Sandra Kasturi talks ChiZine at WOTS

Since I discovered CZP through local readings and SF/Fantasy events, I’ve been curious as to how this publishing company got started. Sandra reveals ChiZine’s audacious successes and economic setbacks. It’s a cautionary tale for those who might think starting up an ezine is an easy road to financial success. I found her talk honest and inspiring. It’s all done for the love of books, in her case, dark fiction and poetry.


This video is recorded with a flip camera and edited in Premiere Elements. I apologize for the rumbling when the subway goes under Queen’s Park. Word on the Street talks are held outdoors in Toronto every fall. I go for the books but I also enjoy the author readings, workshops, publisher displays and magazines.

Margaret Atwood – Live from Word on the Street

Margaret Atwood celebrated the 20th Annual Word on the Street festival with a technological twist. Known for her invention of the LongPen, a multimedia device which allows her to remotely sign autographs and talk to fans, Atwood has gone one step further on the book tour for her latest novel, The Year of the Flood.

Sunday September 27, she appeared virtually in Vancouver and Halifax from the Scotiabank Bestsellers Stage at Word on the Street, Toronto. After a reading from her novel, Atwood answered questions from fans in Halifax, Vancouver and finally, from the live Toronto audience.

The images of Vancouver and Halifax looked grainy and there were some difficulties with the sound in Vancouver but the experiment inspired plenty of applause. As Atwood put it, the LongPen is “a way of connecting with people across space.” For her, all technology is “neutral,” an extension of “human bodies, human desires and fears.”

Atwood has taken to blogging and to composing Twitter Tweets to promote this latest book, a companion to her Oryx and Crake which came out in 2003. With her characteristic wit, Atwood promised those participating in the coast-to-coast reading: “You will all be mentioned in this blog, although possibly not individually.”

Flood revisits the same post-apocalyptic world as Oryx and Crake, but this time, the point-of-view characters are female. Part of the inspiration, Atwood said, came from people asking her why she had used a male protagonist in that novel.

When asked a general question about sources of inspiration, Atwood hesitated. Instead of giving the usual laundry-list of influences, she cited all the books she read between the ages of five and sixteen as triggers for the desire to write. Once you begin writing, she explained, it becomes less a question of inspiration than being immersed in the process.

Where do her characters come from? She is often inspired by a plot that seems to be going somewhere. Beginning with a situation and using a kind of actor’s improvisation, Atwood builds, layers by layer, until the character emerges.

Word on the Street — Toronto, Kitchener, Vancouver, Halifax

Toronto’s Word on the Street festival is on Sunday September 27, just one week away. It’s one of my favorite book events, an outdoor festival celebrating reading across all ages and genres. There will be readings, music, food and entertainment for kids. It’s an excellent place to pick up discount paperbacks, meet editors or discover hard-to-find magazines.

I usually attend the author talks on writing and publishing but there is everything from poetry readings to autographed romance novels to politically incorrect comic books. Check out the website for more info. There are too many events to attend them all so it pays to choose your favorites. Pick up a schedule at one of the information booths or look at the online guides.

For the 2oth anniversary, there will be three new venues: The Cooks ā€˜nā€™ Books Stage, Money Matters Tent and World Music Stage. There will also be Literacy Murals at the North and South ends of the park. Anyone can contribute poems, drawings and comments alongside featured mural artists. KidStreet has been relocated to Wellesley Street. Check out the KidStreet Activity Guide brought to you by Owl and ChickaDEE magazine, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Word on the Street also takes place in Vancouver, Kitchener, and Halifax. Check your local link for details.

Happy reading!

WOTS alien dance routine

This August I wrote a play for school called Invisible Aliens Stole My Gym Shorts! I am currently looking for music (I’m no composer) and images to improve and promote this school musical. That’s how elementary school shows work. The director is the producer, stage manager, light and sound designer etc. Volunteer help may be had but the bottom line responsibility is mine. That’s one reason I was so delighted to run across this creative alien costume at WOTS. It should give my costume volunteer some inspiration…

Word on the Street

I had a great time at Word on the Street. Perfect weather, tent after tent of books and authors. In keeping with tradition, I asked people to name their favorite book. Here are clips of their answers…

WOTS – Final Clips

Welcome aboard Japan!

I just had a look at my mapping widget and I’ve had hits from two new places in Australia (East and West coasts) plus Japan, perhaps Tokyo. My map counter doesn’t name names so I’m going by general area. I have also had over 4000 views now. Very gratifying. Guess I won’t give up the blog just because my sabbatical is over, although keeping up the postings hasn’t been easy.

Here then is my quick and dirty summary of Kim Moritsugu‘s writing talk from Word on the Street.

This picture of Kim Moritsugu at the Word on the Street, Wordshop Marquee. Her take on writing is unique. After many years in management, and numerous promotions, Moritsugu got her MBA. After reaching this goal, she realized she hated being a middle manager with the provincial lottery corporation. “Fuck the MBA,” she said. When her branch was relocated, Moritsugu was able to stay behind in Toronto, receiving a severance cheque equivalent to a 1.5 year’s salary.

She took the money and, with her children still in daycare, started writing and taking courses in earnest. Many years of discouragement ensued but Moritsugu was undeterred. Why? Working in the prize office for so many years had brought a daily stream of lottery winners to her door. It was a “culture of pure unbridled hope.”

Somebody has to win, just as somebody has to get published. She kept sending her manuscripts out like lottery tickets. Moritsugu never gave up, even when her critique group, men who favoured violent and depressing topics, didn’t ‘get’ her work. Moritsugu was writing a “frothy comedy of manners,” set in a fashion magazine office.

After five years of writing, without publishing or encouraging feedback, Paul Quarrington, her mentor for a course at the Humber School for Writers said “I don’t see why you’re not published.” It was all the encouragement she needed.

Her novel completed and polished, Moritsugu sent it to the big five Canadian publishers plus American agents. When these publishers turned her down or didn’t respond, she tried smaller agents and smaller Canadian publishers. Her big break? Goose Lane called based on her chapter and outline. They wanted her to cut the novel by one third to 100 000 words and they wanted it in six weeks.

How did it change her life? At forty-one, she says, she had hit the jackpot, for writers — publication. It didn’t make her hugely famous, “but being published is better than not being published.”

I think she was specifically talking about the Canadian publishing scene when she said “there’s no money in writing fiction.” It’s a frequent complaint among Canadian writers but Kim Moritsugu isn’t worried. If her husband’s job stops paying, she “can always go out and buy a lottery ticket.”

Word on the Street Clips

This gentleman offered to send me his latest book for reviewing and gave me a bookmark.

This eloquent lady expressed her preference for Victorian literature. She is also the one who coaxed me into the spontaneous poetic eruption contest, i.e. write a poem on the spot. I wasn’t feeling particularly poetic but I forced myself. If I’m going to make my students write poems, I should be prepared to do the same.

Clips from Word on the Street – Part II

Here are some more quick clips from Word on the Street. In each case, I have asked my interviewees to name their favorite book.

Most people named novels but this Atlanta Georgian preferred poetry.

This charming librarian from the Toronto International Film Festival Group made me want to live downtown so I could pop into her library to read Variety and watch films. What impressed me most, however, was the speedy way she could ‘reel’ off the books, magazines, films and services available.

It’s too bad the blogger settings don’t make it easy to reorient the picture!

At the Writers’ Union booth, I came across some very Upper Canadian tastes. Lucy Maude Montgomery, in Ontario? Looks like one more book for my ‘to read’ list.

Word on the Street – Favorite Book Clips

This year the weather was perfect for Word on the Street. The crowds were thronging, children were laughing, musicians were playing… My only complaint is I couldn’t do it all.

I bought magazines and books, met lots of nice people who publish literary journals and even wrote an impromptu poem. I also went book-buying bananas! Scholastic had lots of deals, including books in French at giveaway prices. I bought some books from big publishers but saved most of my money for lit journals. I can buy from big names any day.

I regret not spending more time meeting authors. This year I didn’t get even one autograph. There just wasn’t time once I discovered the Humber School for Writers was offering free workshops. I once took their nine-month novel-writing correspondence course with Sandra Birdsell. It was a fabulous experience, although the novel I was working on was too ambitious for my skill level at the time. It now lives in a drawer, many times rewritten but not yet to my satisfaction.

This week, watch for upcoming articles on two writing workshops I attended in the Wordshop Marquee. Richard Scrimger (author of The Nose From Jupiter) told us “Everything You Need to Know About Writing for Children and Young Adults,” while Kim Moritsugu (author of Looks Perfect) told us how she “Beat the Odds and Became a Published Author.” The content of their talks was even more amusing than the titles.

As last year, I asked people at Word on the Street to name their favorite book. I began by asking for modern authors this year, but a few reading recommendations prior to WWI found their way into the list. I hope you find a new favorite here…

I will post more interviews and news from Word on the Street soon. Tonight my mark book is calling me and I must work.

Happy reading.

Forget what ails you with Asprin

I love the the original “Myth” series by Robert Asprin. Refreshingly funny, these books take on the conventions of the fantasy novel in a light-hearted way. Like the best send-ups, they are done with love and contemporary satire.

The Myth series, not including co-written books:

Another Fine Myth
Myth Conceptions
Myth Directions
Hit or Myth
Myth-ing Persons
Little Myth Marker
M.Y.T.H. INC. Link
Myth-Nomers and Impervections
M.Y.T.H. INC. In Action
Sweet Myth-Tery of Life
Myth-Ion Improbable
Something M.Y.T.H. INC.

Robert Asprin is well-known for The Thieves World Books, the Phule’s Company series and some stand-alone books. I have never read any of these but probably should. I don’t like most medieval-flavoured Fantasy but find the ‘Myth’ books a compulsive read.

The main character, Skeeve, is a thief and would-be magician from Klad. That’s right, among all the races you might meet in the crowded Bazaar on Deva, humans are called Klads. It’s part of the fun to cheer for Skeeve, the underdog, in a scenario where parallel dimensions are home to races that live longer and have greater powers. Skeeve’s friend Aahz, a pervect from the dimension of Perv, is huge, with enormous teeth and muscles to complement his armour-like green scales. Aahz’s powerful mind, like that of most Pervects, is perpetually focused on monetary gain. The adventures begin when Aahz, a powerful wizard who has had his magic abilities revoked, takes young, hapless Skeeve as an apprentice.

If you’re looking for escapist fiction that will not disappoint, I suggest the first books in the series, written by Asprin alone. Later books, done with co-writers, often disappoint. The first of these that I feel is equal to its predecessors is the latest: Class Dis-Mythed.

This novel, co-written by Jody-Lynn Nye, skillfully evokes the fictional world created by Asprin and reintroduces the contemporary social criticism some of the latest books had been missing. In Class Dis-Mythed, Skeeve is on a sabbatical to learn more wizardry. His success in past missions, aided by much more powerful friends and allies, has puffed up his reputation despite his modest magical skills. What Skeeve is best at is team-building and strategy.

When Aahz sends him three pervect graduates to tutor in magic, Skeeve wants to refuse but Aahz has already collected their tuition fees. With help from his allies, Skeeve teaches his students that in a life-and-death conflict, theory is only as good as the street-smarts used to apply it. During the first part of the book, the dramatic tension comes from intrigues between the competing students: three Perv females, a talking dog with healing magic and a Klad with military experience. At the end of the book, their secrets are revealed when Skeeve’s former students enter a duel-to-the-death contest to win a fortune. I especially enjoyed the send up of reality TV, with its fixed contests and scripted shenanigans.

Word on the street is tomorrow!

I hope to take lots of pictures, buy lots of books and meet people. Watch this space for updates during the week!

Happy reading.