Tag Archives: writing

another novel excerpt: the birthday

if you’re wondering why i hardly blog these days, it’s because i’m pretty serious about finishing my novel by the end of the year. it’s a long labour of love but i know it’ll get done! here is another excerpt. it’s the plantation owner’s daughter’s 9th birthday, a huge party. her name it elise. the festivities are drawing to a close and …

only in the evening there was another moment that stood out. somehow mama cass, bessie and a few others managed to drag elise away from the festivities. somehow? it was the marita, the governess, who finally did it, she dragged elise away from it all, and it was a good thing because elise, once again, was getting tired. too many adults! too many people who knew about everything – books, clothes, money, horses, what have you. not enough stories, not enough songs. it was with songs that they dragged her away. she heard the humming in the distance, the melody, the drums and banjos and looked up and the governess smiled at her and said, come on. she excused herself and elise to the parents under a pretense or other, who cares which one, and took elise with her to the hedge, into the dark. a little ways they had to move through the shadows; it had become night an hour or so ago, the grasshoppers were chirping loudly, and the scent of everything – the grasses, the earth, the blooming jasmine rose powerfully through the night air. the deeper into the dark the two rushed, the louder the music became. they made a turn, and suddenly they stood in front of dora’s cottage.

“here she is!” someone exclaimed.

there was loud clapping and the music stopped.

she was in the slaves’ quarters.

“miss elise! here you are!” mama cass was beside herself, her voice high and breathless. elise had never seen mama cass anywhere but in the big house; in fact, it had never occurred to her that she might abide anywhere but there, traveling from kitchen to cellar to breakfast room to the herb garden right outside the kitchen. mama cass gestured wildly and moved her eyes and eyebrows about like a horse scared silly –

“five years served i, under master guy,
in the land of virginny-o
which made me for to know sorrow, grief and woe,
when that i was weary, weary, weary-o ….”

dora’s strong, clear voice permeated the night. after the first two verses, the banjo chimed in. a couple of fiddles joined, the light of the little fires burning in front of each cottage shining up into the players. moving up and down, the fiddling arms threw big shadows, in rhythm with tapping feet and clapping hands. then the song stopped, and everyone suddenly had a little bouquet in their hands that they threw up in the air with a big whoop.

“lady elise! long live our lady elise!” they shouted.

“i don’t LIKE it when you call me lady,” exclaimed elise, without complaint in her voice, though – everyone had heard it a hundred times, and they just laughed.

“what should we call you then?” piped up ellie.

“yes, what should we call you? buttercup? lady doll? miss jones patterson?”

“no, no!” she laughed.

“lady rosebud?”

“princess redhair?”

“our lady of the crinkledress?”

“oh, you people are so silly,” she exclaimed, laughing, into the mirth all around. “i like crinkledress. without the lady.”

“i don’t think mr jones patterson would like it if we called you crinkledress,” said bessie.

“but it’s true! my dress is always crinkled and crumpled. i don’t LIKE wearing dresses! i want to wear pants! this dress is beautiful, that’s true,” she looked down on her lovely cloud of white and silver and lilac, “but can you imagine how difficult it was to ride in it? i had to ask jacqueline to make me a special petticoat.”

“you do look adorable in it, adorable,” said jacqueline. there was pride in her voice, and more than pride – love. “and you should have seen your mother, the way she looked at you.”

“anyway, lady – er, miss elise -” said mama cass –

“oh, for tonight, just for now, don’t call me miss!”

“alright then, er, um, elise – we have a few little trinkets for you.”

and the gift giving began again. someone had made a doll out of old cotton dresses and horse hair. someone else had drawn a painting with charcoal. a little apron arrived, made from cotton cloth, adorned with a tiny little silk ribbon. a loaf of honey bread, a coronet of dried flowers – everyone had made something for her.

elise was in tears, couldn’t see anymore all the treasures offered to her. some of the people she didn’t even know by name and yet they had gone to the trouble and expense to make something for her. each piece was crafted with love and care, each piece looked different. look at this little drum here, carved out of a gourd, with those black and red snakes curling in on each other everywhere, and the beautifully knotted string to carry it! even cortez had a friendly smile on his face when he brought her a small illustrated book of psalms.

they fed her dried fruit and buttered mash and a delicious tea – no doubt one of jacqueline’s. the music and singing played on, mingled with the night air, the crickets chirping and the laughter, played with the crackling fire and the smells of good food and flames licking on the grass.

finally marita approached her, whispered, “i think it’s time to go back.”

“no!” elise whispered back urgently, “i like it here! i don’t want to go back! those people are boring!”

marita had anticipated that. “but you told me that you haven’t looked at joe’s gift yet. it’s in your room. let’s go back, say good-bye to the guests, and then you can go to bed and open joe’s gift.”

——

elise was so exhausted when she finally made it to her room. it had still taken an hour for her to extricate herself from the guests; endless goodbyes and wellwishes jumbled all together before her tired eyes. in her room, marita helped her undress. what a lovely, lovely feeling to be rid of all the heavy clothes and to finally fall into the pillows dressed in fresh linen that smelled faintly of citronella and cloves.

clutched in her hand was the gift joe had given her. the leather felt warm and soft in her hands, almost like a little animal. the white cotton string stood out against it, looked so – white. clean. fresh. like stars. lying there in the pillows, elise held it up, turned it around, held it under the light from the three candles in her candleholder by the bed. she wanted to savour the moment of unwrapping it. oh, but she was so tired …

“here, i’ll untie the knots for you,” whispered marita and gently removed the package from the girl’s hands.

wrapped in the blue leather was another little package, wrapped in embroidered cloth. wrapped in that lay a small brown leather pouch, made of leather just as soft as the other. a long string held the little pouch, to hang it around one’s neck, just like the indians do. inside the pouch elise found a smooth, smooth, smooth stone with an indentation the size of a thumb. the leather felt so soft … the stone so smooth …..

“a worry stone for you,” she heard joe’s voice whisper somewhere in the room. “good night, crinkledress.”

and then she was asleep.

creativity and mental health – a twitter chat

today i had the honour of moderating the weekly mental health and social media chat (“#mhsm”) on twitter. these are always such interesting conversations! our topic today was “creativity and the arts”. here is a slightly abridged transcript:

moritherapy: welcome to the weekly #mhsm chat about #mentalhealth and social media. today’s topic: creativity and the arts #mhsm

moritherapy: Q1 how does “consuming” the arts (listening to music, watching movies, looking at paintings, etc.) help with #mentalhealth? #mhsm

moritherapy: my father, who struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder all his life, always said “there’s nothing more soothing than music” #mhsm

KerisWithaK: Consuming and contributing to the arts is incredibly healing! #mhsm

stephintoronto: A1: Consumption of the arts, movies, theater, ballet, opera… are an escape for me from my #mentalillness #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Q1. Music is for most a highly effective means of clearing the mind, taking your emotions to a different place #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A1 Music that is uplifting to me, helps boost my mood. #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy We’re partially here great topic tonight! Arts are a healthy outlet when coping with the side affects of recovery #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A1: Certain movies, or TV programs help me focus on other things besides negative things that might be going on. #mhsm

stephintoronto: A1:think that the consumption of arts helps to stimulate my brain outside of its regular zone,which is gr8 for helping #mentalillness #mhsm

PeacefulBaker: #mhsm I love calming music for anxiety. Feels like it regulates my heartbeat somewhat.

MelissaMashburn: A1: I have always enjoyed art, especially painters from the impressionist era. Something about it is very soothing. #mhsm

moritherapy: @stephintoronto interesting – you call it “escape”. sometimes that word has a negative connotation. what do you think? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Art and creativity has the power to heal, center & empower people out of hopelessness. #mhsm

mySahana: Q1: Dancing creates a total body experience instead of being limited to just the head and cerebral processes. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I think escape is an accurate word for the feeling that it gives me sometimes. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: It certainly can replace the stuff in my head for a while, that is escape #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: Does the same for L RT @MelissaMashburn: I think escape is an accurate word for the feeling that it gives me sometimes. #mhsm

moritherapy: @mySahana oh, i love what you say about dancing – incredibly healing, isn’t it? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: @moritherapy @stephintoronto Escape from suicidal thoughts could never be negative. For players/listeners, music can also be grounding #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I am not sure if this counts as “art and creativity” but sometimes I like to look around for inspiring quotes to lift my mood #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: It provides an escape from an otherwise seemingly hopeless world at times #mhsm

johnalchin: A1. The arts have the ability to mood-alter. Appropriate music can take the edge off a hectic day or motivate when feeling flat #mhsm

stephintoronto: @moritherapy i agree that “escape”has a negitive feel,but so does feeling crappy w #bipolar & #mentalillness ūüôā #mhsm

mySahana: @moritherapy Oh absolutely! It just shifts your whole experience and emotions to a different, almost tangible place #mhsm

Kidsider: @MySahana I think the arts in all forms really works towards mindfullness by stimulating all the senses in such a positive way. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I also find writing very theraputic #mhsm

mySahana: @kidsider Definitely true! I personally have had most experience with dancing but you’re right. Music, dancing, drawing it’s profound. #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q2 do you consider yourself a “creative”? how does your own expression of creativity help with #mentalhealth? #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: For L writing music also gives him a chance express feelings he otherwise has trouble getting out #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: As a student of music, playing helps me deal w/ emotional + mental pain, puts things in perspective, gives access to accomplishment #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A2: I think I am very creative. In the past it took the form of fabric arts, now it is almost exclusively writing. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: Even if I do not write about stuff going on in my head, just the process of writing feels healing to me. #mhsm

mySahana: A2: I’m very creative too and use it mostly to choreograph dances, to write and to create new experiences for myself #mhsm

stephintoronto: A2: i don’t consider myself a “creative” but i have come to realize that I need artistic outlets to help deal w #mentalillness #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy I think through blogging and SM I would call myself a “creative” we’re all being creative now in breaking stigma #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A1: I find nothing feeds my soul & makes me feel less alone than great art – especially music & poetry. #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: Here is a video of him singing and playing one of his songs a few months ago http://www.youtube.com/user/OJTLBlog?feature=mhum #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Art starts in the mind #mhsm

KerisWithaK: A2– I like to write for 2 reasons – advocacy (feel empowered and possibly educate) & 2 humor to lol when I’m struggling #mhsm

mySahana: I have also recently started singing classes which has been a fabulous way to find my voice and tap into new skills. #mhsm

stephintoronto: i think that many people dealing with #mentalillness and #mentalhealth issues,is that they are blessed with creativity. #mhsm

moritherapy: i feel like i’m in some sort of creativity hub, just listening and talking to you #mhsm guys ūüôā #mhsm

stephintoronto: creativity comes out for me in writing, painting, ballet, arts and crafts, poetry, photography, write comics…. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: @stephintoronto I have found that fact very interesting. Makes me wonder if the rest of the world needs to catch up with us #mhsm

moritherapy: @mySahana i love the idea of singing to find your voice – so important in #mentalhealth #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @unxpctdblessing Writing & graphic arts are my go to things when Im stressed/upset. #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A2: I write poetry as a means of expressing those moods & anxieties that won’t otherwise be spoken. #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy i’m glad I have a few minutes this week to be creative with everyone too #mhsm

stephintoronto: feel blessed that so many of you are creative and i get to be the recipiant of it everyday. #mhsm

PeacefulBaker: #mhsm Love to act in plays. It’s a real escape and you learn empathy for people through understanding your characters.

bentsinister: @moritherapy A2: I write fiction too, but I don’t find the same kind of effect from it. #mhsm

KerisWithaK: I can’t sing but loving putting sign language to music!! It’s a great way for me to”show” emotions #mhsm

stephintoronto: @MelissaMashburn I wonder if strong creativity it is our brains compensating for the part of it that is not firing on all cillinders. #mhsm

johnalchin: For me creativity comes by singing, playing guitar, web design and building, enjoying musical theatre, photography #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: There are so many ways to be creative: music, theater, written and spoken word,… #mhsm

KerisWithaK: ASL is a great way to overcome what is known as ‘flat affect’. I had to learn how to overcome flat affect. ASL & theatre were the cure #mhsm

johnalchin: A2. I too have had a love of poetry since I was a young boy. I have written poetry in the past & iit s a great way to get out my angst #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q3 what do you think of the (controversial) idea that people with #mentalillness are particularly creative? #mhsm

stephintoronto: @MelissaMashburn i have wondered if it is a bit like ppl who lose there sight and their sense of smell improves to compensate. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: @stephintoronto @moritherapy at some level, I think all “artists” thrive on conversation (with others, self and their subjects). #mhsm

stephintoronto: A3:completely agree w the idea ppl with #mentalillness are particularly creative.I wonder if there is any concrete supportive evidence #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: L tends to be most creative (and at times almost frantic about it) when he isn’t doing well (especially when manic) #mhsm

unxpctdblessing: A3: I recently looked back through my poetry from college when I was supremely depressed/ lost in grief. Intense amazing stuff. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A3 Its unfortunate that some artists are foremost identified with MH illness, inspiration/genius do not always have an obvious source #mhsm

mySahana: A3: I think sometimes it’s true and other times it acts as a way to “reach” to find something positive to say about them #mhsm

johnalchin: RT @stephintoronto: A3:completely agree w the idea ppl with #mentalillness are particularly creative.I wonder if there is any concrete supportive evidence #mhsm

moritherapy: there are some studies on the mental health-creativity connection but they seem to go back and forth #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy PTSD victims often gain a state of hyper vigilance making them more aware of surroundings, possible creativity boost? #mhsm

HealthWorksBC: A3: i’ve worked w 100’s of acutely ill ppl w #mentalillness + 1000’s w other illnesses-rec therapist. Have not seen or read evidence #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: RT @mySahana: A3: I think sometimes its true and other times it acts as a way to “reach” to find something positive to say about them #mhsm

johnalchin: The schizoaffective family member I care for is the creative one in our family. She’s a brill singer, great fashion sense when well. #mhsm

moritherapy: example of study: creativity, schizophrenia and bipolar have similar dopamine system http://bit.ly/b3F8jE #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A3: For what it’s worth, I’ve seen a correlation between creativity & mental illness in friends & acquaintances. #mhsm

moritherapy: @Kidsider wow, never thought about the connection between creativity and vigilance, very interesting idea #mhsm

KerisWithaK: A3- I worry abt generalizations. As a person of color ppl assume I can do things ascribed to my race. Many times I can’t. #mhsm

HealthWorksBC: a1: con’d I have not seen or heard sufficient evidence about the people w mental illness -creativity correlation. #mhsm

stephintoronto: “Biological basis for creativity linked to mental illness”http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031001061055.htm #mhsm

johnalchin: Wondering if there is a link between somatisation and the arts. Creativity as outlet for felt pain/grief/psychosis, etc? Anyone know? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A3 Art can be a more effective way of explaining complex concepts and emotions than speech, symbols alone #mhsm

mySahana: @stephintoronto Great article! I wonder how this plays into effect considering creativity changes between childhood and adulthood. #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q4 creatives & people with #mentalillness live with feeling “different”. when there’s both, does it all get a bit too much? #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy I dont think its matter of apmlifying the negative issues but a symbiotic aide in the struggle of mental health #mhsm

mySahana: @johnalchin I think body centered therapy addresses the issue of holding mental illness/stress/pain etc in your bdy #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A4: I’ve dealt with far more of a feeling of difference from MI than from creativity. #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @KerisWithaK “different” is perceived as negative. Leads to a hard, lonely life until difference is embraced positively. #mhsm

stephintoronto: wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all embrace our creative sides and say screw you to the #mentalillness side? #mhsm

storiesofsommer: @johnalchin @moritherapy A4: I frequently feel overwhelmed. But am learning to deal with it. #mentalillness #mhsm

moritherapy: @bentsinister there’s stigma re #mentalillness but the creative #stigma is less, or not so visible? #mhsm

KerisWithaK: I love it when people see people for people. Acknowledging and celebrating all that IS that person. #mhsm

moritherapy: @storiesofsommer @johnalchin yeah, i think the word “overwhelm” is well placed here #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy I guess the only times I’ve experienced stigma re: creativity is when I got too “out there” for most people’s standards. #mhsm

stephintoronto: i’d be ok with being the creative artsy lady that lives in “there”,but somehow that always comes w the “crazy” label as well #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q5 can you recommend any social media sites or web sites about the topic of creativity and/or how the arts help with mental health? #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy When that happened, though, I was probably hypomanic, now that I think about it. #mhsm

johnalchin: @storiesofsommer @moritherapy I *HATE* feeling overwhelmed. I wan’t to have sense of control at all times. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A4 We R all different. I think much pain comes feeling that we have to be so much like others to be loved+respected #mhsm

moritherapy: @stephintoronto yeah, the whole “crazy” connection is kinda interesting. #mhsm

storiesofsommer: @moritherapy No, but it is actually something I have been thinking about starting for quite a while now #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy So I think that any stigma over creativity might be less, at least in my experience. #mhsm

KerisWithaK: My mom used to say I had multiple directions- couldn’t see “one way”. Now that’s called lateral thinkers! The new leaders! #mhsm

moritherapy do you guys know about the ikarus project re mental health and creativity?http://bit.ly/12nHkM #mhsm

storiesofsommer: Unfortunately, here in the states, I think we’re way behind on mental health resources. I’ve seen more progress in european countries #mhsm

moritherapy: @storiesofsommer yes, it does look like particularly the UK are making great strides in the area #mhsm

moritherapy: another great resource: @soundtherapyrad does internet radio shows about creativity and mental health #mhsm

johnalchin: @KerisWithaK Yes, I say that my abstract random learning style means my mind is a lot like the world wide web. #mhsm

moritherapy: there’s the creativity and conflict people¬†http://bit.ly/9zqShT #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Oof! Im getting all shaky from the excitement/vibes in tonight (and a small amount of coffee). Can you feel it?! #mhsm

storiesofsommer: This may have been asked already but which comes b4: the creativity or the mental health issue? #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: as we’re closing, please let us know your blogs and websites so that we can support each other as a resource #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: My blog is Sugar Filled Emotions http://www.sugarfilledemotions.com #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @storiesofsommer:  http://www.storiesofsommer.com; life questions and how my depression/bipolar plays a part plus other random bits #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @MelissaMashburn: My blog is Sugar Filled Emotions http://www.sugarfilledemotions.com#mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: http://ReachOut.com – a place 4 teens, young adults to share stories on tough times in their lives & how they got through, MH expert vetted #mhsm

johnalchin: I’ve just added a Mental Health section to my website at http://johnalchin.info which I will be adding to over summer (in Oz) #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: http://www.our-journey-through-life.com Been slacking lately but really want to get back to blogging #mhsm

mySahana: Thank you for an amazing discussion! Please see our site http://www.mysahana.org addressing mental health issues in the South Asian community #mhsm

stephintoronto: i write about #mentalhealth #migraines #bipolar disorder…. when i feel up to it…http://princessrantsandraves.blogspot.com/ #mhsm

moritherapy: thanks all for participating in the #mentalhealth and social media chat. please come again, same place same time next week! #mhsm

changes at change therapy: expectations and silence

Bridge Over Some Water
where does this go?

those of you who have been here often may have noticed that i’ve become somewhat quiet lately. here’s why.

i’m trying to revamp my life a bit. bringing some things to a close, shedding others – basically making room for something new. what that new thing is, i don’t know (i guess that’s why it’s a “something”). i also am experiencing a time when i often don’t have a lot of energy.

trying to post less on this blog has been an interesting experience. writing these regular entries here has mostly been very positive – it’s honed my ability to quickly throw down a few words on a topic in such a way as to express myself at least somewhat clearly. it’s given me a structure to write on a very regular basis. perhaps most of all, it’s connected me to YOU – a wide variety of interesting and insightful people.

so why would i slow down when it’s such a great thing? i guess it’s what is sometimes referred to as a “luxury problem”: too much of a good thing is still too much. in fact, it may not be the writing and connecting in itself that is too much but the expectations i have around it. must post at least 4 times a week. must answer comments. etc. i’d like to experiment with wrenching myself away from these expectations and see what happens. probably some of them are good expectations (like answering comments). others might not be so useful.

the other thing that has been rattling around in my head lately, more than usual, is the whole concept of “improving on silence.” is what i am saying really that important? is the world truly a better place for me adding my voice to the 15 thousand gazillion voices already out there? i need some time to think about this.

i’m not planning to abandon this blog at all. however, i’d like to relax on how often i post, and maybe also on what i post. i’d like to stop or at least put on hold the construction project of building the ego-gratifying self image of “isabella mori the blogger.”

so let’s see what happens …

writers festival

here are some of the events i’m considering going to at vancouver’s annual writers festival.

33 old friends

linwood barclay

ontario

gail bowen

saskatchewan

quintin jardine

united kingdom

host: the honourable larry w. campbell
thu, oct 21, 8:00pm
revue stage
$19.00 (buy tickets online)

one of the draws for aficionados of crime fiction is the recurring character who must solve a crime at the same time as his or her life is moving on. from book to book, readers get a chance to live with these characters as they develop, face challenges and age, just like the rest of us. pi joanne kilbourn, chief constable bob skinner and zack walker are three such characters, and their creators take the stage to talk about how they came to life, how they are shaped and moulded in each new novel, and maybe, just maybe, what’s to become of them.

35 dark end of the street

sandra birdsell

saskatchewan

michael helm

ontario

mauricio segura

québec

russell wangersky

newfoundland

michael winter

ontario

host: genni gunn
thu, oct 21, 8:00pm
waterfront theatre
$19.00 (buy tickets online)

five authors each shine a light on the events, relationships and communities that exist in the darker parts of our cities and society. from immigrants trying to find their place, to murder on a snowy night, to a couple on the lam in a walmart parking lot, to assault in a unlit urban corner, these are novels that show readers environments, circumstances and psyches that we might not normally encounter. and isn’t that one of the reasons, after all, that fiction holds such appeal? there’s vibrancy and intrigue outside the circle of the street lamp, and these writers take us to the dark end of our streets.

36 an intimate evening with david grossman

david grossman

israel

presenter: kathryn gretsinger
thu, oct 21, 8:00pm
ptc studio
$25.00 (buy tickets online)

renowned israeli writer¬†david grossman began¬†to the end of the land in 2003, when his eldest son was about to be released from military service and his youngest was on the cusp of being drafted. grossman had a wish that the book he was writing would protect his youngest son. but in 2006, during the last hours of the second lebanon war, his son was killed. astoundingly, he returned to writing the book and finished what is being called “one of the great anti-war novels of our time”. this is a special opportunity to hear from a great novelist who has experienced violence in the middle east in a most palpable way and yet continues to advocate compassion and reconciliation.

55 american splendour

anthony doerr

united states

paul harding

united states

yiyun li

united states

marisa silver

united states

wells tower

united states

host: jerry wasserman
sat, oct 23, 2:00pm
performance works
$17.00 (buy tickets online)

step aside, fitzgerald and hemingway! here they come. this afternoon we introduce you to the next generation of american writers who are taking the literary world by storm.¬†paul harding has just won the 2010 pulitzer prize for fiction,¬†yiyun li and¬†wells tower were named as two of¬†the new yorker‘s 20 best american authors under 40.¬†anthony doerr was named by¬†granta as one of the 21 best young american authors and¬†marisa silver has been included in¬†the best american short stories and¬†the o. henry prize stories. we are delighted to present these american voices from whom you will hear a lot more in the coming years.

this event is sponsored by simon & schuster canada.

59 polyphony

eleanor catton

new zealand

genni gunn

british columbia

michael helm

ontario

kathy page

british columbia

adam lewis schroeder

british columbia

mauricio segura

québec

marisa silver

united states

host: paul grant
sat, oct 23, 8:00pm
waterfront theatre
$19.00 (buy tickets online)

settle back this evening to hear seven fine writers read from their new works. there’s more than enough in store tonight to get you fired up on some riveting fiction by authors whose books may not have made it into your hands yet. let these voices transport you to italy and vietnam.¬† get swept up in an extraordinary adventure to a remote area of british columbia and thrown into the fray of two street gangs divided by race. be turned around by the chaos of a high-school sex scandal and flung deep into the turmoil caused by an attack on a dark street.¬† in other words, go places you’ve never been, feel things you’ve never felt, and come out changed.

68 an intimate afternoon with david mitchell

david mitchell

united kingdom

sat, oct 23, 5:00pm
waterfront theatre
$25 (buy tickets online)

david mitchell has been called many things, all of them enviable. according to dave eggers, mitchell is “one of the more fearless and fascinating writers alive.” charles foran declares him “the most gifted of his generation of novelists.” of his five novels, two have been shortlisted for the mann booker prize. he is perhaps best known for his mind-altering modern classic¬†cloud atlas, which was shortlisted for the man booker prize and sold in the neighbourhood of a million copies worldwide. mitchell joins us this evening with a new masterpiece,¬†the thousand autumns of jacob de zoet, which follows a dutch accountant’s adventures in feudal japan. in the hands of this formidably talented writer, this is no ordinary tale, and this will be no ordinary evening.

this event is sponsored by random house of canada.

mental health camp recap #2

here’s another report from mental health camp. for some reason, i just can’t bring myself to get all official about it and write it from the point of view of the organizer, so i’ll write it from my personal point of view. so here are a few fragments, which do not do justice to the whole big event but which nevertheless will give you a bit of a taste:

our logistics on the day of were a little wonky; influenced, in part, i think, by the more official feel of the location. the event was in a beautiful building, the aquatic ecology research lab at the university of british columbia; the first one had been at the very intimate location of the sadly now defunct workspace. one of the things that were wonky were that the first presenters did not get introduced. steffi, who spoke about “ripping off the scabs through writing”, was understandably not very happy about it. what i liked was that we were to hear this complaint without getting defensive, and immediately rectified it, with the help of wonderful people like sue macdonald from the CMHA and kemp edmonds. (these two and our other volunteers were highlights in and of themselves!)

perhaps the thing that most stuck with me was the role that art and creativity played at mental health camp. there was steffi talking about her writing. there was j peachy who presented a whole session of sound therapy radio, complete with a live band (ranj singh and the discriminators), each of whose member was standing in front of a painting (see here for a video clip of it). that session also featured a young woman talking openly about eating disorders for the first time, as well as creative participation by the whole audience. j peachy is part of gallery gachet, a vancouver collective of artists who have experience with mental health issues.

also part of gallery gachet was a lunchtime presentation of the beautiful film crooked beauty, which “explores positive and compassionate models for transforming the experience of madness in our culture.” it features one of the founders of the icarus project, ashley mcnamara.

the icarus project envisions a new culture and language that resonates with our actual experiences of ‘mental illness’ rather than trying to fit our lives into a conventional framework.

exciting stuff.

there was michelle clausius, who gave a presentation about the artistic endeavours of the young people who contribute to on the house, the award-winning blog of covenant house. this is what covenant house does:

covenant house exists for those young people for whom there is often no one else ” young people aged 16 – 24 who have either willingly fled physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse, those who have been forced from their homes or those who have aged out of foster care. we bandage their cut-up feet from days and nights walking the streets; we give them hot food and a warm bed and we support them in their choice to change their present circumstances while helping them heal from past traumas.

another session where i experienced high creativity was katarina halm’s presentation on focusing. i loved how she used the yellow balls pressed against our bodies almost as “speakers” to help us feel our bodies better.

doing this with my good friend raul was a pleasure, once again. we feed on each other’s ideas and calm each other down when we fly too high. there were a few instances when we really needed that, most of it as a result of nasty troll comments directed at some of the presenters and also at ourselves. because of our support for each other, i hope we can say we managed to stick with our core philosophies: inclusion, compassion, and clear communication. thank you, raul!

bryan alexander improv

unable to hear internet legend’s bryan alexander’s keynote address at northern voice (the reverb was awful), i decided to turn it into an experiment. for about 15 minutes, i recorded the words i could hear (maybe every 10th word or so), then i categorized them and turned them into an improv style remix. here is bryan alexander (captured by bionicteaching), and below him, the remix

bryan alexander at university of richmond

good design minimizes confusion and empowers the user. good design is for anyone. so many anyones, they are a whole congregation. the first generation of users talked to nobody. that raised a lot of eyebrows, even frankensister’s. but then, brother, the creature changed, although not into a mouse. the congregation became an audience; there was a different character to it. they changed from puppets to humans – great human characters! “and that character acts,” said kathy sierra to bryan and sean, “it has footsteps! if you do it right, they will pay you the great fee of attention.”

at that point, everyone started thinking and reflecting and more thinking, and they came up with reasons and answers. there were times in 20th century technology, not like right now, where you simply began with two things: a new game, and a moment of confusion. you couldn’t just jump from china to the united states, that would have killed you. you would have become a casualty of science fiction horror stories, landing in the eerie, creepy graveyard that everyone fears. but then it’s never the shininess that pulls us in but the darkness.

let’s get back to technology, like twitter, twitter and more twitter. or turn on the TV, and you have virtual reality! media infects your computer when you download a podcast or some videos from flickr. actually, there are some series of videos i can’t really describe, they’re new gadgets (but really new versions of old machines).

how spirited they are! amazing! what a great way to design things! the intensity sure gets our attention. excellent! it brings up people’s self esteem – aaaah! very attractive, a wonderful gift to the world.

and what is that gift, you ask? it’s text! it’s storytelling. yeah, stories about science fiction, stories about writing stories. their titles can be so good, they themselves bring in large amounts of comments. stories are important. stories are the keynote.

of course, this needs to be explained, even though it’s not explainable. it’s a puzzle but it can be explained in part. you like a sense of mystery, don’t you? it’s a surprise. it brings contrast into your life. surprise is crucial, it’s a shocking shift to suddenly reveal the mysterious, to make it visible. like in a murder mystery. mystery, of course, is a thing of speed. it’s about the hidden chamber, the pregnant pause, the sense of awe and terror that comes with just a few very strange shadows …

and that brings energy into the design, an extra force. the power of it is engaging, it pulls us in. at the same time, we must draw on the balance of power. “it needs to be expressed,” she said, and after a moment of friction, it can be dumped, if only reluctantly.

all of this can lead to addiction. but there are a lot of ways. if you’ve ever heard the twilight, you’ll find out that it’s designed so that the covers are the series. it’s a classic, classic endemic economy that sets you up to trust each other. it can look like a facsimile, and i understand that concerns you.

you are silent now.

but you have the scoop.

good design is mysterious.

juicy paper

white and open,
this sheet for me.
forty-four years now of fascination
and no end in sight.
every time i see an open field like this,
it fills me with anticipation.
dream landscapes, i’m sure, completely sure,
are ready under this thick snow blanket,
ready to form and roll and move at any time.
all that is needed is a pen,
to draw a line, another one, then five, then twelve,
twelve thousand,
across its white expanse.
thick pads of juicy paper:
each sheet a miracle.

(this is another NaPoWriMo experiment: i just went through a good two dozen of my old poems to see which one i’d feel inclined to improve a bit. this one, written in 2005, is an example)