Thursday, December 19, 2013

January 5: Julie Joosten, Roger Greenwald, Gregory Betts, Jane Silcott, Alexander Dolinin, Jason Dickson, and host, Chris Pannell

A great line-up for January. Read about the authors and their books below:

Alexander Dolinin was born and raised in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in the former Soviet Union, where he earned an MA in Iranian philology from the State University of Leningrad. After emigrating to Canada, he earned a BA in Honours History from McMaster University, with Russian history as one of his areas of specialization. Against Destiny, his first novel, joins his experience of living in the Soviet Union with a specialist’s knowledge of the history, realities and circumstances that shape its main characters and plot. He is a Canadian citizen and a member of the Writers Union of Canada. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Gregory Betts is an award-winning author, editor and professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. He has been teaching literature for a dozen years now at four different universities in Canada and Germany. He has published five books of poetry, edited five books of experimental Canadian writing, and recently published Avant-Garde Canadian Literature: The Early Manifestations. He is currently the Director of the Centre for Canadian Studies and Graduate Program Director of Canadian and American Studies at Brock.

Jane Silcott grew up in Toronto and moved west to find out why her father's voice always got softer when he spoke of the mountains. She's still finding out. Jane’s writing has been called "fearless," "honest," "compelling," and "cheeky," and has been recognized by the CBC Literary Awards, the National and Western Magazine Awards, Room Magazine, and the Creative Nonfiction Collective of Canada. Her first book, Everything Rustles, is a collection of personal essays about love, wrinkles, death, fear and laundry – the usual things.

Jason Dickson is a bookseller, publisher and writer who lives in London, Ontario. He is the editor of Clearance: Selected Journals of Dr. Michael Purdon, Parapsychologist (BookThug 2002). He also publishes the London arts and letters magazine, The London Reader.

Julie Joosten has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a PhD from Cornell University.  Her first book Light Light was published by Book Thug (2013).  Her poems and reviews can be found in Jacket 2, Tarpaulin Sky, The Fiddlehead, and The Malahat Review

Roger Greenwald grew up in New York, attended The City College and the St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Poetry Project workshop, and then took graduate degrees at the University of Toronto. He has won two CBC Literary Awards, one for his poetry and one for travel literature, as well as numerous awards for his translations. He has published one book of poems, Connecting Flight, and several volumes of poetry in translation, most recently North in the World: Selected Poems of Rolf Jacobsen; Picture World, by Niels Frank; and Meditations on Georges de La Tour, by Paal-Helge Haugen.  


Chris Pannell serves on the board of Hamilton's annual gritLIT literary festival. He has published four poetry books: Under Old Stars, Sorry I Spent Your Poem Drive, and his most recent, A Nervous City. He is also the author of a set of three poetry broadsheets entitled Fractures,Subluxations and Disclocations, which won the Hamilton and Region Arts Council poetry book award in 1997. In 2010, his book Drive won the Acorn-Plantos People's Poet award and the Arts Hamilton Poetry Book of the Year. From 1993 until 2005 he ran the New Writing Workshop at Hamilton Artists Inc. and edited two book-length anthologies for the group. He has been published in literary magazines across Canada and internationally as well.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Rob Ford, semi-colons, poetry, short stories, and prize-winners: Report from The LitLive Reading Series, December 1.

It’s amazing really: each month in Hamilton, actual real live writers—well known nationally or locally—participate in a lively reading of their work live on stage. And it’s free. The series is called Lit Live, not only because it's ‘live’ (as opposed to recorded) but because it makes literature come alive and I don’t mean in a Frankensteinian way.

The reading series is held the first Sunday of each month at Homegrown Hamilton. It features six writers—novelists, short story writers, poets, memoirists, and non-fiction writers, including, this December, three winners of the GritLit Writing Contest. The audience and the guest writers are always impressed at the size of the crowd and how congenial the series is. And no hipster posing (though I try, I try) or cliquishness.  Just fantastic writing in a friendly atmosphere. This evening, as usual, we had to get out extra chairs for the full house. All found their way to a libation and got comfortable.

Writer/educator/cartoonist Jen Jones was the entertaining host. (Each month, there's a different host from the arts community.) Jen explained how she had recently met Margaret Atwood (I think she's a hockey star or something) at Bryan Prince, Bookseller event and, after talking cartooning, Atwood drew a cartoon for her mother for Christmas. (Jen’s mom: if you’re reading this: we’ll make sure that she gives it to you and doesn’t keep it for herself!)

The first reader was poet/biologist Jan Conn who travelled from Albany, NY to read. Jan Conn has written eight books of poetry and is also a Research Scientist at the Wadsworth Center, Division of Infectious Diseases in Albany. She read a series of dark and darkly humorous poems, some of which incorporated her interest in biology, from her recent collection, Edge Effects.

Second was Toronto writer, Mark Goldstein. Before becoming a full-time writer, he played drums alongside Leslie Feist and Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning in the indie rock band By Divine Right. Mark read hauntingly from his book on ‘motherloss,’ Form of Forms as well as some of his inventive translations of Celan.

Next up was writer and teacher Dave Haskins who has been involved with the local writing community for many years.  He read from his recently published memoir, This House is Condemned (just out from Hamilton publisher Wolsak & Wynn.) The passage was an evocative account of his English boyhood vision of Canada and of a recent trip to Haida Gwaii.

Then we heard from three winners of the 2013 GritLit Literary Festival writing contest.

Burlington writer Janet Turpin Myers, read her short story, “Crashing,” a dramatic and humorous piece which involved some cars. Crashing. The story placed third in the contest. Her debut novel, Nightswimming was recently launched by Seraphim Editions.

Hamilton writer Alexandra Missett gave a vivid and dynamic reading of her story, "Fire," which won the GritLit short fiction contest.

Raymond Beauchemin, now of Hamilton, closed the evening with a charming reading of three poems (which were part of his 3rd place GritLit-winning poetry entry) and which appear in the novel he is currently writing. Raymond set the scene with some funny stories and read with a beautifully resonant voice.

Then Jen Jones the host asked everyone to look under their chair. We each received a new car and a cruiseship! Alright, so maybe that didn’t happen, but she did let everyone know that all of the GritLit winning writing is available in a chapbook. And that details of the next reading  (Sunday, January 5th, 2014 at 7:30 at Homegrown Hamilton) can be found at the LitLive blog. 

The writers stuck around to chat with the audience, many of whom visited the booktable to buy books and have them signed.  Before we all left, Rob Ford who was in the audience, suddenly stood up and said, “This kind of reading series is great opportunity to hear a diverse range of both new and familiar writers in an intimate setting (as opposed to those poetry readings at the ACC); it is an experience of writing that is vivid, fun, engaging, and often moving.” Then he said, “Did I just use a semi-colon?”  “I can’t comment on a semi-colon that may or may not exist,” Mayor Bratina said. “But this was a really great night of literature in Hamilton.” OK, so if you’ve read this far, you deserve to know that that none of this paragraph is true, except for the great night of literature part. And the part telling you that none of it was true except for that part. And, you know, this part.

I do invite you to come out to a LitLive Reading. The series really is a great opportunity to hear great writing in a welcoming and congenial setting; and semi-colons.