Get ready for January

And, just like that, a new year is upon us once again. No time to languish in the glow of feasts gone by, however—we’re already right back at it in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Here’s a quick teaser of the public events Fine Arts will have on view in January 2013.

Collier lectureFirst up is an appearance by Visiting Artist and design historian Allan Collier, who will be speaking about his  exhibition which opens this week in the Visual Arts building’s Audain Gallery. Collier specializes mainly in Canadian design from the post-WWII period and, over the years, has curated several exhibitions on the topic in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Victoria. (Most recently he curated the 2011 AGGV exhibit The Modern Eye: Craft and Design in Canada 1940-1960.) Hear him speak as the first Visiting Artist of 2013 in the long-running Department of Visual Arts series, 8pm Wednesday, January 9 in room A162 of the Visual Arts building.

Music for and in the MomentThe School of Music is presenting a Faculty Chamber Music Concert, 8pm Saturday, January 12, in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. This 50th Anniversary concert will feature nearly 20 School of Music faculty performing Music For and In The Moment—including works by Composition faculty members John Celona, Dániel Péter Biró, alumnus Rudolf Komorous and the world premier of Christopher Butterfield’s Omar Khayyam in Belfast: Six Postcards for Chamber Ensemble. “UVic has much to celebrate in its support and educational influence in the arts and music,” says performance faculty, Pamela Highbaugh Aloni. “For 50 years the School of Music has contributed significantly to music in Canada and beyond. This is one way to highlight this distinction and share it with our greater university community.” Tickets are $13.50 & $17.50 at the UVic Ticket Centre (250-721-8480) and at the door. There will also be a  post-concert reception with the faculty performers and composers.

An installation by Ed Pien

An installation by Ed Pien

Up next is a visit by Ed Pien. Born in Taiwan, the now Toronto-based artist Ed Pien has been drawing for nearly 30 years, and has exhibited nationally and internationally. He has taught at ECAD, NSCAD and OCAD, and is  currently teaching at the University of Toronto. Pien is in town as part of the AGGV’s January exhibit, Traces: Fantasy Worlds and Tales of Truth. Catch him at 8pm Wednesday, January 16, in room A162 of the Visual Arts building.

blue republicHot on the heels of that session, Visual Arts will have their second Visiting Artist of the year when Blue Republic drops in for a chat. Blue Republic—also known as collaborative multidisciplinary artists Anna Passakas and Radoslaw Kudlinski—will talk about their fascinating history working with other artists, groups, and international centres of independent artistic research. That’s at 8pm Wednesday, January 23, in room A162 of the Visual Arts building.

Papers are now being accepted for Visual Impetus XVI, the annual History in Art graduate student symposium. This year’s theme is “Beyond Aesthetics: Contesting Convention Through Interdisciplinary Collaboration” and the symposium itself runs January 25 & 26 in the Fine Arts building. Click here for more details.

Robert Bateman's piece (left) fits nicely with Mfanwy Pavelic's portrait of Katherine Hepburn at the Legacy (photo: Colton Hash)

Robert Bateman’s piece (left) fits nicely with Mfanwy Pavelic’s portrait of Katherine Hepburn at the Legacy (photo: Colton Hash)

Renowned West Coast artist and environmental champion Robert Bateman will be speaking at the Legacy Art Gallery as part of the current exhibit, Honoris Causa: Artist Honorary Degree Recipients. The piece by Bateman in the exhibit was specifically selected by him to illustrate his passion and concern for the fragile environment. His free talk begins at 2pm Sunday, January 27, at Legacy Art Gallery, 630 Yates (at Broad).

Also on Sunday, January 27, is a concert of Light Tunes for a Heavy Instrument, featuring Eugene Dowling on tuba and Charlotte Hale on piano. This afternoon concert of light music will be performed by the Juno-nominated Dowling and will feature works by Astor Piazzolla, Fritz Kreisler, Vittorio Monti, Victoria’s own Stephen Brown and others. That’s at 2:30pm in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Tickets are $13.50 & $17.50.

CBC's Jo-Ann Roberts

CBC’s Jo-Ann Roberts

Popular CBC Radio All Points West host Jo-Ann Roberts is the Department of Writing’s 2013 Harvey Southam Lecturer. She’ll be teaching a course starting in January, but she’ll also be giving a free public lecture on “Public Broadcasting and the Public Good.”

As Roberts told me recently, “Public broadcasting matters to every journalist in this country. We keep the bar high, and that means private broadcasters can’t go any lower—but the lower we get, the lower their bar goes. You don’t have to be working for a public broadcaster as a journalist to care about it.” Catch her in action at 7:30pm Wednesday, January 30, in room 240 of the HSD building.

New books from Writing this fall

Four notable books came out of the Writing department this fall—two from faculty and two from alumni. Here’s the scoop on them all.

Arno Kopecky with his new book

Arno Kopecky with his new book

Writing grad Arno Kopecky released his first book, The Devil’s Curve: A Journey into Power and Profit at the Amazon’s Edge (Douglas & McIntyre). A journalist and travel writer whose work has appeared in The Walrus, Foreign Policy, the Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, The Tyee and Kenya’s Daily Nation, the Squamish-based Kopecky has covered civil uprisings in Mexico, cyclones in Burma, Zimbabwe’s 30-year dictatorship and election violence in Kenya. And while The Devil’s Curve may have been caught up in the brouhaha that was the Douglas & McIntyre meltdown this fall, Kopecky’s timing was good in that he had copies available at the Department of Writing’s All-Star Reading Night on October 30 (but more on that below).

kopecky-devils-curveDescribed by the Georgia Straight at a “vivid example of immersive journalism,” Kopecky earns praise not just for his writing but his greater themes. “Our high-consumption lives depend on a steady stream of natural resources, and sometimes gaining access to those natural resources means affecting indigenous people . . . Our federal government and resource companies feed us at the expense of others.” The Straight review ends by calling The Devil’s Curve a “trenchant critique of both our representatives and of us. Our apathy, Kopecky reveals, has its consequences.” Intrigued? Check out this video trailer for the book.

Lorna Crozier signs books at her launch in October

Lorna Crozier signs books at her launch in October

Much loved and soon-to-retire Writing professor Lorna Crozier seemed to be all over the media this fall, thanks to her latest volume, The Book of Marvels (Douglas & McIntyre), which she launched at the UVic Bookstore back in October. Talk about marvels—this is Crozier’s 18th book, not counting anthologies and essay contributions! She had a very nice spread in the December 2012 issue of Focus magazine, a PDF of which you can download here (then scroll to page 28). She also had a review in the Globe and Mail—which called Marvels “an irresistible invitation to sit up and take notice, to pay attention to every random thing”—and popped up in the October issue of Martlet, as well as the busy Coastal Spectator. The Globe and Mail also featured Crozier and her recently retired Writing prof husband Patrick Lane as “BC’s Poetry Power Couple.” Aw, that’s sweet!

Nice to see DW Wilson dressed sharp for the Alumni Reading Night

Nice to see DW Wilson dressed up for the Alumni Reading Night!

The October 30 All-Star Reading Night allowed a shelf’s worth of Department of Writing A-listers to come back and strut their stuff to a sold-out house at one of the 50th Anniversary events held by Fine Arts. As well as the previously mentioned Arno Kopecky, featured writers included multiple prize-winner Esi Edugyan, former Vancouver poet laureate Brad Cran, former Victoria poet laureate and current Writing instructor Carla Funk, past Writing instructor Steven Price, rising star D.W. Wilson, busy filmmaker Jeremy Lutter, Fine Arts staffer and screenwriter Daniel Hogg, current Writing instructor Melanie Siebert and playwright and poet Jonathan Garfinkel. The evening was hosted by Writing instructor and Giller Prize-nominated writer John Gould and, despite some truly abysmal weather, was greatly enjoyed by all.

Gaston_Q&QFinally, Writing department chair Bill Gaston finally got his shot at being a cover boy thanks to the October 2012 edition of Quill & Quire. Q&Q were profiling his humbly titled new novel, The World, which he launched locally in October alongside Writing grad Marjorie Celona and her own Giller longlisted novel Y—which you can read all about here.

The local Times Colonist also profiled Gaston in a piece titled “Writing Well, the Hard Way”—advice, we’re sure, he gives to his students all the time.

Media coverage of Writing remains brisk

Awards aside, there always seems to be a reason for Writing department faculty, students and alumni to appear in the media. Here’s a quick roundup of who spoke to whom about what this fall.

Check her out—Madeline Sonik was a Human Book!

Check her out—Madeline Sonik was a Human Book!

Recent City of Victoria Butler Book Prize winner Madeline Sonik was selected to be a  “human book” in the Greater Victoria Public Library’s inaugural Human Library Project this fall. Sonik “book” topic was “Creative Being”, and she was also featured in Alisa Gordaneer’s “State of the Arts” column in the November 2012 issue of Boulevard magazine on the same topic—which also happens to be the title of the first-year Fine Arts course she has taught. (To read the article, click here and scan to page 30.)

Looking at other print media, in this Victoria News article about female journalists, Acting Dean of Fine Arts Lynne Van Luven speaks about her years as a community reporter in the 1970s. Van Luven has watched the details of the job change over the years, but she’s seen the difficulties remain the same.

Writing grad and previous City of Victoria Butler Book Prize winner Deborah Willis earned some nice coverage from the Calgary Herald as the new writer-in-residence for the University of Calgary’s Distinguished Writers Program, which will allow her to divide her time between writing and consulting other writers about their manuscripts. And Writing instructor Matthew Hooton was once again a judge in the Times Colonist‘s annual So You Think You Can Write contest . . . which, ironically, was won by Nick Clewley, UVic’s interim Director of Marketing.

Connor Gaston

Connor Gaston

Writing MFA student Connor Gaston attracted a fair bit of attention himself this fall, thanks to his short film Bardo Light being accepted at the Toronto International Film Festival and another short film, Stuck, appearing at the Whistler Film Festival. TIFF programmer Magali Simard described Bardo Light as “a modern-day chiller that merges Mary Shelley with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, [this] is a bold and unique experience.” Listen to this podcast with him from CBC’s All Points West, or read this piece about him from UVic’s Ring. You can also read his “Adventures of TIFF First-Timer” on the Coastal Spectator blog. (“I received the magic phone call and an invitation to premiere my latest short, Bardo Light, at the Toronto International Film Festival . . . I felt like the prettiest girl at the dance.”)

Speaking of which, if you haven’t had a look at Coastal Spectator lately, click on over and spend some time perusing it. There’s a lot of fresh content in this Faculty of Fine Arts-sponsored local arts review site that covers books, film, music, art, theatre and so much more.

The Department of Writing was well-represented at the first annual Victoria Writers Festival in October at Camosun College. Among the many writers featured at the popular event were a number of UVic instructors or alumni including Esi Edugyan, Steven Price, Tim Lilburn, Melanie Siebert, Susan Musgrave, Christin GeallMatthew Hooton, Madeline Sonik, Yasuko Thanh,David Leach and Bill Gaston. Writing instructor John Gould was also one of the organizers. Here’s hoping the event comes back even stronger in 2013!      

MR 180 coverWhile admittedly only tangentially connected to the Department of Writing, it’s worth noting the recent CBC Radio coverage of The Malahat Review‘s east/west literary project with The Fiddlehead. CBC’s Jennifer Chrumka also has a regular feature on local culture called “State of the Arts”, and in this podcast she speaks with Malahat editor John Barton.

Chrumka also spoke with Writing professor Lee Henderson about the changes to, and popularity of, graphic novels in this podcast. It was hooked to his presentation of Guelph-based cartoonist and graphic novelist Marc Bell at the regular Open Word: Readings and Ideas author series at Open Space.

The online queer literary magazine Plenitude—a project by Writing student Andrea Routely—continues to get nice notices since its summer 2012 launch. Recently, they picked up a glowing review from biggie American site Autostraddle (billed as “The World’s Most Popular Independently-Owned Website for Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer Women”). Autostraddle notes that “Plentitude stands out among queer publications by, first and foremost, defining queer literature as literature simply created by LGBTTQI people . . .  Plentitude is simply publishing good work by queer people. The topic pool is immediately diversified and expanded and yet, somehow, is still relevant.”

Finally, the Globe & Mail quoted Department of Writing chair Bill Gaston in their October piece about the number of writing dept graduates flooding the Can-lit shelves . . . which I would quote to you if their bloody new paywall didn’t stop me from actually reading the article.

A busy autumn for Writing awards

Fall is always a busy time in the book world, given the number of prestigious writing awards that are announced. Once again, UVic’s acclaimed Department of Writing was front and centre, with faculty and alumni popping up all over the place.

Madeline Sonik with book prize founder Brian Butler

Madeline Sonik with book prize founder Brian Butler

Writing instructor Madeline Sonik continued to be the darling of the non-fiction set with her much-lauded memoir Afflictions and Departures winning the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize. Despite being nominated against heavy hitter Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues—and having been shortlisted but not winning two heavyweight prizes (the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction and BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction)—Sonik prevailed at last, picking up the $5,000 hometown prize at a Victoria Book Prize Society gala in October.

A collection of first-person essays based on growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s, the jury called Afflictions and Departures “a wonderfully generous book that returns us to one of literature’s touchstones: intensely personal revelation rendered universal . . . what lifts Sonik’s memoir far above the mundane is her astonishing facility with just-so detail, her scrupulous honesty, capacious memory and mature insight/hindsight that gives the larger events of the time quirky and engaging asides in the personal drama. Her tone, cool and wry, manages to be simultaneously humane and funny, easy with her younger self and the reader.”

Local CBC Radio afternoon show All Points West did a series of podcasts with all the Butler nominees, so click on these links to listen to Sonik talk about her book and Edugyan talk about hers. Sonik also published her latest book of poetry this fall, called The Book of Changes.

ReLit founder Kenneth J. Harvey (left) presented the 2012 award rings to the winning writers, including Patrick Friesen (far right)

ReLit founder Kenneth J. Harvey (left) presented the 2012 award rings to the winning writers, including Patrick Friesen (far right)

Meanwhile, Writing instructor Patrick Friesen picked up the poetry prize in October’s annual ReLit Awards for his book, Jumping in the Asylum (Quattro). Also nominated for the ReLit was Writing alum Ashley Little for her novel, Prick: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist (Tightrope). Subtitled “Ideas, Not Money,” the ReLit Awards honour Canada’s independent pressers and while they may not come with a purse, winners do receive the oh-so-snazzy ReLit Ring—which features four moveable dials, each one struck with the entire alphabet, for spelling out words. We think that’s f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s.

Dobozy wins the Writers Trust fiction prize (Photo: Kendall Towsend)

Dobozy wins the Writers Trust fiction prize (Photo: Kendall Towsend)

Writing graduate Tamas Dobozy won the $25,000 Rogers Writers Trust fiction prize for his acclaimed book Siege 13. Much like previous Writing grad and multiple-nominee Esi Edugyan, Dobozy was also shortlisted for both the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award. (For those with a yen for tracking literary prizes, one of the stories in Siege 13 won 2011’s O. Henry Prize for short fiction.)

The Writers Trust jury cited Siege 13 for illustrating “once again that old maxim: the short story can be both as broad and as deep as a novel. At times gently humorous, at times quietly wise, Dobozy’s thirteen stories dazzle with their psychological nuance and brilliant attention to detail. These stories are never less than breathtaking.”

Marjorie Celona

Marjorie Celona outside the YWCA, which prompted the title of her novel Y

Speaking of the Giller, Y—the debut novel by Writing grad Marjorie Celona—was longlisted for the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Despite not making it onto the shortlist, Celona’s Y was still  considered one of the hottest books of the fall: the Globe and Mail called it “a stunning debut” and the National Post simply calling it “the book of the fall.” Nicely, the novel’s setting is Victoria and the YWCA on Broughton Street plays a prominent role. Celona is also the daughter of School of Music professor and filmmaker John Celona.

Alisa Smith at the Celebration of Excellence (photo: UVic Photo Services)

Alisa Smith at the Celebration of Excellence (photo: UVic Photo Services)

Also of note this fall was author and Fine Arts alumna Alisa Smith, who was one of five outstanding members of UVic’s alumni community honoured at the university’s “Celebration of 50 Years of Excellence. Smith, who holds a History in Art BA as well as an MA in History, was recognized for her commitment to sustainability via her famed 2007 book The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, which she co-authored with partner and former UVic student James MacKinnon.

Since sustainability is considered central to UVic’s mission and core to teaching and research across the university, Smith very much personifies this commitment and was an apt choice for this 50th anniversary signature event. As the official citation notes, “the book struck a chord amid concern about climate change—especially considering that so many groceries originate from a distance of 1,500 miles or more . . . [and] coincided with widening interest in the ‘locavore’ movement and farmer’s markets. The book received a national Cordon D’Or culinary literature award in the United States and a Canadian Culinary Book Award, as well as the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Book Prize. Chapters/Indigo named it a best book of the decade. It is also reading material in colleges and universities across North America.”

And, as reality TV fans well know, The 100-Mile Diet was also adapted into a television series, The 100-Mile Challenge, hosted by the authors. It aired on Food Network Canada and Discovery Planet Green in the US, and in Europe and Asia.


Judy Leblanc

Finally, Writing grad Judy Leblanc won The Antogonish Review‘s eighth annual Sheldon Currie Fiction Contest. Leblanc picks up $600 and her winning story will be published in the Winter 2013 issue. Not as big of a deal as, say, the Giller Prize, but well worth noting all the same. The Department of Writing congratulates all its winners and nominees, no matter how large or small the prize.



Cody Klippenstein wins Zoetrope’s Fiction Contest

Recent Writing graduate Cody Klippenstein was just announced as the winner of Zoetrope’s All-Story Fiction Contest. And yes, that’s Zoetrope, as in American Zoetrope, as in film director Francis Ford Coppola’s busy cinematic/literary empire.

Another win for Cody Klippenstein

Another win for Cody Klippenstein

Selected from a field of nearly 2,200 entries by St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Swamplandia! author Karen Russell—who was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and winner of the American 2012 National Magazine Award—Klippenstein’s winning short story “Case Studies in Ascension” was originally workshopped in Writing instructor Matthew Hooton‘s fourth-year fiction class this past spring. (“Pretty awesome,” is how Hooton describes her win.)

Launched back in 1997, Coppola’s Zoetrope: All-Story quarterly magazine is devoted to the best new short fiction and one-act plays and has received every major story award in the U.S. Klippenstein wins $1,000 and will be considered for representation by the big-deal literary likes of the William Morris Endeavor, ICM, Regal Literary, the Elaine Markson Literary Agency, Inkwell Management, Sterling Lord Literistic, Aitken Alexander Associates, Barer Literary, the Gernert Company, and the Georges Borchardt Literary Agency.

Her story will be published on Zoetrope’s All-Story Fiction website as a special online supplement to the Spring 2013 issue. Klippenstein also won the 2012 fiction prize for The Fiddlehead—that winning story, “We’ve Gotta Get Out of Here,” was originally submitted as a piece for a Writing workshop class led by professor Lee Henderson . . . which is a good reminder for current Writing students: don’t just box up all that work. Get busy and submit it instead!

Update: read Will Johnson‘s recent Martlet interview with Cody here.