Playing with Fire- Interview with Louise Arsenault

Louise Arsenault, a Concordia alumna, graduate of The National Theatre School (Playwriting), and English literature professor at Dawson College, is an award-winning Montreal playwright and visual artist. Her productions include Bivouac (Imago Theatre) Innerspeak (Queen Street Theatre), Dating Jesus (Unwashed Grape), and “Strange Fire” which won 2nd place in the Write-on-Q! Competition in November.

Soliloquies: Louise, your bio is really quite extensive. How did you get into playwriting?

Louise Arsenault: I started writing plays when I was pretty young. I started off in acting, but I found the roles for women were really limited, and I thought I could do something about that. I also write poetry and paint, which I find, in a lot of ways, easier than playwriting, since it’s from a different place in yourself. Now I mostly correct essays, which is not as fun!

Let’s talk about “Strange Fire”. What was your inspiration for it? When did you start working on it?

I started working on this about 4 years ago, and it’s actually based on a real event; a friend of mine that actually self-immolated on Mount Royal almost 40 years ago. And it’s always troubled me; I’ve always thought, you know, what would’ve made somebody do something like this?

And there was this girl that I was teaching, a young woman from Pakistan, who came to talk to me about her arranged marriage. She was being pressured to go back to Pakistan and marry a man that she’d never met, that her parents were Skyping, and she wasn’t even allowed to look at his face. These two events eventually ended up in the play.

And how does the food addiction play into that?

I’m essentially looking at women’s issues, and how still, even today in the 21st century, issues like bulimia and anorexia nervosa still affect quite a bit of women. I’m also looking at addiction, and the idea that nobody can really save you from addiction— you have to be willing to save yourself. I feel like it’s something that’s not explored very much, so I wanted to address that, since it’s been very problematic in my life, especially when I was at university.

You said you’ve worked with Playwright’s Workshop on this. How was that experience?

Playwright’s Workshop worked with me for quite a few years on this, and it was great. I started this off, as I usually do, with a monologue, and then I moved on to writing. There were initially quite a few characters in the play, and we did about five workshops (which is quite a lot!). The dramaturg really challenged me to get at the core of what I was trying to say… so we actually killed off a few characters. I owe a lot of the play to them. I’ve worked with them for about 30 years; my first play in Montreal was through them.

How many re-writes of this play have you done?

It’s hard to tell… I think I’m on my 33rd re-write, but it’s not a lot, just another file.

Aside from PWW, what other resources are available to aspiring playwrights who want to get their work out there?

There’s the French version of Playwright’s Workshop – the CEAD. There’s Infinithéâtre, obviously, for developing scripts. I also think it’s great to apply to the Canada Council of the Arts, and apply to competitions like Write-On-Q! You can also put on a production yourself, which I’ve done at Theatre St Catherine, and it went really well, so sometimes that’s the best way to start out.

Any final words for our emerging Montreal playwrights?

Move to Toronto (laughs). My advice would be to get a job that’s related to writing, like teaching, so you can still be involved in that world. I’d suggest not to give up, see a lot of plays, and keep writing, as often as you can.

Submissions are open for Write-On-Q! 2018 and can be submitted to the Infinithéâtre offices from now until Tues., Sept. 4 2018 at 5413, boul. St-Laurent, Suite 302, Montreal QC H2T 1S5.

Every year Infinithéâtre proudly presents Québec’s newest discoveries in THE PIPELINE, an annual series of free and public play readings where the audience takes centre stage, offering valuable feedback that furthers script development and helps with future season selections. Louise’s reading of her play “Strange Fire” is on Friday, December 8th at 7PM at Espace Knox.

For tickets and more info visit:  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-pipeline-tickets-37854751581

An Interview with Heather O’Neill

I recently sat down with author Heather O’Neill to talk about her latest novel The Lonely Hearts Hotel.  Just as she does in her novel, she brings a unique and fascinating perspective to our conversation. The Lonely Hearts Hotel follows the story of two disenfranchised Montreal orphans, Rose and Pierrot. They are both destined for greatness but are plagued by countless disadvantages along the way. The Lonely Hearts Hotel has a magical and fairy-tale feel that delights and surprises the reader as the story unfolds.

Tyson Burger: What were your relationships with your characters like while you were writing this novel?

Heather O’Neill: I never really think of characters as existing only in books, I always relate to them as though they’re real people. I’ll often learn from them as I write, and there is always something that the characters are able to teach me.

Especially Rose. Rose ended up being much more forceful and angry and psychotic than I’d imagined. She had all of these perspectives on being a woman, and this feminist strand started dictating her character, which was surprising for me to see. When I was done with Rose I felt that I was a stronger person, and since writing the book, I’ve felt that my perspective on who I am in the world has really changed. Rose said, “No more moral passivity with women, Heather.” She’s not there to observe, she’s just going to take over. I feel more confident after spending all that time with her.

Burger: One of my favourite things about reading your novels is your use of creative and unique metaphors, and I’m curious about what your process is like when coming up with them. Do they come to you as you write, or do you save them up beforehand and then apply them to the context of the novel as you write it?

O’Neill: It all depends, sometimes they come as I’m writing, and sometimes they come later. Then I’ll think of where I want to put them, or it’ll come to me as I’m rewriting. Sometimes it takes a really long time– they come from a strange part of my brain. I don’t know if one day maybe they’ll just stop coming to me. I have to be all alone for it to happen, and trick my mind into doing some irrational thing. Like, I’ll see a cat on the street and try to imagine what it’s thinking, and what kind of perspective it would have. I like the images that the metaphors create, and I often like to end sections or chapters on an image that reflects on the events of the text to give the power to the images.

Burger: The book challenges a lot of the established roles and stereotypes that exist in society. Do you ever worry about readers being offended by your challenging of the legitimacy of those roles?

O’Neill: No, because I come from the bottom. One of the reasons I’ve tried to be so open about my own background is because I’ve always read and interpreted texts through the writers’ biographies. I know that some people are the opposite and think that works should speak for themselves, but I’ve always read works that way. My texts are written from the voice of someone that was in those positions, and I think that it legitimizes a lot of what I’m saying. I was able to write in that voice because I survived that, and can present my characters in that light. If someone who did not consider themselves a survivor was writing about this, I would have a bit of a problem with that. The only way my characters can think the way they do is because I think that way.

Burger: Warning: the following question contains spoilers. Rose and Sister Eloise are two characters that have an interesting connection because they are the only two women in the novel that have any kind of power. They each attain that power in completely different ways. Rose earns her power, and it builds her way up from the bottom, honestly. Sister Eloise attacks vulnerable children behind closed doors. Does this ideological inconsistency play a role in Rose’s eventual decision to kill Sister Eloise at the end of the novel?

O’Neill: No, I would say she was motivated by revenge. Sister Eloise’s power was an abusive power within the domestic sphere, which was the space where women were relegated to at the time. Rose’s power was from moving into the outside world – she was determined to get out of the domestic sphere, whatever it took. She did try to do it in a legitimate way, but there were no ways for her to do that, which is actually the same conclusion that criminals—especially young men—at the time, came to. They were all incredible, ambitious and clever young men who couldn’t make it in the world in a regular way so they went into crime. Rose followed the same logical conclusion; the only illogical thing was that she’s a woman. I’d say the end is motivated by her promise to Pierrot; that she would kill Sister Eloise for him. It’s also a reminder that all of the wonderful things that she has at the end of the novel were achieved through violence. I was trying to write it in a way that different interpretations were possible, which is one of the reason I love imagistic writing.

Speaking with Heather O’Neill was as delightful as reading The Lonely Hearts Hotel. She was insightful, thoughtful and often funny. Next Heather O’Neill is judging the fiction section of the Thomas Morton Memorial Prize for Literary Excellence at The Puritan. You can find the long list for the fiction prize, here.  The Lonely Hearts Hotel is now available for purchase at most local book stores.

 

Flash Contest- REVIVAL

 

As we veer closer to the end of 2017, we begin to reflect on our progress and process; our growth, and our changes, and the forces that prevailed to carry us through.

We are in the midst of reanimation, regeneration, rejuvenation, resurgence; resuscitation, revitalization, recharging, rekindling, and awakening. The year was marked with profound injustices, and yet, we are seeing a resurgence of our strength, a changing of the tides.

Our year-end questions focus on what is to come. What is the outcome of our growth? What will be done with the old, to harbor in the new? And what will we see in this period of renewed force?

Forget New Year’s Resolutions, we want to know about revival.

Submit your prose, poetry, or visual art that explores revival, the return to strength or action.
Play with these in imagery, theme, plot, or something else.

Submit your flash poetry, prose and visual art to Soliloquies by Monday, November 20th at 11:59pm to have it featured on our website and social media.

Submission Guidelines:

You can submit to all 3 categories or just one.

Poetry: 10 lines or less.
Prose: 500 words or less.
Visual art: 8.5’ x 11’ or less @ 300dpi

Please submit written documents as a .doc or .docx file (no other word processor formats will be accepted). For visual arts, please send as a .jpg or .pdf file (no other media file formats will be accepted).

Submit to soliloquiesmgmt@gmail.com by Monday November 20th at 11:59pm.

Winners may be featured in issues 22.2!

Coach House Books launch party– a night of readings and more!

On Wednesday October 7th, Coach House Books hosted a launch party and readings at La Vitrola for three newly-released books of poetry by Jay Ritchie, Jeramy Dodds, and Sina Queyras. Jay Ritchie began the event with readings from his new book, Cheer Up, Jay Ritchie. Before commencing, he informed the crowd: “I’ll be reading some poems I don’t usually read tonight, because a lot of you have heard the other ones a million times, which will be fun…and by fun I mean terrifying!” Jay’s poems painted the relationship between disengagement and everyday anxieties, and shows that the two aren’t actually all that different. He humorously examined the absurdity of the everyday problems that often plague our minds and presented another way of existing: in the beauty and wonder of the moment. An example of this from his poem “Upcycle” that resonated particularly well with the crowd was, “I remind myself to exist in the everlasting present, drafting an email to a potential employer in my head, subject line: ‘every brand has a story, here’s mine.’” His funny and relatable approach was present throughout his reading, and the audience was receptive toward it.

Jeramy Dodds read from Drakkar Noir with a flow that fluttered. His pace quickened and slowed with his poems’ content, creating a rhythm that engulfed the audience. He slowed over the humorous or profound punchline-like lines like: “my dog and I were like two peas in an escape pod” or “a river is always too curious of its end.” The language of his poetry was playful and witty, and he often juxtaposed images or scenes using alliteration and rhyme in clever ways. This had the effect of heightening the audience’s curiosity about what would come next in each poem, which was often something both unexpected and delightful.

The last reader of the evening was Sina Queyras, senior lecturer in the Department of English at Concordia University (MxT, or ‘Memory x Time, (Coach House Books, 2014),  who read from her book, My Ariel. In this book she revises the poems of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. A line in the first poem that Sina read, “What is missing in me?” established an honestly introspective theme for the reading. Sina examines the gaps and unconscious driving forces in both her life and in Plath’s, which resulted in a poetry reading that was unafraid of being vulnerable.

You can also buy their books and read their poems for yourself on Coach House’s website: chbooks.com.

An interview with Clementine Morrigan

Clementine Morrigan – writer, filmmaker and professional tarot reader– is about to release her second collection of poetry The Size of a Bird. Soliloquies Anthology web content editor, Megan Hunt, recently sat down with them to chat about its upcoming release.

Megan Hunt: How has your writing evolved since the release of Rupture in 2012?

Clementine Morrigan: I wrote Rupture in active addiction and early sobriety. It’s a work that comes straight from [a] place of struggling to survive. The Size of a Bird grapples with some of the same themes as Rupture: trauma, violence, addiction, desire, but it does so from a different place. Writing for me is deeply tied up with my own process of recovery, healing, and growth, so as I change, so does my writing. 

Hunt: Your poem Anyway, which was published in Soliloquies 21.2, discusses the dirt of Toronto’s Don Valley river.” I know our poetry editors were especially drawn to the last line “but I love the water/ like I love myself:/ anyway”. How does The Size of a Bird continue to tackle these questions of what is good and lovable versus what is ugly and therefore unlovable?

Morrigan: My work is deeply invested in loving and staying with what is, even as we work towards healing and justice. Anyway looks at the relationship between loving my traumatized mind and loving this polluted, deeply harmed world, and then using that love as a starting point for the work of justice, healing, and change. The Size of a Bird explores the intersections of trauma, sexuality, and desire. Despite dealing with heavy themes including violence, addiction, and suicide, The Size of a Bird is a book about survival and hope and the power of staying alive. I am really interested in demonstrating that as survivors of violence we are literally fucking magic.

Hunt: “You have described The Size of a Bird as “refusing to shy away from difficult topics.” How have you worked to maintain this honesty within your writing? Has the way you approach this honesty and rawness changed?

Morrigan: I write about a lot of things which are considered to be taboo to talk about. I write about sex and desire, trauma and surviving violence, and especially the places where these converge. My writing is often described as raw because of the way I engage with these themes directly. My relationship to these themes has changed, and deepened as I have grown in my own recovery. But my commitment to writing about the things I have always felt silenced and shamed about remains strong. My writing is a magic spell, an attempt to carve out space for our secrets, to name the things we are not allowed to talk about.

Hunt: You’ve also released a zine series, Fucking Magic and it mentions your position and privilege as a white person and colonial settler in Canada. How do you think white writers can work to acknowledge privilege in their works and literary communities, and why do you feel it’s important for you to do so in your own writing?

Morrigan: As I explore themes of violence in my work it is important for me to name and to recognize the violence that grants me access to the land I am living, and writing, on. Within literary communities an important part of this is promoting and supporting the work of Indigenous writers, Black writers, and writers of colour.

If you are interesting in reading  The Size of a Bird, it will be available to purchase after its Montreal launch on October 12th, 2017. The event is being held at L’Euguelionne, 1426 Rue Beaudry, and starts at 6pm.

 

Writers Read Welcomes Fred Moten

 

On Friday, September 29th, Concordia University’s Writers Read program kicked off its 2017-2018 season with a special reading from Fred Moten, a poet, essayist and professor at the Tisch School of Arts. The ninety minute event featured an introduction from Concordia alumni and MFA candidate David Radford, a question and answers session, and poetry from all five of Moten’s published collections, which he described as being “echoes” of each other.

Prior to the reading, Moten presented the 2017 Lahey Lecture. Over one hundred guests shuffled into the tiny Hall building conference room the event was hosted in, with those unable to find seats huddling near the back or leaning against the walls. While his lecture had been a poignant, stirring response to a 2014 Boston Review article that criticized Moten and a number of other contemporary poets, his reading was an event focused on celebrating Moten’s own work.

“Maybe poetry is what happens on the bus between thinking and wanting/I used to think that it was what happened on the bus between Oakland and Berkley,” Moten read during It’s Not What I Want To Say, the first poem of the night. A self-aware exploration of his own approaches to poetry, it’s one of many pieces from The Service Porch that was inspired by his time on public transit while living in California. Other poems he read included The Showing, Regroundings, Resistances and Laura’s Alone Time.

“The next poem is called Nataoika- it’s a word I made up, it’s Greek!” Moten said as he introduced one of his poems. It was one of countless hilarious moments during the reading. Moten shifted between reading and audience banter so quickly and effortlessly, sometimes comments like these were the only way to tell where his poems began and ended.

Throughout the night, Moten shared a number of personal anecdotes and reflections that did more than just make the night all the more enjoyable- they helped make his complex work easier to process. Right after his quip about making up Greek words, he explained that he actually derived the title from the ancient Greek word for ‘slave’. He also told a funny story about feeling like Don Cheadle’s character in the 1995 film The Devil in a Blue Dress when describing his experience writing about Middle Eastern violence and America’s role in it. His humour, in some ways, helped soften the blow of the intense, emotional poetry that followed.

After about an hour of reading, Moten took a few questions from audience members. When asked about his experience travelling between Oakland and Berkley frequently, and the influence it had on The Service Porch, Moten explained that his travels shaped the way he viewed language.

“In a way, the bus was kind of like a language… there was Texas English, Arkansas, Louisiana English. It was a great way of understanding and being able to hear how rich and open that the language is,” Moten said.

Soliloquies 22.1 Call for Submissions

Soliloquies Anthology is looking to start off the new school year iwith sparkling work from emerging and established authors.
We want smart, confident work from a multitude of perspectives, schools, and backgrounds.

Please send us work that knows how to dance on the edge of the precipice.

Submissions are open as of tomorrow September 11th until October 5th at midnight. For more information on how to submit, look here.

Call for Editors 2017/18

Soliloquies Anthology is currently seeking applicants for our 2017-2018 Editorial Committee. We are Concordia’s undergraduate literary journal that publishes both in print and online, giving students the opportunity to gain valuable publishing and editorial experience. We are hiring for the following positions:

  • Social Media Editor
  • Web Content Editor
  • Poetry Editors
  • Prose Editors

Next year will be the 22nd volume of Soliloquies Anthology—a journal which has since become an established part of Concordia and Montreal’s literary community. If you have a strong interest in publishing and wish to contribute to our Editorial Committee, please submit a 300 word cover letter and a relevant CV to soliloquies.concordia@gmail.com.

The application deadline is April 11th at 11:59pm. Please see the further information on the available positions below..

The Social Media Editor is one of the Online Editors on staff. The Online Editors are dedicated to generating an online presence and increasing readership and contributor outreach. The Online Editors work in collaboration to orchestrate and curate Flash Fiction contests and any online contributor engagement initiatives affiliated with the journal. The Social Media Editor manages the journal’s social media presence. They are responsible for regularly uploading content to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and (in cooperation with the Web Content Editor) to the website.

The Web Content Editor is one of the Online Editors on staff. The Online Editors are dedicated to generating an online presence and increasing readership and contributor outreach. The Online Editors work in collaboration to orchestrate and curate Flash Fiction contests and any online contributor engagement initiatives affiliated with the journal. The Web Content Editor actively produces content for the website, including interviews with past contributors, multimedia content, and articles on current events relating to the journal or literary community.

Poetry Editors review, curate, and work with contributors to prepare their work for our publication. Poetry Editors may work with other genres of writing in addition to poetry. Poetry Editors engage with their genre as writers, readers, and members of the larger literary community, and align with the aesthetic tastes of the journal as a venue for poetry.

Fiction Editors review, curate, and work with contributors to prepare their work for our publication. Fiction Editors may work with fiction, non-fiction, and drama submissions. Fiction Editors engage with their genre as writers, readers, and members of the larger literary community, and align with the aesthetic tastes of the journal as a venue for fiction.

All members of the Editorial Committee contribute to other aspects of the production of the journal, outside of their job descriptions. They actively participating in editorial meetings, offer suggestions for the development of our journal’s reputation, and assist in the execution of our publication, launch parties, and other contributor engagement initiatives affiliated with the journal. Interests and skills beyond the scope of the job description are an asset.

Preference will be given to applicants who are undergraduate students in the English Literature or Creative Writing program. Editors must be Montreal-based Concordia students through the 2017-2018 academic year. Email us at soliloquies.concordia@gmail.com for any further inquiries.

Soliloquies 22.X: Call for Managing Editor

Soliloquies Anthology is currently seeking a Managing Editor for the 2017-2018 academic year, to work in collaboration with the Editor-in-Chief. These positions are a great opportunity to gain valuable publishing and editing experience, and to contribute to the literary community on campus.

The Managing Editor works closely with the Editors-in-Chief to perform the day-to-day operations of the journal. The Managing Editor contributes to various aspects of the anthology’s executive operations, including:

Responsibilities for the Managing Editor:

• Organizing the production of our bi-annual print publication, including submissions, printing, and dissemination
• Oversee online Soliloquies Writes content, social media accounts and our relationship with Montreal’s literary scene
• Maintain the archive of past publications, editors, and contributors
• Aiding the Editor-in-Chief with the management of the editorial committee, particularly overseeing media
• Correspondence with contributors, venues, publishers, and other external parties
• Planning the launch events and overseeing other initiatives

Qualified applicants will have some interest in the publishing industry and excellent organizational and managerial skills.

To apply:

Send an updated CV and a max. 500 word cover letter detailing past editing experience and relevant assets to soliloquies.concordia@gmail.com by Wednesday, March 22nd at 11:59pm. Applicants may be asked to interview through March and early April. Applicants should be prepared to intern for the duration of the 2016-2017 academic year if hired.

Note:

Undergraduate Concordia students who are not eligible for this position but interested in joining the Soliloquies Anthology editorial committee may apply during our April call for editors. Information will be available on our Facebook page and website in the coming weeks.