Balderdash Nov 2019 with Mahak Jain, Dorothy Palmer, and Eufemia Fantetti

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By: Mira Busscher and Natalia Hunter

The second Balderdash reading series event of the year took place on Thursday November 14th, 2019 and was held in the Robert Langen Art Gallery, hosted by Sanchari Sur. The event was supported by the Laurier Library, the Dean of Arts, the English department and The New Quarterly publication.

This event featured three talented writers who each shared a reading of their new work: Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Mahak Jain and Eufemia Fantetti.

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Dorothy Ellen Palmer, a retired high school teacher and a disability advocate, opened the event with a reading of the introduction to her memoir, Falling for Myself.  Dorothy’s memoir details her experiences of learning from the frequent falls in her life to eventually falling in love with herself. Dorothy was also open with her acknowledgement of her own internalized ableism, and the importance of breaking down the notions of ableism, discrimination and privilege.

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The next speaker was Mahak Jain, a graduate from the University of Guelph’s creative writing program, who read the beginning of her short story, The Marriage Broker. Her short story was published in The New Quarterly, which features emerging writers who have not yet been published. Jain’s short story explores the relationship between Indian culture and marriage, focusing on a company named the India Marriage Bureau. Mahak blends the Indian experience into her writing in a way that allows her to explore a variety of opinions regarding cultural norms and values.

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The final speaker was Eufemia Fantetti, another graduate from Guelph’s creative writing program and the Writer’s Studio at SFU. Eufemia read part of two chapters from her memoir, My Father, Fortune-Tellers and Me: A Memoir, that explored her relationship with her parents, specifically after her father went through a surgery and her mother’s struggle with mental illness. Eufemia discussed her spiritual journey of attempting to make sense of her family issues and relationships by exploring the notions of fate, destiny, astrology and tarot cards. Eufemia creatively blended these large spiritual questions regarding the world with humour as she imitated the Italian accents of her parents when she read.

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Following the individual speakers, there was a very insightful question and answer portion that allowed the audience to speak with the writers directly and ask questions about their work and writing process. Dorothy, Mahak and Eufemia all engaged with the question regarding the difficulty of writing personal material, each offering a profound note on the catharsis of opening up and telling the bad with the good and letting go of shame and secrecy, while also sharing about the meaning of having their work out in the world to be shared publicly. Each writer reflected on their own work with an interesting perspective, with Mahak explaining the writing process of creating a character that has different values and views than her own, and Dorothy expressing that, despite her work being a memoir, she views the version of herself in the book as a character, which shaped her creative process.

Overall, the second Balderdash Reading Series of the year was a success and celebrated the deeply personal and diverse stories these authors have to offer with their explorations of culture, disability and family struggles.

Balderdash Oct 2019 with Mel Carroll, Lisa Baird, Doyali Islam

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On Tuesday, October 29, 2019 from 7-9pm Sanchari Sur, from English and Film Studies department hosted the first Balderdash event of the year. Students and faculty gathered in the Robert Langen Art Gallery in Laurier’s library to listen to the three featured speakers as well as admire the art and gain insight on writing practices.

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The event began with the first speaker, Mel Carroll, as Mel read the short story “Algorithms of Suicide” which was published in The New Quarterly. Mel immediately engaged the audience with an innocent story of getting a tattoo; however, an unexpected, accusatory text from Mel’s sister shifts the story into an alternative route in discussing mental health within a family. “Algorithms of Suicide” discusses emotionally difficult topics such as poor mental health in both Mel’s mother and sister, Mel’s extensive role as a supporter, and how to navigate feelings of guilt and anger.

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The next speaker was Lisa Baird who presented seven poems from her collection called Winter’s Cold Girls. These poem topics ranged from forgiveness, family, sexuality, and the exhaustion of parenting. Lisa had the audience experience a wide array of emotions in a small period of time as her poems were filled with unexpected turns, vivid imagery, and metaphors. Her poems had the audience shocked with surprise endings such as one poem that uses an imaginary sister to overcome abuse. The audience also laughed as she praised the patron saint of melatonin when discussing the exhaustion of having children.

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The final speaker was Doyali Islam who read several poems from her book Heft. Her poems all related to her personal experiences, with topics ranging from her partner, her family habits, sexuality, and even strong emotions she has felt from watching a documentary. Doyali decided to change the order in which she read her poems because she was inspired by the previous two speakers.

After the speakers presented, a question and answer period followed. The discussion focused on how each speaker was able to engage with such personal forms of writing while also receiving feedback from editors. Mel told the audience that writing is a form of healing. Mel typically writes the entire piece without editing, and then returns to it after a few weeks and edits and repeats that process until Mel is happy with it. In regard to people critiquing it, Mel only lets a small group of trusted friends read it because Mel values their opinions. As for Lisa, she writes in bursts of moments and whenever she can find the time. In terms of editing, she has her best friend who is also a writer look over her work. Doyali explains that she takes her time with writing. She does not set aside specific time but chooses to write when she feels inspired. She revises her work by reading it out loud and adjusting words and phrases until it connects with her heart. She has no official editor because she believes in the power of your own intuition. The audience was able to discuss with published writers the highs and lows of the process of publishing.

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The next Balderdash event takes place on November 14! So, come on out to hear some great pieces of writing, look at gorgeous art, and eat some delicious snacks!

Photos and Story By Tess Campbell and Madeleine Prentice

Writer-in-Residence, David Bidini 2019

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On the evening of October 28, 2019 Laurier hosted Canadian author David Bidini as part of the Writer-in-Residence program. Dr. Tamas Dobozy introduces David Bidini, calling him a “wide ranging and adventurous” author. Bidini is also a known Canadian musician and journalist. Bidini starts off his talk by light-heartedly telling the audience that he did not have concrete plans for university, rather he went to the closest one to him, York University, and did not actually complete his General BA degree. However, he did gain a life-changing experience through his exchange trip to Ireland in 1984, where questions about nationhood and identity arose for him. He spent time with the locals, and while he learned about the Irish’s sense of identity, they asked him about what being Canadian means, to which he replied to by sharing some Canadian music. When he returned from this trip, he felt a profound sense of wanting to get to the root of this question of what it means to be Canadian.

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Bidini is comfortable and relatable as he speaks at the front of the room. He spent two and a half months touring with his band across Canada and got to know the locals in different cities, which inspired his first book, On a Cold Road. Tom Connors was a great inspiration to Bidini during this time. Bidini tells the story of his great friend Tom, who gave his Juno award back in an attempt to protest against Canadian artists that moved to America to gain fame. He believed that Junos should be solely for Canadians and to further the tradition for Canadian artists. Bidini tried very hard to find Tom, who was exiled for ten years, for answers. He met Tom in 1986 at an exclusive party after being given the address on a whim. He makes the crowd break into laughter after telling the story of giving Tom the wrong tapes in an attempt to further his career in music.

Midnight Light is Bidini’s latest novel, which he gave a brief reading to the audience. Midnight Light is a depiction of life in the Northwest Territories, specifically in Yellowknife. The passage he read was a scene focused on his experience traveling by float plane and interacting with the Australian pilot and passengers. The story is funny, amusing, and showcases Bidini’s marvelous and captivating storytelling abilities. He emphasizes that he wrote this novel because the Northwest Territories are widely unacknowledged, and that we are still discovering Canada and Canadian identity, which is “a great, elusive quality” according to Bidini.

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A question period followed the reading, and Bidini answered interesting questions about his time in the Northwest territories, telling the audience that he went there 17 times over 18 months, experiencing all of the seasons. He emphasizes that all his novels are very different from one another, and that bookstores have trouble classifying them for that very reason. For example, Midnight Light is not just about the Northwest territories but also about journalism and other topics. It seems Bidini writes from an authentic experience that encompasses his wide-ranging adventures. The Writer-in-Residence program offers a unique experience for those who are able to take advantage of speaking to successful, Canadian authors. The talks are insightful and there are many events in the upcoming week that feature Bidini and his wide range of skills. A full schedule of the events with Dave Bidini is located on the Laurier website.

Photos and Story By: Raveena Singh and Adina Turkonje

Our New Master’s – Convocation 2019

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Leah Waldes, Denise Springett, Laura From and Heather Lambert received their Master of Arts in English at the Fall Convocation in October 2019. Congratulations, Ladies of Literature! We wish you all the best in your next endeavour…

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Special congratulations to Denise Springett, who received the Medal of Academic Excellence- Research Master’s! Marvellous work, Denise.

 

Film Studies Meet the Prof 2019

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Professors and questions and Wilf’s Apps, oh my! On Wednesday October 23, the WLU Film Society hosted their annual Meet the Profs social in the Wilf’s Den, bringing together students from all levels of study to socialize with their professors. Most film studies professors were in attendance, making for fantastic conversation.

The goal of this event is to bridge the gap between professors and students, encouraging engagement and facilitating discussions. Though the event is particularly aimed at first years in order to introduce new students to the professors they will have for the next few years, there was a fantastic turnout from all years of undergraduate degrees, and even a couple of alumni. 

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 Popular topics of conversation included our favourite movies, current research, alumni of the program, different opportunities at partner institutions like Lincoln University and Vancouver Film School, and what to expect from upcoming courses. Many students are looking forward to upcoming classes like Film Musical, Italian Film, and Film and Genre, all running in the Winter 2020 semester.

Meeting the profs was only one aspect of the event, as many students ended up mingling with fellow students from other years, asking for advice, and sharing experiences. Because of the diverse attendance, students were able to receive great advice on their required courses, options for exchange, and even ways to get involved and make friends.

 The executive from the Film Society led a game of “two truths and a lie” about the professors, which was a lot of fun! Though the wifi was down across campus at the time, they made it engaging with a debate over each question. Even the professors themselves participated and didn’t know some of the facts about each other!

 Would you have been able to win the game? Did you know that Dr. Gates used to ride in rodeos? Dr. Annette makes chocolate from scratch to sell for charity in her spare time, and Dr. Spring and Dr. Kilbourn have both met some very famous directors!

Having a chat or two with professors is always a great way to break the ice, feel more confident in class, and feel more welcome in university. The club is very grateful for all the professors who made the time to attend the event.

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 The WLU Film Society holds weekly meetings every Thursday at 7:00 PM.

Other key events to look out for are the Kino Hearts discussions in Wilf’s den, which is just like a book club except you watch a movie instead of reading a book, and the 10th Annual Film Symposium, which will be taking place next semester. If you’re interested in attending Film Society’s events, please check out their Facebook page and their site on The Perch.

 Photos and Story By: Madeline McInnis

Disclaimer: The author of this blog post is a former president of the WLU Film Society.

English Students’ Association Meet the Profs

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On Wednesday October 9, 2019 the English Student’s Association (ESA) held a drop-in Meet the Professors event in the Hawks Nest. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet professors outside of the classroom and of course, and to have some free food! There was a great turn out with many faculty members and undergraduate students coming together to meet and break the ice that is often associated with the student-professor relationship. There was an abundance of great conversation and sharing of interests that occurred. It turns out talking to Profs really isn’t that bad!

The executive team of the ESA; Heather, Emily, Emma, Sarah, and Blaze worked hard to put together this heritage event that the ESA has run every year for the last 4 years. The girls mentioned that the goal of the event was to give first year and undergraduate English students the chance to meet with their professors in an informal setting. They also want to ease the stress that many first-year students face when it comes to speaking with their professors and the university experience as a whole.

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Faculty and students got to know each other by doing an paired activity where profs and students had to ask and answer questions about their favorite literary characters, advice for students, etc. It was a lot of fun.

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The ESA prides itself on the student focus they hold. They want English students to know that there are other people who enjoy the things that they do and that you have a group of friends in the ESA that you do not even know of yet! They want to let students know that they are always welcome at Laurier and to come out to their events and share their love of English! The ESA will be holding a Movie Night on Tuesday October 29th at 10pm. They can be found on Instagram @esawlu and are looking for general members of the Association. Please email esalaurier@gmail.com if you are interested in being a general member or would like to be put on the mailing list for future events.

Story and Photos by  Julia-Rose  DiPalo and Adrianna  Woodburn

Additional photos and editing: Eleanor Ty

25th Anniversary Celebration of MA program

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On September 27, 2019, the Department celebrated the 25th anniversary of the MA in  English.  The event was organized by Eleanor Ty, Grad Program Coordinator, with the help of Tamas Dobozy, Chair, and Laurier’s Alumni Office. Students and faculty attended the celebration where faculty members and graduates from different years spoke of their positive experiences and how the program helped them to get to where they are now. Douglas Deutschman, the Associate Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, kicked the event off, stressing the importance of the humanities and quality writing, even in science disciplines.

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His introduction was followed by Christine Bilodeau, a graduate of the first MA cohort at Laurier and the current Senior Manager of network planning at Bell Canada. Bilodeau read intimate details from her journal written while she was a graduate student, which highlighted the skills she learned from the demands of the MA program. Bilodeau emphasized the importance of time management, imagination, and cooperation, expressing that these skills helped her succeed in the program as well as in her current workplace.

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Three students from the first cohort of MAs: Kathleen McConnell, Chrissy Bilodeau, Michele Kramer

Also from the first cohort was Kathleen McConnell, who is currently an English Professor at St. Thomas University. She reiterated the importance of forming bonds in the MA program. The tight knit group they formed helped McConnell and her peers cope throughout the intense eight months. She also noted that faculty at Laurier are here for their students, repeating Bilodeau’s point that this program cannot be done alone. This sentiment was agreed upon by all speakers, as Sarah Currie, and graduate from last year’s MA, echoed the cooperation needed among peers. She introduced us to their cohort, the “ladies of literature” who engaged in meetings where they would exchange positive notes, and hold potluck dinners where they would talk about life. They have shared experiences that have bonded them past the program itself.

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Professor Tamas Dobozy talked about the success of the MA program, and how the program has continued to develop, including the creation of a Professional Skills course recently. Professor Paul Tiessen, who was the Chair of the Department for over a decade in the 1980s and 1990s, talked about how Department members worked to create the Master’s program back in the mid-1980s, and how Professor Viviana Comensoli came up with the idea of “Gender and Genre” as a specialization. Professor Russ Kilbourn commented that teaching in the MA program has had a direct and positive impact on his research. It has resulted in his book on Cinema, Memory, Modernity as well as his recent book on W.G. Sebald. Professor Andrea Austin gave funny anecdotes about students in her graduate class doing make-overs, dressing up as the Joker and Batman, and how teaching in the graduate program has made her enjoy her job. She noted that some of our MA students have gone on to become video game developers, lawyers, and also worked in war zones.

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We were given a different perspective on the academic world in a speech by 2012 graduate Virginia Shay who currently works public relations for the DIVA cup company. Virginia walked us through her experience of leaving her PhD after 5 years and how hard it was to leave school; the attrition of being trapped into something you no longer enjoy. She stressed the importance of keeping both one foot outside of academia and persevering when employers do not recognize how your skills are transferable. Finally, she wrapped up by stating the MA was one of the best years of her life, reaffirming the closeness and support she felt within her cohort.

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Lena Yang was the next MA grad to follow, graduating with the 2018 cohort. As a marketing and curation associate at Audiobooks, Yang spoke about the friendly competitive nature of the program, expressing that her fellow students’ outstanding essays pushed Yang to become a better writer. Her biggest challenge during the year was the TAship, where Yang had to conquer her fear of public speaking– a skill that would prove incredibly useful, even in her current workplace. Just like previous speakers, Yang shared fond memories of her cohort, expressing that they still keep in touch. Lai Tze Fan, a graduate from the 2010 cohort, wrapped up the speech portion of this celebration with her experience as an MA student. As a current Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo, the MA program was a key component to her current success. Fan communicated that the MA curriculum allowed Fan to ask the questions she wanted to ask about english and film, adding fuel to her desire for knowledge and propelling her journey to become a professor.

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After the talks, graduates and faculty reminisced about fond memories and inquired further about life after the MA. Many laughs were shared over food and drinks, and everyone shared a united fondness for Laurier’s MA English program.

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Greetings from Alumni and Ex-Faculty:

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Photos and Story by : Garrett Bernt and Katherine Duffy

Additional slides and editing by: Eleanor Ty