Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

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Revision and Sedgwick and Surprise

In my head my posts this month were going to unfold more linearly than they seem currently to be doing. I imagined each post, in advance of writing it (and an advance of writing any of the posts) as a short section in a longer essay. But, as almost always, the plan alters ever so slightly, then ever so completely . . . Each of these posts remains (in my head at least) a continuation of what precedes it and is to-be-continued, each is part of what I now think of note-taking towards an essay, and/but the essay keeps altering as I write—

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Parenthetical: On Neural Transformation:

(One of the things I’ve been reading about recently and am deeply engaged with is the idea of neuroplasticity. The internal reality formed by neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to alter in response to external and internal experience—is not only a mental phenomenon but also a somatic one. The traces in the brain left by experience are associated with particular somatic states, some positive, some negative, some an ambivalent combination of both. Plasticity demonstrates that experience leaves a trace on and influences neuronal networks, modifying the way information is transferred through the brain and body. Experience thus leaves a trace that alters the givens or modifications that have preceded it: this the principle of neuroplasticity.

Bodies Called Forth and Bodies Calling

Part of the reason I’ve decided to write about bodies this month is because I’ve been reading and talking so much about them—in newspapers, online, in books, and with friends and family. The transformations of bodies, the inescapable signifying of different kinds of bodies, the ways those significations might alter, have all been part of these readings and conversations.

Chapter 1: Beginning (Again)

It’s strange to think of a formal beginning in the midst of the continuous alterations—some barely perceptible, some profound—that seem always to unfold at this time of year and in the midst of alterations particular to this unfolding year. In Toronto, the hide-and-go-seek appearing and disappearing of Spring, the feel of the thawing ground yielding against my boots, sap running through the trees, the end of one strike and the possibility of new strikes, book season.

Prologue: Context: Sugaring

Today, the sap is running. It has been, on and off, for the last two weeks. I’ve spent as much of that time as possible a couple hours north of Toronto with family and friends tapping trees, carrying sap, cutting firewood, stoking fires, boiling sap into syrup, and finally bottling it. This is anything but a professional operation. The pleasure began on a Thursday when we bricked the evaporator, also called an “arch,” a “fire box,” an “oven,” and which I, for unconscious reasons, cannot help but call “the kiln”: think of an oil drum cut in half and flipped on its long side. Think of fire bricks, of scoring them with a diamond blade and tapping them apart with a wedge, of fitting them, puzzle style, along the sides of the barrel, and then mortaring them into place.

Ekphrasis Strikes Again!

The Guinness Book of Records probably doesn't have a category for it, but a group of writers and artists in Toronto has likely set a record for the longest-running, largest-scale collaboration anywhere between writers and visual artists. This eighth annual National Poetry Month exhibition and reading on April 26 features visual art by studio members of the Women's Art Association of Canada and associated poems by the Long Dash group. Some poems are responses to paintings or photographs; others share a common set of images or emotions. Similarly, some of the visual art is created, or altered, in response to poems.

Writers' Groups I Have Known: Part III, The Everything Else

To finish up my month here as Open Book's WIR, I'm giving thanks and paying tribute to the writers' groups I've been fortunate enough to be a part of.

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There are two more group who I owe a great credit to: one that helped me figure out that short fiction was definitely not for me, and one that has helped me to establish my voice as a writer for kids and teens.

That first distinction sounds like a negative, but it really wasn't. The Flaky Lushes were a group of mostly poets who gave me my first notes on what would become my first book, When We Were Good. We were known for being stragglers, and were all working on vastly different pieces, but the summer we spent meeting regularly was a really special one.

Writers' Groups I Have Known: Part II, The Dewburying

If you're just tuning in, I decided to wrap up my month as Open Book Toronto's Writer in Residence by paying tribute to the writers' groups I've been a part of that have helped get me where I am today.

Because if you, dear reader, take nothing else away from the nearly 10K (!) that I've written as this month's WIR, I hope it's that there is nothing more important for a writer than finding other writers who will tell you that what you're doing is no good. No good at all.

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While every writers' group I've been a part of has taught me something, the group that I took part in at the end of my time at the University of Toronto is the one I give the most credit to for helping me develop my inner critic.

To Descant, With Gratitude

Tonight Descant Magazine - after 45 years of publishing - is celebrating its last-ever issue with a goodbye party at The Revival.

Many things have been said about Descant's demise by writers and literary folks whose resumes are a whole lot more impressive than mine. Still, I owe Descant quite a lot, and it'd be pretty crass of me not to say thank you.

Descant - specifically their Ghosts and the Uncanny-themed issue, published a few years ago - was my first paid publication credit.

Which, if you've ever been a newbie writer dreaming of validation, you know is a big moment.

Being published in Descant allowed me to apply for the Toronto Arts Council's granting program, which in turn gave me the confidence to revise and submit my first novel, When We Were Good, for publication.

Writers' Groups I Have Known: Part I, The WiER-ering

Everything I know about editing, I learned from writers’ groups.

Well, okay, maybe not quite. I took a great copy-editing course at Ryerson a few years ago with an amazing instructor - part of their publishing certificate program - and have learned a tonne working as an editorial assistant at Groundwood Books from our senior editorial team since I started almost three years ago. But come on, it sounded pretty good, didn’t it?

Everything I know about self-editing, I learned from writers’ groups.

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My first writers’ group, or at least the closest proximity I had to one as a kid, was the Writers In Electronic Residence (WiER) program that my middle school participated in when I was in grade seven.

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