News | 2007

2007 Reading List

Ninety-eight, ninety, nine, one hundred. Ready or not, here I come. One hundred and one. Okay, I'll stop, that's enough.

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December Blenz Reading Recap: Wrapping Up the Year

Last night's Blenz Reading, the last for 2007, was a warm and intimate evening. We had an audience of 23 come out for our six scheduled readers and our two open mike volunteers. To all of our readers, thank you so much for sharing your work with us and ending the 2007 Blenz season with such a good reading. It was a perfect wrap up for the year.

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Collateral Damage

Last night, five students and one alumna from UBC's MFA program took the stage at Cafe Montmartre for the Locution Reading Series: Dave Deveau, me, Crystal Sikma, Ria Voros, Claire Tacon, and Rachelle Delaney (in order of appearance). Dave sang us a song and hosted the evening (along with Sheryda Warrener). Crystal shared her poetry, Ria and Rachelle their stories for childen, while Claire and I both did something a bit more adult. My story, while falling a little short of the XXX variety, was, however, adult enough to shock. I didn't find out until afterwards, but apparently partway through my reading, a family came into the cafe--just as I was dropping an F-bomb. I guess some covered ears and a quick exit ensued. So, to the little girl who was whisked away in a hurry--I apologize. I certainly didn't mean to make you (or your parents) feel uncomfortable.

We Have Ignition

Tesseracts Eleven

Yesterday was the Vancouver launch of Tesseracts Eleven at White Dwarf Books. Outside, the weather was awful, but inside, it was cozy, warm, and friendly. I got to meet some very interesting people and had a good time. Holly Phillips, one of the anthology's co-editors, hosted the event with humour and sincerity, while Daniel Archambault, Peter Darbyshire, and I each read from our stories. The very nice people at White Dwarf served seasonal snacks and beverages, and all in all, I think it went rather well.

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School's Out

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

First term is done: classes are finished until January, doors are shut, lights are off, and the students have gone home. A friend and I just did the math and realized that we've completed one quarter of our grad school experience, which made us sad. Yes, I've got a few assignments to work on over the break, but on the whole, I've got a bit of time on my hands. One thing I plan on doing is reading some books. I haven't had the time to read for pleasure all term and I'm really looking forward to it. My book count for the year sits at 84, and as I mentioned in a blog entry earlier this year, I'd like to make 100. So, doing the math, I've got 16 boooks to read in a month. I think I can do it. First up is Henry James's The Turn of the Screw.

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You

I just got some fantastic news last night: my one-act play, "Daguerreotype," has been accepted for the Brave New Play Rites festival put on by the University of British Columbia. The festival runs in early April, 2008. I'll post more details as I learn them.

TWS Exchange '07: All Alumni Reading Recap

TWS Exchange '07

On Saturday, November 24, at the end of a long day of workshops and making and renewing friendships, seventeen members of SFU's The Writer's Studio took to the stage in Harbour Centre's Labbatt Hall and put on an absolutely stellar performance. Almost every year of the program was represented and it was terrific to hear the voices of our continually-expanding writers' community. Our readers shared work from many genres--fiction, memoir, non-fiction, poetry, and stage play--and they kept all fifty-nine audience members engaged, enthralled, and completely entertained.

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November Blenz Reading Recap: Special Guest Jennica Harper

Jennica Harper

Last night, Jennica Harper, author of The Octopus and Other Poems, shared her poetry with the Blenz Reading Series. Never before have I heard such a masterful blending of the disparate themes of growing up, mothers, and space travel. The Voyager space craft, Roberta Bondar, and Princess Leia all made appearances. Jennica's a great reader and she gave a fantastic reading.

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Will They Break a Bottle of Champagne on Our Heads?

Tesseracts Eleven

On December 2, starting at 3:00 pm, White Dwarf Books (3715 West Tenth Ave., Vancouver), will be hosting the Vancouver launch party for Tesseracts Eleven. I've got a story in the anthology, and apparently, according to EDGE (the very nice people who publish the Tesseracts series), authors from the book will be there to sign copies, answer questions, and just have a good chat. Also, apparently, you're invited, too. So, please, come out, say hello, and keep me company, because me alone in a book store is never a good thing. It's usually a very expensive thing that results in stuffed-beyond-capacity bookshelves at home.

October Blenz Reading Recap: Special Guest Robert Marshall

Robert Marshall

Last night, Robert Marshall joined the Blenz Reading Series to read from his novel A Separate Reality and to share his insights into the writing process. Robert came all the way from New York to be with us and I'm so very glad he did. His reading was engaging, professional, and very entertaining.

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Looking Forward into the Past

Futuristi

Last night, I went to BellaLuna's producion of Futuristi at the Frederic Wood Theatre. It was wild. It was eclectic. It was absurd. It was hillarious. The play was made up twenty-three sintesi or unrelated playlets in the tradition of the Italian Futurists (an artistic movement that lasted from 1909-1939 that eschewed the past and bravely accepted the coming future, no matter what it brought).

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TWS Exchange '07

SFU's The Writer's Studio is putting on a special weekend for students and alumni called TWS Exchange '07 in November at SFU Harbour Centre. Aside from attending mentor readings, focused workshops, and general socializing, I'll also be working: I'm both hosting the student readings as well as teaching a workshop on writers' websites.

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September Blenz Reading Recap: Another Success!

September's Blenz Reading was another success--if you weren't there, you missed hearing ten wonderful readers. We had an audience of 23 on a warm July-esque night for our eight scheduled readers and two brave volunteers for the open mike. To all of our readers, thank you so much for making this evening engaging and fun.

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If You Want People to Read This Stuff

Power and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom: The Authority Project by Anna Leahy

For my Teaching Creative Writing class, I've been reading Anna Leahy's Power and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom: The Authority Project. In this book, Leahy presents essays written by many writing teachers on a teacher's authority in the classroom, a necessary debate because of the many myths and misinformed ideas about creative writing that exist today and the challenges they create for someone trying to teach the subject.

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It's Not Really Cheating

I've just found a way to drastically increase the number of books I'll have read this year: Children's Literature. Last year, I read seventy books, and I was kind of impressed with myself for doing so (I don't think I read that many books in one year before, but I don't know for sure as I've only recently been keeping track of what I've been reading).

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Pressing the Easy Button

I'm back in school--I had my frist class today, and I'm still smiling. The class went fine, my fellow students are friendly, and my prof was very relaxed. But boy, things have changed since I was last in school, I mean, today, the prof actually apologized for assigning us course books. Okay, seriously, I am in a creative writing program which isn't known for heavy course book requirements and today was just an introduction (although I do have reading homework), but it does feel good to actually start.

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Orienteering

General grad orientation is done and the next time I go to campus, it will be for class. For credit. With marks and everything. Something I haven't done for fifteen years (The Writer's Studio didn't really have grades, so I'm not counting it). I feel old sometimes, especially seeing the younger students who'll be my classmates (and all the white in my beard, too), but then, when the feeling starts to bug me I remind myself why I'm doing all of this and I calm down and smile.

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No Way Out

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

Well, after taking a bit of a break to get ready for school, I got back to Sol Stein's Stein on Writing. In his section on fiction, he's got these two tiny chapters on plotting which really struck me. The first chapter I want to highlight is The Actor's Studio Method for Developing Drama in Plots.

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Well, That Makes Sense

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

I've been reading Sol Stein's Stein on Writing, and have just found a gem of a distinction: Stein's take on the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Stein says that Nonfiction conveys information. Fiction evokes emotion. He goes on to point out that because the intended results of each type of writing are so different, fiction writers should be wary of distracting the experience of their readers, even momentarily, with information. For fiction, raw information comes across as an interruption, the author filling in. So, fiction writers better find a way to weave facts into a story unnoticed, because they should be providing their readers with an entertaining emotional experience. Their goal is not to educate them.

"Bestseller" (Don't Forget the Finger Quotes)

 Emerge: The Writer's Studio Anthology 2006

I just got word that Emerge: The Writer's Studio Anthology 2006, which includes my story "The House of Lancaster," has made the bestseller list. Woo-hoo! Yipee! Happy dance time!

Okay, I'd better explain before this gets out of hand. Yes, Emerge has made the top ten best selling list, but there are a few qualifiers I feel truth-bound to mention: the list is for the Simon Fraser University Bookstore; in Harbour Centre (downtown Vancouver); for recent releases; by SFU authors.

But still, this does mean that somebody did buy it. Actually, somebodies (plural): I'm assuming here (yes, I know the dangers of "assuming") that because there was a book lower on the list (Emerge came in at number nine), people bought at least one more copy of Emerge than number ten.

Special Delivery

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I'd imagine I've just had an experience shared by millions of people around the world today: this very nice lady came up to my house in a post office truck and gave me an orange box and a smile. On the box where the words ATTENTION MUGGLES - DO NOT DELIVER OR OPEN BEFORE JULY 21! I thanked her profusely (after all she did just complete one of many Saturday deliveries) and ran inside. As soon as my kids get home, we'll open the box and then start my ordeal (again, probably shared around the world): I've promised to read the new Harry Potter book to my kids, and their going to hold me to it. I guess it's a good thing it's raining--we're not going to be doing much else for quite a while. Well, as long as it takes me to read 607 pages out loud, anyway.

Back in the Classroom

Last week's Instructional Skills Workshop, put on by UBC's Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth was awesome. If you're a grad student at UBC sign up--it will definitely be worth your while. Our facilitators guided us through teaching with the BOPPPS model, which seemed to be very effective. BOPPPS stands for Bridge (hook your students' interest from the beginning to get them into the lesson), Objective (as in learning objective--let the students know what you're going to teach them), Pre-Test (find out what they already know so you can tailor your lesson), Participatory Learning (essentially, get them to teach themselves--this is a peer-based learning model), Post-Test (find out how well they did), and Summary (wrap it up). Through it all we had many discussions, participatory learning activities (they showed us their method in action), and the opportunity to teach three lessons to each other. The hardest part of the whole experience was watching the videotape of my lessons afterwards. Everyone said I was engaging and entertaining, and I was happy to hear that, but to be honest, I'd rather be speaking in front of a huge lecture hall full of people than watch myself from the privacy of my living room.

July Blenz Reading Recap: Dedicated to Helen Sears

Last night's Blenz Reading, dedicated to Helen Sears, was a unique experience. Together, we honoured Helen in the setting which she helped create (Helen was the founding host of the reading series, put on by SFU's The Writer's Studio). Even though we heard her work filtered through many voices, Helen's voice came through loud and clear and intact. Her tone, style, and the beautiful way she had of saying things was evident, no matter who read her words.

To all of our readers, and to the 25 people in the audience, thank you so much for making this evening a fitting tribute to Helen. July's readers were:

  • Ingrid Rose (TWS 2001)
  • Kalev Hunt (TWS 2003)
  • Rhonda Waterfall (TWS 2003)
  • Colette Gagnon (TWS 2003)
  • Kim Seary
  • Vicki Grieve (TWS 2003)

Certified, Certifiable

Last night, SFU held a graduation ceremony for their Continuing Studies Writing and Publishing Program. It was a quiet affair, but at the end of it all, I walked away with a little piece of paper that says I'm a writer. Not quite as dramatic as being baptized with mineral water (as I was in one of my classes), but still, I'm rather proud of completing The Writer's Studio. I learned quite a bit from the program, and would recommend it to anyone interested in both a concentrated study of creative writing as well as finding the local literary community. Congratulations to my fellow grads.

Summer School

I'll be starting my MFA in creative writing this fall at UBC, but to get a jump start on the whole grad student experience now, I've managed to squeek into a spot in the early July Graduate Student Instructional Skills Workshop put on by UBC's Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth. While I know twenty-four hours of workshopping won't completely prepare me to teach at the post-secondary level, I think it's a good start to get my head into an academic mindset. I've only done corporate teaching recently and I imagine the two worlds are not identical. Wish me luck.

He Said, Said He: Little Things to Remember

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

I've been reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King lately, and I've just come across two little rules I wished someone had shared with me a long time ago.

 

 

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June Blenz Reading Recap: Special Guest Sasha Su-Ling Welland

A Thousand Miles of Dreams: The Journeys of Two Chinese Sisters by Sasha Su-Ling Welland

According to one audience member at June's Blenz Reading, Sasha Su-Ling Welland "was amazing." Another said "Sasha was extremely interesting and very pleasant, professional and easy to listen to besides." I must say I agree. I am so very glad we could talk Sasha into coming to Blenz. I must also say that our own TWSers were pretty good, too, reading a variety of memoir and poetry.

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Dancing in Front of the World

The Tyee has published my true story of an adults-only school dance, online. The dance was a fundraiser put on by my kids' school, and was a very curious experience. To see what I mean, you can read the published text by clicking here.

Doing Something Incredibly Stupid

I've got a problem with volunteering. A personal problem with actually doing it. I mean the actual act of volunteering, not the work part that usually comes as a consequence. I also don't mean doing worthwhile things for others for no remuneration. That's actually kind of cool. What I'm talking about is when people start looking around for someone to join in and do something, my hand somehow finds its way into the air. On its own. Without help from me. Stupid thing.

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May Blenz Reading Recap: A Good Show

May's Blenz Reading was fun--if you weren't there, you missed a good show. We had an audience of 27 on a glorious pre-summer evening for our eight readers and two brave volunteers for the open mike. To all of our readers, thank you so much for making this evening interesting and so enjoyable.

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Shot to the Head

Tesseracts Eleven

My science fiction ghost story "Recursion" is still recursing: Cory Doctorow and Holly Phillips have included it in the upcoming anthology Tesseracts Eleven, due this November from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. Very exciting stuff. However, with this publication, I realized that my lack of decent head shots was now a problem. I'd thought about getting them done before, but, for one excuse or another, I'd never gotten around to it.

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This Time I'm Telling the Truth

Good news! I just made my very first non-fiction sale. It's a piece about an adult dance put on by my kids' school. The very nice people over at The Tyee liked the story, and once we've agreed on the editorial subtleties, have agreed to publish it. I'll let you know when it's up.

Am I Pompous Or What?

I just finished applying for the BC Arts Council Scholarship Awards Program, something that's been weighing on me since I was accepted in UBC's MFA program. As a result of that application, I think I learned something about myself. The application called for an artisitc statement summing up my vision or philosophy on writing--something I'd never really put into words before. Well, I have now. While it seems a touch arrogant, I do believe in what I came up with. I'll share it with you now.

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April Blenz Reading Recap: Another Success

April's Blenz Reading was another success. We had 28 people in attendance with eight readers and two more for the open mike (not a bad showing at all, considering the Canucks were hosting a homestand playoff game at the same time). To all of our readers, thank you so much for making this evening so entertaining.

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I'm Reading Again

April 2007 Blenz Reading

Due to a last minute rescheduling, I'll be reading at the Blenz Coffee Shop (corner of Richards and Hastings) this Friday, between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. If you've got some time and find yourself in the area, come down for a listen. I'll be reading from my young adult novel-in-progress Janie Bechard's Guardian Angel. The Blenz Reading Series has really taken off this year, so if you're coming, come early. We've been packed full in both February and March.

Ich Bin Klein

John Goossen, a friend of mine from Simon Fraser University's The Writer's Studio, recently published his first piece in the Spring 2007 issue of Rhubarb: The Magazine of New Mennonite Art and Writing. His essay, "Ich Bin Klein," is a meditation on personal salvation and highlights his life-long coming to terms with what that means to him. Congratulations!

March Blenz Reading Recap: Another Fantastic Show

March's Blenz Reading was another fantastic show: funny and poignant and, at times, even a little disturbing. All of our readers were fantastic and engaging and really did a great job. We had 34 people in the audience for our eight readers and one poet joined in for the open mike. To all of our readers, thank you so much for making this evening a success. You rocked.

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Literary Party Games

Last night, a friend invited me along to Vancouver Writes, an event put on by the Vancouver International Writers Festival, and I'm glad she did. Not only did I get to meet a few local authors, we also had a great time collarboratively making up a story and some poems on the spot. While of course no great literature was created last night, the exercises were very entertaining. Our table had eight people who banded together, along with three writers who dropped in to guide us. It was amazing to see how eight people, working individually from a few prompts, could come up with a piece of work that tied together reasonably well. The three works that were selected as the winners of the evening were intriguing--good job to the teams who created them.

Whose Story Is It, Anyway

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

Recently, I've been listening to writers fighting about voice appropriation. I've been listening and keeping my mouth shut. These debates get very heated and battle-lines are usually drawn up very quickly. Battle-lines that seldom move and opponents rarely change their position once they publicly take a stand. The argument goes something like this: how can a writer from one demographic group (say, white heterosexual males) write convincingly about another demographic group (say, oriental homosexual females)? And further, should writers even be writing stories about other groups in the first place? Don't those stories belong to the groups being written about?

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Pinch Me

So, I got this e-mail today from the University of British Columbia. An e-mail I've been waiting for, dreading, and looking forward to for a long time. It began with the low-key, non-commital subject line "MFA decision." I opened it.

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February Blenz Reading Recap: A Fantastic Show

Last night's Blenz Reading was absolutely terrific. We had 35 people in attendance with eight readers and one brave soul for the open mike. Not everyone on the playbill was a TWSer, but everyone read with enthusiasm and confidence and put on a fantastic show. Thank you to our readers for making this evening such a success.

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Writing a Novel in Three Days Flat

Day Shift Werewolf by Jan Underwood

I've just finished reading Jan Underwood's Day Shift Werewolf, the winner of 2005's 3-Day Novel Contest. I've never read one of the three-day novels before, and, seeing as I sort of committed to a group of friends to enter the contest this year (it happens over Labour Day Weekend), I figured I'd better take a look at what I should be expecting myself to produce. While I never once forgot that the book was written in three days (although I know Underwood was given the opporunity to clean things up a bit before publication), I was impressed with how well her book tied together.

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Listening to Myself Talk

February 2007 Blenz reading

The next Blenz Reading is coming up on Friday, February 9 (you're invited, of course), and this time, we've got some first-time readers from the 2007 class of SFU's The Writer's Studio participating. I remember some advice I was given when I first started giving literary readings that helped me tremendously: record yourself. I attach a microphone to my computer and read into it. Not only do I get practice reading my piece, I also get a pretty accurate estimate of how long a particular story is going to take (which can be important if you're given a time limit). After recording, I play it back and listen. I hear where I should be speeding up, where I should be slowing down, where I should be pausing for effect, and where I should be emphasizing a given passage. All in all, excellent advice for literary readers.

Keep it to Yourself

Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers by David Madden

One of the books I'm reading at the moment is Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers by David Madden. Madden provides heaps of hints (185 to be exact) on how to improve your fiction through revision. I found what he had to say about the autobiographical fallacy illuminating.

 

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I Got the Job

Last night, the program director for SFU's The Writer's Studio asked me to take on the role of host for the Blenz Reading Series for 2007. I'm stoked. I've had a blast reading my stuff at Blenz this past year, and I'm looking forward to helping other writers gain experience reading their work in public. Blenz is always such a supportive environment.

The next reading will be on Friday, February 9, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Blenz Coffee Shop at the corner of Richards and Hastings in downtown Vancouver. If you're in town, why not stop by for a listen? It's always a fantastic evening.

One of My Favourite Words

The Hidden City by David Eddings The Journey Prize Stories 18 selected by Steven Galloway, Zsuzsi Gartner, and Annabel Lyon

What do Craig Boyko and David Eddings have in common? Okay, besides the fact they're both writers. Give up? Both Boyko and Eddings use one of my favourite words in a story. The word is defenestrate, and Eddings uses it in his novel The Hidden City. Boyko uses defenestration in his story "The Beloved Departed," published in the 18th edition of The Journey Prize Stories (selected by Steven Galloway, Zsuzsi Gartner, and Annabel Lyon). Even though it means something horrible (throwing someone out of a window, usually to their deaths), I still get a chuckle whenever I encounter that word (which isn't very often at all).

Although I believe it was first applied to the Defenestrations of Prague in 1419 and 1618, I've just encountered another meaning which I think could possibly give defenestrate a more positive spin: it could also mean "the act of completely removing Windows from a PC in favour of a different operating system." While cute, I'm afraid defenestrate, as a word, will still be doomed to relative obscurity.