Posts by Chris:
So, I’m starting a book club.
The Violet Hour Book Club will meet (hopefully) four times a year to discuss modern or classic works of LGBTQ literature. Ideally, the author will also join us (either in person, or by Skype).
The book we are starting with is The Sparsholt Affair, by Man Booker Prize-winning author Alan Hollinghurst. It’s a sprawling epic, following the lives of a group of friends from the 1940s to the modern age, exploring the changing times and evolving views of sexuality. Right now, I am on page 101 and loving it.
We’ll be getting together at Never Apart on Saturday, November 3 to discuss our thoughts, and, with Penguin Random House’s help, we’ve been able to get the author to join us for part of it via Skype (yikes!).
Paragraph Bookstore is also a partner and they have offered a 30% discount on the title for our members, which is great. Hopefully, with these partnerships in place, we can make a big splash to begin. And if this works, I’d love to turn it into a larger thing, where we can get funds to help bring the writers to town.
If you are in Montreal, and want to join us – please do!
Saturday, November 3, 2018
12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
At Never Apart, 7049 St Urbain St.
Facebook event: Click here.
Another panel I curated for last year’s Violet Metropolis, the LGBTQ leg of the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival, was this one where three Canadian writers spoke about their new books and the power and responsibility they feel in writing about the lives of the underrepresented.
Watch this video from Never Apart where Amber Dawn (Sodom Road Exit), Catherine Hernandez (Scarborough) and Casey Plett (Little Fish) speak to host Leila Marshy (The Philistine).
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Last April, I curated Violet Metropolis, an LGBTQ leg of Montreal’s Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival. It was a career highlight of mine: five events, 15 writers, working with partners like Never Apart, Air Canada, Arsenal Pulp Press, Concordia University and ACCM, the creation of a new literary prize…
One of the events we presented was a one-on-one interview and career retrospective with professor and activist Tom Waugh.
Tom was my teacher at Concordia. In the mid 90s I took HIV/AIDS: Aspects of the Pandemic, a multi-disciplinary course that was the first of its kind in Canada. I was hardly a year out of the closet, but I was hungry to become involved in my community and I wanted to learn as much as I could.
This class would change the course of my life. It started me on the road to becoming an LGBTQ activist, getting me involved in peer health education, community radio and gay pride. It is here where I met some of my great friends, where I found community and where I met one of my first boyfriends.
Tom’s teachings had an incredible impact on so many people in Montreal (and in Canada) that when he announced his retirement last year I knew I wanted to do something. I asked my friend, journalist and teacher Matt Hays, if he would speak to him on stage about his illustrious career.
You can watch that discussion, in its entirety, on the Never Apart site here.
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I never feel more like a journalist than when I am on assignment for enRoute magazine. I suppose it’s as close to what I hoped a career in journalism would be: Researching a story, pitching it to an editor, booking a flight and then travelling to a part of the word to bring back the story. Those kinds of gigs are few and far between these days.
But that’s exactly what I did last November. A big fan of drag, I had noticed an emerging trend. As RuPaul’s Drag Race continued to grow in popularity and gain mainstream attention, more and more events were popping up all over the world. Drag queens started touring and conventions were held. Suddenly, drag artists were getting on planes to perform for audiences – and I wanted to see who was travelling.
After doing my research I discovered that Austin had an international drag festival (now in its forth year). It was much different than the main convention I had heard about. Dragcon was a chance for fans to see their favourite reality TV stars up close. But Austin was about elevating the art form and providing a stage for all kinds of artists to perform. Anyone could come to town and take classes. And if you were a drag queen or king known only in your hometown, you could apply to perform in Austin and show what you can do on stage to a large audience of passionate supporters.
I was in disbelief when the story was green lit, but pretty soon I found myself in Austin meeting up at the airport with a photographer we had flown in from Denver. Matt Nager wasn’t too familiar with the drag scene, but he was a skilled portrait artist and we knew the shots we would get with him would make the feature shine. Together we left the airport and headed to a photography supply store where we picked up a large cream backdrop to photograph the queens and kings against. We met a lot of wonderful people.
You can read all about my adventures in the June edition of enRoute here.
Unfortunately, there was not enough room to include all the interviews and all the photos we took, so we created a second feature for the web. You can read that here.
One day, I hope to make it back to Austin for the festival. It was such a fun time and I fell in love with these people. The producers are hard working volunteers who truly love and respect the craft, and the performers we met were all so funny, so talented, so generous. It made me wish that I did drag.
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To raise awareness of the QWF’s new Literary Prize for Young Writers (ages 16-24), we’re asking people to share online the first characters they remember creating using #writeyoung.
The first I remember creating were a ragtag bunch of space cowboys for a series I never got around to writing called Planet of Sound. As a kid, I knew I wanted to be a writer but I didn’t know what to write about. So, I borrowed heavily from movies, TV shows and music. I got the idea for Planet of Sound from an original Star Trek episode called “A Piece of the Action,” where the crew of the Enterprise stumble upon an alien planet whose culture has been heavily influenced by a book left behind by a Starfeet officer. The book, Chicago Mobs of the Twenties, became a kind of a guidebook to life and the entire planet’s population began to act like gangsters.
I liked the idea of a society being contaminated by books, TV and music, so I thought I would do the same for Planet of Sound. In my story, a convoy of 73 people from five different planets stumble upon an abandoned Earth. The only thing left behind are the relics of our culture, and they are quickly consumed by my characters. So much so, that they abandon their exploratory mission and decide to live by the tenets of these relics on the planet below.
The first character I created was a man who called himself Gun. He was a modern cowboy from the planet Dax, and he had electric blue hair, a fluorescent water pistol (they were non-violent cowboys) and spurs on the back of his Doc Martens boots. Rounding out his crew (who were called the Strangers) were Custard (his best friend), Vixen (his love interest), Karl (her dog), Bev (addicted to Pez), Spherehead (a brute whose gun shot confetti) and Tigr (the driver). The gang travelled in a van that had robotic horses in the back that they could fly. Their mission: to party!
Next, I created a gang for them to butt heads with. These were space pirates who sailed the sky in a vessel that looked like a pirate ship. At the helm was Pox (who had a rooster on her shoulder, instead of a parrot), Weasel (the lookout), Webra (who had a bedazzled eye-patch) and Earthworm (who wore a blue beard).
And that wasn’t all! There was also a royal gang (who played the roles of king, queen, knight and jester), monsters (who role played in Halloween costumes) and beachers (who surfed and played volleyball). And there were bad guys too: authoritarian figures who studied fascist handbooks and dressed like state police. They wanted to bring everyone back to their home planets and created a swarm of robotic space sharks that would attack the cowboys and pirates.
It was a lot, I know. And it’s all over the place and there are crazy plot holes (I only wrote 30 pages), but I had so much fun creating this universe that these 73 lived in. It was probably the first time I used my imagination in a concrete way. And even though I didn’t know how to tell the story, how to develop their characters or build a plot, I still loved spending time with these characters who existed only in my head. And it was here I discovered the thrill and power of creativity.
So, in celebration of their potential, QWF has created the Literary Prize for Young Writers. Are you one? Do you know someone who is? Deadline to submit is June 15. Read more about it here.
And what about you? Who’s the first character you remember creating? Share it online using #writeyoung.
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