Interview with ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ Author Hai Doan

Today, the Edmonton Writers’ Group is happy to announce that ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ is now available on Amazon.ca.

Edmonton: Unbound’ contains fourteen stories by twelve local authors, unified only by the common theme of their current hometown, Edmonton, AB. Ranging from simple domestic interactions, to futuristic sci-fi adventures, to deep psychological introspections, these stories take a look at Edmonton from viewpoints as different as the writers themselves. This anthology is a love letter to our hometown, and demonstrates our incredibly varied approaches to literature, and to life.

As a gesture of our gratitude, all proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to the Edmonton Public Library, which has been gracious enough to host our humble group at the Capilano branch for over a decade and a half.

Click the Image to buy ‘Edmonton: Unbound

To celebrate this release, we have an interview with one of the ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ authors, Hai Doan.

1. What was your initial inspiration for the story you included in this anthology, and how the story changed from its original conception?

Hai Doan: My goal was to write a story that was based in Edmonton and since I love riding on the LRT, it seemed natural that I would include our transit system. Plenty of people take the LRT, all from different walks of life, so I wanted to share a story from a viewpoint of one of those passengers. I enjoy light hearted comedies so it is surprising that the plot ended up being rather dark but the ideas flowed well and I just went with it.

2. What events in your background led you to want to write?

Hai Doan: When I was a child, I loved to take books out of the library and read them (and I still do). Two of my favorite authors were Roald Dahl and Gordon Korman. I especially enjoyed the books from the “McDonald Hall” series; I found the stories to be hilarious! This made me want to become an author too because then I could try to make people laugh as well.

3. What difficulties did you encounter while writing this story, other than finding the time to do it?

Hai Doan: I think the most difficult thing was probably getting started and putting some writing on the paper (or computer screen to be more accurate). Once I got started, the writing became easier. For this short story, I didn’t plan the plot out as much as I normally do and just wrote down the ideas as they came to me.

4. Are you writer that plots out all the different angles, or are you more free-form. Why do you think you write this way?

Hai Doan: I tend to plan out my stories. Actually, I would say I plan so much that I often don’t complete the story! I like to jot down notes about the plot, daydreaming about what could happen next but I have a hard time putting all these ideas into a completed work. I remember starting a fantasy genre story and I had all the main points of the plot figured out; I even had drawn maps of the world I had built. I never finished the story though. I think this could be due to the fact that I find world building and plot creation so much fun and actually writing the story can be “hard work”. I think I should take the advice of some authors and just write since the first draft is never perfect anyways.

5. What is your typical response to “writers’ block”?

Hai Doan: My response to “writers’ block” is similar to my approach for working on homework assignments. If I find myself wracking my brain for a long time with no success then I would temporary stop working on the task; I would either take a break or work on something else. I find that allowing my mind to focus on something else for awhile that once I do return to the original task that sometimes I somehow “magically” have an epiphany which makes the solution very clear.

Hai Doan’s story, “LRT Ride”, is featured in ‘Edmonton: Unbound’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.ca.

-Brad OH Inc.

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“Edmonton: Unbound- Another Anthology by Edmonton Writers”

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Here at Brad OH Inc., we are thrilled to announce the impending release of another anthology by the Edmonton Writers’ Group. Like our previous anthology, ‘Between the Shelves’, ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ features stories from twelve different local writers, this time unified by the theme of their hometown, Edmonton, AB.

Through fourteen short stories, these writers take us to places as wildly different as the writers themselves. Further, all profits from ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ will be donated to support the Edmonton Public Library (EPL), who have been gracious enough to house our humble group for over a decade and a half.

Once again, the book will be available through Amazon as both a paperback and an e-book, and will be sold by contributing members of the Edmonton Writers’ Group at live signings and events—to be announced soon.

So, stay tuned to us here at Brad OH Inc. for all the information you need. The final proofs are currently in our hands, so the full release will be upon us soon. We hope you enjoy reading this book as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it!

-Brad OH Inc.

Between the Shelves Book Signing and Interview with Author Trudie Aberdeen

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The following is an interview with Trudie Aberdeen, who appears in the Brad OH Inc. and Hal J. Friesen edited Anthology ‘Between the Shelves: A Tribute to Libraries by Edmonton Writers’, which you can now purchase here in either Kindle ($2.99) or Paperback ($12.50) copies. All proceeds are to be donated to the Edmonton Public Library System.

BetweenTheShelvesCoverThis interview was conducted by Hal J. Friesen in anticipation of the anthology’s release:

Trudie Aberdeen is a long-time language educator and social justice advocate. She is currently working on completing her PhD on the topic of heritage language acquisition. In addition, she teaches English to adult newcomers to Canada. Her academic interests include refugee education, multilingual literacy instructional practices, language conservation, action research, and language instruction for heritage language learners. Her research can be found in the following journals: The Manitoba TEAL, Multilingual Discourses, and the 9th Low Educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition (LESLLA) Symposium. She also serves as the book review editor to the Canadian Journal of Action Research.

  1. The passion for your work is clear in every aspect of your writing. How long has heritage language acquisition been a part of your life? What started it all?

TA: I was raised in a middle-class, English-speaking family in Alberta. My childhood was fairly normal. And when I was a little bit older, similarly to most rebellious teenagers, I took my teenage angst and raged against my parents. While others were sexing, drugging, rock-n-rolling and doing other “naughty things”, I inflicted on my father what I thought might have been one of the most painful childhood revolts I could think of: I went to Campus St. Jean and took university in French! On my personal journey to bilingualism, I learned about the power of language along the way.

Contrary to current popular belief, I’m not really a natural when it comes to language learning. I’m someone who learns with moderate aptitude and great effort. I was always fairly successful in school, so learning that language learning was hard was a shock for me. So despite by best enthusiasm, I wasn’t successful my first year and was put on academic probation. Because I struggled with the language I was in a place very few white, middle class, English-speaking women with average intelligence ever get to be: I wasn’t part of the mainstream. For me, this is when I realized how language (or lack thereof) can limit one’s chances of success. I finished my degree successfully, although it took me more than four years and I had to spend a year in language classes in Quebec, but I eventually triumphed.

I taught in Japan for several years in an international school. I was the English as a second language teacher to elementary school aged children whose parents moved temporarily to Japan for business or diplomatic missions. I saw how quickly many of my students learned English and how quickly many of them forgot their mother tongue. I saw the parents who were “trapped” because if they moved home they could no longer put their children in school because the children couldn’t read or write their “mother tongue”. I also worried a lot for my students who appeared to have learning disabilities. Parents, colleagues and I often asked, “What is this child’s issue? Is it a language learning inability or something bigger?” Often it is difficult to know.

When I started my doctoral studies, I began to take interest in adult literacy learners. In my field of English as a second language teaching and learning, literacy learners are adults who grew up never learning to read their mother tongue, mostly due to limited opportunities because of gender, poverty, or war. Their lack of first language education impacts on their opportunity to learn English. They often struggle with things that most of us take for granted: following instructions for over-the-counter medication, signing their children’s homework log, figuring out a map, and reading street signs. Despite all of their challenges, all of those I have worked with have an undeniable spirit, determined outlook, and an often overlooked sense of intelligence.

My dissertation, however, looks at heritage language learners. These are usually the children of immigrants who have to navigate cultures and languages, not being conventionally “Canadian” and first-language English speakers, but not being of the same language and culture as their parents, either. Most of these children struggle to keep the language of their parents and cannot without the help of a larger language community and school. My work is looking at how schools and communities can support these students.

Heritage language learners and adult literacy learners do not initially seem connected, but they share many commonalities. Both groups often are trying to learn language in an environment that is limited in exposure to language. Both are often trying to learn language without literacy. In many instances, these two groups can be within the same family. Some immigrant parents (especially those with limited literacy) can struggle to learn English and their children can struggle to maintain their first language. In my line of work I have met many people who are unable to have a basic conversation with their parents because they do not know enough of each other’s language to exchange more than limited small talk.

  1. There seems to be a message or end goal with your writing / research. What is it you hope to achieve at the end of your dissertation? 

 TA: I hope to show the world exactly how much expertise exists in the field of heritage language education in Alberta. I wish politicians, educators, and scholars to know about the challenges and limitations that programs face so that they can receive better support in doing what they do best.

  1. Who has inspired you as either a writer or researcher? 

 TA: My four favorite researchers are Dr. Olenka Bilash, Dr. Kenneth Schaeffer, Dr. Nick Ellis, and Dr. Elaine Tarone. All four are gifted scholars and educators. However, what I admire most about them is their compassion and vision for making the world better for others.

  1. Would you be willing to share one or two stories from your experience as a language educator? 

TA: In 2004, I had a beautiful kindergarten student from Sweden called Hedda. She was a dream child: polite, kind, energetic, brilliant, and friendly. She started school in September and by Christmas she was speaking English well. Her reading level was near the top of her class. At the parent-teacher interviews, I gave her parents “the talk.” I warned them about language loss and the importance of first language maintenance. I told them that they had better start planning for her Swedish or else it would be gone. I recommended that they find her a tutor and begin reading lessons as soon as possible.

While Hedda’s mother seemed convinced by my message, her father was less so. He responded firmly, but politely, that Hedda was a little girl. She had just made a huge adjustment, according to her father, by leaving her extended family behind in Sweden and moving to Japan, and furthermore, she needed to worry about enjoying herself, not planning for her future education. I responded that while I respected his point of view, he should at least consider my suggestion. He told me that he would think about it after his family returned from their holiday in Thailand.

Sadly, all four members of Hedda’s family were lost in the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 250,000 people on Boxing Day. I often think of her and her beautiful family. I often think of the advice I gave to her parents, and consider what her father responded to me. For language learning, we need to have long-term planning, and to prepare for what is coming ahead. At the same time, we need to remember that this moment might be all that we have.

  1. Why do you personally think language is important?

 TA: If you ask a brain researcher or a psychologist, they will tell you about all of the cognitive benefits of bilingualism. Of course, I believe all of these things are true such as bilingualism increasing intelligence and delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Still for me, the most important aspects of language learning are social in nature. Language connects people to opportunities and it connects us to one another.

Check out Trudie Aberdeen’s story “Newcomers to Canada and Edmonton Public Libraries” in ‘Between the Shelves’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.

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Finally, be sure to visit us for a ‘Between the Shelves’ signing this Saturday, May 30th at William S. Lutsky YMCA (1975-111 St NW) from 10am-2pm!

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Between the Shelves’ Kindle Version Available and Brian Clark Interview

cropped-cropped-blogbanner13.jpgToday, we’re happy to announce that the Brad OH Inc. and Hal J. Friesen edited Anthology ‘Between the Shelves: A Tribute to Libraries by Edmonton Writers’ is now available in both Kindle ($2.99) and Paperback ($12.50) copies at Amazon.com. All proceeds are to be donated to the Edmonton Public Library System.

BetweenTheShelvesCoverTo celebrate, we have an interview with Author Brian Clark, who appears in ‘Between the Shelves’.

This interview was conducted by Hal J. Friesen in anticipation of the anthology’s release:

Brian Clark first opened his eyes to the midsummer sun in the year the TV remote and Silly Putty made their debuts. Despite these distractions, he soon formed a lifelong affinity with libraries. It is now his pleasure to contribute to this collection of short stories. Over the years, he honed his storytelling skills by preparing letters for politicians. More recently, the newsletter of the Millwoods Seniors Activity Centre has published a number of his articles, where the opinions expressed are his own.

  1. How has your experience working with politicians impacted your writing?

BC: It taught me to avoid getting emotionally attached to the words I’ve written as they were always changed in some way.  I think this prepared me to embrace both self-editing and that of others.  I practiced writing in a way which gave the politician ‘plausible deniability’ if things didn’t turn out as expected, but could also be seen as a triumph if policies were popular.  With practice, hints and half-truths became stock devices.

  1. Is Becca (protagonist in the story) based on anyone in your life? 

BC: My daughter had a job at a library for a couple of years so that gave me an insight into the duties of a Page. She would sometimes tell me stories about children being left in library while a parent went to shop in the mall, forgetting the children. My daughter also maintains friendships with a couple of the other former Pages. In this story, I tried to work with stereotypes of a teenager, her parents and her boss and let that tell me how they respond to the circumstances they found themselves in.

  1. You often use music and lyrics as inspiration for your work. Can you describe the role that music plays in your writing and why it’s so important to you? 

BC: One of my skills, I think, is to mono-task so I don’t use background music. Music is either on or off. When it is on, I try to really listen to the piece.  Sometimes it’s just a mood I pick up on, at others it’s a few words from a verse. I don’t feel obliged to stick to the songwriter’s perceived intentions preferring instead to use the work as a diving board from which to launch my own thoughts. One of the roles of the arts in general is to look at life and distort it a little. For me, music is a reservoir of these refracted images.

  1. What is your educational background, and how do you think that has shaped you as a writer?  

BC: I left school a couple of weeks before my 16th birthday, but 18 years later I had accumulated the paper qualifications, maturity and money to go to University.  I left with some great memories and a degree in Cultural Studies.  I learned to research my work and to write to a deadline, but perhaps most important of all, I developed a curiosity.  In the last couple of years, I have completed 15 to 20 MOOCs [Massively Open Online Courses], including several on the history of rock ‘n’ roll. Life itself has been just as important as structured learning. I have lived on 4 Continents, although only briefly in Asia, collecting life lessons along the way. Jobs have included, hotdog vendor, Santa photographer and courier, most memorably delivering flowers on Valentines Day.  These experiences serve as a bank from which to withdraw both incidents and characters.

  1. Who has inspired you as a writer? 

BC: It sounds mushy, but my wife, Leny, and my daughter, Brenna have edited my life for longer than I can remember. They have not only given me the freedom to pursue whatever is in the air, but also encouraged me to do so. At the same time, they have gently curbed my excesses and prevented self-inflicted disasters. Their presence in my life remains inspiring.

Brian Clark’s story “The Turning of a Page” is featured in ‘Between the Shelves’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.

-Brad OH Inc.