Maintenance

I’m reworking and relaunching the site over the summer, so it will look and function poorly for the next little while. It’s still (mostly) functional, however.

Sign up on the right for my mailing list and I will let you know when the site is re-launched and awesome — also, I will send you a short story at that time.

In the meantime, bear with me, and thanks for visiting.

Žižek explains my obsessive creation of new “master” files when writing

This actually caused a production problem when publishing The Politics of Knives, since I create multiple “master” files for my writing (at any moment, I have up to 10 “master” files for the same work hiding in different computer folders) . . . Žižek isn’t using “master” in this sense, but it works regardless. It also explains the need for an outside editor/publisher (another reason for would-be writers to continue dealing with traditional presses):

As any [writer] knows, the problem with writing on the computer is that it potentially suspends the difference between ‘mere drafts’ and the ‘final version’: there is no longer a ‘final version’ or a ‘definitive text’, since at every stage the text can be further worked on ad infinitum — every version has the status of something ‘virtual’ (conditional, provisional). . . . This uncertainty, of course, opens up the space of the demand for a new Master whose arbitrary gesture would declare some version the ‘final’ one, thereby bringing about the ‘collapse’ of the virtual infinity into definitive reality. (Slavoj Žižek, The Plague of Fantasies, 151)

Hamlet: The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book

Ryan North’s upcoming project is as exciting to me as his innovative use of the Kickstarter crowd-funding platform. I don’t have a lot of spare time these days, so instead of my sharing my thoughts about it, take a look at its brilliance for yourself.

What really excites me about this are two things: (1) that I could teach Hamlet alongside To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure in a speculative future where students see how Shakespeare and experimental literature come together at last in an orgasm of hilarity, and (2) that North’s innovative use of the crowd-funding tier structure serves as an interesting model for (perhaps less-guaranteed to crowd-please) experimental, hybrid-media literary projects… like the ones I always seem to be working on…

Anyway, I want to see this project fully-funded so that I can see what is up his sleeve at the final tier. He’s already promised a stage performance where the entire Internet votes on what happens next – where else could he go?

What are you working on, Morroque?

I’m currently at a position where a lot of interesting things recently intersected at completion. One was project involvement with Studio Aduge and their first major release, Qasir al-Wasat: A Night Inbetween. My own role on the project was not very substantial, but it was still interesting to see how a small media project slowly took form over an entire year — what changed, what stayed the same, and why. It was also a wonder to watch Ingrid Skare hold her place as the lead writer, even when English wasn’t her native tongue. It’s great to know that the structure of narrative and story need not be limited to the tradition of one language or another.

Another recent thing happened when The Incongruous Quarterly went live with a video game of my own. Signal Mosaic is a literary game that generates word art and poetry when played. I intended the it as a ludological criticism of a few trends in recent poetry I felt unsatisfied with. (Though, perhaps the method is a bit subtle…) It is also, as a game, probably the only work of its kind to be pushed by a Canadian literary magazine. IQ prides itself on publishing only the most “unpublishable” of poetry or fiction, and Signal Mosaic is most certainly that. Yet, even for the adventurous, there were still many delays between the final product and installation-turn-publication, as they slowly learned what the Internet looks like outside of the comfortable confines of a WordPress.

Signal Mosaic is notable for me as my first game that wasn’t based to an engine and written entirely from scratch using HTML5 and Javascript. Using a canvas context, it’s quite easy to make a pseudo-OpenGL animation loop. It wasn’t that long ago Javascript was a simple and uncomplicated little scriptor only used to add unnecessary flourish to web design – described by other programmers I knew not just as a ‘joke’, but ‘an entire comedy routine’. (This fervour is usually reserved for PHP, nowadays.) However, more functions in HTML5 improved Javascript’s usefulness extensively. The winds tell me that, soon, full applications in HTML5/Javascript can be made for Windows 8 computers, though I’m unsure how powerful they’ll be.
But I still wonder how long it will last… Computing is an evanescent media. My last attempted game failed tragically when it was so close to a gold candidate with working netplay and everything. It was developed on the 32-bit Windows XP, but couldn’t make the jump over to the 64-bit Windows 7 without all the graphics melting. The world decided to pull the rug out from under it. That’s why, even with all the excitement of video gaming to reach new audiences, I’m still pulled towards writing traditionally. The work there has a much smoother relationship with time.

With these things finished, I’m again getting my bearings to begin new projects. The “big” things that claimed my attention include one novelette and one video game. While not directly related, the two of them share similar themes. The novelette approaches the subject from a semi-serious and mostly realistic vantage, while the game approaches it as a comedy and exaggerates everything to impossible extremes. I’m actually a bit worried about the novelette. I can cover all the needed ground in only a few short chapters, but it is too much for a short story and requires a lot of padding to upgrade to a novel or novella. As such, finding publication for it somewhere will be difficult due to standard size constraints.

Yet even then, the novelette holds that possibility above the game, which is almost a fruitless venture entirely. It will need to be released as freeware due to asset limitations, the team choice in engine with editor, and also the numerous possible violations of the EULA we did in order hack in added functionality. Strange as this sounds, I find this remarkably freeing. We’re under no pressure, so we can test out any number of ridiculous ideas. With trigonometry, the right parabola and a very selective regard for physics, we can fire a person from a cannon, only to have them land in the barrel of another cannon to fire them back. We’re doing it for the science! That’s what counts, ar?

Morroque (Short: MW) is a computer programmer and training media producer from a nondescript location in rural Canada, currently working as an iOS developer. He is the webmaster of the Rêvasser Network.

What are you working on right now, Carrie Snyder?

The past two months have been subsumed by festivals, workshops, travel, interviews, visiting book clubs, and anything and everything that has cropped up and is related to publicity efforts on behalf of my second book, The Juliet Stories. I’ve been quite unable to settle and give myself over to the project I was working on during the summer. But I knew in advance that it would be a busy time, as fall always is for our family, and I was prepared to burn my creative energies in other, smaller ways.

I write regular blog posts as Obscure CanLit Mama. It’s been particularly enjoyable this fall to recount my travels and experiences touring the book.

I am currently working on two essays for separate anthologies. One is at the editing stage, and is titled “Delivery,” and will be published next fall in an anthology titled How to expect what you’re not expecting, which deals with childbirth, loss, and grief. The other is an essay on food, for an anthology that has a working title that goes roughly like this: Mennonite Girls Can Write (about food). I was approached by the editors to contribute something, and it’s in progress.

All of the above fall into the category of creative non-fiction, which is strange for a writer of fiction to admit, but seems to be a direction I’m being pulled in, perhaps because of the blog. I began blogging about my daily life more than four years ago, and have become very comfortable with that voice, and with transposing real events into words and stories.

But I am also at work on a novel, and I look forward to burying myself in it as winter approaches. I am too superstitious to reveal much about it. My inspiration comes from disparate sources, including old photographs, feminism, and my own experience discovering my inner athlete at the age of 35. I’m eager to discover how all the pieces fit together. I’ll give you the working title: The Girl Runner.

What are you working on right now, Angie Abdou?

I’m in the process of doing a final (I hope!) rewrite of a new novel about foreign nannies and hot yoga. I have to be careful when I give that quick summary because I often catch myself saying that it’s about “foreign yoga and HOT NANNIES.” That seems to get a better reaction, actually. Recently, a friend asked me to elaborate. I said “It’s about motherhood and insanity, about domestic help, about first world entitlement, about liberal guilt, about sex and sexuality, about class, about privilege, about beauty, about aging, about scripted identity, about excess, about …” Eventually, I stopped. There was a moment of silence. I added, “It’s more ambitious and sprawling than my previous books. It’s set in Canada, Hong Kong, Philipinnes, Jamaica, and Mexico.” Finally, he spoke: “You haven’t told me one thing about what happens and who is in the damn thing.” True. Maybe that’s because I’m an English teacher and I tend to think of a book more in terms of its ideas or thematic preoccupations rather than its plot. Maybe, it’s because I want you to read the book to find out those details. I hope you’ll be able to do that soon.

For fun – a spoof trailer for The Canterbury Trail (“The Bitch Stole My Life, Part II”).

Angie Abdou has a Ph.D. from University of Calgary and three published books. Her first novel, The Bone Cage, was a Canada Reads finalist in 2011 and the 2012 MacEwan Book of the Year. Her more recent novel, The Canterbury Trail, was a finalist for the 2011 Banff Mountain Book of the Year and won a 2012 IPPY, gold medal for Canada West. It’s a dark comedy about mountain culture. Angie lives in Fernie, BC with her husband and two small children. She teaches full-time at the College of the Rockies.

What are you working on right now, Dora Dueck?

I’ve been busy with a whole host of things “around” writing, like launches and readings, but right now, I’m back. Back at my desk, that is, working on a novel – my third. This Monday morning when I woke, my first thought was I’m back at it, and I have to say, I felt ecstatic.

I got a Manitoba Arts Council grant for the project late last year, which was wonderful, not just for the financial support, but for the focus and accountability it provided. I did what I promised; I revised a rough first draft into a near-final draft. But near-final isn’t yet the same as final, so working towards Final is what I’m doing now. I’m enjoying it, yes, but also impatient to be finished, since a couple of non-fiction ideas are begging for attention too.

As for what the novel is about, here’s the sentence I gave the people at MAC, which is still more or less accurate: “a novel in which an archivist investigates the mysterious life and death of her odd uncle.” I’m squeezing all the time I can find into revisions from now until mid-December or so and will try not to let myself fret, until I absolutely have to, about the where, when, and how of publishing the book in today’s publishing environment!

I also write an occasional post at my blog, “Borrowing Bones.”

Dora Dueck recently launched a collection of short fiction, What You Get at Home (Turnstone Press). Her novel, This Hidden Thing (CMU, 2010), won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction at the 2011 Manitoba Book Awards.

Matrix “Conceptual Writings” issue


The latest issue of Matrix, which includes a dossier on “Conceptual Writings,” also includes my contribution, “No Results Found For ‘I Hate Conceptual Poetry.’” A great issue, with work by derek beaulieu, Vanessa Place, Robert Fitterman, a rawlings, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, and others.

What are you working on right now, Shawna Lemay?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it, because there are so many answers for it, depending on the person asking. But rather worse is when no one asks. When family or non-artist friends ask, it can be awkward, especially when you’re writing poetry or obscure, mainly unpublishable fiction. One senses that they’re always a bit hopeful you’ve switched over to writing mysteries or thrillers. Something respectable. When you’ve been writing for 20ish years, the question just becomes increasingly awkward.

And then when the question is asked by a fellow writer, especially one to whom you’re quite close, there’s a shorthand that develops. You’ve been through several books together on each side, say. You’ve lived through each others’ acceptances, rejections. The many times you’ve been passed over, ignored, or sometimes, worse, noticed. Your friendship exists (for other reasons, too) because of this question. Because, amid the interruptions, you can keep bringing each other back to the question, back to the work, back to the dream of immersion in the work. The question, what are you working on right now? is meant to plunge you back into it, it is meant to be a dagger, it is meant to be the prompt, the snap of the fingers, to awaken you from a trance. The question is asked, not so much for an answer, but for company.

Because I don’t really like talking about what I’m working on with anyone other than a few close friends, I have a lot of fake answers at the ready. Or maybe not so much fake as they are superficial. I’m working on a prose work right now called “Transactions with Beauty” which is based partly on my blog Calm Things. I’m also working on getting a recent work of poetry published, and this one is titled, “Asking.” As well, my latest project is a website called Canadian Poetries which is slowly coming together. I work part time at the Edmonton Public Library, do odd bits of work for my partner, Robert Lemay, and am the mother of a teenager.

Thank you for asking.

Shawna Lemay is the author of five books of poetry and one book of essays. Most recently, she has written an experimental novel titled, Hive: A Forgery, which is about the possibility of the existence of a woman art forger.

What are you working on right now, Victor Enns?

Reading www.victorenns.ca takes time, but references my current projects in the reading and writing headings. My current priority is finishing Music for Men Over Fifty, which I described to Prairie Books Now as poems about “dejection, depression, drinking and decrepitude leavened with love.” Taking off where Lucky Man (Hagios, 2005) left off, the poems take a hard look at aging and love, especially in the title sequence, which, as you would expect, feature many musical references including a visit to The Green Mill Jazz Club in Chicago for example.

I am also learning to write fiction, and have sent my first complete short story to Joan Thomas, the Writer-in-Residence at the Winnipeg Public Library. Often my initial conceits are outrageously ambitious and my current plan is too learn, practice, and become competent at the craft of fiction writing by writing 26 stories, one for each letter of the alphabet, most about men – who are not me. I am finding this quite liberating, but at the moment it’s all practice, which I plan to complete in the next four years.

What I am practicing for is the writing of three novels, when I leave government and have more time and a better grasp on what I need to do to best realize the stories I want to tell. The novels on the drawing board are Susann and/or Against the Grain loosely based on my mother’s struggle for freedom and independence in a hostile conservative Mennonite family and southern Manitoba rural society. I took my first crack at this in The Dead Mother which I wrote for the Three-Day Novel contest, modeled on Barthleme’s The Dead Father. Both my mother and father are dead, committed to the earth, and to poetry in Lucky Man.

The second is starting out with the rather flat title Mill Road, a riches to rags story based loosely on the family who owned the mill and all the homes on the street next to it in a small southern Msanitoba town with some resemblance to the one in which I grew up. Preacher’s Kids would be the last following a coeterie of high school friends from 1969 to 1999.

Working is the right word, but I also have a full time job, so am trying not to get frustrated with lack of time and presence of pain – all expected to change in the next four years. I still have two unplaced manuscripts (excerpts on my website) to which I would return should I be fortunate enough to find a publisher.

Victor Enns is the author of Jimmy Bang Poems (Turnstone, 1979), Correct in this Culture (5th House, 1985), Lucky Man (Hagios, 2005), and boy (Hagios, 2012). He is employed by the Province of Manitoba as Publishing and Arts Consultant in the Department of Culture, Heritage and Tourism.