Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Sometimes I forget why I love poetry. In writing forums and reading for literary magazines, I encounter a lot that's puerile and repetitive, themed around love and middle-class kids feeling oppressed and one-dimensional nature imagery. I encounter a lot of forced rhyme scheme and strange meter and badly-punctuated prose thinly disguised.

Then I read articles like this, and am reminded that poetry can be protest, can be a defiant shriek of identity. I am reminded that hip hop is a form of poetry.

I am reminded that I have been awed by Howl and quietly enchanted by Archy and Mehitabel. Robert Service's Cremation of Sam McGee was the first piece I ever memorized, and stuck in my mind so well that when I first experimented with cryptography, it was the key I used. I am reminded that Edgar Allan Poe's The Bells was one of the first things in any form to make me aware of the sublime perfection of careful word choice.

So why do we let ourselves read and, worse, write poetry that's easy to consume? Shutting ones brain off to be entertained is what romance novels are for. I understand poetry as expression of self, as exposition of experience, and it exists for me in the same realm as most biographies: good to have on hand for later anthropologists. I am afraid I am an inveterate thrill-seeker, though, so I want something that fires the imagination or subverts my understanding. I fell in love with poetry that moved me so my heart beat with its meter, and I want more.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


At work, we can now directly email people their receipts. This is a handy feature, as a few weeks ago I managed to accidentally explode the printer for a while (it got better). It is reliant, of course, on people having email.

Modern life more or less requires some level of electronic engagement, even if it's just a cell phone. I'm usually the odd man out in a group in that I don't have one. I have a laptop and an old laptop that'd work if I just got a charger and a Wii and a Kobo Vox, but I'm still cell phone free (I make up for this by nearly constantly being on my laptop and having a Skype number). Most cell phones now come with the ability to browse the web - thus the rise of QR codes. Which means that even ads on the sides of busses now have an online component.

This is a long lead-up to tell you that, if you are an author, you need a website.

They're not hard to set up - and Blogger both have easily navigable back-ends. They both make excellent blog platforms, but it you have no wish to blog, then you can set up a static site, just listing your works and where they can be purchased.

That is a bare minimum for engagement, in this modern era. Giving readers a way to contact you or interact with you is a better route: a contact email (set up a free webmail account if you don't want it sent to your personal email), or a blog. A forum is perhaps not quite the thing unless you know there will be interaction on it, but it is an option as well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Island Writer Launch

Last Wednesday was the launch of my last issue as Editor In Chief of Island Writer magazine. It was a good run: I started as Editorial Assistant on Issue 8.1, was Managing Editor for 8.2, and Editor In Chief for 9.1, 9.2 and 10.1. I learned a lot over that period, and contributed to the magazine, I think. Island Writer is now available online: you can download it here. It wasn't, before. Island Writer has six staff now, instead of three as when I initially started on it. I am not the person who instigated that change, but I campaigned for it and helped find some of the wonderful staff we have now, including Simeon Goa, our Art Director, who also did the cover you can see at right, and Kim Nayyer, the very steady Creative Non-Fiction and Writer's Life editor, whose support has been invaluable. Lana Betts, our efficient Editorial Assistant, does not have a personal website. Nor does Lynnette Kissoon, our fearless fiction editor whose daughters I accidentally traumatized by inviting to a launch at which there were readings not suitable for young ears (sorry). Sheila Martindale is the poetry editor, and a venerable poet in her own right.

I started everyone using Google Docs for those things edited by multiple people online, and worked with Simeon to try to streamline a lot of that process as much as possible. We started having editing parties, which got us through copy-editing and proofreading in record time, without anyone feeling too much of a stress-crunch.

In addition to any contributions I may have made, I learned a lot while working on Island Writer: I learned the mad giddy rush of making changes to ones house style-sheet, I learned about formulaic rejection letters, I learned about being very polite under all circumstances (which, if you read last week's post, you'll note is not a skill I choose to exercise at all times). I learned about organizing book launches, and the fact that there is such a thing as too much cheese, but not such a thing as too many post-it notes.

It's been a great run.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Check your privilege

This post has a context. The context of this post is best summarized here: Suzanne is quite articulate, and one of the bloggers I follow who mentions social justice who doesn't also post a lot of material that's not safe for work.

I dislike being white being made out to be the biggest part of privilege that we have to look at. Yes, I am a white, cisgendered, reasonably neurotypical (I'm smarter than you), middle-class, heterosexual female. But just because I have privilege does not mean I am part of the problem.

Probably one of the reasons so much of the social justice stuff I read rankles is that it focuses on race, and is written by Americans. Americans have a different experience of race than Canadians from small, northern, west coast cities.

To illustrate, let me tell you about the city I grew up in.

Quesnel when I was a child had one black family. They were the dark-dark skinned East Indian pharmacist couple and their two kids. Their girl was a couple years younger than me, but their boy was my age and in my class. He was all into sports and whatever, which was irrelevant to my reading-obsessed self, but he was also good at math. My biggest awareness of interaction with him was beating him in a national math competition that we both competed in, at a grade level above ours. I was smugly satisfied when I beat him, because everyone knew he was smart and I'm absurdly competitive. We had one openly lesbian family. They were friends with my mom, they had two adoptive kids. It apparently never occurred to my mom to explain what lesbians were, so I just found my sense of narrative incredibly confused by the fact that the one with cropped hair who always wore plaid lumberjack shirts was significantly shorter than the soft one with curls around her face. In the stories, the manly person is always taller than the womanly one, and so it was very weird. The population of the town was primarily Scottish-Canadian, Chinese-Canadian, Sikh Canadians, and First Nations. My family, good Catholic Scottish-Canadians who had been there for generations, was related to a lot of people, and had longstanding connections in the community. Like the Keens, a Chinese family who'd been there for ages. Harry Keen gave the eulogy for my great-uncle. The Hoys, another long-standing Chinese family, had at one point owned about a third of downtown, including taking family portraits of practically every family and miner passing through to Barkerville, the big Gold Rush town. Oh, and there were the Metis, who are the reason I was reasonably certain for most of my childhood that all French-Canadians were really tan. My mother's graduate work in First Nations studies meant I spent a fair amount of time on the reservations, and we were invited to potlatches. I also went to the open community days at the Sikh temple, and looked forward every year to when my mom got huge batches of pakora from a woman who made them by the lot in her kitchen at home. I saw a lot of 30-something First Nations men with alcohol abuse problems, too, that awful stereotype and social justice hot topic. Including two of my cousins.

Oh, right, I should mention: I'm the only one of my first cousins on my mom's side without First Nations status. I stand out at family reunions like undercooked fish.

On from race, as it is overstated: some of my closest friends are genderqueer and various shades of gay. Okay, yes, that covers most things I could say about that. I'm aware of issues around it, of the fact that a couple bi guys I know identify as straight on dating sites because they feel more secure in it.

When I was at my first high school, my first real friend was the apparently developmentally disabled girl in my theatre class: I only realized she was atypical when a teacher complimented me on my 'outreach.' The idea of it repulsed me: she was fun to hang around with because she was interesting and not obsessed with boys and drinking, not because it got me brownie points with authority figures. Awareness of neurodivergence is one of the reasons I contribute to the intermittent blog Speaking Human, which is partly dedicated at exploring and explaining why people act the way they do.

That covers everything at the top except class: I am intensely aware of class. I am aware that having an educated family has advantaged me (some people didn't learn how to use semi-colons until university, and that's just tragic), and that I will have a lot more opportunities if I complete a Bachelors degree at the very least. I connect class and education a great deal, because I value reading and erudition and good conversation and cannot comprehend that those might not be the essential elements of high society for everyone.

So now you know that I recognize privilege. But recognizing privilege isn't enough: being a responsible member of society relies on doing something about it. I call people out on discriminatory language whenever possible, and explain why I am doing so. I have, in my cranky way, tried to educate people about various issues in the belief that most prejudice is xenophobia and knowledge will dispel it.

I have a whole other rant about 'white culture' being brought up as a primary privileged group and the fact that 'white culture' is a thing that does not exist, because one can hardly get two straight cis white Republican males from the same state to agree on anything, let alone all white people across three and-some-ish continents (I also have another about how awesome it is that someone I went to high school with is running for Governor and how it makes me feel unaccomplished, but this post is already possibly the longest I've ever posted).

So remember: I am not racist. I am not misandrist. I do not care whether you are gay or straight or bi or trans* or genderqueer or ace. I am a misanthrope: I hate all of you equally.