Monthly Archives: August 2014


Here is a very short list of things happening in fair Toronto in the next and best four months. Get out and enjoy! Yay art!

Toronto Independent Film Festival: September 4 – 13 @ Carlton Cinema

Toronto International Film Festival: September 4 – 14 @ Various Venues

The One More Night Festival: September 11 – 14 @ The Box

Queen West Art Crawl: September 12 – 14 @ Trinity Bellwoods Park

Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) Fall Workshops: September 16 – December 17 @ 1137 Dupont Street

JFL42: September 18 – 27 @ Sony Centre and others

The Word on the Street: September 21 @ Queen’s Park

Culture Days: September 26 – 28 @ Various Venues

International Festival of Authors: October 23 – November 2 @ Harbourfront Centre

Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair: November 13 – 16 @ Metro Toronto Convention Centre


Weekly Writing Prompts vol.7; August 25th – 31st

1) Long ago, in a land far away, Walker used up her last dime on a rag that would change her world and start a revolution. Write a short play (10 minutes) about this.

2) Write a 3 sentence story about a vacation gone both horribly right and horribly wrong.

3) 1 Yemen Road, Yemen is a real place. What happens there?

4) When he gets home from work George usually spends an hour talking to his apartment. Today, after that hour, he hears a response. What happens next?

5) A short time ago, in a land too close for comfort, Norm met Walker, a woman of magnificent power and intrigue. Write their initial conversation and, of course, feel free to continue with it for as long as you see fit.

6) There was always one book that brought the 4 of them together. Who are they are what is the book? Write a short story about this situation.

7) _788e34_bbb2501051e792d133e6-300x380It’s midnight in the garden of good and evil. Three characters arrive from different directions and meet at the fateful statue. They know each other but don’t know that yet. Write the scene.

“The Dinner” by Herman Koch

images The Dinner by Herman Koch takes place in a fine dining restaurant in Amsterdam and follows a five course meal between two couples linked by their patriarchs, brothers Paul and Serge Lohman. Besides familial ties the couples are also linked by recent, shocking events concerning their sons Michel, Rick, and Beau. Let’s get to it.

The food descriptions were uttering boring. At least until I picked up that it was narrator Paul’s way of skewering the snobbish nature of the unnamed establishment and his brother Serge, a high-ranking Dutch politician, who chose the place. After that, I was hooked. But before that, I was unhooked, unhinged – sometimes as much as Paul – and uninterested. I am glad I stayed the “course” however, because the story got great when it focused on the events and emotions outside of the food.

The plot was compelling and brought up legitimate questions of morals and ethics that would be excellent conversation topics even if not derived from a novel. How far would you go for your family? What defines family? Which “level” or branch of your family is the one you deem the most important?

The Dinner raises these questions subtly and it culminates in 3rd act twists that one could not see coming – at least I didn’t – and they really sold the book for me. Even as I remembered having to slog through the food descriptions.

Koch also reveals the nature of his characters with skill. And again, with a subtlety that has one alarmed at the people on the page and also applauding the writer’s ability to sneak these facts through the narrative. Events turned in a way that you really kept questioning how you felt about everyone involved and their decisions which is great because it keeps you engaged in their world but also in our own. I was left wondering, what the hell would I do if I were in this situation?

Finally, a shout-out to Koch’s writing philosophy that was included as part of a discussion in my edition of the novel. He said when he comes up with his first two sentences he realizes he has just written a book. Everything comes from there. He says, similar to Stephen King, that he experiences the story along with his characters and while he knows its general nature, all he needs to do is draft the first two sentences – which can stay in his mind for years – and the book has written itself. I like it.

Give it a look!

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

Weekly Writing Prompts vol.6; August 18th – August 24th 2014

1) Two people have been broken up for a month and one of them is locked out of his/her new apartment. Write a short story about the ensuing action.

2) Write a paragraph about a happy accident.

3) Write a 10 sentence story about a decade in a person’s life.

4) We often hear the phrase, “the be all and end all.” Write two paragraphs from the perspective of two characters named Be All and End All.

5) It has been said that life can pass by in a moment. Write about a life that literally passes by in a moment.

6) Write a page about a heist gone wrong.

7)_e289b74_9972706fec1b1f81ccb-620x380 Write the story that surrounds this photo.

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!


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