Curious to know what went on at our monthly RoundTable meeting? Please enjoy this RoundTable Recap (prepared by Susan Croft, in charge of public relations for the WCDR). Also, look for more of these recaps after each RoundTable meeting!
Passion, Courage, and Conviction:
Author, editor, film-maker and movie score composer Chris Alexander delighted WCDR members at the April 12, 2014 RoundTable, discussing topics that ran the gamut from style and voice to enthusiasm and passion. Alexander is best known for his work as the editor of magazines like Fangoria, Gorezone, and Rue Morgue. “I liked weird stuff because my dad liked weird stuff,” he said. “So I was allowed to like weird stuff … I was watching Citizen Kane and understanding it when I was six.” But Alexander’s obsession and love of the strange and the bizarre did not result in his being ostracized by his peers, because he “was always a bit of a curiosity. I liked that role.” He began writing about horror films “out of necessity, because I needed to communicate this love, to write about these amazing films I was seeing. All I could do was sit down in my English class, put pen to paper and write, write, write, present, and annoy teachers.” Many of his teachers were concerned by the subjects Alexander insisted on writing about, but as he explained: “I was writing about living, dying, my grandparents, the world that I lived in and how I understood it. Once in a while you’d get a good teacher who would see that, be astonished by it and encourage it.”
FANGORIA, a magazine that specializes in reviewing horror films, “was my religion,” Alexander claimed. “And then there was GOREZONE,” which was more gruesome than FANGORIA—so gruesome, that it was kept on the top of the magazine rack with the pornography. “I never did drugs,” Alexander said. “I did FANGORIA and GOREZONE.” It was in GOREZONE that Alexander found his idol: a columnist called Chas Balun. His writing wasn’t “academic, dull or dry. He would use heavy alliteration, taking you down this journey, quickly educating you about this movie, but it wasn’t about the movies. It was about the journey with Chas. The first thing I wanted to do was rip him off.”
So Alexander began writing. Still in high school, he wrote a piece called “Cheap Visceral Thrills,” that was designed and written to be read aloud. His teacher, recognizing the talent in the piece, put him in front of the school to read it. “I got a standing ovation,” Alexander recalled. “That was my first experience using my passion and word play to affect an audience. Once you get that, you need it again and again and again.”
Slowly, Alexander built a career for himself. Some of it was based on determination—freelancing, working for four magazines at once—and some of it was, in his own words, dumb luck. For example, one night while working as a concierge at a Toronto condominium, he called Warner Brothers’ offices and kept dialing names until he got the president’s voice mail, where he left a message promising to do anything so long as they would hire him. “It was a shot in the dark,” he admitted, “hoping to hit the donkey’s ass. It hit.” Working at Warner Brothers’ gave Alexander the opportunity to meet the big names in film and film criticism.
“My day job is now my love and my work,” he concluded, referring to his work as editor of FANGORIA and GOREZONE, “but this wasn’t always the case. The key was that I believed what I wrote and saw light at the end of the tunnel.” Alexander’s parting advice to WCDR members included: “Brand yourself. Work around the clock. Be a practical dreamer—look at people [you admire], follow their model, because however they did it, you can do it too.”
WCDR Grants & Scholarships: Jenny Madore announced the 13 winners of the 2014 WCDR Grants and Scholarships. Jessica Moore received the $500 Len Cullen Scholarship, with Gwynn Scheltema and Vicki Pinkerton taking the two $250 Len Cullen awards. James Dewar and Sue Reynolds of Inkslingers accepted the $250 Inkslingers grant on behalf of Kate Marshall Flaherty, while Ruth Walker and Gwynn Scheltema of Writescape presented their sponsored grant to Connie Di Pietro Sparacino. Other winners included Kate Arms-Roberts, Sylvia Chiang, Sandra Clarke, Elaine Cougler, Heidi Croot, Anna Gersman, Corey MacLean, and Jay Stewart. Thanks to the sponsors of this year’s program, and congratulations to all our winners!
AGM & Board Elections: It’s almost that time of year again. On June 14, we’ll be holding our annual general meeting (AGM), at which time half of the positions on the board will become available. This year, the available positions are: VP, Secretary, Web Liaison, Treasurer, and Membership. Jenny Madore has accepted a nomination to run for VP and will be standing for election as Treasurer for another term, and Maureen Curry is standing for Membership again. We will send nomination forms soon. If you would like to run for any of these 5 positions, feel free to talk to a board member, or any member about a nomination. You can also nominate yourself! Any member is welcome to run for the board. For more information, check out this special announcement.
Workshops & One-on-one Sessions: Sharon Overend announced that there are still spots available in the “Work of Wonder Workshop” with Daniel Scott Tysdal, taking place at Trent University’s Oshawa campus on April 26. Learn how to make your poetry and prose inspire curiosity in your reader in this full-day workshop! She also announced that one-on-one 50-minute pitch sessions with our U25 agents are open for registration. Sam Hiyate will be seeing people in Durham Region on May 9, and Stacey Donnaghy will be hearing your pitches on May 10 in Newmarket. Ali MacDonald has also agreed to take pitches, but the date and time are still to be determined. Register early to avoid disappointment!
We would like to extend our condolences to the Flaherty family. A moment of silence was observed for former finance minister Jim Flaherty, a patron of the arts and a tireless advocate for this region, who passed away earlier this week.
As always, Blue Heron Books was on hand with a variety of books for sale—including a selection of titles by our guest speaker. Dorothea Helms kindly manned the table. Sue Reynolds, James Dewar, Corey MacLean, Ruth Walker, and Jessica Moore, Editor-In-Chief of The Lamp, were also in the lobby selling their work.
Sherry Loeffler was at the library table, overseeing our collection of books that members can borrow from RoundTable to RoundTable, as well as managing our Pay it Forward collection.
Our writing exercise this month, “Caption This,” was led by Harrison Wheeler. Wheeler is an author of speculative fiction for young readers and an illustrator who has taught in a variety of settings (from Nunavut to Japan) to a variety of ages (5-85 years). His book, Jesters Incognito, is now available.
We also had a fantastic assortment of raffle prizes, including gift certificates from Blue Heron Books donated by the WCDR; a copy of Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer’s book, All the Broken Things; a spot in Jessica Outram’s Sunshine in a Jar workshop; a teapot donated by Christina Vaselevski; a box of Purdy’s chocolates, donated by Sally Moore; Maple Syrup, provided by Auberge des Gallant in Quebec; a “Power Pack” of cartoons donated by our artist for this month, Harrison Wheeler; and a copy of The Lamp Volume III, donated by G.L. Morgan.
After breakfast, Dorothea Helms led our mini-workshop: “Pricing for Profit.” This slice of Dorothea’s popular, all-day Business of Writing workshop showed participants the business basics of making a part- or full-time living as a freelancer. Attendees learned what to charge, how to price package deals and, most importantly, when to say no to a job. Dorothea has had humorous pieces appear in a variety of magazines and newspapers across North America. She has served on the faculty of a humour-writing conference in the U.S. and runs “Whenever I feel like it” humour writing contests under her brand, The Writing Fairy. Our mini-workshop next month will be “Write a Winning Bio and Writer’s Profile,” with Gwynn Scheltema.
Our May RoundTable will feature historical fiction author Barbara Kyle, author of the acclaimed Thornley Saga, set in Tudor England. Register early to avoid disappointment!
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