November 14, 2017

My (small press) writing day

A few weeks ago, rob mclennan published my entry for his latest project “My (small press) writing day“. He’s doing a Canadian version of The Guardian‘s “My Writing Day”. You’d think these essays would start to sound the same after a while, but the range of expression is astounding. Posts come out every other day and do double duty as inspiration or commiseration, depending on your mood at the time. Within a discipline that can be isolating, it’s reassuring to know someone else is struggling with the same issues. My current favourite is from the grim yet funny Paul Carlucci, who had better hope his current employer doesn’t read it! Here’s my post, published by rob on October 21, 2017. Oscar Martens: My (small press) writing day…in 1993 I have to go back that far to recall my ideal writing situation. I’m marginally employed in Ottawa, working temp gigs at various Federal institutions such as the Public Service Commission, and the Department of Defence. I’m living in the lower level of my father’s townhouse on Britannia Bay. I pay $200/mo in rent. The forced air heating doesn’t really make it to my room due to faulty ductwork, but I have […]
October 24, 2017

Rob Taylor, a blatant self-promoter since 2006

Rob Taylor is the author of the poetry collections “Oh Not So Great”: Poems from the Depression Project (Leaf Press, 2017), The News (Gaspereau Press, 2016) and The Other Side of Ourselves (Cormorant Books, 2011). The News was a finalist for the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, and The Other Side of Ourselves won the 2010 Alfred G. Bailey Prize. In 2015 Rob received the City of Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for the Literary Arts, as an emerging artist. He lives in Vancouver with his wife and son, where he coordinates the Dead Poets Reading Series. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were both asked to write a single word on a slip of paper to describe the key to their success. They both wrote “focus”. You’re a prolific producer, the coordinator of the Dead Poets Reading Series, a blogger, and a teacher. Is focus the key to your production? My wife just told me this evening, as I tried for the third time to install drapes in our new apartment, that my one redeeming quality was my perseverance. Ok, I added the “one redeeming quality” part, but I’m sure that’s what she was implying. I do everything wrong. I […]
October 2, 2017

Beautiful lies

If you feel shut out and shut down because the oppressive and ever-present patriarchy that rules every editor’s desk leads to the rejection of your gender and the subject matter of your stories, there’s hope. If you feel that an ultra-progressive, politically correct agenda has seeped into every classroom, every grant-giving organization, and every contest-judging panel, there’s hope. Without access to the information, without transparency, there is no way to know the truth about your 95% rejection rate. And when you’re left with no information, you make up your own. It’s human nature to crave stories and find patterns. Paranoia thrives as you search for facts that will never be known. If only we could do a transparency audit, to scroll through the thoughts of the decision makers as they came upon your piece. If only we had an objective breakdown with a list of reasons, assumptions, feelings, desires, and personal prejudices that were employed in the final decision. Did they accept your story because they know you, or because they don’t know you? If they knew you, would they still be interested in taking the story? Did your friendship with the editor influence her decision to take you on? […]
September 5, 2017

Writing up, writing down

My recent interview with Sarah Taggart brought up the concept of writing up and writing down. I was still trying to absorb it as I engaged in a lengthy debate on the topic with one of Sarah’s friends on Facebook. As I understand it, and I may not understand it at all, writing up involves the consideration of the social position of the writer versus the social position of the character in the writer’s story. If the writer is considered to have a lower position than the character in the story, there is complete freedom of expression as no damage can result from the inaccurate portrayal of someone with a higher position. If the writer is considered to have a higher position than the character, extreme care, respectful awareness, and the checking of privilege are employed to ensure that no damage is done and no offense is taken by marginalized groups who might see themselves reflected in the fictional characters the writer has imagined. I can see a few potential problems with this line of thought. First, how are we going to determine social position? In Sarah’s story, for example, she is talking about a bunch of white guys in […]
August 15, 2017

Sarah Taggart is a meat popsicle

Sarah L. Taggart has published in The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, Journey Prize Stories and a Winnipeg zine called 1234V. She has some degrees and has lived a lot of places and has worked many jobs (never as a lumberjack, though) and currently calls Toronto home. She lives with a damn cute dog and an even cuter partner. Sarah Taggart is a meat popsicle.  So says the “Intro” section on your Facebook page. What could this possibly mean? 1. A resistance to providing too much personal information in a public format? Yes. 2. A rejection of overshare culture typical of Facebook? Also yes. 3. Self-deprecatory humour? Never. 4. The hard recognition of the reality of being one of 7.5 billion carbon units on this planet? Hm, maybe? 5. I made the mistake of googling “meat popsicle”, and now I have to factor in the connection to Luc Besson’s Fifth Element and possible references to cryogenics. There’s no limit to how deep that hole goes. So? What gives? It’s number 5. The Fifth Element is one of my all-time favourite movies. I’ve never before considered the cryogenics angle, although I should have considering what’s going on in the movie when that […]