BWS 13.09.17 report: What a Blog Needs, with Kerry Clare

kerryclare

A blogger since 2000, Kerry Clare‘s debut novel, Mitzi Bytes, was published in March. In her blog, she writes about books and reading at PickleMeThis.com. At our September event, Kerry shared with us her journey from blog to book and gave some great pointers on what a blog needs to become successful.

If you’re thinking of starting a blog or have already begun the journey, here are Kerry’s thoughts on what a blog needs:

Give your blog space to grow and room to wander

If you’re starting a blog and you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s perfect! The best way to figure out your blog is to write your way towards the answers. Don’t get hung up on perfection—a blog is by nature raw and unpolished. Just keep writing one post after another, and don’t stop.

Write like nobody is reading

This is the easiest rule ever, because so often nobody is reading. It means that you are free to do away with self-consciousness and indulge your own fascinations and preoccupations. This freedom gives you the opportunity to create the kind of authenticity that will engage readers. Remember that metrics, comments and social media responses are fickle things and that you should gauge your success by what you can control—the quality of your ideas, your writing, your storytelling and how they improve over time.

Make sure that your blog delivers a profit

This is not the same as monetizing your blog; although, if you can figure out how to do so without compromising your work, then congratulations! But for the rest of us, it’s important to determine other ways for our work to pay off—Does your blog teach you things? Will it help your writing to improve? Does it challenge you and encourage you to get out into the world? All these questions are useful to help you find a way to make your blog serve you better.

If it’s not working, change it

Blogging should never be a chore. If you’re finding your enthusiasm lagging, if you anticipate writing blog posts with dread, then you need to switch up your routine. Don’t be afraid to change your focus. A blog needs space to grow and room to wander. If you’re finding the journey unsatisfying, then don’t be afraid to quit; blogging is not for everyone, and a blog doesn’t have to be forever.

Don’t blog to get somewhere, blog to be somewhere

From post to post, blogging will inevitably take you places—perhaps out into the world in pursuit of adventures to write about, and, if you’re lucky and keep at it, to professional and creative opportunities. While each of these is an excellent endeavour, the very best reason to blog is to create something artful, creative and interesting. Blogging is about immediacy, noticing what’s going on around you, and being in the moment. Always remember that a blog is a work in progress, just like life.

This year is the eighth anniversary of Brockton Writers Series! We’ll celebrate this milestone at our next event with fun surprises and a new panel of authors to inspire your senses. Guest speaker Heidi Reimer will discuss How to Write a Book in Ten Years and fellow authors Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Jia Quing Wilson-Yang, Puneet Dutt, and Spencer Butt will perform readings. In the following weeks, watch our space for special, anniversary-themed blogs and to learn more about how you can join in the fun!  

Mark your calendars for an event not to be missed on November 8, 2017, 6:30pm, at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto!

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BWS 13.09.17: Saidah Vassell

Saidah

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

This week, Saidah shares an excerpt from “Castle of Dreams”, featured in her short story collection, Portable Magic. Journey into her enchanted world at our next event!

Castle of Dreams

There once was a castle said to hold thousands of treasures, it was said that this castle held your deepest and most wonderful desires and if you went inside, you would receive what you’ve dreamed of. Now, legend had it that this castle was in the sky and the only time you could get to it was when the orange moon cast its sacred light on the Heron Lake. Now, the orange moon only came once a year and if you weren’t careful you could miss it entirely, but if you were careful and you caught it at the right moment, you could walk up the moon’s magical rays of light where the castle was only a hop away.

Only one man claims to have ever made it to the castle of dreams and his name is Litharius and he was the town drunk. Of course no one believed him. He was poor and he lived alone in a shack far up on the top of the hill but despite all of this, he still claims he’s had his dream come true.

The story he tells begins long ago, when he was just a young man. Litharius claims to be the son of a duke. He said he lived in riches but he was never happy. He lived in luxury but a smile never met his lips. He lived a life that many a man would envy but yet he never felt any joy. When he heard the tale of the castle of dreams, he vowed that maybe one day he’d make it there and hold his dreams in his arms, if only for a little while.

Years went by. Years filled with riches, suitors, festivals, and more. Filled with everything except for happiness, because the young Litharius’s dream was of something much greater than his world could offer. Every year that passed him by, he looked and waited for the orange moon but whenever it came, he found himself at the wrong lake. Time and time again the lake he found would not take him to the castle in the sky. It was on the night of his father’s death that he found himself at the right lake.

The orange moon cast its light on the right Heron Lake and it sparkled and twinkled up at Litharius. It smiled at him, it beckoned him to walk up the sacred rays to the castle of dreams. At the same time, a messenger pigeon found him to deliver the news of his father’s death. He had a choice, mourn for his father or finally reach the castle, a place he’d been searching for for nearly a decade. In that moment, he chose the castle.

Saidah Vassell 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, Nancy Kay Clark, Drew Hayden Taylor and a special guest talk, “From Blog to Book: A Work in Process”, by Kerry Clare!

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BWS 13.09.17: Drew Hayden Taylor

_DSF1972 version 1

Drew 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.

Back in Canada just in time for our September 13 event, Drew visits the blog with
the guest post below!

Indian-thusiasm

In the last 25 years I have toured and lectured in various parts of Germany at least 16 times. I have travelled from along the Baltic coast, down to the Swiss border, east to Trier and west to Berlin, and most places in between. Frankly, if the place has a university, chances are I have eaten schnitzel and drunk beer in that town. I have seen more of that lovely country than most Germans. As a result, I have learned to say ‘Ich ben ein Ojibway’.

During those visits, I would lecture predominantly on Native theatre, literature, culture, humour, sexuality, with a few other topics mixed in. You have to understand, many German universities have a Canadian/American studies program and jump at the chance to bring in an author or reputable source on something specific to Canadian culture. And there are few things more Canadian than its First Nations. And there lies the conflict… if it can be called a conflict.

Crossing many different generations, there is a palpable and persistent interest in North American Native culture in Germany, albeit an inaccurate one. Germans have held and treasured a romanticized view of Aboriginal people for a hundred and forty years or so. It all goes back to a writer from the tail end of the 19th century. A man named Karl May made a name and fortune for himself writing highly romanticized stories about the Orient, Arabia, and more interestingly, the American West.

In a series of highly popular novels later adapted into movies and plays, he created what has become an iconic character in German pop literature – an Apache warrior named Winnetou – noble, brave and mighty. All men want to be him. All women want to be with him. Pure pulp, his novels set the stage for entire generations of Germans to embrace and idolize the Aboriginal mystique, though oddly enough, the writer himself had never been to America until several decades after writing his books. And never to the American southwest.

The character of Winnetou and what you could call the spirit of Winnetou has popped up repeatedly in German culture and in observations of German culture. In the movie Inglourious Basterds, a group of German soldiers are playing, ironically a form of Indian poker. They all have cards on their foreheads with a literary character written on each individual card, including the name ‘Winnetou’. The one with that card asks the others something to the effect of, “Am I an American savage?”

There is also a popular cultural saying inspired by the novels: “Always remember, an Indian knows no pain.” Actually they do. I can attest to that.

Admirers of Karl May’s writing include Adolf Hitler, Albert Schweitzer, and Albert Einstein, to name just a few. That’s one hell of a book club meeting.

As a result of this infatuation, many interesting and enthusiastic offshoots have arisen, demonstrating the devotion to a fictional Indian character. Tourism to Canada (and America) has increased with amazing numbers of German tourists flying across the ocean to participate in what they think is the Native experience. During the summer there is a non-stop flight from Frankfurt to Whitehorse every weekend bringing hundreds of Germans to experience the north and its Native people. Indigenous arts and crafts stores across Canada are usually the first stops for these visitors.

In German towns like Bad Segeburg, plays based on May’s work are produced every year with casts of dozens, including horses and eagles, and special effects that make the most experienced Indigenous theatre professionals weep. Frequently, they get between 200,000 and 300,000 patrons a year, to see Germans dressed up as Apache warriors, frequently living in teepees complete with totem poles, for the most part culturally incorrect. But what the hell… most older Germans want the dream, not the reality.

And of course there are what are called hobbyists – individuals who are so enraptured by the image of our culture, they dress up in outfits they made themselves, learn traditional dances, make amazingly authentic crafts, and even hold pow wows. Additionally, there are clubs that go out into the forest, attempting to live as 19th century Native people supposedly did – trying to live off the German land, and frequently raiding each other. Because, I suppose, that’s what we used to do. I must remember that.

The mania is so persuasive, they often have issues with actual First Nation individuals who want to attend or visit these camps, usually out of curiosity. Some refer to us as Coca-Cola Indians, i.e., we have been corrupted by the 20th and 21st century and cannot claim to live authentic Indigenous lives. Like them.

So frequently, my appearances at the universities, looking more German than Ojibway I’m told, can be perplexing.  Luckily today’s younger generation is more interested in the real world of Native people. Thus the purpose and interest in my various lecture tours. Up there, in front of a good chunk of German youth, I have tried to dispel the persistent image of all Canada’s Native people living in teepees, riding horses, hunting buffalo. I do not believe I have done any of these.

Just a few weeks ago, I went with a documentary crew and spent 10 days filming this fascination. It has been a dream of mine for a long time. It’s so interesting, so bizarre. I wrote a play about it – Berlin Blues – but felt the actuality of it had to be seen, not just dramatized.

Germany – a leading economic and political powerhouse in Europe. Also, a wacky place.

Drew Hayden Taylor 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, Nancy Kay Clark, Saidah Vassel and a special guest talk, “From Blog to Book: A Work in Process”, by Kerry Clare!

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BWS 13.09.17: Fathima Cader

cader

Fathima 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.

Fathima sent forward a small sample of her work for the blog, ahead of her Sept. 13 appearance!

Two Excerpts

As a union-side labour lawyer, my work centres on the collectivizing of social justice movements. Analogously, as a writer, my work focuses on the subtle ways that oppressions and resistances are often interlinked across ostensibly dissonant contexts. In the two excerpts below (edited for length), I use the seemingly dissonant genres of poetry and essay to explore the common threads of war and work, and how they link worshippers and labourers across Canada, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, and the US.

“The Vulture is A Patient Bird”
Apogee Journal, August 2014

This is the week of voices feathering,
this is the week of days I count like prayer beads,
knuckle past twisted knuckle,
this the week whose map will mark the five days ago from yesterday
that you die in a Chicago hospital room,
resettled there by roommates
who found you and your pneumonia
communing in your bedroom.

These are the days whose skins hang loose,
gathering in pleats around my father’s eyes,
as you die Thursday and are buried Friday,
your two decades of backroom labour,
a silenced work acceptable to the nation,
pooling emptiness around the hospital bedposts,
your blankness of paper,
undocumented –
but for the phone bills that document
in reams how you called my parents
with more diligence than I.

This is time’s greyness, and its pixelation,
its harking to the thirty years ago that you
attended my parents’ wedding,
your presence a reminder of how the country remains a continent,
amalgam of absences, each heartbreak and each loneliness a nation,
each fear an army;
you arriving in my father’s birthplace as emissary
of the island’s so close too far aways,
other relatives too distant to note the redness of my mother’s sari,
too late to smooth out the stiffness of its folds, before its golden thread
unspools under my fingertips twenty odd years later;
you, uncle per the genealogy of friendship,
entitled to the conveyance of your news,
the aftermath dreaming of you the route
my father’s transnational return home takes,
so that when he calls his sister, his niece asks after
those linkages that death, striding across intervening
years and oceans, would appear fast to be dissolving:
Does this mean you are never coming to Sri Lanka?
Are you permanently settling there?
That unresolved question, the lifelong confusion
regarding there’s coordinates,
dogging my father’s every migration,
commencing at his first leave-taking
aged ten, half one hundred years ago,
from that small town, flanked by ocean dunes
and jungle thickness, blinding of light
spilling between my shoulder blades,
solar plexus of my histories.

*

Still that week, still that eternal week,
how it slices into words grown slack and shapeless:
people die in various ways here,
not always performances of the country’s war,
sometimes just endings come unto themselves,
shown by one relative that week,
his gentle passing marked with qurbani and khatam-al-quran
food for the living, prayers for the dead,
funeral of honour,
crashed by government soldiers,
who, camouflage-garbed, moonlight as event planners,
generous with suggestions for these proceedings.

They propose, cradling guns in lieu of tasbih,
that two mourners of their choosing – uncles,
per genealogies of age – march
through the town’s centre
(where the streets are wider, less green
than the paths that run past
the palm tree leaf fences
of my cousins’ homes,
more crowded),
sacrificial meat on their heads,
adornment of flesh,
a so gentle stroll to the police station.

Why? (The phone collects my mystification
in its mouthpiece, turns it tinny,
a mirror pivoting hope’s kneejerk on itself.)

A small story, and telescoped
by its backdrop: those other, those countless
humiliations of ranging scope,
all the ways that people can be removed from their homes and their skins,
the quietness of murder and the neatness of mass displacement,
this one part of the substance of the everyday,
how battlelines boast the patience of vultures,
how they root, headless, scornful,
in the soil, made muddy with blood,
yoked here by birth,
home before I knew the word.

allah hummaghfir li hayyina wa mayyitina,
wa shahidina wa ghaaibina,
wa saghirina wa kabirina,
wa dhakirina wa unthanaa.

ya rahim, heed this rollcall of those
who would seek your mercy:
women and men,
elderly and young,
present and absent,
the dead, the living.


“Labor of Faith: Migrant Work and Exploitation in Makkah”
The Funambulist, Volume 9: Islands, January-Feb 2017.

On average, Saudi Arabia deported 2,000 people every day for five months in 2015. It targeted Yemeni workers, while simultaneously leading a military campaign against Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world. Using internationally-banned cluster munitions, it attacked hospitals and schools, killing over 2,100 people between March and July 2015 alone.

I returned to Makkah during this period. Born in Sri Lanka, I’d grown up in Saudi Arabia. My childhood had been filled weekends in Makkah, cowed by the poverty that so thickly ringed its lush central mosque. Now, the beggars were gone, but I had not forgotten how the street cleaners, gaunt inside their uniforms, had also used to beg for food, money, water. I returned to a city whose streets overflowed with construction workers, their backs wizened under the weight of Makkah’s explosive gentrification.

And no one was begging. I wondered how the state had managed to disappear all the city’s most indigent residents. Pilgrims gave the silent workers money anyway, their burnt eyes and leathering skin speaking loudly enough about their working conditions. The workers would receive the paper bills with little comment, as though knowing they, like the city’s swelling broods of pigeons, were the rightful recipients of the worshippers’ charity, quietly accepting the pilgrims’ unspoken prayer that these small charities, smilingly given and in passing, might compensate for the monstrosity of the city’s extreme contradictions.

Much of this exploitation is established in law: foreign workers are permitted to reside in Saudi Arabia only when sponsored by a Saudi employer. Workers cannot change their jobs or leave the country without written approval from their employers. Otherwise, they can be imprisoned, fined, or deported. This, the kafala system, is not unique. Countries with similar programs include Qatar, where mass workplace deaths led to global outcry over FIFA’s decision to host the 2022 World Cup there. Western analogues include Canada, with its controversial Temporary Foreign Worker Program, a “North-South” parallel that remains under-studied.

In these labor systems, it is easy for employers to confiscate passports, withhold wages, and force work. Workers globally have described this as indentured labor, replete with food deprivation, sexual abuse, torture, and death. With this labor, Islam’s most sacred mosque, Al-Masjid al-Haram, has mushroomed, while its surrounding neighborhoods have thickened with skyscraper hotels and designer malls, looking like a crescent-topped homage to that other famous neon desert city, Las Vegas. Construction rages around the mosque, debris and flotsam afloat in the air, caught in our lungs, trailing our robes.

Fathima Cader 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 Nancy Kay Clark, 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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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, she 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 report: Five Things You Should Know Before You Do Anything About Your Children’s Book Idea, with S. Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman at the Brockton Writers Series 12.07.17

Award-winning writer, educator and storyteller S. Bear Bergman stopped by the Brockton Writers Series’ July event to share his experience as founder of Flamingo Rampant, a children’s press focused on feminist, LGBTQ-positive, racially-diverse children’s books, and to offer advice to those writers wishing to get into the children’s market and publish books for a diverse audience.

“Though the earning potential of the market has grown — many publishers are making their rent on children’s books — it’s still a very conservative industry,” he said. He quoted a University of Wisconsin survey that cited representation in U.S. children’s books as 93% white people; 72% boys and men; and 98% heterosexual two-parent families.

If you have a first draft or idea for a children’s book, Bergman offered this advice:

  1. Play test your book with kids. “They will tell you if they are bored with the story, and it’s better to know early in the processs than later.”
  2. Read your manuscript out loud to yourself. “Children like books that are lyrical, have interesting metres and rhymes, and that have interesting things happening in the language.”
  3. Have fun with language. Be playful.
  4. You don’t need to have the book illustrated before you submit it to a publisher or agent. Just send the text.
  5. When representing diversity in your story, be careful not to produce a “very special episode” book (i.e., Jimmy asks his parents why his friend Susie has two mothers, but no dad). Instead of making diversity the major plot line, make it present and normal in the characters and setting.

Bergman finished his talk by commenting on the feedback his publishing house Flamingo Rampant receives: “Lots of people thank us for our books and say it’s the first time they had seen people like themselves reflected in a children’s book.” Flamingo Rampant’s goal, Bergman said, “is to make books that love you back.” — Nancy Kay Clark

Check back in September for more tips from our next Brockton Writers Series guest speaker and until then, watch this space for features on all four writers appearing at our next event, which takes place September 13, 2017, 6:30pm, at Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St., Toronto!

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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

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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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