Thursday, December 23, 2010

We're Moving

We're closing 2010 by thanking you all for helping Diaspora Dialogues to make our 5th anniversary year a great success, and wishing you all a very happy new year!!

We would also like to kick off the new year by inviting you to our blog's new home:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

KAREN CONNELLY: Diaspora Dialogues Mentor in Fiction 2010

by Janice Goveas

Karen Connelly bursts out laughing when I mention how impressed I am with her mastery of three genres: poetry, fiction and non-fiction. "I was writing in all three genres when I was twelve," she says, remarkably not sounding the least bit arrogant. She simply considers herself extremely lucky to have known from such a young age how she wanted to dedicate her life.

Her stunning accomplishments are easily googled. Before she was twenty-five, for example, she had won the Pat Lowther Award for her first book of poetry, The Small Words in My Body, and the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction for Touch the Dragon: A Thai Journal. Her first novel, The Lizard's Cage, won the Orange Broadband Prize for New Writers. To date she has published nine books.

What won't come across in a google search is how down to earth she is despite those accomplishments. She speaks easily and openly about her life as a backdrop to her writing. She began writing stories and poetry at the age of ten, and makes the observation that poetry is the genre most appropriate to the emotional life of a girl. She went to Thailand when she was seventeen "because I wanted to go somewhere that was as different from Canada as possible. I wanted to go to India, but they were having political problems in the the place where they send exchange students, so I was sent to a village in Thailand, instead, which turned out to be great." Her non-fiction is rooted in the journals she kept on that trip to Thailand. Interestingly, twenty-five years later, she has yet to visit India.

In her early twenties, she became enamoured of Europe, spending time in Spain and France before travelling to and falling in love with Greece, where she owns a house and continues to spend time. She says she speaks Greek the best of the five languages she knows other than English, which include Thai, Spanish and French. She doesn't think her Burmese is fluent enough to count as a language, but she can speak it as well.

Mentoring in the Diaspora Dialogues program is part of a larger piece of her life in which she continuously mentors younger writers and instructs in Creative Writing at Humber College. She lauds the Diaspora Dialogues program for being open, community based and structured in a way that is not limiting to anyone financially or time wise. "Mentorship of younger writers is happening for free by older writers."

When I point out that some of the writers she mentors might in fact be older than she is, she responds: "Ah, but I'm a very old soul."

Monday, December 13, 2010


1) Amplifying Voices: Reaching out to LGBTQ+* South Asians

There will be a panel of engaging speakers and discussion on: History of South Asian LGBTQ+ organizing in Toronto for the past 20+ years (Speaker: Zahra Dhanani), How to better serve LGBTQ+ South Asians (Speaker: Farrah Khan, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic), Current realities of South Asian LGBTQ+ (Speaker: Shazad Hai, ASAAP)

When: Tonight December 13, 6:30-9pm
Where: Thomas Lounge, Oakham House (Ryerson Student’s Centre), 63 Gould St

2) Dead Poets Night

The Art Bar Poetry Series is proud to present the eighth annual meeting of The Dead Poets Society, with Host David Clink. Participants include: Duncan Armstrong, Domenico Capilongo, Jillian Christmas, Adebe D.A., Sonia Di Placido, Maureen Hynes, Luciano Iacobelli, Liisa Ladouceur, Lois Lorimer, Shawn McLeod, Jim Nason, Lishai, Tim Prior, David Silverberg, and Allen Sutterfield.

When: Tomorrow December 14, 8-11pm
Where: Clinton's, 693 Bloor St W

3) Plasticine Poetry

Come join us for another knockout punch of brilliant poetry featuring: David Clink, Adebe D.A., Dawn Promislow (a former DD Rising Artist in Fiction), and Rob Welch. The evening is hosted by our lovely, hilarious Cathy Petch.

When: Sunday December 19, 6-9pm
Where: The Central, 603 Markham St

Thursday, December 9, 2010

CLAIRE DAVEY: Diaspora Dialogues Emerging Artist in Drama 2010

by Janice Goveas

In my experience, it's unusual for a writer to compare Toronto favourably to London, England, but newbie Torontonian, Claire Davey, who moved here from London sixteen months ago, is adamant that is in fact true in her case.

That could, however, be due to the fact that if there is one thing that surpasses her passion for writing, it would be her passion for the outdoors. In the seventeen years she lived in London, "I would always make sure I lived close to a railway station so that I was twenty minutes away from Epping Forest," a 6000-acre open space beginning in East London. What she relishes most about Toronto is the opportunities to be outdoors in and around the city, as well as easy access to places like Wasaga Beach and Algonquin Park. An avid hiker, canoer and camper, in the short time she has lived in Canada, Claire has canoed in Ontario lakes that I had never heard of and, after our conversation, was heading to Frontenac to camp in minus two degree weather.

She also claims that Toronto is superior to London because it has more colour than grit and greyness, and more light. "I think it has something like 600 more hours of sunshine, actually, and the light right now, in the fall, is very similar to parts of Northern China."

She knows that because she lived in Shanghai for a year while doing an undergraduate degree in Chinese and Linguistics. She worked in the airline industry for several years before joining an international development charity. She came to writing in the last two years and quite by accident.

Claire and her partner were on a year-long sabbatical in New Zealand where, in the town of Te Anau, she discovered a movie theatre that had been built by a helicopter pilot to screen a film he had shot of the spectacular mountains, glaciers and lakes in which the town is nestled. It inspired her to write a film script. She first learned of the Diaspora Dialgoues mentorship program through a poster in the library, and hoped it would be an opportunity for her to workshop her screenplay - but then wrote a play when she realized the program does not include film. She was thrilled that her play was accepted to the program, and is looking forward to returning to her film script once it is done.

"All I want to do now is write."

Monday, December 6, 2010


1) Wrecking Ball Toronto #11: Now what?

On Tuesday December 7, the new Toronto City Council including 14 new city councillors and His Worship Mayor Rob Ford will meet for the first time. The night before this new era of civic governance, The Wrecking Ball presents the works of six Toronto writers who consider the question, “Now What?”

Wrecking Ball Toronto #11: Now What? creators: Judith Thompson, Jovanni Sy, Anthony Furey, Darren O’Donnell and The Torontonians, Edwige Jean-Pierre, Yvette Nolan

When: Tonight December 6, 8-11pm
Where: The Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen St W

2) Brockton Writers Series #14

This month, the Brockton Writer's Series is excited to host 11 contributors to the recently released anthology, Canadian Voices 2 (edited by Jasmine D'Costa)

Readings and performances by: R.G. Thompson, Emily Dunn, Sherry Isaac, Donna Kirk, Maurus Cappa, Maria Pia Marchelletta, Cassandra Cronenburg Hunter, Brandon Pitts, Elizabeth Carina Ramos, Jefferson Guzman, and Gemma Meharchand

When: Wednesday December 8, 7-9pm
Where: St. Anne’s Church, 270 Gladstone St

3) Book Launch: Sheilagh's Brush, Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out, Living the Edges: A Disabled Women's Reader, Singing Me Home

When: Thursday December 9, 6:30-9pm
Where: Toronto Women's Bookstore, 73 Harbord St

4) Theatre Passe Muraille presents Anusree Roy's Roshni

When: Ongoing - Saturday December 11, 7:30pm
Where: Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave

Friday, December 3, 2010

JENNIFER MARSTON: Diaspora Dialogues Emerging Artist in Fiction 2010

When I was a child, I liked to dress up. My parents tell a story that goes like this: It was the early 80s, and I was in kindergarten. My mother had an appointment, so my father was responsible for getting me fed and off to school. Instead of choosing an outfit for me, he sent me to my bedroom to dress myself while he made breakfast. When I emerged in a colourful ensemble of dresses and skirts layered over pajamas accessorized with belts and sashes and beads, my father stifled a smile.

He asked, “Are you sure that’s what you want to wear?”

I knew without hesitation that it was.

Telling stories doesn’t come easily to me. I struggle to know what to put in and what to leave out, what’s implied and what’s really part of another narrative. Knowing what to say, like knowing what to wear, gets lost among the complex constructions that dictate our adult choices: external expectations both real and projected, the difference between wanting something and wanting to want it, the proper ratio of standing out to fitting in, the effort of making all effort look accidental, and the self-consciousness of knowing how transparent the whole operation is. It’s safer to keep quiet. It’s safer to wear beige.

But caution is not a thing I want to cultivate. I don’t want to want safety, and so I write. For me, writing is a practice of stripping away those constructions and listening for what’s underneath. It’s about finding that version of a story that feels true, where the details aren’t embellishments for their own sake, but a means of illuminating what was there all along. And it’s a process of trial and error. I don’t know which scarf or word will work until I try it on.

All I can do is keep going until I hit the combination that I know is honest, so that when someone asks, “Are you sure that’s what you want to say?”, I can answer with the same certainty I had when I was four.

Monday, November 29, 2010


1) A Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Suhanna Meharchand, Andrew Moodie, and M.G. Vassanji read from Mandela’s new memoir, Conversations with Myself.

When: Tuesday November 30, 7pm
Where: Appel Salon, Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St (2nd floor)

2) Theatre Direct presents Binti's Journey

A young African girl seeks her grandmother after losing her family to HIV/AIDS

Price: $20 December 1 (World AIDS Day), $10-15 December 4

Where: Wychwood Theatre, 601 Christie Street
When: Wednesday December 1, 7pm
Saturday December 4, 4pm and 7pm

3) Book Launch - Walk Myself Home: An Anthology to End Violence Against Women

Walk Myself Home is an anthology of poetry, fiction, nonfiction and oral interviews that chronicles the ways women experience gendered violence. Edited by Andrea Routley, it contains contributions from both emerging and award-winning authors such as Kate Braid, Yasuko Thanh and Susan Musgrave. Walk Myself Home makes a powerful statement. These women break the silence.

When: Thursday December 2, 7-9pm
Where: Toronto Women's Bookstore, 73 Harbord St

4) Theatre Passe Muraille presents Anusree Roy's Roshni

When: Ongoing, 7:30pm
Where: Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Avenue