The jtkwriting Blog

So, basically I just blog about life, stories I've read, stories I write, movies I've seen and the plethora of oddities that run through my brain.

Category: Life

Toronto’s Writing Spaces vol. 1: “Hart House”

Welcome to my new weekly “column” about writing spaces in Toronto. It is my intention to profile places around the city where I have written and places where you too can write. It is an idea I have had for a while and I thought now is a better time than tomorrow to get started on this particular adventure through the city in an attempt to explore new writing spaces while also sharing my experiences with other writerly-types who “just can’t work at home.” I hope the journey will be as enjoyable for you as I know it will be for me. Without further ado, let us start with the place I have been writing for the last decade.

debates_content_imageWhere: 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto, Ontario

When: This particular time was a summer evening, though I have also written here in the morning and afternoon and each has their benefits. Evening is generally less busy which means it is also more quiet. If you arrive early enough, say before 10am, you will find the same atmosphere. Between 11am and 6pm most classes are taking place and thus when the most students and faculty are milling around. This can be an issue with seating, which is why I enjoy either the early morning or evening hours.

I wrote: Blog posts

Inspiration: I come to write at Hart House with inspiration already in check as it is my default office away from home. If you are looking for inspiration you can find it in the Gothic architecture, the sprawling nature of the University of Toronto’s downtown campus and the student life that surrounds you.

Review: Hart House, being a student centre, is busier during the autumn and winter months, though there is still a spattering of patrons in the summer months. My favourite place to write is the small library on the second floor at the west side of the building. They are currently doing renovations but the design is Gothic and it would take more than the month they have allotted to make any major changes to this. What I enjoy the most is the silence of the space and its comfort. If you can wrestle part of a couch away from a napper I find they – the couches – are ideal. The window wells also offer comfort, though the radiators underneath can really belt out the warmth and it can get pretty toasty if you get too close.

In addition to the library, my other favourite spot is the large table in the second floor vestibule near the Gallery Grill. It is great for group writing sessions, but also for solo ventures. And because of the size of the table – think a 4ft. by 4ft. square – you have enough space to set-up a comfortable working space and have all your notes strewn about in whatever manner you desire.

All of the writing space at Hart House is public, with no private rooms for rent so I would say it is best for the actual task of writing. Some rooms are more social and do allow for conversation, but I have mostly come here solo and so have no need for conversing in any way but with my fingers tapping a keyboard.

With respect to outside space, there is a patio on the south side of the building that is more or less connected with the Arbor Room, a cafeteria, that is located in the basement. I would recommend coming with a full laptop battery and sunglasses if you desire to sit outside, though I can’t speak to this specifically because I always find myself wandering inside. Another outside space is the courtyard in the centre of the building. It is quieter and more serene but seating is scarce and because Hart House is also an event space for weddings and conferences, the courtyard space is usually being used for such things. If you want to write in a better “courtyard/atrium” type space, walk the literal 30 seconds next door to the University College building and make your way to its interior. I enjoy this outdoor space more than the one at Hart House.

Hours: 7am to Midnight, literally everyday

Food/Drink: Arbor Room cafeteria; Gallery Grill; Vending Machines

WiFi: Yes, but it is only available to students.

A/C: No.

Website: Hart House

Robin Williams: A Light Through the Darkness

index Comedy is a light that shines through and can defeat the darkness of the human soul. For all the light that Robin Williams brought into our lives, it was his darkness that unfortunately took over in the moments that would ultimately lead to his untimely demise. Behind all great comedy and comedians there is a darkness that resonates and with all of Robin Williams performances there was always a darker element against which the comedy was played. It allowed him to shine brighter and impact us more. His talent allowed him to do that on the level he did. A lesser artist would not have moved us with the magnitude of Robin Williams.  His legacy is not one of darkness though, even in his more serious roles.

Behind the red nose of Patch Adams there was death surrounding the character and the fight for laughter and dignity. While we were whisked away to Neverland with the boy who eventually grew up, Hook played with the father-son dynamic and the possibility of family disintegration. Mrs. Doubtfire played with the same theme as Hook but gave us a Scottish Williams in drag. Good Morning Vietnam was one of his darkest comedies. Set against the growing conflict of the Vietnam War, Williams, as a radio DJ, brought laughter to those who weren’t even aware they needed it. There is one scene in particular where Williams and Forest Whitaker are stuck in traffic surrounded by soldiers fresh from the U.S. and on their way to battle. Williams entertains them and has them gasping with laughter. As the traffic lifts, the trucks roll out and rather than having a smile of joy, Williams expression is solemn knowing these young men were being trucked off to scenes of horror and, more than likely, their own deaths as Williams character was apprised to news that was being held back from the troops. In a turn of 3 minutes, the scene went from tense, to jubilant, to dire. In these films, laughter and comedy bounced off and burst through the caverns built by tribulation and melancholy, but it is because of that potential sadness that the laughter played the role and had the impact it did.

Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting. With these films Williams showcased his depth beyond the iconic monologues. He showed us that it is possible for one scene and one actor to make us laugh, cry, yell in anger and cheer in celebration. He played characters with turbulent pasts that they are in the process of working themselves through when we see Williams inhabit them. In Dead Poets, we are inspired by John Keating and in Good Will Hunting we are inspired with Sean Maguire. They both teach by different methods and Williams depth and breadth as an actor allowed these films and these characters to succeed with their respective lessons as he hit the right beats at the right time on the spectrum of emotion that would have the most impact.

Whether it was through his stand-up or his various television and film roles, his performances elicited emotion, which all art is meant to do. Great art and great artists make us feel something. They make us feel something, ultimately, about ourselves. They make us want to change ourselves, even if it is just a different look to make us feel better internally. Robin Williams never directly motivated me, but he showed what someone can do when they throw away “the book of caring what people think” and  they go for it. For the sake of character, performance and sometimes simply to make someone laugh, Williams always went for it. I would say he was underrated with respect to the first two because we knew him mostly for his flamboyance and hilarity. Whereas George Carlin said things we wished we could, Robin Williams said things in a way we wished we could. For people of my generation, his movies were a big part of our childhood for reasons we can and will never be able to totally explain because I would argue we have forgotten the specifics of the matter. We can thank the better part of nostalgia for this. The better part being that which allows us to forget the specific but remember the general. The all encompassing feeling of joy, or simply of feeling, that Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire or Good Will Hunting gave us. Which is the very definition of beautiful.

From all accounts, Robin Williams lost his battle with addiction and depression and took his own life on August 11th, 2014. His smile will always give a reminder to a time when we smiled and laughed along with him. That smile also masked what must have been some very dark thoughts that led to his end. If you are struggling with darkness yourself, there is not much else to say other than don’t give up. Not because you owe anyone anything, but because the ultimate release you seek is not at the bottom of a pill or liquor bottle, nor is it at the end of blade, the nozzle of a gun, the bottom of a fall, or in the tight knot of a noose. The only real peace you can find is overcoming that struggle while you are still able to feel. For every valley there is a peak. In the moment before something drastic, reach out. There is always someone willing to talk even if that person is a stranger. Maybe that stranger is the better option than someone close. I don’t know who said it, but remember that suicidal feelings are the result of your body’s inability or lack of resources to manage or cope with the emotional or physical pain you are feeling. While it may seem like it is all in your head, it is not. It is a physical reaction and there are resources out there to help you make up for the ones, through no fault of your own, you have not developed yet. Reach out. Always.

Here are some resources:

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Artists’ Health Centre

Michael Landsberg’s “Sick Not Weak” Campaign – an amazing thing. Also: #sicknotweak and follow Michael on twitter for daily updates.

Rest, hopefully, in peace Robin Williams. Thank you for your talent, your smile and your light.

Blogroll Updated!

I added some new links to the blogroll. Some are friends, others acquaintances, and some aren’t even people! All are talented and entertaining.

The new additions:

Marcus Thomas; Tracey Beltrano; Christina Walkinshaw; Nicole Stamp; The Punnery by Olga Kwak; Yehuda Fisher; Dahlia Katz; Beer in a Glass Productions; Fresh Baked Entertainment; The Brett Heard Comedy Development Workshop; Toronto Independent Film Festival; International Festival of Authors; John Green; Jonathan Tropper; Luminato Festival; Stephen King; Steven Pressfield; SummerWorks; The Word on the Street; AND, Toronto Fringe Festival!


SummerWorks 2014

sw_logo1 SummerWorks is back and it started Thursday! The theatre and music festival runs from August 7th to August 17th and is jammed packed with talented performances from some of Toronto’s (and the world’s) most talented performers. At venues in the general vicinity of Queen Street West, SummerWorks has shows that will cater to every taste so check out some shows and enjoy yourself!

From my perusing of the festival guide, here are some shows that I found interesting and, with that in mind, will be trying to get out and enjoy myself:

Recurring John

A Quiet Sip of Coffee (or, this is not the play we’ve written)

If Hearts Could Bloom

The Bull, The Moon and The Coronet of Stars

The Container

The Stranger – This one looks particularly intriguing.

Tragedy: A Tragedy

And Now, The End

And follow SummerWorks on Twitter –  @SummerWorks – for news and get into the conversations with #SW14.




Psychology Today

Here’s a couple articles I came across that hold water with respect to writing and the creative process. Check ‘em out!

Reinvent Yourself

Your Future Self Is…

#FringeTO Review

Well, another year and another 150 shows and another fantastic Toronto Fringe Festival!

Congratulations to all the performers, crew, volunteers, patrons and everyone else who played a role, big or small, in this year’s festival!

This was the first Fringe in which I immersed myself in the action and though I didn’t see as many shows as I would have liked – entirely my fault – I know that next year I need to go in with a plan and not go home.

What I learned and “re-learned” from Fringe 2014 (in no particular order):

-Networking is a real and easy thing. Sometimes it amounts to a casual chat over projects being worked on or just the weather, but during those chats connections are made and if the proper follow up is performed new and lasting connections can be grown.

-You never know who you’ll run into. One of my friends from a writing class I took a few years ago directed a play at this year’s Fringe and I received the pleasure of an invite to the performance which led to the pleasure of enjoying a fantastic hour of entertainment.

-Seeing great art spurs on creating great art. I felt a bit of a creative hangover today. Though I didn’t have any role in the Fringe besides enjoying the few shows I saw, writing a couple reviews and sharing some libations at the Fringe Tent, I felt motivated to write and plan out my next writing projects. The only reason I am writing this post right now and not lying in bed watching The Newsroom – great show by the way – is because I feel the motivation to keep my blogging, writing and creative momentum going. This was one of those days where Resistance was strong, but I beat it by thinking about the performances I saw and also the blog prep I did last week. I have a lot of posts ready to go and I look forward to sharing them as the summer plays itself out. I owe that to the energy and motivation I received by surrounding myself with the Festival and its participants. So, a hearty thank you to those involved! Read the rest of this entry »


This looks like a great, if not the only, reason to travel the world. I will be taking offers for travel partners and financing in the comment section :)

This one is courtesy of Erin La Rosa at Buzzfeed: Bookstores!!!

Anyone else have a mild addiction to Buzzfeed? I love it for 30 seconds of distraction a couple times a day. And some of the stuff is pretty funny, and like the link above, it can also be inspiring.



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