Friday, April 07, 2017

The Pas in April

* * *

I'll be doing two workshops and two readings as part of the UCN Language Arts Festival.

Once the festival is complete, I'll be doing a reading on April 27 at the Pas Public Library with Lauren and Duncan as part of National Poetry Month.

I'm grateful for organizers Keith Hyde and David Williamson for all their work and the University College of the North and the League of Canadian Poets for their support.

Monday, March 20, 2017

NPM in the WFP 2017

For the second year in a row, The Winnipeg Free Press will be hosting a National Poetry Month project.

Every Saturday in April, poems by Winnipeg writers will appear in the 49.8 section.

Eligible writers: Winnipeg writers. NPM in the WFP is committed to a diversity of voices: emerging, PoC, spoken word, Indigenous, established, LGBTQ+, and page poets. If your work was featured in the 2016 edition of NPM on the WFP, you may still submit, but the priority will be new writers.

  •        Email previously unpublished poems on the theme of “Time” to
  •        The DEADLINE for submissions is March 25, 2017.
  •        Submit a maximum of 5 poems. Each poem should be no more than 25 lines.
  •         Please submit your poems in one Word document (PDF or RTF also acceptable).
  •        Send a short bio (max 40 words), both in the body of the email AND in your submission.

About the Editor: Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her second collection of poetry, Stowaways (Palimpsest Press, 2014), won the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. She is currently writing creative non-fiction about Winnipeg’s urban forest, which is slated for publication in 2018 with Wolsak & Wynn.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

In Conversation: Brian McInnes

Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION
by Ariel Gordon

Brian McInnes is an Ojibwa Anishinaabe education professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is also the great-grandson of Francis Pegahmagabow, Canada’s most-decorated indigenous soldier, chief of his community, and supreme chief of the National Indian Government.

Brian will be launching Sounding Thunder: The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow on March 7 at McNally’s. 

Free Press: What do you want people to know about Sounding Thunder?
Brian McInnes: I would like people to know that Sounding Thunder, while of clear interest for indigenous peoples and communities, is a story for all Canadians. Although the book features several stories of military legend and political hero Francis Pegahmagabow, it is not meant to serve as "his story" in the biographical sense. Sounding Thunder provides us all with a greater understanding of the history of his people, the Ojibwa worldview, and the major life experiences that made Francis the extraordinary individual he was.

FP: In addition to these public roles, Francis Pegahmagabow was also your great-grandfather. Did you feel any extra responsibility when writing this book?

BM: Absolutely! His contributions to Canadian history alone warrant a special degree of care and description. He is a significantly under-recognized Canadian figure, and the timing seemed right to release this book on the eve of Canada’s 150th anniversary. Francis was never recognized as a citizen in his lifetime but his contributions to Canadian society deserve commendation in this time of remembrance and celebration of the efforts of all peoples in making Canada what it is today. The book also provided a much-needed opportunity to gently correct some of the misinterpretations in the written record that marred his legacy.

FP: Why was it important for Francis’ stories to appear in both Ojibwa and English?
BM: In the contemporary movement to recognize indigenous languages as official languages of Canada, materials that first feature a native language should be of increasing value. I spend a considerable amount of the book explaining how language is central to identity, and how native languages and storytelling traditions have much to offer our collective understanding of the world. The book includes at least two maps that document some of the first place names for one of Canada’s most beautiful regions. The stories in (the book) are based on a number of stories that Francis told his youngest children, and that they encouraged me to share with the world. It was their wish that these stories be told first in the native language and I have honoured that request in this book.
FP: What are your goals for Sounding Thunder?

BM: I wanted Sounding Thunder to be a book that would bring a deeper appreciation for the historic contributions and often unseen struggles of indigenous peoples in Canada. In creating a more common understanding amongst Canadians about the past experience of native peoples, we have a better chance of creating a future that is characterized by reconciliation and positive relationship.
FP: You live in Duluth, teaching at the University of Minnesota. Is it difficult to live and work far away from the land and waters of Georgian Bay and your home community?

BM: I feel very lucky to be where I am but the connection to home is undeniable and ever-present. When I was a young man, my great aunt took me to a special place on Georgian Bay—the Turtle rock—(close to the birthplace of Francis Pegahmagabow) and told me it was a marker that the Ojibwa Nation had used in their migration westward. That moment somewhat directed me to where I presently am, particularly with my interest in traditional Ojibwa ceremonial traditions. Lake Superior is a pretty special place, and its connection to Lake Huron is very real. This end of Ojibwa country, fortunately, has a sense of resonance and familiarity that makes home seem not so far away.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

In Conversation: Terry O’Reilly

Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION
by Ariel Gordon

Former adman Terry O’Reilly has spent the last 10 years on CBC Radio, talking about advertising and then the broader world of marketing.

He is launching his second book, This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence, on Monday at McNally’s.

Free Press: What do you want people to know about This I Know?

O’Reilly: I wrote this book for one very specific reason. Most of the companies in this country are small to medium-sized businesses. Almost none of them have a big advertising agency on speed dial. This book gives entrepreneurs the kind of high-level marketing thinking they normally wouldn’t have access to. From how to analyze your greatest marketing opportunity, to crafting a killer strategy, to why going the extra inch might be smarter than going the extra mile, then how to take all that thinking and turn it into compelling marketing. I hope this book becomes a very well-thumbed companion.

FP: First, you worked at an ad agency. Then you created Pirate Radio & Television, a company that produced radio and television commercials for ad agencies. Then you started one radio show for CBC, and then another, looking first at advertising and then marketing. 

It looks like a logical progression from the outside. What did it feel like on the inside?

O’Reilly: I just read UFC fighter Georges St. Pierre’s fantastic book The Way of The Fight. He maintains a "white-belt mentality." In other words, he’s always in learning mode. I’ve been in the advertising business for over 35 years, worked on over 10,000 commercials, and I’m still learning. Each career step was a weigh station. The stakes got bigger. The lessons more vivid. The epiphanies more surprising. This book is a collection of that accumulated wisdom — so far.

FP: What was your favourite campaign that you created? What’s your favourite campaign by someone else?

O’Reilly: My favourite campaign was for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. They desperately needed to attract younger subscribers. With only a tiny budget, I wrote a radio campaign that generated more subscriptions in a few months than they had received in the entire previous year. And did it with a highly unusual campaign. Proving (again) that creativity is a powerful business tool.

My favourite advertising campaign of all time was the Volkswagen advertising of the 1960s. Created by ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, they took a small, ugly, underpowered German car in a post World War II world and turned it into the most beloved automobile of its time. They did it with wit and self-deprecating advertising. It had never been done before. Best advertising of all time.

FP: What would be your first tip for small business owners? For young people getting into marketing?

O’Reilly: Decide what business you are really in. Molson isn’t in the beer business, it’s in the party business. Goodyear isn’t in the tire business, it’s in the safety business. Whitewater rafting companies aren’t in the personal transportation business, they’re in the personal transformation business. Until you really know what people are buying, you’re marketing will never be relevant. As someone once said, people don’t buy three-quarter-inch drill bits, they buy three-quarter inch holes.

I would tell any young person getting into the marketing business to read. Read great business books. Read great marketing blogs. Pour over advertising award annuals. Be a thirsty sponge. The lessons are many as long as you have your antennae finely tuned.

FP: How is social media affecting traditional advertising, like print and broadcast media?

O’Reilly: Every year, more and more advertising money is being plowed into social media. It’s a conversation. Most traditional media is a one-way monologue. It has to figure out a way to co-exist with social media. When radio appeared in the 1920s, many said it was the end of newspapers. But papers got smart and started printing the radio program schedules. It learned to co-exist. Traditional media has to redefine itself, too.

FP: What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

O’Reilly: I have two books on the go. One is The Case For Creativity by James Hurman. It proves that award-winning advertisements outperform non-award winning work by 300-400 per cent. That’s important, because most clients think award shows are useless. That is an uninformed point-of-view. The other book I’m reading is Five Presidents by Clint Hill. He was the secret service agent who jumped onto the back of the limo the day JFK was assassinated. He worked for five different Presidents. Fascinating to read the differences.

A weekly radio show/podcast is a cruel mistress. During the run of show (January to June), my writing is consumed and confined to the program. It’s a seven-day-a-week proposition during that period. But I love it. It’s "joyful stress."

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

In Conversation: Eden Robinson

Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION
by Ariel Gordon

Eden Robinson is a Haisla/Heiltsuk writer based in Kitimaat, B.C.

In November, she was given the 2016 Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award, which recognizes mid-career writers for a remarkable body of work.

The most recognizable of Robinson’s five books is her Giller-shortlisted first novel, Monkey Beach. The Washington Post called it a "spiritual mystery" for the way it combined the supernatural — based on Haisla culture, of course — with a dark, pop-culture infused murder mystery.

Her latest book, Son of a Trickster, is the first of a projected trilogy. It is the story of Jared, a smart-alecky teenage boy whose emerging supernatural powers are interfering with a home life that includes a single mother with a drug-dealing boyfriend, a flatulent pit bull and a father whose bills he pays.

Robinson will launch Son a Trickster Feb. 12 at McNally Robinson. The event will be hosted by NCI-FM’s David McLeod.

FP: Your books explore addiction and dysfunction; they’re bleak and irreverent while also focusing on indigenous culture and spirituality. They’re also so unexpectedly tender.

Eden Robinson: Our society has such a stigma about people coping with mental trauma. It makes us uncomfortable, so we don’t want to talk about it. We don’t provide affordable, easily accessible services, yet we expect people to stiff upper lip through absolute hell, and then we dump on them when their lives fall apart because the only relief they can find is through drugs or alcohol. You see it with residential school survivors. You see it with soldiers with PTSD. You see it with first responders. The hard work of healing is done by the traumatized and their families, often with no training and no support. Amazing, resilient people rise out of this, but a lot of good people are crushed.

FP: What are your goals, your hopes, when taking on all of these big subjects?

ER: My sympathies are with the people coping with impossible circumstances. But I’m not a big fan of morality tales or telling people what to think. And I miss this TV show called Roseanne. And I love Trickster stories. And I have a random brain. So you mush all that together, and my big hope is that people are entertained by my crazy stories.

FP: What have you learned about your process, four books in?

ER: I pushed myself hard when I was younger and had absolutely no work/life balance. I don’t regret my ambition, but I couldn’t do it again because a) my body would rebel and b) family is too important to put on the back burner. Relaxing about my work habits has led me to enjoy writing again. Darkness still exists in my material because, in my heart of hearts, I’m still a goth girl writing moody poetry in my room. But I hope the sense of joy in creating comes through on the page.

FP: Who are the writers you look to? Who are your influences?

ER: Every book has a different set of challenges, so I look to different writers to use as touch stones and inspiration. For this book: Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson; When Fox is a Thousand, Larissa Lai; One Good Story That One, Thomas King; Kiss of the Fur Queen, Tomson Highway; Tracks, Louise Erdrich; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams; Celia’s Story, Lee Maracle; Lyric Philosophy, Jan Zwicky, Indigenous Poetics, Ed. Neil McLeod; Tales of the Kitamaat, Gordon Robinson.

FP: Your novels are published as literary fiction, but they could easily work as fantasy. Have you ever considered throwing over literary festivals for comic cons?

ER: I would love to be invited to comic cons. I’m a huge indiginerd.

FP: What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

ER: I just finished an advanced copy of Claire Cameron’s The Last Neanderthal. She can write warm and fuzzy, and then breath-taking violence, and then cutthroat office politics. I really enjoyed it. Both her female narrators were warriors in their own ways. Last week, I read Railroads and Totem Poles by Janet Rogers. She was the poet laureate for Victoria and is a mesmerizing spoken-word poet. Powerful and witty.

I’m working on Trickster Drift, the sequel to Son of a Trickster. Having accepted his heritage as the son of a witch and a Trickster, Jared decides the best way to cope is to become a medical sonographer and argue with his friends about which actor made the best Doctor Who. Since he hasn’t got a lot of savings or funding, he ends up couch surfing in Vancouver with his aunt, Mavis Moody, an eccentric writer and activist. Not based on anyone. Total fiction.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Winter view

University of Manitoba Greenhouses, Winnipeg, MB. January 25, 2017.

* * *

I attended a lunchtime lecture at the University of Manitoba this week. On the way between the Tier Building and St. John's College, where I work, I stopped to peer in the greenhouse windows. I'll always stop to look at their collection of hoary old plants, but in winter it's especially necessary.

Leaving the college later that day, heading home, I stopped to look out at the attached garden. There's a spot where the furnace exhaust pipe exits the building and I like it because the venting warm air keeps that spot snow and ice-free.

So there's this warm dry expanse of mulch, then a ring of wet mulch, and then snow. The wet ring actually has groundcover growing on it, despite the temperatures/conditions only a few inches away.

And there was a brown rabbit nibbling on the groundcover.

Imagine being a herbivore and discovering something growing/green in the middle of's almost an end-times scenario but it was one I sort of didn't mind.