Spring Writes: A Celebration of Creative Writing

Urquhart, Jamal, Scott

Emily Urquhart, Tasneem Jamal, Susan Scott

Spring Writes: A Celebration of Creative Writing was held at Veritas Café on Thursday, March 15th. Hosted by 2018 Edna Staebler Writer in Residence Emily Urquhart, the evening began with an expert panel on the art and ethics of creative non-fiction with Kitchener author Tasneem Jamal, Susan Scott, editor of The New Quarterly, and Emily Urquhart, who also publishes work in this burgeoning literary form. The three panelists engaged in a lively discussion about how to define creative nonfiction – for instance, as ‘true stories told slant’ or as a ‘true novel’ – as well as how to delineate creative nonfiction from straight-up journalistic reporting. Both Jamal and Urquhart trained as journalists, so they had much to say on the latter topic. The panelists also talked about the ethics of writing about family members or other identity groups, and walking the line between telling personal stories and addressing larger social questions. Susan observed that creative nonfiction has the potential to encourage diverse voices who don’t necessarily feel they have a place in Canadian publishing, and offered the hopeful suggestion that these newer stories have the capacity to renew the English language. The panel was timely as the Dept. of English and Film Studies prepares to launch a new course in creative nonfiction next year.

Katie McGarry
Katie McGarry
Yeli Cruz
Yeli Cruz
Stephanie Silva
Stephanie Silva

After a short break and some draws for door prizes, attendees were treated to a showcase of Laurier writers curated by WIR Emily Urquhart and Blueprint Magazine. The talent on display ably illustrated the diversity of genres and voices currently represented by Creative Writing at Laurier. Readers included Jenna Hazzard, Katie McGarry, Amy Neufeld, James Lao, Yeli Cruz, and Stephanie Silva. Thank you to these readers for sharing their considerable talents, to Emily for her work as a literary mentor this term, and to all who attended!

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Photos and Story by: Jenny Kerber

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Literature Matters

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Literature Matters was a full-day symposium held on February 2, 2018.  There were five panels featuring faculty and undergraduate speakers from English on a range of topics:  ecocritism, activism projects, gun laws, Indigenous literature, 18th century crime blogs, YA literature, poetry from sports events, Shakespeare adaptations, fantasy genres, Gothic literature, and creative work.  The symposium was attended by about 120 students and faculty members. It was organized by Eleanor Ty and supported by a grant from the Student Life Levy fund.

To give a sense of the presentations throughout the day, here are short excerpts from reports written by first-year students who attended the event.

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Panel I: Literature, Social and Critical Action

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Dr. Richard Nemesvari, the Dean of Arts, welcomed everyone and remarked in his opening statements, “I enjoy being invited to such events, especially those that include a mixture of student and faculty research.”                                    Kayla Holden

Dr. Markus Poetzsch began by talking about the importance of everyday activity  in the works of Romantic poets. He  wanted literary studies to “focus on real world practical application” such as walking.                                                           Kayla Holden

“In Dr. Poetzsch’s talk, he related the rhythmic pattern of iambs to that of walking.”  Adrianna Pater

Dr. Poetzsch noted, “William Wordsworth walked strategically while he wrote his iambic poetry. ”                                                                                     Priscilla Ruta

Laura From took us through her project called “Dinner in the ‘Dark’: Raising Awareness and Shelter for All.” The point of her project was to raise awareness for ShelterBox and their Shine campaign. Cassie Wolfe, with her presentation on “Blogging About Fair Trade,” wanted to raise awareness about different fair trade issues, for example the cocoa bean production. Last up from Dr. Hron’s class was Lauren Rabak and her presentation of her project on “Homelessness”. She wanted to help change the negative stigmatizations people often have about homeless people.                                                        Anna Hveem

Stephanie Higgs and Alida Swart, two first year students compared gun laws in Canada and the U.S. You could tell from their presentation that they were very well read on the subject.                                                                               Anna Hveem

Panel 2: Discovering Different Worlds

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Dr. Kathryn Carter, Associate Vice-President, Teaching and Learning, chaired the panel and welcomed everyone. She was very pleased to be involved in the event as her home department is also English.

Dr. Jenny Kerber started off her speech by saying hello to the audience in a few different Indigenous languages such as Mohawk and Cree. This was quite captivating for the audience and by using this technique she was able to grab our attentions.   Jane Lennox

Dr. Jenny Kerber gave a fascinating lecture titled “From ‘Settlers with Opinions’ to Respectful Dialogue without Fear: Teaching Indigenous Literatures”.  Dr. Kerber offered four key ideas when approaching Indigenous writing. Firstly, is to listen for stories and to realize that there is no “one” story. Secondly, is to allow disturbance to happen and be aware of any assumptions one may hold. Thirdly, is survival and continuity of the culture. Lastly, is to look at writing as a process. These key ideas help to engage the audience with respectfully approaching Indigenous writing. Carmen Mortley

There were four WLU students, Milas Hewson, Mhairi Chandler, Alyssa Blair, Safina Husein, who were part of Dr. Ty’s Sense and Sensibility class last term, who presented their work on crimes and misdemeanours from the 18th century as well as making connections to our society. The topics discussed in these four presentations ranged from sexual assault cases to gender inequality, and the punishments associated with them. The students discussed real life issues that were relevant not only in the 18th century but also in today’s society making this a very liberating presentation.                                                              Jane Lennox

 

Panel 3:  Literature, Media and Popular Culture

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Dr. Tamas Dobozy, who chaired the panel, gave a clever remark to start off the hour long panel.

Dr. Katherine Bell explains that in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Speak, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson a teen is showcased as a withdrawn outcast from society. In the past 20 years or so, young adult novels have taken over the story world  and brought emotion evoking stories of being an individual in a harsh  society. Youth is the most important part of one’s life as it teaches us  how to explore our social  nature, our individuality and autonomy. Growth is not about the self necessarily, it is about how one grows up in society surrounded by societal pressures and changes. Bell goes on to stress  the important themes of freedom and resistance.       Sophie Cauduro

Dr. Bell also discussed a new trend in YA literature: polyvocal texts that feature numerous perspectives and co-authored novels, such as Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Dr. Bell concluded her presentation by stating the importance of the transition into adulthood for YA literature and that “Youth itself [is] a problem to be solved.”                                 Jenny Tubb

Alex Purcell talked about a paper he wrote, “Comparing Two Stage Versions of the Willow Scene in Othello.” The two versions he chose were one by BBC in 1981 and another by The Globe in 2015. He explained that the two both had aspects that incorporated the original Shakespeare scene and how The Globe changed certain things to go with their World War Two version.                                 Samantha Prior

Alex believes the BBC production was the better of the two as he stated, “[it] went beyond written and personal interpretation.” Purcell is in his final year at Laurier and is majoring in history and English.                                    Rylee Stephens

Isabeau Glebe, a 3rd year psychology major created a poem called “The Art of Boxing and Poetry: A Found Poem”. Glebe’s compelling poem highlighted the post-game interviews of the world-famous boxing match between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather. Her poem was aligned in such a way where McGregor’s reposes to interview questions were centered to the left and Mayweather’s responses to the right. When the same response was given to a similar question, their responses were centered in the middle of the page such as “composure “and “hat’s off”. This writing style of the poem gave the illusion of a boxing ring on the page.          Vanita Lad

Aaron Rupert presented a piece called, The Price You pay. Aaron’s lighthearted tone and calming manner helped deliver a heavy content in a meaningful manner when  he delivered the poem which focussed on NBA player, Isiah Thomas, and his difficulties when trying to break worldwide basketball records while simultaneously struggling with the death of his sister. Aaron spoke to this by saying,   “Sports at their worst shows you what humans are really like, sports at their best shows you what humans can  achieve.” Aaron added that this can be applied to various sport situations that circulation popular culture.                                 Lauren Symbolik

Hayley Colussi, a 4th year English student, concluded the session with her poem: “How far is too far: a found poem” The poem followed Cam Newton, Quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, who made sexist remarks towards a reporter, trying to demean her for reporting on football as a woman. “Sexism is often addressed, but there is often no consequence” Colussi noted, concluding her presentation and the panel.                                                                       Joshua Meyer

 

Panel 4: Issues in Contemporary Genres

Photos: Mary Margaret Butler

Dr. Eleanor Ty chaired the session after lunch and welcomed everyone.

Dr. Ken Paradis led the discussion with the question, “How can the understanding of contemporary genre shed insight on the current reality gap?” Dr. Paradis addressed the question with his own perspective.  He explained that the idea of the fantastic works to rationalize the distorted understanding of reality.  It encourages an epistemological way of thinking, and how every age creates new fantasies and a new take on reality.                                                                     Taya Smith

Jonathan Simms, a student at the Laurier Brantford Campus talked about contemporary genre as “fantasy without shared social context”.  He elaborated on the evolution of life, logic, romanticism, and realism.  With this comes the rise of individualism, and the parallel increase of reality gaps.  Jonathan concluded by explaining that until the next “socio-economic upheaval”, changes the way we think about the world, there will be a continued divergence.              Taya Smith

Victoria Hudson-Muir is a 4th year English student from the Brantford campus who focuses on how genre is a representation of the way authors reveal the gaps in literature. She specifically looks at how the realist genre triumphs over the romantic genre through the overpowering abilities of realistic capitalism. She concludes that as new genres emerge, society and literature need to go through some growing pains in order to progress.                                               Alexsia Louizos

Denise Springett spoke about how problematic the production of stereotypical masculinity is in popular young adult fiction,  and how it needs to be analyzed, resisted and hopefully changed by future generations.    Elizabeth Clark

Erin McHarge used Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” as an example of a novel that was written about 30 years ago but is still relevant because of its themes of gothicism and the sexual abuse of women.                Elizabeth Clark

 

Panel 5: Creative Projects Showcase

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The panel was kicked off with Dr. Tanis MacDonald presenting the Chris Heard Memorial Prize to Jenna Hazzard for her short story “Hydrangeas” which Jenna then Read for everyone.                                                     Matthew McKenzie

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Doug Heard presents Jenna Hazzard with the Chris Heard Memorial Prize

Jenna Hazzard’s piece “Hydrangeas” seemed very relatable to me because it sounded like how I feel when my family is having a conversation, being silent for most of it and just thinking about what I would say and what had been said. Her story was about how her grandfather had killed their kittens and buried them where the hydrangeas (flowers) were now. Her Uncle would say something and then say it was her grandfather who did it, and the grandfather would just change the conversation or not understand what was being asked, or at least it seemed from the narrators’ perspective. In the end he decides he has to answer the one question being asked of him over and over again, “did he kill and bury the kittens?”.             Manpreet Sangha

Yeli Cruz followed with excerpts from a personal piece on childhood and a rendering of Macbeth.                                                      Jenna Hall

A first year English and Film major, Meghan Mazzaferro’s piece, titled “Head of Super Human Relations”, was a story about a future society in which 30% of the populations exhibit a almost superhuman ability, taking influence from the superhero craze of the 21st century and from My Hero Academia, an anime with a similar premise. The excerpt of the story told of Akari Tagami, a young woman who was tasked as part of the Make-A-Wish foundation to contact a powerful supervillain that can create extreme heat through his palms. The story was riveting with intense words and compelling imagery that could be easily imagined when getting immersed into the story.                                       Jonathan Scodeller

One piece I’d like to talk about was very interesting because I felt at home with it due to my background and race as a South Asian Canadian. Kaya Marcus was the speaker on her piece, “Sometimes the Journey is Better Than the Destination”. It was the story that Kaya’s great grandfather’s wife always told at their home in Owen Sound by a fireplace when she was growing up. Around the time when chaos was going on around the world at the time of WWII, Kaya’s great grandfather had to leave the family from North India in order to go about his journey. It was a beautiful yet touching story in the sense that Vijay’s father mentions how his thoughts will always be with his family back home despite wherever his life would lead him.                                                      Harnoor Gill

Emma Davis’s non-fiction story was entitled “Pantophobia”. The excerpt she presented told the story of her young friend who was diagnosed with cancer, and how she shaved her head in an act of support for him. I approached her after the panel to ask about the boy, and whether or not he recovered. She told me he passed away, but that several of her other friends also shaved their heads in support.       Meghan Mazzafero

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Student assistants: Madeleine Prentice, Kristen Schiedel.
Tess Campbell and Lauren Cameron (not pictured)

Winners of book draw from Wilfrid Laurier University Press: Milas Hewson, Laura From, and Lisa Christie.

Photos: Elizabeth Clark, Sophie Cauduro, Taya Smith, Eleanor Ty

A one-minute video report of the event is available on YouTube, “Literature Matters WLU.” 

Balderdash Reading with Urquhart, Jong, and Swan

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Tucked inside the Wilfred Laurier Library is the quaint Robert Langen Art Gallery, which on Thursday February 9th was the location for  the Balderdash Reading Series hosted by Sanchari Sur. The Balderdash Reading Series is monthly  event which aims to represent and celebrate culture, art and academics. This was a public reading featuring three talented writers, Emily Urquhart, Tamara Jong, and Dane Swan. At five past seven, the presentation began.

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The first reader, Emily Urquhart, is a non-fiction writer who has received many awards for her work, including the Globe and Mail Best Book 2015, a National Magazine award, BC Book Prize as well as Kobo First Book Award. She is Laurier’s current writer in residence and during Thursday night’s reading, she presented a piece which she said was inspired by the brave students who had came to see her. “If they can do it, well then maybe so can I” she stated. Her piece was new work, still unedited and raw with emotion. The creative non-fiction piece which was an excerpt from an essay she’d been working on was about her brother’s sudden death which haunted her for many years to follow.

The second reader of the night was Tamara Jong, who is a non-fiction writer. Her work has appeared in The New Quarterly, Ricepaper, and Room. She read her short story that she had written four years ago entitled “Kindergarten Tales”. She described the piece as “kind funny and a kinda sad”. The piece ranged from her childhood and the difficulty’s of tying her shoe, to her adult life and her loss of faith.

The last reader of the night, Dane Swan, is a short story writer and poet, he has published two poetry collects and a short story collection. Swan was soft spoken when first walking up to the microphone to introduce himself and his pieces. Yet, once he delved into the pieces, he became passionate, his voice boomed and his hands gestured wildly as he spoke. In one particularly emotional section he yelled out “you!” and pointed an accusing finger at the audience which was very effective. The passion brought his work to life and proved that the poet is his own best sales man.

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After the readings, there was a short Q and A section with the authors. The audience had many questions ranging from their inspiration, difficulty with publishers and their view on other arts. Overall there was a positive reaction from the audience.

Photos and Article by Emma Davis, First Year, English and Film Studies

Emily Urquhart, Staebler Writer-In Residence Inaugural Talk

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On January 23rd,  2018 non-fiction writer, journalist, and the Edna Staebler Writer-in-Residence for Winter 2018, Emily Urquhart, kicked off her residency with her inaugural public talk in the Hawk’s Nest. In her talk, entitled “True Stories: Narrative Non-Fiction from Cave Painting to Podcasting,” Urquhart discussed the ways in which storytelling has, and has not evolved throughout human history. She gave a fascinating account of how her daughter’s albinism led her to write her memoir, Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family and the Mystery of our Hidden Genes. 

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There were times in her life when being isolated in a foreign country or in a small city, or having to be at home as a mother with a young child actually forced her to find new ways to find books, write, and interact intellectually with the world.

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Photos by Katherine Bell

Also a folklorist, Urquhart engaged the audience with folkloric traditions at Laurier, such as the “don’t walk on the hawk” mentality and “Silent Seven” in the library. However, she also mentioned some less obvious ones, like the story behind an archived photo hanging in Wilf’s. She also gave personal anecdotes about her travels and journalistic endeavours. At the end, there was a question and answer period, in which the audience primarily discussed podcasts and even shared some of their favourite ones amongst each other.

Overall, the event was a great success, and we look forward to more in the coming months of Urquhart’s residency!

By: Manreet Lachhar

Outside People By Mariam Pirbhai: Book Launch

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On November 2, 2017, Veritas Café was packed with faculty, students, and members of the community for the launch of Professor Mariam Pirbhai’s collection of short stories, Outside People and Other Stories, published by Inanna Publications in Toronto.

Two student writers opened the evening’s festivities. Jenna Hazzard, whose short story was recently a runner-up in Elle magazine’s national writing competition, read a humorous episode from the opening pages of her novella-in-progress, set in a library just after New Year’s Eve. Jenna’s reading  prompted one longtime library employee to say that she hit the mark with all her details. Kyleen McGragh performed two of her poems, “”Exhale” and “Parasite.” Both poems were recently published in FreeLit magazine, and Kyleen gave a riveting and bold recitation.

 

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Professor Pirbhai graciously thanked her colleagues, students, and especially, her Latin American friends for their support. Her stories, she noted, were about the invisible rather than the “visible” minorities in Canada. They are not just about immigrants, but about the domestic worker, temporary migrant labourers, those who are left behind and whose families are fractured because of globalization.

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She began by reading an excerpt from “Air Raids,” featuring a modern Muslim woman’s would-be sexual encounter with an airline steward during his stopover in Montreal. Set against the backdrop of a protest against a Quebec bill banning religious symbols, the story is rich with the voices of English, French, Pakistani, Jewish, and Arabic people.

Her second excerpt, “Chicken Catchers,” was based on the horrific car accident which killed ten migrant workers and the truck driver near Stratford in the winter of 2012. The victims were from Peru, five who had only recently arrived. Pirbhai’s story focuses on the inter-ethnic friendship between a Peruvian and a Jamaican worker, and may lead us to question Canadian habits of consuming chicken, particularly our preference for chicken breasts.

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She ended with a funny story, “Crossing Over,” about a woman from Mumbai’s consternation about having to perform inelegant and unfeminine manoeuvers in the family car in order to attend a dinner party in Halifax in winter.

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Outside People has been praised as a “stunning debut.”

Photos and Story by Eleanor Ty

Balderdash Reading Series, October 2017

 

The Balderdash Reading Series, organized by English and Film Studies PhD candidate, Sanchari Sur, held its second event for the fall at the Robert Langen Art Gallery on October 26, 2017.

Pasha Malla

Pasha Malla, Laurier’s Writer-in-Residence for fall, read an amusing extract from Fugue States in which the narrator describes an attempt at skiing with homemade skis and boots.  We are left hanging, wondering if the boots stayed on the intrepid skier.

Jagtar Kaur

Jagtar Kaur Atwal, from Cambridge, read an autobiographical poem about the difficulty of speaking in an alien tongue: “Writing has been like walking in knee-deep mud for my fear of rejection.”  She finds strength in another kind of voice, a silenced one.

Tanis

Tanis MacDonald read from a recent issue of Arc Magazine and poems yet unpublished.  She shared her poem outlining a professor’s thoughts while invigilating an exam. Apparently, MacDonald has reflected on birds, especially finches, while students are writing their exams.

Canisia

Canisia Lubrin read from Voodoo Hypothesis and reminds us that “black isn’t always a void.” Meditating on the many recent hurricanes that have hit the Caribbean, Lubrin writes, “We return to burn or bury what we have lost…” when nature swallows “things many times the size of our earth.”

 

A great event with talented voices…

Balderdash Reading Series runs with the generous support of the Graduate Student Association.  It holds monthly readings with new and established writers, often featuring works by writers published in the New Quarterly.

Story  by  Eleanor Ty

Photos by  Darin White

 

LUJA Launch 2017

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Over 40 students and faculty members attended the launch of the new issue of Laurier Undergraduate Journal of the Arts on October 25, 2017 at the Robert Langen Gallery in the library.  A number of English and Film Studies students served on the management board responsible for the first issue of 2017.  They included: Mitchell Kooh, Mynt Marsellus, Esther Brockett, Brittney Tessier, Carina Rampelt, Madeline McInnis, and Vidish Parikh.  This issue includes articles on a wide range of topics, including, Disney films Wall-E and Tangled,  Tomson Highway,  the repatriation program used by International organizations,  changing demographics in Japan,  the constructedness of female orgasms, and non-binary identities. Mynt Marsellus noted that LUJA received over 200 submissions, and it was difficult for the editors to choose ten essays.

Richard Nemesvari, the Dean of Arts, expressed his delight and approbation of extra-curricular activities such as LUJA because they were a good form of experiential learning and a testament to the intellectual work happening at Laurier.

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Organizer and this year’s Editor, Angela James welcomed the new crew who would take over the Management of LUJA.

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It was an enjoyable evening, with good food, exquisite music, and even prizes for the audience.

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LUJA is funded by the Arts Undergraduate Society at Laurier.

Photos and  story by Eleanor Ty