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BRITISH COLUMBIA’S MAGAZINE FOR WRITERS

FEDERATION BC WRITERS FALL 2015 $4.95

WHY RETREATS?

Chelsea Comeau tells us how she was drawn in to the world of writing retreats


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Publication of The Federation of British Columbia Writers 2014 Bowen Rd, Nanaimo, BC, V9S 1H4 bcwriters.ca communications@bcwriters.ca

Editor

Shaleeta Harper communications@bcwriters.ca

Business Manager Katherine Melnyk booktailor@shaw.ca

Editorial Board

bcwriters.ca/wordworks/editorialboard © The Federation of British Columbia

Writers 2015 All Rights Reserved

Join the FBCW at bcwriters.ca/membership

Submissions

Content of WordWorks Magazine is, with very occasional exceptions, provided by members of the Federation of BC writers. If you would like to submit something, or if you have a story idea you would like to see included in WordWorks, please visit bcwriters.ca/wordworks/submit

Advertising

WordWorks is pleased to advertise services and products that are of genuine interest to writers. Space may also be provided to honour sponsors, whose generous contributions make it possible for the Federation of BC Writers to provide services to writers and poets in BC. For information about advertising policies and rates, see bcwriters.ca/wordworks/advertisers

Content

Editorial decisions are guided by the mandate of WordWorks as ‘BC’s Magazine for writers’, and its role as the official publication of the Federation of BC Writers. WordWorks will showcase the writing and poetry of FBCW members; provide news and feature coverage of writing and writers in BC, with an emphasis on writing techniques and the business of writing and carry news about the Federation of BC Writers, and its work supporting and advocating for writers.

Distribution

WordWorks is published quarterly, distributed by mail to members of the FBCW who request it, and is fully accessible digitally on the FBCW website, bcwriters.ca.

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Shaleeta Harper Conversation Starters

19

David Fraser WordStorm

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Katherine Melnyk One Year ADiversary

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Susan Braley Planet Earth Poetry

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Coco Aders-Weremczuk The President’s Pen

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Chelsea Comeau Why Retreats?

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Coco Aders-Weremczuk The Nunnery ...

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Elma Schemenauer Fictionalizing Real Life

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Andrea McKenzie Raine Evelyn’s Revelation

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Trevor Carolan Literary Storefront

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Lenore Rowntree Collective Strength

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philip gordon Reassessing Reading

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Beverly Cramp Book Review

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Pat Smekal Honeymoon Bay...

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Letters to the Federation

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Barbara Pelman Reading Jane Hirshfield

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Member Classifieds

Yvonne Blomer Book Tour Survival Guide

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Chelsea Comeau

is a Vancouver writer, editor, and photographer. She attended the Banff Centre’s Writing With Style Programme in 2014 and was the Canadian winner of the Spring 2015 Overleaf Chapbook Manuscript Competition.

Elma Schemenauer

is a Kamloops-based author of many books. Her most recent is the novel Consider the Sunflowers, published in 2014 by Borealis Press. For details, please visit her website http://elmams.wix.com/sflwrs

Trevor Carolan

An early 1980s co-founder of the FBCW, Trevor Carolan has published many books of non-fiction, poetry, a novel, translation, interviews, anthologies, and literary journalism. They include Giving Up Poetry: With Allen Ginsberg at Hollyhock, and Return to Stillness: Twenty Years With a Tai Chi Master. His forthcoming film Powerground is based on the acclaimed eco-lit collection Cascadia: The Life and Breath of the World that he guest-edited in 2013. He teaches writing at University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, and gave his first Canadian reading at the Literary Storefront.

Pat Smekal

loves her home on Vancouver Island. Her poems have appeared in over fifty Canadian anthologies, chapbooks and magazines. Her own chapbook, Praise without Mortar came out in 2009, and Small Corners was published in 2012. A collaboration of poetry, with David Fraser, entitled Maybe We Could Dance, was launched in 2014. As an active member of the WordStorm Society of the Arts, Pat often reads at literary events on the Island and beyond.

Lenore Rowntree

lives beside Stanley Park in Vancouver. Her novel Cluck will be published in 2016 by Thistledown Press.

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Coco Aders-Weremczuk

holds a BA in Modern Languages and a MA in Communications and Media Technology from UBC, was vice-president of a film production company in Vancouver, wrote and produced scripts, acted in film; and for over 10 years her column, “Anastasia’s Annotations,” was published in international and national dog magazines. She has won numerous awards for her photography.

David Fraser

lives in Nanoose Bay, on Vancouver Island. His poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Rocksalt, An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry, and in Tesseracts 18. He has published five collections of poetry and is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. His next collection, After All the Scissor Work is Done is forthcoming in March 2016, published by Leaf Press.

Yvonne Blomer

is Victoria’s Poet Laureate from 2014-2018. Her most recent book of poetry is As if a Raven (Palimpsest Press, 2014). She just completed a travel memoir titled Sugar Ride: Cycling from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur. As poet laureate, Yvonne hopes to draw attention to the need to protect the environment, specifically the oceans and is about to send out a call for poems for a forthcoming anthology. Visit yvonneblomer.com

Andrea McKenzie Raine

was born in Smithers, BC and grew up in Victoria, BC where she still resides. She earned a B.A. in English Literature at the University of Victoria in 2000. She has attended the successful Planet Earth Poetry reading series in Victoria, BC since 1997, and participated in the Glenairley writing retreats led by Canadian poet and novelist Patrick Lane in Sooke, BC. Andrea lives with her husband and two young sons. Turnstiles is her debut novel published by Inkwater Press.

Katherine Melnyk

is the Business Manager for WordWorks and Assistant to Friesens Book Division sales rep Gerhard Aichelberger. Katherine is slowly working on a creative memoir, and more quickly working on several children’s books.

philip gordon

is a creative writing student from Vancouver Island and an editor of the free literary magazine text. His poetry chapbook this is a love poem, but let’s not be too straightforward about it was published by Words (On) Pages press in 2015. his work has been published in Vallum, The Puritan, The YOLO Pages, theNewerYork, CV2 (Poetry Lives Here supplement), and in numerous other places. philip is a sex-positive pansexual feminist, lover of shades, and proponent of the Oxford Comma. he can be stalked at twitter.com/greymusic_ and grey-music.tumblr.com.

Barbara Pelman

is a retired English teacher, living in Victoria, B.C. She is an active participant in the Victoria writing community, as a co-host of Planet Earth Poetry series. She has two books of poetry--One Stone (Ekstasis Editions 2005) and Borrowed Rooms (Ronsdale Press 2008) and a number of poems in various literary journals, including Arc, Event, Fiddlehead, WordWorks, CV2, and Descant. She is the adoring grandmother of a grandson who has been moved to Sweden by his parents. She now visits Sweden often.

Susan Braley

lives in Victoria, BC, where she writes poetry and fiction. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Room, Island Writer, WordWorks, and Arc Poetry Magazine; and in anthologies such as Walk Myself Home, Madwoman in the Academy, and Desperately Seeking Susans. In 2012, her poem “The Real Truth” placed first in The Federation of BC Writers Literary Writes competition; in 2010, her poem “Traces” was shortlisted for Arc’s Poem of the Year and was selected as Readers’ Choice.


CONVERSATION STARTERS Letter from the Editor Shaleeta Harper

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noticed the other day that sweaters were dominating my heaps of laundry. Just a few weeks ago the loads were full of slips of cotton and denim, and I was glad to be doing laundry in my basement, away from the heat. Now, though, my feet on the concrete ache in the cold, and I’m rushing laundry day. It’s the time of year, now, for escape—for hiding under bundles of blankets with a pad and pen—or tablet—no words falling from our mouths for hours. After the bustle of summer, Fall brings with it the urge to find solitude, and the urge to ponder. We might be hiding from chores, or spouses, or children, or just hiding from the activity of summer, but we can write for hours in that one warm room in our house, enjoying the background noise of life, and the early twilight. With all that writing happening, it spills over into

daily life. Open Mic nights are suddenly full, and we begin to see readings from new novels and books of poetry dominating our coffee shops, bookstores, and libraries. This issue of WordWorks is a celebration of retreating, and reading to others. It brings isolation and oration into the light together, and applauds them as halves to a whole. I’m Shaleeta Harper, current Editor of WordWorks magazine. I bring with me a recent B.A in Creative Writing, English, and Visual Arts, and a love for magazine publishing and poetry. I live in Nanaimo and have lived on Vancouver Island my entire life. I am excited to work with all of you on this, our magazine for writers about writing. WordWorks is one of our most tactile successes as members of the Federation of BC Writers, and it’s something I’m proud to help put together. If there’s anything I could ask of all of you, it would be to consider. Consider what you want this magazine to be, and what you wish it could say, or do. Consider telling us about your interests, because if there’s something you want to hear more about, chances are someone else does too. Ideas happen in communities and conversation, and we want to invite them in. As the new editor, I’m committed to communication, not just information, and I look forward to your suggestions and comments. In fact, as of this issue we’re beginning a “Letter to the Federation” section, which you can find in the last pages of this issue. Feel free to send in letters answering the question we have proposed, or just send us a brief letter about some conversation topic you think others should hear or think about. I’ll leave you now with these words written by talented Federation members. We hope to hear from you soon.

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One Year ADiversary Katherine Melnyk

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s we celebrate one year of the reinstated Federation publication WordWorks, we can see how far we’ve come just by looking at how the advertising has grown. From two ads in the Fall 2014 issue to ads in the double digits today, we have come a long way. Included in the ads in this issue are many regulars, and I would like to take this opportunity to extend a big thank you to them for their ongoing support – Island Blue Print, First Choice Books, Professional Editors Association of Vancouver Island (PEAVI), Kato Design & Photo, The Writer Connection, FriesenPress, Pacific WordCrafters, Event, Art Department Design, text Magazine, and SubTerrain. The revenue generated from WordWorks advertising sales goes directly to the running of the publication – the print costs (thank you to Island Blue for being such a fabulous printer to work with), the distribution (thank you to Aristos Mail Tech

for making the distribution so painless), and the honorariums we pay to our contributing writers, all of them members of the Federation. While we’re not generating enough yet to cover the entire cost of the publication, we are a lot closer today than a year ago. Now we celebrate this first issue with new WordWorks editor, Shaleeta Harper – a highly creative professional who I am proud to be working alongside. Shaleeta is a recent graduate from Vancouver Island University, as well as the creator and editor of text Magazine - Canada’s only free literary magazine. text has been a huge success, drawing hundreds of submissions from all around the world. I know Shaleeta will infuse WordWorks with the same energy. We also now celebrate a rebranding of our publication thanks to our Visuals Editor, the very talented graphic designer and photographer Chris Hancock Donaldson. Check out Chris’s amazing cover design on

COVER ARTIST: CHRIS HANCOCK DONALDSON

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hris Hancock Donaldson is inspired by music, the outdoors, films and photography. Her photos have been used in magazines and on book covers. A writer also, she loves Adrienne Rich and Sharon Olds and, to quote Hemingway, strives to write hard and clear about what hurts. You can see her photos at www.chrishancockdonaldson.com or @dangerdoe on Instagram.

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this issue and learn more about her below. Our former editor Craig Spence has moved on to another position. Special thanks are due to Craig for making WordWorks the proper quarterly it is today with not only writing samples from our members, but solid editorial content for the writer as well. The advertising in WordWorks informs our members – the writers of BC – about businesses that will ultimately help them in their craft, help us in our craft. And isn’t that what we are really doing here – helping one another, supporting one another, through this province-wide network called the Federation of BC Writers? No matter what stage we are at in our writing, the hand is always stronger than each finger. Yes, we need the retreats, the quiet spaces, to dwell within and draw our words out. But then we must come back out of ourselves, join the network, share with one another and read. Happy one-year ADiversary, readers!


FROM THE PRESIDENT’S PEN Coco Aders-Weremczuk Now that the summer is over and we’re all hunkering down for a winter of writing and learning, I’m more than ever thrilled to have been elected your President

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eing elected President can be a most exciting and rewarding honour and when you have a team that is as enthusiastic about writing and helping writers, you have a recipe for success. Now that the summer is over and we’re all hunkering down for a winter of writing and learning, I’m more than ever thrilled to have been elected your President for the next 2 years. I’d like to begin by saying a few words about our new Board of Directors. Ben Nuttall-Smith has earned his retirement, moving into the role of Past President and

Ann Graham Walker has graciously agreed to be interim Vice-President. Edi DePencier, our fearless Secretary, has years of experience in running a not-for-profit organization. Loreena M. Lee is an outstandingly organized Treasurer, as well as sharing the position of Fraser Valley Rep with Douglas Reid. (We are implementing the sharing of roles this year, offering our Regional Reps the opportunity of having a colleague at their side, acting as both a sounding board and a partner, taking over if needed). We are pleased to have Ann Graham Walker stay on as Island Rep; as you all know she is a dynamo and I feel fortunate to have her on my team. We also welcome Shellagh Simpson to the Board as your Lower Mainland Rep, and Dawn Renaud, representing the double regions of Central and Southeast. It was decided at our last Board of Directors’ meeting to consolidate some of the regions to create a tighter, more cohesive provincial representation. Happily we were able to persuade George Opacic to stay on as a Member-atLarge, relying on his experience and expertise to keep us on the right track. Looking forward to benefiting from their varied experiences, we also welcome Paul Seesequasis and Rosemary Rigsby. In addition to being the Communications Rep, Shaleeta Harper is taking on

something very exciting, agreeing to be our interim Editor for the FBCW magazine WordWorks. Fresh out of university, she brings with her new ideas, skills in technology and social media, and her very own creation, a poetry magazine called text (sic) that is young, vibrant and all the rage! This year’s Board is raring to go and it has some interesting offers for you. If you want to be involved but really can’t give up a ton of time, we ask you to consider becoming an Area Rep. In return for staying in touch with the people in your ‘city’ and reporting back to your Regional Rep, we have agreed to reduce your membership dues from $85.00 to $65.00 for Regular membership and from $45.00 to $35.00 for Seniors. And for those of you under 29 years of age we’d love to have you join the federation for a Youth/Student membership fee of only $25.00. Maybe you have ideas for programs or workshops that you’d like to see us create. Please don’t hesitate to contact your Regional Rep. The Fed has special funding set aside for creating accessible programs and workshops in every one of the regions. We are saddened at the passing of Ed Griffin, our dear friend, colleague, master story teller, great teacher and founder of Western Canada’s largest writers’ conference - the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Page 5 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


We were honoured that, although he was already very unwell, his last teaching assignment, “The Hero’s / Heroine’s Journey” was for the Federation of BC Writers, at our Write on the Beach, 2015. The information he shared was brilliant and his passion for ensuring that his students learn was obvious. This was never clearer than when his presentation was over, he came up to me and asked if there was anything needing clarification. A true scholar and gentleman. He will be missed. I’’d like to express a huge thanks to our WordWorks volunteers who have worked tirelessly to put this informative, interesting and entertaining issue together.

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Please remember that should you desire to add your skills to our volunteer base, or if you have any questions or concerns, I am just a ‘send’ button away. Coco Aders-Weremczuk President Federation of BC Writers president@bcwriters.ca www.bcwriters.ca


WHY RETREATS? Chelsea Comeau

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t was Patrick Lane’s website that first alerted me, a few years ago, to the possibility of poetry retreats. Until then, I was relatively naive, and had no idea that such a spectacular thing was even possible for an amateur writer such as myself. I was hungry for an experience that would equal my intense passion for poetry, and decided straight away that it was something I desperately wanted to do. I sent an email to the contact provided and was put on a waiting list. Within a few months, I was positively thrilled to receive notification that there was a place for me in the January 2013 retreat. I packed my suitcase patterned with peacock feathers, and traveled alone to Honeymoon Bay, a small town outside of Lake Cowichan. I’d never met any of the other poets before, and had absolutely no inkling as to what I might expect of my experience. I was first to arrive and hours early, something for which I’m notorious. I checked in as one would at any hotel, and was given my room key. Some poets would be sharing rooms, but I’d signed up for single occupancy. On my way down the carpeted corridor, I passed a little kitchen and common area with couches, tables and chairs. Beyond that was a small, snow-laden garden, and then wilderness. I had a little time to unpack my things and psych myself up. There was, of course, some consternation; I am by no means an extrovert, and the notion of sharing my words with nearly twenty strangers terrified me. The opportunity to spend four blessed days away from everything, however, was too enticing to pass up. I waited as long as I could before the stirrings and voices beyond my room en-

couraged me to venture out. Accustomed to being one of the younger participants in most literary events, I sought out a seat with slight trepidation. There is a tendency for some to not take me entirely seriously, as I appear to be even younger than I actually am, and I worried I might not measure up to the other poets. Within the first few minutes, my fears were eased. I received a warm and genuine welcome from Patrick, as well as the other poets attending, most of whom already knew each other quite well. I can think of few situations in which I was treated so quickly as though I belonged. Straight away, the sense of community at this retreat was obvious. We convened in a circle, about twenty of us in total, and introduced ourselves. The basics of the retreat were explained to newcomers, including schedules for our meals, which were served buffet style in the dining room, and a general overview of the sessions in which we would partake. I became increasingly excited at the idea of receiving daily assignments, as I’d not taken any writing courses in about eight years. I find that prompts tend to give me a kind of focus when writing that is otherwise difficult for me to achieve. What I wasn’t quite so excited about was the short

exercise Patrick gave us right then and there. We had between five and ten minutes to respond to a prompt before sharing what we’d written with the rest of the group. Though this thrust me far out of my comfort zone, it was also an opportunity to discover how my creativity is capable of thriving under pressure. (Four retreats later, this is the part that still terrifies me!) Patrick explained to us in the first session that this was a retreat, specifically, and not a workshop. We would not critique the work of other poets within the circle, though we were welcome to assist one another in the editing process throughout the day. There were opportunities, as well, to sit down with Patrick to discuss the poems we wrote while at the retreat. It wasn’t until my second night at the retreat that I joined some of the other poets in the common room. We had ample time to work on our assignments, and many participants found small tables at which to sit and type. It was here in the common room that a creative energy was generated, and the poets shared their works-in-progress with one another, exchanging advice before the following morning’s session. The sessions themselves were opportunities to listen to our peers’ work and simply enjoy it, without the expectation of

I can think of few situations in which I was treated so quickly as though I belonged.

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workshopping. Patrick did make suggestions at the end of most poems, so there was certainly advice given for improvement. My four days in Honeymoon Bay were a period of enormous transition for me. I’d gone into the retreat with few expectations, aside from the benefit of giving myself permission to do nothing but write. There was simply no way I could have anticipated the inner shift that transpired. As it turns out, submerging oneself in such creative energy is an experience from which one does not emerge unchanged. I felt as though my editing skills had undergone a noticeable transformation; Patrick’s advice was invaluable, and I began applying it to all my work, immediately. I left my first retreat more committed to poetry than I’d ever been. I also met a few truly remarkable friends with whom I’m extremely close these twoand-a-half years later. There has been a core group of poets with whom I’ve attended these retreats, but a few writers have come and gone as well, which always shakes up the dynamic a little. I like having an idea as to what will happen while I’m there, but I also enjoy that each experience has been a little different. I decided my experience so utterly essential to my creative and, yes, spiritual development, that I paid my deposit for the following January before even leaving Honeymoon Bay. To date, I have attended four retreats with Patrick and am slated for more in the future. Thoroughly addicted to the poetic immersion, I applied the following year for the Banff Centre’s 2014 Writing with Style Programme, with Lorna Crozier as faculty. A few months after submitting, I received news that I’d been accepted. The experience was an entirely different, albeit equally magnificent, one. The Banff Centre was much more a university campus than a retreat centre, its surroundings far more scenic than I could have imagined. There were various genres within the Writing With Style Programme, and writers arrived from as far as Prince Edward Island. We gathered the first night to meet one another, and received packages containing the submissions of the rest of the writers in our categories. We had our own rooms within one of the centre’s buildings, and a common room down the hall where we could Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 8

use computers and printers or sit and chat with the other writers. There was a pool and gym in another building nearby, and several options for meals. As programme participants, we were given cards (much like hotel room keys) with our photos and names on them, which stored a set amount of money that was included in our original fees. We could add more funds to them using machines in the building, and the cards could be used at various cafes within the centre, as well as the main dining room where buffet meals were served. The dining room was enormous, and sections were created for corporate groups who were also at the centre, as well as different artists outside the Writing With Style Programme. I was fortunate enough to meet a few really talented visual artists who’d come to Banff from Mexico to complete various projects. It was an extremely rich experience, and I had the opportunity to speak to all kinds of creatives. I found Banff to be an extremely social affair. Groups of artists gathered at restaurants on campus or in town in the evenings, and I even participated in a few little shopping trips. Sessions with our respective genres were held in conference rooms in the mornings. Rather than generate solely new material (though we were given a few on-the-spot exercises) we focused primarily on editing the poems we’d submitted in our applications. We did, however, have the option to present new poems written at the centre, with the understanding that they would be edited there on the spot, instead of being given an evening’s consideration. At the end of the sessions, we would select the poem we wanted our peers to edit for the following morning, and were then given the rest of the day to work on those edits, write new poems, or explore Banff.

Writing with Style was a week-long endeavour, and I can claim, with all honesty, that it was one of the most wonderful things I have ever done. I found Banff to be an otherworldly location that stoked inspiration’s flames like few places I’ve visited. I’ve even stayed in contact with a few of the poets with whom I worked, and our bonds are truly remarkable. As I write this, I prepare for yet another retreat, which I know will be just as spectacular as the others. At the end of the month, I’ll be camping in a tipi in Nanoose Bay, joining many island, and a few mainland, poets for a retreat with Lorna Crozier (organized by FBCW member Tina Biello). Although this will not be Honeymoon Bay, and it will not be Banff, I know that I will make connections with like-minded writers. I know that I will enjoy myself, and I know that, by committing myself to a new experience, to my poetry, I will leave with an even more fervent love for writing. Whether a retreat is facilitated or self-directed, I think giving oneself permission to do nothing but write, apart from everyday distractions, is one of the most important things a writer can do.

I can claim, with all honesty, that it was one of the most wonderful things I have ever done.


FICTIONALIZING REAL LIFE Elma Schemenauer Fiction can portray the human condition in a way non-fiction can’t. In the words of author Gail Anderson-Dargatz, “Writing it as fiction can help you tell it even more truthfully.”

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thel Wilson in her classic novel Swamp Angel fictionalizes life at Lac Le Jeune near Kamloops. Harold Rhenisch in his book of short stories, Carnival, combines his father’s character with his own to give readers a fictionalized look at life in Germany during the 1930s and after. Why do authors sometimes fictionalize real experiences? Certainly there are places for writing about life as it actually happened. Examples include memoirs, autobiographies, and history books. However, there are also reasons for fictionalizing: Fictionalizing gives us a larger framework for exploring personal and family issues. It externalizes our sorrows and puts them in perspective, bringing order to confused feelings and thoughts. It can make mundane events more exciting. It’s a way to explore vulnerabilities and shortcomings while aspiring to something higher and more meaningful.

How do we fictionalize real life? Rohinton Mistry, in his short story Swimming Lessons, says: “Fiction can come from facts, it can grow out of facts by compounding, transposing, augmenting, diminishing, or altering them in any way.” For instance, an author might compound two cities to make a new one, and then alter the result to create a symbolically meaningful city. An author might transpose a quiet woman and talkative man to create a talkative woman and quiet man, and then augment them so they both become larger-than-life. In my 1940s-era Mennonite novel Consider the Sunflowers, I fictionalized the lives of some of my relatives. One example is my mother. She worked in Vancouver as a young woman, but left to marry her boyfriend in rural Saskatchewan. Later she missed Vancouver. However, she knew my father would never move there, so she tried to persuade him to move closer to their nearest Saskatchewan town. I fictionalized that situation by altering their names and personalities, putting words in their mouths, and giving them more straightforward motives than I suspect my parents had. Following is an excerpt illustrating that. Tina and her husband, Frank, are at the breakfast table, where they’ve been discussing the idea of moving. Frank pulled his chair closer to hers,

the lines around his eyes softening. “I know it’s not easy for you,” he said, putting his arm around her. “But you haven’t given this place a fair chance yet. You haven’t even lived here around the seasons.” He glanced out the window. “I picture our baby when he gets bigger, running through the wildflowers with his pretty mama. Her hair flying in the wind.” Frank gave her the crooked smile that almost always made her heart melt. Tina shrank away from him. She wouldn’t weaken, not this time. “It’s a nice picture, but we’d have wind and wildflowers by town, too.” “It wouldn’t be the same. Some of our land here is virgin prairie. It’s never been touched by a plough.” “It’s running with coyotes.” “Coyotes are okay. They help keep the rabbits down.” Tina shivered. “They scare me, howling at night. They sound like lost souls.” Sometimes she felt like a lost soul herself. Frank lifted his arm off her shoulders. “I told you, Tina, I can’t live near town. I can’t stand being so close to other people. They crowd me. You can’t lock me in a cage. Please don’t try.” For reasons that are unclear to me, my father felt like a black sheep in the Saskatchewan Mennonite community where o u r family lived. He preferred to socialize with our Scandinavian and British neighbours. I altered and amplified that situation, giving my character Frank a backPage 9 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


ground that included concrete reasons for his feelings. Here’s an excerpt illustrating that. Monday was laundry day. Frank stood at the stove dipping hot water out of the boiler, his bass voice rumbling something from Tchaikovsky. He seemed to be in a good mood. Maybe this was the time for Tina to ask him. “Frank?” “Yeah?” “I’ve been thinking.” Tina dropped a flannel sheet into the washtub and rubbed a bar of laundry soap over it. “We haven’t invited the Fehrs or Brauns over since we got married. Or the Friesens or any of our other Mennonite neighbours.” “So?” Frank’s expression was as blank as dough. “We could ask some of them to come for coffee, maybe Sunday afternoon.” He dumped a pail of hot water into the washtub and swirled it around, mixing it with the cooler water. “What makes you think the Fehrs and Brauns and them want to visit with us?” “Why wouldn’t they?” “Come on, Tina. You know as well as I do. I don’t fit in with the Mennonites. They didn’t even invite me to the men’s breakfast.” “That’s because we don’t attend church regularly.” He snorted. “Don’t fool yourself. They think I’m not good enough for them.” “How can you say that?” Tina scrubbed the sheet on the washboard. “They practically begged you to play your guitar at the Christmas concert.” “Sure, but you know what they were thinking: ‘Gypsies are great entertainers. You’ve got to admit that. In Russia they played and sang like angels. But you didn’t dare turn your back on them. First thing you knew, they’d pick your pocket or steal your horse.’” Tina rolled her eyes. How could Frank keep harping on the few Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 10

stories he’d heard about Russian Gypsies? There were worse characters in Russia, far worse. She dropped the sheet into the rinse water and jerked her chin at it. “You could rinse that sheet now.” Frank swirled it through the water. “I’d rather visit with Scandinavians or British people any day. They don’t carry all that Russian baggage.”

Fictionalizing the lives of family members can be tricky. What if they don’t like what you write? Fights could ensue. Your writing could cause a rift in the family. One way to avoid negative responses is to share your journey with the people you’re fictionalizing. This is especially advisable if you plan to have your story stick close to the facts. Sharing can reduce the chances of hurting and/or angering people. It may also open a new channel of communication, giving you a better understanding of your emerging story. I showed parts of Consider the Sunflowers to some of my relatives as I was writing it. They encouraged me to continue and mentioned details of our family life that I had forgotten or never known. Their input enriched the story. On the other hand, suppose you don’t want to discuss your writing with the real people you’re fictionalizing? In that case it may be wise to swing the narrative farther away from the facts. Suppose you’d like to write about your aunt, who abandoned her grandfather on a sinking ship and swam to shore. The trouble is you’re sure your aunt will object to having this story told. Could you fictionalize her as a woman who abandons her baby on the steps of a convent? Or as a woman who abandons her mentally challenged brother in Surrey and returns to India to seek her missing husband? If you changed your aunt’s name, background, mannerisms, and appearance, she wouldn’t be likely to recognize herself. Despite such drastic changes, your story’s main ideas and emotions could still be the same. For example, your main character might:

Weigh different courses of action. Try to justify an action though it seems doubtful or wrong. Undertake the action and then second-guess it. Wonder later what happened to the abandoned person. Try to reunite and reconcile with the abandoned person. Write to understand human nature, to explore why people do what they do. How do their actions reveal their humanity—faulty, frail, sometimes despicable but also unique, interesting, and potentially redeemable? The prospect of discovering universal truths beckons us forward in writing. In fictionalizing, we may make stories even more real, closer to the heart of the human condition.


WHEN WE ALL LIVED A LITTLE BIT LIKE IN PARIS Vancouver’s Historic Literary Storefront

Trevor Carolan

F

ounded by Mona Fertig, a Vancouver poet, the Literary Storefront thrived in Vancouver from 1978 to 1985. A unique literary centre and cultural institution, it was situated in the historic Gastown area near the Pacific Coast city’s inner harbour waterfront. During its heyday, the Storefront had some 500 members—poets, playwrights, novelists, readers, editors, publishers, journalists, teachers and everything in between—and during its first two years alone drew more than 13,000 people to its diverse events, as well as for its lending library of 2,000 books—often signed—by mainly Canadian authors. People gravitated here for individual reasons—to meet, talk and learn about writing, publishing and the world of books and literature. Some came for comradeship and open-access solidarity; many came simply to see and hear or rub shoulders with an amazing range of established literary personalities. The Literary Storefront’s hundreds of public readings and workshops drew, among other notables, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Dorothy Livesay, Jane Rule, Al Purdy, Earle Birney, bill bissett, Audrey Thomas, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, P.K. Page, Stephen Spender, Edward Albee and Elizabeth Smart. It was a home-port reading base too for the West Coast’s own growing legion of writers: Roy Kiyooka, Susan Musgrave, Keith Maillard, Carolyn Zonailo, Maxine Gadd, Peter Trower and scores of others were familiar headliners. Yet the Literary

Storefront was never about simply readings, performances or any one thing. Canada had seen nothing quite like it previously, nor has it since. During the run of the Literary Storefront, Vancouver was still an old-school seaport town. The World Expo of l986 that would accelerate the demolition of heritage buildings and change the city’s architectural face irrevocably had yet to happen. Downtown, the Hastings Street tenderloin, if rugged, was not the combat zone the provincial and city authorities would allow to fester there. It still housed the city’s best newsagents and a variety of colourful pawnshops, Nearby, Chinatown was still thriving, and the back-alley Green Door and Red Door restaurants were old reliables. The Ho Ho at East Pender remained the city’s unofficial late hours eatery for musicians, and two short blocks away Vie’s Chicken and Steak House on Union Street still had legs until 1979, serving up what locals could relate to as soul food. It wasn’t perfect, but Vancouver was a town of possibility. Architect Arthur Erickson had earned international renown. Bill Reid was associated with the Pacific Northwest Coast’s native art renaissance. Jean Coulthard was a nationally important composer, and B.C. poet Phyllis Webb was an equally respected radio broadcaster. Painter Joe Plaskett, although long a resident of Paris, still called the old capital city of New Westminster, a drive up Kingsway, home, as did novelist Sheila Watson and longtime Perry Page 11 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


Mason television series star Raymond Burr. Actor Chief Dan George from the Tsleil-Waututh reserve in North Vancouver had already become a beloved elder to many Canadians, and Bruno Gerussi starred in what seemed like a never-ending hit playing a drift-log salvager in the weekly CBC-TV series The Beachcombers. That Jimi Hendrix’s grandmother Nora had worked as a chef at Vie’s Chicken and Steak place for years while living on East Georgia Street in Strathcona, and that her guitar wizard grandson had stayed with her many times and sharpened his chops at Monday night sessions in the clubs around the corner, only added to the sense that this was a place that had known famous times, sprung some big names, that things could happen here. Among writers, Malcolm Lowry had spent the better part of fifteen years nearby, struggling with the making of his celebrated novel Under the Volcano and a series of cloudy follow-ups. Poet Earle Birney had established the country’s first serious creative writing program out at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and Marya Fiamengo, an ardent nationalist, had established a feminist ethic in poetry from the early 1960s onward and was outstandingly supportive of other writers. Novelist Margaret Laurence and future Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro both lived and worked in the city during formative stages in their careers, while the luminous Ethel Wilson wrote for decades from her home overlooking English Bay. An active theatre community produced an impressive roster of actors and directors. The late 1960s through to the 1980s was a time of Pierre Trudeau-era nationalist arts funding to Canadian publishers, and British Columbia had a budding regional literary and publishing scene, which included Intermedia Press, Sono Nis (Victoria), New Star Books, Pulp Press, Talonbooks, Commcept Publishing, Orca Sound Publishing, Hancock House, Harbour Publishing, Oolichan Books, Riverrun Books, Vancouver Community Press, blewointment press, as well as an emerging group of women who were starting their own writing/literary businesses. Bookshops meanwhile, new and used, flourished. Duthie’s, MacLeod’s, Colophon, Richard Pender Books and the leftist outlet Spartacus were all in bloom. A handful of Irish pubs and run-of-the-mill watering holes opened early for the area’s large population of single-room occupants—old loggers, fishermen, boom-men, miners and sundry veterans who’d somehow slipped through the social net. Working-class, shake and shimmy, down at heel, creative and cheap, the Gastown-Downtown Eastside district was a natural magnet for the young and artistic with a dream, and for outsiders of every social hue. It was Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 12

the ideal location for a walk-in literary centre. It still is. Novelist David Watmough, who was the first elected Chair of the Federation of B.C. Writers, reflects: We’re talking about thirty or more years ago, but my overall impression of Vancouver during the period of the Literary Storefront is that, until then, how lonely and isolated we were as artists and writers here… There was a pervasive sense of remoteness, and the atmosphere between the West and the East was quite hostile. You had the counterculture and the Peace Movements, but everything from Toronto came a week late in the mail. And literature never got quite the thrust that the visual arts did… We had various little power circles here—UBC, the CBC, they were sources of money… Even within our own literary tribe there were lots of little tribes. For young writers like me, the Literary Storefront was an unofficial, post-graduate education centre. It was where a generation of Vancouver writers, surfing somewhere between the nationalist and the as-yet-unformed multicultural waves in CanLit, could learn how the writing and publishing game ticked. It was a chance to become part of a community—and by the late 1970s, there was a constituency in Vancouver that needed precisely this. At the same moment, in the Smiling Buddha or any other rundown club that would have them, a similar generation of young punk rockers was figuring out the music world, and a new wave of young painters and sculptors were reimagining their creative missions in the common, low-rent environments of Gastown, Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside. Against this background, in 1978 the Literary Storefront would emerge right out of the starting blocks as an incubator for the literary arts in a Pacific Coast town that had long been devoted more to hard work and real estate speculation than literature. One of the prime reasons for trying to birth a new literary centre in Vancouver and B.C. was that newer, committed writers needed ways to get plugged in. The general social and working conditions for writers at the time were, as veteran author Dona Sturmanis— then a recent graduate from UBC’s Creative Writing program—recalls from her home of many years in


Kelowna: Very activist… lots of poverty, poetry, politics, publishing and perseverance. It was the best of times, the worst of times… extremely creative, very literary-oriented. Conditions for women writers at the time were not great… a very male-dominated scene with the women trying to break through. On opening night, over 200 poets, writers, editors, publishers, booksellers and friends turned up to celebrate. Fertig invited Geoff Hancock, editor of Canadian Fiction Magazine, to officially open the Literary Storefront, then the party began. Labatt’s Blue donated twenty cases of beer in support of “an important Canadian literary event.” The Vancouver Sun covered the gala with a full-page article. In time, the Storefront would host literary and arts events of every calibre and endure financial wobbles of every sort, not uncommon for most non-profit arts organizations. That’s what made the place as likeable as it was. If, like most of those who congregated there, you didn’t have a lot of money in your pockets, then that was all right: for a time, this was Vancouver’s bohemian consular centre. If you wanted to know about the Zen of writing, to get your mojo working at a first openmic reading, to engage in searching deliberations with other fledgling writers or to read their work from the shelves of books along the wall—this was the place for you. It was the Gastown donkey engine in the West Coast’s arts scene, chugging along indomitably toward the Word, the Sound, the Beat. Ironically, that wasn’t far from the mission that its founder Mona Fertig, a working-class poet and young literary organizer

from Burnaby, had envisioned when she realized what she could do now that she’d grown up. It was a courageous idea and enormous accomplishment for a young woman whose life so far, while rich in art and creative inspiration, had flirted around and faced down the poverty line. Did I mention that this is where the idea of a Federation for British Columbia writers of all stripes, colours and degrees of experience got started, where it’s early organizational meetings were held? That’s a treasured part of the Literary Storefront’s history as well—but maybe it’s a chapter for another edition of WordWorks. It was reason too, for a book that documents the passion and literary fervour of those times at the old Storefront, the easy-going alma mater of so many B.C. and writers who found a place to belong there. Heaven only knows what so many of us in the West Coast’s writing community would have done without it.

Page 13 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


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ENDING PRESCRIPTIVISM IN POETRY READINGS philip gordon

W

hile I can’t remember the first poem ever read to me, I can almost guarantee it was done so in a breathy voice that is synonymous w/ the word ‘poetry’ in the heads of so many people, syllables delivered as though written rigidly on a sheet of graph paper (but by damn you’re going to notice that iambic pentameter). Since the practice of consciously enjoying poetry has become less popular, poetry is often reduced to a cliché of itself. I would like to propose we re-examine what the practice of reading poetry is really about, and why our default approach might be doing harm to our potential expression. These days, a typical poetry reading is only attended by people who care about the concept of poetry as they envision it. Everyone has a private definition of poetry, but it’s likely that it has something to do with words, language, and human expression. So, in an effort to share that expression and beauty and language with the world, poets occasionally gather in groups and share their poetry in an oratory format. This is how poetry was done before writing, so it’s also partly a celebration of tradition. There is a worrying set of other traits which poetry readings have also taken on, however:

1. 2. 3.

Typically less than fifty people in the audience. Every poem sounds like every other poem (I will explicate on this below).

No free food.

The last one’s really more of a personal gripe, It’s really that second point I’d like to tackle. First, to be clear, I am not saying that every poem read by every poet literally sounds the same. There are as many subjects, styles, and deliveries in poetry as there are atoms in the world (maybe more). It’s also obvious that I’m generalizing—the slam scene, for one, has enough energy to trounce two of my three points, and I’ve heard they occasionally hand out small snacks. In my experience with more traditional poetry readings, there’s always a sort of mystified awe towards slam poets. Unlike the, reading-from-the-page cadence that can hobble a poet on stage, slam poets use words in tandem with their voice, adding a whole other dimension of expression to

their creativity. I don’t want to write an article in praise of slam poetry either—because while what slam poetry does is interesting, blending elements of hip-hop rhyme and delivery to establish a capella rhythm, which amplifies the intensity of the poem’s message—it’s not what I’d like people to think about. When Shaleeta Harper and I launched text (textlitmag.com), I was on stage minutes before our launch party wondering whether I should read the physics homework Shaleeta had brought her notes on as a poem. Even though there was nothing concertedly poetic about the homework itself—is that to say there wasn’t anything of poetic value within it? I started to look at the texture of the words, to think of ways I might be able to articulate them to different ends, achieving sonic textures and aural cadence that would emerge half-hidden, half-naturally in the text. I think instead I read some Facebook statuses. The point of that anecdote, however, is that the problem of poetry reading is not either wholly in the content or the method—it’s a combination of both, a sort of simultaneous realization that not only do we need to stop acting like only the things designed to be poetry are poetry, but that poetry is no longer designed to be read a certain way. This isn’t a new realization either— Page 15 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


a sort of simultaneous realization that not only do we need to stop acting like only the things designed to be poetry are poetry, but that poetry is no longer designed to be read a certain way. bpNichol was yelling off-putting sound poems at top volume decades ago. But whereas that was more of a test of the boundaries of expression, what poetry reading seems to need today is a reassessment of its performance. When was the last time you questioned your reading voice? Picture yourself holding your chapbook or a sheet of paper you printed off, staring down a room full of people who love the world and its beauty and tragedy just as much as you do. Why is the stilted, willowy, unnatural, syllable-by-syllable voice the one that’s best to articulate what you have written? How did you feel when you wrote it? Did you write it with that voice in your head? How does a sentence lend itself to being delivered now? This is, in shortened form, a plea to reassess. To reconsider the cadence and inflection of every instructor you heard reading Robert Frost with every ABAB articulated fully. But also, think about the things in everyday life that are poetry. When I read a mistranslated comment left on someone’s blog by a Portugese spam bot, I laugh and enjoy the serendipity of life. But I wouldn’t read that comment like I was reading Robert Frost fifty years ago. I wouldn’t read it like I was e.e. cummings (I’m sorry ed, I love you, but your reading voice is terribly antiquated. Please don’t hate me <3); I would probably read it like I was a robot pretending very hard to be human; like someone in another country speaking a foreign language and not realizing they’re calling everyone on the train a goat-loving communist-sympathizer (nothing wrong with either of those, for the record). If I wrote a poem while I was Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 16

depressed, I might read it in a monotone with long pauses or none at all, because texture and variation are both undetectable during overpowering sadness, and I want to communicate that in my reading. I’d also like to say something about line breaks, caesuras, pauses, and how to read them. I’ve heard both sides of the debate - whether to pause at the end of a line or not—and both sides have poets swearing up and down that reading a poem with/ without the caesuras audible ruins it completely. I’ve found myself sympathizing with either side, but now I realize it’s time to be done with both of them. It’s time to be done with prescriptivism. Poetry is the expansion of ideas and communication, and it makes little sense to me if we’re going to tell people how they should read it. Read it the way it demands to be read, whether that’s with long pauses or not. You have a voice you’ve found that you think sounds alright and you use it to share your creativity with the world. And that’s great. But you need to think about your voice again—does it sound the same? Why or

when should it sound different? Have you ever yelled a poem at someone or something? It’s cathartic. And if someone yelled a poem at me and were smiling afterwards I would smile too. Do you feel like something is missing from your reading? Deliver it like you’re reading a grocery list, or like every line is a bomb that’s about to explode. The world doesn’t ask for much, but variation is a start, and we’ll talk about the ‘why your Grandma’s Tweets are poetry’ next time.


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THREE TIMES MY LIFE HAS OPENED Three times my life has opened. Once, into darkness and rain. Once, ... Jane Hirshfield See more in Lives of the Heart, Jane Hirshfield’s 1997 Poetry Collection The following poem models Hirshfield’s poem in syntax and theme. Like art students who carefully copy the Mona Lisa, the poet can also learn from her masters.

READING JANE HIRSHFIELD

Three times I have read your poem. Once, given to me by a teacher, and told to understand it. Once, typing it in my room, watching the long lines after the short, wondering about choices, commas in the right places, and sentences inverted, and the details. Once, writing by hand in a city café. These three are not different. You will wonder why I do such things or perhaps you don’t care. But in front of me is a long row of coffee flavours and I know I need to make a beautiful metaphor out of this, bottles in rows tasting of Umbria or Barcelona or Sicily Neither am I capable, this post-retreat weekend, in knowing anything. There are poems. They are written. They are stored in a lost closet. But a cape of dark covers the closet, the key long gone, or on a ring long forgotten, like the one I find in a suitcase I had stored in the garage I finally cleaned.

Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 18

Barbara Pelman


WORDSTORM

MORE THAN A READING SERIES David Fraser

I

n the fall of 2006, spoken-word story-teller Cindy Shantz and poet, David Fraser hatched a scheme to create a monthly open mic event in Nanaimo that brought out writers of all genres. Since then, local Vancouver Island writers, as well as writers from the rest of Canada and even the world, if they happened to be sauntering by, have shared their words at WordStorm. Over a few beers and glasses of wine at the Black Bear Pub in Nanaimo, BC, WordStorm began as an outline on a soggy napkin, but great things emerged. On January 25, 2007 the inaugural event played to a packed house of over fifty at the Bombay Lounge, downstairs in the Acme Food Company. Featured readers were Eliza Gardiner, David Fraser, Cindy Shantz, Pat Smekal, and Andrew Brown. We were not sure if we’d attract many people for our open mic competition, however it too was a sellout as local writers and two spoken-word poets, Paul Nelson and Dave Rizzi traveling all the way from Seattle, wowed us with their words. From those humble beginnings WordStorm became a destination stop for many writers who not only came to Vancouver and Victoria but also put Nanaimo on their agenda. After eight years WordStorm is still about promoting local talent. Over time the series has evolved into a month-

ly reading event that features the drop-in open mic for local and visiting writers, a set for invited local singers/songwriters and, of course, sets for our featured readers/performers who travel here from anywhere. The WordStorm Reading Series is one way that The WordStorm Society of the Arts, a non-profit society, is contributing to Vancouver Island’s literary community. Each year in conjunction with the Hazelwood Herb Farm, the society organizes the half-day Hazelwood Writers’ Festival with music, featured readers and a host of local performers. This year Hazelwood Writers’ Festival celebrated its sixth year in the midst of apple trees and the herb gardens with featured readers M.C. Warrior, an activist poet with roots in the poetry of work, and Terry Ann Carter, nationally-known haiku poet from Ottawa who now calls Victoria her home. Annually the society also organizes three to four all-day workshops often, but not necessarily, with facilitators who are coming to the WordStorm evening as featured readers. As an example, Lorna Crozier, Paul Nelson, Kate Braid, Eve Joseph, Sheri-D Wilson and Chris Levenson, former editor of Arc Magazine, have given workshops on poetry and spoken-word. Ivan Coyote, Susan Juby, John Gould, Lois Petersen and Derek Hanebury have given workshops on fiction, non-fiction, and story-telling.

Poet Laureate for Victoria, Yvonne Blomer, will be giving an all-day workshop on memoir writing on October 7, 2015 at Nanoose Place. Jane Munro will facilitate a workshop on poetry this winter and future workshops are in the planning stages with Terry Ann Carter for book-making and writing Japanese poetic forms. Email ascentaspirations@shaw.ca for information. Recently the WordStorm Society of the Arts headed up the planning committee for the very successful, four-day Cascadia Poetry Festival 3 in Nanaimo in partnership with Vancouver Island University, the Nanaimo Tourism Development Fund and the City of Nanaimo Arts and Culture Department. [www.cascadiapoetryfestival.org] Over the eight years WordStorm has been operating, the reading series has been hosted in a number of locations such as The Acme Food Company, The Mermaid’s Mug, The Red Martini Grill, The Rendezvous, and The Vault Café. Now we are moving once again so that we can accommodate our growing audience. Starting on September 29th WordStorm will be at The First Unitarian Fellowship Hall at 595 Townsite Road, Nanaimo, starting at 6:30 p.m.with background music and the Open Mic at 7:00 p.m. Future dates and featured reader information can be found at www. wordstorm.ca

Page 19 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


PLANET EARTH POETRY’S ANNUAL RETREAT

P

lanet Earth Poetry offers a non-residential retreat in Victoria on the first weekend in June each year. The retreat is held at a comfortable, inviting home in the Gorge area. All poets are welcome! In June, 2015, the theme for the weekend was “Deepening Your Poetic Practice.” Jane Munro, winner of the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize, was poet-mentor. Supported by Jane, participants explored poetic techniques, wrote a sequence of poems, and took part in readings and discussions. Each participant had an opportunity to meet with Jane privately. Everyone found the weekend transformative, uncovering fresh ways to plumb the imagination and enrich the process of poem-making. Participant Dorothy Field said, “The retreat with Jane was even better

Susan Braley than I imagined . . . . It all ran so smoothly and with such grace.” Watch Planet Earth Poetry’s web site (planetearthpoetry.com) for more information about the 2016 retreat. If you are new to Planet Earth Poetry, it is a lively reading series in Victoria, a launching pad for the energies of writers and poets established and not. It is a place where words are most important. A venue in which all manner of poets and writers are welcome; a place for excellence, innovation, collaboration, diverse projects and experiments. The evening begins at 7:30 Friday evenings with an open mic,

followed by one or more featured readers. Planet Earth Poetry is located at Hillside Coffee and Tea, 1633 Hillside Ave (across from Bolen Books). Sign-up for the open mic begins at 7 pm.

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BOOK TOUR SURVIVAL GUIDE Yvonne Blomer

F

rom April 24, 2014 to May 21, 2015 I travelled in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario touring my third collection of poetry As if a Raven (Palimpsest Press, 2014). Here are my tips for touring a new collection and a few insights I’ve learned over the past year both as a poet and as the Artistic Director of Planet Earth Poetry, a weekly reading series in Victoria, BC.

Ask your publisher for your publication date Usually shortly after accepting a book publishers have a good sense when it will come out. Often the release date is a year or two, sometimes three, after acceptance. If a writer has a publication date of Fall 2016, then now, about a year before, is when the publicity department (if there is one) and the writer should get the word out and begin booking reading series and sending details to festivals. Send an email to the organizer of the event; include your bio and book cover as well as a blurb on your book. Keep it short and direct. Remind in the email that you will follow up in a few months. Better yet, see if your publisher can follow up for you. Timing is important. Let me give a quick overview of how reading series work, based on my own experience: Planet Earth

Poetry is a weekly reading series, so we have a lot of weeks to fill while at the same time having a lot of writers interested in visiting Victoria to read. We begin the planning process for the coming year in February because of the Canada Council grant deadline of March 1. Once we hear from the Canada Council we also apply to The League of Canadian Poets and The Writers’ Union of Canada for funds. So, if it is September and you know your next book is coming out in April of 2016 you may be too late to book in with reading series for a tour close to your book’s launch date

by the readings and the meeting of writers and listening, reading people. Some nights you know the audience is with you, some nights you would rather be in a warm bed with hot rum reading a book that you haven’t written.

Set up tours in specific provinces or areas For As if a Raven, my main tour outside BC was eight days in Ontario. I began in Ottawa, then did a radio interview and

Figure out where you want to go Once you have a publication date, decide where you would like to go. Think about these questions: What cities do you have friends, family or acquaintances in? Do those cities have reading series, festivals or small book stores? Who do you know in those cities who also has a new book out, so you could co-read? Do you know any university or school teachers who would like a visiting author to come to their class? Writing is a lonely business. Touring on your own can be even lonelier, especially if you are introverted. Some nights over the past year, I felt tired and shy, others revved Page 21 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


reading in Kingston, read in Hamilton, had two readings in Toronto, and two in London. On a tour you may have several venues attain League of Canadian Poets funding (if you’re a poet, perhaps The Writers’ Union of Canada, if you write prose), or get some Canada Council-funded readings. That way your accommodation and flight could be covered. If your publisher gets travel funding too, you’ll be in good shape. For the Ontario tour there were months of back and forth emails between me and my publisher, my publisher and different venues in Ontario, and those venues and me. There were emails between friends in Kingston, Ottawa, Toronto and London. jiggling dates to make it all work out so I was away for the shortest amount of time with the highest number of readings at a manageable cost.

Ask your publisher to apply for ‘Travel Grants for Authors’ through the Canada Council Funds are available from the Canada Council that publishers can apply for, allowing for about $1500 in travel for a single author. Not many publishers take advantage of this grant, but it is so worth it. It can fully cover a single extended tour to a different province. Though I had reading fees from the LCP and the Canada Council, my publisher was able to cover travel costs for flights, taxis and hotels. I sent my publisher an invoice for the remaining balance after the venues had paid me. I sold books (which I bought at a discounted rate) and I also traded books. I sometimes stayed with friends, or in Airbnb or hotels, depending. I made money on As if a Raven, which was selling out by November of last year.

Perform Find out how long you will have for a reading, select the poems/stories/excerpt you want to read, practice and performance those pieces. Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 22

Your audience is there not only to hear new work, but also to be entertained. With As if a Raven I decided to memorize a couple of poems so I could start the readings with a dramatic recitation, this always captures the audience. Even if you forget half way through (which is embarrassing) you gain the audiences sympathy. Part of the trick is to not take yourself too seriously. Other ways to add performance to a reading is to co-read, offering the audience two voices. When I toured with Victoria poet Cynthia Woodman Kerkham with my second book, in Saskatchewan, we worked on a few of each other’s poems adding lyric echoes. This way, when Cynthia read, I could echo a line or part of a line after her. This added a bit of flare and fun to the poems, and allowed the audience to hear really strong and important lines a second time. In the Yukon I read with Jamella Hagen and we interwove our reading, so chose poems that bounced off the last poem our co-reader read.

Space out tour dates Just to be honest, most writers don’t just write. Many also have day jobs, teach, have families and by the time a book comes out are working on the next book. This past year I felt like I was off reading somewhere every week. I did the longer Ontario tour and I did three days with two readings in Saskatchewan. I travelled up and down Vancouver Island and back and forth to Vancouver as well as up to Whistler. Down to Seattle I went and up to the Yukon. I loved every event, but I did eventually burn out. If I were to throw myself behind a book again, I’d do two or three really focused tours in different parts of the country and temper the more local events. I’d try not to book return-trips to far-flung provinces but focus all the dates in one go.

Take one hat off; don’t try to wear two hats at once I sat sipping red wine on a leather sofa in a small room at the Fairmont Whistler hotel chatting with fellow poetry panelists

Sue Goyette and Katherena Vermette. Sue Goyette leaned toward me and said, “Sometimes it is okay to not be writing. To do other things for a while.” I’d probably been talking about new projects I was starting, the memoir I was hoping to finish. The classes I’d get back to on the Monday. I think her advice is invaluable. Writing and editing new work is just one of the hats writers wear. Another hat is sending work out to magazines and publishers. A third hat is touring a new book. To try to attempt touring while working on new writing, well, I mean, it is doable but it may lend itself to exhaustion, and possibly less well-rendered new work. Thanks Sue Goyette for that one.

Be kind to yourself Truth be told, touring is hard. You remember the work of door to door salesmen. You may have watched a few episodes of Seinfeld where he goes to the comedy shows night after night. Maybe you teach as well, so you know exactly what it is to be an entertainer/stand-up comedian/on the ball/ on your toes/ ready to adjust in the moment/ ready for the crazy in the back/ the over eager “fan” (or “teacher’s pet”) in the front, all at once. Touring is one of many ways to get your work out to audiences. Books do not just sell, they need their writers and publishers to get behind them. I have an amazing publisher in Palimpsest. She has been a huge support. I think most of all this job is not about commerce but communication. Create an atmosphere of engagement around your work, open yourself up to discussions, practice what you will read and read well. For me, I want people to read the book because the poems are an act of communication. If someone comes to a reading and speaks to me afterward but does not buy a book, that engagement has still occurred. For more on the writing life, I suggest checking out Catherine Owen’s most recent book, The Other 24 1/2 Hours (Wolsak and Wynn, 2015).


THE NUNNERY DEMYSTIFIED Coco Aders-Weremczuk

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osemary Heights Retreat Centre was easy to find. I had checked out the website and Google Earth showed the entrance so when I arrived in the dark I had no surprises. I pulled into the round-about and found myself stuck behind a vehicle parked in the middle of the lane. There were lovely little signs everywhere. Thou shalt not speed. Thou shalt not make excessive noise. And my favourite, Thou shalt not pass on the inside. As soon as the German shepherd inside started to bark the owner came out and moved the car.

thought in the dark was that there were wall ashtrays in each of the rooms! Wow, they were a progressive cloister. Then I realized that it was a holy water font provided for the nuns to bless themselves. As soon as the thought entered my head I realized what I had done. Feeling embarrassed, with only God and me in the dark room I made the sign of the cross out of respect. When I managed to find a light switch half way around the room I was properly oriented. For those who have never been to this retreat it is customary to make up one’s own

cell”. It’s true that the rooms are small, but no smaller than my university dorm room, with walls of brown or white brick. There was a pine desk for my computer and binders, books and paraphernalia, a bed-side table and a full bathroom. Ben across the hall told me he additionally had a dresser. More nunnery-mates arrived so I showed them where they could sleep, helped register them in their rooms of choice and shared the house rules, pass codes and security procedures. The one room that had two beds boasted a bank of closets with lovely wooden hangers. I didn’t remember

I had to laugh. Within the first hour of setting foot inside a converted cloister I had lost my “soul” and come out of the closet! Once inside the centre we were introduced to the building, operations, rules and regulations and then were led to the wing our group would occupy for the weekend. The lights in the rooms were out. Like every overnight participant, instead of flipping on the light switch I put my fingers into a small wall basin. I’m not Catholic so my first

bed, a cost cutting measure; you are encouraged to meditate while doing so, noting at the same time that this establishment is free of any kind of infestation! I’m a social butterfly and wanted to get to know my new nunnery mates, so I left the bed-making to last thing in the evening. The word nunnery brings to mind “nun’s

seeing a closet in my room, but considering the only thing I had to hang was my coat, I didn’t really consider it an issue. As I walked to our private lounge for the evening meet-n-greet, the sole peeled off my right slipper. These slippers had traveled around the world. My grandmother first put them in her suitcase when she got Page 23 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


married in 1928 and there she kept them, only wearing them on her travels to exotic places. My mother took them many times to Europe and now it was my turn to show the slippers my own experiences. So picking up the sole I headed the few paces back to my room where I tossed it behind the door. Aha! I found the closet hiding behind the door I still had not closed. I hung up my coat, stepped out of the closet and headed back to the kitchen where we were all gathering to get to know each other. I had to laugh. Within the first hour of setting foot inside a converted cloister I had lost my “soul” and come out of the closet! This was going to be an interesting and educational weekend. While returning from breakfast the first morning the other sole peeled off my slipper. My father had originally glued them on to protect the slippers many decades and countries ago. Perhaps he and my maternal grandmother were trying to let me know they were with me, my father having been educated by the nuns in Holland and my grandmother by the nursing Sisters at the Providence Hospital in Seattle, Washington. There are many interesting areas of the retreat to explore and I even found a basket of marbles in the main vestibule. The one I was drawn to, and borrowed, was graphite in colour but when held up to the light proved to actually be green. Green like the healing of nature, or the weeping willow outside my window, and grey like graphite to write with, shiny Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 24

like a mirror reflection. I have placed it under one of our bonsais at home - a reminder of this weekend, a reflecting ball in miniature. Hopefully my replacement marble will inspire someone else. Sleep came easily the first night and the next morning arrived all too soon. After we finished a delicious breakfast we proceeded to our first workshop. Lois walked us through character development, exposing us to the reasons characters have particular personality traits and how those traits are manifested. We then learned how we can apply that information to make our characters jump off the page and into the reader’s world. Our second workshop was physical. Ben coached us in proper breathing techniques and exercises so that when we read our stories and poems our voices would be strong yet full of just the right amount of emotion. There is no excuse not to project our voices and enunciate clearly, no point in reading a great story if the audience is unable to understand it. Implementing our newly learned techniques we then read story excerpts and poems to the group. After a scrumptious lunch George went through the stages and requirements for writing a script or play and Lois taught the development of the voice in our writing. The meals at Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre were fantastic and dinner never failed to please. After our evening repast four of us got together to write. Someone would name an item or make up a sentence and we would have to write for a set period of time. Of course we shared everything we wrote and our sides were aching from laughter when we headed to bed. Saturday morning Lois taught us about point of view and how by changing the teller of the story, and thus the perspective, a stronger more interesting piece could evolve. Ben led us through the process of writing a query letter and an opening sentence, the most important introduction to your writing. After lunch George discussed the history of computer programming and the benefits of digital publishing. In our final workshop Lois demonstrated how to write so the reader could actually see what we intended to convey, and how to delete needless words. This was the first retreat I ever attended and I now understand why they tend to book up early. By the way, if I had wanted I could have spent the entire time in my room working on my book - time well spent for some -but I was there to learn and that I certainly did! I look forward the FBCW’s next Writer’s Retreat.


EVELYN’S REVELATION An excerpt from Turnstiles, a Novel By Andrea McKenzie Raine

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he room was filled with light when Evelyn awoke. She thought she had just rested her eyes for a few minutes, and remembered the weight of her eyelids forcing her back into dreams that seemed to entangle her. She awoke with a start to find no other presence in the room, no shadow leaking from the adjoining bathroom door, left ajar, no sound of his shoes or running water. The blinds flapped nervously as the summer air drifted into the room, like a lone bird’s wing that couldn’t take flight. She felt a mild panic. “Marty?” she whispered in a barely audible voice. She was afraid to crack this silence, and to only have the silence returned. She gathered the sheets around her, slowly moved from the bed, and peered cautiously out of the blinds to see what the day’s clouds might bring. She already knew it was a turning day. She vaguely hoped to see him standing on the sidewalk, waiting for her; to see him look up and acknowledge her face peering down, and wave frantically at her to join him, but she only saw an old woman pushing an overloaded shopping cart down the street. The shopping cart seemed to be filled with all of her worldly possessions. Evelyn saw herself in this woman. Only, she wasn’t sure what items would fill her own shopping cart. These solitary people who wandered the earth seemed to carry with them the material remnants of a previous life; tangible memories of who they used to be. Evelyn carried her memories, too, but she couldn’t put them in a shopping cart, except perhaps a few torn dresses. She would have to put herself in a shopping cart. And then there was the little girl she tried so desperately to escape from—there would have to be room for her. The old woman suddenly stopped her cart and peered upwards at the hotel windows. She put her hand over her forehead as a visor to block out the sun. Evelyn wanted to move back from the window, but something made her continue looking down at the woman. She wondered if the woman saw her from this height. Could she have detected her own

misery through the cheap window glass and distance that separated them? Perhaps this was her daily routine, to wander the streets with her life in a basket and peer up at the apartments and hotels, dreaming about entering such a building and having her own four walls, a bed and a mirror, even though she may never look at her own reflection, and having a set of blinds to block out the rest of the world. Evelyn’s finger slipped and she let the blind snap shut. Soon after, Evelyn was standing on the same sidewalk, clutching a small bag she had hastily thrown together, after ten uninterrupted minutes of staring at her own image in the mirror, wondering why she had been abandoned and if it were really a bad thing. She had stood naked in the mirror, covering her breasts with her arms, hugging herself for comfort and self-realization. She wanted to smash the mirror, but she restrained herself because she did not want to break anything else. Maybe she had anticipated this. To wake up with only herself… she had not done so in years. She quietly gathered her clothes, and the small bundle of money Marty had left for her on the corner of the bed, and deftly left the room. The day was cool, and the air was foreign on her skin; a small, teasing breeze that made her small, protective hairs stand up. She held her elbows, standing on the sidewalk. The man at the front desk had given her a kind, fatherly look when she checked out. “You don’t need him, mademoiselle,” he said. Then nodded reassuringly, by way of saying that was all that needed to be said. She didn’t answer. She didn’t believe him, yet. She lifted one corner of her mouth, and went out. She didn’t call a taxi; instead, she began walking in the sunshine, with her heels dipping in the shallow cracks in the cement. She felt as though she was learning to walk; her legs were thin and unsteady, as she held her chest in. She was afraid everything might fall out, loose, onto the pavement; a cartoon vision of her ribs breaking and her vital organs, even her eyes, falling out, and her kneeling on the ground, mortified, and people walking by and Page 25 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


watching. The thought made her hold her elbows and close her eyes tighter, to keep everything in. She had asked the man in the hotel where she was. A small French village outside Paris called Carrièressur-Seine. She blinked. They had travelled nearly all the way back to their starting point. She thought she could hide here for a while, but she didn’t know how she could manage. Marty had left her money, but it felt greasy in her hand. She had not begun to forgive him, and the money was linked to a part of him she didn’t know or trust. She didn’t care about the money; she never had money before. She had also never been entirely alone before. She was trapped again. Screw him, she thought, not sure of which him she meant. Every man that thought they had her, or decided for her who she was or what was best. They didn’t have her, now. As she walked through the quaint, sunny village, trying to calm her thoughts and decide what to do, she noticed the old woman with the shopping cart coming towards her. She must have looped around again. This was her village, her home. Everyone needed a landmark, a center. As the woman came closer, Evelyn noticed she was not old. She looked haggard, but no older than her mid-forties. Her hair boasted long grey streaks, partly tied back off her tired, weathered face. Her eyes were large and had seen too much. She didn’t see Evelyn, and was about to jostle past her with her life in her cart, until Evelyn spoke, “Excuse moi.” The woman stopped as though a stone wall had suddenly been thrown up in front of her cart wheels, and slowly looked up at the jittery, younger woman standing in the street. Evelyn reached into her bag and took out the money. She pulled a few large francs out of the wad in her hand,

and gave the rest to the woman. “Find shelter,” she said. She knew the woman could find a new life, if she wished for it. It would take more than money, but it could be done. The woman grabbed the money in both hands, clearly not sure what to do next. She nodded at Evelyn, her face pale, her eyes moist and her lips twitching. “Pour quoi?” she finally said, in a voice that seemed to have not been used for years. Evelyn shrugged and smiled, “please find shelter,” she repeated, and began to walk away from the older woman with her heart pumping, feeling less helpless. The village was another respite; prettier, and not so remote. She hadn’t kept much of Marty’s money, but she had enough to make a decision. She headed toward the train station. She was going back to Paris. She wasn’t going to be afraid anymore. Andrea McKenzie Raine’s debut novel Turnstiles is published by Inkwater Press. Turnstiles is available on the author website [andreamckenzieraine.com] the publisher’s website [inkwater.com] and Amazon, as well as at Munro Books and Ivy’s Bookshop in Victoria. The prequel novel, A Crowded Heart, is scheduled for publication in November 2015.

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COLLECTIVE STRENGTH Quadra Books not just a scribble of writers

Lenore Rowntree

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arn, I hate losing. My novel Cluck had been shortlisted for the Great BC Novel Contest sponsored by Mother Tongue Publishing in 2013 and there it had stalled. Soon after I learned I was not a winner, Katrin Horowitz, a fellow contest hopeful, contacted me. Her novel The Best Soldier’s Wife had also been shortlisted. I was happy to commiserate with her because I knew she had also experienced the nervous butterflies of expectant anticipation, followed by the tug of defeat when news of a loss came. I thought our call would be short, confined to us consoling one another, so I was surprised

when she told me she was also the lead editor of a Victoria-based collective called Quadra Books. Katrin said she had plans to publish her novel through the collective, and asked if I would consider doing the same. Whether it was the crush of defeat talking or just my own bad judgment, I declined her offer. But Katrin’s call had piqued my interest enough for me to start checking some related websites. The Quadra Books site (quadrabooks.com) describes the press as a new kind of publisher, but one with roots that reach back to earlier successful cooperatives such as Leonard and Virginia Woolf ’s Hogarth Press, and Coach House

Books, the Canadian publisher founded in 1965 by artist and typesetter Stan Bevington. I’ve long admired Coach House Books, initially for its foresight in publishing early works by prominent writers like Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. Then later for its ability to innovate and survive the crazy shifts and swings that the publishing industry has taken over the years. But it wasn’t what I saw on the Quadra website that compelled me to get back in touch with Katrin. It was something I saw on her own site that made me decide to inquire whether Quadra might be interested in publishing a collection of short stories I’d been working on. I’d been casting about for a positive way to spin my contest loss in the query letters for my novel that I was preparing to send out to a number of publishers. In my head short list was synonymous with loser. Apologies to all of you who have ever been shortlisted, you should be proud—being shortlisted is a good thing—this is just something weird that goes on in my own head. Anyway, I couldn’t think of a decent way to make it sound like my novel had anything going for it, that it was worth a publisher’s time to take a look at it. But the answer was right there on Katrin’s website. She described her novel as a finalist for the Great BC Novel Contest. Simple. Effective. Why hadn’t I thought of that? When I thought of my novel as a finalist, I imagined myself as a winner. I liked the positive energy that went with the description, and started to think the people at Quadra Page 27 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


Books might know a thing or two about marketing. Quadra Books started with the goal of building a community of good writers who are willing to promote their own, as well as each other’s writing. The press so far has published six authors. Katrin’s two novels, her 2007 Power Failures, and her near-award-winning novel The Best Soldier’s Wife, are both available through Quadra Books. Gillian Bridge, another Victoria writer, has a collection of short stories called Times and Places that has been with the press since 2014. a.k. cramer, a Gulf Islander who writes under a pseudonym, published her novel Convenient Lies. Joy Huebert of Victoria edited and contributed six short stories to the anthology Pathways Not Posted. Victoria resident, Gisela Ruebsaat, has her poetry included in the Pathways Not Posted anthology. And the most recent publication will be my own, the short story collection Dovetail Joint and other stories to be launched in October 2015. As it happens all the authors so far are women, but this is just a coincidence: men need not be shy and are definitely encouraged to submit. In fact, the publisher of Quadra Books is a man named Andy Croll. When I asked Andy why he decided to start the press, he said, “The motivating force was mystery novels, but I might just have to write one myself.” Quadra is still waiting for a great mystery novel to be submitted, so all mystery writers take note before Andy gets down to producing his own. When I told friends I was going to publish my short stories with a collective, a few skeptics questioned why I didn’t just do it myself and keep all of the profits. Most of the doubters were not writers themselves, and I have to admit I smiled on the inside at the thought there’d be sufficient profits at stake for me to be so motivated. Although collective members do share in a part of the cost of printing and advertising, bottom line, there’s not a doubt in my mind that the Dovetail Joint collection would never have seen the light of day had I not gone with Quadra Books. When I first suggested to Katrin that I might have a collection for her to consider, the truth is I only had a handful of half-written stories. After I polished up the first of them for consideration, the response that

Quadra Books was interested to see more was the impetus I needed to get the collection finished. I worked away at it for most of last summer and fall. In the depth of the process, during that moment of dismay most writers experience when the fingers of doubt grab hold and make one wonder whether the stories—which all seemed so glorious in their half-written state—deserved to see the light, I kept going. I was able to do it because I knew I had an interested and supportive publisher. To find a publisher who is friendly and encouraging, and who makes great editing suggestions along the way, is enough to keep anyone going. It’s what drove me to writes the stories that are now worthy of publication. Anyone who has dealt with a distant and aloof publisher will appreciate the benefit of actually having somebody get back in touch with you with the information you need, someone who will even buy you lunch or meet for coffee while cheering you on. I also can’t underestimate the importance of having others around me who had gone before into the wilds of the publishing world. Despite my love of writing, I know I wouldn’t be good at researching what I’d need to know to successfully self-publish. Plus, I am a terrible marketer. I try, but somehow everything I write in that vein turns to a lumpy pudding of self-deprecation and annoying hype. I’m certain I would never have pulled it together to get the collection out there if I’d gone on my own. I admire those who can self-publish, but for me the strength of the collective was a great support. I truly look forward to the launch of my collection and I’m happy to share the moment with as many of the fellow collective members who can attend and read from their own publications. Details of both the Victoria and the Vancouver launch for Dovetail Joint and other stories will be on the Quadra website soon. Anyone interested to meet others in a collective, or who just wants to hear some good stories, should plan to attend. There’s something for everybody at a Quadra Books launch.

I admire those who can self-publish, but for me the strength of the collective was a great support.

Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 28


SANDY SHREVE’S “Found Poems” As Reviewed in BC Bookworld by Beverly Cramp Her new book, Waiting for the Albatross, reconfigures word fragments from her dad, Jack Shreve’s 1936 diary, which he kept while toiling as a 21-year-old deckhand.

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andy Shreve had the fortune to be given the old diary shortly after her father died. It covers the time when Jack Shreve was an unmarried, 21 year-old on his first foray into the larger world outside his Maritimes home. The back drop was the Great Depression and the eve of World War II. Amost 80 years later, Sandy Shreve has spun the diary’s ‘found words’ into a book of poems, Waiting for the Albatross (Oolichan Books $19.95). She re-arranges, twists, and repeats her father’s words to highlight their rhythm and descriptive beauty but always with a view to honouring his stories. In the book’s Foreword, Sandy Shreve writes: “Although I’ve fiddled and tinkered with Dad’s diary, the poems I’ve written remain true to the experiences he described and retain his voice.” She makes it clear that what she has composed is different from what her father jotted down. “While Dad wrote a diary, what I have created is more of a collage, using bits and pieces plucked from various days, weeks and months without regard to linear time… The book starts and ends where you’d expect, but in between, it skips around a bit.” On the book’s jacket cover, author Rob Taylor says: “It’s a book of poetry and also a history. It’s formal and plain-spoken, contemplative and bloody-knuckled. It’s then and it’s now. It’s a father and daughter talking across great distances.” Jack Shreve’s diary contains a wealth of sea-going jargon, historical references, and the thoughts of a young man making his way in the world. Leaving from Halifax, Jack Shreve spent five months sailing

down the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and across the wide Pacific to New Zealand and Australia before returning home. It wasn’t easy going. The opening poem, “Cold”, describes Jack Shreve’s first night onboard ‘Bon Scot’, the nickname the crew gave to the freighter, Canadian Scottish: “Cold as Blue Hades – thought I’d be a frozen corpse before morning. Two blankets aren’t nearly enough; not three pairs of mittens, either, for Blue Hades. Even with my heavy shirt, pull-over sweater, leather jacket and my Mackinaw on – I still damn near perished in Blue Hades this morning. Thought I’d be a corpse.” It was a wake-up call to young Jack Shreve if his head was full of schoolboy notions of pure adventure on the high seas. He describes getting his face and neck covered in black dust from shovelling coal all morning – “About ten tons all told. Looked like a coal miner”. And, after working all day on his hands and knees painting with cement wash and something called “red lead”, a highly toxic rust inhibitor that contained lead tetroxide, he admits: “This life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be”. He does his turn at being ‘Peggy’, the crew’s euphemism for work shifts that involved washing dishes and taking coffee to the men. The eponymous poem tells us that Jack was up before 7 a.m. – “Brought down 7 bells breakfast” – and didn’t stop working until more than 12 hours later – “Brought the 8 bells Page 29 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Fall 2015


dinner down”. In between Jack sees enough wasted food, “to make you sick”, and with a bruising tumble down a ship’s ladder while carrying refreshments to the other men, “the coffee spilled all over my right hand. I came aft with a ‘blue haze’ all around me”. There are many joyful remembrances, such as writing letters home in the poem “Letters”, in which Jack tells of getting treats – apples, oranges, pears and scrambled eggs – for writing missives to the 2nd cook’s girlfriend. Then, in “An Orchestra in the Focsle” Jack helps form a band: “Had a regular sing-song tonight – Jeff by the focsle door, strumming; the rest of the sailors and some of the firemen scattered about the poop – ‘the ship’s orchestra’ is going full blast now – harmonica, guitar, mandolin and a tin pan trappist. They’re not bad! Not bad at all!” More than one of the poems features a white cat named Christine. In “Luck: 1”, the cat is chasing cockroaches – “good luck!” writes Jack. But most of the poem’s luck is tough, such as the accident when ‘Robbie’ smashes three teeth on of the funnel stays: “Went ashore to have the dentist yank them. Tough luck”. Or when ‘Len’ lost a little finger in the machinery: “What it didn’t cut off it crushed. Mate cut off the rest and sewed it up. Tough luck”. The poem ends with a near death: “Cameron was tight last night and fell overboard! Jackass. Lucky he didn’t drown.” The book finishes with “Homesick”, describing the last days before Jack Shreve returns home: “Homesick to-day. Rideout says we may reach home ahead of schedule. I hope he’s right. I may get some fishing in yet! Forests and streams are going to look good to me when I get home.” In the Afterword, Sandy Shreve tells readers some of her dad’s life story back in Canada and how he loved hunting and fishing with his friends, a passion he held for the rest of his life. He had a dream one night, in which he came up with what he was sure would make a perfect motto for his Fish & Game Association. “Worried that he might forget it, he got up and jotted it down,” writes Sandy Shreve. “The next morning, as soon as he woke, he eagerly reached for the scrap of paper, only to find he’d written: ‘A duck once shot will never fly again’.” Jack Shreve died in February 1965 at the age of 50 of a pulmonary embolism during treatment for lung cancer.

Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 30

This review is re-printed with permissions from:

BC BookLook and BC BookWorld Please see their website at

bcbooklook.com

for more interesting reviews of BC books. The FBCW is proud to partner with BC Bookworld Quarterly copies of BC Bookworld are a free benefit for Federation Members!


LETTERS TO THE FEDERATION OF BC WRITERS WordWorks would like to offer an open column to all of its readers

Send us a reply to our “Question of the Season” or simply send us what’s on your mind. If applicable, someone from the Federation will try to answer any questions. FBCW reserves the right to not publish submissions.

Cede Poetry asked us: As a self-funded publication, we have a $3 per poem submission fee. This generated a rather vitriolic weigh in on the The League of Canadian Poets listserv. We think the time is ripe to have a transparent discussion about the myriad of new platforms, diminishing literary publications in general and what the heck we’re supposed to do to find new homes for our work as the traditional print markets shrink?

What are your thoughts, readers? Please e-mail us at communications@bcwriters.ca with the headline “Letter to the Federation” or send the Editor a letter to 2014 Bowen Rd, Nanaimo, BC, V9S 1H4

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Fall 2015 ◆ WordWorks ◆ Page 32


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Wordworks Fall 2015  

WordWorks Fall 2015 issue was devoted to the ideas of retreats and readings, with many thoughtful and engaging articles, and a whole new des...

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