writing

What Have You Done?

A new story is out in the world and it’s always the best feeling. “What Have You Done?” is part of the Spring 2016 issue of The Puritan.

Puritan

Keith’s Gum

The first week of school, we dressed in our summer clothes and the teachers kept all of the windows open. An easygoing feeling prevailed thanks to the spillover of hot August weather. We laughed easier, lunched on depanneur junk food, and went to class casually late—close enough to the bell that we avoided trouble for the most part, but long enough after its ringing to feel a slight measure of freedom, of power. While the weather had something to do with it, I think the main reason for the blithe mood was the fact that we were older, finally starting our last year of high school. On the Friday night, we capped off that first week of school by going to see Aliens.

Continue reading “What Have You Done” in The Puritan

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Uproarr Womyn

Jian Gomeshi conducted an excellent interview on Q this morning with the great Kathleen Hanna. It brought me back to the early ’90s when my brother Mike and I were writing Cob zine. Cob chronicled the world of Swill(TM), a totally fabricated music scene in which bands vied for media attention through elaborate public relations stunts and image-making. By Issue #2, with a nod to the Riot Grrrl movement, a parallel scene had surfaced in our fictional world: Uproarr Womyn.

Uproarr Womyn were fed up with men “controlling all of the guns, all of the money, and most of the record contracts” in Swill(TM). Bands like Bikini Thrill, Equal Tights Amendment, and Fifth Nipple were taking control of their own destinies and putting out the music that they wanted to make by doing it themselves, all the while reflecting their feminist sensibilities. As usual in the world of Cob, however, charlatans surfaced who only wanted to cash in. Enter the band “Bosom Buddies,” a duo claiming to be women espousing their own brand of feminism (“sexual revolution with chivalry”) but who were really two men in makeup and wigs.

Writing as “Julie Bronski” of Bikini Thrill, this was my tribute to the Riot Grrrl movement. From Cob #3, which we did in (I think) 1994, “Uproarr Womyn: Mad as Hell at female impersonaters (sic)!”

Uproarr-Womyn

How I discovered gravity in 1977 in a Tim Hortons parking lot

Do you remember the assumptions you made about the world when you were a kid? I thought there was a little man inside my stomach that ate all the food that I stuffed down my gullet. A friend of mine recently told me she thought the whole world was in black and white in the old days, not just photographs and movies. I started watching baseball in 1981; I thought the Expos were going to make the playoffs every year. When you don’t have all the facts, you make sense of things as best you can.

Here’s a story about my discovery of gravity when I was five. It appears on CBC.ca’s Canada Writes site, as an entry in their “Close Encounters With Science” challenge. There are doughnuts.

Merry du Terminus

I’m very happy to have a story in the new issue of carte blanche. That “Merry du Terminus” exists as a story is thanks in large part to a submission deadline, of which carte blanche has two per year. For me, a submission deadline is a great motivator. It moves me to
finish things. I love deadlines, I need deadlines. Bring them on.

Prior to being moved to action by this particular cutoff , “Merry du Terminus” existed for about a year as a single paragraph and a vague note about how the story might finish in a file on my computer called “Terminus.” (If you read the story, it’s the paragraph that begins “His Adam and the Ants records clinched it,” or at least an earlier version of it.) The story also lived inside my head the whole time, marinating I guess, popping in and out of view on a regular basis, until a submission deadline got close enough for me to fill in the rest on paper. The great thing about finishing is that the story doesn’t live in my head anymore. It’s gone and I don’t miss it. There are all these other fragments, single paragraphs, and titles waiting for their own deadlines, real or (the way it should be) self-imposed. I’ve also got the phone number of a defunct pizzeria on Monkland Avenue in there but I haven’t figured out a way to get rid of it and I don’t know that I’d want to anyway.

Merry du Terminus

carte blanche and my brief but awesome runway career

I’ll be reading my new short story “Something Important and Delicate” at the launch party for Issue 11 of  carte blanche, the online literary review of the Quebec Writers’ Federation. The launch takes place on Monday, May 17, 7 pm at Kaza Maza, 4629 Parc Avenue.

Clandestine investigative work (checking who else is cc’d in e-mails about the event) has revealed the names of some of the other readers to me, but without any knowledge of confirmations I’ll hold back for now and update later.

Update 5/14/2010

Here’s the list:

Joni Dufour
Julie Mahfood
Abby Paige

Leslie Pasquin
Mara Sternberg

Jeremy Wexler

+ musical guest Sigh Twombly

I know how hurtful it can be to have one’s name put forward without consent. When I was in kindergarten, I modeled in a fashion show fundraiser for the pre-school from which I’d recently graduated (as valedictorian, natch). I caught a glimpse of the list of participants on my way out of the house before school one morning and, upon arriving in class, happily informed fellow alumnus Diana Suter we’d be in a fashion show together. She was mortified and inconsolable, bawling as if I’d just told her we were next up to enter the disintegration chamber. I was thus introduced to the idea of jumping the gun.

More significantly, a few days later, I was introduced to a blue satin baseball-style jacket with a Grease logo patch embroidered on the breast, one of the garments I got to not only model in the fashion show but also dance in. I’m still waiting for life to get that good again.

carte blanche launch poster

“STOP!”

I’m reading this Sunday at the Clamourous Sundays series at The Green Room. I received an unexpectedly generous offer from the organizer in terms of reading time: up to twenty minutes. Talk about temptation! Give a writer ten minutes, and a lot of the time you’ll get a fifteen minute reading. We love to go over time. Because we love to hear ourselves read. Too much.

Back in the Grimy Windows days, when I was co-hosting a monthly series, I learned this the hard way. In the beginning, we’d give readers ten minutes. After a few months of watching what were supposed to be ten-minute spots turn into thirteen, fourteen, twenty(!)-minute marathons, we switched to seven minutes, hoping this would get us closer to the ten-minute mark we wanted.

When a writer reads too long, the room gets uncomfortable and the audience tunes out. Comedy clubs of course employ a light bulb that faces the stage, the performer, to flash on and off, letting the comedians know when they’ve gone over their time. It’s subtle, and not always noticeable to the audience. It’s always a terribly awkward moment when a reading host has to interrupt a writer who’s gone on too long. At his events, Barry Callaghan takes care of transgressors with a short, loud, and extremely effective “STOP!” This makes for great incentive to stay under time.

I think ten minutes is the magic number. After that point, the reading is no longer for the audience, it’s for one person and one person alone: the writer. Readings are our chance to show off our stuff, and the temptation is great to show off a lot of it. But what good does it do if nobody’s listening?

Now let’s just see if I can resist temptation on Sunday and follow my own good advice.