Alumni accolades

It was a big week for Fine Arts alumni, with all sorts of graduates making the news. First up, congrats go out to the crop of Phoenix Theatre alumni who picked up a handful of awards last weekend:

The now award-winning Peter N’ Chris will step into Phoenix’s Spotlight on Alumni this fall

• Comedy duo Peter N’ Chris picked up the Just For Laughs Best English Comedy award at Montreal’s famed Fringe Festival for their 2011 Fringe hit, The Mystery of The Hungry Heart Motel on June 25. If you missed it last year, don’t worry—it’ll be back in October as Phoenix’s Spotlight on Alumni. And Peter N’ Chris are now nominated for a 2012 Canadian Comedy Award for Best Sketch Troupe!

• Atomic Vaudeville’s smash musical comedy Ride The Cyclone just won Outstanding Touring Production at the 2012 Dora Awards in Toronto on June 25. This comes right on the heel of it winning Best Musical and Best Director of a Musical at the Toronto Theatre Critics Awards in May. As previously mentioned in an earlier blog post, Ride The Cyclone features the talents of Phoenix alumni Sarah Jane Pelzer, Rielle Braid, Kholby Wardell and Matthew Coulson, as well as choreographer Treena Stubel and co-director Britt Small (as well as co-creator/co-director Jacob Richmond, who is technically just a “previous student” but we’ll consider him a Phoenix-er).

Meg Roe stands a little taller now with her pair of Jessie Awards

• And while the diminutive Meg Roe may be small in size, she’s big in the talent department, as evidenced by her double win in both the large & small theatre categories at Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Awards on June 25. Roe picked up a pair of Jessies for her lead role in the Arts Club’s The Penelopiad (large theatre) and for her work in Electric Company’s All the Way Home (small theatre).

In non-theatre related accolades, congratulations go out to Visual Arts MFA Thomas Chisholm, who was recently named one of the 15 finalists for this year’s RBC Canadian Painting Competition. Chisholm’s Interference 1 (2012) marks the second RBC shortlist in a row on which he has appeared.

Thomas Chisholm’s Interference 1 (2012, enamel on aluminum)

As reported in the Globe and Mail, “the high-contrast Intereference 1 uses spray paints designed for the auto industry, allowing for what Chisholm describes as ‘a smooth reflective surface that highlights small inconsistencies in the support or application of paint.’ Here, the viewer is presented ‘with what appears to be a solid black geometrical shape,’ but the ‘pulsating or bruising out of the space alters’ the viewer’s initial perception of the painting and ‘forces a reinvestigation’ of it. The painting, it turns out, is built from transparent layers of blue and red.”

(On a side note, Visual Arts alumni seem to be doing well in banking-related art competitions; on top of Chisholm’s two RBC shortlists, last year saw grad maegan rose mehler win the BC prize in BMO Financial Group’s national 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition, and alum Matt Shane picked up the national prize in the inaugural BMO 1st Art! competition back in 2004.)

Finally, it was announced this week that 1997 Fine Arts alum Crystal Przybille had won the national competition to create a series of public art sculptures to celebrate Victoria’s 150th anniversary. Her winning entry, “Hands of Time,” will see 12 bronze sculptures of life-size hands installed at downtown locations this fall.

A study for Crystal Przybille’s “Hands of Time”

As reported in the Times Colonist, the now Kelowna-based Przybille‘s three-dimensional hand sculptures “will be engaged in activities related to the city’s history. They will represent various cultures, ages and genders, while telling a story about a downtown location. One pair will carve a cedar canoe paddle, for example. Another will tie a rope to a mooring ring, and another will perform with a Chinese fan.”

Przybille was one of more than 80 artists from across the country who submitted proposals; she was then shortlisted with 15 other artists, from which a final four were asked to submit a more detailed proposal and a maquette; these proposals were then assessed by a jury led by Art Gallery of Greater Victoria director Jon Tupper, who is also chairman of Victoria’s art in public places committee. The artist will receive a budget of $100,000 to complete her 12 sculptures.

Przybille received a BFA with distinction in 1997 and has since studied and practiced art in both Canada and Europe, including residencies in the Netherlands, Nunavut and Kelowna. She has had solo exhibitions at Kelowna’s Alternator gallery and the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

Proud to launch Plenitude

Some students seem content to do the bare minimum; others delight in going the extra distance. Count current Department of Writing student Andrea Routley in the latter camp. In addition to the regular requirements of undergrad life, Routley is currently in the process of launching Plenitude, a brand new online queer literary magazine.

Andrea Routely (photo: Annah Van Eeghen)

Issue #1 is set to debut in late August (featuring a piece from 2012 Journey Prize nominee Nancy Jo Cullen, among others), and Routley says the inspiration for Plenitude simply came from a lack of LGBQT literary magazines. “I went looking for queer literary magazines in Canada and found only one still accepting submissions, No More Potlucks—which limits text contributions to 1,500 words. So apart from that, to the best of my knowledge, Plenitude is the only queer literary magazine in Canada.”

While there are plenty of queer books being published in Canada, Routley—editor of the 2010 collection, Walk Myself Home: An Anthology to End Violence Against Women (Caitlin Press) and a writer whose work has appeared in the likes of The Malahat Review and Monday Magazine—feels there’s still a place for a project like Plenitude. “These kinds of publications can’t take the place of a queer literary magazine, as much as any other ‘non-queer’ novel or collection could replace literary magazines in Canada such as The Malahat Review or Prairie Fire,” she says. “Literary magazines serve the much-needed purpose of fostering the growth of emerging writers and building communities of writers.” And while some literary mags have released specifically queer-themed issues, Routley (also a poet who was shortlisted for the 2008 Rona Murray Prize for Literature) doesn’t feel that fills the same need for writers.

“I recognized that the ‘queer’ in my own writing was typically expressed as a total absence of any sexuality or queer characters at all. I thought, am I really avoiding something? So I set about, with purpose, to write a ‘gay story.’ I did not want to write about coming out or shame—two totally valid themes—but ones that I didn’t feel interested in at this point in my life; so much of what I have seen or read when it comes to film or fiction with queer characters was about those two things . . . . Many heterosexual readers still look for the shame, or ‘coming out’ experience. It is what they expect to read; it is what many think it means to be queer.”

Writing is one thing, but Routley’s other inspiration for Plenitude simply came from her own perspective as a reader. “I want to read hundreds of stories and poems by other people, to discover how they express their lives and interpret this world,” she says. “And if such a venue exists, I hope it will encourage other writers who, like myself, may have been censoring their own writing—maybe without even realizing it.”

But Routley definitely isn’t out to shape other peoples’ definition of queer. “Basically, I am not going to decide what counts as ‘queer content.’ If it is created by an LGBTQ person, then it is queer . . . if it’s great writing about a radical genderqueer on an expedition to find the ultimate double-dong dildo, that’s fine by me.” She pauses, and laughs. “I’m not even sure if that sounds very radical; probably not. But if your blog readers have some better ideas for me, I’d love to hear them!”  (You can email her at

Plenitude began as self-directed study for UVic’s Department of Writing and will operate under the mentorship of Lynne Van Luven, with technical assistance by Faculty of Fine Arts digital media technician Cliff Haman. (The advisory editorial board also features the likes of Malahat Review editor John Barton, filmmaker and Writing prof Maureen Bradley plus PhD L. Chris Fox, playwright Sara Graefe and author Arleen Paré). But Routley’s vision for Plenitude involves more than just reading text online—as well as the usual fiction, nonfiction and poetry, her call for submissions also includes short films (10 minutes max) and graphic narratives (10 pages max).

Click on photo to read the submission guidelines

Interested in submitting? You can contact Andrea Routley at or via the magazine’s website at—where you can also find full submission guidelines. (Plenitude is also accepting contributions; see their website for more about the benefits of becoming a “Friend of Plenitude.”)

Routley will also have a Plenitude table at the Victoria Pride Society’s annual LGBQT literary event, Pride & The Word, on July 7 at Ambrosia Conference Centre on Fisgard.

As for the future of Plenitude, Routley is optimistic. “The great thing about an electronic publication is that it’s relatively cheap to produce and distribute—so those are the main factors in my decision to make it electronic at this time. In the future, I hope to offer the classic paper-based object as well.”

Local filmmakers making a splash

Fresh from his Cannes debut, local filmmaker and Department of Writing alum Jeremy Lutter is ready for his next challenge.

Jeremy Lutter scouting a Floodplain location in Invermere

Lutter just finished working the red carpets at the world‐famous Cannes Film Festival, where his short film Joanna Makes a Friend was invited to screen as part of Telefilm Canada’s “Not Short on Talent” program, after winning Viewers’ Choice awards at both Toronto’s TIFF Kids Film Festival and the Victoria Film Festival.

Now he’s ready to make waves with Floodplain, a short film he plans to shoot this summer with Fine Arts digital media staffer and writer/producer Daniel Hogg. Hogg is both a recent nominee in the BC film industry’s Leo Awards (for his short film Woodrow Without Evelyn) and a previous winner (as part of the UVic team who won for the acclaimed Department of Writing web series Freshman’s Wharf).

Based on a short story by Invermere native and fellow Writing alum D.W. Wilson—winner of the BBC National Short Story Award and a BC Book Prize Finalist—Floodplain is a coming of age tale about two high school sweethearts who learn that love demands sacrifice when they fulfill a childhood promise to raft a floodplain in the Kootenay Valley.

One of Robert Bennett’s storyboards for the Floodplain film project

Using the crowdfunding site, Lutter and Hogg are turning to the community to raise $3,500, which will facilitate construction of the hero’s souped‐up raft and to get their cast and crew safely out on the water. You can watch the video, see pictures or get project updates here. If you decide to support the project, you can donate money in exchange for perks, such as original storyboards or a DVD of the finished project.

With their film pitch, Lutter and Hogg were selected for the National Screen Institute Drama Prize, which opens industry doors and provides resources to help make a high-end short film. With that achievement in their back pocket, the two are already attracting Hollywood‐level talent to Floodplain.

Keep track of Floodplain’s progress by following @FloodplainMovie on, or by liking their Facebook fan page.

Two wins for Writing

Congratulations to Department of Writing chair Bill Gaston for winning the Gold award in the Fiction category at the recent National Magazine Awards!

His winning story, “Four Corners”, appeared in Event magazine’s Winter issue (40/3). Event is Douglas College’s thrice-yearly literary review, and has been publishing award-winning fiction, non-fiction, poetry and reviews for over 40 years—without sign of slowing down.

This year’s NMA Fiction judges included Quill & Quire editor Stuart Woods, author Zoe Whitall (Holding Still for as Long as Possible, Bottle Rocket Hearts) and Arjun Basu, editorial director of Spafax and president of the board of the National Magazine Awards Foundation.

Gaston’s previously wins at the National Magazine Awards include Honorary Mention for his stories “The Night Window” (published in the Malahat Review) in 2005, and “Mount Appetite” (Malahat Review) in 2001.

Winning student writer Cody Klippenstein

Meanwhile, fourth year undergraduate Writing student Cody Klippenstein has been announced as the winner of the 2012 fiction prize for The Fiddlehead. Her winning story, “We’ve Gotta Get Out of Here,” was originally submitted as a piece for a Department of Writing workshop class led by Writing associate professor Lee Henderson.

“I remember Cody delivered a great, visceral, cut-from-life first story to the workshop—and then she said she really wanted to write a story from the point-of-view of a house cat,” Henderson recalls. “I figured she could pull it off. But then she handed in a story from the point-of-view of an Asian punk girl living in Vancouver in the early 1980s, dating a musician, and going to see bands like the Pointed Sticks.”

Henderson describes that story—”We’ve Gotta Get Out of Here”—as “basically pitch-perfect.”

“The class made some basic suggestions for a polish and Cody went back and brushed the story up however she saw fit, sent the story out and won the Fiddlehead fiction award,” he says. “This was an exceptional class of writers, too, so I view this win as just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amazing stuff I saw that semester.”

You can read an excerpt from “We’ve Gotta Get Out of Here” on The Fiddlehead‘s blog—or you can pick up the Spring 2012 issue, which also features a story by Writing alum Yasuko Thanh.

Update: in July, Cody Klippenstein also had a new story published in Joyland, a literary magazine that curates fiction regionally. Selected by Vancouver editor Kevin Chong, here are the opening paragraphs to her story, “Thrown Overboard, Manacled in a Box”—but be sure to click over to the Vancouver page on the Joyland site to read the whole thing.

“Cale is treading water in the middle of the deep end, water sloshing in his ears and lapping at his chin as he listens to the aqueous echo of the moon-faced timer at the end of the pool wind and wind and wind. How many seconds left? He tries to breathe.

“One packing crate, he thinks.  Forty-five planks of wood. One hundred and ninety two nails. Twenty-six feet of rope. Two hundred pounds of lead. One pair of cast-iron manacles. Fifty seven seconds.

“He closes his eyes. When he opens them again, Lula’s orange-sandaled feet have appeared beside the timer, slapping impatiently at the wet tile.

“Yo, she says, and raises an arm. Inside the YMCA’s humid, windowless indoor pool, her shrill voice is amplified.”

Building a future in heritage conservation

Some students have the architecture of their academic path laid out from the start; others see it more as ongoing renovations. Put Genevieve Neelin in the latter category. This year’s winner of the Victoria Medal—awarded annually to the student with the highest GPA in the Faculty of Fine Arts—willingly admits university wasn’t originally a big part of her life plan.

Genevieve Neelin back home at her Ottawa drafting table (Photo: Michael Neelin)

“I’m someone who never thought they’d even get an undergraduate degree,” says the soft-spoken 25-year-old. “I was working in coffee shops, thinking one day I’d open a coffee shop of my own—that was my highest aspiration—and then I started at UVic and somehow magically got really high marks. I don’t know how that happened.”

Hard work and a keen interest in her studies is the shortest explanation for Neelin’s success. “It was all about focus,” she says. “I never stopped; I didn’t even take a summer off. But I also took a couple of years after high school to really think about what I wanted to do, so when I came to UVic I was really focused. My number-one job was to do well in school.” Of course, it helps that she graduated from her Quebec high school at 16, which gave her an extra two years to work out her priorities.

An honours student in the History in Art department, Neelin showed real devotion to her studies in architecture and architectural conservation—success with which she credits both to the faculty and her family. After originally starting in visual arts, Neelin cites associate HIA professor Christopher Thomas with determining her current passion. “His course on sacred structures—from Stonehenge to the Crystal Cathedral—was a huge influence in making me decide to go into the field.” As for her family, she’s worked as a draftsperson with her father’s Ottawa-based home design firm for seven years now. “You can see how heritage conservation would tie into the family business.”

She pauses and chuckles. “So I’d like to thank my parents for making me read as a child; I guess I have a natural gift.”

Neelin is already busy back home at the drafting table, and her immediate plans involve pursuing a master’s at Ottawa’s Carleton University. “It will largely be focused on government policy in heritage conservation,” she explains. “Because I have a background in design, I’m hoping that I can combine those and do some restoration work myself. It’s definitely a growth industry.”

Has her view on cities changed now that she’s formally studied architecture? “It has, especially because I’ve been looking at modern architecture recently. Walking down the street is so much more interesting now; a lot of buildings I thought were just ugly before I’m now seeing differently.”

And did she have a favourite building here at UVic? “The Fine Arts building,” she concludes with a laugh. “I pretty much lived there.”

Note: this piece originally appeared in June 2012 convocation issue of The Ring.