Beginning

September has always felt like the beginning of the new year for me. It’s fitting to announce a major change as the calendar clicks over to month nine. Here’s a letter I sent to the participants at Thursdays Writing Collective. In the last 24 hours I have been the recipient of tender, supportive responses from the people who have helped me hone my writing skills. I cannot speak highly enough of the participants – or their new director!

Dear Thursdays Writing Collective writers,

When I started writing at Carnegie Community Centre in February 2008 I didn’t expect to become so deeply knit into the literary community of the Downtown Eastside. I thought I was co-facilitating a four-week course!

Now just shy of nine years later, we have spent thousands of hours of writing together. We’ve made eight publications, and collaborated with scores of international writers and artists. We have solidified Thursdays Writing Collective as a vivacious, knowledgeable and creative group with a strong reputation not only locally but nationally, too. Writing and talking with Thursdays Writing Collective has made me a better writer, a better editor, and it has taught me how to teach. It has also brought me the connections and friendships that are the best part of everything good.

Thursday afternoons have been a favourite day of mine since that first class in February 2008 – no matter what is happening in the world, I leave the third floor classroom feeling better about things – about life, about writing, about creativity. My kids have grown up knowing the reason I’m not picking them up at school on Thursdays is because I’m part of something much bigger than myself. They have seen me squeeze email answers, financial planning sessions, board meetings, runs to the printers and late night readings into our lives and they know how important and joyful this work is to me.

We have created a special magic together and thanks to all of you, the ripple continues to surge outward. We have a really exciting year planned of writing about “Visualizing the Word” and we have the support of Canada Council for the Arts to make it happen in a beautiful way.

Thursdays Writing Collective has thrived on two main rules: the first one is about the writing prompts and you have probably heard me say it a million times: “there is no way to do it wrong.” The second rule speaks to the why and the how of involvement in the Collective: “work to your joy level.” Focussing on what serves us each best in regards to our time together ensures our collective success. How do we make the experience joyful, even if we are doing hard or painful work? How do we structure our efforts to support each other rather than sap us emotionally or time-wise?

My time inside the classroom writing with everyone is a blast. The amount of work and administrative tasks that happen outside our time together, not so much anymore. In thinking about “the joy level” several things became clear to me this spring. I need a change. I want the Collective to continue full force. I want to continue to be connected with it, and all of you. It is time for me to hand over the day-to-day direction and the facilitating.

I’m delighted to let you know that what I wrote out as my “dream scenario” is happening, and happening in a way that will leave the Collective better, faster and stronger. Beginning in September I will be stepping down as Director of Thursdays Writing Collective. I will remain as a board member and continue as an active writing member, when I am able to attend.

The new Director is Amber Dawn, an award-winning, multi-genre, multi-book author who has years of experience teaching inside and outside of university settings. Amber Dawn wrote with us in our 

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Amber Dawn with Antonette Rea at Thursdays Writing Collective’s LETTERING

LETTERING project two years ago and as a board member has been engaged with all sorts of support for our IMG_3106organization. Most recently, she MC’d our Literary Verses and Courses event at Heartwood Community Café with Cease Wyss.

Here is her bio:

Amber Dawn is a writer living on unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, Canada). Her memoir How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir won the 2013 Vancouver Book Award. She is the author of the Lambda Award-winning novel Sub Rosa, and editor of the anthologies Fist of the Spider Women: Fear and Queer Desireand With A Rough Tongue. Her newest book Where the words and my body begins is a collection of glosa form poems. She currently teaches creative writing at Douglas College and the University of British Columbia, as well as volunteer mentors at several community-driven art and healing spaces.

When I say I can’t imagine a better Director, I mean it. Amber Dawn is a committed DTES community member with a wide-range of interests and literary connections. She is also uniquely attuned to the characteristics of our group and knows how to enhance the spark, rather than smother it. IMG_2891 (1)Amber Dawn’s intellect, gentleness and sense of fun are going to be a huge boon to TWC. I can’t wait to see things take off.

I hope you all understand how excited I am about this change for all of us. I will have much more open time to spend with my kids and to write (I have two more books coming out!) and I’m looking forward to recharging my batteries. TWC gets to have a fluid hand-off from me to Amber Dawn – I’ll be around at sessions, events, and so forth. And Amber Dawn is really energized about connecting with this committed, talented group of writers.

In the past few months I have seen you stretch and reach and try new things, both in your writing and off the page. This growth reassures me that TWC will adapt and evolve in all the best ways – some will be familiar and others will be surprising.

I won’t say goodbye – we’ll stay in touch – but I will say hello to Amber Dawn as she begins leading TWC’s regular Thursdays classes from 2pm – 4pm beginning September 15, 2016.

Please update your address book with Amber Dawn’s contact info:

amberdawn (at) thursdayswritingcollective.ca

And continue to stay in touch with the group via www.thursdayswritingcollective.ca and Facebook!

To each of you I send warmth and gratitude for the past experiences and in anticipation of the new ones!

Unread Poems

IMG_0418Why do we skip some poems at readings and leave them unread? Ali Blythe and Adrienne Gruber and I wondered about this and offered each other a chance to bring those poems out for each other. Tonight – August 19, 2016,  one of Vancouver’s hottest – we gathered at Historic Joy Kogawa House in the back garden with blankets, pillows, lemonade and coconut and chocolate cakes and one of the most receptive and perceptive poetry audiences.IMG_0423

We had given each other a list of our unreads and each chose three to read from each other. The intimacy of the setting (no mic, people lounging on blankets, Ali and Tara’s beautiful dog snorfelling in the garden) meant we could comment and ask about the poems. Why haven’t you read this before? What was that like to hear it out loud? Answers ranged from the poems being “too personal,” “it felt too fragmented,” “these poems felt too connected,” to scores of other fascinating reasons. It was riveting to hear my poems in the mouths of these fine readers.

The night begs for more consideration – the readings are rippling through my brain.  Before I write more about it, here are some photos. The charming Historic Joy Kogawa House has a foam cutout of Joy herself so she can be present at the events. BTW – it was a full moon night and the bats were dolloping over our heads. Magical.

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Anne-Marie Metten, Kogawa House liaison, brought her skates to make me feel at home!
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Joy Kogawa’s cutout, an unintentional #dresslikeabook candidate with Adrienne Gruber’s Buoyancy Control!
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Carefully reading Ali Blythe’s Twoism
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She is such a good listener and Ali Blythe is such a good reader!

Art

I came home from the US launch of serpentine loop to find artist Aileen Penner had spent part of her two weeks house-sitting creating pieces in our backyard. One of these she left as a gift. Aileen, who skated competitively in her youth, based the piece on my book. I think she captured the layering of ice perfectly. I love the texture – and the fact she used ball point pen! Up close the piece smells of beeswax.

Back to the Rink

On a trip back to Cape Cod this week we stopped at the Hyannis Rink so my sister Elin Schran could get a little ice time. I got some rentals (whee!) and happened to have my reading copy of serpentine loop with me – which was neat because a year and a half ago we did the same thing (exiting 90F heat, entering the rink, playing around) and I saw Elin bewitch a public school skater and lend him her mittens. I wrote “Pivot” about that. We took some photos of the book next to the lost and found that sparked the piece and then found the hockey skills mannequins by the boards. My mother, Tenley Albright, posed with them. Afterwards, George, who handles rentals asked about the book and asked if he could read “Pivot” and then buy a copy. Perhaps we will be planning an off-ice reading in the near future!

Homecoming

I’m looking forward to Aug 4th’s book launch at Newtonville Books in Newton Centre, MA. Not only is it a beautiful bookstore with extensive community outreach but it is right in the area where I spent my childhood. It’s in walking distance of ponds that were great for winter skating and it’s on the route of my mother’s Welcome Home parade from the Olympics in 1956! To say this place has meaning for me as a returning poet is an understatement.

It’s also the first time I am reading outside of Canada, where I began writing and have been reading for years. And it will be the first time I read to more than one or two relatives at once. I am excited to see how this works magic on the poems! It is a short, solo reading – one hour only (about a 20 minute reading) so we can have a chance to chat and I can sign books.

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Antonette

I’m extremely proud of one of my writing friends from Thursdays Writing Collective. Last year Antonette Rea turned her poems into a three person play, “Miss Understood” for the PuSh Festival here in Vancouver. It was choreographed by Noam Gagnon, directed by James Fagan Tait, produced by Chris Gatchalian and the Frank Theatre Company. The calibre of the production, as you can imagine given these collaborators, was superb and the play received a Jesse nomination for outstanding original screenplay.

Antonette herself performed in the play with Austin Eckert and Starlise Waschuk, who embody aspects of her past and changing identity. I just heard the play may be travelling to Winnipeg this year.

Antonette’s story of transition from hockey-playing, motorcycle-riding dad to someone who accepts their intersex condition and strives to integrate the feminine is compelling. Transphobia and the domino effect of discrimination against anyone “different” are powerful forces: Antonette survived unimaginable violence and horror. Her writing was, and is, a lifeline.

Here’s a 45 minute documentary by Ian Barbour and Darren Heroux (in which I pop up for a few minutes) that skillfully captures the complexities of surviving and creating despite extreme circumstances. Congrats, Antonette!

 

Notes on Touring Through Ontario and Quebec

(Tour details are listed under Readings/Events)

Two nights ago I did my first reading outside BC. It bodes well. It was not scary. Art Bar I was at the Art Bar Poetry Series with Jennifer Zilm and Madhur Anand and this morning I finished their delicious books (respectively, Waiting Room and A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes).  Go get them!

This trip is proving to be a confluence of friends and poets. Some like, Jennifer, who is from BC and was shortlisted for the Kroetsch with me last year, I get to see more often. Others, like Ashley-Elizabeth Best, with whom I’m reading in Kingston on May 2 and who was also shortlisted for the Kroetsch with us, I haven’t met yet. Shannon McGuire came to the Art Bar and now I will be reading with her tomorrow night. Much criss-crossing!

It was superb to see so many ex-Vancouverites in the Black Swan Tavern on the Danforth for the Art Bar reading. It really was a warm beginning to the tour and so neat to meet so many people I have only known online.

I went walking around and found serpentine loop at Type Books! Now it is signed! That was a thrill.

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Tomorrow I head towards the In The Soil Festival in St Catharine’s to read at BlurBlurBlur, possibly driving a few other poets. I will get to read with Adrienne Gruber (Vancouver!) and see my collaborating pal Andrew McEwan.

Right before that event – maybe as we drive there? – we might hear Bruce Kauffman interview Ashley-Elizabeth in the first hour and me in the second on Friday April 29th from 4-6pm EDT on CFRC 101.9fm’s ‘finding a voice’. She and I will be reading at Novel Idea Bookstore  156 Princess St, next Monday May 2nd, 7-9pm.

Multiple connections, see?

The interview will be streamed live online at www.cfrc.ca  and the show will be uploaded to Bruce’s blogspace for it at http://findingavoiceoncfrcfm.wordpress.com/ , usually within a few hours of its airing, and saved indefinitely.

finding a voice on cfrc 101.9fm

findingavoiceoncfrcfm.wordpress.com

This is a showcase of a weekly series of spoken word shows, ‘finding a voice’, aired on CFRC 101.9fm, Kingston, ON – Show’s host/blog space manager, Bruce Kauffman at bruce.kauffman@…

More notes coming soon…