Category Archives: magazine writing

2015 Summer Preview!

HEY! Here’s some writing and performing related stuff happening in my fair city of Toronto this – 2015 – summer and fall. I’ve also included events that have already passed (and that I was too dumb to get ahead of) so you (and I) can plan for next year. If you say you’re bored, it means you’re boring, or you just need to read a book or something. Go see some damn art damnit!

Stratford Festival: Stratford, Ontario is home to this 61 year-old theatre festival featuring the work of The Bard performed by some of the world’s best talent from APRIL to OCTOBER.

Shaw Festival: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario hosts performances of plays written by or written during the lifetime of George Bernard Shaw from APRIL to OCTOBER.

inspiraTO: The 10th year for this theatre festival held at the Alumnae Theatre from MAY 28th to JUNE 6th, that features blocks of 10 minute plays all revolving around a particular theme or concept.

Pedestrian Sundays: Literally walk in the streets of Toronto’s coolest neighbourhood every Sunday from MAY 31st to the end of warm weather.

Breakthroughs Film Festival: Short Film festival featuring emerging female filmmakers at the Innis Town Hall on the weekend of JUNE 5 & JUNE 6th.

EXEE: Great beers and live bands every night at The Only Cafe during the week of JUNE 13th to JUNE 20th.

Female Eye Film Festival: “Always Honest, Not Always Pretty”, goes the tagline for this film fest featuring female filmmakers and it runs from JUNE 16th to JUNE 21st at The Royal Cinema.

Open Roof Festival: Music and films for $15 ever Wednesday at 99 Sudbury from JUNE 17th to AUGUST 19th sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

NXNE: A music and arts fest that takes over the city in a good way from JUNE 17th to JUNE 21st.

Pride Toronto: The annual extravaganza of LGBTQIA culture revs Toronto up for the summer and features fantastically flamboyant marches, parades, performances, and other great “p” words at various venues from JUNE 19th to JUNE 28th.

Luminato Festival: Everything art and all in Toronto at a variety of venues and times all around the clock from JUNE 19th to JUNE 28th.

Toronto Fringe Festival: Awesome indie theatre killing it with reckless abandon, and an outstanding beer tent at venues and times that only awesome indie theatre can rock from JULY 1st to JULY 12th.

Shakespeare in High Park: Once again High Park is home to a double-bill of Shakespeare wherein the same cast performs a comedy (“The Comedy of Errors”) and a tragedy (“Julius Caesar”) on alternating nights at their outdoor amphitheatre from JULY 2nd to SEPTEMBER 6th.

ReelheART International Film & Screenplay Festival: Festival that features film screenings and script readings at various venues including The Carlton Cinema and the AGO from JULY 6th to JULY 11th.

Christie Pits Film Fest: Free/pwyc outdoor movie screenings at Christie Pits park every Sunday during JULY & AUGUST.

SummerWorks Performance Festival: SummerWorks has performers acting, singing, and dancing sometimes all at once at venues across the city from AUGUST 6th to 16th.

Toronto International Queer West Film Festival: Queer West features films from local and international LGBTQ filmmakers and promotes the beauty of diversity and creativity at The Revue Cinema from AUGUST 7th to AUGUST 9th.

Buskerfest: If you want to see someone ride a unicycle while juggling live chainsaws and holding a torch aflame in their mouth then check out Toronto’s Buskerfest along Yonge Street between College Street and Queen Street and this is now going to be a run-on sentence because I promised myself only to write one sentence per event to keep things simple and so I can’t confirm the fire-mouthed chainsaw juggler but there will be music, juggling of some sort, acrobats, food and clowns and depending on whether you like clowns or are terrified by them the clowns might be nice or sinister and the clowns and others can be found on Yonge from AUGUST 27th to AUGUST 30th.

TOindie Film Festival: Fantastic event featuring indie films from Toronto and across the world held at the local gem known as The Carlton Cinema from SEPTEMBER 3rd to SEPTEMBER 12th.

Toronto International Film Festival: A world renowned film fest featuring talent, both renowned and waiting to be rewound, from across the globe and at venues across the city from SEPTEMBER 10th to SEPTEMBER 20th.

The Word on the Street: Books, magazines, and literary “stuff” can all be at Harbourfront Centre on SEPTEMBER 27th from 11am to 6pm.

International Festival of Authors: Writers are everywhere but during this fest they can mostly be found at Harbourfront Centre talking and signing and talking and probably writing from OCTOBER 22nd to NOVEMBER 1st.

NaNoWriMo: Join authors around the world and write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of NOVEMBER.

In addition to all of this, there is the Toronto Festival of Beer, various street parties throughout Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods, and Yonge and Dundas Square always has something going on!

Stuff I’ve missed because I am an idiot but check it out to plan for next year:

Inside Out: LGBT Film Festival; Doors Open Toronto; Canadian Film Fest; Canadian Music Week (CMW); CONTACT Photography Festival; Hot Docs; TOindie Shorts Festival (affliated with the TOindie Film Festival)

 

SOURCES: NOW Magazine; The Toronto Star; the various festival websites listed above; my massive head and the memories contained therein.

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The Writer’s Alphabet vol.16; “P” is for Perjury

The-letter-the-alphabet-22187494-2560-2560There are two types of perjury I’d like to cover which means I’ll probably end up only talking about one of them and then spending way too much time going on a tangent about something I have no business writing about which will all end with a much too long run-on sentence ending with a dreaded adverb(ly).

Character perjury is one of the perjuries I’d like to cover. What is it and why is it important? Character perjury, as defined here, is having a character knowing deceive other characters and just for the hell of it – themselves as well. Having characters perjure themselves, in and out of a courtroom setting, is a beautiful thing. It creates internal and external conflict and raises the stakes of the story as it will have the reader or watcher waiting for the deception to come to light and thus, a payoff is achieved. The best character perjury occurs when the payoff is almost forgotten only to have it come back at a crucial point and giving the reader the “wow” factor that comes with all great plot twists. Once again, it all comes back to conflict, stakes, and payoffs. Deception and lies are great framing devices for conflict and it is even better when characters don’t know they are deceiving themselves.

Writer perjury, defined herein, as plot inconsistencies, massive story holes, and laziness. Writer perjury is horrible. Writers perjure themselves when they sell a truth to the reader only to have it come back as utter bullshit. I’m not speaking of unreliable narrators. The unreliable narrator is a beauty thing and is typically established from the beginning of the story. An unreliable narrator can perjure themselves, however, when the payoff of the unreliability is so inconsistent with what has been established there is no rational explanation for the result. Basically the reader is left thinking, Seriously?, or, depending on how egregious the perjury, Fuck this!. Similar to how Bradley Cooper’s character reacts to Hemingway in the movie adaptation of Silver Linings Playbook.

Now I would like to talk about court perjury, except I don’t have any legal background and have decided that it probably isn’t a good idea. Thus, I will end this post here before anyone begins to have feelings about throwing their computers, tablets, or phones out a third story window.

Also, Meagan said this whole thing doesn’t really jive but she said she knows where I’m coming from and going to so hopefully you do as well. Who Meagan? I don’t know either. Oh wait! Here she is —-> Meagan’s Twitter!


The Writer’s Alphabet vol.15; “O” is for Opposition

O-fire-letter_graphicOpposition. It’s not as shitty as you might think. For writers (and everyone because writers aren’t as special as we think ourselves to be) opposition exists in 4+1 ways. 4 are in reality and 1 is on the page.

Opposition from the world at large: You might wake up and as your eyes flutter open, before leaving the quiet or hectic (un)comfort of your bed, you stare at the ceiling and think, “Fuck the world man. Fuck the world in its stupid ass. Every day I get up and write and while that goes well, I go out into this world everyone is talking about and get shit on, literally by animals and figuratively by everything else. World, why do you want me to fail? World, why must you blow horizontal snow in my face as I’m out for a walk to grab some inspiration and a coffee? World, why did I go out in a blizzard? World, why ya gotta be so all up against me B?”

NEWS FLASH: The world isn’t against you.

If the world is providing opposition it is because you are viewing it that way and need to change your perspective. Stop walking in horizontal blizzards and brew a cup of watery shit coffee at home. And if a bird shits on you, it’s not good or bad luck, it’s just the way shit literally happened. Grab some Tide and/or a bar of soap and shut it.

Opposition from the industry: Creative industries are hard to break into, be it film, music, publishing, or stage. This doesn’t mean that “the industry” is against you, it means that everyone with a brain has a story in said brain and a large percentage of those people write it down in some form or another. Then supply and demand take the wheel from Jesus and bam, economics ruins everything again. It’s not the industry, it’s Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes.

Rejection is a huge part of creativity. Besides “write everyday”, this is really the only other fact about creating. Whatever industry you hope to break into isn’t against you, it’s for you. Maybe not the you right now who is producing less than desirable work, but creative rejection is simply a push to make you a better writer/actor/singer/musician. The industry is fickle and can seem to be filled with the biggest assholes in the world who all hate your work. Maybe some parts of it are, but this still doesn’t mean it is opposing you. It means that you need to focus on yourself and your work and tune out the bird shit and the 100,000,000,000,000th rejection letter and better your creative self. Unless you have personally been a jerk to everyone in the industry and committed career suicide 100,000,000,000,000 times, the industry isn’t opposing you. Your arrogant, dumb ass is opposing you, you arrogant dumbass.

Opposition from loved ones: This is a tough one. The people we choose to have in our lives, our friends and family, are meant to be there for support. We for them and them for us. This is at least the ideal situation. In this situation, when you talk about your creativity, some of these people might tell you to give up. This could be direct or indirect, but it still stings. This is real opposition because it is from people, not a massive, inanimate glob. It is the opposition that can hurt the most because, again, it is from the people that you love and support and wish to have that love and support returned for whatever you decide to pursue with your limited time romping around in the world. Opposition from loved ones sucks. It really, really sucks. Should it lead you to give up though? No. And I’ll leave Charles Bukowski to explain why:

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. If you’re going to try, go all the way. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and, maybe your mind. Go all the way. It could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail, it could mean derision, mockery, isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your
endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And you’ll do it despite rejection and the worst odds and it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like
that. You will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. Its the only good fight there is.” – From “Roll The Dice”

Who wouldn’t want to ride anything to perfect laughter?

Opposition from yourself: While opposition from loved ones can hurt the most, opposition from yourself does hurt the most, because sometimes you don’t even realize how much it actually is hurting you.

Every creative person goes through times of doubt and ennui, where nothing is good and everything else sucks. Steven Pressfield wrote an entire book about the phenomenon so I will say two things. First, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Second, you only live once and every day you spend devoting your time to self-opposition, you are being a bigger asshole to yourself and causing more harm than any outside asshole could ever hope to reap. Mental health issues might play a role, and, if so, get some help. Self-opposition is the absolute worst thing, and the only way to fight it is to fight it with creativity. Even just reading or listening to music can help as it stimulates your brain with other creative energy. Go for a walk and start asking, “what if?” to everything and anything that crosses your path. It works for Stephen King. I think I’m changing my name to some variety of Stev(ph)en, as they seem to do quite well with words and such.

Opposition between characters: Now for the “+1” of the group, opposition in stories and on the page. Noted Canadian stage and screen actor Colm Feore killed it when he said, “(a)nything you do, I can do better and scarier”, when asked about his character on FOX’s Gotham. He plays a villain so the scarier part works here quite well, but I like to focus on the first part of the quotation as I feel it sums up exactly how two characters should be thinking. I have spoken enough about conflict for a lifetime so blah, blah, blah, conflict is awesome, but with one sentence Feore nails all you have to think and know about creating conflict and, thus, opposition, in your work. This works for any genre, all it takes is a tweak for your lovely, original, amazing characters.

Now stop procrastinating and opposing yourself and go and create something. Anything. Nothing is not an option.


The Writer’s Alphabet vol. 11; “K” is for “Kill Your Babies”

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Before the ruckus starts, notice the quotations around “kill your babies” in the title. It’s an editing phrase, not a suggestion for murder. Okay, well, yes, the murdering of words, but not of people, babies or otherwise. I’m going to stop talking about murder now.

Picture this! You sit down at your desk and have nothing coming from your brain hole. Nothing. You stare out the window behind you because you didn’t have the foresight to place your desk in front of said window. Instead, you placed your desk facing the wall because you felt the faltering stucco would be more of an inspiration. Questionable furniture placement aside, you turn from the window and stare back at the blank page and occasionally glancing at the worst stucco job ever that lives behind. You feel like all of those times you railed against writer’s block have now come back to haunt you, because when you railed you railed hard. Harder than you’ve ever railed against anything in your life. Harder than when you railed against the people that were prostesting water. (Sidenote: I am a time traveler and in the future people will protest water. I’m still hazy on this because it happened the day I left as I couldn’t deal with the water haters anymore.) Anyway, you sit and stare. Even when you close your eyes after rubbing them as though you had a raging case of pink eye, you are staring. Staring at the blank, dead canvas that used to hold all of your great ideas. Then. THEN! Then you feel it. You actually feel it in every cavity before you see it and before it floods your brain with its amazingness. It’s an idea. It’s THE idea. The greatest idea you have ever had. The greatest idea anyone with a pulse has ever had. The best damn thing since sliced bread. (In the future pre-sliced bread is still one of the best we’ve come up with.) And you start typing. The first twenty words are spelled so poorly that when you stop to read them and make sure you aren’t dreaming you re-write them and then keep the momentum up because this idea just keeps coming. And then, you finish. You thought it would have been more than just a scene with a few lines of dialogue and some awesome conflict, but you read it for what feels like thirty different times. Each time it has you laughing, crying, peeing and filled with love and then you realize this might be THE GREATEST CREATION SINCE YOU WERE CONCEIVED!

Here’s where things go to shit and the killing has to begin. “Kill your babies” is a literary and editing term and it refers to a piece of writing that the writer so adores they would never consider cutting it to make the overall work better. To the writer, these pages or paragraphs are the best they have ever and will ever write. But they don’t work for the overall project. They might be great, but they just don’t work. Take the advice of your trusted beta-readers and editors. Cut the words. “Kill your babies.” You don’t have to erase them altogether. Maybe this “baby” will work in another project. But for the love of great writing everywhere, cease and desist! Cut (and paste elsewhere)! “Kill!” Edit!

To be more precise – which goes against my own advice in the previous paragraphs of this column – keeping the part you love in the piece is the difference between the work being known as a shitface and being known as a face, and isn’t a face better without shit on it?


The Writer’s Alphabet vol.8; “H” is for History

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For lack of finding a better “H” word, here’s what I came up with:

A common belief is that if you don’t know history you are doomed to repeat it. Even the good stuff. History is especially important with characters and plots. If you are writing a historical piece, for the love of the facepalm, do the research! If not, history is still important. Before sitting down to write or edit, you should know the history of the characters you are writing about. It is this history that informs the character’s actions. Not only will this help to create believable characters it will make you look like far less of an idiot. More important, it will keep people interested in the story as opposed to having their eyes ripped from the page and into their brains wondering why this character did this inane thing that makes no sense. Unless there is an awesome explanation, but that awesome explanation must also make sense with respect to character and plot and thus, history can be a tremendous help in making this happen.

“Know the history, don’t put others through misery!” Wow, another jtkwriting original quote to end a piece. I need to write these down. Somewhere other than this blog. Unless the internet is here to stay, then, well, all is good!


The Writer’s Alphabet vol. 7; “G” is for God

GDon’t worry. This post isn’t about religion. I wouldn’t put anyone through more torture than what I already have and will with my writing.

Anyway, the idea of God, religion, fiction, writing, and narration all play in together. According to some religions – and question me all you want on this, I went to Catholic school for over a decade – God is supposedly the omniscient creator, or narrator of our life stories. We as writers, especially fiction writers are very much the same. The biggest difference being that fiction needs to make sense. And this is really the only argument I have in defence of religion as a real thing: it doesn’t make sense and leaves out the biggest question fiction must answer: “why?”

As writers and narrators the why of something is the most important question anyone will have when picking up your work and also the most important question we can ask when we sit down to write. Why are we writing this? And then, why did our character act that way? If we don’t have an intelligent answer that makes sense for that character then we need to hit the backspace button and try again. What I’m saying is be better than (the) God(s) and answer the most important question because if you don’t your fiction will be frustrating and unreadable for all of those except the people that have the most “faith” in you. And for those readers, they don’t need an answer, just some words to grab and hold dear even as common sense stares them in the face.

“Don’t be a prick, explain that shit.” That is a jtkwriting original. I think.


The Writer’s Alphabet vol.6; “F” is for Fuck

7rf F 11

Since I started this column I have been looking forward to writing this piece. Fuck, it’s the galactic president of words. Many arguments could be made as to why this is the case but I will stick to one or maybe two. Three if I get really inspired. Fuck is the grand champion because it is the most versatile word in any language in the universe. Is it a “bad” word? Sure, that could be true. I would say though, it is the greatest because of its versatility and is only bad if you use fuck with reckless abandon because it is a lazy choice. It can be used in so many different ways that it loses its meaning after a while.
Fuck you, you fucking fuck. A great sentence that also makes for a great t-shirt – one I am proud to say I own – but that sentence is also lazy as fuck because it simply relies on one (two) word(s). However! Brevity is the soul of wit and less is more and so it is also a beauty piece of prose because it doesn’t use more words than need be.
Due to its somewhat taboo nature, fuck is best used when it is least expected. Tossing a random fuck into an otherwise innocuous sentence will no doubt spice it up and keep your audience more intrigued by what might come out of your mouth or your page.
George Carlin wrote a piece about seven words you can’t say on television. While crude, I think it proves the point that fuck is the king can. The words are, “Fuck, shit, piss, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits.” First off, fuck comes first. Second, it’s mentioned twice and can also be used as a prefix or suffix to any of the other words, even motherfucker!
And on another unrelated note with respect to fuck. I took a writing class a few years back. It was a journalism course and the teacher posed a question in relation to point-of-view when it came to writing articles. “Who the fuck are you?” Is fuck necessary in this query? I would say yes, because it emphasizes the point being made. In good journalism, the writer should not be present. In a column – which is what I am writing right now – the writer is a part of the writing and thus, the use of “I” can be acceptable. But in writing about a subject, say a war for example, the writer should keep themselves out of it. Who the fuck is that writer to say, “I think (insert opinion here),” unless it is the very point of the article? So with respect to this column I will ask, “Who the fuck am I?” I am a writer working on a career by posting columns, links, and articles to this blog based on my experience in writing. It is up to you, the reader, to deem whether my experience and opinions hold any weight. I am jtkwriting and this is my blog so it is my voice. Thus, using “I” is acceptable. The only remaining question is, “Who the fuck are you?”
Having looked forward to writing this for so long I thought I would have more to say. Them’s the fucks of it I guess. Ah well. Fuck it.


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