December 3, 2017

Interview with Puneet Dutt, author of The Better Monsters

Puneet Dutt is the author of The Better Monsters, her debut collection of poetry published by Mansfield Press, 2017.  Dutt's past work includes the chapbook PTSD south beach (Grey Borders Books), which was a Finalist for the 2016 Breitling Chapbook Prize. Her poetry has been published in a number of journals and in Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. She is an editorial board member at Canthius and a creative writing workshop facilitator with the Toronto Writers Collective.


A commentary about your poetry collection is that it "negotiates[s] the cultural complexities of politics, violence, and war in the new century, and explore the lingering effect of racism and the ideas of borders, belonging, and home in North America and beyond." 

Indeed, starting from Speak American to Throwing Stones, the poems movingly recollect memories of growing up in the US and the internal and external struggles that are experienced. Could you speak more to how you shaped the narrative of this collection?

I think the shape of the narrative first started to form itself around the series “Cider and Whiskey in Hotel Rooms”. I had started researching experiences of military and non-military personnel who work abroad for the government, and then a richness of their voices, stories and narratives began to come together to form that work. A blend of those voices and the research first grounded the collection, and then the experiences of migration and immigration. A common thread of violence tied it all together.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on to inspire your writing?
I never intentionally took any physical journeys to write this book. The geographical locations and places both mental and physical all came from past stories shared by a number of voices who were willing to share them. Additionally, my experiences first as an immigrant from India to America, and then from America to Canada were also incorporated. But it was the way in which Asian bodies moved in different parts of the world, why and what they left out during our talks or research was what interested me more. The ideology of a place, such as the idea of India is mentioned in a quote by Nehru, how military and civilian government personnel work abroad and how America deals with them when they return back “home” and the immigrant experiences of my network were all ideas I became interested in.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I first immigrated to the U.S., I had to take ESL classes in public school. I was taken out of standard classes with the rest of my cohort, and tucked away separately in a basement room. We would repeat words until we memorized them. I realized that unless I learned to speak the language of the country I was in, I would never be able to communicate effectively, and thereby, have no power of my own. Language and reading and writing became an obsession after that.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

There are no intentional or metaphorical “secrets” in the book. The readers will interpret the work for themselves, and understand it as they would want to. But in mentioning secrets, a number of stories, experiences and voices either held back information, shared items off-the-record or certain sections or whole poems were redacted. What interested me were the silences marked by these voices. How they chose to skip, rush through, or leave out certain things. That is why this worked well as a book of poetry rather than non-fiction. I became aware that the form of poetry in the use of spaces lent itself well to this atmosphere of silence.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The editing process becomes difficult because it sometimes means deleting whole poems or sections you may love, and leaving in the ones you may not be so attached to. In the end, you realize it’s for the best, and the work is polished in a way that you as a writer could not have done alone.

How long on average did it take you to write this collection, from conception to publishing it?
Over three years. Some of the earlier concepts formed the body of my chapbook, PTSD south beach, where I was initially exploring ideas of violence, terrorism, and speaking to military personnel. From there, another year of writing this manuscript and then another year between when it was accepted by Mansfield Press, and editing it for publication.

Have you ever written fiction? What are the differences when you shift from one to the other?
I do write fiction, although not as much as poetry. The mind shift is intense. I can’t work on both genres simultaneously. In fact, after this, I hope to begin on fiction again. The differences start with what I read. When I’m writing poetry, I can only read poetry, and when I’m writing fiction, I can only pre-read fiction. Pre-reading fiction because when I’m writing fiction, I can’t be distracted by anything else. Although with research, I can read non-fiction at either time. Poetry is a working person’s best friend. It allows me to work for short bursts of time, without the dedicated long hours in the day. Fiction requires a daily ritual and longer hours, which I did not have the time to put in. But with my upcoming leave, I intend to use my time wisely.

You're a working professional. How do you weave in time for your own writing? What's a day like for you as a writer?
When I was writing this collection, I had the privilege to work with a writer’s collective that would meet regularly. While nothing from those sessions was published in this book, it helped me to extend out of my comfort zone and not work entirely alone. I had a chance to workshop items I worked on at home, and I was exposed to writers I wouldn’t have otherwise engaged with. Since this collection has launched, I’ve been devouring books again, and taking time off from writing just read for pleasure. But starting in December, I intend to use my mornings, as most writers of fiction I know do, to write. The only way to write while working is to carve out an hour or two before the workday starts. I wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise. That means, waking up at 5:30 a.m. everyday and writing for an hour. Fiction will require much more time.

You are a Mentor and Workshop Instructor for TWC’s Write On! Program at the Toronto Public Library. 
What does mentorship mean to you? How do you nurture writers? 
Mentoring writers started out from my own personal frustration. I have never been able to connect with anyone to mentor me. Any opportunities for these extended ongoing relationships or connections were shut down very early on, or weren’t a good fit. And sadder still, the reluctance I tend to get is from women-identified writers. It’s the change I want to see in the world, particularly for people of colour. I want to provide what I never had. A mentor is anyone who reads the writer’s work, provides feedback or edits, connects the writer to publishing opportunities and other writers, editors and those in the community without expecting anything in return. In the last workshop, I met a wonderful writer who went on to apply to the Banff Centre, and has now returned with new work. I continue to check on her to ask if she is still working, connect her to publishing opportunities, and meet with her to keep up our relationship. It’s been extremely rewarding. But on the reverse side of it, the one receiving the mentorship should believe in themselves. TWC workshops instill this in every person, that everyone is a writer. Also, it’s not “if” but “when” you publish. I like to reinforce that when we speak.

What's your next writing project? Can you give us an idea of it?
I tend to lean towards writing and reading speculative fiction, so the next work is possibly a speculative novella. It’s a work in progress, so nothing is firm yet.


Do you have an author you would like to recommend for an interview with ACWW? Please send them to director@asiancanadianwriters.ca

November 9, 2017

A Workshop Series with CE Gatchalian

ACWW is pleased to have CE Gatchalian present a two-part workshop series on creating literary works about identity.  Whether it be racial, cultural, sexual, gender, ability, etc. or any combination of the above - can be challenging. Is one writing for a general audience, or a specific/niche/target one? What negotiations, if any, take place when writing about a minoritized experience for a general audience? Are there "compromises" that are inevitable? Is "apolitical" art possible, or is all art inherently political? Are questions about compromise and negotiation even necessary?

Current Kogawa House Writer-in-Residence C.E. (Chris) Gatchalian will lead discussions on these questions in two one-hour workshops. As a queer-identifying, racialized artist, Chris wrestles with these questions on a daily basis. The first workshop will be a discussion led by Chris on the above issues; in the second workshop, participants will be free to share and receive feedback on works-in-progress, if they choose.

Workshop 1: Sunday, December 3, 1 pm
Workshop 2: Sunday, December 10, 1 pm

About CE Gatchalian

The author of five books, Filipino-Canadian author C. E. Gatchalian was born, raised and based on the unceded traditional lands of the Coast Salish People (Vancouver). His plays, which include Falling In Time, Broken, Motifs & Repetitions and People Like Vince, have appeared on stages nationally and internationally, as well as on radio and television. The winner of two Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards and a two-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, he was the 2013 recipient of the Dayne Ogilvie Prize, awarded annually by The Writers' Trust of Canada to a Canadian LGBT author of merit. He is currently Writer-in-Residence at Kogawa House, where he is working on a non-fiction manuscript.

October 30, 2017

"From Far And Wide" Inaugural Gala


The Pacific Canada Heritage Centre – Museum of Migration (PCHC – MoM) Society is a non-profit society incorporated to build a wider and improved understanding of Canada’s history and growth through intercultural explorations of historic and current trans-Pacific immigration.  Its mission is to establish a Museum of Migration at a site of historical significance for Canadians whose families first arrived in Canada through its western portals, and to create a supporting national research network for an interdisciplinary and more inclusive interpretation of Canada’s history.

A table for ten guests at $150 each includes a fabulous dinner and dessert, inspiring stories, entertainment, a lucky draw for a major prize, dancing, and featuring our headline show with CBC Host and Comedian Ali Hassan.

Tentative programme*:

5:30 PM Registration and Networking

6:30 PM Official opening, Musqueam welcome and greetings

7:00 PM Dinner

Keynote by Mr. Deepak Chopra, CEO, Canada Post

8:00 PM Entertainment by CBC host and stand-up comic, Mr. Ali Hassan,

& the best of our community incl. a kebaya fashion show

9:30 - 11:30 PM Raffle, lucky draws, and dancing

We have been functioning as a "museum without walls" for five years, offering educational programs with partners across the country mainly through the dedicated team of volunteers based in Metro Vancouver without any formal fundraising so far. Now we would like to give you a comprehensive report and celebrate our progress at our first fundraiser -- From Far and Wide Gala -- on Saturday November 25, 2017 at the River Rock Theatre in Richmond, BC.

All proceeds will be used to advance our mandate and to realize our dream of building a physical hub where Canadians can discover and share their family histories and more.

For sponsorship opportunities, please contact any of the PCHC-MoM Board Directors, or email: pchcmom.info@gmail.com


October 7, 2017

For Immediate Release - Ricepaper's latest anthology Currents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Since its transformation into a digital magazine, the pioneering Asian Canadian magazine Ricepaper has returned with the first of many annual anthologies. Currents: A Ricepaper Anthology, dedicated to the late Jim Wong-Chu, features 25 diverse new voices from Canada and beyond as they explore the realities of being both Asian and Canadian. Among its contributors include internationally published writers like Anna Wang Yuan and Zeng Xiaowen, literary editors Do Nguyen Mai and Jasmine Gui, Journey-prize nominated author Céline Chuang, and Governor-General’s finalist Benjamin Hertwig.

With this new anthology Ricepaper plans to continue providing a place for minority voices while straddling the lines between print and digital media. This flexibility allows experimentation with new content and styles including original artwork, podcasts, and photo essays. It was made possible by generous supporters and donors through a Kickstarter campaign and goes to show how Ricepaper’s roots in activism and the community when it first started in 1994. Its commitment to diversity sees stories from not just the Lower Mainland, but also Interior BC, Eastern Canada, and abroad.

The book is now available online via PayPal and can be purchased in selected bookstores in Vancouver.

Details:

Publisher: Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop

Length: 157 pages

Price: $25

Contributors: Aaron Tang Aileen Santos Anna Wang Yuan Benjamin Hertwig Carousel Calvo Céline Chuang Cheonhak Kwon John Mokrynskyj (Translator) Hana Kim (Trans.) Do Nguyen Mai Dung Kai-cheung Nick Stember (Trans.) Hannah Polinski Emi Kodama Frances Du Helen Tran Jane Aiko Komori Jasmine Gui JF Garrard Joanne Leow Kawai Shen Li Charmaine Anne Linda Nguyen Lisa Zhang Mary Chen Raine Ling Stanford Cheung Zeng Xiaowen Alison Bailey (Trans.).

Editors: Karla Comanda Leila Lee William Tham

Artwork: Priscilla Yu

Layout: Keyan Zhang



September 24, 2017

2017 Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award - Congratulations to Karla Comanda

The Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop (ACWW) is pleased to announce the winner of the 2017 Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award for poetry.   Congratulations to Karla Comanda.  Her highly accomplished poetry "salvages family memorabilia" to unpack the complex layers of Filipino Canadian immigrant experiences. With transnational scope, she explores the fraught lines of kinship, ethnic divisions, language, politics, religion, and food. These poems traverse cities, countries, and oceans. This collection is remarkable for its well-crafted and fresh poetic language, and its courageous drive to confront the abusive legacy of the American and Japanese occupation, including the issue of Comfort Women. 

The jury consists of Fiona Lam, an award winning poet, essayist, editor, and creative writing teacher; Yilin Wang, a fiction writer, poet, and journalist who is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at UBC -- she is also the Poetry Editor at RIcepaper Magazine, and a member of Room Magazine's Editorial Collective; and Dr. Glenn Deer, who teaches Canadian Literature and Asian Canadian Studies at UBC, and has been a past jury member for the ACWW.