Sunday, October 28, 2012, 2 to 4 p.m.
Ital-Canadian Seniors Centre, Edmonton, AB
9111- 110 Ave NW
I have a big love for Little Fiction.
Little Fiction is so up-with-the-times that all the stories they publish are specifically formatted for the devices that you may or may not already have in your hand. This formatting makes it easy to dig into a Little Fiction story before bed, or on the bus on the way to work.
This week Little Fiction published my short story, Inheritance.
If you want to check it out, you can read it here.
I am not anti-traditional literary magazines, but I do think that a new kind of literary magazine is emerging. In my experience, when I mention even the most-well known literary magazines to non-writers, the response is alway the same: “I’ve never heard of it.”
That’s not to say that these magazines or journals don’t have a lot of subscribers (many of them do), but I don’t know how broad the audience really is for many of them. To top it off, these magazines, since they are often lovingly volunteer-run, have long wait times. I understand why, but waiting six to eight months for a SASE-rejection can sting.
For me—as an emerging writer—it is important to have my work available for those interested in finding out what I’m all about. And so, I’ve been looking at e-magazines and e-journals. In some cases, you even receive an email back THE SAME DAY saying that they are “looking forward to reading your work,” and that “you’ll hear back by the end of the month.” This kind of response is encouraging.
I have a story in Squawk Back about body image. I started writing the story in Bill Gaston’s graduate class on writing the body, and then I edited it with feedback from Nichole Quiring, the WGA’s program coordinator. I should mention, it is my first piece of fiction; I’d love to know what you think of it.
It seems that early spring has been the season of various kinds of bad news: no-awards for certain longstanding writing contests, trying times for publications (Edmonton’s Other Voices has announced they will no longer be publishing), and of course… politics in Alberta.
The looming Wildrose dark cloud has me both terrified and embarrassed. While the issue of the arts in Alberta isn’t the first concern I have—search the Twitter tags #otherronleechadvantages and #bornthisway for some of the things on the top of my list—it is a serious concern.
This Friday I am feeling extra grateful for my writing friends and how immediate the community is; I decided to take micro-blogging to the unlimited-character blog. I appreciate the conversations, the rants, the shout-outs and calling outs (mostly of the #WRP).
So, here are just a few of my #Follow #Fridays. Show these writers some love and watch for more next Friday!
(If you’re feeling down about the writing life and want to fall back in love with language and late nights, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Steven Heighton’s Workbook: memos & dispatches on writing; before you order it through your local INDEPENDENT bookstore, check out Angie Abdou’s review of Workbook on her website.)
#FF @bellyofawhale My copy of Americas arrived today! It contains a story for every country in the Americas. If you’re in Edmonton check out Words with Friends (a creative writing collective) that Jason founded.
@GoodWillJohnson Will is the steadiest blogger I know; he is one of those people that can do 25 worthwhile things in a day and never seems stressed. Check out his awesome blog where he often promotes other writers and find out where you can read his stories published all over the place. You can also find his work in Somebody’s Child.
Also, here are two publications that I discovered this week that are well-worth checking out!
#FF @Little_Fiction - a digital publisher of short (and graphically fancy) stories that you can read on your iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or Kobo. #upwiththetimes
#FF @SquawkBack - a NYC lit mag that seeks stories that “threaten, provoke, mildly irritate, tickle, inspire, stimulate, penetrate, nauseate, horrify, embarrass and put to shame.” #thingsthatarefuntowrite
Lorne Daniel’s powerful collection Drawing Back To Take A Running Jump moves the reader through familiar landscapes, seasons, and interactions with the attention to detail and the lasting imagery that only a skilled poet can provide. This is a collection to revisit, to read aloud, and to share.
Upon visiting Lorne’s blog, you’ll often find yourself in poems disguised as posts. Here also, you’ll find his impressive list of publications. Many of the poems in Drawing Back To Take A Running Jump were previously published in literary magazines, in anthologies, and in his previous books. Last summer, while I was working at the Writers Guild of Alberta, I came across Falling Together and was thrilled to find some of its poems (Just Yesterday, Winter) inside this new collection.
I wondered about the process of revision (oh, that endless process) and asked him what it was like to re-enter work he had written years ago.
“Once I got back into reading the poems, the process wasn’t much different than it would be for revising newer poems. It was a really a case of reading them on the page, reading them aloud, listening to the pace and sense of them, and exploring some alternatives. In most cases, the poems stayed unchanged or with very minor changes. Of course some poems just didn’t resonate with me anymore so those didn’t make it into this book.”
So, only some poems made the cut. Thank goodness I have that copy of Falling Together! I asked Lorne about the selection process, and he reveled his method.
“I simply went looking for the poems that I still enjoyed reading. If in reading them I thought they needed major revision, I left them out. As I went through that process, they naturally fell into the manuscript’s themed sections – poems about family, about place, about ritual and memory.”
One of the qualities of Lorne’s poetry that really appeals to me is the strong narrative line. The reader is tugged forward. The poems—while they certainly can stand alone— create their own world or space as a collection. I asked Lorne if he saw work as a poet distinct from his work as a blogger or an essayist.
“There are links between them. I had a poet who reads my blog recently say, “that blog post is a poem in disguise,” which made me smile. My challenge with blogging is that I am tempted to rewrite and revise too much. That’s what poets do – great poetry is mostly the product of multiple revisions. I find it difficult to just toss off impromptu blog posts.”
“My essay writing and poetry writing are strongly connected. In fact, I am usually torn between wanting to write a poetic essay or a poem with narrative and non-fiction elements. I like weaving the two together.”
Since I tend to suffer from the guilt of not writing (even if it is only because I am at work), given the chance, I ask writers how they deal with this. These days, Lorne writes every weekday, first thing in the morning, but it wasn’t always that way.
“For many years, I didn’t write at all – I chose to leave creative writing in the years when I was so busy with career and parenting. I think that was a good decision. At the time, trying to maintain the writing was driving me crazy.”
I asked Lorne if he had any writing resolutions. For him, the regular practice of writing is the most important thing.
“If I am writing regularly, the other goals will fall into place. Early in 2012, I will be promoting the new Selected Poems. My writing focus will be in two directions. I am writing a series of new poems about everyday observations. And I am committed to finishing a book that I categorize as a “memoir of place” – it is a braided non-fiction narrative with strands of poetry, about the oil patch bush country of western Alberta.”
Where can you pick up a copy of Drawing Back To Take A Running Jump?
If you’re in Victoria, pop into Cadboro Bay Books and Overleaf Books. Otherwise, you’ll find the collection on Amazon and Lulu.
Lorne welcomes reading invites and will bring copies along. He promises to be in Edmonton sometime this spring; I’ll share the details as soon as I have them. In the meantime, go buy the collection!
I wish I could say that titles and covers didn’t matter to me, but they do. My favorite book, The God of Small Things, happens to have a beautiful, memorable title and an eye-catching cover. Of course, the content – the story – is the reason I come back to the book again, and again.
Over the holiday break, Brindle & Glass’ Ruth Linka and I were discussing possible titles. I sent her an email that included a list of words and phrases I associated with the manuscript, and she put some together and came up with a title that I think works well.
So, here it is!
Rosina: The Midwife.
I really appreciate all the support (and feedback) I’ve been receiving, especially via my twitter writer-friends. The #amwriting updates are motivating, and make writing in isolation (for hours on end) a thing of the past.
If you want to be notified when Rosina: The Midwife is available, please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and email address and I will put you on my list. Also, I’ll add you to my list of favorite people.
I’ve imagined this moment a million times. I think most aspiring writers have.
I’m practiced with imagining. My manuscript is full of pages of imaginings. Imagining life in another place and at another time. Imagining the sound of a door clicking shut and of brittle wheat snapping under foot. Imagining final conversations. Creative non-fiction permits this type of entry.
I have been cautious when imagining that my work would enter the real world. I think it is important to write first for the story, and then for the audience. Two years after formally beginning my book project, and four years after the single story that started it all, I have a book contract! Imagination meets reality!
I am thrilled! I have the fabulous Ruth Linka at Brindle & Glass to thank for the opportunity to share my story.
I’ll keep my blog—this space that has charted my book writing experience—updated with all the details!
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many writers, artists and thinkers. This summer has been especially inspiring. I sat down with the talented Kurdish writer, Jalal Barzanji, and had the opportunity to hear about his life as a poet and his upcoming memoir, The Man in The Blue Pyjamas. I met Alberta’s literary giant, Robert Kroetsch, several times in a few short months and had conversations about pursuing writing and the publishing process. And then there are these 140 character conversations that happen everyday via twitter that link me to the thoughts and work of others passionate about their craft.
So many of these conversations—in person, online, public, private—intersect. I thought it would be a good idea to collect these conversations.
As I try to establish myself as a writer, I admire the success of my aunt Karen, an Edmonton-based watercolor artist who has recently opened a gallery with a friend and fellow artist, Rick Rogers. Karen agreed to answer some questions about being an artist. So, here is the first of these collected conversations.
Tell us about your artistic background. How do you define yourself as an artist? I started painting just for something to do - I had no aspirations of becoming an “artist.” It was while I was completing a Fine Arts Certificate at the U of A Extension Centre that I realised I might actually have a smidgen of talent. I still have trouble defining myself as an artist; it sounds so pretentious! I paint now because I love to paint. I find it brings me an inner peace that I just don’t get with anything else. Perhaps that’s why I am happiest painting on location - sitting on the ground, away from the hustle and bustle and just being.
What motivates you to create? Where do you find inspiration? What motivates me is this desire to create. I have so many ideas they spin around in my head constantly and sometimes I just seem to know it’s time, it’s like one more idea causes one to flow out through a brush! Finding time is my issue. Inspiration is everywhere - we just need to slow down a bit to see it. A painting can be of the most ordinary and boring scene but the emotion you bring to that scene is what makes it special - see Denny’s! I paint from experiences - places I’ve been, people I’ve met. For me to take something and make a painting means it has touched me somehow - however briefly and perhaps not in a significant way, but all my paintings are a reflection of my life. I am such an open book…
Some consider watercolor to be the most unforgiving medium. How do you negotiate the permanence of a stroke (that you may not be happy with) with the vision you have at the outset? Not sure where this quote came from but “Watercolour is a series of Happy Accidents.” I think the key to watercolour painting is to get over it. You are not in control and you never will be. Sure you can bring a vision and have all the technique, know all the tricks and be a brilliant painter, but if you don’t open yourself to the paint and let it work its magic on the paper your painting won’t have that special something that sets it apart from the other million watercolourists in the world.
If I really hate something I leave it alone - I may be able to change it a little later (there are ways) or I may just start over. Many of my paintings are one-shot deals, they just flow and need just a little direction from me.
Do you see any intersections between the process of writing and the process of creating a piece of art? Absolutely!
Writing, Music, Visual Art - they are all so similar. They all require variety, time and passion. Variety - slow spots, quick spots, different colours, textures, excitement and that little unexpected twist.
Take your time - you’re not going to be an overnight sensation - take time to admire other’s work and experiment to find your own unique voice.
We’re not all cut out to be artists but those of us who make a go of it do so because we have passion - they love what they do and are willing to take some risks and put the work in to see what develops. Sometimes when I read I can almost see the colours of the words… sounds odd, but, for instance, when I read something sad I see tones of grey and brown and deep, deep blue.
Tell us about your newest project as co-owner of the Daffodil Gallery. How did it come to be?
Owning a gallery has always been my dream and I think there just comes a time when all the stars align and you’re offered an opportunity that you can either grab hold of or walk away from. Such an opportunity presented itself to me a couple of years ago and here I am!
The Gallery is a wonderful mix of styles, showcasing some of the very best local talent - are we aware how much hidden talent there is in and around Edmonton? These artists needed a place to show and I admire their courage and faith in me to take a leap of faith and show in a brand new art Gallery run by a single mother of 3 with little business experience!
I want the Gallery to be a community place. A place that supports the arts and the surrounding community. I want to showcase artists that share a similar vision to me. If you’re just in the business of producing nice paintings then this Gallery is probably not for you, but if you love what you do and want to share that then we should talk!
My vision is that The Daffodil will eventually break down some of those stereotypes - cold intimidating unfriendly… These are all things I do not want to be. Hawksley Workman has a song called “Not Your Parent’s Music” I have a Gallery that sings - Not Your Parent’s Gallery.
What advice do you have for other creative entrepreneurs? Do your homework, but don’t let it swamp you - keep dreaming and dream big and when opportunity comes knocking be ready!
Where can we find you and your work?
My favourite paintings are probably landscapes - one’s completed on location are especially meaningful. This one, At the Base of Mount Robson, was completed last fall. That was one of those paintings that just came together. I worked on it for a couple of hours and spent a lot more time thinking and looking than I did painting. It needed no further work when I got home and it really captures my feelings from that day - there is a sense of calm and peace in that painting that’s hard to convey.
Another favorite is Evan the Hat. Not a landscape but an example of passion. I met Evan almost 3 years ago at church - he plays piano and at the time I was singing in the choir. I was struck by the way he played piano - it seemed so natural and completely blew me away. He inspired me to create a series of passionate people paintings - it was really an honour to paint people like Evan. He is now my best friend and that experience will remain with me forever.
For the past few days I’ve been searching for creative non-fiction written for a young adult audience. I’m teaching at Edmonton’s inkPulse teen writing camp in August and am going to focus on scene writing (that whole show don’t tell thing) when writing real life stories.
Since creative non-fiction is difficult to define at the best of times, and since there seems to be little of it published for young adults, the search was difficult. To add an extra element of fun, I decided that I only wanted to promote Canadian books and authors. I haven’t read all of the books on this list, but CM Magazine has reviewed many of them.
So, here’s a place to start if you’re looking for YA CNF. I’ve read the first two and can say that they are both excellent. (The blurbs below are not mine!)
Rocky Mountain Kids by Linda Goyette - Rocky Mountain Kids provides first person creative non-fiction narratives from the region’s children, many of whom went on to be influential adults. These are lively and entertaining stories, but they don’t flinch in their description of hardship and heroism. Balanced and well-researched, Goyette writes of First Nations, Métis, immigrant and settler children as well as contemporary kids of the Rockies, with informative postscript to help readers distinguish between the fact and the fiction.
Island Kids by Tara Saracuse – Brave kids have lived on the islands off British Columbia’s coast for thousands of years. Now it’s their turn to tell their stories. Join a few unforgettable kids as they outrun a cougar on Salt Spring Island, wade through the rising waters of Port Alberni’s tsunami, stare down a sea monster in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, swing from ropes on the highest mast of a sailing ship, search for ghosts at Hatley Castle, and stand guard for Luna the Whale.
One Peace: True Stories of Young Activists by Janet Wilson - One Peace celebrates the “Power of One,” and specifically the accomplishments of children from around the globe who have worked to promote world peace.
Simon Says Gold: Simon Whitfield’s Pursuit of Athletic Excellence by Simon Whitfield & Cleve Dheensaw. Simon describes his personal journey to Olympic glory as he recounts not only that glorious day at Sydney, but also the anguish of failing to repeat as Olympic champion in Athens in 2004, and his dramatic comeback at the 2008 Beijing Games, when his exhilarating race to a silver medal enthralled millions of fans around the world. Simon’s stories of the highs and lows of his running career will captivate readers young and old, but his real message—that the simple pursuit of excellence is its own reward—will also inspire and motivate.
William’s Gift: One Veterinarian’s Journey by Helen Douglas. A memoir of self-discovery, William’s Gift tells the story of one woman’s life as a country veterinarian with honesty and humility. Through the trials and tribulations of learning on the job, this committed caregiver learns the ropes of caring for animals both great and small. Tale after “tail” of humorous and often heart-wrenching stories illuminate the deeply emotional connection between the ever-stoic animals and the author.
George Simpson: Blaze of Glory (Quest Biography) by D.T. Lahey. Simpson’s explorations opened Canada from Labrador to British Columbia and from Yukon to Nunavut. He was knighted in 1841, then travelled around the world, predicting the fall of California to the United States, saving the Hawaiians from colonial occupation, and describing the mysteries of remotest Siberia. Praised as the governor who “combined the widest range of authority and the longest tenure of power ever enjoyed by one man in North America,” he stands with Sir John A. Macdonald as one of the greatest Makers of Canada.
Ortona Street Fight by Mark Zuehlke December 20, 1943. Two Canadian infantry battalions and a tank regiment stand poised on the outskirts of a small Italian port town. They expect to take Ortona quickly. But the German 1st Parachute Division has other ideas. This is a battle fought at close range, often hand to hand. Casualties on both sides are heavy. In the end, raw courage and ingenuity save the Canadians. Ortona Street Fight is a riveting telling of what is considered one of the most epic battles that Canadian soldiers have ever fought.
Piece by Piece: Stories About Fitting Into Canada by Teresa Toten. This anthology features stories by some of Canada’s finest authors who were born in another country and who went through the experience of trying to “fit in.” Exploring the time and incidents, and dating from the shock of first impressions to the author’s first stirrings of “becoming Canadian” and what that meant to them.
A Gift From Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood by Baba Wague Diakite. (Canadian publisher.) Baba Wagué is only 4 years old when he is sent to the tiny Malian village of Kassaro to be raised by his paternal grandparents, according to the family tradition. He is most unhappy about this at first, but under his grandmother’s patient and wise tutelage he comes to love his close-knit village community. He learns how to catch a catfish with his bare hands, flees from an army of bees, and mistakes a hungry albino cobra snake for a pink inner tube. Finally, Grandma Sabou decides that Baba is educated enough to go to school, and he moves back to the city, where his family struggles to provide him with a formal education. But he brings his village stories with him, and in the process of sharing them with his neighborhood uncovers his immense artistic and storytelling talents.