amusing to recount the foibles of gay single life through humour.

BWS: What are you working on now?

Terence: Currently, I’m trying to compile a new collection and do more regular readings. I just finished a trip to Europe, the Middle East, Indonesia, and Australia, so I’m working on a collection that complements a selection of those photos from the obscene horde of pics sitting in my cloud drive. I am interested in researching more about Indonesian history and culture as it intersects with my own identity as a queer, first-generation Indonesian-Canadian, so I look forward to completing that project. Overall, travel, reading, and writing more is always the ideal goal.

BWS: Looking forward to hearing more about it on July 12, Terence, thanks!

Terence A. Go visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 (Queer Night!) in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside jes sachse, Ron Schafrick, Kai Cheng Thom and a special guest talk, “Five Things You Should Know Before You Do Anything About Your Children’s Book Idea”, by S. Bear Bergman!

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BWS 12.07.17: Ron Schafrick

Ron Schafrick

Ron Schafrick’s short fiction has appeared in The Journey Prize Stories 27, Best Gay Stories 2015, The New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, Asia Literary Review, Plenitude, and elsewhere. His collection of stories, Interpreters, was published by Oberon Press in 2013.

Ron drops by the blog today ahead of his July 12 appearance at Brockton Writers Series, with this guest post about his favourite short stories. Thanks, Ron!

Favourite Short Stories

I teach an introductory fiction course, and like many such courses the focus is on short fiction. Recently, at the start of this summer semester, after my usual enthusiastic welcome, one of my students asked me a question after class that part of me has always secretly hoped to be asked: “What’s your favourite short story?”

On the one hand, it’s a bit of an unusual question, naïve and ingenuous, not something any discerning reader would ever ask. After all, of the innumerable short stories out there, how can one possibly pick out just one favourite? And yet, you do hear people speak of their favourite novels (it’s often used as a choice of prompt in case you forget your password on certain websites), or even favourite movies in spite of their own similarly countless options.

But when the question actually came I was a bit flummoxed in my answer. A couple of titles immediately popped into my head, and when I walked away I began to ponder the question a bit more: What are those stories that have made the greatest and most lasting impression on me, both as a reader and a writer of short fiction? Which stories do I turn to again and again for both instruction and inspiration?

In response to my student’s question, the story that immediately rose up from my subconscious was Mavis Gallant’s “Across the Bridge.” Gallant is one of my favourite writers and has had a huge influence on my own writing. I love the sheer confidence of her prose and the exactitude of each word. Some people describe her fiction as a bit cold, but that’s exactly what I love about her. I love, too, how the political and historical are also seamlessly woven into her work. In this story, set in Paris in the 1950s, a young woman is supposed to get married to one man but at the last minute decides she’s actually in love with another. I first read this story twenty years ago, and the last few words—“And, yes, it made me happy”—left me breathless when I first read them. Without giving anything away, it’s a very ironic ending, and yet what better words could there be to end any story? Other Gallant stories that vie for top spot include “Potter”, “The Remission”, “Voices Lost in Snow”, and “The Chosen Husband”, just to name a few.

The other story that also immediately came to mind was Yukio Mishima’s “Death in Midsummer”. Like Gallant’s “Across the Bridge,” I also first read this story about twenty years ago and it left a big mark on me. Set in Japan in the 1960s, it’s about a woman who loses two of her three children, as well as her sister-in-law, while vacationing at a seaside resort. Told from the mother’s perspective, the story that unfolds is a deeply internal one and closely examines the numerous subtle conflicts that arise out of this tragedy: the strain that’s now placed on her marriage, her in-laws’ subsequent perception of her, her own relationship with the surviving boy. It’s one of those stories in which very little happens, and yet everything happens—something I tend to do in my own fiction.

Along a similar vein is Raymond Carver’s “So Much Water So Close to Home.” Back in the ’90s I was a big fan of Carver. He made a big impact on me, and I think this story is one of his finest. When Claire’s husband returns from a fishing trip, she learns that he and his friends had discovered the murdered body of a young woman washed up onto the shore of a river. The men decide that instead of turning right around to find a phone booth to contact police, they tie the floating naked body to a tree and continue to spend the rest of their weekend camping, fishing, and drinking. Like Mishima’s story, the rest of the piece looks at the fallout from this event. Claire can’t help but see her husband differently now, as a man indifferent to violence inflicted upon women, as a man possibly capable of violence himself. She withdraws from her husband and starts to identify with the victim. Told in the first-person present tense, it’s a very compelling and internal story, haunting without a ghost ever materializing. And of course, there is Carver’s voice, which is not only very beguiling but has also influenced my own writing style.

Like a lot of people, I’m a big fan of Lorrie Moore, and her story “Agnes of Iowa” is one of my favourites. One of the things that draw me to Moore’s fiction is her ability to be both funny and sad at the same time, and in this story a South African poet is invited to give a reading at the university where Agnes is a professor. Agnes, whose marriage is starting to wane, is initially alarmed that the English department has invited an apartheid-era white Afrikaner to give a reading; yet when he arrives she finds him both attractive and sympathetic. Stylistically, there’s a lot going on in this story that I really like: the occasional and humorous intrusions of the protagonist’s thoughts into the narrative, almost like non sequiturs and which are represented by the use of the italics; her humorous yet percipient choice of similes and metaphors; and her ability to gently poke fun at her protagonist, making her all the more human, recognizable, and real. I have found myself mimicking her voice in some of my own fiction on more than one occasion. Other Lorrie Moore favourites include: “Dance in America” and “Places to Look for Your Mind.”

Vladimir Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols” is another favourite of mine, and what makes this piece particularly powerful is Nabokov’s ability to tell a story that is at once both highly affecting and yet completely self-conscious of itself as artifice without being heavy-handed about it—and that too is something I sometimes like to play with in my own work.

John Cheever’s “Reunion” is the first story I teach every semester and, I’ve started to realize, it’s also become a favourite of mine. It’s a very short and simple story (I’ve got it practically memorized!), and it’s also a very perfect story, too. I begin with that story because it’s got all those typical “elements of fiction” that I teach—exposition, rising action, climax, resolution, irony, foreshadowing, etc. And of course it’s beautifully written.

Of course, this list only just scratches the surface when it comes to favourites and influences; for a slightly more expanded list, please visit my website. And let me know: what are your own favourites? What are the short stories that have had a big impact on you?

Ron Schafrick visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 (Queer Night!) in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Terence A. Go, jes sachse, Kai Cheng Thom and a special guest talk, “Five Things You Should Know Before You Do Anything About Your Children’s Book Idea”, by S. Bear Bergman!

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Brockton Writers Series 12.07.17

WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2017 – 6:30pm

For our 2017 edition of Queer Night (though we’re always a little queer!),
Brockton Writers Series is proud to present readings by:

Terence A. Go
jes sachse
Ron Schafrick
Kai Cheng Thom

and special guest speaker

S. Bear Bergman

AT

Glad Day Bookshop

499 Church St., 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, and we are delighted to introduce Richard Belzile, who will be interpreting the event in American Sign Language! Please refrain from wearing scents.

Many thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their support.

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

GUEST SPEAKER

“Five Things You Should Know Before You Do Anything About Your Children’s Book Idea”

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Award-winning writer, educator and storyteller S. Bear Bergman is the author of six books as well as the founder of Flamingo Rampant, a children’s press focused on feminist, LGBTQ-positive, racially-diverse children’s books, and writer of the advice column Ask Bear for Bitch Magazine. His most recent book for grownups, Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter, made several Best Of lists and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Bear is a much-loved speaker and storyteller at universities and festivals alike, because his signature blend of wit and warmth brings all the people to the yard (regardless of their sex designation, gender identity, or gender expression) (which he would like to remind you are not the same thing).

READERS

IMG_20170524_212558Terence A. Go has been dating-app free for two months and counting. A first-gen, Indonesian-Canadian spoken word artist, he has read at various venues across the city; most recently, he has featured at Naked Heart – An LGBTQ Festival of Words (2016) and Poetic Justice: A Proud Reading Series (2015, 2016) at Glad Day, and Fleurus 2 at Hart House (2013). Terence’s work has been published in Misunderstandings Magazine and Zhush Redux (2012)and he has released several collections, UNgh (2007) among them. He has facilitated OUTwrites since 2003.

JES SACHSE HEADSHOT 1 for webjes sachse is at the forefront of a renewal of disability art, justice and culture in Canada. Presently living in Toronto, jes is an artist, writer and performer whose work focuses on disability culture in ways that refuse to reduce or bracket out the messy complexities of difference.  Their work and writing has appeared in NOW Magazine, The Peak, CV2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, Mobilizing Metaphor: Art, Culture and Disability Activism in Canada, and the 40th Anniversary Edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Ron SchafrickRon Schafrick’s short fiction has appeared in The Journey Prize Stories 27, Best Gay Stories 2015, The New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, Asia Literary Review, Plenitude, and elsewhere. His collection of stories, Interpreters, was published by Oberon Press in 2013.

headshotKai Cheng Thom is a writer, performing artist, and social worker based in Toronto and Montreal, unceded Indigenous territories. Her first novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir (Metonymy Press), is a Lambda Literary Award Nominee for 2017. Her debut poetry collection, a place called No Homeland (Arsenal Pulp Press), is a also a 2017 finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for Emerging LGBTQ Writers.

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BWS 10.05.17: What the Tarot Wants to Say to Writers, with Hoa Nguyen

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Hoa Nguyen was born in the Mekong Delta, raised in the Washington, D.C. area, and currently makes her home in Toronto. Her poetry collections include As Long As Trees LastRed Juice, Poems 1998-2008, and Violet Energy Ingots from Wave Books. She teaches poetics at Ryerson University, for Miami University’s low residency MFA program, for the Milton Avery School for Fine Arts at Bard College, and in a long-running, private workshop. 

Hoa gave the talk “What the Tarot Wants to Say to Writers” at our May 10 event, and below, brings it to life by interviewing her deck! An adept of the tarot for twenty years, and an internationally renowned leader of poetry workshops, this summer Hoa will conduct a workshop on Poetry and Divination for Poet’s House on June 24 with the poet Timothy Liu; they will also lead a longer version of this workshop for a Pelee Island Weekend Book House Escape retreat from September 8 – 10, 2017.

What the Tarot Wants to Say to Writers: Some Simple Advice

The tarot is an ancient symbolic system of archetypical significance and narrative structures. Rich in images, numeric resonance, and correspondences to other systems of divination (Kabbalah, astrology, and the I Ching), the Tarot can be used as a guide and source for inspiration.

How can one do this? I decided to ask the cards themselves. The deck I use is the Mythic Deck as illustrated by Tricia Newell and bought for me in San Francisco 1995 by my partner the poet/scholar Dale Smith.

Hoa Nguyen: Hello old friend. I want to thank you for letting me interview you for this essay. As you know, I’m a poet and student of your pattern system. I love your story-rich images and how they point to nodes of experience. They are like rooms I can enter and embellish with personal perceptions, perceptions that lead to further perceptions and insight.

I’d like to ask you two questions about how we can approach you with our creative questions. For the first question I’d like to draw two cards into a shape like that of the “crossing cards” at the center of the Celtic cross spread.

Can you say something about how the cards speak to the creative process?

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Tarot: The central figure shown here is the writer expressed as the King of Wands—someone who represents innovation, creative passion, and courage. Like the beginning of spring (the star sign Aries), the writer must wield the fiery wand of creativity and burst with confidence and power.

But this creative power and life-vision needs to be directed with committed unity. The Lovers card calls for that devotion by asking us to choose to unite with bliss, to choose the writer’s life as a committed path. This might seem to be a choice of opposites—how can one choose be a creative writer and also make a living? But the Lovers card tells us that this binary is false. The writer must claim this path, otherwise the wish is suppressed and the creative person settles for less.

Together the cards say that the creative process needs the writer fully engaged in the creation of a stable alchemy. It asks that the writer make choices without haste for the opportunity to engage in a kind of soul work with great energy and love.

Hoa: What are three ways using the Tarot can benefit one’s writing?

TTarot2arot: (1) Balance, naturally. Sometimes writers use one side of their brains too much. The wise, creative mind is a balanced, dynamic mix of energies. A writer must at times work with research and logic—and at other times, the writer must wait, trust intuition, follow the uncanny or the synchronistic, and work with the watery realm of visions.

The work of the writer is to be decisive, to understand the vision of the work, and to proceed with honesty and detachment.

We depict the central seed of the writer’s mind as the wise eye of the “vesica piscis—the interlocking circles of yin and yang. This balance gives birth to perfect creation.

 

Tarot3(2) Sometimes you need seven swords; you just do. Here the investigative mind operates under the influence of reflective, intuitive consideration—the moon in Aquarius.

Writers must use the skills of guile, tact, diplomacy, and wit when approaching the creative act. This might mean using dream-work energy and listening to the sages as they instruct through the unconscious—to follow hunches and intuitive hits.

Sometimes writers are expert procrastinators and need to “trick” themselves into bringing their creative self into the public world or to get the writing onto the page. This card brings to mind the questions we like to ask writers:

  • Can you surprise yourself with new strategies for writing?
  • How can you pierce through old ideas?
  • Can you encourage yourself to be canny and find ways around your avoidance by tricking yourself into writing?

 

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(3) This is what we think of as the emblem for a writer: a person who does the work and deals with the daily tasks. Here this energy is figured as Aristaeus, son of Apollo (the Greek god of art) and conductor of the “useful arts”. Thus the writer is like a keeper of bees: they must bring care to the conduct of the everyday and the humility and simplicity in that: self-care, reading, paying bills, keeping up the garden, performing acts of service, and so on. A writer claims their creative life through the cumulative efforts of endurance, duration, and right actions.

 

 

 

Check back in July for more tips from our next Brockton Writers Series guest speaker–-and before that, see you at our next event–Queer Night!–July 12, 2017, 6:30pm, at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto!

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BWS 10.05.17: Ayesha Chatterjee

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Ayesha Chatterjee‘s poetry has appeared in journals across the globe as well as on the official website of Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke. Her first collection, The Clarity of Distance, was published in 2011 by Bayeux Arts.  She is President of the League of Canadian Poets.

Ayesha’s next book is titled Bottles and Bones–“bottles” marking the cues many of the included poems take from the world of perfumery, and “bones” for her mother, who passed away two years ago and also features in the collection. You can sneak a peek at the new poems at the links below ahead of Ayesha’s May 10 appearance!

Three Poems (The Rusty Toque) 

“Rose Absolute” (Autumn Sky Poetry Daily)

“Past Makes Way” (The Missing Slate)

Ayesha Chatterjee visits Brockton Writers Series on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, in our new home, Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto, at 6:30pm (PWYC) alongside Mary Lou Dickinson, Catherine Hernandez, Ian Keteku and a special guest talk, “From Tarot to Creativity”, by Hoa Nguyen!

 

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