LUminaries: The Power of Popular Fiction

On October 4, 2012, I attended the first of Laurentian University’s new season of the LUminaries readings series, held at the Living with Lakes Centre (LwLC).  The theme of the evening was the power of popular fiction, with authors John Forrest, Scott Overton, and Mark Leslie.

The first thing to note is that the LwLC is beautiful.  It was built with the landscape and the environment in mind, using a lot of natural or reclaimed materials, a green roof, and wonderful views of Ramsey Lake on the shores of which the centre stands.

The parking was a bit of an issue and I understand the reasons for this.  The builders wanted to encourage a more environmentally sustainable mode of travel, such as walking, cycling, or public transit.  Sadly, this would only work for individuals who work and/or live in the immediate university area.  The room in which the reading was held has a capacity of about 60 I believe.  There’s no way the cars of 60 attendees could fit into that wee parking lot.

This is unfortunate, because it makes the site unattractive for larger events where attendees from off-campus might want to participate in numbers.

This year’s LUminaries was co-sponsored by the English department, through Laurence Steven, the big squishy brain behind Your Scrivener Press, and by the English Arts Club, who are also behind the university’s new literary journal, Sulphur.   

The evening began with a meet and greet/author signing session out in the foyer of the centre.  I decided to hold off on picking up one of Scott’s books until his official launch this coming Thursday, October 11, 2012, at 8 pm (also at the LwLC).  I picked up Tesseracts 16, however, and Mark Leslie’s Haunted Hamilton.  I chatted up the authors, including John Forrest, but I must confess to selling Mr. Forrest short.  The books he had for sale were of Christmas stories and I wasn’t interested or yet in the mood for Christmas.

Laurence Steven began the reading more formally with a brief talk on popular fiction, its attraction, and its denigration in the literary/academic community.  Then he called John Forrest to the podium.

John was an educator and principal in his past career, but then turned his considerable talents to writing.  One of his claims to fame is that he’s had eleven stories published in various Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, three in the one about hockey.  That’s what he started with, his recounting of the ’72 Summit Series from the perspective of a young teacher working the sporting event into his teaching unit.

He then read part of a story from his story collection entitled Home for Christmas, about a WWII bomber tail gunner and his struggle to get home for Christmas.  Finally, he pulled out his first published short story, a humorous tale about purchasing condoms pending his vasectomy.

John’s first Christmas short story collection, published by YSP last year, has gone into three printings and was sold in Home Hardware stores as well as online and in book stores.  Home for Christmas has already sold out its first printing even though it hasn’t formally been launched yet!  John was dropping off boxes of his book to a couple of the local Home Hardware stores this week, so look for them in the Christmas home decor section.

Next, Scott Overton took the podium, and read three excerpts from his new novel Dead Air.  Without giving too much away, because I am going to blogging more about Scott in the next week or so, his novel is a thriller about a morning radio host in northern Ontario who has a strange dispute with a caller to his morning show and subsequently finds a hand-written threat on his desk.

Several possible love-interests, a snow mobile chase, and car trouble on a cold and stormy night are among the thrills in Dead Air.

Then Mark Leslie read a humorous horror story about what it might really be like to be Frosty the Snowman and some of his poetry from his collection One Hand Screaming.  He also spoke about his experience at editor for Tesseracts 16.  He’s never cracked the anthology as a writer, but lost his “Tesseracts” virginity at 16 🙂

As you can see from the picture, Mark is a very animated presenter and performer, changing his voice for the various characters in his stories.

At that point, there was an intermission after which there was to be a Q&A session.  Unfortunately, it was what I like to call a “school night” and I had to get home to complete my interview responses for Brian Braden and Underground Book Reviews and then get to bed so I would be marginally coherent at work on Friday.

I’m sure it was a fantastic second half and I’m sorry I had to leave.

If anyone who was there would care to fill in the blanks in the comment section, please do so!

More randomness from which creative connections might arise

Good afternoon!

I wanted to post these ramblings separately from my post regarding the Luminaries reading.

The power of an awesome haircut

I have to set this one up a bit. A number of years ago, the best stylist I’d ever had moved out of our area of town.  I made the attempt to support her by traveling out of my way, but life got increasingly hectic, and I just couldn’t keep it up.  I went to one of the local places, but the one good stylist there went on maternity leave, and then always seemed occupied when I went in for a trim.

Last year, I decided to get “chunky” bangs.  This was fine, until this year and several haircuts later, each by a different person, I decided that I wanted to grow them out.

I have no pictures of this hairy period, but I looked like hell.  My two increasingly lengthy chunks flipped out and looked like a couple of fuzzy horns.  I knew only time and patience would fix it and determined to wait the horrible hair out.

Then, a few weeks ago, my mom told me that Diane (the awesome stylist) had sold her business, and set up in her basement, once again in the south end of Sudbury.

At the time, I was overwhelmed at work and at home and not in the take action mood.  This past week, however, I worked a lot at “letting go” all of those things over which I have no control.  It’s been a very good week.  So yesterday, I made an appointment with Diane.

I knew it would life a weight from my shoulders–long hair is surprisingly heavy and you never realize just how heavy until it’s cut away–but I had no idea how good it would feel, and how lovely the result.

This was the result 🙂

Diane is a consummate professional.  She knows her business and she doesn’t mess around.  She asks, like all stylists, what you want, but then she sets to and you’re in her hands.

Those hands are skillful.  They inspire confidence.  Every snip is purposeful, and she really approaches a haircut as a piece of art.  It was wonderful to be able to trust someone so completely for a while.

The result was two inches shorter, layered artfully, and Diane even straightened my hair, something I never take the time to do myself.  It felt considerably lighter too.

Really, it was just what I needed, even though I didn’t know it.  Funny how that happens.

Mel is happy.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Larry Crowne

Mentioned last night when I logged off that I was going to watch Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and I have to say that I was disappointed.

Though more faithful to the comic (Ghost Rider can come out in the day), the story wasn’t all that compelling.  Nicholas Cage was looking very much like he didn’t want to be there, and his transformation sequences were entirely too drawn out.  With respect to that, he ended up sounding half the time like his character Big Daddy, from Kick-Ass, in my opinion, a much better character and performance, and something that hearkens back to some of his early, quirky roles.

I like the quirky.

Fast forward to this morning and Larry Crowne.  While I missed the beginning, I was immediately on board with Tom Hanks and his portrayal of a middle-aged man having to start over.

I loved the characters.  Julia Roberts as the long-suffering college teacher and spouse of a porn-addicted writer, so-called, was awesome.  Unfortunately, the chemistry between the two leads left something to be desired.  Hanks often ended up looking at Roberts like she was insane.

Still, I enjoyed it a lot more than the second Ghost Rider.

The sounds of fall

This morning wasn’t a quiet Sunday morning.  It’s rarely quiet around here: I live on a busy street corner where a lot of traffic passes.

But this morning, I was struck by the sounds of fall.  In the Carolina Poplars across the street, chickadees and tardy starlings chirped and chittered.  I listened to the leaves falling.  It was amazing.  Over the noise of the traffic and the sound of the birds, I could hear each leaf fall onto the bed of them at the foot of each tree.

Last night was the first night that the temperature fell below zero (degrees celsius) so even though the wind was still, the leaves were falling.  Time has come.

Today, I finally gave over and put the furnace on.  Tomorrow, the winter clothes come out of storage and the tank tops go into hibernation until spring and the Hallowe’en door decoration comes out.  Tomorrow is also our (Canadian) Thanksgiving dinner.  Looking forward to some time with family.

Look for my post on the LUminaries reading series later today.