Celebrating Lorna Crozier

It was a full house at the Lorna Crozier event

It was a full house at the Lorna Crozier event

With a sold-out house, gales of laughter, heartfelt reminiscences, touching readings and a few sincerely dewy-eyed moments, the Literary Celebration of Lorna Crozier proved to be a smash success! And, thanks to the nearly 300 people filling the David Lam Auditorium on November 28, the Department of Writing also managed to raise a nice bit of money for the fledgling Lorna Crozier Undergraduate Poetry Scholarship.


Hilariously hosted by Shelagh Rogers of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter, and featuring a stellar lineup of poets—including Jane Urquhart, Brad Cran, Patrick Lane, Carla Funk, Melanie Siebert and Steven Price—the nearly two-and-a-half-hour event kept people alternately in stitches and silence, depending on the emotional tone of the readings . . . and anecdotes. (Alas, planned guests Anne Michaels had to cancel due to illness and Esi Edugyan was called out of town on book business.) Most of the poets read a mix of their favourite Crozier poems as well as some of their own work, much of which was either inspired by or had been critiqued by her as a teacher.

Jane Urquhart

Jane Urquhart

Celebrated author and poet Jane Urquhart set the tone for the evening, mixing personal—and often surprisingly frank—reminiscences of Lorna with her own readings. (Highlights included hearing about the two of them attending a literary event in Paris, which did Lorna’s fashion addiction absolutely no good.) Shelagh Rogers responded in kind with a side-splitting story about Urquhart, Crozier and herself breaking into an artistic director’s home after a reading on the Sunshine Coast to drink gin and tonics. An audience member paid $50 to hear this hilarious and totally impromptu bon mot, and it actually kicked off a cash-for-kooky-Crozier-stories frenzy that ran the entire night and saw about $500 extra raised for the scholarship. (Indeed, Crozier’s husband, Patrick Lane, offered to tell a particularly racy story about her for $100, which Crozier then outbid with another $100 for him not to tell it!)

The most memorable readings of the night came from Crozier’s former students—Cran, Price, Siebert and Funk—all of whom attested to her skill in the classroom and importance as a mentor; most of them have since become friends and colleagues, and their memories provided vivid illustrations of how important a professor can be in the lives of emerging artists. A highly emotional Brad Cran even got too choked up to

From top left: Shelagh Rogers, Brad Cran, Carla Funk, Steven Price, Melanie Siebert, Alexandra Pohran Dawkins

From top left: Shelagh Rogers, Brad Cran, Carla Funk, Steven Price, Melanie Siebert, Alexandra Pohran Dawkins

finish his own reading, barely holding back the tears as he recounted his own experience with undiagnosed dyslexia, the difference Crozier made to him as a student, and the struggles his daughter is currently going through with the same thing—and the hope that she too would find such a supportive mentor one day.

Another highlight of the evening was the special performance by School of Music professor Alexandra Pohran Dawkins, who played her own charming and poetic improvisational piece on the English Horn titled, “A Musical Offering—For Lorna.”

Patrick Lane read out a message from Anne Michaels, noting that she was “very sad not to be with you all—only a doctor’s orders would keep me away.” Michaels wrote that she had known Crozier for over 30 years and had spent the past few weeks reading all of her books again, noting “how much love your poems contain, how much humour and quiet strength . . . in their grace, your poems embrace all of life.”

As Crozier's longtime partner, Patrick Lane was uniquely situated to offer, uh, insights

As Crozier’s longtime partner, Patrick Lane was uniquely situated to offer, uh, insights

Lane himself had much to say about his wife—much of it hilarious, much of it touching—before reading one of his poems that was written at a moment of indecision in their relationship. “A Red Bird Bearing On His Back An Empty Cup” silenced the house, and caused many to pause and reflect on their own emotional lives. Lane also mischievously noted the pros and cons of living with another poet: “Every now and then I come up with these phrases and Lorna says, ‘Write that down’ . . . and I do, before she steals it.”

Former City of Victoria Poet Laureate Carla Funk spoke glowingly about Lorna’s teaching legacy,  describing her “faith beyond faith” that a student’s poem would improve, and her ability to “encourage young poets, inspire them to continue, to strive, to grow, to give permission to write about things that were kept in shadows in your family’s history.”

A very moved Lorna Crozier

A very moved Lorna Crozier

By the time recently retired Crozier took the podium to a standing ovation, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. “I didn’t realize so much of the evening would be about me,” said an obviously moved Crozier, noting that “it shouldn’t be so much about me, but about raising money for our future students and aspiring poets.” Crozier also praised her former students, saying how lucky she was to have them in her classes. “Now they are peers, and I use their books as models for what one can write when you get so close to the heart.”

Indeed, many of the featured poets mentioned how they had been recipients of scholarships when they were in school, and how much a difference they can make in the life of a struggling student.  All in all, the evening raised about $6,000 towards the $25,000 needed to make the scholarship self-sustaining. This scholarship will continue to honour the academic life and legacy of the beloved poet now that she has retired from teaching. Please consider a donation to this important fund, which will be awarded annually to a third or fourth year undergraduate poetry student. You can give online simply by clicking this link. 

Crozier with Cran, Funk and Dean Blackstone (foreground)

Crozier with Cran, Funk and Dean Blackstone (foreground)

As Dr. Sarah Blackstone, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, noted at the close of the evening, “UVic has just celebrated our 50th anniversary—imagine, on our 100th anniversary, hearing the difference this scholarship has made to the lives and careers of 50 poets yet to come.”

Thanks go out to event sponsors Tanner’s Books, Marmalade Tart Boutique, Greystone Books, Harbour Publishing, plus UVic’s offices  of the Vice President Aademic & Provost and External Relations, as well as our own Faculty of Fine Arts and Department of Writing.

If you missed it in advance, be sure to check out some of the media coverage the event received: CBC Radio’s All Points West on-air column “Creative Class” which you can hear by clicking here, this short article in the Times Colonist and this piece in The Ring, UVic’s community newspaper.

Concrete Garden wants you (or your students)

Are you a keen student looking to gain some volunteer work experience in the magazine writing realm—or do you have a student who’s looking to get published and learn more about the world of magazines? Either way, check out Concrete Garden.

Concrete Garden - 2013SepUVic’s own Concrete Garden magazine is a great student success story, evolving from a project in the Writing department’s magazine writing class to an actual hard copy mag that’s now for sale around the city. Concrete Garden focuses on sustainable urban agriculture and is currently looking for an art director, photo editor, writing editors and a photographer for the Spring 2014 issue.

All positions are unpaid, except for photographers, but do offer valuable work experience, connections to the local writing biz, and the opportunity for students to publish their work in a print publication. Students should contact editor Kimberley Veness directly with “Position” in the subject line.

Here’s a quick breakdown on the various positions available:

  • Art Director – responsible for the aesthetics of the magazine, works closely with the editorial team to set editing schedules and design schedules to meet monthly production targets and ensure we meet our publication date of April, 2014. The art director will work with the photo editor and editorial team to determine which pictures (or art, comics, etc.) best suit each story, respectively, and is responsible for creating a unique design for Spring 2014 appropriate to the themes of the issue. Must show proven proficiency in Photoshop and Adobe InDesign or similar programs, and previous professional writing and editing experience considered an asset.
  • Concrete Garden staff show off their magazine at Congress 2013

    Concrete Garden staff show off their magazine at Congress 2013

    Photo Editor – responsible for coordinating photographers and businesses, groups, and individuals for photo shoots. The photo editor must fact check and attribute proper photo credit for all pictures in the magazine, and source additional pictures or visual media when requested by the art director or editor on chief. The photo editor should have proven previous photography or photo editor experience, be currently enrolled in photography or similar courses, or demonstrate recent or current involvement in photography groups/clubs within Victoria.

  • Contributing editors – We are looking to add two skilled editors to our editorial team. Under direction from the senior editor, editors must commit to at least two rounds of reading and editing each respective article, and “workshopping” articles at weekly or biweekly editorial meetings, are required to uphold the editing schedule and finish editing articles before the editorial meeting in which they will be workshopped, and should edit articles digitally so edited material can be easily distributed to the other editors and the editor in chief. Editors must have third or fourth year standing, with a declared major or minor in journalism, technical writing, or creative nonfiction at a post secondary institution, be recent writing alumni, or show proven previous editorial experience.
  • Concrete_Garden #1_Page_01Photographers – We are looking to add an additional photographer to our team. Photographers will remain easily accessible (via telephone and email) to the photo editor, art director, editorial team, and editor in chief. Photographers must be able to get to photo shoots within Victoria and surrounding communities, with the possibility of traveling to other locations around Vancouver Island. Photographers are required to shoot and upload pictures in a professional and timely manner, and work closely with the photo editor and art director. They must have own photography equipment to take on location for photo shoots. Having access to, or owning, a reliable vehicle considered an asset.

Concrete Garden is also now accepting pitches for the Spring 2014 issue. They are looking for short and long feature-length stories, but also pieces for our front and back of the book sections, which should complement the seasonal theme. As editor Veness says, “We prioritize writing students and recent graduates, but we are open to strong writers with good ideas from any background. Interested writers should review our online pitch and submission guidelines before contacting us.”

Note: all positions are volunteer and unpaid except for photographers.

Phoenix wins Critics Choice Awards—again

Phoenix Theatre picked up a pair of wins in the 13th annual local Critic’s Choice Spotlight Awards. Celebrating excellence in local theatre, Phoenix is no stranger to the Spotlights—they’ve frequently won in the past—and this year is no exception, with current students, faculty and alumni all sharing nominations.

Chosen by critics for CBC Radio’s On The Island, CVV Magazine and The Marble (alas, the Times Colonist chose to not participate this year), these shows stand as proof of the continuing vibrancy of Victoria’s theatrical community—and Phoenix’s place in it. Congratulations to all, nominees and winners alike!

The Peanuts gang with Charlie Brown (Kale Penny) (photo: David Lowes)

The Peanuts gang have now picked up a pair of Critic’s Choice Awards (photo: David Lowes)

Last spring’s production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown was the big winner for Phoenix this year, picking up the awards for both Musical Production and Performance in a Community Production Ensemble. (While the “performance” category typically chooses a single performer, the judges admitted that the Charlie Brown cast was so strong overall that they simply couldn’t narrow it down to a single person—high praise indeed for this show directed by Theatre prof Fran Gebhard!)

Reese Nielsen (left) with Robin Gadsby in Reasons to be Pretty (photo: David Lowes)

Reese Nielsen (left) with Robin Gadsby in Reasons to be Pretty (photo: David Lowes)

Fourth-year student Marisa Nielsen was nominated for Performance in a Community Production for her dynamic work in Phoenix’s February 2013 production of Reasons To Be Pretty (which CVV Magazine reviewer Erin Anderson described at the time as “an affecting, sharp performance . . . balancing intense emotion with intelligent convictions”). And interestingly, Nielsen’s Reasons co-star Robin Gadsby was also nominated this year, but not for his acting—instead, he picked up a Best New Play nomination for his show Judgement Day.

Three-time Phoenix alum and current sessional instructor Clayton Jevne was nominated in the Direction category for The Golden Dragon at his own Theatre Inconnu, which was also twice nominated—alongside You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown—in the Overall Production (Community) category, for The Golden Dragon and In the Next Room . . . which also won. Just as a quick recap, out of four shows nominated in that single category, three had Phoenix connections, including the winner—proving once again how vital our Department of Theatre is to the greater arts community.

Double nominee Patrick Du Wors was a talent to watch even when he was a student

Double nominee Patrick Du Wors was a talent to watch even when he was a student

Phoenix alum Patrick Du Wors won the set design category for My Fair Lady, which was mounted this past summer by Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre—run by Department of Theatre professor Brian Richmond. Du Wors was also nominated in the Costume Design category, alongside Shayna Ward & Allyson Leet for their work on last spring’s Phoenix production of You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown. Department of Theatre professor emeritus and former chair Giles Hogya also picked up a Lighting Design nomination for his work on Blue Bridge’s Uncle Vanya, and alum Mike Rinaldi was nominated in Sound Design for his work on the Belfry’s production of Helen’s Necklace. (It’s clearly been a good year for Rinaldi, whose earlier play Toothpaste & Cigars—co-written with alumnus TJ Dawe—made into the feature film  The F Word, starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame!)

Will Weigler showing the labyrinthine set for From The Heart (photo: Times Colonist)

Will Weigler showing the labyrinthine set for From The Heart (photo: Times Colonist)

Phoenix alumnus and former instructor Will Weigler, along with Krystal Cook, picked up a win in the Best New Play category for his complex co-production From the Heart: Enter into the Journey of Reconciliation. Granted, while Weigler & Cook are credited as co-creators, we acknowledge there were many others involved in the creation of this challenging production, including the Victoria International Development Education Association and the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, and based on UVic PhD Paulette Regan’s bestselling 2011 book, Unsettling the Settler Within. (As local critic and UVic professor Monica Prendergast noted, “Weigler worked at superhuman levels to bring this community-based theatre production to fruition, and it had powerful effects on many audience members who took it in . . . . New Canadians should encounter and come to terms with the history of their new homeland, and theatre can be an effective way to do so.”)

Savvy artistic director Janet Munsil

Savvy artistic director Janet Munsil

And while it didn’t win, Brian Richmond‘s Blue Bridge production of My Fair Lady was nominated in the Overall Production (Professional) category. Finally, Intrepid Theatre artistic director and Phoenix alumna Janet Munsil‘s UNO Festival had three shows nominated in the new Best of the Fests category—Huff, Mike Daisey’s American Utopias, and Till Death: The Six Wives of Henry the Vlll, with Huff winning the category. True, none of the nominees were her own shows (despite the fact that Munsil is an acclaimed playwright), but their selection does speak to her accomplishments as artistic director; Intrepid continuously programs some of the most dynamic and progressive contemporary theatre productions into their various festivals.

Listen to the CBC On The Island broadcast of the winners list on this podcast, and glean some insights into the winners and nominees courtesy of CBC theatre critic Monica Prendergast on her blog post about this year’s awards.

Early BC artists get a boost

Fresh in from the BC Arts Council is news of their new pilot program to support the development of artists and arts administrators across the province—but, there’s a January 20, 2014 deadline. Read on to find out if you fit the criteria.

BC-Arts-Council-fullThe BC Arts Council’s Early Career Development Program will help bridge the gap for emerging artists and practitioners, supporting their ability to work as artists and cultural workers, while building their body of work, portfolio, professional exposure and/or career experience through residency, internship and mentorship opportunities. This program is accessible to both individual artists and organizations.  Individuals can apply for the residencies or mentorship components.

The program will support the career development of B.C.-based early career and emerging practitioners through three components:

  • Component I: Internships
  • Component II: Residencies
  • Component III: Mentorships

For the purposes of this program, early career and emerging artists and arts practitioners are defined as artists and practitioners who either:

  • Are under the age of 30; or
  • Have less than five years professional experience since the completion of basic training in their discipline.

This pilot program is being launched through the BC Creative Futures strategy. Announced January 2013, BC Creative Futures supports opportunities for youth in communities throughout British Columbia to engage in the arts and creative thinking and encourages young people to pursue creative careers.

The application deadline is January 20, 2014.  For more information, including program guidelines, application forms and FAQs, please visit the BC Arts Council website.

If you have any questions about these programs, please contact the BC Arts Council at 250-356-1718 or BCArtsCouncil@gov.bc.ca.

Southam Lecturer Tom Hawthorn defends sports writing

The Department of Writing is pleased to announce that veteran journalist Tom Hawthorn has been selected as the 2014 Harvey S. Southam Visiting Lecturer. With his impressively diverse reporting background, Hawthorn joins the exclusive roster of other top-flight journalists who have held the coveted Southam position: Charles Campbell of The Georgia Straight, Sandra Martin of The Globe and Mail, Jody Paterson of the Times Colonist, CBC Radio All Points West host Jo-Ann Roberts, plus authors and freelance journalists Terry Glavin and Richard Wagamese.

Tom Hawthorn is the 2014 Southam Lecturer (Photo: Deddeda Stemler)

Tom Hawthorn is the 2014 Southam Lecturer
(Photo: Deddeda Stemler)

Drawing on his experience in the sports departments of the Globe and Mail, the Province and the Times Colonist, Hawthorn‘s Southam course will focus on the fast-paced field of sports writing.

“I’m thrilled to have been selected the Harvey S. Southam Lecturer for 2014,” says Hawthorn. “I spent seven years working for a Southam newspaper and proudly joined Team Southam in covering the 1996 Olympic Games. The Southam name disappeared from Canadian newspapers a decade ago, which is a shame. At the time, my late friend and mentor Patrick Nagle described Southam newspapers as ‘a long-lived experiment in quality daily newspapering.’”

In addition to the Atlanta Olympics, Hawthorn has covered Grey Cups, Stanley Cup playoffs, Major League Baseball (he was on the Blue Jays beat back in the late 1980s) and the Indy 500, as well as working as an archival researcher for the National Film Board documentary Sleeping Tigers (about a Vancouver baseball team of Japanese-Canadians) and writing the Citytv sports trivia program Beer Money. His experience as a member and contributing writer with the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as his association with the Society for International Hockey Research, will also serve his students well as they examine the relationship between journalists and athletes.

“We’ll look at the struggle by women reporters to gain access to the locker room and to be treated as equals,” he says. “We’ll also be looking at how athletes—multimillionaire professionals and hand-to-mouth amateurs alike—are portrayed in the age of Twitter. It promises to be fun, and I promise to stay within myself while giving it 110 per cent.”

deadlines1While sports may be his passion, Hawthorn has written extensively on other subjects, notably his monthly column in Boulevard magazine and his work with the online magazine The Tyee, as well as the likes of Reader’s Digest and Canadian Geographic, to name a few. But it was his popular obituaries—if that’s even an appropriate description—in the Globe and Mail that prompted the publication of his 2012 book, Deadlines: Obits of Memorable British Columbians (Harbour). He has even won several tombstone-shaped awards (charmingly named “the Grimmies”) from the Society of Professional Obituary Writers.

When asked why he has chosen to focus on sports journalism for the Southam course, Hawthorn doesn’t hesitate. “It’s an area that isn’t fully explored,” he says. “People who aren’t into sports just toss that section of the paper aside. But there are a lot of people who want to see pro sport and amateur sport become part of culture as a whole: questions of gender and race and politics come into play. It’s important to see sports writing express the wider culture, which is often unexamined. That’s why this is a great opportunity.”

Hockey+stamp+1956Hawthorn also points out how the game is changing here in the 21st century. “It’s a different age for sports now,” he explains. “Athletes are using social media, they’re portrayed in video games, their personas are much wider culturally than they used to be. It’ll be fascinating to look at the relationship between athletes and the public, and with journalists and writers.”

“We’ll also look at the branding of athletes—and, since we’re on a campus with many athletes, we’ll look at their lives as well. An athlete can be a millionaire or an impoverished student whose passion won’t be able to provide them with a living—like javelin throwers or field hockey players.”  His course also happens to coincide with the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics, so he’ll use that as a teachable moment too. “We’ll be watching live-time to see how some athletes address the question of the anti-gay laws in Russia, and will be comparing that to the athletes reaction to the 1936 games in Nazi Germany.”

Does Hawthorn have any final thoughts about the often thorny relationship between writer and athlete? “Writers look at flaws—flaws are more interesting—but athletes don’t: they deal with a flaw immediately, correct it and ignore it,” he says. “It’s a completely different attitude. Sometimes I’m amazed athletes even talk to reporters . . . we can cause them a lot of grief. There’s always tension between athletes and writers.”

Join Tom Hawthorn at his free public lecture “In Defense of Sports Writing (Not All of It, Just the Good Stuff),” 7pm Wednesday, January 29, in room A240 of UVic’s Human & Social Development building.