Writing on International Dance Day

For International Dance Day, I participated in a Yoga and Writing workshop, to which I was invited through the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada. Following a Terrill Maguire-led half-hour of yoga-inspired movement to get our creative auras active, we did time-constrained writing exercises led by Carol Anderson. One of the writing activities consisted of 3-minute bursts of writing about parts of our body. Here are my unedited (we weren’t allowed) writings:

My Hips

For years, my hips didn’t know they were lonely.

My hips didn’t know they’d enjoy bearing, didn’t know they’d like having tiny hips, hands, arms, feet, legs, face nestled in them.

My hips experienced this once and are sad – just a little – that they haven’t had a chance to be a nest again.

My Feet

My feet are looking forward to the sunshine, to grass, to sand between their toes.

My feet will be glad to dress in sandals and toe rings and paint.

My feet enjoyed their winter cardigans – reds and blues and cats and bows and hearts and stripes,

but they long to breathe and not be cold, for a change.

My hair

My hair is shy, thinning since it was ten years old.

My hair artificially sought body, and it broke, severed under a perm.

My hair is long and I cut it because what’s the difference.

My hair learns, every night, to be curly the next day.

My hair discovers it is happy even when stifled under wigs;

and as my hair gets wispier and wispier, it knows it has in them a replacement.

My spine

My spine woke up a few years ago, no longer curving at the neck – elongating itself, asserting itself, finding a way to lengthen though it is part of only a five-feet-tall frame.

My spine is short, yet mighty.

My heart

My heart skips beats – literally. (Figuratively, that hasn’t happened in years.)

My heart likes to surprise me and worry me with its literal irregularity.

« Don’t worry, it’s normal, » says the doctor.

So, everyone is walking around with their hearts stopping for milliseconds at a time?

It’s a wonder we keep going and don’t stop, for a moment, to feel until our hearts start again.

#TBT The Write Decision

Over twelve years ago, my then-still-new alma mater, Carleton University, featured me and three fellow writers in the cover story of its student and alumni magazine. (You’ll also see an article about Lynn Coady in there.)

A screen capture of the Carleton magazine feature "Making the Write Decision", featuring A.M. Matte.

I am quoted as saying: « If you can’t go through the day without writing, then you’re a writer. » I think I was channeling L.M. Montgomery’s Emily « of New Moon » Starr when I said that.

You can read the full article by following this link.

Ah, youth.

Immense Thanks to the Toronto Arts Council

A Big Thank You to the Toronto Arts Council, for its support of my writing.

Its generous support will allow me to take some time next summer to write the second part of my novel, La face cachée du bonheur.

I am one of two French-language writers to get Grants to Writers support this year.

Merci beaucoup!

About Genre, from Ursula K. Le Guin

« The Obligatory Bit about Science Fiction, Fantasy and Genre

There are dozens of definitions of what “science fiction” is; few are useful and none is definitive. Variations on the term, such as “speculative fiction,” complicate the discussion more than they clarify it.  …

Genre, a concept which could have served as a useful distinction of various kinds of fiction, has been degraded into a disguise for more value-judgment. The various “genres” are now mainly commercial product-labels to make life easy for lazy readers, lazy critics, and the Sales Department of publishers.

It’s not my job as a writer to make life easy for anybody. Including myself. …

For a writer, there is a genuine difference between fantasy and science fiction, which has nothing to do with the commercial branding of books as “genre” or the categorical imperatives of critics. The difference is in how you write it—what you are doing as a writer. In fantasy you get to make it all up, even the rules of how things work, and then follow your rules absolutely. In science fiction you get to make it up, but you have to follow most of the rules of science, or at least not ignore them. …

If you’re getting bored with this classifying, I’m sorry—I’m doing it to show that the whole vocabulary—“realism” “science fiction” “genre fiction,” and the rest of it—doesn’t give even a remotely adequate description of what I write, Or of what many other serious writers are writing. We need a whole new discourse on fiction. … »

–Ursula K. Le Guin. August 2012

The Unreal and the Real – selected stories of Ursula K. Le Guin

Pigeons and Alzheimer’s Out Loud

I participated in the Wordjammin’ 2015 event a few weeks ago, during which independent authors share their wares, so to speak, during an afternoon of public readings.

As always, I had great fun reading an excerpt from my short story Where Pigeons Roost and, in homage to my grandmother, my short nonfiction piece Countdown, which chronicles my family’s encounter with Alzheimer’s Disease.

My husband and four-year-old son were also in attendance, which made the event even more special to me.

For more information about Wordjammin’: http://www.wordjamm.com/authors-bios.html.

A.M. Matte reading at an ornate gold-plated lectern in a west Toronto pub.

A.M. Matte reading Countdown at Wordjammin’ 2015.
Photo credit: Angela, artwalkabout -at- gmail.com

Conte-moi ça at the Toronto Public Library

Theatre company Productions Nemesis has presented, on two occasions now, my interactive theatre for kids concept, Conte-moi ça, at the Toronto Public Library. Geared toward 5-10 year olds, the 50-minute show in French reinvents fairy tales according to audience suggestions. Thanks to talented improv collaborators, the kids see Hansel and Gretel eat lots of spaghetti – in addition to a candy house – and see Cinderella meet Elsa at the ball instead of the prince.

Following the latest Conte-moi ça, which was played at the Richview branch of TPL, the librarian shared this comment:

« Thank you for arranging this wonderful program. Productions Nemesis gave fast paced, funny and gripping performance today, great stories, props and costumes. I created a display of Fairy Tale books from our Children’s French collection to complement, and made sure no one walked out of the room without a book (s) to take home. »

Glad we could contribute to the next generation’s joy of reading!

Improv actor C. Berthiaume in wolf hat and white, clawed gloves plays a wolf in Conte-moi ça interactive theatre for kids.

Hansel and Gretel also met a confused wolf as they traipsed around the Toronto Public Library’s Richview branch.

A Reading Begets Another

I participated in the Toronto Writers’ Co-operative’s 7th Exchanging Notes Literary Cabaret a few weeks ago, where I read my creative non-fiction piece Countdown. It’s about my grandmother’s last years with us, during which we rediscovered our relationship through the lens of Alzheimer Disease. My reading was accompanied by John Priest on the violin.

A photo and tweet about my reading from writing partner and good friend Sophie Tolias.

A photo and tweet about my reading from writing partner and good friend Sophie Tolias.


Following the Cabaret reading, I got an email from fellow writer Amy S. Mark, inviting me to read Countdown and another excerpt (I’ve opted to read from my short story collection Where Pigeons Roost) at the Indie authors’ Wordjammin’ 2015 event this weekend:

A Celebration of Independent Authors

Join some of Canada’s best indie authors 
as they read excerpts from their works.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

2:00 — 6:00 pm

Yellow Griffin Pub

2202 Bloor Street West

(just steps from the Runnymede subway station)

Find out more about the authors reading at the Wordjamm here: http://www.wordjamm.com/authors-bios.html.

I’ll be reading at 4:55 p.m. I don’t know what the audience will think of the contrast between a staccato yet touching retelling of a loved one’s demise and the dark humour of killing pigeons for sport – I suppose death is an inadvertent theme, here – but I am looking forward to finding out. Each author’s Wordjamm reading is followed by a question-and-answer session from the audience. I’ll share how it goes in an upcoming post.

Cousin dee – Wildness Rushing In

Last month, I met cousin dee – we are related through her attachment to my mother’s third (?) cousin, Dave; their grandmothers were sisters. Something like that.

Both dee and Dave are writers, and I met them as they each came to Toronto to read their work. dee has recently published Wildness Rushing In, a collection of poems, which she shared as part of a recent reading tour.

dee Hobsbawn-Smith reading her poetry at the Rower’s Pub reading series.

dee Hobsbawn-Smith reading her poetry at the Rower’s Pub reading series.

My favourite poem of the collection is At 15, which narrates her fifteen-year-old self and the surly angst and rage accompanying her.

But what I enjoyed most about dee was her generosity of spirit. She warmly welcomed me – and my four-year-old son – to the event, helped us get settled, and ensured we were comfortable. In fact, so comfortable were we that my little one fell asleep at the pub bar, allowing me to listen without interruption, babe in arms, to the poets in attendance.

Do pick up a copy of dee’s delicious collection; linguistic delight for the senses.

New Voices Publication

At the end of September 2014, the Toronto Writers’ Co-operative launched its sixth Voices anthology, in which is published my short story Paper Dolls.

Front cover of Voices 2014 anthology, a painting of an upside-down face, in pink and green hues.

I originally wrote Paper Dolls in French, following a talk with my grand-mother Jacqueline. When she told us about one of her favourite toys, growing up in Montreal in the 1930s, it painted such a picture in my mind that I couldn’t help but take her love of her paper dolls and insert it into my next short story.

I read an excerpt of Paper Dolls at the Voices book launch, voicing my main character both as a child and as an elderly woman.

A.M. Matte reading an excerpt of Paper Dolls at the Toronto Public Library Main Reference Branch, at a wooden podium.

I love this second life a reading gives characters, where an author can literally lend her voice to a story.

Looking for your own copy of Voices 2014? Find one at the Toronto Writers’ Co-operative website.

« The Art of Standing Still for Four Hours »

« For four hours, 28 “enthusiastic, clean cut and reliable” – part of the job description – young people stood at attention outside the eOne event in order to set a scene of a highly-guarded, exclusive, and perhaps a little dangerous, party. Let’s just say the enthusiasm waned pretty quickly and we wished we hadn’t been so reliable after all. »

– Excerpt from my personal essay « The Art of Standing Still for Four Hours », available at the Watts at the Movies blog