Industrious Art

A reflection on the Writer-in-Residence program at McMaster University and my personal experience meeting fellow inspiring writers!

From: http://thepaperstreetjournal.com/read/industrial-art/

INDUSTRIOUS ART

If grit and beauty both inspire and repulse you, you’ve likely found a home in Hamilton.

There is no one word to describe a city. Poverty, potholes–even beauty is an unfair hole in which to sink a city. The ever-changing pulse of a place constantly cultivates new talent and creates new possibilities. We are lucky to experience a great shift in Hamilton from industrial work to industrious art. The reflection of these possibilities reside in the hearts and work of artists.

Recently, McMaster University held an evening at the Faculty Hall celebrating the Writer-in-Residence program. Burlington native Kim Echlin was the 2015-2016 Writer-in-Residence, whose newest novel, Under the Visible Life, was recently featured atHamilton’s GritLIT festival. To accompany the evening was pianist Jason Scozzari, a McMaster piano student who picked up the art at the late age of fourteen. Together, these two harmonized a duet of words and music that inspired the audience.

Alongside her daily work as a writer, Echlin involved herself with the Hamilton arts and library community. She has been a hugely positive influence in the community, helping local writers cultivate their craft and perfect their work for various modes.

Seven writers from across the city gathered at the event to share their writing with the audience. All seemed influenced by Hamilton in one way or another, and all seemed proud to share bits and pieces of the city as their characters experienced it.

Each author’s piece of writing created a puzzle,  evoking intense imagery and diverse voices. Poverty was a central theme in multiple stories, one in particular discussing a woman from Wentworth Street who was weathered from a harsh life of mental illness and homelessness. Another story contrasted this through the life of a musician, living with her family on the Mountain Brow and dealing with lifelong struggles of her own.

Two brave authors shared pieces of their memoirs. One discussed a harsh reality of the closet in the dark basement becoming the caregiver to multiple children. In a weathered breath, another author shared his stories of sailing in the GTA. These truths shared by Hamilton writers were both relatable and inspiring to the audience. It was a riveting evening for all.

Writing, if done properly, sheds a light of truth on any subject. To continue the journey, follow this link to read the bios and excerpts of these brave writers living and working in Hamilton.

-Nichole Fanara, Chief Editor – Short Fiction

 

The Benefit of the Group

SKLessons from my first writing workshop

In a group, there is little room for doubt. The supportive atmosphere, the excitement of hearing something new, and the opportunity for growth are all contagious parts of the writers group dynamic. I experienced this on Saturday.

Kim Echlin (The Disappeared, nominated for the 2009 Giller Prize), the current Writer-in-Residence at McMaster University, hosted a writers workshop at the Hamiltion Public Library’s Central location. Local writers in association with Kim were asked to read scenes from their writing.  Many who attended were also aspiring writers curious about the craft itself.

For me, I have always been a “closeted writer.” I love to write, and I’ve worked at it for as long as I can remember. However, I’ve never shared my writing with a group of people. Only this year have I finally allowed someone in the writing community to read my work and offer commentary. From this authentic experience, I have gained confidence as a writer and improved my writing skills.

Kim has been an excellent shepherd in the writing community through her support in helping new writers emerge and take pride in their work. With a kind spirit and sweet disposition, Kim’s comments are always open-minded and thoughtful. She has reminded me that writing doesn’t always have to be a lonely or solitary struggle.

 

The following are some tips from Kim and the seven writers present at the event, in response to questions asked by audience members:

 

Some tips about “Writer’s Block”

  • Everyone experiences writer’s block at some point in their writing journey.
  • This usually stems from fear, the feeling of inadequacy or an unknown twist in the plot
  • Writing is the best medicine for writer’s block. Whatever you do, get your butt in the chair and WRITE
  • Try writing some “jibber jabber” or “free writing.” The process of allowing your mind to wander and allowing your characters to take you on a journey may help you reach the next part in your writing
  • JUST WRITE

 

Some tips on “Self-Doubt”

  • Your writing just is. It exists, it is there, it is open for judgement. No one person will think about your writing in the same way as another.
  • Surround yourself with a supportive group that will help you grow, not push you down
  • Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You are entitled to write.
  • Criticism can help you grow as a writer, but negativity is not necessary
  • Keep an open mind
  • Oftentimes, we write because we can’t not write.
  • Write for yourself. Keep in mind the personal reason you have for writing and never let anyone change that.

An Excerpt From My Novel…

In March I will be reading an excerpt from my young adult novel to a crowd of academics. As terrifying as this is, I am quite excited to take on a new challenge! Here it is:

“What do you think this says” Charlie handed her a notebook, open to a page in the center.  Sofia took the book and stared at the page.  It looked like a poem, thoroughly torn apart and re-examined by the looks of the scribbles around it. She stared for a moment, Charlie watching her patiently.  His deep eyes were too intense on her and she got up, twisting and turning with the boxes to the window seat.  A slight cloud of dust puffed out of the velour red seat as she studied the writing.  To anyone else, the words would appear as intricate lines, but Sofia’s own writing, so much like her fathers, allowed her to recognize words.

It was as if a part of him was in the room with her, reading out his words from over her shoulder.  Out loud, for Charlie’s benefit, she recited:

When the winds will dies

And the waves all melt away

I will come to you through perfect peace

To guide your light

Home.

Curious.  “That’s it?” asked Charlie, his voice hopeful.  Sofia flipped the pages. It didn’t seem like the end. The diary continued, but the flow was off.

“Yeah, it looks like there was something else, but… I don’t know.  I think a page was ripped out.”

Charlie shimmied his way over to the window seat, sitting beside her.  “What’s next?”

Sofia hadn’t looked up.  It was a list of numbers.  Charlie gently took the book.  She watched as his brow furrowed.  “What do you think it means?”

“I don’t know.  Numbers can mean anything.  Maybe he was keeping track of something?  Money, maybe?”

Sofia shrugged.  She wasn’t interested in money.  She wanted to keep flipping the pages for a clue, an entry, anything to help her find him. Charlie, sensing her impatience, flipped quickly through the rest of the book. It wasn’t finished, but the numbers kept going, down the page, until the end. He shrugged to her.

“I want to figure out what it means,” he said. She nodded and returned to her box. There was so much more to look for… and if Charlie could figure out the numbers then maybe they could be one step closer to finding her father.

Sofia rummaged through what seemed like junk to her. Boxes full of odds and ends, knick-knacks, broken candles, scrap pieces of paper… her fingers landed on something cool and she pulled it out, an old clock falling out of the box and clanging onto the wooded floor. Her knees fell softly to the floor and she proper herself up on her heels. Beside the clock was something else, something familiar. A bottle. She held a bottle in her hand, smooth as butter and the cool to the touch. It looked like it could have held wine at one point, the thin neck and protruding body seemed worn out on the inside, as if tired from the remnants of a later substance. But Sofia was looking past all of that- her eyes were transfixed on the small scroll of paper inside, tightly bound with a black ribbon keeping it together. Her stomach dropped… what could it be? Her fingers traced tiny numbers etched in the glass neck.

Charlie looked up from staring at the numbers in the book and watched as she examined the bottle.

“Pull the cork out,” he didn’t understand what she was waiting for.

Sofia looked at him, a flash of annoyance in her eyes.

“Look at the neck… there are numbers here…”

“Which the letter inside will probably explain,” finished Charlie. Why was he so impatient to open it? He didn’t know- all he knew what that the bottle needed to be opened. What was inside? What was the point of waiting?

Sofia looked at the book in his hands, “maybe the number is in the book,” she sat unsure, “here, give me the book and you take the cork out.”

They passed both the book and the bottle between them, Sofia’s fingers brushing against the soft leather as Charlies fingers tingled on the cool bottle. Neither could let go of the bottle. Before they could say a word, both of them were jolted as if with lightening, their shock on their faces registering only a moment before they were taken out of their world and plunged into a new one entirely.

Property of Nichole Fanara.

 

Is the ” Promise Ring” a Hint or a Stutter?

The dialogue of a lady and her child as I rang through their purchase…

“What should I say, mum? I don’t want to give it away!”

“I don’t know, what’s wrong with the one you had before? I wouldn’t get it.”

“That’s because you’re not a fan, mum. ‘One ring to rule them all’ I think he’ll get it.”

“What is this for?” I asked.

The girl looked at me for a moment. “I’m giving my boyfriend a hint but I don’t want him to get it. I got him a ring-“

“A promise ring,” piped in her mother.

“Yes, and he got me one except I already guessed that he got me one so I got him one in return and he wants a hint ‘cause he doesn’t know that’s what I got him.”

“Oh, how exciting! Well, if it was me I would definitely get that hint, especially because he already got you one. Why don’t you just tell him you got him something shiny?”

She considered it, “hmm that could be good.”

“You have lots of time to think about it anyways-“ said the mum, “how much is this?”

“Two dollars. When are you seeing him?”

“Oh, not for a month. He lives in Michigan.”

“Oh wow that’s far! How did you meet?”

“Through friends-“

“It’s a long distance thing,” piped in her mother again, “they’re only kids anyways. She’s going to stay with his family for a while, all nice people. His parents are both surgeons!”

“Oh-“

“And his one brother is an entrepreneur, has his own business, and the other one does something to do with apps. He’s making a deal with Facebook right now.”

“Oh great, good catch! So what does yours do?”

They looked at each other for a moment.

“He dropped out of college-“

“But he’ll find his way eventually-“

“Lots of time!”

“Of course,” I laughed.

“I think I’ll tell him it’s shiny.”

Two men walk into a bar…

Two men walked into a bar. One had been famous; the other finding himself in his career. One shook hands with the bouncer and walked into the bar, the other was astonished but followed anyways. The more popular of the two spent a good hour laughing and catching up with people eager to greet him. The other stood by his side embracing the atmosphere and watching the star shine. They went on like this until a brighter star walked into the bar.

Two men sat down at a bar. One was dejected; he wondered why nobody was paying attention to him. The other was glimmering with creativity; something he had been looking for was finally presenting itself. The optimist looked over at the pessimist and said to him “this is what I want you to be. This man. Be this man.”
Believe it or not, this is a true story. I love when people from new walks of life share snippets and snapshots of their lives. Little stories are what form a greater reality for all of us. And as many of us strive to become more confident in the decisions we make, we can rest assured that no measure of success will guarantee happiness.
If you are an avid “Friends” watcher, then it might interest you to know that the Pessimist in this story is non other than Matthew Perry. 
The Pessimist is non other than Canadian writer and filmmaker Harris Goldberg. I had the pleasure of meeting him last year at a discussion panel at McMaster University.