Events this week! Hamilton, Oakville, Toronto

Join us!

Hamilton: reading and Q&A at MacReads, McMaster University. April 28th, 7-8:30pm, Alumni House, (formerly President’s Residence), $5 (includes light refreshments), all welcome. Books available for purchase at Titles Bookstore and Bryan Prince Booksellers.

Oakville: reading sponsored by Halton Pride and Bryan Prince Booksellers. With Liz Bugg and Trish Salah. April 29th, 7pm at CJ’s Cafe, 2416 Lakeshore Rd W. More infoFree, all welcome.

Brockton Writers Series, Toronto: reading with Alissa York, Amy Lavender Harris, Paul Vermeersch, May 4th, 7-9pm, 270 Gladstone Ave. (north of Dundas). Guest host: Susan G. Cole. PWYC (suggested $3-5). Books for sale.

Brockton Writers Series #17

This month we are excited to bring to the mic Ava Homa, Jorge Antonio Vallejos, Marcus McCann and Sarah Greene.

Wednesday April 6, 7-9, at the beautiful and historic St. Anne’s Church, 270 Gladstone (just north of Dundas). Writers’ networking (open to all writers–emerging and established) begins at 6:30pm. This month’s networking session will be facilitated by Nora Gold.

The event is free, but we pass a hat ($3-$5, pwyc suggested donation) to pay the writers. Books for sale. Drinks available by donation to the Jeremiah Community at St. Anne’s church, who provide us with refreshments and the space.

More about the writers:

Ava is a Kurdish-Iranian-Canadian, writer-in-exile, with two Master’s in “English and Creative Writing” and “English Language and Literature.” Echoes from the Other Land, Ava’s collection of short stories about resistance of modern Iranian women under the oppressive regime, was published by TSARbooks, Toronto. On its universal scale, Echoes from the Other Land, is the story of human endurance, desire, resistance, passion and pleasure. Ava’s short fictions and translations have appeared in numerous English and Farsi journals including Windsor Review. She was a teacher, journalist, writer and a member of faculty in Iran. In Toronto, Ava writes and teaches Creative Writing, English and ESL.

Jorge Antonio Vallejos is a poet, essayist, and journalist. His creative writing has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Our Times, Toronto Star, Descant and is forthcoming in the new anthology Crave It by Red Claw Press. See his new poetry magazine:

Marcus McCann is the author of Soft Where (Chaudiere Books, 2009) and eight chapbooks, most recently The Glass Jaw (Bywords, 2010) and Town in a Long Day of Leaving (above/ground 2010). In 2010, he won the John Newlove Award and was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert. The Lampert jury called Soft Where a “a stunning book … written in the language of the people and soaked in a heart of sapphire.” He’s a past organizer of the Transgress Festival and the Naughty Thoughts Book Club. A journalist by day, McCann lives in Toronto.

Sarah Greene is a writer and musician living in the Junction Triangle. Her writing has appeared in NOW Magazine, The Coast (Halifax), and Broken Pencil. Greene took part in creative writing workshops during her undergrad at UofT, and has since self-published three chapbooks of poetry, the most recent being 2007’s Packing up the farm. Greene’s indie-folk band The Pickups (2003-2007) released a self-titled album and an EP called Country Houses, City Streets, which charted on campus-community radio and was featured on CBC Radio and in the Globe and Mail. Her new solo album, recorded with David Celia in Mississauga, is called Toronto Blues.

Brockton Writers Series 16

The Brockton Writers Series is a monthly literary series that welcomes established and emerging writers and the people who love to read their work. I have the pleasure of curating it!

This month we are excited to bring to the mic Elisha Lim, Caleb Cohen, Laurie Leclair and Dawn Promislow.

Wednesday February 2, 7-9, at the beautiful and historic St. Anne’s Church, 270 Gladstone Ave, just north of Dundas, in Toronto.

The event is free, but we pass a hat ($3-$5, pwyc suggested donation) to pay the writers. Books for sale. Drinks available by donation to the Jeremiah Community at St. Anne’s church, who provide us with refreshments and the space.

More about the writers:

DAWN Promislow’s debut collection, Jewels and Other Stories, was published by TSAR in October 2010. She has been published in Saturday Night, Maple Tree Literary Supplement ( and TOK: Writing the New Toronto Book 5 . One of the stories in Jewels was shortlisted for UK-based Wasafiri’s New Writing Prize 2009. She is the recipient of an Ontario Arts Council Works in Progress grant. Born and raised in South Africa, she has lived in Toronto since 1987.

LAURIE Leclair was born in Tecumseh, Ontario and moved to Toronto to pursue graduate studies at York University. She has worked as an archaeologist and historian and now runs a small research firm specializing in aboriginal treaty rights and resource use. Her main influences as a creative writer are E. F. Benson and David Sedaris. She lives in Parkdale with her husband Richard and their son Daniel. You can read more of her material on Exquisite Corpse, a blog devoted to serial writing she keeps with two other middle-aged Torontonians @

CALEB Cohen is a recovering academic who currently works at Another Story Bookshop where he sells books instead of writing them. Caleb comes from a family of truck drivers and has spent much of his life on the road, collecting stories and perfecting the art of motion sickness. He recently took a risk and withdrew from grad school to focus on his childhood desire to be an author. This is his first reading and he’s incredibly nervous. Wish him luck.

ELISHA Lim is the author of 100 Butches which is a genderbending comic with a cult following including queer luminaries like Allison Bechdel (Fun Home, Dykes to Watch Out For) and Michelle Tea (Rent Girl, Rose of No Man’s Land). Elisha’s comics have been featured in queer magazines like Diva UK, <> , Curve US, LOTL Australia, Xtra Canada, and nomorepotlucks, and the 100 Butches toured in the spring with the legendary Sister Spit caravan through 28 North American cities. Elisha’s looking forward to collaborating on a new graphic novel with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and to being Allyson Mitchell’s first guest artist at the Feminist Art Gallery, or FAG.

Note to writers: Writers’ networking session starts at 6:30pm. All emerging and established writers welcome to chat about publishing, promotion, craft–anything about the writing life. The session will be facilitated by a writer.

Open mic sign up is at 6:55pm. There are three 5 minute slots.

Limited parking available–choose spots labelled “St. Anne’s Church” or street parking.


Many of us take a moment to reflect on our lives at this time of year and set goals for self improvement. How many of you are vowing to go to the gym more often, eat more vegetables, learn a new language, give up shopping? Resolutions (albeit, set at an arbitrary time of year) can help us focus on what we want for ourselves.

I asked this month’s Brockton Writers Series writers to share their annual writing goals. Mary Frances Coady, Nicole Tanguay, Carlyn Zwarenstein and Janice Goveas all had plans to write more, submit more, and complete projects. Each of them are accomplished poets, playwrights, non-fiction and prose writers. I know they’ll get those stories published, finish their manuscripts, find more time to wordsmith.

I’ve been considering my writing goals for the year ahead, but I have to be careful about setting them. Raised by a workaholic, I tend to set my bars pretty  high all year round and sometimes forget to notice how far I’ve come and how well things are going. As a rule, I aim to write 5-10 pages per week, to spend an hour every day on book promo, and meet nearly all the grant application deadlines. I take the work of writing pretty seriously.

I could come up with even more goals. My second novel will be released in March and I should attempt a few readings each month. I’m working on my third novel and would love to have a draft completed by year’s end. All this will probably happen.

But I think I might need different sorts of resolutions this year, ones that allow me to enjoy my writing life just a little more. Its a privilege to be an artist, and a joy to have my work published and read.

So, this year I resolve to: have tons of fun while touring Six Metres of Pavement, delighting in the travel and the lovely people  I’ll meet along the way. I won’t over-focus on sales statistics. I’ll write as though critics don’t exist. Play and work will collide.

Performance block?

Do you get writers block? Published and unpublished writers speak with dread about this phenomenon. For some it can last for days or even for years.

I don’t really get it. It’s not that I haven’t had difficult writing days, where ideas chug along slower than a VIA train. And there have been weeks where I just haven’t really felt like writing. Little inspiration, lots of self-doubt, sluggish creativity.

But I don’t call this writer’s block. I consider it part of the ebb and flow of the writing process. Sometimes eight pages come out in one day, and other times it’s only eight sentences and four of those are crap. It’s just how it is.

When I first started writing, I snuck an hour here, thirty minutes there. It was a hobby begging time from the rest of my life. Over the years it has expanded so that it now gets more space than everything else. Perhaps because I took so long to get here, there just isn’t any time to be blocked.

Each month at the Brockton Writers Series I ask the writers to share an aspect of their writing process with the audience. This month I thought I’d get others’ take on this question, as well as what they do to prevent or get past a block. Here is some of what they said:

Sherry Isaac seemed on the same page insisting, “there’s no such thing. I just have to get out of my own damn way.” Emily Dunn also believes that writer’s block is not about writing, but the worry that you won’t be able to craft exactly what you need to say.

Gemma Merharchand says, “read, read, read” and Maria Pia Marchelletta chooses famous writers for inspiration. Carina Ramos does more research, soaking up information to use later.

Then there are those who take breaks. R.G. Thompson goes for a walk or run to escape his computer. Maurus Cappa goes to bed and as he falls asleep, new ideas are offered up to him. Jefferson Guzman gets bursts of creativity half-way through his smoke breaks, causing him to prematurely abandon his cigarettes.

Like me, Cassandra Cronenberg Hunter gets her work done by forcing herself to just sit down in her chair. I repeat the mantra aloud: “Ass in chair, Farzana. Ass in chair.”

Brandon Pitts scoffed at the question, asking: “do we face ‘performance block’ in any other area of work? No? So why then should we get writer’s block? Treat writing like a job!” He got a round of applause for that.

Writing is my job. Yeah, it’s my lower paying job, but it comes with goals, deadlines, performance appraisals, and regular work hours. Just like any other job, some days are more or less productive. On good days, my boss can be really nice, offering praise and the promise of a raise. On bad days, she can be terribly critical, a real schmuck, even. But what can you do? You’ve gotta make a living, right?

Location, location

Writers are often asked where we write. It is a question as much about writing process as it is about location. What spaces provide inspiration, focus, or unblocks a writer?

When I’m in the process of writing a novel, it’s usually at home in front of my computer, or in a cafe. I write in long blocks or short breaks between appointments. My most productive writing has happened “on vacation” in a busy library in Del Rio Texas, just a block away from my father’s house.

First drafts of poetry nearly always happen in the moments in between stuff, when I’m alone and waiting for the next thing to happen. Buses are good, so are trains. Restaurants, too, when I arrive too early for my date.

I asked the November 2nd Brockton Writers Series writers to answer the question, to share something of their own writing process with the audience. Here are their answers:

Nehal El-Hadi writes “absolutely everywhere”. She often begins a piece on her cell-phone, texting herself bits and pieces of prose to work on later.

Carole Giangrande carries around a “crummy, old , battered notebook” to record her ideas.

Jules Lewis likes to write at the University of Toronto Libraries, “because it’s free”.

May Lui writes anywhere except in her apartment, where she gets easily distracted. She carries a tiny notebook to “scribble down brilliant sentences”.

So, where do you write?

A year of words and community

Conversations between neighbours in dog parks can lead to great things…

Just over a year ago, Melanie Janisse, local poet, artist and Zoot’s Cafe owner, and I were standing around St. Veronika’s schoolyard, watching our dogs sniff the ground. We started talking about the need to create a literary space in the neighbourhood, a space that would be welcoming of all writers and readers. A couple of months later, we began the Brockton Writers Series. Melanie offered her space, and I organized the writers. At first, we highlighted those who lived and worked in the neighbourhood, but soon requests from writers living all over the city, and even from out of town, began to flood in. Our audience grew too, and soon Zoots became just a little too crowded for our series.

So, in the spring, we were invited in by the Jeremiah Community at St. Anne’s Church a marvellous, historic church on Gladstone, just north of Dundas.

Another change came in September, when a few writers spoke about the need to chat with one another about the writing life. We now have a writers’ networking time that begins a half hour before the event so that emerging and established writers can talk about publishing, craft, funding, and promotion.

Over the past year, BWS has hosted over 40 featured writers and about 20 open mic writers as well, including Anthony De Sa, Claudia Dey, Carey Toane, Vivek Shraya, Rose Cullis, Salimah Valiani, Nora Gold, White Noise Machine (aka Mike Smith) and Adebe D.A., to name just a few.

As a writer and Brocktonite, I’m honoured to curate this series. Writers bring their best work. The audiences are respectful and friendly. People talk with one another during the break. I leave each night feeling just a little more connected and inspired.

Join us!  Our next event will be on Tuesday November 2nd, 7-9pm (with writers’ networking at 6:30pm) at St. Anne’s Church, 270 Gladstone. The event is free, but donations for the writers are welcomed. Refreshments also by donation (to the Jeremiah Project) and books available for sale. November’s featured writers are: Nehal El-Hadi, Carole Giangrande, Jules Lewis and May Lui.


Farzana with Jasmine D'Costa, Sept 2010


Brockton Writers Series

For some time, I’ve been a proud resident of Brockton Village, in Toronto’s West End. I have a great sense of community here and I love knowing and getting to know my neighbours.

So, when Melanie Janisse, poet, artist and local coffee shop owner, suggested we run a monthly writers series out of her Dundas West Zoots Cafe I got excited at the idea of connecting with my writer-neighbours too.

The Brockton Writers Series highlights the work of people who live within the dozen or so blocks bordered (loosely, because we are pretty flexible about geography) by Lansdowne/Gladstone/College/Queen Streets. Three invited writers of all genres and experience levels–emerging and established– take the stage and we also offer some open mic time for people who want to share something they’re working on. Most of all, we’re interested in creating community for those who love writing and literature.

This past month, our second ever event, poets Sarah Greene and Melanie Janisse, playwright Janice Goveas, and emerging novelist Mo Pigeon, shared their work to a full house. The feeling was cozy and supportive, and the room buzzed with chatter during the breaks. Our microphone wouldn’t work and sometimes the sound of the expresso maker punctuated our words, but that was just fine.  There was a sense that this series is building into something good.

Writers have been excited to get involved. We’re booked for our next three months! Who knew there were so many talented people living in such a small geographic area? Well, we guessed there were lots of us around, and we’re glad this has been confirmed.

So, next month’s line-up includes playwright Rose Cullis, fiction-writer Jasmine D’Costa and poet Aisha Sasha John. All three  are accomplished in their genres and this promises to be a fantastic night.

Join us the first Tuesday of each month, 7-9pm, at Zoots Cafe, 1438 Dundas Street West, Toronto. The event is free, and books, drinks and other treats are available for sale. If you’d like to be part of the open mic, come sign up at 6:50pm. Contact me if you’re a local writer who wants to read at a future event.

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