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.

A Literary Cabaret, live literature and music

Literary Cabaret poster, highlighting the evening line-up of readers, including A.M. Matte
Literary Cabaret poster

As part of the Toronto Writers’ Co-operative’s annual outreach efforts, I participated in the 2014 Literary Cabaret at Alleycatz Lounge last February. Eighteen members of the Co-op took the stage to perform their writing, accompanied by a varying array of musicians.

Though I’d never met him before we shook hands on stage, my reading of my short story  Paper Dolls was accompanied by James Faulkner on acoustic guitar. James’ spry yet mournful strumming was a touching backdrop to a story of a late-blooming friendship in the life of an older woman.

I will make a video of my reading available in April.

Under a spotlight and by a few microphones, A.M. Matte reads excerpts of her short story, Paper Dolls
A.M. Matte on stage, reading excerpts of her short story, Paper Dolls (photo courtesy of Omar Samara)


A Literary Cabaret

Very happy to participate in the Toronto Writers’ Cooperative’s Literary Cabaret next month. I even changed vacation plans in order to participate. How’s that for dedication to one’s craft? Details on the cabaret follow:

T.O. Writers’ Co-operative

Presents the 6th

Exchanging Notes: A Literary Cabaret

Tuesday, February 18, 2014, at 7:30 PM

Alleycatz Lounge

(2409 Yonge Street, 2 blocks north of Eglinton Avenue)

‘Exchanging Notes: a literary cabaret’ offers a unique combination of spoken word and live musical accompaniment.  A variety of instruments support authors in a variety of genres.  Rock! Blues! Jazz! Poetry!  Prose!

Our venue, Alleycatz Lounge, offers 2 menus, an exceptional kitchen and bar, great service!

There is no cover charge.

Further info: exchangingnotes@live.ca

For further info on Alleycatz: http://alleycatz.ca/

Public Reading – Update

A chalkboald sign announcing the Who You Calling Crazy public reading

I would like to thank the lovely audience of the Who You Calling Crazy? reading last week. It was the success for which our writers’ group had hoped:

We performed our pieces brilliantly (if I do say so myself), were accompanied by great music, and collected 200$ for the Child Development Institute. We even got coverage in one of the local papers (in French), Le Métropolitain.

Our group will plan another public reading in 2014, and in the meantime, we will be working on new pieces of fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry.

A group photo of the reading authors and musician
The Who You Calling Crazy authors and musician:
l. to r.: Darren Elliot, Lisa Jackson, Simone Dalton, Angélique Jenney, A.M. Matte, Sophie Tolias, and Alex Normand

Public Readings – Three Down, One To Go

Over the course of one month, I have had the opportunity to read my work in public three times, with one more chance coming up.

A photo of author A.M. Matte at a Toronto Public Library podium, reading a short story excerpt .
A.M. Matte, reading an excerpt of A Treat, at the TOWC Voices 2013 book launch.

I’ve read an excerpt of my short story Where Pigeons Roost, with fave author Terry Fallis in attendance. I’ve read an excerpt of my MIL Dread monologue at a CityVoices Monologue Salon. (Click here for a YouTube excerpt of the monologue performed by actress Audrey Ferron.) And I’ve read an excerpt of my short story A Treat at the launch of the Toronto Writers Cooperative’s Voices anthology (only $10 each).

An image of the Voices 2013 anthology book cover, itself a blurred image of light coming through a window on a brownish background.
The Voices 2013 anthology.

I immensely enjoyed reading my pieces at those events and I’m thrilled to have one more opportunity to share at the Who You Calling Crazy? reading by emerging authors at Toronto’s Free Times Café on Thursday, October 3rd, starting at 7:30 p.m.

I’ll be practicing reading my excerpts until then.

A Reading is a Performance

« A reading is a performance, » said Terry Fallis* in one of his University of Toronto Building An Audience courses.

(Award Gala photo by Danielle Maheu)
Maybe I revive this outfit for one of the readings?
(Award Gala photo by Danielle Maheu)

With three readings coming up over the next few months, I have reviewed my notes on the subject for a few hints that can help prepare the best performance possible:

1. Choose a section that reflects the book / that reflects you as a writer.

2. Make eye contact with the audience.

3. When reading, it’s good to « act » the characters a little.

4. Use your voice as your instrument. Adjust your voice/performance to fit the writing. Change volume – lower the voice for dramatic moments (but not so much as to be inaudible) and raise the voice for excitement.

5. Vary the pace – slow down to add drama; use pauses, let the audience hang before delivering a punchline (coup de grâce), or speed up for intensity.

6. Practice, practice, practice. Before the reading, try out your piece. Practice in front of friends, or in front of a mirror. You can even time yourself, so that you know how long your reading takes.

I’ve been rehearsing my readings, timer at hand, to help me choose the best sections. Want to know which I picked? Feel free to attend any one (or all) of the readings to find out!


*I know, I know, sometimes I should just call my blog a fan page for this award-winning author…