I remember writing this piece during one of the summer workshops at the University of New Brunswick. It was after the first night there & having met the other writers for drinks, chit-chat & introductions outside of the classroom setting. I think it was around a bonfire or perhaps in the common room of the residence.
Once the usual get-to-know-you information was exchanged – hometown, writing experience etc we moved to more personal stuff mainly bad experiences. Surgeries that went wrong, partners who betrayed etc. I didn’t really have much to contribute about tribulations & as the tribulations escalated it became a contest of who suffered & survived the worst. You had a ovarian cyst , well I had cancer of the brain – top that!
It’s like The Dance of the Seven Veils where we are selective about what gets revealed & never reveal how many veils there actually are. People bonded over shared, similar, unpleasant experiences. At that time I had had no major surgeries, no criminal assaults, no car accidents, no relationships, no children – I was not all that interesting until the workshop really got going & my insightful, no-holds-barred self was revealed.
This shared-disaster pattern is one I’ve seen repeated often over the years I’ve taken workshops, participated in consumer panels, participated in pharmaceutical drug research studies. Strangers quickly bond over shared experiences & if you don’t share you are left on your own, most of the time. Which allows me to focus on why I am there in the first – which isn’t to be liked but to learn.
I come off being silently judgmentalThis was another run at that first law only in a less public context. It springs from various (spell check wants me to say ‘arduous’) workshops I’ve participated in over the years. Some of this is observational of how others have interacted & some is how I’ve learned to interact myself.I am not shy in these situations & am always willing to be the first to contribute but I have learned to pace myself in different ways. I hold back on my ‘history’ revealing only what is relevant at the moment. In those inevitable introductions I no long mention my performance experience beyond most recent. I’ll only talk about other workshops if asked. There is always a pecking order in workshops -= people who know the ‘teacher’ & who may have then multiple workshops with them before, people who know each other, people who aha been taken a workshop & sometimes even people who have never written before who get either swamped & can’t keep up.There’s often someone who has to prove they are better than everyone or that they know more then the ‘teacher.’ I love workshops where I don’t know anyone, not even the leader. It allows me to be anonymous, someone with no history. Though introducing myself as TOpoet.ca creates its own set of expectations even bro they hear anything I haver to say about writing (or whatever the workshop is about).
I don’t consider it a success, more like notes to toward a longer less self-centered piece. Sometimes the prompt runs out of steam. I would find a sense of ending if I considered performing or printing this piece. Prompts of Power http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1Y6
First day of the workshop went smoothy. A group of 11 plus Rosemary is just the right size to get somethings done. A usual intros take longer than planned even though most of know each others from past workshops – some have been to everyone, some to a couple, plus some new faces. I’m always amazed the number of published authors who participate.
my look day one
Day Two was productive – compelling conversations around p.c. language, creating characters & almost nothing about punctuation 🙂 I did a presentation on using real adolescent memories to create fictional adult characters. Using my current Nano, Picture Perfect, as example I told how I used real memories to propel & create the situation & backstory of my ‘hero.’ Of course the process made the direction of my novel clearer for me at the same time.
In the afternoon I was on the hot seat as we workshopped the section of Perfect I had submitted. As it was what I written on first day of Nano it was flooded with too much info – but as I world build everything that comes to mind gets put in – creating his hone life, his business life at this stage I didn’t know what was important. But basic premise of abducted children & how it was presented grabbed everyone in the class. So I’m even more eager to get back to it to see how part 2 turns out.
for my work shop piece I brought an edited, for length, section the opening of Picture Perfect – here’s is part 1 of the unedited –
“You’re not listening to me.” Sanjay took the remote from Dan and muted the TV.
“I was.” Dan grabbed the remote. “You said my sister had a good point.”
“But you are going to ignore her?” Sanjay tried to get the remote back before Dan could turn the sound back on.
“Some thing don’t change.” Dan blocked Sanjay’s hand looked him in the eyes and kissed him. “If I had listened to her, we would not be together. You know that that.”
“So you keep telling me.” Sanjay pushed Dan away from him, got up from the couch and stood in front of the TV.
“Sanj, If you want to distract me you’ll have to drop your drawers.”
“We’re talking a lot of money, Dan. A lot of money.”
“I’m not paying for you to drop them. Now, step away from the TV. I was watching something.”
“You’re always watching something when I want to talk to you. You’ve recorded this anyway, so you can go back to it.”
“You asked me to clear things off the recorder, remember. Now that I’m trying to, you want to talk me.” Dan hit pause. “You’re the reason I don’t think we need a cat.”
“Cats ignore you till you are trying to do something and they are all over you.”
“This is nearly over anyway. Ten minutes.” he unpaused. “Step aside?”
He pressed the back button to rewatch what he’d missed talking to Sanjay.
“What’s it about anyway?” Sanjay sat beside him.
“Missing kids on the east coast.”
“I should have known.”
“Yeah, everything is homework for … hey! That’s me!” Dan hit the pause button.
It was a photo of two boys on the front steps of a house. Arms over each other shoulders, grinning at the camera.
“You sure aren’t missing.” Sanjay said.
“Yeah yeah I know. It’s the other boy Timmy Dunlop. I guess.”
“Guess? I thought you were watching this.”
“You mean, trying to watch. My Dad took this picture. I remember it. It’s been years since I’ve seen it though.”
“Yeah, right. How many photographs have you seen?”
“Enough ,but some you remember. I sort of had a crush on Timmy. We played doctor a couple of times. When we moved I kept hoping to hear from him but nothing.”
“I guess you know why now.” Sanjay stretched. “I’m heading for bed. I leave you to your homework.”
Any reality show dealing with crime was considered Dan’s homework. He saw things in photographs that most didn’t see. His eyes had been trained to discover and recognized what might appear ordinary to the untrained eye.
He went back to the beginning of the program ‘Canada Cold’ that looked at cold cases across Canada. He’d worked such cases with the RCMP and that had tweaked his interested in them. This episode was about a the disappearance of several children in the Maritimes in the mid-80’s. Dan had no recollection of it at all. His family had moved when he was eleven, the same summer of these disappearances.
As he watched he jotted down the names and locations of the children. None struck a chord with him expect Timmy’s. The place name were familiar, Stellerton, Digby, Wolfville in Nova Scotia; Small Town & Port Something in New Brunswick. His Dad had been an itinerant photographer, “Photos By James”, who travelled from school to school, taking class pictures and individual portraits. For summer’s he would take the family with him, spending a day or two, or up to a week in various small towns.
Dan pulled himself out his reflective daze. Replayed the ending of the show again and wrote down the number one was to call if they had any information. He’d call once he had found those photos. Stellerton had been one of the longer stays and one of the last as he recalled.
They’d been their long enough for him to renew his friendship with some of the boys he’d palled around with the previous summer. They left pretty quickly. He remembered being pretty pissed because the Happy Hippo Carnival had just set up and he wanted to so badly to go it.
Moving to Toronto wasn’t as important to him then as seeing the side shows. Even his sister as somewhat disappointed but that was because she was seeing some guy their mother didn’t approve of. He figured that was why they were really moving and for years blamed her for ruining his childhood.
“You coming up or am I coming by myself?”
In the morning Dan ate without noticing what he was eating. His folks must have known about Timmy disappearing. Why hadn’t they told him. He’ d written Timmy letters from Toronto or did those ever get mailed?
“He must have been something special?” Sanjay nudged Dan’s shoulder as he offered to refill his coffee cup.
“Who?” Dan waved the coffee away. “I’ve had enough.”
“The boy in the picture. You are thinking about him, aren’t you?”
“Some but more about why I didn’t know what happened till now. I was so heart sick about him but I let my folks think I was just homesick.”
“How old were you?”
“Still carrying that flame?”
“No! I haven’t really thought about him or those days till last night. I’m surprised I recognized his face.”
“It was you that recognized first.”
“Yeah well there were so few pictures of me, I mean just of me, with Linda lurking in the background. She invented photo bombing because they was no way dad could take a picture if she was around without her getting in on it. Nearly all by baby picture show either her or my mother holding me.”
“So that’s when the rivalry started.”
“Oh yeah, I wasn’t out of the womb before she was making sure she got as much attention s she could. I better get going. Time to open shop. I’m seeing Warszawa this afternoon. I’ll ask him what he thinks I should do.”
“The RCMP do come in handy sometimes.”
“You working today?”
Sanjay was a pastry chef at two different restaurants and Dan was never sure which one he was working at on which day. Somedays neither was Sanjay.
“If I was I’d been gone by now, right?”
“No. You work evenings more and more.”
“You know I do?” He pulled Sanjay tight for a long kiss.
“Today’s the day the animal people are coming. Raccoon in the eaves.”
“Right. What’s that going to cost us I wonder.”
“At least a week of night shifts for me.”
“And two high-end digitals for me.”
“I thought your sister had that commission market cornered.”
What can I say – when I get busty, I mean busy – I get real busy 🙂 Starting June, with a week in Washington DC! I’m flying my queerness to the USA to take part in Capturing Fire 2015 to add another initial to the expanding lgbtq acronym ‘a’ for aging because there’s no hiding the fact that I’m over 50. Because in the queer poetry scene I’m familiar with there aren’t many my age hitting the stage.
In the non-queer poetry scene I’m often the only queer in the room, as it were, & it gets to be dull being bombarded by hetero-normative, hetero-centric writers of other genders – some of whom have told me that they find me very brave to be so out. Get over it.
So I’m eager for a 3-day immersion into this lgbtqa poetry summer & slam. Every now & then I feel the need to give my creative a juices a flood of new energy – sometimes via one day Colloquium or a workshop like Loyalist – each energizes me out of my comfort zone.
I’m not sure what to expect in Washington other than seeing some sites, taking lot of photos, and hearing a bunch of younger lgbtq poets. I’ve also signed on for a couple of the workshop offered & will hit the open stages for sure.
I’m home for a week or so then I’m off to Loyalist for five days on intense prose work with a class of intense writers. I’ve been going to this workshop for several years & know, to an extent, what to expect. I’ll be doing at least one class presentation on a plot beginning with a premise, & maybe one of blogging.
I get back to TO on June 26th & after a shower & a snack, head out to do a feature at the Pride 2015 Erotica Cabaret, hosted by Jon Pressick at Glad Day Books. I’ve already started building that set.The next night – June 27, I do a set at the Summer Sizzler at Hirut on the Danforth – this set will be totally different from the Pride set, trust me, even I get tired of the old dick tricks 🙂
The next day is my birthday – 100 at last – so there’ll be a parade downtown for me, which I’ll watch on TV, thank you. After all that, a week of laundry & rest.
I want to return to Calypso’s cave
for more erotic instruction
the ways of love I had been taught
never seemed enough for this world
like Lazarus I could not
remain in the shelter forever
I cannot rely on Neptune
to fulfill all my body’s longings
released from his tender endless coil
onto this shore where
I am unsure of my welcome
unsure of my name
unsure of anything except
I need another seven years
to prepare me for cities of silver glass
for the fumbling turmoil of men and women
who tumble excitedly
grasping for quick satisfaction
not having the time
to indulge in the erotic instruction
I have received and have to pass on
let me return to Calypso
for another seven time seven
this school of sorrow and longing
I have been cast into
holds no secrets for me
or is this the next lesson
pleasure isn’t the end but the beginning
sorrow isn’t the result only a symptom
as I wander these streets
I cannot feel the rivers flow
I see their mouths open
but no water comes forth
I want to return to Neptune
after sailing seeking
from one golden fleece to the next
is there anyone awaiting me
or am I the only one waiting
to bring new light the cave
and see that Lazarus wrote on its walls
the lover of the world ready for love
and no river bed for me to lie on
June 3-5 – attending – Capturing Fire 2016 – Washington DC
I want to put my nose to the grindstone but I have to decide which grindstone to start with, & which nose to put on it. The How To workshop is less than a month away & I have yet to decide what to bring for workshopping – another section of Lazarus Kiss (my NaNo 2011 novel)? something from The Priest’s Niece – my NaNo 2012 novel. Or a short story? Which nose?
I’ve been continuing my research for Niece. The more I find out the more I wonder how historically accurate I want this book to be. Can I get away with a sort of mash up of what suits my story or should I stick to strict ‘this is how it was’ – not that I want have my 1925 coal miners using cell phones. The story is culturally true to the time era I’m working in but I don’t want readers griping that my Dragermen equipment wasn’t that developed by 1925 – unless I say it was prototype? hmm.
Last year at the workshop I gave a presentation on e.publishing that was based on my minimal experience, podcasts & the Bloody Words panel. This year I’m going to do a presentation on something I’m more equipped to talk about: how to give a reading. The participants are all fiction writers – several published so I’m not going to pull my punches.
Even more than poets novelist feel compelled to set-up a section endlessly. My theory is if it takes ten minutes of set up you’ve picked the wrong passage. Avoid scenes with more than three characters – it just confuses the listeners. Maybe we don’t need very word of the detailed description of period shoes, stockings and accessories. Yeah, this going to be fun (for me).
Week 7 of make-a-scene brings me one week closer to the end of the workshop and closer to our graduation Red Nose District show. What has somewhat dismayed me is the attrition rate for the class – we started with 11 gung-ho people and so far three have dropped out – I suppose some people have money to burn.
In past workshops I know some people aren’t ready for the amount work that is actually involved – for a writing workshop they don’t expect they’ll have to not only produce work for the class but also read and comment on the work of up to another dozen people – that is if they want the most out of the class. I recall one where a member only showed up when his pieces where to be looked at & he rarely had anything to say about one else’s. What’s the point?
The past few weeks of Scene we have been workshopping the pieces for the show. This, for me, has been very productive. Some had a concept but nothing more and so a piece was built by doing it – by getting on stage and acting through possibilities – as opposed to sitting around and merely talking about what one could do – this pushed things into new shapes and sometimes new directions. Often finding an ending is the crux of things.
I’m more of a discovery writer – so this process suits me, though the piece I brought to the table, as it were, was pretty complete already – I was able to reduce it, focus it and find ways of bringing it to life on stage – I didn’t resist suggestions or defend what I had already intended to do with it – going with the flow works. Besides my own piece I’ll be appearing in a couple of the other scenes.
What am I doing? You’ll have to come out to see it but I does involve an inflatable.
Back to school changes even the lives of those with no kids, or need to go back to school themselves. I live in a hub of schools – at least 8 within walking distance of my place. The start of term means more police cars driving up and down our laneway, fresh tags on our garage door and clumps of smoking teens by the little store that only opens for the school term (2019 note: closed a few years ago).
Some years I sign up for some sort of fall workshop – past years have been the UofT poetry master class, Jacob Scheier’s writing about loss at Ryerson, Spoken Word with Andrea Thompson at OCAD – this year I twigged (thanks to Lizzie Violet) to an Allan Turner workshop: Make-a-Scene – it is lead by a zombie clown, so my spoken-word might become spooken-word in time for my Go Bump set in October. Best part is that The Centre of Gravity Circus Training Studios is a ten minute walk from my place – another neighborhood school to add the the list. (2019 note:Gravity has moved to 2019 noteQueen W.)
Getting things ready for the Aubert Workshop at Loyalist. Picking the pieces for workshopping isn’t nearly as demanding picking what to wear 🙂 If only there was a way to teleport clothing – travel would be so much more enjoyable. I can load up 240 hours of music in my iPod but need a trunk for 2 pairs of jean & 4 tee’s shirts. Driving to Belleville does make transporting things somewhat easier – no worry about being charged for an extra suitcase.
I’ll get dropped off on campus Sunday night and picked up on Friday. I’ll be stranded on campus so I also take along suppers for three nights. Class dinner the last night. There’s a Tim Ho’s till 11 am for breakfast & a Subway for lunch till 2:30 p.m. and after that vending machines 😦 With no car I’m stuck – which I don’t mind at all – fewer distractions – this year I’ll have my air mac to access wireless in residence for some diversion.
Past years I’ve taken movies to watch in the evenings, this year I’m going to resist that temptation and to get more writing done. I have my August Plasticine and October Damned features to get ready for and want to have some new pieces for both. Plus two other novel ideas that have been bubbling in my mind – the coal miner one that I’ve been researching for the past few years.
The other is a Shakespeare mash-up I conceived when I had my theatre company. Romeo and Hamlet – ghosts, star-crossed lovers, costume balls, sword play and oh my.
I’ve put together a one-sheet flyer, similar to the one I had for Bloody Words – my elaborate business card. It’ll be one of my ‘Killer’ poems. I’ll get another small run of Brown Betty done to sell. That and copies of the workshop excerpt should be all the paper I’ll have to take thanks to the Kindle. I have enough to read on that to hold me a month.
Here’s the excerpt from The Lazarus Kiss (my Nano novel) I’m taking to Loyalist for workshopping – it falls at approx. page 233 – Andy is an anatomically correct, life-like automaton elf which Harris is testing as a part of his job – as a comic book geek he sees it as an action figure not at a sex toy. Rest assured what you don’t understand has been made clear by now – comments welcome –
There was a gentle knock at Harris’s door. The peek screen revealed a chador clad woman. He knew there were a couple of Muslim families on the floor above his.
“Can I help you?” he opened the door a few inches. Had the curse hit one of them in the foyer when they passed.
“I apologize for disturbing you.” The woman’s voice became a whisper as she collapsed into his apartment.
“My God. Are you alright?” He’d never seen anyone faint before. He shut the door. “I’ll … get you a glass of water.” He started towards the kitchen. “Or should I call for help. Security will know what to do.” He reached for his phone.
“Don’t bother asshole.”
A sharp blow to his shoulder sent Harris tumbling over his couch. One arm whacked his coffee table as he landed.
“What the fuck?” He looked up at the cloaked figure standing over him.
The figure lifted the hem and placed one booted foot under Harris’s chin, not quite on his throat. The woman quickly pulled off the veiled hood of the chador.
“Listen you fat fuck I’m not here to play games with you.” The face was covered by a tight black ski mask the mouth bulged out awkwardly. Only the eyes showed and they were outlined in a mottled black and green.
The voice was female.
“Becky?” Harris couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to do this.
“Shut the fuck up.” The woman pulled off the rest of the chador. She wore a dark blue jumpsuit. From a pocket she pulled a length of thin rope.
“Sit up.” She took her foot off his chest.
He reached to rub where she had been grinding into his collar bone.
“Don’t bother. You aren’t pretty enough to worry.” she gabbed his hands and began to tie them behind his back. “Your pictures in the paper make you look a lot handsomer than you are.”
“Oh don’t you Miss me.”
The face leaned into his. “I’m sorry to disappoint you.” As she spoke the voice changed, deepened before it became distorted. “I’m all man. You got that fat ass Harris.” He looped the rope around Harris left wrist and pulled that arm behind Harris’s back.
Harris lurched forward, stood up and knocked the guy off balance. The man was no bigger than Andy. Before he could move he felt a searing shock on his right thigh. He fell back to the couch dazed.
“Hurts doesn’t it.” He reached under his mask and extracted the speaker of the voice distorter. “Amazing what science can do.”
The man waved a cellphone in Harris face. “Looks like a cell but hurts like hell.” He touched Harris lightly on the shoulder.
The jolt wasn’t as strong as the first one.
“Don’t worry this is non-lethal unless you have a pacemaker but packs enough to punch to keep you pacified. People drop like flies. I sneak up behind them. A little touch and down they go.”
“You’re the Stalker?”
“Clever man.” he grabbed Harris by the chin and give his head a sharp twist. “Now what did the bitch Detective tell you about me?”
“Lets dial this up just a bit.” he tapped a key and shocked Harris again.
This time the shock singed his tee-shirt.
“Nothing.” He rubbed his shoulder where had been shocked. “She played that recording of you. That’s all and told me to be careful.”
“Ooo to be afraid of little me. Let’s get this out of the way.” He yanked Harris’s tee shirt off, pulled the rope from under him and this time tied his hands behind his back.
“Did she tell you anything about the case. About me.”
“No. Just that the guy I … who I stopped at the park … wasn’t you.”
“True. He didn’t have one of these, did he?”
He took a battery pack out of his back pocket.
“On its own it just jolts.” He plugged the battery pack into the taser. “With a power boost it will do more. Even kill. You have been the nearest connection to me the police have.”
“Connection?” He pulled at the ropes. “You took the risk to get those pictures of me. Great way to stay out of the way of the police.”
“Pictures of you and your famous movie star friends. You a Nobody, getting noticed.”
“Right, I am a nobody. I didn’t ask to ….”
“I know. No one asks. Like those poor assholes on their way home from work, from school. So innocent and bam I get. They’ll never forget me. Even if they never know I am.”
“Play time.” Harris called to Andy.
“This’ll be fun.” Andy replied.
“What the fuck!” the man was stunned. “Who is that?” He looked around the apartment and noticed Andy for the first time. “Get over here.”
Andy remained silent.
Harris racked his brain for what order to give next. If only Andy could walk but then what? If only Andy could make phone calls he could get a message to Rick.
“I said get over here. You little friend seems scared or something. You want me to hurt you?”
“Yeah I’d like that?” Andy giggled.
The man walked over to Andy and smacked him.
“Is that the best you can do. I can take it a lot harder than that.”
“What the fuck.” he punched Andy in the stomach.
“You like to play rough do you.”
Those had to be the pre-programmed phrases for s and m play he’d seen listed in the manual.
“Fuck it’s a goddamn doll.” The man gave Andy a dismissive shove.
The shove unbalanced Andy and the elf topped forward knocking the man over and landing on top of him
Harris stood while tugging at the rope around his wrists.
The man struggled under Andy. Turning over but not able to get Andy off him.
“Harder Andy.” Andy’s face was at the man’s chin. His hands began to open and close to pinch the man under him.
“You like that don’t you.” Andy said.
“Time to bite.” Harris’s wrists were getting looser. “Squeeze me.”
The dolls mouth opened and closed on the man’s chin. The man twisted his head away. His mask was pulled off. ‘Squeeze me’ brought Andy’s arms closer together. The man’s face was covered with camouflage make up.
“Let’s jack.” This command jerked Andy’s forearms up and down rapidly about an inch.
“Optimus Prime.” Harris said. Those were the words he’d programmed for Andy to get an erection.
“Fuck me.” The man struggled trying to push the doll off him. Andy’s hips began to thrust.
With a grunt the man heaved Andy off him, and rammed the doll against the wall. He held the doll with one hand and tasered it it repeated with the other till Andy’s arms stopped moving. His fingers continued to twitch.
While he was occupied Harris dashed to the door. He had it partially opened before the guy grabbed him. Harris hit at his face with his elbow. Connected with a punch to the face. The man’s head was slippery with the camouflage paint.
The guy swung him back into the room and on to his stomach, shocking him on the back each time he tried to get up. Harris could smell his flesh burning.
He grabbed Harris by the hair.
“You like to play it rough. Well, I’m no wind up doll.”
Out of breath Harris sagged to the floor.
“That’s more like it. Get up.”
He pulled Harris to his feet.
“Let’s get out a breath of fresh air.” He pushed him the balcony. “That’s a fair drop I’d say.”
Harris nodded. If he appeared dazed by the taser he might lull the guy into a careless move.
The guy kicked the lounge to the balcony wall.
“Up you go.”
Harris stood on the chaise. He glanced over the edge.
His apartment door flew open. It was Detective Alverez and Agent Devros followed by apartment security.
“Hold it right there.” The man barked. “Or he’ll go over.”
“That’s what you think.” Harris leaned against the retaining wall and the chaise slid, knocking the man over. Harris clambered over him and into the living room.
“You’ll never get me.” The man shouted.
Harris turned around and the man on the balcony railing. Harris lurched forward and caught him by the calf as the man launched himself into the air.
They fell back. Harris hit his head. He lay still while his heart slowed and he caught his breath. An officer helped him to lie on the couch.
“Where is he?” He shook his head to clear it.
“Sir, it’s all under control. Please keep still.” A medic shone a light into his eyes. “You’ll be fine. Let me help you sit up. You’ve got several nasty electrical burns on your back.” 1477