The Thing About Wayson Choy

I have read so much about the act of being present. I sought it out in biographies and in documentaries and in fiction. I first heard it whispered in descriptions of sages and religious leaders. The Buddha, for instance, has always been held up as a glowing example of a being who was PRESENT.

But in my life–in my everyday life–I hadn’t really discovered any examples of anyone who seemed to be truly present. Here and now.

Until Wayson.

I won’t say Wayson was a saint. That isn’t what this is about. But the thing about Wayson was that he was present. And when you were in his presence, he treated you like you  were in his presence. You had his attention. He was a mentor, a teacher, and a sage. And he was always willing to share himself with those around him. He couldn’t not encourage, teach, share. It wasn’t in him not to. And because of this, all who have met him–even for a brief period of time–feel a great sense of loss today. He was a giving gracious man, and he made you feel as though you mattered.

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Do yourself a favour, and pick up Wayson’s memoir on almost dying. It’s a treasure.

I’ve heard a great many Asian Canadians speak of how important Wayson’s works were for them, how his books were the first experience they had had of seeing themselves reflected in fiction. He knew this fact, he knew it fully and completely and he carried it with him, filled with grace about it and knowing the importance of it.

What struck me, and what was important to me, was the way he often introduced himself as a gay man when beginning his speeches. He was a proud gay man. He spoke to me about this, too. He felt the importance of this pride, which was something I never truly understood. To me, pride was just a word thrown around about an event in the gay calendar. Wayson took it to a deeper level. Wayson made it real. He was someone who often talked about being courageous and telling the truth and being honest and being true to yourself. This was part of his being present. He knew the importance of authenticity. In order to exemplify that, he willingly put himself out there to show others what it meant to truly be authentic. He embraced it and allowed others to embrace it in themselves.

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The Ontario Writers Conference Family. Wayson threw himself in to our little organization, fully and completely. He made us better.

“When you can tell other peoples’ lives truthfully you are telling it to yourself. You are saying this is who I am. I recognize what is important. Let me tell you about it.” ~ Wayson Choy

You are most like yourself when you are being authentic. Wayson knew this. And he knew how much others thirsted for that authenticity. And he was present enough to gently guide us in that direction. By example, and by humor and sometimes by the use of tough words.

FEAR IS THE FIRST REASON TO LIVE YOUR LIFE BOLDLY. ~ WAYSON CHOY

 

Thank you for sharing your wisdom so freely, Wayson. I’ll not forget your loving kindness. Thank you for helping me to wake up. I love you.

“You are a book, always being written…” ~ Wayson Choy

2019 Rotary Stratford Short Story Contest

I’ve just been made aware of the upcoming open-to-submissions date for the next FREE Rotary Stratford Short Story Contest. The 2019 Rotary Club of Stratford Short Story Contest will begin taking submissions for short stories of no more than 2,500 words of any genre on MAY 1st, 2019.

Submission window is:

MAY 1st – AUGUST 31st, 2019

There are two categories, based on AGE—Youth & Adult.

19 and under-Teen (must have parental or guardian consent)

  • First: $300
  • Second: $200
  • Third: $100
  • 3 Honourable Mentions

 

20 and over-Adult

  • First: $500
  • Second: $250
  • Third: $100
  • 3 Honourable Mentions

NO CONTEST FEE!

Submission Deadline Again: AUGUST 31st, 2018

LINKS:

CLICK HERE FOR CONTEST RULES AND REGULATIONS AND TO SUBMIT

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE LIST OF LAST YEAR’S WINNERS

FULL DETAILS AND ELIGIBILITY

Contest Announcements:

  • Shortlist Announcement: August 2019
  • Winner Announcement: October 18 – 27, 2019 during the Stratford Writers Festival

Listed – Marathon Items (Muskoka Novel Marathon)

  1. Comfortable Shoes
  2. A Neck/Head Buff
  3. Merino Wool Top
  4. Leggings
  5. Shhhhhhhhhuuuuuuuuttttt up. This ain’t no running thang!

This is a NOVEL WRITING MARATHON. Word count, not footfalls. We don’t move forward at this marathon. We plot onward, but we stay in place. We do not plod onward.

The real official absolute definitive list of the things that one should carry into the Muskoka Novel Marathon>>>>>>>

1. Laptop (with the cord! And the mouse if it is detachable!) —don’t drive 3 hours to the marathon and THEN realize your laptop cord is plugged in at home. Don’t. Do. It. You will regret it.

2. Licorice (you laugh, but try doing a novel writing marathon without your Thinking Licorice! Every angry chew unlocks a plot-twist or saves you from writing yourself into a corner.) PACK. LICORICE. PS: Only red will do. Twizzlers, obviously.

3. COMFORTABLE CLOTHING – This here is a must. Don’t dress for fashion or to impress. What do you like to wear around the house when you’re giving yourself a ME day for writing? sweat pants? Ratty old Cure concert t-shirt from 1982 with a twisted cater-cater-cater-cater-cater-pill-at-ar running across its front? Housecoat? Fluffy Bigfoot slippers and PJs? Wig, tights and espadrilles? Sure, why not? It’s your life. Wear what you would like to be found dead in. Something you could imagine your biographers one day describing as the most perfect WRITER attire. Sure, you can bring something fashion forward (or backward, if the faux pas fits) for those escapism moments when you and a flock of fellow writers fly the coop and land in one of the trendy bars in downtown Huntsville where you will fling slings and arrows at unsuspecting local drunkards gunning for a melee. But think comfort when it comes to clothes. You’re going to be sitting around for 72 hours slamming away at your laptop. You don’t want anything riding, twisting, tugging, pulling, ripping, tearing or itching at your mojo. You need a comfy mojo for this ride. Be kind to yourself. Pack for comfort. And bring changes of clothes. And a towel. You will have access to the showers at the facility. PS: They feed us REALLY WELL at these marathons. Don’t be afraid of elastic waistbands. You can get back to the gym after the marathon.

4. Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, hand cream.

5. FIDGET ESCAPISM GADGETS. The flying monkeys and the yellow felt mustaches are no longer allowed. Thanks Marty and Dale!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6. Bring LOVE. You will discover your people at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. In a world full of people, only some want to fly…Isn’t that crazy? You may find that quite a few of the fliers will be found at the marathon.

7. Bring a ONE-PAGE outline of what you hope to write at the marathon. This is not mandatory…but it IS all that you’re allowed to bring. Do not write in advance, but write out a one-page description of what you wish to write while there.

8. Bring COURAGE. You’re a writer. You know courage. You’ve faced the insurmountable odds of a blank white screen. You’ve taken a kernel of an idea and watched in amazement as it took flight and became something bigger. Do that again. Do that at the marathon. Be fearless. ALSO—bring just enough more courage to join the other writers somewhere around the halfway mark for a gather-round and a reading. Let us celebrate the words we write at the marathon by sharing them with each other while they’re still fresh and raw. Bring that much courage…enough not only to write with fierce determination, but also to read your words aloud and watch them come to life.

9. Bring any old thing you want except for booze, drugs and guns. Don’t listen to me, I’m just a bag-lady with the lifelong dream of living in a commune…a baglady who gets to see that dream come true but once a year in Huntsville, Ontario! Bring a guitar…Kumbaya has always been a favourite of mine. And the stars in Huntsville at the Muskoka Novel Marathon?! Whoa and wow! We can always just sit by the dock at night–just outside the venue–and watch the constellations reveal themselves, one star at time…

Beauty’s Religion and it Christens Me with Wonder

“There are places I’ll remember all my life…” ~ In My Life, The Beatles (Rubber Soul)

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When I consider the lyrics of And If Venice Is Sinking by the Spirit of the West, I inevitably think of places like Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. “‘Cause beauty’s religion and it’s christened me with wonder.” Not only is Notre Dame the very heart of one of the world’s most beloved cities, but it is also smack dab at the Point Zero mark of that city. There is an octagonal brass plate embedded in the ground just outside the front doors of Notre Dame. It’s marked, “POINT ZERO – DES ROUTES DE FRANCE”. The point from which all places are measured. If the heart is at the centre, then this would be the literal heart of Paris.

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When I was in Paris in 2014 for the Left Bank Writers Retreat, I stayed just down the street from the iconic Catholic cathedral… on Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. I made it a point to walk by–to touch–the cathedral every single day I was in Paris. I discovered that if you go just after sunrise, you can beat the throngs that appear and line up outside its front doors for the remainder of the day. You could have the entire inside of the cathedral virtually to yourself. This is what I did. And it was lovely. I was able to walk through the history housed in the massive cathedral at my own pace and marvel at the myriad of relics found under it impressive roof. And instead of feeling ill at ease by all the watching eyes of the gargoyles looking down from above, I felt protected. They were patrolling the heart of Paris, keeping everything in their arrondissement safe. And who was I to question that? They had been looking down on Paris for 750 years, give or take. Those gargoyles? They are my saints. They are enough religion for me.

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Our Lady of Paris suffered another setback yesterday, but she will rise again. She always does. She has, after all, survived even the French Revolution.

 

 

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Notre-Dame in the spring of 2014.

Inside Notre-Dame, I found a model of Notre-Dame. I hope they removed it before the most recent restoration project began.

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In 1831 Victor Hugo featured Our Lady in his famous literary masterpiece The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. This is how I fell in love with the cathedral. I found her in a book.

The preface of Hugo’s book explains how graffiti was its catalyst…one word–ANArKH–engraved by hand into the wall in Notre Dame. That always shook me. It stayed with me…the spark that created a masterpiece. I could visualize that becoming, that blossoming, that eruption of creativity. It’s how ideas come to writers. It’s remarkable that we get a glimpse into this secret insight in the preface of Hugo’s book. It, in itself, is a gift. Anyway, the end of the preface is as follows:

“The man who wrote that word upon the wall disappeared from the midst of the generations of man many centuries ago; the word, in its turn, has been effaced from the wall of the church; the church will, perhaps, itself soon disappear from the face of the earth. It is upon this word that this book is founded. March, 1831.”

Being a character in a novel has its perks. For Notre-Dame, the biggest perk became renewed interest and, ultimately, a restoration—which saw the addition of the iconic spire that toppled yesterday in a fire. That spire took many hearts with it when it fell into the flames. But don’t lose hope. Vive la France, Vive Paris, Vive Notre Dame. She will rise again. It may take some time, but she will do it. She sits inside the literal heart of a great nation and she is that great nation’s heart. They won’t let her die.

NYC Midnight Screenwriting Challenge and Me

And you may say to yourself, “My God! What have I done?”” ~ David Byrne, Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime

File this one under the category of here we go again, or, my god what have I done?

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It would seem that I somehow (accidentally?) accepted the challenge to partake of the NYC MIDNIGHT SCREENWRITING CHALLENGE. Like it wasn’t enough punishment to subject myself to the SHORT STORY CHALLENGE that is STILL ONGOING. This coming Friday at Midnight (TOMORROW), all the NYC screenwriting challenge entrants will receive an email with the 3 stipulations they must include into their screenplays…which they will then have one week to write. I’ve thrown myself back into the deep end of the pool before I even had a chance to actually climb back out of it. I’m terrified, if not a little exhilarated. I like knowing that I’m not in this alone. I know a few of my fellow writers who are partaking of this madness. Hopefully, we can commiserate together…although there’s probably not enough Kleenex in the world!

The 3 stipulations for the SCREENWRITING CHALLENGE are: GENRE, LOCATION, OBJECT. Here’s a sample of some of last year’s stipulations:

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Yeah, not scary AT ALL. More like, terrifying!

Now…I guess I have a few hours left to figure out the ins and outs of writing a screenplay. They do, after all, offer a crash course for those of us who have never done so! Here’s the handy-dandy link to the NYC Midnight Screenwriting Challenge HOW TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY. “Shouldn’t be too difficult,” they said, laughing like a hyena as tears of regret spilled from their eyes.

Wish me luck, or at the very least a broken leg or two…

 

Read Chapter 1 of Pride Must Be A Place Right Now…

I thought I would share the first chapter of PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE today. As I gear up for the 2019 Muskoka Novel Marathon, which is where I will be writing my next novel…I’m also reflecting on my previous MNM achievements, failures and attempts. PRIDE is MOST DEFINITELY my most commercially successful novel to date. I wrote the first draft mostly at the 2015 Muskoka Novel Marathon. Here you go…the first chapter. I’ll include buy links at the bottom. You know…just in case you wish to read on. (-;

Chapter 1

It’s hard to be yourself. I know, because I’ve been avoiding it for years. But I’ve also been embracing it. It’s hard to explain. You know when you know if you reveal too much of yourself you could be in for a world of trouble? Well, that pretty much sums it up for me. I live in a world where I’m not the same person all the time. I’m getting there. But I’m not ready yet. Not today, anyway. It sucks. I mean, it really sucks. A lot. But I’m not willing to destroy everything in my life just yet.

I think my father hates gays. Or, at least that’s how I see it. I can’t really know for sure what’s in his heart. Or if it will matter if (when) he finds out his oldest son is gay. I just know by the way he sneers when he sees them on TV, or out in the wild on those rare occasions when I’m with him. He looks down his nose at them like they’re some disease-carrying pariahs. It gives me this burning ache in the pit of my belly. Sometimes I think about the way he will eventually turn that scorn and disgust upon me, and I just want to die.

But I don’t think he knows.

I’m not one of those in-your-face gays like Alex Mills. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, so the joke goes. Alex is an awesome guy, sometimes. I love him, mostly. He’s my second best friend, next to Nettie English. But Alex is one of those friends I can’t bring home. Dad would take one look at him and know there’s something wrong with me, something gay with me. You don’t have friends like Alex Mills unless you’re one of them.

My father would love for me to dislike gays as much as he does. He’s such a homophobic bigot. I can’t believe I’m actually telling you this. It’s so humiliating to know something like this about a man you’re supposed to love and respect.

CLICK ON THE CONTINUE READING LINK BELOW TO READ THE REST OF CHAPTER ONE…

Continue reading “Read Chapter 1 of Pride Must Be A Place Right Now…”