Top 10 Fine Arts stories for 2014

2014 sees the end of another busy year here at the Faculty of Fine Arts, where there was always something afoot. Five departments and hundreds of annual concerts, theatrical productions, readings, exhibits and lectures by visiting artists, academics and professionals means Fine Arts is always one of the busiest faculties on campus when it comes to community engagement. Here’s a quick wrap-up featuring some—but certainly not all—of the leading Fine Arts stories of the year.

“Hear us roar!”

UVic President Jamie Cassels and Vikes mascot Thunder present Rally Song winner Colleen Eccleston with her iPad  (photo: Armando Turo)

UVic President Jamie Cassels and Vikes mascot Thunder present Rally Song winner Colleen Eccleston with her iPad (photo: Armando Turo)

To the cheers of a tight game and the applause of a packed house, the winner of the School of Music / Vikes Nation Rally Song Contest was decided at the Vikes men’s basketball game way back on January 10—and first prize went to the School of Music’s own songwriting instructor Colleen Eccleston. With 18 submissions from across campus—including entries by students, faculty and administration alike—the top three finalists were performed live at half-time by fourth-year Music student Josh Lovell. Eccleston picked up a brand new iPad for her winning song, “Vikes Nation” (“We are Vikes Nation, hear us roar!”) as chosen by judges UVic President Jamie Cassels, Director of Athletics and Recreation Clint Hamilton, Director of School of Music Dr. Susan Lewis Hammond and varsity athlete Kyle Irvine. Attendees now hear a recorded version of Lovell’s rendition before the starting lineups of each Vikes home game.

On the button blanket

The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic's First Peoples House (Photo Services)

The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic’s First Peoples House (Photo Services)

It may have been nicknamed “the big button blanket project” by Art History & Visual Studies, but the creation and subsequent exhibit of Adasla: The Movement of Hands at the Legacy Galley garnered a great deal of attention in the community and the media. Both the blanket’s inaugural dance at the opening ceremonies of UVic’s annual Diversity Research Forum in February at First People’s House and the accompanying exhibit—featuring a special contemporary performance collaboration between Governor General’s Award-winning performance artist Rebecca Belmore, former Audain professor for the Department of Visual Arts, and blanket co-creator, Tahtan Nation artist Peter Morin—represented one of the strongest examples of community engagement of the year.

A name you can trust

Chancellor-designate Shelagh Rogers meets the media. Credit: UVic Photo Services

Chancellor-designate Shelagh Rogers meets the media. Credit: UVic Photo Services

It was the kind of news that would warm the heart of any arts supporter when famed CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers was named the University of Victoria’s 11th Chancellor in May. “To speak in a very non-chancellorian way, I’m thrilled out of my bean,” Rogers said at the time. “I feel like over the last little while I’ve been dating UVic—I’m glad now to be in a relationship with you.” Nominated by Fine Arts Dean Dr. Sarah Blackstone and Associate Dean Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Rogers’ term begins in January 2015. “As UVic’s chancellor, Shelagh Rogers will enhance the excellence of our university,” said Blackstone. “She will bring tremendous energy and great insight to her new role. Her national reputation as an advocate for Canadian arts and culture will serve the university well. UVic could not ask for a better ambassador as we build on our reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement.”

Getting an A in Queen B

Melissa Avdeeff

Melissa Avdeeff

There’s nothing like a little controversy to spark interest in a course, as School of Music instructor Melissa Avdeeff discovered when word broke in July that she’d be teaching a course on the music of Beyoncé at UVic, resulting in some less than positive comments (“I think I just gave up on Western culture!” “Truly a waste of education and money!”). It didn’t take long for media outlets ranging from the CBC, CTV and Macleans to the Globe and Mail and the Huffington Post to jump on the Beyoncé bandwagon. “I don’t see studying popular culture as any less academically or socially relevant than studying other forms of musicology like historical musicology or music theory,” Avdeef told the Globe. “It’s important to have these courses. They get people thinking more critically about how they are engaging with media.”

Art on view

"Hit for the sculpture!" Stillwell's piece in context of the baseball diamond

“Hit for the sculpture!” Stillwell’s piece as it appears from the baseball diamond

It was a busy year for professors in the Department of Visual Arts, with a number of exhibits and new sculptures being unveiled. Both Jennifer Stillwell and Robert Youds debuted new pieces of public art—Stillwell’s High Five began reaching for the sky in Winnipeg back in August and Youds’ For Everyone a Sunset was unveiled at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite in October—while departmental chair Paul Walde‘s Requiem For A Glacier installation appeared in Nelson in January, was written up in a  Times Colonist UVic Research feature in July, ran from September to November at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam, then ran at Laval University Art Gallery in Quebec City until the end of December. Meanwhile, photographer Vikky Alexander opened two photography exhibitions this fall—a show of new work Theatergarden Bestiarium in Los Angeles and the retrospective The Temptation of St Anthony in Vancouver—and will have two more shows opening in early 2015 in both Calgary and Montreal.

All for Two 4 One

Bradley considering a shot on set  (photo: Arnold Lim)

Bradley considering a shot on set (photo: Arnold Lim)

Department of Writing professor Maureen Bradley‘s locally lensed debut feature film, Two 4 One, had  its world premiere at the 2014 Calgary International Film Festival in September, before moving on to its BC premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival in October, and the Eastern Canada premiere at Montréal’s Image + Nation Film Festival in November.
Coming up in February 2015, it will be the opening gala film at the Available Light Film Festival in the Yukon and local audiences will be able to see the film—described as Canada’s first transgendered romantic comedy—as part of the Victoria Film Festival, also in February. Two 4 One is written and directed by Bradley and produced by digital media staffer Daniel Hogg.

The best exotic intergenerational theatre company

Theatre PhD Matthew Gusul (centre) at the field school in India

Theatre PhD Matthew Gusul (centre) at the field school in India

Department of Theatre PhD candidate Matthew Gusul attracted attention with his field school to India in October. Gusul and 13 undergraduates spent two months in the Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry regions to create the country’s first intergenerational theatre company. By positively highlighting the life experiences of residents at the Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village and the students of the Isha Vidhya Matriculation School, Gusul and his students worked with a team of Indian directors to encourage these seniors and rural youth to perform their own stories, develop strong community relations and create new lines of dialogue across generations. Stay tuned for an update on their efforts, coming the first week of January.

World War I history mystery

Marcus Milwright with JM's diaries

Marcus Milwright with JM’s diaries

When Art History and Visual Studies professor Marcus Milwright began planning his November exhibit The Arts of World War I, he had no idea that his use of a two-volume leather diary set featuring illustrations of life during the Great War—signed only by the initials “JM”—would generate so much publicity. But Milwright’s search for JM’s identity sparked a flurry of international media attention, which you can read about here. The Arts of World War I continues to March 2, 2015, in the McPherson Library’s Legacy Maltwood Gallery, and will be a featured part of UVic’s IdeaFest in March.

National honours

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

The Faculty of Fine Arts was remarkably well-represented in national awards this year, thanks to the nomination of five Fine Arts faculty and alumni in the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Awards—Writing professor Bill Gaston, Writing alumni Garth Martens & Arno Kopecky, and Department of Theatre aluma & playwright Janet Munsil, as well as eventual Poetry winner and Writing alumna Arleen Paré. But there was also Writing professor Tim Lilburn‘s induction as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, retired Writing professor Patrick Lane receiving the Order of Canada and Department of Visual Arts student Kim Adams winning the 2014 Governor-General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. “Having so many areas of the Faculty of Fine Arts recognized illustrates the strength and vibrancy of fine arts at the University of Victoria in particular and in British Columbia generally,” says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “Such achievements are all the more impressive given budget cuts for fine arts programs overall.” Add to that new books by Writing professors Lee Henderson (The Road Narrows As You Go), Bill Gaston (Juliet Was a Surprise) and Kevin Kerr (Tear The Curtain).

Fine Arts can be a picnic

Evocative 1940s costumes made Picnic a winner in the Spotlight Awards (photo: David Lowes)

Evocative 1940s costumes made Picnic a winner in the Spotlight Awards (photo: David Lowes)

Finally, Phoenix Theatre rounded out another busy year of productions in the Department of Theatre with their 1970s revamp of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by professor Fran Gebhard, which followed their latest Spotlight on Alumni production The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe—which was so popular that it had to be held over! Both their spring productions—Picnic (directed by professor Peter McGuire) and Unity (1918) (written and directed by Writing professor Kevin Kerr)—were well-received and recently earned nominations and a win for Best Costumes in Victoria’s annual Critic’s Choice Spotlight Awards.

Here’s looking forward to an equally busy 2015!

Running with honours

Fourth year Department of Writing student Grace Annear was recently announced as the only Faculty of Fine Arts student named to the 2014 University of Victoria Vikes Honour Roll. Annear specializes in cross-country running and track, and was one of 69 student-athletes honoured at the November 19 event at the University Club.

4th year Writing student Grace Annear has been named to the  Vikes Honour Roll

4th year Writing student Grace Annear has been named to the Vikes Honour Roll

“I was recruited out of high school, but I came to UVic because of the Writing program and the varsity athletics,” says Annear.

Student-athletes can only earn a place on the Vikes Honour Roll by achieving a minimum of a 6.6 GPA (80%) during the school year, while training and competing at the highest level of sport. This is Annear’s third year being named to the Honour Roll—and, since she is also a Canadian Interuniversity Sport athlete, she was awarded a CIS Academic All-Canadian Certificate signed by His Excellency, the Right Honorable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

“It’s a lot of work,” she admits. “I have to be really focused with my time management—and my time management skills have increased dramatically, especially as the word counts increase in my upper-level courses. As an athlete, you’re used to doing a lot of homework on Friday and Saturday nights, so I don’t have as much of a social life as most university students might have. I guess my training is my social life.”

But while running may be the athletic passion of this Hampton, New Brunswick native—her athletic achievements include Canada West First Team All-Star, CIS First Team All-Canadian and a trio of gold-medal wins for both 400- and 800-meter races—Annear’s writing focus is clearly set on fiction. “Ian McEwan’s Atonement was the book that made me want to be a writer,” she says. “I read it when I was 13 and it was my first real ‘adult’ book. Before that I was reading things like Twilight, but Atonement was my immediate launching point into the world of real literature.”

Annear with Acting Dean of Fine Arts, Dr Lynne Van Luven at the Honour Roll luncheon (photo: Armando Tura, APShutter.com)

Annear with Acting Dean of Fine Arts, Dr Lynne Van Luven at the Honour Roll luncheon (photo: Armando Tura, APShutter.com)

Annear sees a lot of parallels between her athletic and creative pursuits. “Being a distance runner is like being a writer—you have to be completely self-motivated,” she explains. “With running, it’s all about what you can do within yourself and then bring to the table on race day; with writing, it’s about how much you can pound out a good story. You don’t rely on anyone else, it’s just what you can do. If you’re motivated, and you want it bad enough, you can achieve in both areas.”

And has her running crossed over onto the page yet? “Every time I have a new professor, they ask, ‘Oh, have you written about running?’” she says with a laugh. “And I have—for every single prof—so now I’m trying to write other stuff.”

Annear says there is definitely a running/writing niche, but it’s not one to which she’s particularly drawn. “A lot of time it’s about marathoners and the self-reflection and peace and flow that comes with running—which is kind of true, but it’s very different than being a track athlete,” she says. “That’s a lot more intense, a lot more about launching yourself into the mind-numbingness of pain, to postpone that eternal struggle while you’re slogging through it.”

once a runnerShe can only point to one book that parallels her own experiences. “There is an iconic book called Once A Runner by John L. Parker Jr., which is basically about an American university miler during the 1960s, so it has a lot of historical context—but it’s more about what every college runner wants, this journey we all undergo. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that has captured what it actually feels like to be in a race, to undergo months and months of long training.”

This year marks the 10th annual Vikes Honour Roll Luncheon, but only the second time an associated $500 Vikes Honour Roll Award has been associated to each award, thanks to the generous support of UVic and the on-campus partnership between Nike, T. Litzen Sports and the UVic Bookstore.

In 2013-14, a record 2,863 CIS student-athletes across Canada achieved the prestigious Academic All-Canadian status, eclipsing the previous mark of 2,695 set a year ago.

Writing alumna Arleen Paré wins Governor General’s Award

Department of Writing alumna Arleen Paré has been announced as the winner of the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry for her newest book, Lake of Two Mountains (Brick Books). On top of national recognition and a trip to Ottawa’s Rideau Hall to receive the award on November 26 from His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, Paré also receives a cash prize of $25,000.

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

“We are all thrilled with this national recognition for Arleen’s unique poetic vision and her commitment to the craft of writing,” says Writing chair David Leach. “The fact that the Writing department had four nominees this year for Governor General’s Awards—three alumni and a faculty member—emphasizes how UVic is an incubator of literary excellence in Canada.”

The other Faculty of Fine Arts representatives nominated include Department of Writing professor Bill Gaston, Writing alumni  Garth Martens (BFA and MFA) and Arno Kopecky (Harvey Southam diploma grad), plus Department of Theatre aluma and playwright Janet Munsil—each of whom will receive $1,000. In all, Fine Arts had five out of 18 nominees in the Fiction/Poetry/Non-fiction/Drama categories of this year’s awards.

“Having so many areas of the Faculty of Fine Arts—poetry, with Arleen’s win; poetry again with Garth’s nomination; fiction with Bill Gaston’s and drama with Janet Munsil’s— illustrates the strength and vibrancy of fine arts at the University of Victoria in particular and in British Columbia generally,” says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “Such achievements are all the more impressive given budget cuts for fine arts programs overall.  Wonderful news all around!”

"A poem of sustained beauty”—jury comment

“A poem of sustained beauty”—jury comment

The jury praised Lake of Two Mountains as being “a poem of sustained beauty, an almost monastic meditation on the overlapping centres of human and natural reality. Whether she is describing the Oka Crisis, bullfrogs, sunbeams or religion, ‘anything that passes through [this shape-shifting landscape] is transformed,’ including the reader.”

Paré’s first book, Paper Trail, won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize and was shortlisted for BC Books Dorothy Livesay Prize in Poetry. She has also written the novel, Leaving Now (Caitlin Press, 2012). Her fourth book, a collection of poetry titled Face in the Funeral Car,, is forthcoming from Caitlin Press in fall 2015. Her writing has also appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies in Canada.

Department of Writing poetry professor—and fellow Governor General’s Literary Award winner—Tim Lilburn fondly recalls Paré’s time as both an undergrad and graduate student, working on early drafts of what would become her now award-winning poetry collection. “I remember working on some of those poems with her in workshop, and I think that’s where the idea for this book started,” says Lilburn. “Lake of Two Mountains is essentially her thesis that she’s added onto.”

Fellow GG nominated poets Kevin Paul (left), Melanie Siebert & Garth Martens

Fellow GG nominated poets Kevin Paul (left), Melanie Siebert & Garth Martens

Lilburn is also quick to point out the success of the Department of Writing’s MFA program. “We’ve had uncanny success in terms of the Governor General’s Awards since we started the MFA program in 2008,” he says. “We’ve had four GG nominations—Melanie Siebert, Kevin Paul, Garth Martens and Arleen Paré—and now one winner. All have been poets, and all four of them were undergrads, too.”

Lake of Two Mountains is a praise poem in 45 parts that contemplates landscape and memory, officially described as “a portrait of a lake, of a relationship to a lake, of a network of relationships around a lake. It maps, probes and applauds the riparian region of central Canadian geography that lies between the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence Rivers. The poems portray this territory, its contested human presences and natural history: the 1990 Oka Crisis, Pleistocene shifts and dislocations, the feather-shaped Ile Cadieux, a Trappist monastery on the lake’s northern shore. As we are drawn into experience of the lake and its environs, we also enter an intricate interleaving of landscape and memory, a reflection on how a place comes to inhabit us even as we inhabit it.”

Arleen6Retired Writing professor Patrick Lane lauded Paré’s poems as being “monastic prayers of forgiveness, intense simplicities that praise all we have lost, all we have left. She is a gift the world has given us. Read her and then in deep quiet read her again.”

Originally from Montreal, the 68-year-old Paré lived for many years in Vancouver, where she worked as a social worker. She is currently the director of Victoria’s Cool Aid Society, which works to end homelessness in the Capital Region.

She told the local Times Colonist newspaper in this interview that she was “amazed” to learn of her win. “It was actually shocking in that way you find yourself at the end of a parachute or something,” she said. “I felt weightless.” When asked what she’ll do with the prize money, Paré said she’ll use it to buy a heat pump for her cottage on Mayne Island.

“I love using language and trying to make it sparkle off the page,” Paré says in this Victoria News interview. “I love trying to use the right word in the right place. This is the puzzle that I work with all the time, and I enjoy that challenge very much.”
Paré will also join in a public reading with the other English-language winners at the Canada Council in Ottawa on November 26.

Write on at Writers Fest

A thousand words simply wouldn’t be enough to describe the picture of literary luminaries gathering for the annual Victoria Writers Festival—and, not surprisingly, our own Department of Writing will be well-represented at the event. More than just faculty, however, the Writers Fest also features a number of alumni and sessional instructors as well—18 in all!

writers-festRunning Thursday, November 6, to Saturday, November 8, at Oak Bay United (near the intersection of Foul Bay Road and Oak Bay Avenue), the Victoria Writers Festival offers 10 events and seven workshops, including three evening gala readings, six panel discussions, and the annual Carol Shields Lecture.

GG finalist Bill Gaston  (photo Jen Steele)

GG finalist Bill Gaston
(photo Jen Steele)

Foremost among the participants is current Governor General’s Literary Award nominee and senior faculty member Bill Gaston, alongside fellow faculty members Lee Henderson, Kevin Kerr and Joan MacLeod.

Alumni participants include two more 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award nominees—poets Arleen Paré and Garth Martens—as well as noted novelist Aislinn Hunter, recently published author Aaron Shephard, poets Anne-Marie Turza, Kayla Czaga and Gillian Wigmore, queer writer Ali Blythe, playwright Dave Brock and writer Eve Joseph. Fine Arts alumna playwright Janet Munsil—also nominated for a 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award—will be there as well.

Our participating sessional instructors include Giller Prize-nominated author John Gould, Marita Daschel (former Centre for Studies in Religion and Society Artist-in-Residence), and 2013 Southam Lecturer and acclaimed CBC broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts.

There’s plenty to hear, and think about, so be sure to check out the list of events.

Alumna & book prize sponsor Aislinn Hunter

Alumna & book prize sponsor Aislinn Hunter

And in other Writers Fest news, congratulations go out to to Department of Writing student Meghan Casey, who was recently announced as the winner of the 2014 Books Matter Prize. The one-time prize for UVic students—sponsored by alumna Aislinn Hunter, with support from Munro’s Books and the Victoria Writers Festival—offers a $500 gift certificate for Munro’s Books. Students were asked to submit an essay about a book that has made a difference to their writing life, and Casey’s submission—which starts with a distracted bathtub reading of Tim O’Brien’s short story The Things They Carried—caught Hunter’s attention.

Better still, Hunter was so impressed by fellow Writing student Claire Horwood‘s submission about Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness, that she created a “runner-up” prize of $100 and a place in her masters fiction workshop, Whatever Happens, Remember That Your Voice Is Unique, which she will give at the festival on November 8.

You can read Casey and Horwood’s winning pieces here.

Honourable Mentions go out to third-year Writing student Cara Marks (inspired by Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), second-year student Sam Dodd (Richard Ford’s Independence Day), and first-year Writing students Sarah Hughes (John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce); and Emma Carter (Charles Bukowski’s Fear is a Dog from Hell).

Is that meant to be funny?

If you think there’s nothing funny about censorship, Mark Leiren-Young would like to change your mind. A prolific freelance journalist, screenwriter, playwright, memoirist and award-winning author, Leiren-Young is this year’s Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction for the Department of Writing. And while his current Writing course Finding the Funny focuses on humour writing, his upcoming public lecture will examine the fine line between comedy and censorship.
Mark Leiren-Young is the latest Southam Lecturer

Mark Leiren-Young is the latest Southam Lecturer

“I’m fascinated by the question of, ‘Where’s the line?’,” says Leiren-Young. “What can you make fun of? What can’t you make fun of? What’s taboo? How soon is too soon?” By way of example, Leiren-Young looks east to Toronto’s frequently lampooned mayor. “Rob Ford and his tumor—too soon for jokes?”

As the author of the 2009 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour-winning memoir Never Shoot A Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo and one-half of the long-running satirical comedy duo Local Anxiety, Leiren-Young well knows the fine art of funny. A graduate of both UVic’s Writing and Theatre departments, he is also the first UVic alumnus to hold the Southam position.

His October 15 annual Southam public lecture You Can’t Say That!? Comedy, Censorship and Sensitivity in the 21st Century will draw not only on his own experiences as a journalist and performer but also on examples from popular culture to illustrate how the line between comedy and censorship keeps shifting.

“Think about the first time you ever saw South Park,” he says. “We all said, ‘Oh my god, you can’t say that on television!’ And that’s one of the thing I’ve told my class—you can critique anything you want, just don’t tell me it’s not funny. It’s okay to say you’re offended by it, but I’m not talking about anything that people haven’t laughed at.”

After writing three plays about censorship and spending the past 25 years on the Freedom to Read organiztion’s free expression committee, it’s a topic that’s clearly close to Leiren-Young’s heart. “It gets at the heart of what we are ‘allowed’ to write, and why we write,” he says. “Riffing on what’s funny versus what’s offensive is going to make for a great conversation.”

Mark Leiren-YoungThe secret, he says, always lies in context: given our rapid-fire media messaging and instantaneous technology, it’s all too easy for a joke to cross the line. “These 10-second Youtube clips that are killing careers now—all too often they’re taken totally out of context. It’s one thing to be funny in a comedy club, but play that same joke on the evening news…”

As the eighth Southam Lecturer for the Writing department, Leiren-Young follows in the footsteps of the likes of CBC Radio’s Jo-Ann Roberts, author Richard Wagamaese and sports journalist Tom Hawthorn. And, given the topic, will his public lecture actually be funny?

“It better be,” he chuckes wryly,” or I’m already in deep trouble.”

You Can’t Say That!? Comedy, Censorship and Sensitivity in the 21st Century 7:00 pm Wednesday, Oct. 15 in room A240 of the Human & Social Development Building. Admission is free.

Five for Fine Arts in GG list

When it comes to the really big awards, we always hope there will be at least one name on the list associated with our faculty—or, if we’re really lucky, sometimes even two. Colour us amazed then that this year’s list of the English-language finalists in the Governor General’s Literary Awards includes five people associated with the Faculty of Fine Arts: one Department of Writing faculty member, two former grad students, one Harvey Southam diploma grad plus one Theatre alum!

That’s five, count ‘em, five from Fine Arts out of 18 nominees in the Fiction/Poetry/Non-fiction/Drama categories of the Governor General’s Literary Awards, which are funded and administered by the Canada Council for the Arts.

GG finalist Bill Gaston  9photo Jen Steele)

GG finalist Bill Gaston
9photo Jen Steele)

Congratulations go out to Writing professor Bill Gaston (Fiction) for his new short story collection Juliet Was a Surprise; MFA alumni Garth Martens (Poetry) for his debut collection of poems Prologue for the Age of Consequence and Arleen Paré (Poetry) for her latest volume, Lake of Two Mountains; Harvey Southam grad Arno Kopecky (Non-fiction) for his timely investigation The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway; and Department of Theatre alum Janet Munsil for her recently published play That Elusive Spark, which was mounted here at Phoenix Theatre in 2005.

“It was quite a surprise,” Martens told the local Times Colonist in this interview with the local nominees. “I was half asleep . . . I was really quite jubilant.” And you can click here to listen to an interview with local CBC’s On The Island.

The Governor General’s Literary Awards are Canada’s oldest and most prestigious literary awards program with a total value of $450,000. Each winner will receive $25,000. The publisher of each winning book will receive $3,000 to support promotional activities. Non-winning finalists each receive $1,000.

“This year’s list of finalists contains powerful novels and poems, imaginative children’s books, skillful translations, entrancing dramas and enlightening non-fiction,” says Canada Council Director and CEO, Simon Brault. “They are all meaningful books in which we can, as readers and Canadians, lose ourselves and find ourselves.”

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, will present the 2014 GG Literary Awards at 6pm Wednesday, November 26 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

New book for Writing professor Lee Henderson

From Blondie to Doonesbury, comic strips have been a mainstay of the newspaper industry for the better part of a century. Now, Department of Writing professor Lee Henderson has crafted an insider’s look at the world of comics in his highly anticipated new novel The Road Narrows As You Go (Penguin/Random House).

Lee Henderson

Lee Henderson

Henderson will be launching the book locally at a special event: 7:30pm Saturday October 4 at Munro’s Books, 1108 Government Street. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

A young woman growing up in sleepy 1970s Victoria dreams of becoming a successful cartoonist like Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, and when she winds up in hedonistic 1980s San Francisco she finds herself competing for newspaper space with the likes of ‘80s stalwarts Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes—even Peanuts itself. But is US President Ronald Reagan really her father? Henderson deftly explores all this and much more in a book that he also rounded out by illustrating his main character’s fictional comic strip, Strays.

book-U6-A146-B319-R493“The way it started for me is just living out a vicarious dream that I had when I was a kid in the eighties to be a comic-strip artist,” says Henderson in this Globe and Mail interview. “As soon as I knew that my next book would be about a comic-strip artist, [I had] the idea that I would learn how to draw them at a professional level. It was an ambition to take [on] something I did as a kid.”

Named one of “the 25 most anticipated Canadian books of 2014” by the National Post, The Road Narrows As You Go is the follow-up to Henderson’s BC Book Prize-winning novel The Man Game—which he also illustrated. A two-time Journey Prize nominee, he is also the author of the short story collection The Broken Record Technique.

Henderson will also be teaching a special Writing department course in January 2015: “Inside the Comic Artist’s Studio,” an in-depth and insider’s look at how comics and graphic novels are made. A study of the early stages on sketchbook with pencil to final inked pages laid out as digital files, the class will look at the unique challenges and opportunities for comic artists when telling a story using sequential illustrations. Not just superheroes, the semester will focus on a range of comics including Chris Ware’s groundbreaking graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.

Two 4 One has BC premiere

Department of Writing professor Maureen Bradley‘s debut feature film, Two 4 One, will have its BC premiere in Vancouver on October 1 & 3 at the Vancouver International Film Festival.This is following the world premiere at the 2014 Calgary International Film Festival, in their Canadian Cinema Series. At VIFF, it’s featured in both the Canadian Images program, and in the BC Spotlight.

A scene from Two 4 One

A scene from Two 4 One

“The VIFF West Coast premiere at the Rio was packed,” wrote Bradley on the movie’s Indiegogo page, which helped finance the production. “So far,  response has been fantastic. Last night there lots of laughs and some tears.  It was great to see old friends and have family cheering me on.”

Regular blog readers will have been following the development of Bradley’s transgender romantic comedy. Both Bradley and film producer & Fine Arts digital media specialist Daniel Hogg were in attendance for Q&As at the Calgary screenings, along with some of their cast.

Two 4 One's Calgary premiere: (from left) producer Daniel Hogg, actor Gabrielle Rose, writer/director Maureen Bradley, actor Gavin Crawford, actor Naomi Snieckus

Two 4 One’s Calgary premiere: (from left) producer Daniel Hogg, actor Gabrielle Rose, writer/director Maureen Bradley, actor Gavin Crawford, actor Naomi Snieckus

Described as the first transgender rom-com, Two 4 One follows transgendered Adam (This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ Gavin Crawford) and Miriam (Mr. D’s Naomi Snieckus) as they enjoy an ill-advised one-night stand . . . only to wind up both being pregnant. Gabrielle Rose (The Sweet Hereafter) co-stars.

Check out this Calgary Sun interview about the film, which they describe as having “several clever and hilarious twists.” You can also peruse this VIFF Q&A with Bradley, where she discusses the project’s inspiration, biggest challenges and offers some advice to aspiring directors.

And VIFF BC Spotlight programer Terry McEvoy said this about Two 4 One in this Westender article: “It strains your belief, this idea that this couple gets together and both end up pregnant, but the set-up that she has for it, and the performances in it, are just fantastic.”

Two 4 One plays Oct. 1 at 9:00pm at Vancouver’s classic Rio Theatre and multiplexing it Oct. 3rd at 11:00am at the Cineplex Odeon International Village 8.

Keep up tp date on all things Two 4 One via their Facebook page. And fingers crossed for a Victoria date with this locally-lensed charmer at the Victoria Film Festival!

Writing professor Tim Lilburn earns national honour

Noted poet and Department of Writing professor Tim Lilburn has joined the ranks of Canada’s academic elite after being elected by his peers to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. The distinction is Canada’s highest academic honour.

Poet & Writing professor Tim Lilburn

Poet & Writing professor Tim Lilburn (UVic Photo Services)

Lilburn is one of the world’s leading poets and essayists on poetics. His works—including nine books of poetry and two essay collections—help us interpret our relationship to landscapes and their ecologies, and offer paths forward to living ethically within these relationships.

“Place is a version of one’s larger body: where you live shapes you physically, psychically and spiritually,” says Lilburn. “It certainly affects how you write. If you live in a colonial mindset you tend to forget about this link—and, as a result, you forget about an important part of yourself. Poetry is important because it gives us stillness.”

Lilburn’s work has been translated into French, Chinese, Siberian, German, Spanish and Polish, and has been widely anthologized. He gives readings and lectures around the world and is a frequent guest on radio and television. In 2011, he served as a judge for the Griffin Poetry Prize, the world’s largest prize for a single collection of poetry written in, or translated into, English.

Among his many awards, he has been twice nominated for the Governor General’s Award in Literature: first for Tourist to Ecstasy in 1989, and then winning it with 2003’s Kill-site.  As the award jury noted at the time, “Lilburn has dug down to a speech which is like ‘unbearable nudity.’ Everything comes together here: immensity of canvas, ambition of language and line.”

Read more about Lilburn’s reaction to his award in this Times Colonist article.

His most recent book of poetry is Assiniboia (2012)—which you can hear him read a poem from by clicking here.

“I was lucky enough as a poet to grow up in a time of literary resurgence,” says Lilburn. “I’m talking about the great wave in Can Lit that began to build in the late ’60s and rode right through to the late ’90s . . . it seemed at the time that literature was helping to define the national identity. You see a similar thing going on in the literatures of other countries at around the same time—in Nigeria, say, with writers like Achebe, Soyinka and Okigbo. A similar phenomenon occurred in China a few years after the death of Mao.”

When asked about finding inspiration in nature, in the Canada landscape and in a greater sense of our place in the universe, Lilburn is characteristically philosophical. “I think place is a version of one’s larger body: where you live shapes you physically, psychically and spiritually,” he says. “It certainly affects how you write. I think that if you live in a colonial mindset you tend to forget about this link, and as a result, you forget about an important part of yourself.”

Tim Lilburn joins other current and past Faculty of Fine Arts colleagues Mary Kerr, Lorna Crozier, Bill Valgardson, Pat Martin Bates and Jack Hodgins as RSC Fellows.

Also elected as a Fellow this year is UVic History professor Eric Sager—the sixth UVic historian in recent years to join the prestigious academy.

This year’s new Fellows will be inducted to the academies of the RSC during the Induction and Awards Ceremony on November 22 at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City.

A total of 66 UVic scholars, scientists and artists—including current, former and adjunct faculty members—are fellows of the Royal Society of Canada.

Founded in 1882, the Royal Society of Canada comprises the Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada. Its mission is to recognize scholarly, research and artistic excellence, to advise governments and organizations, and to promote a culture of knowledge and innovation in Canada and with other national academies around the world.

New student welcome

Now that classes are back in session, it’s time again for our annual Fine Arts New Student Welcome soiree, where we welcome our first-year students in style.

ice-social_960x540But rather than offer yet another year of pizza, this time around the Fine Arts faculty and staff will be serving something different: ice cream! Yep, we’re throwing an ice cream social—but better still, this Sept 11 event will feature tasty gourmet ice cream sandwiches by Cold Comfort, local purveyor of high-end ice cream yumminess.

ColdComfortRather than just the humdrum likes of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, Cold Comfort offers ice cream sandwiches with flavours like Vanilla Bean sandwiched between chocolate cookies and Salted Caramel (that’s dairy and gluten-free, no less). We’ll also have a mystery box of random flavours for the more daring ice cream gourmands.

Coastal Giant

Coastal Giant

But there will be more than just ice cream up for grabs. In addition to popcorn and cookies (for those who don’t like chilly treats), we’ll also be featuring the music of local country funk band Coastal Giant.

Come for the food, stay for the fun! The New Student Welcome is always a great chance to connect with Fine Arts faculty and staff in a casual environment. All Fine Arts students, staff and faculty are welcome to join us from 4 to 6pm Thursday, September 11, in the Fine Arts Courtyard.