‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’ Selected for Inclusion in the Capital City Press Collection

Today, I’m thrilled to announce that Edgar’s Worst Sunday has been selected for inclusion in the Capital City Press Collection!

-Click Here to Buy-

The Edmonton Public Library is committed to supporting and promoting the work of local writers. The Capital City Press Collection, housed at the new Stanley A. Milner Library, celebrates and showcases books written by authors residing in the Greater Edmonton Area, as well as members of the Alexander First Nations, the Enoch Cree First Nations, and the Paul First Nations.

The collection will be unveiled on February 14th, 2020 at the opening of the new Stanley A. Milner Library. I’ll provide more information as it becomes available.

-Brad OH Inc.

Interview with ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ Author Annie Gionet

Edmonton: Unbound’ has now been on sale for six months, and has raised nearly $800 for the Edmonton Public Library.  ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ is available through Amazon, and can also be purchased at the giftshop of the Muttart Conservatory, as well as at Audrey’s Books.

Edmonton: Unbound’ contains fourteen stories by twelve members of the Edmonton Writers’ Group. They are 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 have been 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 the culmination of this fantastic project, we have one final interview with the ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ author, Annie Gionet.

1.Tell us about where your inspiration came from for the world you describe in your story.

Annie Gionet: The world Reya lives in was derived from Pagan communities that escaped the Spanish Inquisition and their witch hunts during the medieval times.   It is meant to be a fantastical alternative to our gruesome reality and history.

2.What was the creative process like for you working on this story?

Annie Gionet: Reya’s story was written by using a focal point of a refuge for esoterica and then expanding on it and letting my imagination take over. Choosing how to develop fantasy that is heavily derived from our world was an experience of the senses and imagination that brought my writing to make a place where anything was possible and unseen dangers lurked at every corner.  It is meant to draw your subconscious mind to a world that inspires your greatest wishes and leads you to your darkest fears.

3.Which authors inspired you to write fantasy and what interests you most about writing fantasy?

Annie Gionet: One of my favourite authors, that I admire would be Mercedes Lackey.

4.Why is Fantasy your favourite genre to write in?

Annie Gionet: I love writing fantasy because of the endless possibilities and inspiration. Your mind can create just about anything and moulding creative thoughts into a story that catches a reader by surprise is one of the most satisfying experiences I have ever had.  Connecting with an audience on such intimate feelings in mind twisting intricate situations is definitely, a great passion of mine.

Annie Gionet’s story, “People of the Doma”, is featured in ‘Edmonton: Unbound’, which you can purchase on Amazon.

Remember, you can also get a copy of ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ in the giftshop of the Muttart Conservatory, as well as at Audrey’s Books.

Our thanks to authors Brian Clark and Simon MacKintosh for their hard work in making this release more widely available.

-Brad OH Inc.

Interview with ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ Author M. Lea Kulmatycki

Today, the Edmonton Writers’ Group is happy to share that our new anthology, Edmonton: Unbound, is now available for purchase in the giftshop of the Muttart Conservatory.

But wait, there’s more! Author’s of Edmonton: Unbound will be at the ‘Poets and Writers Networking Event’ on April 6th from 6:00-9:00pm at the Strathcona Place Centre, 10831 University Ave, Edmonton, AB.

We’ll be there to network, sell, and even sign books. So be sure to stop by, enjoy the event, and grab a copy of Edmonton: Unbound if you haven’t managed to do so yet.

Edmonton: Unbound’ contains fourteen stories by twelve members of the Edmonton Writers’ Group.

They are 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 the upcoming event, we have an interview with one of the ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ authors, and the creator of our cover art, M. Lea Kulmatycki.

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

Lea Kulmatycki: My brother worked as a day camp leader one summer during high school. One of the most difficult aspects of his job was getting his little campers on and off the bus at the same time. I never had this problem because the day camp I worked at was within walking distance of many cool attractions. I didn’t feel I could create enough material with a bus ride, so I changed it to a streetcar and decided Cal’s group of day campers would visit the museum. I took my day campers often to the Provincial Museum and Archives of Alberta. The kids loved it.

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

Lea Kulmatycki: The research involved. The museum moved from its original location and it was difficult to find the specific information I required to insure as much authenticity as possible.

3. What research did you do with regard to the story?

Lea Kulmatycki: While the story is historical “fiction”, I tried to represent the “history” as accurately as possible. There was a lot of research involved!

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?

Lea Kulmatycki: I’m probably a mix between the two. I start with an idea and then I plan out the first chapter/part of the story. At the same time I’m mulling over the ending. Once I have these two pieces, I start writing and let the story take its course. I don’t even start to write a story if I don’t have a solid idea for these two parts. I spend an eternity working on the first chapter/part of a story. This is where I establish voice, organization, etc. Once I’m happy with the first chapter, the rest seems to flow.

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

Lea Kulmatycki: I’ve stopped worrying about it. Instead of sitting and looking at a blank page or writing to just write, I do something else. However, my mind is always focused on thinking of ways to iron out the particular problem that has me stumped. Teaching doesn’t leave me much time to write, so driving to and from school is also great time to work out story problems.

Lea Kulmatycki’s story, “So What Did I Do This Summer?”, is featured in ‘Edmonton: Unbound’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.

Remember to stop by and catch us at the ‘Poets and Writers Networking Event’ on April 6th from 6-9:00pm at the Strathcona Place Centre, 10831 University Ave, Edmonton, AB.

-Brad OH Inc.

Interview with ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ Author Lida Somchynsky

Edmonton: Unbound’ contains fourteen stories by twelve members of the Edmonton Writers’ Group.

They are 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, Lida Somchynsky.

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

Lida Somchynsky: My initial inspiration for the story was that I knew immediately that I wanted to have The Green and Gold Gardens feature as the designated locale for this anthology.  When I heard how this ‘garden’ came about, there was the realization that it was a remarkable narrative that needed to be told as it is a place that the City of Edmonton, along with the University of Alberta can truly be proud of.  The story initially was going to be a type of mystery, with a photographer visiting the gardens at dusk, skulking about amongst the rows of sunflowers, dressed in military fatigue…. Looking for what I did not know.    However, upon further reflection, I thought this type of plot would take away from the deeply moving humanitarian intent that ‘the garden’ symbolizes.

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

Lida Somchynsky: I have always been an avid reader and enjoy entering other people’s realities to the extent that I still cannot read mysteries in the dark of night.   Upon graduating from university, some of the places where I was employed, required that I write articles such as newsletter items and promo pieces.  Family and friends have always commented on my imagination and so gradually the idea took hold—after several decades of mulling it over to try my hand at writing short stories.  A dear friend and I co-wrote a play for the Fringe in the early nineties which was a great success and that also proved to be an incentive to explore another medium.

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

Lida Somchynsky: Once I established what the new plot was going to be, the story flowed beautifully and I enjoyed the unexpected turns of creativity while conjuring up various plot point twists.   The ‘Rwanda crisis” part still needs more work as in my mind it feels too didactic at times.

  1. How are your life experiences / career / hobbies reflected in the story?

Lida Somchynsky: I enjoy strolling about in all types of gardens but am not a gardener in any sense.  My one and only attempt failed miserably in terms of a vegetable garden – nothing germinated as there was too much clay in the soil.  However, in that same tiny plot of land I had unexpected success thirty years ago—growing the second tallest sunflower in Alberta for which I was awarded a weekend for two at Fairmont Hot Springs.  A neighbour notified me of the contest that a horticultural magazine was hosting. I was ‘six inches short’ with my sunflower measuring over sixteen feet tall – to win the first prize which was a trip to Brazil.  Cycling is a favourite pastime and in the summer, I make biweekly pilgrimages with friends to the “Green and Gold Gardens” as part our exercise routine.

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

Lida Somchynsky: I like to plot out different angles but enjoy when the unexpected thought bursts onto the page and takes the story to different places and there the writer in you goes along for that surprising ride.

Lida Somchynsky’s story, “The Garden”, is featured in ‘Edmonton: Unbound’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.

-Brad OH Inc.

Interview with ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ Author Marlene Skaley

Edmonton: Unbound’ contains fourteen stories by twelve members of the Edmonton Writers’ Group.

They are 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, Marlene Skaley.

  1. Explain why you chose the specific Edmonton landmarks that you did (Kingsway Mall, the Second Cup in Oliver Square).

Marlene Skaley: I lived in the Kingsway area of Edmonton for many years. The Oliver Square episode was a real event, as were a few other episodes in the story.

  1. Where do you write?

Marlene Skaley: Favorite places to write are places that inspire. Forests, sunshine, lakes…My little boat or cabin in the woods in the Kootenays cannot help but draw out one’s creativity. Whenever inspiration hits me I write. I have often had to pull over to the side of the road while driving and grab a pen and paper to record some ideas before they are forever lost.

  1. You call yourself a student of the universe. What is a student of the universe?

Marlene Skaley: All of life is my University. The entire universe holds so much wonder and beauty that no matter where I go or how much I explore and discover and learn, infinity is always in front of me.

  1. How can meditation help creative people such as writers?

Marlene Skaley: Hmmmm.  That is a very deep and complex question and cannot be answered in a few words. To be able to understand fully one needs to experience it. But I will give it a try. In meditation one begins to explore different levels of consciousness that they have previously never known. All answers to all of life’s mysteries reside in these places. True creativity can only come when one begins to still the mind and enter these places. All great art, music, writing, or other forms of creation come from a mind that has entered into stillness in one way or another.

  1. What red wheelbarrows have you had in your life?

Marlene Skaley: I love that question! My life is a continuous miracle. In my meditation classes I have my students look for miracles in their lives and the more you look the more you find! It really is a law of life.

Marlene Skaley’s story, “It’s Raining Red Wheelbarrows”, is featured in ‘Edmonton: Unbound’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.

 

-Brad OH Inc.

Interview with ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ Author Christine W.

Edmonton: Unbound’ contains fourteen stories by twelve members of the Edmonton Writers’ Group.

They are 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, Christine W.

1. Emily and Forest were up against a tight deadline when disaster struck. Has this ever happened to you and what did you do?

Christine W.: There was a comically tragic moment when I was making a couple of lemon meringue pies for a charity bake sale later the same day. The pies take two to three hours to set after the meringue is cooked and are pretty much liquid when they go into the fridge. The first one made it safely onto a shelf in the fridge; the second pie leapt out of my hands and landed head first on the floor. Fortunately I had enough ingredients to make a third pie and barely made it to the bake sale in time to drop off two, mostly set, pies.

2. What is your favorite public art work?

Christine W.: In general I’m a fan of older architecture and more modern bridges. Edmonton’s new bridge is rather impressive as is the Pantheon in Rome. There is no need to pick a favourite.

3. If you had to explain the meaning behind the Talus Dome to tourists, what would it be?

Christine W.: Well, the city has a poetic description of the Dome relating to the landscape and whatnot. I think it is a pile of shiny metal balls expertly positioned to reflect light in an amusing way. Whether good or bad, people talk about it and it is a memorable feature of Edmonton. Our city used to be known mainly for a mall. Being remembered for having a pile of space poop as art is more fun.

4. If Emily and Forest made you a cake, what would you want on it and why?

Christine W.: This is awkward. I don’t like cake. Icing is good though.

5. Your job of attempting to improve conditions of society sounds really worthwhile. What are the proudest moments you would like to share with the readers?

Christine W.: I’m a scientist by training and basically figure things out for a living. Working to better understand supports required for individuals diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder has been and continues to be a particular passion for me.

Christine W.’s story, “Space Poop”, is featured in ‘Edmonton: Unbound’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.

-Brad OH Inc.

Interview with ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ Author Simon MacKintosh

On January 20th, at 10:00am, the authors of ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ will be at the 1975 111st. YMCA selling and signing copies of our new anthology. ‘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, Simon MacKintosh.

  1. I read an earlier draft of your “Uncle Charlie’s Tiger Hunt.” What kinds of things did you do when revising the story?

Simon MacKintosh: Mostly, I tried to tighten up the humour. There are several things that can make a story funny. One is a sequence of events, all commonplace but ridiculous (like sliding down a hill unable to control yourself), that build towards a hilarious climax. I tried for that because the story started as an attempt to do that. Other elements of humour are ordinary things made ridiculous by an unlikely context, or the relationships between people. I worked on those as well.

Apart from that I just polished up the language a bit. My initial copy of anything is little more than a poorly expressed idea. It takes multiple passes of editing to get it to a point where I am near satisfied. I am never completely satisfied.

  1. What do you like about writing humour versus writing science fiction?

Simon MacKintosh: Humour creeps into my science fiction as well. After all, humour is part of life and any story is, in the end, about life. I just thought that if I tried to write a science fiction story without any science, what would be left would be humour. I really have no preference.

  1. Who are your favourite humour writers?

Simon MacKintosh: Tom Sharpe. Filthy, but hilarious. Spike Milligan, his book ‘Puckoon’ includes a textbook example of a sequence of escalating ridiculous events, when a group of people escape from a lunatic asylum during the night in the middle of winter.

And of course Douglas Adams.

  1. What is your science fiction novel about?

Simon MacKintosh: A guy invents a time machine and starts to go back and fore in time, as one does with a time machine. But then his time machine is wrecked and he is stuck on a future Earth where society is slowly decaying. So he escapes into outer space and travels the galaxy before discovering that galactic civilization too is coming to an end. So he goes home, only to realize … but I won’t spoil he story by telling.

  1. What does your own lawn look like in the summer?

Simon MacKintosh: In order to keep Bylaw Enforcement from my door, I will refrain from answering that question.

Simon MacKintosh’s story, “Uncle Charlie’s Tiger Hunt”, is featured in ‘Edmonton: Unbound’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.

Remember to come by to get your copy at 10:00am on January 20th, at the 1975 111st. YMCA!

-Brad OH Inc.

Interview with ‘Edmonton: Unbound’ Author Brian Clark

Today, the Edmonton Writers’ Group will be in the Presentation Room of the Enterprise Square EPL Branch in downtown Edmonton from 1:00pm-5:00pm, selling and singing copies of our new anthology, ‘Edmonton: Unbound’.

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, Brian Clark.

  1. What was your initial inspiration for the stories you included in this anthology, and how have they changed from their original conception?

Brian Clark: ‘Hunting Harley’ started almost 4 years ago with the words “dart player chic” I found scrolling through my file of ideas, tips & phrases that resonate.  It seemed to me that the phrase belonged in a romance so I started to write the “Jean” character as a girlfriend for the dart player guy.  The story evolved into a sort of soap opera structure weaving a romance, a crime and motor cycle workshop.  I floated the piece before members of the Edmonton Writers’ Group and it became clear that the story was too busy to be fully coherent.  The result was that I dropped the romance element, brought forward the crime story and used the workshop as a location where the characters interacted.

‘The Letter’ was written specifically for the Edmonton: Unbound project and came to me pretty much fully formed.  I had used the main character before in an unpublished story so she seemed like an old friend.  The full first draft was written in a single 75 minute sitting.  In a subsequent session, I added a couple of paragraphs near the middle and worked on the last paragraph.  A third outing added the historical research and all I had left to do was the line editing.

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

Brian Clark: Early in my working life, I wrote letters for a living but those were always under the tight editorial control of others.  When I retired, I developed an urge to say what I think.  I wrote for the newsletter of a non profit organisation for a while, but again the editorial guidelines felt restricting.  Thus I ended up writing fluffy fiction with, I hope, an underbelly of gentle social comment.

  1. What difficulties did you encounter while writing these stories, other than finding the time to do it?

Brian Clark: This is an easy question.  By a long way, my biggest challenge is always getting my work into the format needed by the editors.  On a couple of occasions, I was thankful for the computer assistance of my daughter.

  1. How are your life experiences / career / hobbies reflected in your stories?

Brian Clark: Being older, the people in my life, my friends tend to also be seniors so I think that contributes to my attraction to mature characters.  All my adult life I have listened to Bruce Springsteen and I love the way he writes tight characters and stories and leaves the listener to draw their own conclusions about the underlying social conditions.  I aspire to do something similar.

After my workout at the YMCA, I usually hang out in the locker room and drink coffee with other retirees.  I enjoy hearing their stories about their lives and frustrations.  I am sure some those help provide colour to my stories.

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

Brian Clark: I am fairly disciplined when writing characters and I am becoming more so when describing settings.  With plots, I take a much more free-form approach.  I have around a dozen part written stories and perhaps as many as a hundred orphan paragraphs that may or may not end up in a finished work.

Why I write this way is a more difficult question.  When I was a child I wanted to eat my dessert first because that’s what I enjoyed the most.  With writing, I am able to indulge myself and write the bits that come easily to me.  I take the view that every first draft, every fragment is perfect because its only purpose is to exist.  Once I have something written down I can and do change it or ignore it.

Brian Clark’s stories, “The Letter” and “Hunting Harley”, are featured in ‘Edmonton: Unbound’, which you can purchase now on Amazon.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Between the Shelves’ at ‘Words in the Park’ and Interview with Author/ Editor Hal J. Friesen

cropped-cropped-blogbanner13.jpgToday, we’re happy to formally announce that the sales of ‘Between the Shelves: A Tribute to Libraries by Edmonton Writers’ have led to the donation of over $700.00 to the Edmonton Public Library System We at Brad OH Inc. think that’s awesome—and we couldn’t have done it without all of you!

Many of the Authors (and both Editors) will also be set up at ‘Words in the Park’ this Saturday, September 26th from 10:00am-4:00pm in the Sherwood Park Community Centre. We’ll be selling and autographing copies of ‘Between the Shelves’!

In celebration of these accomplishments, we have an interview with Editor and Author Hal J. Friesen, who appears in ‘Between the Shelves’, 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 a variety of Authors featured in ‘Between the Shelves’ in anticipation of the anthology’s release:

  1. Brian Clark: What is the biggest thing you have learned from this self-publishing experience?

HF: I learned how achievable it is to put out a product of professional quality using readily-available tools. There were some frustrating moments getting the book formatted properly and tweaking cover blurbs, but on the whole it felt great to see a self-published book that could easily have come from a professional publishing house.

I also need to mention how pleasantly surprised I was at the scope and variety of stories submitted to the anthology. I thought I had a pretty good idea what I was going to get from the EWG group members, but they surprised me in a very good way.

  1. Vivian Zenari: What is your educational background, and how has that influenced your writing?

HF: I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Science from UNBC with a Joint Major in Chemistry and Physics, and a Minor in Mathematics. Basically for my undergraduate degree I was trying to refuse specialization, which in hindsight might not have been a good approach in terms of employability. I had knowledge in many fields but was missing snippets from each to prevent me from being completely proficient. My Master’s Degree in Science, focusing on Plasmas and Photonics, helped me tune my abilities and knowledge toward more practical applications – as ridiculous as that might sound after working on laser fusion experiments.

The breadth of theoretical and experimental science experience I’ve gleaned through the years helps me to appreciate how certain science fiction ideas might be implemented, the realities both pleasant and unpleasant of logistics that really help make a fantastical proposition seem real. When I wrote in high school I was thinking of sci-fi notions in a more detached and academic way. After academia, ironically, I think about them more in terms of what’s happening on the ground, what’s happening to the little guy who has to pull the levers, which helps make science fiction more meaningful to readers.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Hal, your story is about a man (Albert Einstein), gaining great knowledge from libraries, but also experiencing stunning existential terror. Do you consider libraries to be places of hidden danger, or is learning in general a threat to our sense of being?

HF: I used to read these time machine choose-your-own-adventure books, and they were like puzzles where you got stuck in time loops until you figured out the correct sequence of events to escape a grisly fate. There was one particular instance where I was trying to avoid being guillotined, but kept getting sent back over and over again, being chased, being caught, having the blade fall – to the extent that I fell asleep and had nightmares about it. Libraries taught me to be utterly terrified of the Spanish Inquisition.

I think in our age of ubiquitous fear-mongering, it’s important to recognize libraries and their potential role in contributing to the general fright that fits so well in a terror-state. In this story I wanted to show that even a brilliant Einstein can’t escape the spine-tingling horror of a nameless source of danger. His existential cataclysm in a place of learning draws close parallels to the dread during the discovery of a newly-christened terrorist cell, or the announcement of the construction of yet another totally-necessary prison. I felt that the role of books and libraries in general has been undervalued in terms of their capacity to inspire totally irrational fear, and wanted to emphasize how deeply they can touch our being versus other forms of media.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Why did you choose Einstein as your character? Do you have some arcane knowledge of his life the rest of us aren’t privy to? Is there any biographical truth to this tale?

HF: I have a copy of Einstein’s original manuscript on Special Relativity, and if you go to the trouble of reading it you find very strange references in the margins, almost as if he was placating some unseen observer. With extensive and advanced calligraphic decoding I was able to parse some of the scribbles he had tried to hide after the fact, after whatever it was had stopped peering over him threateningly. It was clear he had communion with a library spirit, or as he named it, Wilfred, though exactly which library was unclear – I used artistic liberty in that aspect.

It’s amazing how much you can discover when you read the source material rather than just taking secondary sources at face value.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Your passion for libraries is clear in this story. Share with us some of your most formative memories of being in the library. Is there any encounter in particular that stands out as a moment where knowledge was so startlingly thrust upon you?

HF:  Guillotines were startlingly thrust upon my unsuspecting neck in that traumatizing time machine book…

When I was a child, there were summer reading challenges where you got to move your pawn along footsteps lining the library walls, taking a step for every book you read. The path took a circuitous route around the two-story Prince George Public Library, and I would take out piles of books in order to get to the end. And I did.

My prize? PTSD from an impossible and horrific Spanish Inquisition time machine loop. And a ribbon.

The library used to have person-shaped chairs in bright colors, and I would sit near the large windows and browse through Goosebumps books, Tintin comics, and fantasy books. I would sway back and forth in the S-shaped chairs, knocking them flat onto the back, or upright again with a satisfying thunk. The trips to the library were a fairly regular occasion – my mother would tiptoe off to the romance section, and my brothers and I would spin the carousels housing adventure and horror novels.

Getting my first library card was actually one of my happiest childhood experiences, because I felt like I had graduated from this semi-weekly family ritual and had become an adult. It was a lot better than any actual graduation, that’s for sure.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Your writing has historically been focused on some pretty heavy scientific concepts. What do you consider to be one of the most interesting unanswered questions in modern science? Do you have any possible ‘dream scenario’ solution to this quandary that strikes you as the most appealing?

HF: Not to avoid the question, but I guess the more interesting questions are ones we haven’t thought of yet. The untapped potential and dark corners of our understanding are very exciting places, which is why I enjoy good hard science fiction so much. One recent discovery was that the brain might have a lymphatic system, which opens the door to all sorts of medical progress and better development of humanity.

The unanswered question of life beyond Earth is a continually fascinating one for me, and my dream scenario is that I live long enough to see contact happen. That would be a great privilege.

The unification of gravity and the other fundamental forces is another issue that fascinates me. I remember the exact place where I first read Maxwell’s derivation of electromagnetism and the intimate relationship between them. I literally got up and wanted to run around (but couldn’t in my cramped dorm-room) because I was so excited by the beauty of something so connected and intertwined. Connectedness, for lack of a better term, is something I explore a lot in my writing, and it interests me equally in the natural world.

Similarly, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity – the small with the very large – is also quite an interesting unanswered question. I’ve read a proposal that suggests the answer might be in our interpretation of time itself, which sent my head spinning in beautiful pirouettes.

I think some of the deeper philosophical-physics questions might go unanswered for a long time, but can make you experience some of the same existential schism Einstein does in the story. Questions like: what exactly is charge? What exactly is mass? We have equations that describe what they do but that’s different from knowing what something is. There’s a joke that if you want to drive a physicist crazy, ask him what charge is. Try it sometime.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: As a follow-up to the former question, of the myriad scientific discoveries throughout history, which would you most like to have been a part of, and why?

HF: I’ve developed an unlikely fondness for light and optics, so I think I would have loved to have been a part of Maxwell’s discoveries unifying electricity and magnetism. Any of the so-called Maxwell’s equations. Ampere, Gauss – to have been around any of those guys would have been gnarly and radical, and I’m sure my language wouldn’t drive them crazy. Gauss was a genius.

I would say quantum mechanics, but the results aren’t as easy to put your hands on or see with the eye. The laser would have been pretty amazing to discover. I got the chance to hear Charles Townes, one of the co-inventors of the laser, speak, and it was surreal to see him use a laser pointer to point at a slide of his original laser conception. He made lasers originally for astronomical purposes, and at the time of his talk (age over 90) he was still doing that. There’s a raw enthusiasm and electricity some scientists exude and I think to have been around any of those remarkable individuals would have been illuminating and inspiring outside of the discoveries themselves.

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Remember to catch the authors of ‘Between the Shelves’ at ‘Words in the Park’ this Saturday, September 26th from 10:00am-4:00pm in the Sherwood Park Community Centre!

Finally, be sure to visit Hal J. Friesen at his blog right here, and check out his story “Reading After Hours” in ‘Between the Shelves’. You can purchase it now on Amazon.

-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.