amongst books

amongst books

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cream and the Erotica Readers and Writers Association

One of my stories, Successor, inspired by George Shrub's visit to Ottawa a few years' back, will be in Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, to be published in Fall, 2006.

For any one who wants to write erotica, I recommend joining the ERWA. Experienced and beginner writers of erotica trade insight and knowledge, and critique one anothers stories plus there are calls for submission often only heard about through ERWA. It's a very influencial list in the world of erotic fiction. The group contains every type of writer from commercial to experimental.

When I say I write erotica, I often run across a type of prejudice from those who assume erotic fiction is all bodice-heaving, cliched pap. If you read some of the anthologies today or stories on the ERWA site, you'll find that this is not true. I'm not sure if it has ever been true. Like with any kind of writing, there's always junk out there, but there's also a great deal of variety and fine fiction. I consider erotic fiction to be at the forefront of contemporary writing because it is brave enough to address sexuality and sex in all of its forms from sex as sinful taboo to joyful celebration. While so much fiction and film is still taking a very juvenile and euphemistic attitude to sex, writers like Mike Kimera, Remittance Girl, Michael Michele G.E. Russell break free from any kind of status quo and tell good stories that linger with the reader long after they're done. And the stories turn you on too. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ron Sexsmith

Last evening at the beautiful Velvet Room in the Byward Market, Ron Sexsmith played six songs from his new CD, Time Being. The venue itself is a lovely and intimate setting. It's just above Fat Tuesdays (formerly Stoney Mondays!) on York Street, and like many of Ottawa's Byward Market buildings, it's made of stone. The light shone through purple gauzy curtains, adding a soft and intimate tone to the setting.

While waiting, we were treated to drinks and hors d'oeuvres. My husband and I got a chance to chat with fellow ardent fan Ian, and his wife Sue. I also recognized a few of the folks from Ottawa's media and music biz, which was good because this was what is referred to as an industry showcase. I recognized Alan Neale of the CBC and Chris White of the Ottawa Folk Festival among others, but I wasn't really paying much attention because I was too excited about the upcoming performance.

Ron came out from the back of the room and announced he would play the songs the way he first played them in his bedroom. I am very glad I had a seat near the stage. I got to see up close just how skilled his guitar playing is. Last night in particular I developed a new appreciation for "Jazz At The Bookstore," and "Reason For Our Love."

With Ron's music, the blend of his voice and the instrument, whether it be acoustic or electric guitar, or piano, and the way he has arranged the piece are key to understanding the song. He will often allow the instrument to say things that he himself doesn't say in words.

For an example of this, go back to his CD "Whereabouts" and listen to the song "Right About Now" after the lyrics "think I'll just let my heart speak." On the CD, there's music after that. When you hear him live, that's his guitar alone. For "Time Being," I've noticed this quality in many of his songs during the recent webcast and at last night's show.

I had the pleasure of chatting briefly with Ron after the performance (hence the photo taken by someone from Majic 100 I think?). He is always such a pleasure to talk to. I've been attending his shows regularly since just after "Other Songs" in the mid 90s, probably at least a decade if not a bit more andhe's always been so friendly and happy to see his fans. This venue was perhaps the smallest and most intimate place I've heard him play.

As usual, the music was beautiful and Ron's voice and guitar playing touched me deeply. "Never Give Up" has already become one of my favourites on the CD and makes me feel a tad weepy.

Ron's music is about being alive, living through difficult times and getting through, celebrating life. I'm so pleased to see him achieving the success he so rightly deserves. I look forward to his concert at the Ottawa Folk Festival in August. Thanks to Cathy Hendrix of his management for giving me tickets. I'm still glowing :)

Last night's set list:

Jazz At The Bookstore
Never Give Up
I think we're lost
Reason For Our Love
Snow Angel
Hands Of Time

Friday, May 19, 2006

Nathalie Stephens

I've read a bit of Nathalie Stephens' work before, notably in the recent Breathing Fire II. She's been on my list of writers to read for awhile, ever since I read her poetic statement in side/lines (more on that below). I haven't bought any of her full collections yet, but ran across a small pamphlet of her stuff put out by Belladonna, a women's reading series that takes place in New York. "You But For The Body Fell Against" is a selection of Stephens' writing and perhaps not a bad way to be introduced if you've never read her. Just listen to the rhythm of this excerpt:

"Touch what is left of leaving.

Lift the torn edge of sleep and swallow what is missing. The river spills we weaken. The bedsheet tears we are naked. The lines of glass score our soft palms there is little left of meaning. Not the cold ground. Nor this shameless idolatry. We speak. We are spoken. The call hollows the heart stalls the wild summons.

Come for me."

Nathalie Stephens writes in both English and French, which is one of the things that interests me about her writing. She's also known for disregarding genre concerns, something else that is appealing. A couple of things she says in side/lines (not doing it justice to reproduce these small bites, it's a book I recommend for all aspiring poets who want to get some insight into poets' thoughts on the writing process):

"Poetry is inscription. 'I was here.' Blunt knife cutting into wood skin earth and no blood to show for it."

"A poem is a thig of danger. A meeting place. A refusal. A cry. What reaches the reader is the echo. Of words moving through time-space..."

I've recently been on a reading odysey to read a lot of women's writing, especially the more experimental kind. Something about looking for mentors and / or helping me to find my own voice, but I have to go back very far (Livesay, Webb, Marlatt etc) because I wasn't introduced to any of this kind of writing in school and didn't really learn much about it until the past few years, at readings like Poetry 101, now the Factory Reading Series or at the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Trevor Tchir returns to Ottawa

last night at Zaphod's was wonderful. Trevor is on a cross Canada tour and coming back to Ottawa was a return home. The opener was former local singer/song-writer, Peter Webb, who is a skilled guitar player and lyricist. Peter has a new CD coming out soon.

Both Trevor and Peter's bands included various local musicians who they've both known since the Cafe Nostalgica open stage days. It was a big reunion with people like accomplished pianist John Gilles, former Lighthousekeepers member, Neil Gerster, Lindsay Ferguson, a singer with one of/probably the most beautiful voices in Ottawa, band members of Soul Jazz Orchestra: Phil Lafreniere, Pierre Chretien, Steve Patterson, current Nostalgica host and all round bluesy guy, John Carroll.

In other words, a night full of wonderful music and fond memories. Lots of Nostalgica pals in the audience. It was lovely to see them all. People got up and danced and it felt like a joyous homecoming. Missing and much missed was Kristy McKay, former Ottawa poet and host of the poetry section of Nostalgica's Thursday night open stage, who is back home in Edmonton.

Trevor ended with the song, Thursday Hereos, which is a celebration of the fun we all had at Nostalgica when he and Kristy hosted. You can find it live on his current CD, Wooden Castles Fall and also on Thursday Heroes, a CD recorded live that features many of the former Thursday night regulars (including me!).

Trevor's tour continues out to Quebec and the Maritimes, so if you know anyone who would love to hear some really great Dylanesque, Cohenesque music, go to his tours page to see where he's playing next. And if you want a really fun open stage for music where the talent is amazing, check out Nostalgica on a Thursday night.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Lust for Life: Tales of Sex and Love

is holding a reading at Venus Envy on Friday May 19 at 8:30 pm. 3 of the writers featured in the anthology published by Vehicule Press will read: Barry Webster, Nairne Holtz, and Harold Hoefle. I picked up the anthology because I submitted story after story for the call for submission and came close to getting in, but...alas no. It's really great. Unless life makes other plans, I plan to attend. My favourite story from the anthology was Charity In Her Flesh by Mathew Anderson who will not be part of the reading unfortunately. It's about a woman who gets naked en route to the altar at her wedding. Interesting to see who joins in.

Many of the writers in the anthology are from Montreal, but one is from Ottawa, which is cool. Yet one more reason to love Montreal.

I feel the urge to write erotica once more. Perhaps I will need to go to Montreal for inspiration/exploration.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Conflict Resolution in The Volatile Literary Community

Recently there have been flames and responses to events occurring on the Book Thug reading tour of Ottawa and Kingston. On Stuart Ross's Small Press List Serve, subscribers were provided with an open letter posted by Maggie Helwig on behalf of a number of writers. Many of you have been asking me what has been going on and I would rather not add fuel to the fire with my own inappropriate and only partial knowledge. Yet because I feel strongly about the subject of sexism, something that a few of the writers in question have been accused of, I felt it was necessary to write some kind of comment. If you haven't seen the Open Letter and are not subscribed to either the Small Press or Lexiconjury list on which it appeared, you can find it here on Gregory Bett's blog:

Here's my own two cents for what they're worth:

I am against sexism, but find that it is a very loaded term and would be very careful before labelling anyone with it. While I was at the Ottawa poetry reading in question, I saw nothing that I would label as sexist happening and I was awake and sober for the entire reading, present for most of it. The reading was very unusual and I found it entertaining and provocative.

While my sympathies are with Ms. Rawlings, (the person who has apparently been defamed), who I don't know personally, but have had the pleasure of hearing read a few times, I suggest that the items referred to in Ms. Helwig's open letter should be addressed by the parties involved. If I were someone being accused of something, I would rather my name be used, so that I could address my accusors.

In conflict resolution, people are brought together to talk about the issues. The Internet is a poor method for conflict resolution. My advice to all parties involved is to sit together over a few drinks, or perhaps tea, a less volatile libation, and have a chat about what went on. From an outsider's persepective, it seems that things have been bubbling in the Toronto literary community for a while now, getting it out in the open is a healthy step forward, but signing e-mail messages which accuse and convey innuendo and take sides, no, that isn't healthy.

Amanda (who is at the moment happy to be in Ottawa, where things literary are less volatile)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hawksley Workman

The Bronson Centre last night...was amazing. The venue was also terrific. I didn't realize the Bronson Centre auditorium could hold so many people. The line up beforehand went down Bronson and round the corner of Lisgar. To a packed auditorium of 800 fans, he sang, played acoustic and electric guitar, a xylophone, banjo, harmonica and castonettes. It was just Hawksley and his keyboardist, who he referred to as "Mr. Lonely," but it felt like there was an entire band at times. Hawksley sang from his newest CD, Tree Full Of Starling, but also sang his most popular songs, such as Jealous of Your Cigarette, Smoke, Baby, No Reason To Cry Out Your Eyes, Anger as Beauty and others. He chatted quite a bit, talking about his crush on the Governor General (now finally a reason to be into politics), drinking snowmobile tea and other zany bits of absurdity. The fans went completely wild, especially the little girls who screamed every time a song came on they knew. He let the audience sing the chorus to Smoke, Baby and everyone knew the words. The crowd gave him two standing ovations. For his final encore he did "People Still Need A Song" sitting on the edge of the stage, with swooning girls all around, and the audience singing along. It was a magical night. Hawksley is working on a new album, recording at a studio in Almonte. Can't wait to hear what's next. It was one of the best concerts I've been to in ages. He's right up there with Sexsmith and Stochansky for me.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

award for best site revamp goes to ...

I don't give out awards and there's no monetary value attached to this one but go to King Demonto's site. It's fantastic. Check out the Nursery Rhymes for Our Time most especially. Inspired me to write one:

The was an old woman
who lived in a tenament
I won't tell you what she did
instead of paying rent.


Poetic Desserts: Sunday, May 7, 7:30 pm

We think it might be brownies.
Contact me.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Follow up to Book Thug reading/ upcoming lit things

Reports from book thugs can be found:

This week is quiet for poetry fans, unless you are going to the Al Purdy Symposium at U of O, which takes place from May 5-7.

Next week is full of stuff. Ever notice how Ottawa's literary scene is week on, week off?

There's still room in rob mclennan's poetry workshop, starting May 8. I took it in the winter, and I have decided to re-enlist. I recommend it to those who want to look at poetry with fresh eyes, be introduced to writers that are not necessarily well known, but who know what they're doing. The post class Carleton Tavern beer chats are fun too. You never know who will show up. I won't say who the special guests were in the winter...take the class, it will push your limits and that's what we all need, right?