News | 2009

2009 Reading List

Eighty-three published books read this year. Not bad, I suppose. I wasn't trying to read heaps or anything, just have fun and learn something (which I think I did). My favourites this year include Arthur Miller's Collected Plays, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's Watchmen, and Michel Tremblay's Hosanna. I've realized I think Miller was brilliant. Moore and Gibbons were my first exposure to graphic novels, and I've got to say I'm impressed. Maybe not enough to write a graphic novel myself, but I'm sure enjoying reading them. And finally, Michel Tremblay blew me away with Hosanna. The play requires a certain smell to affect the audience, and it's the first time I've encountered that sense being exploited in a play. It's a dangerous ploy (it could backfire or limit audiences so easily), but I'm awed by the fact Tremblay tried it.

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1st Book Competition

1st Book Competition

Seeing as I'm coordinating SFU's 1st Book Competition this year, I figured I'd better advertise a bit. If you're interested (and if you're a Canadian writer who hasn't published a book yet, you should be), check it out. I think it's going to be rather cool. There'll be three winners, and each of them will have their book published in 2011.

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DTES Writers' Jamboree 2

DTES Wrtier's Jamboree

Yesterday wrapped up this year's Downtown Eastside Writers' Jamboree at the Carnegie Centre. When I asked a roomful of people if this year's event was a success, the answer was a shouted, exuberant yes. In short, it rocked. People had fun, people learned stuff, people met people, and people shared (which I think was pretty much the goal of the event in the first place).

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The Year of Not Posting Much

The way my wife and I've been figuring it lately, years ending in 9 suck. Ten years ago in 1999, we had a few family members die, other happenings weren't all that fun, and to salvage our sanity, we moved to the other side of the planet. This year has been another one to forget, a year we'd really like to put behind us. To cut a long story absurdly and rudely short, I'll just say it's good to be back in Vancouver after a truly shitty summer and a two-month stint in Ontario, where I was doing a bunch of things I didn't really want to do, have been dreading for some time, but knew had to be done. Now that it's over, it's time to focus on the positive, and let the negative slip away.

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Word on the Street

Word on the Street

I'll be joining SFU's Writer's Studio Alumni Clarissa P. Green and Sandra Pettman to offer free, on-site consultations on 2-3 pages of writers' work-in-progress at this year's The Word on the Street National Book and Magazine Festival on September 27. Bookings are available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (call 778-782-5093) at the Blue Pencil Café table, located at SFU's Writing and Publishing Program booth in the Village area of Vancouver's Library Square.

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Ping

Tesseracts Eleven

Okay, almost a month and a half between posts. Not cool. Not cool at all. I could tell you I've been busy with that thesis thing, but hey, I've said it before and I think that excuse is wearing a little thin. Maybe even threadbare.

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Setting Up Your Website

Today, as part of SFU's The Writer's Studio's day of professional development workshops for writers, I'll be leading a session on Setting Up Your Website, and we'll be covering such topics as why writers need a web presence, how to build a web presence, how to market yourself in today's wired world, and how to win an audience. Unfortunately, we only have forty-five minutes--not nearly enough time for an in-depth exploration of the intricacies of building websites, but more than enough to highlight why writers need websites (and to decide what they want those websites to do).

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Launching New Shoots

New Shoots 2008/2009

Yesterday, we launched New Shoots 24, the Vancouver School Board anthology which I co-edited with Amy Cunningham, Lenore Rowntree, and Michelle Wright. The anthology is the culmination of this year's New Shoots program--where creative writing students from UBC mentor writers in secondary schools across Vancouver. Ian MacLeod, Martin Meissenheimer, and Lisa Allen, the program coordinators, were there and together we celebrated the launch with snacks, author's copies, t-shirts, and conversation. It was great to see some of the writers I worked with this year and I'm really rather impressed with the work they did. Congratulations to everyone whose work was published.

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Good News

I received a very nice letter from Bernard Kelly, the publisher of paperplates Magazine, on the weekend: he'd like to include the script of "Daguerreotype," my one-act 1855 period piece that was first performed at 2008's Brave New Play Rites festival, in an upcoming issue. The play finally feels complete to me: it's been written, workshopped, edited, rehearsed, produced, had a staged reading, and now, it's going to be published. Yay!

Um, Yeah, It's Been a While

As usual when I go a long time without blogging, I've got a really good excuse lined up. Okay, I think it's a good excuse. This time I'm going to tell you that I've just finished the latest draft of my thesis (it's a full-length stage play). I think, fingers crossed, this will be the last of the big drafts for me. I'm sure there'll still be heaps of editing and tweaking to do, but I'm not expecting another rewrite.

Not much else to report, really. I'm happy with the direction my thesis has taken and now I'm looking forward to working on some other projects I've had on the back-burner for a while.

The only other thing I can think of is that today was my grandmother's birthday. She was born in 1890 and died in 1991. On this day I always think "wow," I knew someone who was born two centuries ago. That's pretty cool.

What Happens Next

I've long been an advocate of the shitty first draft. The no-holds-barred, go anywhere, say anything, freedom of writing whatever you damn well please with no editing or criticism allowed during the fragile time you're writing your ass off to get your story on paper for the first time. I believe it's one of the core tenets of crafting good creative writing. The trick, of course, is what to do next. How do you revise that big stinking heap you will never show anyone into something that's share-worthy?

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New Shoots

Last night at the Havana Theatre, Vancouver high school students who participated in this year's New Shoots program took to the stage and delivered a powerhouse reading. Amy Cunningham, Lenore Rowntree, and I hosted the event, and if you weren't in the house last night, you missed a really good show. Awesome poems, cool stories, and even an a cappella song were all stunningly performed and shared. Someone even likened a rolled-up touque to an unused condom, and now I'm sure I'll never be able to shake that image from my mind. There were six writers from Templeton Secondary School there (the school I mentored with) and they were all fantastic (Brava! Alex, Mikayla, Raine, Smriti, and Yiyi. Bravo! Darren. You guys rocked!). I've really enjoyed my time with the New Shoots program--as a mentor, as one of the editors for this year's anthology, and now as one of the hosts. I'm told the anthology will be launched soon, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Book Bucket

Michelle Miller and Rachel Knudsen, the outgoing and incoming Fiction Editors for PRISM International, have set up a summer book bucket, listing the favourite books of this year's UBC MFA grads. It's a fun idea, and you can check out the site here. The site's set up as a blog, and they encourage you "to comment, review, ridicule and cajole." Check it out. You might find something new to read that just might blow you away.

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You Did What in Class?

This year, I've been helping out the fabulous Ray Hsu as a TA in his Introduction to Creative Writing class. Ray has been really encouraging and wanted to give the students a taste of writing from many genres (including the off-beat ones) in a way that was both entertaining and myth-busting.

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Sanctuary

Sanctuary

Last night at the BC Binning Studios at UBC, we put on a staged reading of my full-length play, Sanctuary, and I think it went rather well. The actors were all fantastic (Brava! and Bravo! everyone), and the audience was kind (they laughed in the right spots, didn't leave part way through, clapped at the end, and didn't throw fruit).

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Presenting...My MFA Thesis

Sanctuary

The Sunday Sessions Reading Series at UBC concludes with a staged script-in-hand reading of my full-length thesis play Sanctuary at the BC Binning Studios. I'm really looking forward to hearing this play (we've got a few professional actors as well as students from UBCs acting BFA program lending us their talents) and I hope you can come. The play, which runs a little over an hour and a half, tells the story of an ambitious young Anglican priest confronted with a Colombian expatriate hiding from a troubled past. There'll also be a Q&A session afterward, in which I'd really appreciate any and all feedback. Oh yeah, did I mention it's FREE?

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Bulletproof Puppies

This year's second performance of the Sunday Sessions Reading Series at UBC continues with Joel Babcock's script-in-hand reading of his play Bulletproof Puppies at the Dorothy Somerset Studio Theatre. Joel's created the following tagline for his play: ever wondered what the illegitimate child of Monty Python and Samuel Beckett would look like? Come and see to find out.

Event Details:
Sunday, March 1 (7:30 p.m.)
Dorothy Somerset Studio Theatre, UBC
6361 University Blvd, Vancouver
Free admission.

Presented by the Sunday Sessions Reading Series.

Locution

Last night, the UBC MFA program held their monthly reading series, Locution, at Pulpfiction Books on Main Street, and, if judging by the lack of thrown fruit and active hecklers, the night was a success. Ian Bullock read his story "Macrophobia," Gabrielle Pope read from her memoir Apples and Bananas, I got to read my story "And Apparently, Cigarettes," and Kristjanna Gremmelt read some translated poems and her story "You Know This Makes It All Worth It." The evening was capped with my friend, the incredibly gifted Mike Christie, who read from a story where a woman fakes suicide to chase down the paramedic she thinks she loves. Fantastic stuff. Mike had the entire place laughing their asses off.

I'd like to thank all of my fellow readers for putting on such a good show, and also Lindsay Cuff and Dina Del Bucchia for organizing the entire event. It was a lot of fun.

The Mercy Letters

A friend of mine, Erin Vandenberg, is holding a script-in-hand reading of her play The Mercy Letters: Revelling this Sunday at the Dorothy Somerset Studio Theatre. I'd like to invite you to come along for a couple of reasons: one, because Erin's writing this play as part of her MFA thesis at the University of British Columbia and feedback would be very helpful; two, I like the play a lot; three, I'll be helping out with the reading (I'm doing the stage directions); and four, it's free. Hope to see you there.

Event Details:
Sunday, January 25 (7:30 p.m.)
Dorothy Somerset Studio Theatre, UBC
6361 University Blvd, Vancouver
Free admission.

Presented by the Sunday Sessions Reading Series.