Category Archives: Publishing

How to Piss Off an Editor

I’m cleaning out my email files and getting back on track, so in the near future you’ll see some posts here about other than writing. I’m no longer slush reading for Chizine Publications but this one email was memorable. We asked for sample chapters for the first read-through. I received a manuscript that was so full of slang and vernacular as to be incomprehensible. I didn’t think I could give a constructive comment so I opted for diplomacy. Remember, editors are extremely busy people and they rarely will give comments. I’ve always tried to say something because it also hones why I’m rejecting a story.

Whenever I’ve received comments back on a story rejection I’ve found them at least steering me toward what didn’t work. That’s most of the time, not always. Sometimes editors might just be off their rockers or so bent on their own agendas that they make little sense themselves. I’ve had a magazine tell me they didn’t do religious stories because I sent a tale of Garuda (the Hindu god who is part man, part bird) and a lover. Hardly religious but well…they saw it that way. I’ve had rejection letters that are framed as breakup letters, which are annoying and immature, but I’ve never written them back to say so.

So, with that being said, here’s a short lesson in how to get yourself blacklisted from a publisher. This guy didn’t follow the guidelines and probably didn’t read them, so he was lucky that we even bothered to read the piece. Oh, and CZP is a Canadian publisher, and I’m Canadian with a BFA.

Dear X,

Thank you for the opportunity to consider your manuscript for publication by ChiZine Publications.  We enjoyed reading your novel, but, after careful consideration, we regretfully advise that we are unable to accept it for publication.

Please make sure you follow the guidelines in the future. Also submitting manuscripts in a standard submission format is much easier on the editors’ eyes.

You had some very interesting descriptive phrases but I did not find that the story grabbed me. Best of luck elsewhere with this.

Your interest in our press is genuinely appreciated, and we wish you the best for your ongoing writing endeavours.

Sincerely,

Colleen Anderson

Didn’t “grab” you – what exactly does that mean? Push the limits of form & vernacular and this is response you get. Jesus.

Don’t take it personally, Colleen. I’m sure you’re a victim of your own particular MFA program. Obviously Americans are too stupid generally. I’ll send it to Germany. Or Congo.

Dear X,

Editors have many manuscripts to go through and we don’t always have time to go into detail. And sometimes we don’t like something well enough to say what’s wrong with it. Doesn’t grab me is a polite way of saying it didn’t seem to go anywhere. The vernacular was heavyhanded and overdone. That’s not edgy; that’s going to be a book that won’t sell. But don’t take it personally. I’m sure you’re just a victim of your generation that doesn’t read more than the first paragraph, so why would you think we want to read the rest of your book? You did not even follow the submission guidelines or standard submission format. They’re there for a reason. And while some Americans may be stupid, calling most or all stupid and assuming you even know what nationality I am smacks of bigotry and your own stupidity.

Please, go bother Germany, the Congo and any other publisher you wish. Your submissions are no longer welcome at CZP.

Colleen Anderson

And really, unless you’ve been an asshat, don’t take it personally when you’ve been rejected. It’s about the piece, not the person.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Patricia Robertson

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

Today, I give you the last interview of the authors in Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast, from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s not quite a complete set as I don’t have Vince Perkins from New Brunswick, nor Jason Barrett from Northwest Territories. However, should they eventually contact me I will include their interviews. You can find their bios listed for Tesseracts here. Last in the table of contents and our other Yukon author, is Patricia Robertson.

CA: “The Calligrapher’s Daughter” has the feel similar to tales like The Arabian Nights, or The Steel Seraglio. It mixes lesson and observation but in a subtle telling. Were you following a particular literary form when you wrote this?

I was aware that it was a fable, a form or mode I feel we need much more of as a means of responding to our increasingly nightmarish “reality.” Fables deal with archetypes rather than highly realized characters (which is why the calligrapher’s daughter is called that throughout the story rather than given a name). That said, I was conscious of the form without being inhibited by it (I hope!)

CA: Your world is vivid in description and feeling. What did you research in the process of this creation?

I love exploring worlds I don’t know and have been interested in Islam and Arabic history for a long time, ever since I lived in Spain (where the Arabs ruled for 700 years). I do lots of research in both books and on the Net to get the details right, or, where I’m inventing, so I know I’m deliberately altering or embellishing “reality.” Though I’ve discovered that there’s really nothing you can make up—so-called fantasy is only such in our current idea of what constitutes reality!

CA: We’ve had stories set in the modern world (the majority), a few other worlds and those in far space, with a smattering in the past and the future. Yours is the only setting that looks at Middle Eastern history. Why did you choose this setting and do you think your tale would have been as effective if told from another culture’s point of view?

As I explained above, Arabic history fascinates me (the setting here is actually North Africa). I’d recently written a suite of four novellas/short stories all linked by the theme of illegal migration and set in Spain and Morocco, so I suppose the setting was fresh in my mind. And I’ve always found the Arabic script incredibly beautiful, with its flowing curves. At some point I stumbled on the fact that there were female calligraphers early on in the development of calligraphy as an art form.

Arabic stories, calligraphy, speculative fiction, fables, fantasy, Yukon authors

Patricia Robertson creates a world of beauty and values in The Calligrapher’s Daughter.

All of that means I can’t imagine the story from another culture’s point of view! It’s too specific to this one, although I’m sure there were female calligraphers in other traditions.

CA: While following the norms of her society, the Calligrapher’s Daughter manages to find strength of purpose. Do you think that people who are under the strictures of their culture, which may give unfair advantages to some and not to others, can still find a strength of purpose and prevail?

I think people do that all the time. There are always people who, through a combination of talent and tenacity and opportunity, forge lives for themselves that may be unusual or somewhat outside the norm. They usually pay a price for such behavior, too. Researching the story reminded me that history provides much more nuance than we usually see—women in such cultures are not always, in all conditions, “oppressed.” Cracks and byways and interstices can be found, or created.

CA: This was such a rich world. Have you used it in other stories and what will we be seeing from you in the future?

As I said earlier, I love exploring different worlds, so no, I haven’t used this one in other stories and probably won’t use it again. At the moment I’m working on a young adult fantasy called How to Talk to a Glacier as well as completing a third book of short stories. And I have a short adult novel, a fantasy, in mind too.

Born in the UK, Patricia Robertson grew up in British Columbia and received her MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has published two collections of fiction: City of Orphans, which was shortlisted for the BC Book Prizes (Fiction), and The Goldfish Dancer: Stories and Novellas. Her work was selected for both Best Canadian Stories 2013 and Best Canadian Essays 2013, and has been shortlisted for the Journey Prize, the CBC Literary Awards, the Pushcart Prize, and the National Magazine Awards (three times). She is currently the first writer-in-residence at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library in Kingston, ON.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dianne Homan

surreal worlds, SF, metaphor, Tesseracts 17, anthologies

Dianne Homan’s world is regimented and plastic, in M.E.L.

Today we hit the Yukon, nearly the end of the interviews for Tesseracts 17, Dianne Homan’s dystopian world in M.E.L.

CA: M.E.L. was a very bizarre world, yet reminiscent in feel (not setting) of other dystopian futures, such as Logan’s Run, or even the morlocks of Orwell’s The Time Machine. Did you draw on any such existing tales for this setting?

I actually don’t read science fiction so I can’t say I drew on any literary worlds. I have a huge aversion to plastic—packaging, toys, utensils, etc., so I imagined a world coated in the stuff as something my protagonist would have to get past, get through, get under.

CA: In some ways your story could be taken as metaphorical. Would you say there is a metaphor you’re using in this?

Never thought of it metaphorically. One of the main points in this story is that, if we are tuned in to earth, there is knowledge that comes to us without our being able to pinpoint the source of our knowing—like M.E.L.’s knowing about dirt and W.W.B.’s knowing about bugs.

CA: This world has a regimental control of people’s lives. While it is a different world, do you think parts of our world are as regimented as this, for good or for ill?

The thing about our world that concerns me most is the control of, dare I say everything, by

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

the corporate powers. They control what the media tells us, what schools teach, what is available on the market, etc. They can’t control what we learn from the earth although they can make fun of, and try to minimize the importance of, that knowledge.

CA: Do you think we will see a future where our environments will become more artificial to survive environmental changes?

No. I, unfortunately, sense that we have passed an environmental tipping point, and that there is not much hope for survival of most life forms on the earth. That said, I think there is still so much potential for beauty and love and heroism that I feel blessed to be living on this planet.

CA: What other projects are you working on?

I am currently teaching grade 1/2/3 in a small rural school, and my work load is so intense that I have no brains left for writing when I end my work day. Writing projects are on hold, but all are fictional and all have love of the earth as their guiding principle.

Dianne Homan was born in Englewood, NJ, across the river from the bustling-est city on earth. She now lives a world, and a continent, away in a log cabin off-grid in the wilderness outside Whitehorse, Yukon. She is an arts education advocate and enjoys nothing more than incorporating art, drama, music and dance in her work as a teacher and in her imaginings as a writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in anthologies and magazines, and she co-edited two volumes of Urban Coyote.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dwain Campbell

Dwain Campbell, Tesseracts 17, child protagonist, aliens, Roswell, Hermione

Dwain Campbell writes a home invasion story with a mix of madcap adventure and genius.

I have only a few more interviews to do with the authors of Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast, available through EDGE. Today, I bring you Dwain Campbell, from St. John’s, Newfoundland, whose wild tale gallops through the pages of the anthology.

CA: “Hermione and Me” is a madcap adventure.  Wherever did you come up with this idea?

Having been a school teacher and guidance counselor for thirty years, I have worked with many a child who struggled with his or her uniqueness. Not surprisingly then, coming of age stories have a certain appeal for me.  Of course, in this story the protagonist Meredith is more unique than people can possibility imagine, and her adjustment, her growth as a result of one evening’s adventure, is central. Madcap? It sure is, but anything less than “out of this world” would not challenge two powerhouses like Meredith and Hermione Granger. And as for the home invaders, what can I say, I’m a Roswell conspiracy nut.

CA: In your tale you link genius, imagination and creations of magic.  Do you feel that science and magic may be closer together than we imagine?

Definitely. In quantum physics alone theorists are generating pretty scary stuff. Computer chips three atoms wide, where two bits of information can be housed on one sub-atomic thingamajig because it can exist in two states at once, are being actively explored.  That will look like magic to all intents and purposes. The psycho-physics interface between brain and mind is getting serious attention too. Perhaps one day the mind can materialize imagined people (as Meredith does) even as computers now do with 3D printing.

But to answer the question more directly, I do believe certain minds can negotiate corners oftime and space that is beyond 99% of us. Magic, or a so far unknown psychological phenomenon that transcends space-time, who is to say?

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Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

CA: Some paintings are for beauty, others for messages. It’s the same for fiction. Which would you say you story is?

Hermione and Me is likely more satisfying on the message level.  Growing up is hard to do; it’s no walk in the park. Fears and insecurities abound.  Meredith has them in spades, but she is capable of moving beyond them. It all gets sorted out in the end. That is a message of hope most young people would welcome.

CA: If you could, would you rather meet an alien, or conjure up your own special and real companion?

Alien. In my mind they do exist, and I suspect they are a lot more fascinating, in physical form and sentience, than your basic Klingon or Romulan. The nature of alien cognition and culture is to me an endless source of speculation. I like the David Brin Uplift novels which handle these questions with imagination and intelligence.

CA: What other works do you have on the go or what ideas are you exploring?

I’m writing a series of stories called The Crazy Eights ( nickname of the Princess Louise’s 8th New Brunswick Hussars regiment) following the supernatural adventures of Sergeant Cecil (Plug) Danfield and Captain Tallingate during World War Two. The stories should appeal to Canadian military buffs and those fond of fantasy-realism. I have a few stories of Meredith from “Hermione and Me” as a high school teenager. And, I submit stand alone fantasy stories here and there.

Dwain Campbell is originally from Sussex, New Brunswick. After his university years in Halifax, he journeyed further east to begin a teaching career in Newfoundland. Twenty-nine years later, he is a retired teacher in St. John’s. He hopes to devote more time to his first love, storytelling. Contemporary fantasy is his genre of choice, and Atlantic Canada is a rich source of inspiration. Neil Gaiman is his hero of the moment, though he will reluctantly admit to a lifelong fascination with Stephen King.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Willie Meikle

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

William Meikle hails from Scotland and Newfoundland, and brings us a tale of deep space mystery with “In the Bubble.” http://www.williammeikle.com

CA: “In the Bubble” is hard core SF, in space with a mysterious murder. Do you think when we do head for the stars that humanity will come together against a common unknown (space) or do you think humankind’s baser emotions will still play out their dramas?

I’m a pessimist when it comes to humanity. We’re just too stupid to see beyond immediate gain and look at the big picture—we are already way too far down the line to disaster, and I can’t see us getting anywhere close to the stars. We’ll kill ourselves off first, over  food and water rights on a dying planet. There’s a cheery thought to start a new year.

CA: Do you think science will one day take us to being able to read another person’s thoughts? Do you think it will make communication better or worse if this could happen?

I think something close will be possible— some kind of emotion reader should be doable very soon, and people are already working on turning dreams into screen images. I doubt it will improve communication. It will make misunderstandings less common, sure. But it will also mean people would know exactly what you think of them. I foresee a lot more punch-ups.

CA:  Would you ever want to literally get inside someone’s head to think, see or feel as they do?

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William Meikle writes mysteries that take place in space and in Glasgow.

Nope. Not even remotely. I have enough trouble inside my own head as it is. I think part of what makes us human is trying to figure out what other people are thinking. If we ever actually find out, the mystery is gone. Then what is left?

CA: Since your story is also a crime thriller in space, do you write other mysteries, and do you enjoy reading them?

CA: I do indeed enjoy reading them—I grew up on a diet of Ed McBain, Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie amid all the genre work I was reading.  Quite a lot of that has seeped into my own writing, in particular into my Midnight Eye series. Derek Adams is a Glasgow PI,  usually down to his last cigarette and bottle of scotch, wearily fighting his way though the Glasgow underworld and the supernatural elements that keep leaping at him despite his best efforts to avoid it. I’ve also attempted a cozy murder mystery, and have a collection published of weird Sherlock Holmes stories. I suspect there’s more to come.

CA: What other projects do you have in the works?

I’m busy. I’m in the middle of a six book contract with DARKFUSE for horror works, I have a Professor Challenger collection coming this year from DARK RENAISSANCE among other things, and I’m currently coming to the end of the writing of three Sherlock Holmes novellas.  After that I have a ghost story collection I want to write, and a space opera novel that’s been gestating for a while, so I’m going to be busy for years to come yet.

William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. His work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines with recent sales to NATURE Futures, Penumbra and Buzzy Mag among others. He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company. When he’s not writing he plays guitar, drinks beer and dreams of fortune and glory.

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January 15, 2014 · 8:41 pm

Tesseracts 17 Interview: Rachel Cooper

SF, irony, end of the world, speculative fiction,

Rachel Cooper draws some of her inspiration from The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Rachel Cooper is another of our Nova Scotian writers and writes a story of hope and futility. Website: http://www.inotherwords.biz

CA: “Everybody Wins” is one of those stories I tend to love and hate. Can you speak to the hope and futility in this piece?

“Everybody Wins” didn’t start out to be about hope and futility. It arose from a vivid dream image of a floating sphere and grew into a “what if?” exploration. Or maybe, a “what the heck might that be?” exploration. It developed into an event that might lead to the scenario in Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, a book whose main idea—world without humans—resonated with me. When I see what humans are doing to the natural world, I feel close to despair, even though countless good people work to protect it. Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an influence, too, of course, with the world ending for a random and banal reason.

We are creatures of hope and futility, following our aspirations—some worthy, some not—and amusing ourselves to death, as Neil Postman put it in his 1985 book. Some of us are inspiring and generous and loving, others are toxic and nasty. Most of us are decent people trying to do the best we can, but we blunder around in the dark.

I suppose the answer to your question is that I myself live in a state of hope but know that we all die sooner or later; and when we do, the things we cared about will be scattered to the winds (or show up on eBay). I also think that animals are closer to humans than we’ve given them credit for—some species display what we would call culture—and the thought of a non-human species flourishing and taking our place as dominant species is an idea I find interesting rather than scary.

CA: Your story has a heavy dose of irony in it, and plays on our current culture of win win win and the numerous lottos and casinos that abound. Do you think humans will always succumb to such greed and need?

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

They do say (well, Horace Walpole said) that the world is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel…. Many of us have lost—or given away—our capacity for deep thought, an apparent trend fueled by the staggering array of technological distractions in our daily lives. We’re drawn to shiny things. Many people have no interest in gambling and lotteries, though, which is why the story’s game includes some prizes that benefit other people.

CA: On an average day, do you see humanity as something with a hopeful or doomed nature?

Are those our only two options? I’m neither a dualist nor a black-and-white thinker, which means most of the time I’m fairly confused. If dithering were an Olympic sport, I’d be wearing gold. My personal belief is that humanity will survive. My personal hope is that some natural correction will result in our being much smaller in number. We’re too great a strain on the planet; we’re pooping all over our nest.

CA: Do your themes tend to reflect darker or lighter notes over all?

This is the darkest piece I’ve written, although death lurks nearby in several of my stories. Writing comedy is the most fun, though. I’ve had two short plays produced; hearing the audience laugh was magic.

CA: What other projects do you have on the go, and will we ever find out where the mysterious artifacts came from in “Everybody Wins”?

Another short play, a fantasy comedy, is finished and submitted, and I’m working on a lighter fantasy story with comic elements. Until I’d written “Everybody Wins,” I hadn’t written any fantasy, but I’m finding it fun to play with. Alas, I have no idea where the mysterious artifacts came from. Cleveland, maybe.

Bio:

Rachel Cooper is a freelance writer and editor in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. Besides writing for various organizations, she has published articles on science, people and nature. Born in Winnipeg, she grew up in Ontario and has lived in Scotland, France and England.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/InOtherWords.biz
Twitter: http://twitter.com/RachelCooper_NS
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/erachelcooper

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: John Bell

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

CA: Leaving Cape Roseway speaks to a primal feeling. Do you think that feeling takes on a supernatural quality when we are confronted with the unfamiliar?

A few years ago a veteran lobster fisherman, who grew up on McNutt’s Island in Shelburne Harbour, took me out to the island and showed me the remnants of a once thriving community. As we toured the abandoned buildings and the ruins of fortifications, I wondered how Poe or Lovecraft might respond to this place and its emptiness, transforming a Nova Scotia landscape into mindscape and dreamscape. However, I didn’t want the sense of dread to be too overt. Instead, I aimed for a more subtle evocation of fear and its contours.

CA: Eileen Kernaghan’s poem is of another forest, yet you both have drawn on the power of nature. Once humans created gods and beings to comprehend this power. Do you think we have lost that in our modern age?

Yes, I think we have to some degree; however, our response to nature remains primal (that word again). I think my poem and Eileen’s both speak to a yearning to reconnect with nature, to be enveloped in the natural world. It’s a feeling that combines wonder and fear – maybe even panic. (I’m sure the Germans have a word for it.)

CA: Would you ever wish to truly meet a supernatural or magical being or be in such a place?

 I once published a poem, “Loup-Garou,” in the Canadian magazine Dark Fantasy , in which the narrator runs in terror from such

poetry, fear, primal feelings, power of nature, nautre, mystical, speculative writing

John Bell embraces the mythic in nature and lives in Nova Scotia.

an encounter only to discover, in an EC-Comics-style ending, that he has become the supernatural being. I, too, would probably run in terror.

CA: Do you think the animals of the fields and forest live their lives in a world that is magical or in one devoid of anything but the search for comfort, sustenance and shelter?

I believe there is magic in the natural world for all creatures to experience in their own way. For instance, no one can convince me that crows are not living in a magical world. Just watch them.

CA: What themes do you like to explore in your writing and what other projects do you have on the go?

I am currently editing a book that collects the wartime diary and letters of my wife’s great-uncle, a working-class guy from the north end of Halifax who served as a gunner in the Canadian Army during the First World War. Although he worked all his life as a mechanic, he was also an aspiring writer (his middle name was “Byron”). In fact, his papers include several story manuscripts and rejection letters from pulp magazines such as Adventure. I hope to honour his service and fulfill his literary ambitions.

John Bell was born in Montreal and grew up in Halifax. After a long career at the National Archives in Ottawa, he returned to Nova Scotia and now lives in Lunenburg. He is the author or editor of nearly twenty books, including Invaders from the North, a ground-breaking history of Canadian comics. A former editor of the poetry magazine Arc, Bell has contributed to numerous anthologies, among them Ark of Ice and Nova Scotia: Visions of the Future, both edited by Lesley Choyce. In 1981, Bell and Choyce co-edited Visions from the Edge, one of the earliest Canadian SF anthologies.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: J.J. Steinfeld

poetry, satire, horror, dread, fantasy, Canadian writers

J.J. Steinfeld harkens from PEI, where he chases his muse. Photo by Brenda Whiteway

Happy New Year’s, everyone. The year, as is every day, full of promise and possibility. I fell behind in finishing all the Tesseracts 17 interviews before the old year ended. But the good thing about books and stories is that they don’t go bad. Without further ado, I bring you J.J. Steinfeld.

CA: “Unwilling to Turn Around” speaks to that dread that horror movies build on. It’s a very human feeling. Why do you think it is we sometimes don’t want to see what’s following us?

Whether it is in the dark of night or in the darkness of an wavering mind, when we are going through unfamiliar or unchartered terrain, physical or psychological, vulnerability of one’s body and senses became amplified, more apparent,  and perhaps we are frightened to confront something following us that might  be strange and out-of-place, and potentially dangerous. In a frightened state, seeing something we may not be able to thwart or cope with, makes confronting our fears all the more potent.

CA: Your piece speaks to a very human part of us, yet is also as a sly, light note, make it more satirical than horrific. Why did you choose this angle?

There is a fascinating world just outside our everyday reality and comprehensible definitions, and that world is often mired in the absurd and the incomprehensible. Attempting to confront or chart that absurd reality pulls me strongly to the satirical as to the horrific.  In the attempt to either deal with or break free from the absurd and the incomprehensible, the satirical somehow becomes a little more muscular than the horrific.

CA: Would you rather know what lies ahead, no matter how wonderful or terrible, or you would prefer the surprise, no matter the outcome?

I would prefer to be wandering in the cinematic land of surprise and infinite possibilities,

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Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

rather than see the film’s ending beforehand, especially if the special effects tamper with my sense of the absurd and wonder and baffling existence.

CA: What do you think is your most effective tool, or technique, when it comes to writing poetry?

 I don’t know if I have any effective tools or techniques for writing poetry, unless you want to count lively synapses and a curious psyche as creative tools.  Actually, it’s more a strategy of speed, that is, going outside and walking quickly after my sometimes elusive and too often mischievous and cantankerous Muse. The attempt to grab hold of that fleeing Muse, whether the attempt is successful or not, often leads to new ideas and the start of a poem, which will be developed and written when I get back to my hidden-away writing room.

CA: What other projects do you have in the works?

I’m always working on something creative, whether it’s poetry or fiction or plays… My imagination tends to bounce from one creative “project” to another and after a period of time, I start to gather together creative pieces that adhere to my synapses and psyche and put them together into a collection or then attempt to find someone who might want to put on one of my plays. Currently I have two short story collections and a poetry collection, products of my bouncing imagination, that are looking for publishers, and several scripts in search of a theatrical home. As I wait to hear from publishers or theater companies, I polish up and tinker with the contents of these hoping-to-see-the light-of-literary-day manuscripts and stage plays.

 Fiction writer, poet, and playwright J. J. Steinfeld lives on Prince Edward Island, where he is patiently waiting for Godot’s arrival and a phone call from Kafka. While waiting, he has published fourteen books, along with five chapbooks, including Forms of Captivity and Escape (Stories, Thistledown Press), Disturbing Identities (Stories, Ekstasis Editions), Anton Chekhov Was Never in Charlottetown (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Should the Word Hell Be Capitalized? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Curiosity to Satisfy and Fear to Placate (Short-Fiction Chapbook, Mercutio Press),  Would You Hide Me? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), An Affection for Precipices (Poetry, Serengeti Press), Where War Finds You (Poetry Chapbook, HMS Press), Misshapenness (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), A Fanciful Geography (Poetry Chapbook, erbacce-press), and A Glass Shard and Memory (Stories, Recliner Books). His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, in every Canadian province and internationally in fifteen countries, including in Tesseracts Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen, and over forty of his one-act plays and a handful of full-length plays have been performed in Canada and the United States.

 

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dominik Parisien

fantasy poetry, speculative fiction, myth, death

Dominik Parisien tells a tale of magic, madness and mystery.

CA: “My Child Has Winter in His Bones” has the three Ms: magic, mystery and madness. Do you think there is a fine line between true madness and magic?

For me, the poem has a great deal to do with grief, which is a powerful form of madness in many cases. That being said, in this day and age, “madness” and “magic” almost feel like two gradients on the same spectrum, in that they’re both used to qualify things we can’t properly understand, albeit one is viewed as negative and one as positive. If something feels irrational, irregular, we call it mad. If it feels joyful, overwhelmingly special, we call it magical. And what’s magical to one person can be utterly mad for another, and vice-versa.

CA: The climate has been said to play an integral part to the Canadian mindscape, though that could be said of other places as well. Here, you use a different way of personifying winter. Would you say that people often see the elements in a personal or human way?

Personalization of the elements is, of course, nothing new. The Green Man, The Winter Queen, elementals, etc. I think personifying the elements was and is an effective way to facilitate an understanding of them, to explore their significance and our relationship to/with them in various ways. The fact that such personifications occur throughout time and cultures illustrates their importance to us as human beings, both as storytelling modes and as symbolic signifiers. Applied more specifically to CanLit, I think the richness of our landscape and the radical variations in our climate do lead to effective uses of personification and pathetic fallacy, and that’s it’s more or less a natural tendency given where and how we live.

CA: While you wrote this as a poem, could the tale be told as a story or do you think you would lose the

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Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

feel that only poetry can give to an image?

I find there’s an immediacy to poetry, a jarring emotionality that resonates more strongly with me than with prose when I’m writing. It isn’t always the case when I’m reading someone else’s work, but when I’m writing my emotional engagement with the subject matter tends to dictate the form. So, in this case it probably couldn’t have been a story. I’d been tinkering with the idea of conveying it as a story, but I kept being drawn back to poetry.

CA: Do you use mystery and the elements in your other works? And are you surviving winter?

I think I focus more on the numinous than mystery in my work, although mystery informs that. I think it’s a mistake to believe that we can understand the world in purely empirical terms. There are things that are unexplainable. Our understanding of the world is always informed by our personal biases, our beliefs, etc., and when we’re introduced to a view that is different from ours, there’s a bit of mystery to that. A bit of magic. And there’s always mystery around us, in one form or another. I like to explore that.

And yes, the elements do play a fairly large part in my work. Another one of my poems, “Since Breaking Through the Ice.” which was reprinted in Imaginarium 2013, explored a similar subject to “My Child…” and might be called a companion piece. One of my favorite pastimes in winter is walking on frozen bodies of water. While I lived near the Ottawa River I would regularly go for walks on the frozen river. I knew the dangers–there are drownings almost every year in the area–but I was careful, and the river and the sound of the ice hold a particular sway over me. A fascination.  As for surviving winter, I’m definitely missing snowshoeing opportunities on the river now that I live in Montreal!

CA: As a poet and a fiction author, do you favor one form over the other, or do they hold equal weight for you?
I tend to favor poetry in my own writing. Recently, anyway. I do write the occasional short story, but the poetic form comes to me more naturally. I tend to think in vignettes and snippets, and I enjoy the challenge of conveying story/narrative and character in a compact way, all the while toying with language and form. I also have a background in English Literature and have a particular fondness for poetry. I value and enjoy reading fiction and poetry equally, though.
CA: What other pieces do you have in the works right now?

I’m currently working on a poetry chapbook, comprising original poems and reprints. Otherwise, I edit poetry for Postscripts to Darkness, an Ottawa-based journal of dark and uncanny fiction and poetry. I also recently edited Mike Allen’s  poetry omnibus, Hungry Constellations, which will appear in 2014 from Mythic Delirium Books.  Finally, I work on various editing projects with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, such as the recently released Time Traveller’s Almanac from Head of Zeus in the UK and Tor Books in North America.

Dominik Parisien is a Franco-Ontarian living in Montreal, Quebec. His poetry has appeared in print and online, most recently in Strange Horizons, Shock Totem, and Ideomancer, amongst others, and has been reprinted in Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing.  He is the poetry editor for Postscripts to Darkness, provides editorial support to Cheeky Frawg Books, and is a former editorial assistant for Weird Tales.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Elise Moser

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Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

Elise Moser brings a softly undulating tale of  discovery and transformation in Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast.

CA: Your story “Sandhill” is one of transformation. Such stories harken back to the earliest myths and rituals. Were you building on that tradition?

I wasn’t building on that tradition in a conscious way, although I like the idea. Really I started off just loving the cranes and trying to think my way closer to them somehow. I think a lot of our human socialization works to separate us from animals and animal consciousness, and we would be better off, as individuals and as planetary citizens, if we could find a way to open ourselves to the animal world again. And then of course once my characters were teenagers, it became all about the struggle through transformation.

CA: Childhood is in itself a transformation until we become adults. Do you think our transformation, like a butterfly or moth’s, ends upon adulthood?

No, with possible exception of some very sad and unlucky people.

CA: Are you exploring this theme in any of your other works?

Yes, probably always, one way or another.

CA: “Sandhill” is also a tale of being one with nature, whether animals or the environment. Where do you feel humankind is in this respect? Do we need to pay more attention to nature or do we, as individuals, manage it as best we can in a modern world?

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Elise Moser explores transformation and environment in “Sandhill.”

I gave part of my answer to this question above, but I will add here that I don’t believe we are managing very well at all; on the contrary, our “managing” is disastrous. We need to pay more attention to nature — our nature, the natures of others, the nature of reality, of power, of suffering, of respect and of compassion.

CA: What other projects do you have in the works?

In September my YA novel, Lily and Taylor, which is about a transformation of a different kind, was published, and I have been busy launching and publicizing that. I have written the first draft of a play adapted from “Sand Hill.” And I am developing another project which isn’t ripe enough to pick yet.

Elise Moser has published short stories in journals and anthologies, and coedited two anthologies. Her novel Because I Have Loved and Hidden It came out from Cormorant Books in 2009. She was founding literary editor of Montreal online arts and culture magazine The Rover, and was president of the Quebec Writers’ Federation for three years. Her YA novel Lily and Taylor appeared in 2013 from Groundwood Books, just before her story “Sand Hill” hatched in Tesseracts 17.

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