It’s a New Dawn!

d-motta_fuentes-quote-page-003Welcome to the post-election blog.  This lovely fall day welcomes a new chapter in our country.  The coming four years promise to be very interesting.

Robert Dahl, Sterling Professor of Political Science emeritus at Yale and the author of many widely cited books on democratic theory, “has always insisted that free elections, the most obvious criterion of modern representative democracy, must be complemented by a number of other criteria involving universal suffrage and individual freedoms.”

Individual freedoms, clearly, include the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression – the role of the writer, whether one agrees or dissents from the ruling government’s positions or ideolog(ies).  As you, gentle reader, no doubt know: “In Canada, section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”

For nearly 10 years, you and I have borne witness to the eroding of our freedoms of the press, scientific thought and expressions of dissent. As a writer, I’ve taken special umbrage with this dangerous erosion.

wdqFAP2FAzar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, argues that fiction is democracy’s oxygen. Her latest book, The Republic of Imagination, is “a celebration of the power of fiction and its importance to a vibrant democracy.”  Here are a few comments from her conversation with CBC’s Anna Maria Tremonti: 

AN: In a democracy, we need to provide our citizens with a greater education where they will fulfill their passions and the meaning that they want of out of life and not simply making money….Just take the simple fact of voting….If our children, if we do not have enough knowledge, if we do not know about our country, what it was based on and if we do not know what we want of this country–take history, take fiction out of our curriculums (sic), out of our public spheres, how can we vote for the kind of a person who would be good for us and for our country?

AMT: You write that in Iran you discovered that you need democratic imagination in order to have individual rights and the right to free expression.

AN: What is it that the non-democratic state first of all targets?…women1-ken-saro-wiwa-300x225, minorities, culture.

AMT: In fact, how many times have we seen in history people burning books, jailing the authors, jailing the playwright, those are the people they shut away….

AN: It is because when we are deprived of every respect for humanity, when we see the worst actions that human beings do to one another we instinctively turn to the best that humanity has to offer and that is the works of the imagination….

AMT: Why do tyrants understand the dangers of democratic imagination more than our policy makers appreciate its necessity.

AN: Because it’s so immediate. Because of the fact that as soon as you come to power, who is it that is not saying what you want them to say? Who is it that gives voice to your enemies?….But that is why they hate it, because they can’t control [writers, the press].

Let us hope that starting forth on this new day, Canada’s new government will not muzzle the press or our scientists or underfund our artists and writers.  The future of Canada as a democracy depends on it.

 

YouthWrite® Turns Twenty: 

If you don’t already know, YouthWrite® is a camp for young writers and has been a passion of mine for 20 years.  Over two decades, I’ve seen difference it makes in the lives of the thousands of kids who have attended. Please consider donating and to passing the word about our campaign. We have some fun perks!  So past participants (or parents of YouthWriters, past or present) of YouthWrite or JustWrite, consider making a young writer’s dream come true by donating to our Indiegogo Campaign. We need your support to keep our writing camps going in perpetuity!                           Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 8.54.09 AMhttps://www.indiegogo.com/projects/youthwrite-s-roaring-20th-birthday/x/156479#/

This week’s great un-/ undersung CanLit title worth checking out:

Half-WorldHiromi GotoMelanie Tamaki is human—but her parents aren’t. They are from Half World, a Limbo between our world and the afterlife, and her father is still there. When her mother disappears, Melanie must follow her to Half World—and neither of them may return alive. Like a Hieronymous Bosch painting come to life, Half World is vivid, visceral, unforgettable, a combination of prose and images that will haunt you.

Writing Quote: “Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy – which many believe goes hand in hand with it – will be dead as well.” – Margaret Atwood, Canadian author (b. 1939)

Writing Tips:  “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” — Jonathan Franzen

Writing Prompt: Imagine you are a citizen of a society where free expression and dissent are forbidden. Write a piece in which your dissent is coded or camouflaged in your language.

Happy Thanksgiving!

giving thanksautumn-mountain-ash-yellow-leaves-natural-berry-hd

in gold and

red glory the

mountain ash greeted you this

morning as you tripped down the

stairs breathless with

designs of the

day as if all that

mattered were your

errant heart with its

arrhythmic timing and the

frantic pace of

living through ticking

ticking time except

that the mountain ash stopped you

and your eyes filled with

wonder at its

fractal gilt leaves and

bobbing red berries

in autumn’s

gold-plated

light

© 2015 Gail Sidonie Sobat

Another beautiful thanksgiving poem by Joy Harjo, “Perhaps the World Ends Here.”

This week’s great un-/ undersung CanLit title worth checking out: 

I Should be in ChainsKathy Fisher – Fisher experiments with sound – weaving audio, be it live music or ghost voices, in and around her poetry. She is a wordsmith, research lawyer, documentarian, biographer, oral historian and explorer, and always creates with attention to the ear and eye.

Writer’s Quote:Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” – Alice Walker, American author (b. 1944)

Writing Tips:  On writing a gratitude journal or keeping a gratitude list (excellent fodder for other writing):

1. Hand-write your gratitude list. The kinesthetic experience of actually writing is valuable for several reasons: First, the physical act helps imprint the feeling of gratitude at the cellular level. Also, since it is a slower process than typing, writing by hand provides more time for contemplation, which makes for a more thoughtful list.

2. Set a realistic goal. Avoid immediate collapse by starting off with a reasonable number of items. If you set out to enumerate some insane number like 50, you’ll end up including stuff that not even the most zealous gratitude junkie would list. Better to limit yourself to one good reason than to dredge up sludge from a too-deep well.

3. Fake it, if necessary. Don’t worry about actually feeling grateful for anything, especially if during your formative years you confused gloom with sophistication. Until you are consistently inclined to see the glass as half full, act ‘as if.’ In other words, start by pretending that you are an authentically grateful person and write down what this alter ego is thankful for. If even this feels like too much of a stretch, maybe you’re getting stuck on semantics. Instead of calling yours a gratitude list, title it “Hey, it could be worse” and take it from there.

from Utne

Writing Prompt:  Think about a troublesome person in your life and craft a piece about why you are grateful for that individual.

 

Bearing Witness

Refugee

Did you feel thus, Aeneas,

when you led your bedraggled fellows, your son

your wife’s ghost, trailing and keening at your back,

from burning Troy?

 

Were the sea winds as cruel,

the gulls shrill harpies above your parched faces,

desiccated bodies, mocking your woeful state

of fallen grace?

 

Did dirty coins change hands

with double dealers to deadly ferryman

who tossed you in the waves from your leaky barks

to foreign shores?

 

Were the dwellers cold-eyed

with dubious welcome parsimony’s promise

to camp you in squalor or drive you with torches

to other lands?

 

Did they weep many tears

when the child yet a toddler washed to their sands

with nothing but drowned hope and a tiny red shirt

on his small back?

© 2015 Gail Sidonie Sobat

Please see this open letter from Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres:  The Right to Flight: An Open Letter to the Leaders of Canada’s Political Parties 

 

This week’s great un-/ undersung CanLit title worth checking out: 

Noble SanctuaryScot Morison –  “A powerful novel. Set mostly in Beirut, Lebanon, during the troubled summer of 1982, it tells of Geoff Andrews`s search for Nadya Karameh, the beautiful Palestinian woman with whom he has fallen deeply in love. Thomas Dix, an American journalist, is a wonderfully cynical fixer. Pierre Haddad, a wealthy Lebanese Christian, so charming when first introduced, proves to be a soulless monster. Both are complex and credible. This is a classic quest, the story of the hero`s search for a beautiful woman and the truth, complete with monsters and other bizarre hazards, helpers and hinderers….Noble Sanctuary is a gripping, painful, and disturbing book.”

Writing Quote: “All writers–all beings–are exiles as a matter of course. The certainty about living is that it is a succession of expulsions of whatever carries the life force…All writers are exiles wherever they live and their work is a lifelong journey towards the lost land.” – Janet Frame, New Zealand author (1924-2004).

Writing Tips:  “Titles are not only important, they are essential for me. I cannot write without a title.” – Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Cuban Writer in Exile (1929-2005)

Writing Prompt“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” – Martin Niemöller