5 Questions with Gary Barwin

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2016 Giller nominated author Gary Barwin is participating in our Valentine’s Day Twitter Chat. We had some questions about how he celebrates love on February 14th and year round!

If you need some help writing to your valentine, join us on Twitter between 12-1pm on February 14th to get some help from professionals.

IFOA: What advice do you have for someone struggling to write a love letter?

Gary Barwin: Though it might be impossible, I’d say try to think about the person you’re writing to rather than about yourself writing the letter. Imagine them reading the text and how they might respond. Also, it helps not to start with an empty page but with some element to bounce off. Start with an image, or a saying, or a form. Something material. I always tell my writing students that “the writing knows more than you do,” so if you have some writing to lead you, to guide you, it makes it easier and more fun. Also, mostly, try not to take it too seriously. You can be very “romantic,” “touching,” “intimate” and “genuine,” without being too serious.

IFOA: Did you write Valentines as a child? Do you still?Barwin, Gary

Barwin: As a young teen, I wrote a mushy heart-ton of love letters of every description. I don’t tend to write Valentines today. You know words, they’re so duplicitous, sneaky, and as easy to ride as a weasel with a golden saddle into the castle of inflated and platitudinous feelings. Also, my wife is inundated with enough of my words. So these days, I try to express our relationship through action and doing something nice. Also, I reckon, bringing her coffee and toast in bed throughout the year is better than some perfume-infused cardiac-ridden encarmined missive. We’re in this for the long haul!

IFOA: What is the most romantic book you have ever read?

Barwin: I think my favourite is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera.

After hundreds of pages (and an entire lifetime) there is that final scene where the two older lovers are finally together on a boat floating forever on a river that can never dock. I find it intensely romantic to imagine my wife and I being old people together (though, likely when we are, I’ll rage against my aging body and the shortness of time…though maybe it’ll be a new and exciting pleasure to kiss without teeth…)

IFOA: Roses, chocolates, candy, teddy bears. What do you prefer?

Barwin: Books. Ok, books and whiskey. Ok, books, whiskey and chocolate. Oh! you mean for me to give…right…it’s not all about me…um…I like to give my wife (we’ve been together since I was 18) flowers, usually not roses, but something that feels like spring is almost here, something that feels filled with birdsong, sunshine, and… reproduction.

IFOA: If you had to pick just one poet to quote always who would it be?

Barwin: I think bpNichol is one of the greatest Canadian poets and, specifically, one of the greatest Canadian poets to write about love. It infuses much of his entire oeuvre. His work reflects a lifetime of devotion, intimacy, tenderness, and thoughtfulness to his partner and the life they shared together.

My favourite quote, a perfectly tweetable love poem:

every(all(toge(forever)ther)at once)thing)

17 Reasons to Join the 2017 Book Club

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1. Meet local authors and interesting people who enjoy books as much as you do.

2. For Canada’s 150th we are spotlighting Canadian Literature.

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3. Receive reading recommendations directly from authors.

4. Be introduced to books you may not otherwise read.

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5. You can finally discuss character development, setting and plot twists to your heart’s content.

6. The monthly meetings will make you set time aside for reading.

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7. Literary debates.

8. Sharpen your communication skills.

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9. Learn more about Toronto’s literary community.

10. IFOA offers perks to their Book Club members.

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11. Book clubs provide intellectual stimulation.

12. Good coffee!

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13. Help authors get insight into the mind of readers.

14. Read at least one new book a month.

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15. Stimulate your mind.

16. Stretch your outlook.

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17. It’s a lot of fun!

 

#XOifoa Valentine’s Day Twitter Chat

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As Valentine’s Day approaches you might be struggling to find the right words to say how you feel. “I love you” is already written in the generic card you bought, so now what? Perhaps you have the perfect gift but you want to accompany it with a love letter. Maybe you want to send flowers and are stumped on what to write on the note. Don’t let Valentine’s Day stress you out. We have just the thing for you!

We don’t want to boast, but we know a lot of authors. Who better to help you with your love notes than a professional writer? Join us for a live Twitter chat on February 14th from 12-1pm (EST) and get some help writing to the ones you love.

We have asked 2016 Giller Prize nominee Gary Barwin (@garybarwin), editor and art director of Shameless Magazine Sheila Sampath (@sheilasheila) and poet and professor Daniel Scott Tysdal (@dstiz) to help! Follow @ifoa and tweet your request to one of these writers using #XOifoa.

We are happy to help with:

  • Writing your lover of many years something new
  • Penning a lovely limerick for your son or daughter
  • Choosing the right words for a note to mom
  • Sending your gal pals the funniest card
  • A little something to go with the candy gram for your coworkers
  • And much more. Just ask!

Valentine’s Day writer’s block is real. We’re here for you.


Barwin, Gary

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, and multimedia artist. He has authored 21 books of poetry, fiction and  work for children. His nationally bestselling novel, Yiddish for Pirates,  was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literature Prize, and his new poetry collection, No TV for Woodpeckers will appear this spring. A PhD in music composition, Barwin has been Writer-in-Residence at Western University and Young Voices eWriter-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library. Born in Northern Ireland to South African parents of Ashkenazi descent, Barwin moved to Canada as a child. He is married with three adult children, and lives in Hamilton, Ontario.


sheila-7162Sheila Sampath is a writer, artist, educator and activist designer. She is the Principal and Creative Director at The Public, a social justice design studio specializing in community-based processes and participatory design; the Editorial and Art Director of Shameless magazine, a Canada-wide feminist magazine for teens girls and trans* youth; and an Assistant Professor of alternative and speculative practices in the Faculty of Design at OCAD University. Her first book, Letters Lived, focusing on feminist lineage, was published in Fall 2013 under the Three O’Clock Press’ Women’s Press imprint, and her current art practice explores themes of intergenerational trauma, memory-loss and ritual through displacement and diaspora. 


Tysdal, Daniel ScottDaniel Scott Tysdal is the ReLit Award winning author of three books of poetry, most recently Fauxccasional Poems (icehouse 2015), and the poetry textbook The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating Poems (Oxford University Press 2014). Online, he runs the Fauxccasional Poems Video Project (bit.ly/fauxpoemvid) and he delivered the popular TEDx talk, “Everything You Need to Write a Poem (and How It Can Save a Life)” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0BUYzMypi8). Tysdal’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best Canadian Poetry and Best Canadian Essays. He is an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Lit Jam 2017: Meet the Teams

IFOA is delighted to introduce to you the talented emerging writers from some of the province’s most esteemed creative writing programs who will participate in Lit Jam! Join them on February 1st and see them perform on our stage!

 

From University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA:

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Kris Bone is a writer (allegedly), a comedian (unfortunately), a humorist (ostensibly), and a bartender (or at least that’s what it says on his tax return). His writing has previously been featured in magazines like Broken Pencil and OxMag, and he was long listed for the CBC Canada Writes short story prize like four years ago and has never let anybody forget it.

 

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Award-winning animal-fanatic playwright, Radha Sciara-Menon was a working actor in British Theatre and television. A real beast. She moved to Canada and learned how to make films; but returned to her theatrical roots to explore the use of heightened language. In addition, Menon is an award-winning art director for indie and art house films and an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at University of Guelph. Her play Ganga’s Ganja, finalist of Herman Voaden Playwriting contest 2013 opens at Storefront Theatre, Toronto in April 2018.


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Talal Achi
is a first-year student in Guelph’s MFA program. He writes poetry and fiction. At the age of twelve he failed the rite of passage into adulthood. As he came before the table on which the knife, the conch shell, and the snakeskin were arranged and extended his hand in the proper way over the objects, he fainted quite inexplicably. As everybody knows, you only get one crack at the rite. Thus, Talal will never learn which of the three kinds of men he is, or if he is a man at all.

Their strategy for winning this competition:

1) Dress to impress.
2) Invoke the thrice-forsaken dark literary rituals, at the risk of our very souls, in order to commune with the spirits of Canadian authors past and bring their hallowed talent to bear on our performance.
3) Have fun and make friends.

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From the Humber School For Writers:

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Nicky Borland attended the Humber School for Writers Fall Workshop in 2016, where she was mentored by author Samantha Harvey. She has also taken IFOA writing courses and workshops with novelist Brian Francis. Nicky has worked as a proofreader, writer and transcriber and currently edits web content for a living. Sometimes she writes things about books and words and posts them on www.nickyborland.com.

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Trish Bentley is the editor-in-chief and founder of thepurplefig.com. She received her degree from The New School University in NYC where she endured endless fiction writing workshops and a few cop ride-alongs in Harlem reporting the news. She is a regular columnist for The Huffington Post and has written for The New York Press, 12 St. Journalshedoesthecity.com. She has also published the children’s book, About Town with Benny Be. Trish lives in Toronto with her husband, their three boys and Benny the dog.

 

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Adam Elliott Segal is a Toronto-based writer and editor. His work has been published in enRoute, Chatelaine, Reader’s Digest, The Vancouver Province, Sportsnet, The Feathertale Review and subTerrain. In 2013, his short story “Richard” won first runner-up in the 2013 LUSH Triumphant Literary Awards. After previous editorial positions at Toro, Spafax and Sportsnet, he published MMA Now and Basketball Now with Firefly Books and is currently at work on a forthcoming magazine feature for Maisonneuve about black market adoption in Montreal. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario and the Ryerson Publishing Program, he recently completed the Humber School for Writers Fiction Workshop and is currently working on a novel through the Humber School For Writers Correspondence Program.

Their strategy for winning this competition:

1. Create interesting, relatable characters.
2. Collaborate as storytellers and connect with the audience.
3. Be spontaneous!

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From Ryerson University English Faculty of Arts:

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Kathryn Stagg is a recent graduate of Ryerson University’s Literatures of Modernity MA program. Following graduation, she worked as a post-graduate Research Assistant in the Department of English at Ryerson. Kathryn is currently working as a freelance writer, a staff writer for the Town Crier, and an organising member of the Slackline Creative Arts Series. In her free time, Kathryn writes fiction that ranges in quality from positively poor to could-be-worse. She lives in Toronto.

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Kailey Havelock is presently completing a SSHRC-funded MA in Literatures of Modernity at Ryerson University. She works as a poetry reader at The Puritan, a columnist on The Town Crier, and an Editorial Assistant at White Wall Review.
Her creative and academic writing has been published in print and online by Soliloquies Anthology, Subversions, F Word, Integrated Journal, L.U.C.C. Proceedings, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality, Lemon Hound, and Writers Read. Links and details are available at kaileyhavelock.com.

 

maluka

Daniel Maluka is a writer of poetry and prose and an infrequent artist. Daniel values self expression and is drawn to work that moves. He is looking forward to doing some travelling after University.

Their strategy for winning this competition:
1. Create a fun and engaging story.
2. Brush up on our improvisation skills.
3. Make Ryerson proud!

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From University of Toronto Scarborough English Department

trevon

Trevon Smith is a 4th year Journalism student and habitual procrastinator. He never gave much thought to creative writing, but after a few classes at UTSC it’s all he really thinks about. Maybe he’ll get around to writing a book someday, but for now he’ll just be brushing up on the basics.

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Janet Monk is a third year student at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, currently enrolled in the Creative Writing Minor, Music and Culture Major, and History Minor programs. She enjoys writing short fiction, memoir, and is currently writing her first science fiction novel. In her spare time, Janet volunteers for two Toronto conventions where she directs the Ad Astra Masquerade and co-directs the Anime North Masquerade. Most recently, Janet and her brother Ian began the production of their first puzzle-horror video game, for which she has written the original soundtrack and script. Janet enjoys taking risks in her writing and sets boundaries for herself in order to challenge the limits of her creativity. Improvisation of literature is a new concept which Janet is excited to explore with her teammates. She wishes all participants good luck and looks forward to meeting everyone at the event.

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Cassandra MacDonald is a self-proclaimed queen and otherwise-proclaimed dork. She is a student of mental health, creative writing, and sociology at UTSC, and an unashamed tabletop role-play geek. She was drafted into this against her will. But she is still full-committed to this wild Lit Jam ride.

Their strategy for winning this competition:

1) Have absolute trust in our teammates.
2) Have absolute trust in our individual ability to tell a story with confidence.
3) Practice, practice, and even more practice

 

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What makes a good story? – Shari Lapena

Lapena, Shari Photo © Joy von Tiedemann 2016Shari Lapena was a lawyer and later an English teacher before she turned to writing. She is the author of three works of fiction: Things Go Flying, Happiness Economics and, most recently, the psychological thriller, The Couple Next Door, which was the Number One bestselling book in Canada in all of 2016. Shari has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award and the Sunburst Award.

Shari will act as a judge with Danila Botha and Joseph Kertes at IFOA’s Lit Jam event on February 1st. Join them and CBC’s Gill Deacon for a night of on-the-spot creativity and storytelling like never before!

Here is what she had to say about what she is looking for as a judge.


I’m really looking forward to Lit Jam. I think it’s going to be fun to see what people come up with on the fly. I think we’re going to see some very creative ideas.

In my opinion, a good story is one that makes you really want to know what’s going on—what’s already happened in the background to make your characters who they are and the situation what it is, and what’s going to happen next. It has energy and a life of its own.  And ideally, it also makes you reflect in some way on your own circumstances or on life outside of the story.

My advice to the participants is—put your internal censor aside. Your subconscious is always bubbling up with good ideas just dying to land on the page. But we tend to censor everything we write before we even write it down. I say, let it out, and worry about making it coherent later! That’s how you find the gems.

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