Industrious Art

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



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


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!”


“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.

When your store closes and you don’t know what to do…

Usually I do not use real names or places in my stories; I tend to keep things as anonymous as possible. However, when I showed this post to my wonderful boss Christine a few months ago, her happiness and excitement was so overwhelming that she showed this story to everyone she could. I am proud to share this story once again, giving her ownership to the wonderful experiences she has lent me over the last five years of working with her.

Furthermore, the store that Christine was manager of closed as of January 31, 2015. I am not sad to leave the concrete floored building- I am sad to leave the wonderful woman whom I got to grow up with over the past years. I am sad that Christine and many other women have lost their jobs, and I am sad I will not be spending my weekends gossiping, laughing, and dancing with those women. To those who have experienced something similar, I hope the new places you go and the new people you meet will bring a smile to your face. Nothing can replace a past feeling, not even a new routine. But there is always hope in something new.

Without further ado, a few memories from a five year engagement: 

Christine was, without a doubt, the best boss I have ever had. By now I’ve been under the rule of quite a few stern hands. Power over people, even the slightest bit, can be exhausting to handle. But somehow, no matter how tired or frustrated she got, Christine never let her temper get the best of her. She always remained cool, honest, and even when a little tired, content.

When I first started working for Christine, I was standoffish. I thought that there were strict rules when it came to boss-employee relationships, and in my naivety, I strove to be the best at maintaining such boundaries. Within my first week at work, the staff had a Christmas party, and although I tried to make excuses not to go (I wasn’t really into talking to people I didn’t know at the time), Christine persuaded me to join her. After our long Saturday shift, we drove to the party.

Before I go any further, may I just say that Christine makes the most amazing Swedish meatballs I have ever had? I just don’t want that fact to get lost in the story. Meatballs. AMAZING.

The staff had a potluck that night, my first experience with Christine’s Swedish meatballs. It would not be my last. But this isn’t about me. So I won’t explain to you my shock at seeing my boss chug a beer (I was underage and this was my first time seeing anybody, let along my boss, chug a beer), or the host (I had just met her that night) down at least 40 jello shots. The more I think about it, the funnier it is. For me, this was the beginning, but for these girls who had been working with each other for years, this was yet another Christmas party together, another chance to laugh and blow off steam. I felt as though I had been let into a secret world of stories I had never imagined existed, of behaviours I knew couldn’t possibly be allowed on those concrete floors. After that night, I became more and more interested in my bosses story. How did she get to where she is? Did she ever try anything different? Why did she tell me of her dream to be a fitness guru instead of quitting her job and becoming one? These are the kinds of questions I have long stopped asking. They are problematic, and they do not offer empathy to the millions of answers that lay before us in the struggle to obtain money to live. They were naïve. And now I know why.

Lesson number one in life: money is everything.

I will share with you one story in particular that helped define her life and impact my ideas of reality. It is a tiny snippet of Christine’s life. She told me once that she married her high school sweetheart, and she even brought in a picture to show us at work. It was so adorable; they reminded me of Ellen DeGeneres’ prom picture! Christine had a big pouffe dress and they posed romantically under a starry night background. She told me that her husband used to write letters to her, used to chase her for her adoration. They stayed together in part due to the devotion he showed her, and the result of their marriage was a beautiful baby boy. Flash forward to today with all the expenses of a house, car, kid and single income, and I realized how impossible it would be to pick up and switch careers amidst all the baggage (albeit good baggage) of life. This was the answer to my question from before: she and her family needed money, and they needed it now. Hearing her say that was always unsettling to me. But now I know that perhaps I didn’t like to hear it because I lived in a fantasy world where passion overrode money. It is true that passion is an essential part of a person’s life and work, and that it can bring happiness. But even though Christine, a University educated mom, does not have the job she dreamed of, she finds happiness in the job she has and she makes it work every single day. Christine’s perseverance is inspirational to me.

You don’t always get what you want. But hopefully, if life is kind to you, you will have enough good fortune to get what you need.



Spot the meatballs! 😉