Monday, October 30, 2006
I haven't been impressed with much of the short fiction I've read in the past few years by Ottawa writers because it seems to follow either two styles: nostalgic memories of wartime or angst ridden fiction about hip chicks and their tatoos...with a few exceptions: Ian Roy who seems to come and go from Ottawa has had quite a bit of publishing success, both as poet and fiction writer. His collection of short stories, People Leaving, is good. Recently I also enjoyed reading Alan Cumyn's short story in the Ottawa Magazine, but aside from the well published short fiction writers in Ottawa (Nicole McGill, former Ottawan Melanie Little, Matthew Firth), I know there are others who are still undiscovered. At the Tree Reading Series I've had the pleasure of hearing talented writer and Ottawa Citizen columnist Kate Heartfield many times and she's had a few pieces published.
We need a good publication for these emerging Ottawa short fiction writers, whether it be in print or on line. I'm happy to discover the great writing of Tina Trineer, but I'm also frustrated.
Short fiction is not, to my knowlege, highlighted that much in Ottawa and that's a mistake. I suspect we have some great writers around, but how do readers who love a good yarn discover them? Most reading series focus on poetry and it's awful to sit thru a long prose reading anyway. Most prose readers don't know how to choose a piece of fiction able to sustain the attention of readers.
So what's the point of this ramble? I guess to say, I am relieved that there are a few interesting and excellent writers of short fiction around in a genre that I'd pretty much written off in Ottawa, given the evidence, and that we need some kind of a publication to discover them. If it exists and I don't know about it, please let me know!
Friday, October 27, 2006
There’s something satisfying about seeing people you know accomplish their dreams. You’ve heard them talk about it, you understand where their vision comes from, and then you see a table full of books, fresh off the printing press, still smelling of ink and glue, and it’s almost as if you are part of it all.
I couldn’t be happier to see Chaudière Books emersion from dream to reality last night, nor prouder of its creators, rob mclennan and Jennifer Mulligan, both of whom have been long term drivers of literature in Ottawa and beyond. (Note I’m resisting making a pun about log drivers).
Last night three of CB’s published authors read: Monty Reid from Disappointment Island, Meghan Jackson from Movements in Jars and Clare Latremouille from The Desmond Road Book of The Dead.
It is always wonderful to hear Monty read again. He has a low and melodic (damn…ok… I admit…sexy) voice. He read several poems from Disappointment Island, which is actually the name he gave to Pender Island in BC. Some members of the audience thought he was talking about Ottawa (the island is silent). I particularly enjoyed hearing poems from the sequence cuba A book, which has been modified somewhat from the chapbook of the same name published by above/ground press in 2005. These poems are short vignettes of a sad excursion to a sad world. Of the poems Monty read from the section entitled Disappointment Island, particularly memorable for me were the poems Terminal and Wrist. These are very full, lyrical poems compared to Monty’s last publications: Sweetheart of Mine, Bookthug, 2006; and cuba A book, above/ground press, 2005). Both styles work: the minimalist concentrated imagery of the chapbooks and the fuller, lush sensual descriptions of Disappointment Island. Monty is a versatile and skilled poet. If you didn’t attend the reading you missed out on getting a copy of a commemorative poster with a great kids’ poem called The Boss of the Dinosaurs written by Monty and illustrated by Josée Lavigne. I have to reproduce just a stanza here…I can’t resist…it’s too much fun!
I’ve got velociraptors
Coming out my ears
A couple of them work here
But some are volunteers
Meghan Jackson didn’t give us free dinosaur poems, but that’s ok..I wouldn’t have minded a jar of jam though ;) She gave a lovely reading from Movements in Jars. The book has an interesting premise of taking a look at ordinary objects in a new light, capturing the moment of them (a bit like a firefly in a jar, perhaps). The cover art depicts an old-fashioned mason jar, the type used for bottling jams and pickles, with the title text as the label. These poems are spare and minimal. Meghan’s poems worked well for me aloud because of the repetition, accumulation and onomatopoeic devices she used in poems like the Nesting Shelf. In the book itself, I’ve only started to go through it, but have already noticed the sensuous details and mesmerizing rhythms in poems such as breakfast. Here’s just a snippet: “i filled my mouth with frozen / cranberries / wet round colder red”[…].
It’ s not easy to make this kind of language poetry work out loud as well as on the page. The links and syntactical structure readers use to help them orient themselves are missing. Yet Meghan’s writing can handle both the page and the stage.
Last to read was Clare Latremouille. As with any new beginning, Murphy must always play a role. In this case, Clare’s novel, The Desmond Road Book of The Dead was not available for purchase (but will be today; you can either order it through the publishers or pick it up at local independent bookstores like Collected Works and Mother Tongue Books.)
Clare’s book is something I know I will enjoy based on her reading. She is excellent at dialogue, recreating the conversation between a younger and older woman with its many tangents and non-sequitars. I particularly enjoyed the scene with the young girl sitting under the table, colouring and listening in on the adult conversation between her mother and grandmother, told in flashback form, in juxtaposition to the grandmother’s funeral, a very poignant effect. To read this book, I believe, is to adopt an entire family of eccentric and sympathetic personalities.
This is the very first time I’ve had the privilege of knowing anyone embarking on a serious publishing venture and I have to say I’m thrilled. The fact that the publisher is local and has so much passion for the literary community bodes well for its success. If you build it, people will buy. (And I never even saw Field of Dreams!)
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
A Mysterious Chapbook by an Undisclosed Author
Samuel Andreyev, Weight
George Bowering, Crows in the Wind
Evan Kennedy, Us Them Poems
Jake Kennedy, Hazard
Victor Coleman, Icon Tact (Poems 1984 – 2001)
Jason Dickson, The Hunt
Niels Hav (Tr- Patrick Friesen and P.K. Brask), We Are Here
These are all beautifully produced, from Bowering’s black on black cover to The Hunt’s postcards. I have done little more than snif the glue on the binding so far and flipped thru a bit hither and thither, so I can’t really give a proper description of any of these yet.
So this is just to say…
Here are some of the words I’ve already noticed…
secret doll…nuzzles a main of animal…forcibly inserted into the sound…and the young eagles shall eat it…our stone fingers know stone knuckles…= the being on fire part…On one side a dead rabbit is displayed…the daughter creates a game…Poetry is a horrible disease
Friday, October 20, 2006
Saturday, October 21, 2006 Noon-Five pm.
Jack Purcell Centre
Bywords has a table (all of the contents of our online store and our newest edition of the Bywords Quarterly Journal, Melissa Upfold's chapbook Welcome to Beautiful San Ria and her amazing magazine, Variations will be for sale).
I love this fair. It's an opportunity to find out what's going on in the small press world and to chat with fellow publishers from not just Ottawa but also Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls, New Brunswick, Edmonton (you never know who will be there).
Last spring I picked up one of my favourite books this year, A Painter's Journey by Barbara Caruso and a host of other great books from Toronto's Mercury Press.
You can find tiny hand made chapbooks, tradebooks, comic books, broadsheets, audiobooks, and sometimes even cookies and other free stuff. It's a great experience and it's free admission to the public. If you've never gone, this is the year to climb into your vehicle, slip into your walking shoes, strap on your jet pack...and get yourself over to the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair.
And of course, afterwards, come out to the James Street Feed Company to debrief over beer and good conversation.
IRIDESCENCE: LOVELY SHADES OF LESBIAN EROTICA, Haiti’s Daughter, Alyson Books, Spring/Summer 2007
Séraphine meets Haitian beauty and poet Mercedes at a writers' festival. [Category: F/F]
He’s On Top: EROTIC STORIES OF MALE DOMINANCE AND FEMALE SUBMISSION Brianna’s Fire, Cleis Press , February, 2007
Noah is a symphony conductor and Brianna learns to play violin to his tune. [Category: M-f D/s]
The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 2007, The Travelers, Carroll & Graf, January 2007
An ordinary man transports fellow travellers to ecstacy. [Category: M- f D/s]
Cream, The Best of The Erotica Readers and Writers Association, Successor, Thunder's Mouth Press, December 2006
The future is a world where sex must be hidden. [Category: Extreme BDSM, M-m, TG]
The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 2006, Unraveling The Threads Of An Ordinary Life, Carroll & Graf, January 2006
A university student learns to obey her professor. [Category: M- f D/s]
Solstice: Tales For The Longest Night Of The Year, Dusty Owl, The Blood Eaters, December, 2005
A vampire tale, not for the squeamish. [Category M-F Vampire]
Electronic (and still on line)
The Coriolis Effect (for October, 2006 only)
Milicent finds meaning among emo kids and vampires. [Category: F-F]
The Storywriter (for November, 2006 only; just go to the ERWA site and click on Gallery in November)
A recluse author's fans worship him. [Category: M-f D/s]
A demanding editor leaves his mark. [Category: M-f D/s]
High priced escorts indulge in some spyjinx. [Category: M/F-F]
Mark’s uptight boss may have a wild side. [Category F-m Light D/s]
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Chapters, 47 Rideau Street
Sunday, October 15, 2006, 2pm
The launch of the fall Bywords Quarterly Journal with the music of Mike Yates and the poetry of Terry Ann Carter, John Gilles, Kathryn Hunt, Sean Lipsett, Heather McLeod, Sean Moreland, Chris Pitre, Stephen Rowntree, Guy Simser, Chris Sorrenti and Lumita Suse.
Contact Info:Amanda Earl
613 868 1364
PO Box 937
(It's also my birthday that day...I turn...gasp...43!) And it's the tenth anniversary of the Chapters on Rideau Street, lots to celebrate.
Please join me for a post reading and birthday libation at the Highlander Pub, at around 4ish.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Highlights of the day for me were Baba Brinkman's Rap Canterbury Tales. He is an excellent performer and made Chaucer's tales come alive for me. As he did for the rest of the audience, who were wrapt.
After that, I particularly enjoyed Alan Cumyn's reading of Stones from the Ottawa Magazine's Summer Fiction Issue. In a quiet and calm voice, perhaps too quiet and calm for some on a Saturday afternoon, he narrated the love story of a husband who has cancer and the wife who would survive him. His use of first person narrative made the twist ending quite surprsing. I always enjoy an unreliable narrator ;) I loved how Cumyn weaved in the recurring metaphor of the stones where they made love early in their relationship, his delicate humour when it came to describing the cancer as Charlie. I liked the way Cumyn turned this into a piece of metafiction by referring to things like "the power of fiction" directly in his story. His was the most interesting story because it wasn't just a traditional narrative about themes we've heard a thousand times before; he pushed the boundaries of hohum fiction. In the magazine, I also enjoyed Melanie Little's story very much, but she wasn't there (not in Ottawa anymore alas).
It was great to receive complimentary copies of Ottawa Magazine's summer and fall issue; although I have to say that I find the magazine to be a tad thin. In the fall issue there are pages and pages on home renovation, for instance. On the other hand, Anita Lahey's article on local artist Jennifer Dickson was great. Lahey is a skilled researcher and journalist. Here's a quote about what Dickson learned from her etching instructor, Stanley William Hayter at Paris' innovative print-making studio Atelier 17:
"He taught us that art was a series of decisions....You need at crucial points to make decisions and suffer the consequences."
The festival was a marvel of literary splendour yet again. Ten years and still a vigorous and revitalizing experience that improves with age (like me;).
I am so amazed at the Wilsons' ability to keep the festival innovative and entertaining, all the while dealing with writers, who can't be easy to deal with. As one of the festival hosts, I was treated like a queen. I don't really know how to thank the Wilsons and the wonderful volunteers properly for their kindness, hard work and vision. If you have money, send it their way...become a festival member.
The Ottawa International Writers Festival, along with the small press fair are key reasons for any writer to plunk herself in Ottawa and stay for a good, long while.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Transgress is a brilliant and visionary idea from James Moran and Gareth Kirby. I hope they do it again and when they do, I dearly wish they would make sure that Ivan E. Coyote reads again and is given more than a scant ten minutes to read.
I can't believe tomorrow is the final day of the festival. I have many, many books to read.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
I have to say that Bywords is the best and most interesting challenge I've ever taken on. I learn so much about poetry thru reading so many poems all the time, I get a lot of valuable publishing experience and I meet fabulous people, many of whom have become dear friends.
If you ever have the chance to volunteer to do something you love, I recommend jumping in with both feet. I've never had so much fun.
Our next reading is at Chapters on Rideau St on October 15 (my birthday). I've got it all organized and just now booked the music, Mike Yates, who is an exceptionally talented musician (he plays guitar and cello) and singer-songwriter.
It's also so fun and enriching to be able to do all this with Charles. He has visionary ideas and is always calm, even in the face of impending disaster or the stress of having too much to do. We work so well together.
This time of year is a whirlwind for Bywords activity with the publishing of two chapbooks: our fall BQJ and the chapbook of the Newlove winner, plus two readings and the regular activity of updating the site with events, calls for submissions, monthly poetry, going to the small press fair here and hopefully the one in Toronto, and the list goes on. I love it and I love all of the enthusiasm and kind support given by the literary community.
I think one of the reasons why Bywords is so special is that it is a part of this community rather than a separate entity. We really do want to promote writers and publishers large and small in Ottawa. I think this is an exciting time for writing and publishing here. Everything is coming together-events are well-attended, new presses are starting up, our writers are winning awards, and long standing groups and organizations are thriving. It's a great time to be part of this community. I'm blessed.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Ottawa International Writers Festival Library and Archives of Canada,
395 Wellington Street
Launch of 20005 winner, Melissa Upfold's chapbook, "Welcome to Beautiful San Ria"
Readings by honourable mentions and award recipient (to be announced at the reading)
Music by Andrea Simms-Karp of the Vanity Press
Contact Info: Amanda Earl (613) 868-1364
PO Box 937 Station B Ottawa,On K1P 5P9
I'm excited...people have been grilling me about who the winner is and I have kept mum...even while drinking alcohol. The festival is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Stuart Ross and Daphne Marlatt last night were fan-tas-tique.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Barry Callaghan, founder and editor of Exile, said that any serious writer would submit via mail.
Speaking, I know, from my very limited experience as a publisher of poetry…Bywords receives an average of 1200 poetry submissions a year, I have to disagree with both Callaghans. In fact, I believe that anyone serious about publishing in the 21st century (and not in the Stone Age) should use every tool available to make the publishing process more efficient, less time-consuming and less costly for all parties concerned.
Through our automated system, Bywords acknowledges the poems within 48 hours of receiving them and we give the writer an answer yea or neah within three months of submission. Our automated poetry management system ensures that poets can do things like submit to us and others simultaneously. They have the ability to automatically revoke poems that get accepted elsewhere and can track which poems they’ve sent us easily.
The notion of printing out every e-mail submission one receives is silly. Doesn't Exile photocopy and mail out copies to readers? That is very time consuming. It is easy to have editors access the manuscripts on line thru user id and password systems and then the editors can choose to either read the document on line or to print it if they like.
I won’t deal with publishers who are snail mail only because if they have a snail’s mentality about receiving manuscripts, chances are they will act at a snail’s pace. This has been proven to me numerous times over when I’ve sent stuff to snail publishing houses. You know what you do with escargot? You cook it, and cover it in cheese and garlic, but you don’t send it poetry or novels.