Friday, August 30, 2019

My Writing Day – Emily Kellogg

The man who raped me published an editorial about the “horrors of rape” in a mainstream publication. I didn’t know what to do with the anger and pain that was destroying my stomach lining, and so I decided to start a zine. The zine was a place for survivors to rant and rave. It was a place for us to hold each other’s pain. It was a place to honour our voices. It was a place of healing and of rage.

After years of silence, I started writing again out of rage. I keep writing because of community. I keep writing because through my work I reject shame.

Don’t get me wrong I’m still angry. I’m angry because of the years I spent in silence. I’m angry because I’m tired of being made to believe that my voice is worthless. I’m angry and I choose to use my anger. It drives me to fight for a better world, to take up space, to yell, and to write.

I’ve also been lucky enough to find a community of supportive writers. Their creativity and courage inspire me every day. My writing practice would not exist without workshops with poets Jaclyn Desforges and Robin Richardson, mentorship from memoirist Nicole Breit, and creative exchanges with talented writers such as Sara Patterson and Pauline Holdsworth.

I work full time in a demanding job, so my writing practice is fragmented by necessity. I write what I can, when I can. I keep an archive of bits and pieces in a Google Drive. Sometimes I’m typing on my phone while I’m on a streetcar, other times I’m editing while shoving a sad desk lunch into my face.

I don’t actually think that writing is limited to the time you spend typing. A good portion of my writing is about letting ideas and concepts percolate while I read, look at art, watch horror movies, get wine drunk with friends and yell about politics- whatever.

When I do have a full day of writing available to me, it starts with reading through all of my scribbles and finding a common theme. If nothing is coming together, I’ll leaf through old journals to see if there’s an entry, a thought, or a concept that has heat to it a something that compels me to explore it further. I like to work on my couch at home, with my papers spread out across the coffee table. I read my work out loud to my cat. It helps me to feel the shape of the words. It helps me to feel if the sentences are... reverberating in a way that creates a resonance. The cat remains unimpressed.

I’ve recently been working on a piece about the subject-object problem in philosophy, coming of age as a woman, and seeing and being seen. I started the piece after stumbling across old notes from a philosophy of mind course. I started to think about identity theory and bodily continuity as it relates to growing up and into your sexuality. I realized that a completely different piece I’d been working on about cat-calling and the male gaze was actually related to identity I decided I wanted to explore how the male gaze influenced the way I developed my sense of self. I started copying and pasting fragmented pieces of writing together, almost like it was a jigsaw puzzle.

I can do this for hours, usually while buzzed off a sugar-free Red Bull, moving around ideas and pieces of narrative, looking for unexpected connections of concept and metaphor.

After I’ve finished a draft, I let the piece sit. I workshop my pieces extensively. I edit compulsively. I experiment with different structures. When the piece is finally working, I feel it in my gut. That doesn’t always happen. My Google Drive is a storage locker of half-told stories that just don’t feel right yet. And so, I keep experimenting. I keep learning. I keep reading. I keep reminding myself to be patient, even though another part of me constantly wants to throw a tantrum like a toddler.


When all else fails say, I’ve recently been crushed by a rejection or I’m drowning in a depressive episode I try to channel the delusional confidence of my narcissistic ex who once earnestly told me that the world wasn’t ready for his writing. His work, he said, was simply too pure and unadulterated in its genius. Now, if that man could call his misogynistic word-salad “genius,” then I can certainly keep putting my work out into the world and calling it “pretty OK, I guess.”

I mean hey, whatever works, right?

Emily Kellogg is a writer, editor, and cultural policy analyst based in Toronto, Ontario. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Minola Review, Entropy Magazine, The Puritan, FLARE, and Room Magazine. In 2018, she was named one of three finalists for the carte blanche/Creative Nonfiction Collective Society prize. A selection of her published work is available at  

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

My (Small Press) Writing Day—Amanda McLeod

Writing is my passion. I’ve been an avid reader since I was young; and while I may have taken the long way to becoming a writer, now that I’m here there’s nowhere else I can see myself. It’s been a complicated journey, but I still remember that rush from my first acceptance – where I was, when, and who I was with. In that moment, being a writer became possible. I’m even later to writing poetry; once again, I took a wild and unpaved road to get there, but once I arrived I fell completely in love with it. Now, here I am, publishing stunning poetry chapbooks with the most incredible small press, Animal Heart Press, under the guiding hand of my fierce EIC Elisabeth Horan. What started as a submission developed into a mentorship and then exploded into blossom-covered tree of friendship. Working with Elisabeth at Animal Heart has opened my eyes to what’s possible, and I am a stronger writer in every facet of my work because of it.

Recent talks with colleagues have returned time and time again to the way creatives value their time, and how we can protect it from a world that places increasing demands on us. For me, writing and editing is catharsis and I can’t imagine a day going by where I didn’t do something with words. Even if everything goes awry and I only manage a few minutes, the effect is instant; I’m calmer, more focused, my breathing slows. The world presses in, of course, but I fight hard to safeguard that precious time that lets me draw the strength I need to get through everything else.

There are probably as many writing routines as there are hours in the day, and different writers swear by different ones; whether it’s rising at a certain time every day, doing things at a particular time in a particular order, or hitting a certain number of words. I find this approach impossible – an inordinate number of spanners get thrown in my works – but a loose framework for my day might look a bit like this…

I’m hauled out of bed by hungry creatures (children, dogs, or cats) between 7:30 and 8 every morning. I’m usually awake before then, and communicating with my wonderful partners in press – we talk about our press projects, what we need to get done to drive them, other things we’re working on. It’s tricky being on opposite sides of the world, but we make it work beautifully. I manage the task of getting the MiniMcs fed and out the door on time, something which makes me eternally grateful for being a strong organiser. Once everyone is where they need to be, I breathe and start my own day.

I’m an active person and will either hit a CrossFit class or take my dogs on a long walk. I’m fortunate to live near some wonderful outdoor spaces and I like to enjoy them as much as I can. After an hour or two of moving, I head home for coffee and a block of time in my creating room.

No, it’s not an office, or a study. It’s my creative space and I treat it as such – it’s a room where I can write, read, paint, sculpt, draw, daydream. I often like to work in silence, but will occasionally pop on a nature soundtrack – nothing intrusive, just a little background noise. I cannot write to music – I find it too distracting. I also have an odd tendency to write down the lyrics without realising! When I settle in to creativity, I’ve got dogs or cats or sometimes both gathered around me, dozing. It’s a delightful sensation.

I sit, immersed in my task, for a few hours, breaking for lunch and perhaps a hot drink. An alarm is set so I don’t forget my afternoon duties, and from 3pm onward my time is consumed with pick ups, drop offs, homework, dinner, stories and hugs. Once the MiniMcs are off to bed, I tend to the necessary tasks that make tomorrow possible and then settle down to reading, writing, chatting with my husband, or very occasionally a movie. Then I head off to bed, where I try and sleep (I struggle with insomnia). Little quirks in the weather always draw me in. I mean, what writer can resist watching the fog swirl under the streetlights at two in the morning?

Amanda McLeod is an Australian author and artist, living in the Australian Capital Territory with her husband, children, and a menagerie of dogs and cats. Her writing has appeared in Ellipsis, Fevers of the Mind, Tiny Molecules, and elsewhere. She is the managing editor of Animal Heart Press, and loves the quiet. Connect with her on Twitter @AmandaMWrites or through her website

Sunday, August 25, 2019

My (small press) Writing Day : Carolyn Bennett

10:30 a.m. Peter, my spin instructor, pats down his cycling shorts. I can’t help but watch. I don’t know what he expects to find in his spandex. Then he rummages around his gym bag. Seven of us are leisurely pedalling, waiting for an opening tune. Peter stands and rubs his jaw. I catch his glance, and he comes over to me.
“Do you have any music on your phone?”
“Yeah, but. I’m not sure if it’s --
“Great, thanks.”
He takes my phone and plugs it into the sound system.
I’m feeling embarrassed about my tunes. What do they say about me? What if no one likes them? What if people think I’m a freak, or worse, a relic?
I never realized how much Kraftwerk I have on my phone. A preponderance of electronia.
After the class, a spinner compliments me on my playlist. He’s German, though.

1 p.m. I put my earbuds in and go to my favourites. BBC Radio 3. Lunchtime Concerts is usually reliable, nothing too atonal, usually chamber music. Debussy. Schumann. Or sometimes I’ll go for In Performance, and full on orchestration. Bach for a brain massage. Beethoven for edification. Mozart for flight. The BBC hosts are ideal companions – disembodied. They are on a frequency other than the voices in my head. 8-track is not dead; it runs between my ears. I need this sound fortress.

1:10 p.m. How is imagination expansive and contained at the same time? I should ask a physicist, or Thomas Pynchon. Does he have an email address? Is he still alive? I wonder what William Shatner is up to these days?  He’s not dead. Abe Vigoda is, finally. I hope the conspiracy theorists are happy.

1:20 p.m. At the refrigerator, rummaging for sustenance. I stand and rub my jaw. Should I ask my neighbour if she has any food in her fridge?

1:35 pm: The act of writing is antisocial. The final product is another matter. Isn’t it?

5:30 p.m: I punch my own clock, hard. I feel concussed. Nothing that a cup of tea and veg curry can’t fix.

11:30 p.m: Without spin class and Peter ramping up my internal generator to pump through the blood-brain barrier, I would not have had quite as good a day in my mind. A subterranean world needs to be fed with things other than daily life and CBC News.

3:50 a.m: I’m frightened about the release of my debut novel. What does it say about me? What if no one likes it? What if people think I’m a freak, or worse, an interloper? Help me, Abe Vigoda.

Writer, playwright and comedian Carolyn Bennett cut her teeth performing at Yuk Yuks and hasn't stopped bleeding since. Selected TV credits include This Hour Has 22 Minutes, CBC COMICS and Chilly Beach. Produced plays include Mixed Media (CBC Radio) Pure Convenience (CBC Radio), Runtkiller, The Short List, Hitler's Ass, Canis Familiaris, and Sick Kids Wanna Talk To You. She wrote and performed in the solo show Double Down Helix at the 2018 Kingston Storefront Theatre Festival. She won the 2013 TIFF Studio Screenwriting Intensive Jury Prize for her feature comedy The Mac and Watson Springtime Reeferendum Show. Bennett was part of the 2017 Thousand Islands Playhouse Playwrights' Unit where she developed the play The Monarchists.

Bennett has worked as a senior writer for government, and enjoys sharing the same name of a prominent federal cabinet minister.

She co-produces a monthly comedy show at Hirut Fine Ethiopian Cuisine, now it its seventh year. This year, she took on the task of producing Bright Lit, Big City, a new bi-monthly literary reading series at Hirut.

Please Stand By is her first novel.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Danny McLaren : Small Press Writing Day

The cracked spine of my journal. The broken power button on my laptop. The notes app on my phone. These are my writing spaces while I live in transit between Kingston and Toronto.

Over the last two years, writing days for me haven’t been exactly typical, as they’re often mixed in with my life as a student. I’m an undergrad at Queen’s University, meaning that most of my working (read: waking) hours are devoted to writing and reading for grades, rather than pursuing personal projects. I’m lucky to have found immense pleasure in my schoolwork as a gender studies major and am deeply passionate about my coursework. However, no matter the topic, it can still be hard to crank out between five to ten papers each semester. So, I try to keep it interesting. Making zines with my friends for the media component of a group project, writing, sometimes ad nauseam, about video games in any way, shape, or form I can swing it. I continue to seek to imbue each assignment with something new, something creative that resonates with me and makes work feel less like work and more like art.

It has worked wonders to keep my interest and passion alive during the long slough through university. It has helped me develop my skills as an academic writer, and engage with scholars who’s work I admire and aspire to emulate.

But what I really love is poetry. I’d consider myself, above all, to be a poet, though on average poetry is given the least of my time. I can’t plan when I’m going to write poetry. I can try- I have tried, in fact- but it doesn’t work like writing a paper. Poetry hits me while I’m trying to focus in class, or right after I’ve taken a melatonin. It held my hand through first year, and stayed by my side when Jordan Peterson spoke on campus. It’s a specter in the corner of my room, and lives rent-free in my head- in the best way, of course.

I write in bed mostly, whatever ‘bed’ means. My parents house in Toronto, my residence room at Queen’s, the home I new share with three friends in Kingston. Poetry isn’t picky. It happens when I’m physically comfortable and emotionally charged.

I wrote one of my favourite poems in first year of university. It was after I tried to see a counselor at student wellness, only to be informed that they were closed. I went back to my room, climbed into bed, and cried. And then I wrote. When no one was able to help with my hurt, I wrote instead. About being non-binary and feeling alone. About hiding, but being far too visible anyways. About wanting to slide through the floorboards and stay there, maybe forever.

It’s only been a year and a half since then. I’ve read this poem, “How to Exist in Between,” for quite a few audiences now, sometimes queer, sometimes not. And every time, I feel it deeply and fully, because it’s still real and the pain is still raw, even though I no longer feel like hiding. Since then, I’ve written more, because I’m always writing in some way or another. I’ve written about euphoria, about loving my gender and my body, even if I’m still coming to terms with them both. I write and I share precisely because I don’t want to hide anymore. I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I want my words to be read and felt and lived in, like I’ve lived in them. I want everyone to know what it feels like to be me; to be trans and non-binary, to be scared, to be brave. And to speak about it anyways.

Danny McLaren is a queer, trans and non-binary writer who uses they/them pronouns. They are an undergraduate student at Queen’s University working towards their degree in gender studies, and learning about queer, anti-racist, and anti-colonial theory. They have an interest in exploring themes related to equity, resistance, and survival in their work, and often write about their gender, sexuality, and mental health incorporating these themes. Their work has appeared in Memoir Mixtapes, ENBY Magazine, and GlitterShip Podcast and Anthology. They currently have a micro-chap with Post Ghost Press titled Sorry It’s Not better News, and are a 2019 Editor’s Pick poet in the Brain Mill Press National Poetry Month Contest. They can be found on twitter at @dannymclrn.