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Last night, I attended the Fugue launch party… and didn’t last long. In a fully-lit room at the library, with no cash bar, and a rows-of-chairs-facing-the-podium setup, here’s what happened, as it happened:

Am at literary launch party. Am grossed out by couple two rows in front of me. A man is rubbing his girlfriend’s back with one hand. She is wearing one of those shirts that close with a clasp at her neck, revealing a teardrop-shaped outline of skin on her back. He started out just sort of tracing the skin inside the teardrop with a thumb. It seemed affectionate, just a little erotic. Then he was rubbing her back with his whole hand. Now the hand is going through the opening and under her shirt. Gross – we all know now you two are gettin’ it on later (and possibly just before this, too), but could you at least save the going UNDER the shirt for when you two are alone?

The guy just behind them moved seats (to avoid the spectacle?) As I write, his hand is still moving around, still moving under her shirt. I wish she’d slap him off. Gross. Even if he doesn’t actually undo that button, I’m out of here.

When I looked over again, the guy who moved seats had left the room altogether. The gropers were right in my line of sight, making it very hard to look at the reader and concentrate on hearing her story. The groping just got worse. He was fingering the clasp and straining at it with the flap of skin beween thumb and fingers (so they are opposable after all). Then the hand was reaching through the hole and rubbing her neck.

I put on my jacket and held my bag, ready to bolt the very second the reader finished reading her story. A little PDA is normal for couples who are just getting together. But if y’all can’t keep your hot little hands off each other long enough to be around other adults for awhile, just stay in bed instead of subjecting us all to the half-time show between touchdowns.

By the way, organizers of literary events, please have more readings in bars and cafes, preferably with low lighting and delicious drinkies. Aubyn, you are right on for having the launches for Memewar at the Railway. See you July 10.


This week, my shiny, sparkly classmates and I received our official Print Futures diplomas. Some chose to wait for theirs in the mail while the rest of us showed up one last time in order to don black gowns (but no mortarboard hats?), march in a procession, listen to sappy speeches, and walk across the stage as our names were read. The stylish and articulate Melanie sums it up best, actually.

Aside: It’s hard looking for work as a writer/editor – one typo in your cover letter and you’re banished from consideration. So much pressure.

I wasn’t going to go to the ceremony, or invite anyone to it, since I figure a high school and university graduation is enough with the pomp and circumstance. But Donovan convinced me I should go, and so I did. Then I discovered they were giving me some special thing called “a gold cord” for having a high GPA. I had never heard of this gold cord business before but suddenly, clueless classmates are saying things like “Now you can help me with my homework when I go back to school again.” Uh, no, I think, as my academic life flashes before my eyes.

It’s kind of a neat honour, but I can’t help thinking about the plaques and certificates collected at past graduations. These little academic distinctions mean jack squat in life, really. They make a nice moment, the recognition and parents taking pictures, but that’s all. I squirm to mention them on a resume.

My Grandpa wrote a poem about me when I graduated from high school. He wrote: “Christine may be well-educated/but she will soon smarten up.”

The 2007 edition of Fugue, an anthology of creative non-fiction by UBC Creative Writing students, is being launched this week. I bought the 2005 edition, and it’s high-quality reading, my friends. Check it out. Here are the details of the launch event, according to the Georgia Straight:

Hear from tomorrow’s authors of travel writing, memoir, and more at the launch of the 2007 edition of Fugue, the school’s creative-nonfiction journal, on Wednesday (June 13), at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library (350 West Georgia Street), beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is free and no registration is required; no word on whether there will be a refreshment stand. The last time I went to the party for this, they had it at the lit-friendly Crush Champagne Lounge. Good times.

The Vancouver Public Library has just announced their pick for the 2007 edition of One Book One Vancouver: My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. I read this book on a friend’s recommendation a few years ago, and I even campaigned for it as a selection for our own little book club (currently on hiatus).

My initial reaction to the news was “Isn’t it supposed be a book about Vancouver in some way?” But I’m swallowing my parochialism. Everyone should read this book. It’s a slim, funny, and occasionally unsettling novel that takes on big themes: Japan-America cross-cultural relations, violence against women, genetically modified foods, and industrial meat production.

Read the rest of this entry »

I just got word of an exciting “instant literature” event that is being presented by the Vancouver International Writers Festival. Vancouver Writes will bring together teams of eight participants with established Vancouver writers who will act as coaches. In 20-minute rounds of play, each team has to collaborate and create a piece of writing based on a given phrase. It promises to be fast-paced and competitive, qualities not normally found at most glacial-paced reading events.

The event is scheduled for February 23, 2007;
details and ticket info can be found at the VIWF website.

Brought to you by the fine folks at Memewar magazine, the Short Line Reading series starts January 9 at (my favourite bar) the Railway Club. In the words of the organizers:

The reading series is a free event where artists from different circles can connect, debate and collaborate. Representatives from other Vancouver magazines will also be in attendance. The night will include readings from up and coming writers, music by innovative Vancouver artists, and a presentation by an established guest reader.

The Short Line reading series is slated to run on the second Tuesday of each month until April. Come out, get some beer, and soak up the culture. They’ll be posting details as they become available on the Memewar forums page.

Teen Angst Poetry Nights used to be a weekly hoedown at the Montmartre Cafe. Unfortunately, attendance got a bit sparse, so Sara Bynoe condensed the schedule down to a few special events a year. Tomorrow night, she will be hosting a fabulous Teen Angst Retro Comedy Night. Here are the details:

Teen Angst: A Retro Comedy Night
Thursday November 9, 2006
Start time is 8 pm but get there early it is expecting to fill fast
The Annex – 307 W Cordorva
(across from Biz Books and Next to Dream)

An open mic comedic reading series where everyday people perform their embarrassing old journals, poems, songs, essays (and more), in front of an audience.

Part stand-up comedy, part poetry reading, part karaoke (in the way you go to watch people humiliate themselves) but 100% funny. Copycat shows are popping up all over North America, come and see the original.

Hosted by Sara Bynoe
Angst, Depression, Bad Rhyming

Me again: I’m still waiting for Bad Grad: The Musical!

Last night I had dreams that while I was sitting in a classroom at school, a group of boys were beating up a kid in a wheelchair with sticks. In the dream I went outside and scruffy kids were sitting all over a courtyard, waiting for the cops. A Mr. Raditch-type of principal character was walking through the crowd saying “They’re all trying to figure out how to beat the charges.”
Not too hard to figure out where such a mental scene could have come from: I attended my first Shebeen Club event last night, the theme of which was “My Life in Crime”.
The main speaker was Jeremy Hainsworth, a crime reporter. He spoke very well despite his self-confessed nervousness about public speaking and his computer battery dying only a few minutes into the talk. He talked about his experiences at several gruesome crime scenes, including his first one where several young boys had kicked a homeless man to death.
Robert “Willy” Pickton, the pig farmer and accused serial killer was a topic of discussion that was returned to throughout the evening. Specific details about the case could not be discussed because of the publication ban (Jeremy brought the official writ of the ban for show and tell). However, we could all feel the irony of the situation when Jeremy described being dressed down by the judge for allegedly violating the ban early on in the preliminary hearings while Pickton himself sat a few feet away, smirking. Jeremy will be covering the trial, on the condition that his employer pay for his psychiatric bills. Shebeen Club organizer Lorraine Murphy also shared an anecdote about meeting Pickton many years ago at an event in Gastown, and being asked out by the man! I forget the exact words she used to describe him, but said that he was very weird even back then and had a most peculiar smell about him – like “rotting steel.” According to Lorraine, back in the middle ages, the metallic smell was associated with demonic possession. Today, it is said, some schizophrenics and many serial killers (Ted Bundy’s name came up) carry such an odor.
The lecture turned into a engaging panel discussion as attendees John Daly, Global TV crime reporter, and Darlene (last name?), a former sitting Justice of the Peace contributed their stories ans asked questions. Darlene’s story about the time she was asked to help scare an eight-year-old boy straight was poignant and rounded off the evening nicely. A single father had come to her and asked for her help because his boy was stealing things every day. Fighting all her “maternal instincts” to look tough, she took the child down to an isolated area of the jail cells for a talk about crime and punishment. As it turned out, the child was stealing things for other kids to avoid getting beat up at school. She took the child back to his father, told the father to straighten out the situation, and told the boy how to contact her if he ran afoul of the bullies again. She said it made her happy that she never heard from the boy again.
After the talk several people lingered over bloody marys (the theme drink of the evening was very, very tasty – love the pickled beans) and whiskies (the Shebeen is known for its selection of Whisky and Scotch) to talk crime and crime novels. I went not knowing anyone, except for Print Futures classmate and recent alum, Millie. The people I sat with were super-friendly and talkative and I would love to run into them again at the next installment!
I had it in my mind somehow that there would be dessert (blood orange tart?), because my lamb carpaccio wasn’t terribly filling, although it was tasty. Apparently, chef Sean Heather was unable to make blood pudding a reality. All in all, the friendly vibe, themed drinks and good stories make me want to return for another round at the Shebeen.

So hungover. Upon inspection this morning, it seems that I drank half a (party-sized) bottle of Gallo Chardonnay all by myself. At least, I think I was the only one drinking the white wine last night. The husband was pretty chipper this morning, having yet again dodged the wrath of the hangover gods even though he was mixing his drinks. I’m feeling better now than I was this morning, although I’d rather not attempt long walks or solid food just yet.
Between drinking all those glasses of wine and getting the food on the table for my favourite people, I didn’t get to eat very much, or have a proper chat with everybody. It’s terrible trying to catch up with people, only to have to run off to buzz more people in, greet them, get them going with drinks, keep the food coming, and find my wine glass. “Now where did I put my wine?”

But it’s fun because beforehand, I get to obsess over what fod to make, go shopping, play in the kitchen with all my toys, and then have everyone packed into the kitchen, living room and patio all having a good time. What I also like is that although some people have to be there every party whether you like them or not (yep, that crazy wife of his has been around for years; believe it or not she’s improved…) we also always seem to get a new set of friends coming in to keep things lively. It’s fun to see your old friends hit on your new friends.
Unfortunately, Levi was less than impressed with guests coming into the house. When Jnads and Melanie came, they were the first to arrive, and the dog still out, and he was all barky and growly. He’s been doing this sort of thing as we have gotten him settled in; my mom’s theory is that now the dog has a home of his own, he wants to protect it. He was very good at staying in the den by himself – didn’t bark or scratch on the door or get agitated at the noise levels. When the last few people were here at about 1 am, we opened the door to his room. He came out, saw the group standing around the kitchen, and seemed to be trying to figure out the best way to run to his safe place under the coffee table. After two attempts, he went for it, crawled under and let out this huge sigh of relief.
So everyone was gone by the sensible hour of 1 am; I didn’t even have to brandish the Michael Bolton CD kept for such occasions.
All the food dishes were empty, which I take as a good sign. Besides chips, gummi bears, and rice crackers, we served smoked salmon (made by my Dad), hummus, tzatziki and pita crisps (brushed with olive oil and baked in the oven), salsa and tortillas, cheese and crackers, asparagus wrapped in proscuitto, tomato-basil bruschetta, and plenty of non-crappy booze. The drink of the night seemed to be Crown and ginger. There’s still a whole case of beer left, and the other half of that chardonnay bottle. You guys left too early!
Let’s do it again soon.

On Wednesday night, I was dragged kicking and screaming (thanks, Maktaaq) away from my weekly ritual of America’s Next Top Model to attend a launch party for three of UBC’s literary magazines and anthologies. It turned out to be worth the trip.
The magazines were Chameleon (Children’s and Young Adult fiction), Fugue (a literary non-fiction anthology) and Wreck (fiction, poetry and drama), all of which feature work by MFA students in UBC’s creative writing department. Lovely credentialed individuals all, but I’m afraid I tuned out the poets reading in monotone. The girl across the way shot dirty looks when I giggled at the way the reader put on that expected poets’ voice that turns downward at each line so we can all sense the weight of the thought.
I just made a fishing metaphor. (silence)
As I have become very interested in creative non-fiction essays and journalism, the readers of those pieces really caught my interest. Tony Liman read from “Mountain View”, a seamy-underbelly-to-the glamour-account of working at the famous Chateau Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. He didn’t name it, of course, although the pseudonym “Mountain View Hotel” does remind me of The Overlook. Intentional? No idea.
The last reader of the night (I’m afraid her name escapes me) got the whole room choked up with “Push Me Pull You”. The essay told of what life with her young daughter is like, a girl who was abandoned at one week and spent the first year of her life in a Chinese orphanage. It was about loving something that is destructive and angry, yet loving and energetic and impulsive. It was beautiful.
When the readings had finished, I bought a copy of Fugue and I bolted outta there to catch the cruiser with the rest of the losers. Caught the Seabus with 43 seconds to go on the clock, got home and enjoyed Tyrant Banks’s addictive show sans commercials. God – it looks hard to wear clothes and walk while someone takes your picture.

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