09 July 2009

#2 with an anchor, mysterious authors, and a Boot Camp

Sarah at Freehand Books dropped me a note the other day to tell me that Buying Cigarettes for the Dog was #2 on the Calgary Herald's fiction best-seller list this past Sunday. If anyone has a copy of that paper, I'd love it. Quick! Before they get a better proofreader!

Meanwhile, it's been a hyper-busy week. Last Saturday night, for the Scream Festival, I took part in a panel of editors doing a "blind edit" (we weren't told who the authors were) of a poem and a short story. This process didn't really reflect the usual editing process: you'd never get a single poem by an unknown author. You'd have context: the author's name and perhaps background and perhaps other works, and a whole heap of poems.

So we were squirming up there in front of the capacity crowd at the Mercer Union. And the authors, when they came up, were squirming too. The poet was Ken Babstock. I really didn't like his poem, and I said as much in a harsher-than-usual note back to the mystery author. I basically told him to go read a bunch of other poets and then do some more writing. I like a lot of Ken's published stuff, so there ya go. The fiction writer was Gil Adamson, but she offered up the first draft of a 15-year-old story. I thought it needed a lot of work, but a particularly beautiful passage in the middle and a sublime ending made me feel it was worth rewriting. The other editors were Alana Wilcox and Bev Daurio. Alcohol was necessary afterwards.

Sunday was a nifty reading at the Yorkville branch of Toronto Public Library, which was in fact closed that evening. The reading was built around Martha Baillie's great novel The Incident Report. I was in the fiction section, Marc Glassman in the non-fiction, Kate Eichorn and Jake Mooney read their poetry, and there was more. Good crowd, good fun, hot as hell.

This week has been nearly non-stop jamming and practicing in advance of Friday and Saturday's Figure of Speech event on Walnut Street. It's a very freaky thing to share the stage with a dancer and musicians, but we're all pretty excited about this collaborative experience. Hoping for a nice crowd.

And, finally, I've scheduled a summer Poetry Boot Camp in Toronto. Here's the guff:

Sunday, July 26, 10am-5 pm (w/ 45-minute lunch break)
Christie/Dupont area
$75 includes materials, light snacks & a book by Stuart Ross

Prepayment guarantees your spot. To register, write Stuart at hunkamooga@sympatico.ca.

A relaxed but intensive one-day workshop for beginning poets, experienced poets, stalled poets, and haikuists who want to get beyond three lines. Poetry Boot Camp focuses on the pleasures of poetry and the riches that spontaneity brings, through lively directed exercises and relevant readings from the works of poets from Canada and abroad. We'll also touch on revision and collaboration. Arrive with an open mind, and leave with a heap of new poems!


"I really enjoyed myself and felt like I got a lot done. I thank you very much for the stimulation & the relaxed atmosphere."

"Yay! Excited to go back to trying to write poems. I have so many new things to try now. Thanks!"

"I liked being exposed to the familiar in a new, fresh, creative way."

"Just what I needed!"

"I most enjoyed the relaxed pace and the self-directed nature of the work."

"The Boot Camp pushed me beyond my comfort zone in precisely the way that I hoped it would."

"My favourite part was the variety of non-threatening strategies for writing."

"Really informative, really helpful workshop. Great energy!"

"Excellent pacing! The day passes quickly — it really is a boot camp!"

"You always get such interesting characters attending your workshops!"

"Excellent overall. I got a lot of out of it. Money very well spent! I'd recommend it to others."

"Very well-run, well-thought-out workshop! Thanks!"

Announced it on Monday, and already it's filling up quickly.

Over and out.


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