The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, March 30, 2009

Save the CBC

The other day, I read about the cutbacks at the CBC, and the potential 'bailouts' to the major Canadian networks. I also received this email from the action group Avaaz:

"Dear friends,

Canada’s media networks have all been slammed by the recession. But the government is reportedly considering bailouts for its friends at private companies CTV and CanWest, while forcing the CBC to drastically cut 800 staff and programming.

Our CBC is a national treasure, and a pillar of public-interest journalism in a country whose media is owned by a few large firms. We won’t hear an outcry from their media outlets, and the CBC is too principled to use its megaphone to make the case for itself. We are the only voice the CBC has.

We urgently need a massive public outcry to Save the CBC, click below to sign the petition and forward this email to everyone who might care about this:

The petition will be delivered directly to the government, through Parliament, ads, and stunts such as an airplane pulling a giant Save the CBC banner over Ottawa. In each case the number of signatures on the petition will be crucial to the effectiveness of the campaign, so let’s get as many people as possible to sign.

The CBC is facing a budget shortfall that amounts to just $6 per Canadian, but its request to the government for a bridging loan to cover this was denied. The deep cuts the CBC is making will damage the organization across the board, and they will not be the last. If we don’t stand up for the CBC now, it stands to die a death by a thousand cuts. Harper’s minority government is politically vulnerable – public outrage could turn the government around on this, but it has to happen now. Let's move quickly.

With hope,

Ricken, Lisa-Marie, Laryn and the whole Avaaz Canada team."

(If you too are concerned about the state of our national media, the petition is here.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Progress of a Story: Grace; or, Chaos

by Andrew Tibbetts

I think a lot about my writing. I plan it. I develop theories. Very, very rational. Very right-brained. (Have I got the correct hemisphere? The goody-goody one?) I trained as a social scientist in the ‘soft science’ of people’s lives, so spinning long complicated theories comes second nature to me. Ah, Theory! Also, I trained as a composer at the tail-end of ‘total serialism’ so making algorithmic charts for works of art also comes easily. (Check out Alex Ross's FANTASTIC website! Here in the glossary is a brief description of 'total serialism' and an excerpt from Boulez's "Structures 1a" for two pianos.)

And then stuff just happens. But let me back up:

After the initial idea occurred to me (by thinking long and hard about what my collection ‘needed’,):
-I mapped out my new story as a set of incidents with the same general arc. I created a ratio based on the Fibonacci series so that each incident, and each section of each incident, would be proportionally shorter, but that the ratio of sections-within-incident would be the same as the ratio of incidents-within-story.
-I thought about what prose style made the most rational sense and ran everything through a set of rules derived from the homage-d author.

And then I got an idea in the mail and changed absolutely everything on a whim.

In a religious sense, ‘grace’ is any un-earned benefit bestowed by an unpredictable deity. Wikipedia defines it as ‘unmerited (divine) favour’. It’s a handy concept to muddy up the fact that the folks following the big guy’s supposed rules aren’t necessarily doing well. Sometimes the wicked prevail and the good suffer. But it’s not just a rationalization for a capricious universe; it’s kind of a beautiful and mysterious idea! You can’t control everything. And love is more powerful than any tally sheet or tick chart. Sometimes mom takes you out for ice cream, ‘just because’.

For me, a secular application of the idea of ‘grace’ is that of the irrational creative urge. No matter how much I thinkthinkthink and force the ideas to trot logically one from the next, sometimes something will just plop itself in my lap. And there really is no explaining.

I’ve long decided that that doesn’t mean I won’t do the work. I won’t sit around and wait for grace. That’s the whole point: you can’t expect it. Like the Spanish Inquisition—no one expects it!

Flannery O’Connor, great short-story writer, defender of grace, and peacock owner, wrote about the sudden unfurling of the glorious peacock tail. She could never bring it about, couldn’t coax it out of her birds. However, without rhyme or reason, a sudden glory of gods-eye colour would bloom from the back of these otherwise chickens.

Now, really, there’s probably some rhyme or reason. It’s just we can’t see it. Behind Flannery, a little peahen just batted her eyelids, but Flannery didn’t catch it. Things are too complicated to parse out all the causes of all the effects.

That’s the new idea that’s supplanted ‘grace’. That’s ‘chaos’—the idea that apparently incomprehensible phenomena can be revealed as the complicated interaction of several fairly simple rules. There are turbulence scientists, who map this stuff. There’s also Pierre Boulez’ piano sonatas which are the collision of a short mathetical formula applied to very dimension of a piece of music, but which end up sounding like random chaos. Herds of different sized cats walking across the keys. That’s the old idea of chaos, as complete disorder.

So, perhaps, my surprise idea that came along to completely change my story wasn’t irrational at all. Perhaps it makes total-sense, just a very complicated sense at a level beyond my immediate viewpoint. Whatever. I’ll take it either way. Grace; or chaos—keep it coming!

So, finally, after several months of fits and starts and stops, that pooped out a few hard nuggets of tight-assed prose, my story suddenly wrote itself in a late-night blaze of activity. Ta-da! I have a first draft.

Last night I posted it to my on-line writers’ review site. And now the story moves into the next phase: revision. And revision. And revision.

Stayed tuned.
This blog-post is part of a series documenting the creation of a short-story, which, as of last night is called, “My Father, Escape-Artist-Extraordinaire!” Earlier posts are: Dad, Immigration, The Inner World of the North American Male, Mess, Doubts, Research, Versions, and The Importance of Being Ernest Hemingway.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Progress of a Story: The Importance of Being Ernest Hemingway

By Andrew Tibbetts

I’ve been on a writing holiday for two weeks. Everyday I found one thing or another more compelling than the unfinished writing project. One day I watched four hours of “What Not to Wear.” I’m not kidding. Four hours. Four different transformations. Four quirky interesting people turned into blandly ordinary nice looking people. They must have a “What Not to Wear” channel on cable. It's always on. I lovehate that show. But, me and Clinton, now it’s official—after the hand-puppet episode, where Clinton reveals himself to be the worst improv-comedy performer in the world—that we are destined to marry. He just became so much more appealing when he stopped being perfect. Cute!

On another writing day, I suddenly got the idea that I had to read some Hemingway short stories. I’ve never read any. Oh, that’s not true. I read one about abortion, I think. Some time ago. I barely remember it. A couple was talking. No one actually said ‘abortion’ but that’s what they were talking about. Or maybe not. It was so long ago. I believe I was wearing a deconstructed jacket with padded shoulders. I may have had on a headband. Anyway, I’d decided that my ‘father’ story was going to be inspired by Hemingway (because I think, if my father would ever have enjoyed reading a short story, it would probably be one by Ernest Hemingway) and so I’d better go and get some Hemingway stories. I combed the Toronto used book stores and every store had at least one copy. The cheapest was seven bucks. Hooray! (More writing avoidance—go used book browsing!)

I read three stories and they were smashing! Even so—I was tempted to blame poor Ernest for every stupid macho male thing I’ve come across in my life. He’s pretty rigid on ‘being a man’ which is the opposite of ‘a coward’. And manhood seems to be acquired by shutting off your feelings and killing something.

On the last Saturday before my writing holiday was over I finally dug up my old efforts at a ‘father’ story. Wow—they were so much better than I remembered. I picked up right where I left off and pulled all the bits into a shape. (Do you end up with hundreds of story-bits? I have to do a file search for a characters’ name whenever I try to pick up a dropped story. This time I ended up with 45 files to poke through, slightly different versions of the same few scenes. Very irritating.)

Anyway, it’s back on! I did a bit of research about the Korean War and tried to think of some ways to Hemingwayize the chunks I’d already written. This was really rewarding. There’s something very feminine about the way I write short stories. My favourite short story writers are mostly women: Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Amy Hempel, Miranda July, Katherine Mansfield, Flannery O’Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, Deborah Eisenberg. And lately, I’ve been very attracted to the poetic prose styles of Anne Michaels and Anne Carson and I’ve been pushing my language in that direction, or I should say directions. They aren’t very similar, my Annes.

Well, putting my ‘father’ story through the Hemingway sieve was very exciting. I chopped all my long sentences into simpler ones. I shaved off half the descriptive words. (Although, I have to say, while I was reading Hemingway, I kept saying, HA—there’s an adverb!, HA—there’s a fancy couple of adjectives! He’s not nearly as spare as I thought he was going to be.) If I could pair down a set of observations into a single punchier one, I did. If I could take out an interior monologue and leave the action alone, I did.

Here’s a before-sentence from the middle of the story:

Given an hour to escape the burning sunshine, some of the sailors went below deck but Christopher Hebblethwaite threw himself from the side of the ship, a beautiful dive curving up, over, and straightening sharply to cut deep into the cold saltwater.
Hey-What do you want? It’s an early draft! It’s trying to be one of those long loopy Gabriel García Márquez/William Gass/Salman Rushie sentences that are the literary equivalent of a panoramic shot. I love those. But, not very Hemingway! So, here’s what happened to it. Pared to the bone:
He dove off the ship into the ocean.
Anyway, I’m not done, so this is an interim report. I’ll keep you informed. And for the meantime, here’re my hotties of the month:
Ernest Hemingway and Clinton Kelly!

Stay tuned for next week's "What Not to Write", when Ernest chucks all Andrew's fruity commas into the trash! And Clinton says, "You're going to the book store dressed like that?"

Monday, March 23, 2009


is not a word!

I know, the English language is ever-evolving. And what's acceptable, such as starting a sentence with 'and', has shifted over the years. Still, there remain a few colloquialisms that drive me batty when I hear or see them.

'Anyways', for example, does my head in when I hear it used in casual conversation.

Of course, I'm well aware of my own poor speech habits. Worse than that, many manage to show up in my writing, too. What surprises me, though, is how often I find common grammatical no-no's in contemporary novels.

In a recent review for a well-known Canadian novel (Okay, I'm going to mention it by name: The Cellist of Sarajevo), the writer expressed frustration at the number of sentences in the novel ending in a preposition, and surprise that kind of writing came from someone who's also a writing teacher.

As I'm reading the book now, I'm on the lookout for these poorly placed preps. Not only is this 'game' distracting me from the story, it's making me wonder whether the usage blunder is the result of bad writing, or lazy editors. Or maybe it's just a by-product of an increasingly colloquial language.

Whatever the reason, I'm finding myself worrying about my speech habits and how they're affecting my writing.

At least one thing is for certain, 'anyways' will never find its way into one of my stories.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This is how my mind works

by Tricia Dower

A headline, “Barristas in Bikinis,” got me thinking I hope women aren’t having to tart themselves up again to get a job in this down economy which sucked me back to the ‘70s and the apartment complex I lived in which was pretty much a ghetto for single moms because it had a daycare center and a group of little boys prowled the hallways, knocking on our door at any hour asking for my son which led him to say he wasn’t hungry anymore if we were eating because he wanted to prowl with them which led me to draw a picture of pigs at a trough and tell them when you see that picture on the door, we’re eating, so don’t knock, okay, and the pretty mom of two of those boys waitressed at a bar which made her wear fishnet stockings and a tight little skirt that barely covered her whatsis and the fact that she couldn’t get a different job made her cranky which led to her yelling at her ex in the lobby of our building when he came to pick up the boys and we all got to hear and the only time I wore fishnet stockings was on Halloween about 15 years later when I was a single mom again and Colin who lived next door invited me to a party to which I wore a French Maid’s costume which my daughter who was in high school didn’t know I was going to wear and when she showed up at the party with one of her friends she said “Mom!” This is how my mind works which sometimes makes it difficult to make it all the way through the news.

I’m reading tonight, March 19, in Nanaimo at the Acme Food Company in the Bombay Lounge which sounds slightly sleazy but I won’t be wearing fishnet stockings. If you’re in Nanaimo, do stop in. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., 14 Commercial Street.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I was in a specialty bookstore yesterday and I overheard the manager on the phone saying “yeah, it’s been really quiet in here these days. If it wasn’t for the on-line orders and convention sales we’d be…I don’t know where we’d be….”

And then a tumbleweed rolled by.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thoughts on International Women's Day

by Tricia Dower

Last Saturday was the bittersweet (for me) International Women’s Day. I appreciate the gesture, especially if it spotlights the discrimination, violence, and oppression women experience around the world, but designating a day for women feels condescending: like a pat on the head for being a “good girl” or a gold star for trying. This year in Russia, according to a CBC article, “men were streaming into flower markets and florists around the country to buy bouquets for the women in their lives.” Personally, I’ll take equal pay and freedom from rape, forced marriage, unwanted pregnancy, stoning, genital mutilation, and domestic violence over flowers any day.

Yesterday US President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Council on Women and Girls, “designed to ensure that federal agencies pay attention to the way their policies impact women and families.” Obama noted that while women are half the nation's population, they make up only 17 percent of the members of Congress and three percent of the heads of the top 500 corporations in the United States, hence the reason for focusing on them. A good idea, but the inclusion of “families” is troublesome, because it implies that women are primarily responsible for them. I was pleased to come across this opinion piece by Lisa Belkin in The New York Times expressing concerns similar to mine and in a much better way than I could. I hope you’ll read it.

Assuming we continue to “celebrate” International Women’s Day, I propose an International Men’s Day, as well, where we highlight the plight of child soldiers and analyze why men are socialized into violence (hockey, anyone?) and waging war. We could focus on preventative measures for prostate cancer and other diseases affecting men in greater proportion than women. Discuss whether men get a fair shake when it comes to child custody and if they get harsher sentences when convicted of crimes. Men could probably come up with a pretty good list of items they’d like to talk about.

If men and women each had a “special day,” perhaps we could equally share the other 363.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

$ex for $ale: prostitution, government and regulation

by Andrew Tibbetts

This past weekend the student union of the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto presented it’s second annual conference, the theme being: Sex for Sale: prostitution, government and regulation. The two day event had a lively mix of speakers from the worlds of academia, journalism, law enforcement, sex work and advocacy.

The keynote speaker, Carole Leigh brought us up to speed on the fight for sex worker rights around the world in a lively and entertaining fashion, with bumper stickers, manifestos and music videos woven around her personal journey from red-diaper baby to “Scarlot Harlot”.

Next up was the utterly charming Valerie Scott, of Sex Professionals of Canada. She gave us the Canadian perspective, introducing us to the strange and tangled laws of our own country. The irony: prostitution itself is legal in Canada. It’s just that everything else around it—“living off the avails”, “communicating for the purposes of,” etc…—is criminalized. Valerie gave out some nickels at the start of her talk and later sweetly and calmly pointed out to the audience that we were now pimps (living off the avails of prostitution). And I didn’t even have to get a big purple hat!

Gerald Hannon joined the women for a panel discussion that closed the Friday evening portion of the conference. Hannon is famous in Toronto as the “profstitute,” a journalism professor at Ryerson whose teaching career ended after it was revealed that he supplemented his income with sex work.

The audience asked questions of the panel as SDS Professor, Dr. Scott Rayter, undoubtably a professor of hot-ology, moderated. It wouldn’t be a university event without outraged students finding fault. “Why does the event cost money?” I wondered how international guests could be brought in and halls rented, etc…, without charging a fee—a modest $40 for the two days. “Why aren’t there sex workers here?” I wondered how anyone could tell whether there were or not—fishnet stockings among the crowd? But then some folks like to use a Q and A to make speeches. "Why is someone filming this?" Xtra reporter, Michael Pihach, stepped up to answer some of the questions, since the moderator and panel seemed a little bewildered. Personally, I think we need more media attention, not less, on this topic. "Why are the police at this conference?" The fact that Detective Leaver was scheduled for the Saturday event didn't stop some folks from asking her questions. Conference organizers were forced to point out the obvious—come tomorrow and ask her yourself—but a little drama is always good, no?

Saturday opened with a succinct powerpoint presentation, courtesy of professor MarianaValverde, which outlined the history of efforts to define and “deal with” prostituion around the world. Prof. Valverde is the kind of prof I wish they all could be! Brilliant and engaging, she calmly made mincemeat out of oppressive forces’ “logic” and revealed the power dynamics beneath the surface of apparently reasonable endeavours to regulate the sex trade.

Next up, SDS student, conference co-organizer, and T-girl sex worker, Nikki Stratigacos, presented her fascinating personal story, while mining it for philosophical challenges to ideas of gender, sexuality and economics. If you are in charge of getting a speaker for an event in the upcoming year on any theme related to higher education, sex, gender or business, you should get Nikki. If only more people were so fearless and insightful about the realities of their experience!

The day continued to be lively as Todd Klink, long a hero of this blogger, told us about his journey from small-town Ontario farm boy to big-city prostitute/novelist/screenwriter/pornographer/entrepreneur. Todd’s no nonsense charm undercuts his deeply transgressive thought: “One day a six-year-old’ll be able to say he or she wants to be a sex worker when they grow up, and no one will freak.” The crowd all seemed to be fans of Todd’s club, Goodhandy’s—even Detective Leaver (see below)!

The audience was next treated with a passionate presentation by Kara Gillies, an active sex worker for the past twenty years and currently program development and education co-ordinator for Maggies, Canada’s first sex-worker-run education project. Kara took a critical look at some of the recent Canadian efforts to ‘protect’ sex workers, revealing them to be deeply invasive and disrespectful. A brave volunteer from the audience popped on-stage to submit herself to the kind of police ‘screening’ Halifax sex workers have been recently ‘protected’ with. Kudos to the U. of T. student volunteer who helped make the topic so real for us.

The afternoon ended with a presentation by Det. Wendy Leaver, on the work of Toronto Police Services’s Special Victims Section of the Sex Crimes Unit. Facing a tough crowd, Leaver was passionate and honest and skilfully won folks over. She readily admitted that it would be great if Toronto didn’t need a special unit to investigate sex assaults on sex workers, if only all the regular officers could be counted on to take these crimes seriously and treat these victims respectfully. If we got to vote for Police Chief in this great city—and wouldn’t THAT be something!—Detective Leaver would get my vote. Leaver and her team are different kinds of cops than the ones we’ve heard about whom’ve harassed and assaulted instead of served and protected certain citizens. Until the day when the wider force, and indeed the wider society (because the police are only reflective of our own deeply conflicted ideas about sex work and sex workers), are able to treat these crimes as they deserve to be treated, it’s good to have Det. Leaver and her team at work. (You might notice SPOC’s website’s plea for her not to retire!)

I doubt any academic conference has been so interesting, certainly none I’ve attended. Kudos to the students who organized and ran the event! The study of sexuality is in fine hands and minds. (Last year's conference was on kink. I wonder what they'll bring us next!)

Monday, March 09, 2009

On Cons, advertisers, & the CBC

By Tamara Lee

Faced with the likely $200 million shortfall the Conservative government has in store—a threat that’s been rumoured long enough that the list of current CBC brass seems to resemble a shareholder’s meeting more than a public cultural institution—big changes at the CBC are already evident.

If you watched a recent episode of Little Mosque on the Prairie, one of the public broadcaster’s most popular sitcoms, you would have seen what’s coming to a CBC media stream near you: Integrated Marketing.

"CBC director of marketing and brand activation Jamie Michaels [says], ‘This season, our doors are really open to advertisers looking for integration beyond the 30-second spot.'"

Not only do audiences have to hear that annoying “…starts now” announcer before nearly every CBC TV show, for Little Mosque, each commercial break begins with “Brought to you by [Insurance Agents], and now, even worse than product placement, inane advertisements are being scripted into the show. Season 3, episode 17, for example, (see the beginning of the YouTube Part 3 clip), offers viewers this sort of thing:

Scene: Open on a sign for [Insurance Company] above a storefront.

Smiling, benign Agent: Nice to see you, Amar. How can I help you today?
Amar: Well, I understand [Insurance Company] insures practically anything, right?
Smiling, benign Agent: Absolutely. As you know we have a range of home, auto, and life insurance packages. What did you want to insure?

In a show which creators and producers have prided themselves on for its remarkable characters, the smiling, benign actress remains nearly forgettable throughout the rest of the scene/plug. But her delivery, as wooden as a low-budget used car lot ad, cannot disguise the scene's purpose: to sell us something we don't need. Perhaps the actress was embarrassed; I hope the writers of said scene were. Certainly, CBC should be.

The value for advertisers this kind of marketing has is that, as an audience, we don’t have a choice about “getting the message." We can’t easily walk away from these kinds of ads, or fast forward past them. So while we may have gotten used to product placement in most media forms, with clever writers sometimes going all post-modern on us and referencing the obvious integration in an attempt to downplay it, what we see with this new form of integrated marketing feels much more like an affront to one’s intelligence.

It's very possible, though, that audiences will respond in kind: exhibit little regard for their intelligence, they may respond by not giving advertisers that option.

Unsurprisingly, this sort of advertising may be found on other, commercial, Canadian broadcasters, but seeing it on the CBC seems like another example of the Conservatives hurling their axe at Canadian art and culture. Yet in these money-strapped times, with a media industry struggling against TiVo, YouTube, and decreasing ad dollars, what’s a public broadcaster, with an unsympathetic government lording over it, to do?

As I swore off ever watching Little Mosque again, asserting my meek voice of disapproval, I perused the Friends of CBC website and came upon the latest CBC-related buzz, that the country’s public broadcaster is considering ad spots on two of its three radio streams.

Is there to be nowhere we can go without advertising being forced upon us?

(Image credit: The Peak)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Brave New Writing Challenge

by Tricia Dower

I’m tackling a list of classic books a character I’m creating has finished. Since her knowledge of the outside world comes primarily from these books, I didn’t think I could do her justice without having read them. (Of course, writer-as-god that I am, I get to draw up the list.) I figure if nothing comes of my novel, I will at least be able to brag about how well-read I am.

My list includes children's classics like Through the Looking Glass and Heidi as well as the more grown-up Anna Karenina and The Dubliners. I read many of them centuries ago on the way to earning an English degree. But luckily for me, I’ve mostly forgotten what they’re about. (This happens to me with movies and TV shows, too. I can watch an Inspector Morse episode half a dozen times and still not remember whodunit.)

I recently finished Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It’s been on my bookshelf for years, so I must have read it, right? I don’t think so. A friend recalls its having had a big impact on her in high school but she can’t remember why. She thinks it would be a great book to re-read as an adult. That got me thinking about my character and whether her take at age 15 on a book such as A Tale of Two Cities (I’m reading that now) would be the same as mine as an adult. I was required to read a pile of books between the ages of 13 and 21, and the parts that compelled me most were the sensational bits about what my young mind had trouble imagining: adultery, murder, suicide, vampires, treachery, oppression, sadism, incest. Beowulf, Madame Bovary, Animal Farm, Mutiny on the Bounty, Dracula! Now most of what I read is all too imaginable. What’s compelling is the sense an author makes of it.

So what would impress my heroine about Brave New World? The chilling nature of Huxley’s engineered paradise, a loveless, sinister place with designer drugs and shallow sleep-programmed emotions? Or the anguish of the “savage” John, who wants a kind of romantic love not possible in that paradise? How does the life she’s been living affect her comprehension of the book? And how much difference does it make that she has read it more than fifty years before me? (The novel starts in 1955.) I’m enjoying the challenge of sorting that out.

Another character will be heavily influenced by movies. I’m betting that forcing myself to watch what she did—The Thing? Creature From the Black Lagoon?—will be just as rewarding.

Image: A first edition of Brave New World available for a mere $8,500.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Thumbs Up and Down for Books

I was excited to listen to the Canada Reads debates that started Monday. I read three and a half of the books! I thought this would be a nice chance to bask in book-love. Not something I’ve been able to do in the busy rush of life these past months.

Well, by the end of the first half-hour I was depressed. These shows, where people (or books) get ‘voted off’, do tend to turn on the negative. There’s way more talk about what was wrong with all the other people’s book choices than there was about what was great. I suppose that’s the format and one has roll with it, but I just want to share that it hurt.

I almost didn’t listen to round two.

When I first found my way to Rotten Tomatoes, the giant gathering of movie reviews, I was in heaven. Here were people talking about some of my favourite things. I quickly found myself discovering the buzz kill of those little green splats. The rotten tomatoes. It’s depressing to read a bad review of something you love. You feel so alienated from your fellow man. How could somebody describe a performance I thought of as thrilling as ‘dull, lifeless’. It hints that human communication is impossible. For some reason it just digs down into the pit of me and destroys my faith in human connection. Some people actually hate the things I love. I suppose this is one of the central tenants of human nature—we are so alike, but also so different. Dung beetles, I imagine, would have pretty much the same reaction to everything (dung—thumbs up; not dung—thumbs down) but people...we can disagree.

I enjoyed all the Canada Reads books (the one I haven’t read yet, “Mercy Among the Children” is by David Adams Richards and I’ve read and loved several of his other books, so I felt I could love this one too, pre-emptively! I’ll get to it.) And to hear these perfectly nice Canadian cultural figures say mean things about them…well it wasn’t all fun. (But what's the alternative: just people saying nice things. I guess it would be dull. Is it possible to be fascinatingly passionately positive? Sure.)

However, by round two, I’d grown a thicker skin and prepped myself. Then I started to notice the wonderfully nice moments when someone would step up to sing the praises of one of their competitors’ books. That’s the thing: inside any competition there’s co-operation, and vice versa. Bring your thick skin so you’re not punctured by what you don’t want, and bring your quick ears so you can catch all the good stuff you do want.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Conservatives' latest attempt to stifle art...

This news has me so flustered, I am doing something rare for me: offering a link to a Facebook page.

From the Intro page of the Coalition to Keep Canadian Heritage Support for Literary and Arts Magazines:

“Canadian literary and arts magazines publishing in either English and French are in danger of losing a key federal funding source.

On February 17, 2009, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore announced in a speech he made in Montreal that the Canada Magazine Fund and Publishing Assistance Program will be merged to create the Canada Periodical Fund. Initiatives from this new body will come on stream in 2010.

Departing from his prepared remarks, James Moore indicated that eligiblity for funding could potentially be restricted to those magazines with an annual circulation above 5000. With notable exceptions, the circulation of virtually every Canadian literary and arts magazine, large and small, is below 5000.

We have to make sure this possibility does not become an actuality, for if it does, as April 1, 2010, these important and praiseworthy magazines will no longer qualify for funding that they have been receiving for years from the CMF and PAP despite the excellent work that they undertake for the readers and writers across Canada (and around the world)!”