So you’re a Yog-Sothoth-worshipping cult fanatic, but you also care about your family. You want to bring forth a presence of an Elder God, since they technically...
One of video games’ most famed princesses, Princess Peach has been kidnapped at least 12 times and has likely developed Stockholm syndrome along with bipolar disorder (based...
In this illustration by Debbie Ha, we see the wonder of discovery through the eyes of Voltan, who has finally found a way to put his hyperactive...
My race to space in the Axe Apollo Contest is finally over, after 167 days with the space suit. It will likely require fumigation at this point....
I probably don’t need to tell you who lives in a pineapple under the sea, but for those interested in selecting the ideal underwater dwelling, I’ve put...
I write science fiction and fantasy in an attempt to see the stars a few kilometers closer. I’ve also tried putting a “Have Space Suit: Will Travel” ad on Kijiji, wearing a space suit for over 100 days, and shooting things with giant lasers. I’m a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. By day I make laser-based gas detectors, and live in Edmonton, Alberta.
Mark Parsons has been curled up in coffee shop corners, scratching furiously in his notebook since 2004. He has several projects on the go, including Fire & Flesh (Fantasy), The Silent Dark Pentalogy (Science Fiction), and Brothers (Non-Fiction). “Bakster’s Proposition” is his first short story.
1. This is your first short story. Compared to the epics you’ve been working on, how did you find working in a shorter medium?
MP: I actually found working in a shorter medium to be a lot harder than my larger work. I wanted to tell much more ‘story’ before and after the bookends of the finished project. I’m used to being able to waste whole chapters to immerse the reader the events leading up to more critical events in the story. I found with the shorter medium, I had to cut a lot of content in order to make the story flow properly.
2. Is Bakster’s proposition based on something you dream of doing one day?
MP: Partly. John and Kelly are both based on a blend of myself and my partner Nicola. We dream of moving to a small town some day and we’ve both wanted to start a business for a long time. If we had the money, we would certain be running a small café right now.
3. The resistance to literature in your story seems like it may have come from a personal experience. Can you describe one or two instances where you experienced such resistance, and how they affected you?
MP: The townsfolk are a caricature of stereotypical ‘Albertan’ culture. What I represent in the story as a resistance to literature, is more broadly a resistance to Liberal Culture. We live in a society that would rather pay for a jail than a school. Ideas and creativity are the future, and yet we collectively vote for a government that would see children, at the peak of their creative curiosity, educationally shoe-horned into “real work”. They are told that they can be whatever they want when they grow up – but it better be practical.
I know grown men who do not read. If it’s not a blueprint, they won’t even pick it up. How is a society made of followers supposed to adapt and diversify during economic turmoil?
4. Who has inspired you as a writer?
MP: I HATED writing as a child. 100 words? I would rather give myself a haircut with a sand-blaster! I didn’t know it at the time, but my very first influence was Sigmund Brower. I met him in the early 1990’s, and even though I held my ground on non-writing, he said something to me that day that I still remember: “I was just like you.”
Those words stewed inside me until 2004 when a scene popped into my head while I was on a walk. I ran home to write it down, and the predominate character was the start of Of Fire & Flesh, my longest running work-in-progress.
Shortly after meeting my partner Nicola, she bought me “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Working through this book, as well as the amazing support of my partner have allowed my ideas to flow a little more freely. I’m very thankful and lucky.
5. When do you expect your next project to be finished? Can you tell us a little about it?
MP: Bill Watterson famously said, “Most of us discover where we are heading when we arrive.” I add a little bit to one story, then move to another, then create an entry for a writing contest, then an article for local publications, then back to my stories. I’d like to say “maybe 2016” but I don’t want to be called a liar.
Of Fire & Flesh is a Fantasy story that centers around a coupe gone wrong that leads to a power struggle with a mysterious evil. The Silent Dark Pentalogy is a secret Sci Fi project. Brothers is based on a true story of a Fraternity President and his struggle to turn the place around.
Vivian Zenari lives, works and writes in Edmonton.
1. What is your educational background, and how has that influenced your writing?
VZ: I have a PhD in English literature with a specialization in 19th century American literature. I am sure my training has influenced my writing, though I am not sure how. Many of the writers I admire are from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; perhaps it’s more like I have tried to work in fields that reflect my interest in reading and writing.
2. Who has inspired you as a writer? Why are avant-garde authors so important to you?
VZ: These days I like Henry James (always), Flannery O’Connor, Rawi Hage, George Eliot, and the usual modernist suspects (Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton). I just finished reading Sean Michaels’s Us Conductors and loved/admired that. I like the absurdists like Franz Kafka and Nikolai Gogol and postmodernists like Don DeLillo and Paul Auster. I admire writers who take chances, I suppose. I like the idea of transcending tradition in form as well as content. As well, as a reader and writer I am a bit jaded, perhaps, so it takes a lot to stimulate me.
3. Did you have a personal interest in Dewey before you began this short story? Why did you decide to feature him in your story?
VZ: I have training as a librarian as well, and so I have been familiar with him as a figure in library studies history. I have always found him to be a hilariously awful person. Once I read more about him, my appreciation/contempt for him grew. He also typifies the mentality of the late 19th-century American (an area of history I know something about). His ambitions and upbringing put him in the right place at the right time. That aspect of American society interests me too–he is a self-made man, but he demonstrates the dark side of the self-made man syndrome: monomaniacal, overly rational, greedy.
4. What, in your opinion, are the key distinctions between literary fiction and genre fiction? In which category would you classify yourself?
VZ: I tend to think of genre fiction as formula-dependent and literary fiction as aspiring to be outside formula. I suppose I aspire to be outside formula, though I realize all writers model themselves on something, and formulas are a kind of model. Literary versus genre seems to be a useful distinction for publishers, but the term is likewise important to writers and readers, who have to work with what publishers want to give them, for better or worse (okay, for worse). It’s true, though, that some people only read detective fiction and romance fiction, some people never read anything by women writers or written before 2000. I don’t think this is good, but considering all the people writing, reading, and publishing (past and present), I see why categorization is practical.
5. What is your next writing project? Can you tell us a little about it?
VZ: I’m sending a short-story manuscript around to publishers, and I’m slowly working on a novel. I’m starting to rev myself up for writing nonfiction too: we’ll see how that goes.
Libraries are long-term storage bins of knowledge, and there is as much meaning folded behind covers as there is in the transcendental number Pi (3.14159…). In celebration of this year’s true Pi Day, (3.14.15), Brad OH Inc. and I are proud to release Between the Shelves: A Tribute to Libraries by Edmonton Writers, now available on Amazon and Createspace!
In these 11 short pieces, Edmonton authors take us on a tributary journey into the past, present and future to explore the richness hiding between the shelves. Each piece has a different take on what libraries have to offer: a source of wisdom, a place for community, and so much more. So find a quiet corner, slip between the pages and embark on a journey that will change the way you look at libraries.
As a further tribute, all proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to support the Edmonton Public Library, which won the Library Journal’s Library of the Year award in 2014.
“I ransack public libraries,
& find them full of sunken treasure.”
Table of Contents:
The Library by Timothy Fowler
Neve Uncovers the Ultimate Truth of All Things by Brad OH Inc
Bakster’s Proposition by Mark Parsons
Five Hundred Years by T. K. Boomer
The Turning of a Page by Brian Clark
Melvil Dui Conquers All by Vivian Zenari
I Will Not Let You Fall by Linda Webber
Library Lost by M. L. Kulmatycki
Learning From Your Library by Mohamed Abdi
Newcomers to Canada and Edmonton Public Libraries by Trudie Aberdeen
Reading After Hours by Hal J. Friesen
Debbie Ha did the beautiful cover.
Feel free to contact me for a signed copy! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more interviews of each of the anthology contributors, and information about the official book launch and signings at locations near you!
After the short story ‘I Will Not Let You Fall’, creating this bio has been the greatest challenge to Linda’s creative writing skills. This is her first publication, even though she has written a great deal of fiction (five short stories). Although one story did receive praise from her writing group (not ‘I Will Not Let You Fall’), another story did not receive as much. Linda’s writing career spans nine months; therefore, she is hoping to publish something else any day now.
1. You joke that you’ve written a great deal of five short stories in your bio. Was this story any different or more challenging than your previous works?
LW: I had always wanted to write a story from the perspective of a biological mother whose child has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. I wanted to write the story in first person to communicate what the experience is of these mothers. I wanted the story to be sympathetic to her and explain her thoughts and experiences, her personal pasts and her present struggles to raise her child to the best of her abilities given limited resources and lack of empathy from just about everyone including society in general.
It was difficult to capture all these various aspects, particularly the struggles of the child and that it was her doing but also make the reader empathetic to her. This is the first story I have written in first person. I chose this perspective because I wanted the reader to understand the mother and her life. However, it was difficult to show and not tell. It was much more challenging than limited omniscient, which I prefer. I will never write in first person again.
2. Where did you draw the inspiration for this story?
LW: I work on a clinic that diagnoses children who have FASD. Many people ask me how I can work with the mothers. They are blamed and demonized. I have found them to be amazingly strong and caring people who have horrendous pasts and are trying their best, with little help, to raise their children.
3. This piece is one of many in the anthology where the library’s role is not what you’d expect. Was that intentional on your part when you were creating the story?
LW: I had always wanted to tell this story. I was also trying to think of a library-related story for the anthology. They clicked. This story also reminded me of the times I took my son to the library.
4. Who has inspired you as a writer?
LW: I love writers who are descriptive with setting and character such as John Steinbeck and Annie Proulx. I love vivid writing that makes the reader feel the story. I am concerned that my writing may be melodramatic.
In this story I tried to communicate the emotional ordeal that these poor mothers go through. They seem to suspect something is not quite right, hence the search for information, but they are also in denial. Through the diagnostic process they come to a realization that, yes, indeed, their suspicions are true. The emotional burden they carry is tremendous.
5. What is your next writing project? Can you tell us a little about it?
LW: Currently, I am writing a short coming-of-age story about a girl who accidentally discovers a mystery about her mother’s past. Her mother has had two other daughters with the same name as the girl. The girl gradually discovers a series of unsettling things that lead of a final horrific tell-all. Yes, the story is also alcohol-related.
Many of my stories are based on my work as an occupational therapist. Over the years, I have seen strange and amazing and horrendous things. Some of the themes in my writing are the difficulty that people have with change and the damage that alcohol does to people and their relationships.
Linda Webber’s story I Will Not Let You Fall is featured in Between the Shelves, available from Amazon on March 14!
Brian Clark first opened his eyes to the midsummer sun in the year the TV remote and Silly Putty made their debuts. Despite these distractions, he soon formed a lifelong affinity with libraries. It is now his pleasure to contribute to this collection of short stories. Over the years, he honed his storytelling skills by preparing letters for politicians. More recently, the newsletter of the Millwoods Seniors Activity Centre has published a number of his articles, where the opinions expressed are his own.
1. How has your experience working with politicians impacted your writing?
BC: It taught me to avoid getting emotionally attached to the words I’ve written as they were always changed in some way. I think this prepared me to embrace both self-editing and that of others. I practiced writing in a way which gave the politician ‘plausible deniability’ if things didn’t turn out as expected, but could also be seen as a triumph if policies were popular. With practice, hints and half-truths became stock devices.
2. Is Becca (the protagonist in your story) based on anyone in your life?
BC: My daughter had a job at a library for a couple of years so that gave me an insight into the duties of a Page. She would sometimes tell me stories about children being left in library while a parent went to shop in the mall, forgetting the children. My daughter also maintains friendships with a couple of the other former Pages. In this story, I tried to work with stereotypes of a teenager, her parents and her boss and let that tell me how they respond to the circumstances they found themselves in.
3. You often use music and lyrics as inspiration for your work. Can you describe the role that music plays in your writing and why it’s so important to you?
BC: One of my skills, I think, is to mono-task so I don’t use background music. Music is either on or off. When it is on, I try to really listen to the piece. Sometimes it’s just a mood I pick up on, at others it’s a few words from a verse. I don’t feel obliged to stick to the songwriter’s perceived intentions preferring instead to use the work as a diving board from which to launch my own thoughts. One of the roles of the arts in general is to look at life and distort it a little. For me, music is a reservoir of these refracted images.
4. What is your educational background, and how do you think that has shaped you as a writer?
BC: I left school a couple of weeks before my 16th birthday, but 18 years later I had accumulated the paper qualifications, maturity and money to go to University. I left with some great memories and a degree in Cultural Studies. I learned to research my work and to write to a deadline, but perhaps most important of all, I developed a curiosity. In the last couple of years, I have completed 15 to 20 MOOCs [Massively Open Online Courses], including several on the history of rock ‘n’ roll. Life itself has been just as important as structured learning. I have lived on 4 Continents, although only briefly in Asia, collecting life lessons along the way. Jobs have included, hotdog vendor, Santa photographer and courier, most memorably delivering flowers on Valentines Day. These experiences serve as a bank from which to withdraw both incidents and characters.
5. Who has inspired you as a writer?
BC: It sounds mushy, but my wife, Leny, and my daughter, Brenna have edited my life for longer than I can remember. They have not only given me the freedom to pursue whatever is in the air, but also encouraged me to do so. At the same time, they have gently curbed my excesses and prevented self-inflicted disasters. Their presence in my life remains inspiring.
Brian Clark’s story The Turning of a Page is featured in Between the Shelves, available from Amazon on March 14!