Have you ever thought what it must be like for a writer to read their work for the first time in front of an audience? Well, two of our emerging writers will be doing just that this coming Thursday, May 19th.
Emerging writers Alicia Elliott and Lynda Allison will read with established writers David Layton and Martin Mordecai from their Toronto-set work in the Diaspora Dialogues anthology TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 6 at Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay Street at 6 p.m. Antanas Sileika will be the host at the event.
We asked them to share their thoughts about how they feel ahead of the event.
Having a slightly high-pitched voice and generally nervous, awkward demeanor, I’m worried about how my reading will be received. Will people listen? Will they look at their watches the whole time I read? Will they make snide remarks behind their hands? Or, worse still, will I be reading to an empty room?
If it isn’t yet abundantly clear, this is my first reading, so I’m having my fair share of pre-reading jitters. To prepare I’ve been reading my piece in the shower in different voices. My Christopher Walken is coming along nicely, while my Sarah Palin could use some intense work. This may seem like tomfoolery, but it is one of the reasons I love writing so much. I don’t mean to say I enjoy writing in hopes I can read my pieces in terrible celebrity impersonations; I mean to say I enjoy writing because it gives me the opportunity to tap into so many different voices and experiences.
The piece I’ll be reading from, “Heels,” started as an examination of racial stereotypes and the way they can be enacted and perpetuated by people in complex ways. Under the careful guidance of my mentor, David Layton, I added more weight in the character of Stephanie’s mother, Dina. Dina is dealing with bipolar disorder, while Stephanie is dealing with Dina. The way mental illness cycles through families, and the fear of this cycle continuing, for me, was thematically linked to my original idea.
So to sum up, I’m really looking forward to stuttering my way through all of this at Ben McNally Books this coming Thursday. It’ll be a lot of good, awkward fun.
Alicia Elliott is a recent graduate of York University’s creative writing program and is senior fiction editor of Existere Journal of Arts and Literature. She was one of the first winners of the Dominion Institute’s Aboriginal Writing Challenge, and her winning story was published in Initiations: A Selection of Young Native Writing. When she is not reading or writing, Alicia spends time with her fantastic daughter, Eva, and amazing partner, Mike in Toronto, Brantford or Six Nations.
Diaspora Dialogues’ mentoring program has been a great learning experience for me. Being a part of it has encouraged me to not only re-write and submit my story, “Switch,” to TOK 6, but also to keep writing.
I wrote “Switch” out of a desire to share the story of a young girl who finds herself pregnant and living on the streets of Toronto. If Kari were a real person, I would want to meet her and become her friend. I am surprised to have this opportunity to read a portion of her story and share a glimpse into her life.
My mind is also muddled with children’s tales and a partially written young adult fantasy trilogy. In pockets of time and energy I spill words onto the page and play around with them hoping to arrange them into well told stories that young people will find meaningful.
Lynda Allison teaches high school, facilitates writing workshops and drama camps, and coordinates teams that support at risk children and youth and their families. She writes to explore and share life from various points of view and is inspired by the resiliency and courage of people who thrive despite incredible and sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges. Lynda hopes her stories resonate with readers in such a way that their issues and conflicts help them discover their inherent value and potential empowering them to effect positive change in their lives and the lives of other people.
Don’t forget to drop in and support Toronto’s best and brightest writers! We here at Diaspora Dialogues and these writers would love to see you there.
WHAT: Readings from TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 6
WHEN: Thursday May 19, 6:00-7:00 PM
WHERE: Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay Street
David Layton has had short fiction and articles published and anthologized in various literary journals, newspapers and magazines including: Penguin, Exile, the Daily Telegraph, Conde Nast and the Globe and Mail. He is the author of Motion Sickness, a memoir that was shortlisted for the Trillium Award. His critically acclaimed second book, The Bird Factory, was published by McClelland and Stewart and film rights for the novel were sold to Marty Katz, executive producer of Hotel Rwanda. David Layton’s third book, Bloodlines, will be published by HarperCollins in the spring of 2012.
Martin Mordecai, a late bloomer, published his first book, Culture and Customs of Jamaica, a reference work written with his wife, Pamela Mordecai, at the age of fifty-nine. His first novel, Blue Mountain Trouble, was published simultaneously in the United States and Canada when he was sixty-seven. Before writing, he had worked as a civil servant, a media practitioner and a very small business person. Since writing, he has been grandfather to Zoey Rita, which is less tiring and more fun.
Antanas Sileika is the author of two novels and one collection of linked short stories, Buying On Time, which was nominated for both the City of Toronto Book Award and the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour. His last novel, Woman in Bronze, was a Globe and Mail Best Book selection. He lives in Toronto, where he is the director for the Humber School for Writers.