Friday, 30 September 2011
Roddy Doyle, Genocide, and Docs that Boldly go where no Doc has Gone Before*: NOW for My 3 Latest Articles
I've been working on some interesting articles over at NOW, Concordia University's online news and events newsletter.
So I thought I'd share them with you:
First, an article about the Writers Read literary series which, along with the School of Canadian Irish Studies at Concordia, is set to welcome acclaimed Irish writer Roddy Doyle on Friday October 7th.
Doyle is the author of nine novels, including The Commitments, The Van, A Star Called Henry, and The Woman Who Walked into Doors. He has also written five children’s books, a collection of short stories, and a memoir. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Metro Eireann and several anthologies. In 1993, he won the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. He also writes for stage and screen, and won a number of nominations and awards for his work on the screenplay for The Commitments.
Second, some of the world’s foremost experts on the role of media in preventing mass atrocities will bring their latest insights to the upcoming conference, The Promise of Media in Halting Mass Atrocities: A Conference to Mark the 10th Anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).
Concordia University’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) is organizing the conference, which takes place October 20 and 21 at the Mount StephenClub, 1440 Drummond Street.
And third, a story about Cinema Politica, a made at Concordia documentary film series that has grown to 90 international locations since 2003:
In 2003, a small group of Concordia film buffs got together and decided they wanted to see some alternative, non-commercial documentary films. They started out in with small screenings every couple of weeks, says Ezra Winton, BA 05, MA 07, co-founder and director of programming for Cinema Politica (CP).
Word of the film series quickly spread and “it wasn’t long before it was standing room only and people were sitting on the floor. Students were hungry for alternative media and perspectives, for the under-represented stories,” explains Winton....
Hope you enjoy...
*(Okay, maybe that last part was a slight exaggeration...)
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year, full of sweetness!
And, to celebrate, I'd like to share this video by The Fountainheads that a Facebook friend sent my way recently.
These lyrics really jumped out at me, summarizing what this time of the Jewish year is all about:
Any wrong can be made right/ Just forgive/ You need not fight...
Best to you,
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
The Meaning Of Children makes the Top 10 list of the CBC - Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers' Choice Contest
I was just thrilled to discover today that The Meaning Of Children made the Top 10 list of the CBC- Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers' Choice Contest!! The top book, Myrna Dey's Extensions went on to a place on the Longlist...
Monday, 26 September 2011
Recently, everyone who had taken a workshop or mentorship through the good offices of the Quebec Writers Federation (QWF) was invited to write them of our recent successes. These sorts of missives help to demonstrate to our generous funding agencies--such as the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec--the value of the programs supported.
This blog post is based on the letter I was delighted to provide to the QWF:
Below is my history of literary training with the Quebec Writers Federation (QWF):
8 wks (+16 wks outside QWF)
Robin Marantz Henig
Short fiction master class (competitive admission)
Writing the first chapter
Young adult fiction (novel)
2 x 8 wk
It is no exaggeration to say that through the QWF, I have availed myself top caliber teaching, on a par with a university program in creative writing. In fact, most of the QWF instructors I have had teach similar courses at Concordia University.
I’d also like to salute them for their compassion, humanity, and companionship on this shared journey of literary discovery.
This year has seen the launch of my first book, the David Adams Richards Prize winning fiction collection, The Meaning Of Children. Most of the stories therein benefitted from valuable feedback generated at QWF workshops. Reviewer response to my book has been, gratifyingly, good to excellent. Selected comments:
Loved your book--read it in one sitting.
~Mutsumi Takahashi, Anchor, CTV News
Your book The Meaning of Children is great and so are you!
~Anne Lagacé Dowson, CJAD Radio journalist, on Twitter
A keen, incisive vision into the hidden world of children as well as intimate knowledge of the secret spaces that exist between the everyday events of life. A work with a brilliant sense of story…Magical, and so refreshing for me to read. I absolutely loved it and I hope it goes on to do marvellous things. Yours is a luminous talent.
~JoAnne Soper-Cook, author and 2010 David Adams Richards Prize judge
This isn’t the invented childhood of imagination and wonderment…[here] children both corrupt and redeem: each other, family relationships and the female body.
~Katie Hewitt, The Globe & Mail
Akerman holds up our greatest fears, not to dwell on them, but to marvel at our commitment to life, especially to passing it on to others.
~Anne Chudobiak, The Montreal Gazette
Akerman engages with dichotomies. Childhood is that safe, magical, carefree time and place — but it’s also risky, threatening, ominous and dangerous — full of impenetrable mystery around things seen and experienced, but beyond understanding. And if it’s not too much of a simplification or stating the obvious, life and the world are not gentle on children simply for being children…If, as Dostoevsky once remarked, and as is quoted on the collection’s frontispiece, “The soul is healed by being with children,” it is the tragedy of adulthood that we become so isolated from childhood — and what children offer us. Artfully, evocatively, Beverly Akerman’s The Meaning of Children reminds us of that.
~Darrell Squires, The Western Star, Corner Brook NL
Beverly’s background as a scientist, MSc and twenty years as a molecular researcher, inevitably spills into the stories…characters, the settings and her style. Intelligent, objective, open-minded but not clinical, her prose is refreshing and unprejudiced. Her characters are frank and genuine...With The Meaning of Children, we get a beautifully written exposé on the meaning of life.
~Francine Diot-Layton, The Rover
Your book is filled with insight and wisdom and gorgeous moving stories...You are dazzling. (I had read “Pie” long ago. It is just as moving the second time).
~Hal Ackerman (no relation), UCLA Screenwriting Area Co-Chair and Author of Stein Stoned and Stein Stung
A life-altering read is so rare for me, and I imagine for many writers, with a critical eye often hard to keep closed while hoping to get caught up and swept away while reading fiction for pleasure...Her stories are as diverse as her changing career path and yet string together a theme as connected as a genetic chain…Children weave their way through every tale…always sparking the reader to question where in all these stories sits their own story.
~Michelle Greysen, Writer, Editor, and Blogger
Just finished “Like Jeremy Irons.” That was a tough one. Saying I loved it feels contrary to the agony I'm feeling right now. (Perhaps I shouldn't have settled into it with a glass of wine?) Awesome writing - even if my uterus is cramping!
~Lisa Dalrymple, Winner, The Writers Union of Canada’s 2011 Writing for Children Competition
In Fall 2010, I had the pleasure of seeing my first theatrical piece, the monologue “Chelle,” professionally performed by Nan Fewchuk at Sarasvati Productions’ FemFest 2010, in Winnipeg, MB. I am very grateful to have been awarded funds from the Canada Council and the Playwrights Guild of Canada to attend the festival, where I was also a featured reader during the national Culture Days program.
Another highlight of the past year was being invited to teach my first QWF workshop, on short fiction, bringing me full circle. One of my workshop participants asked me to write a reference letter in support of his application for graduate studies in creative writing at UBC—I’m thrilled to say he was accepted.
As I write my latest appeal to the Canada Council for my next writing project, and embark on yet another ego battering roller coaster of submissions, and long and short lists, I can’t help but be moved and grateful for the guidance and support that the QWF has made available to me, and to all the other aspiring writers of Quebec.
Bravo, QWF, for doing what you do, and for doing it so well!
Thanks so much for being there for me when I needed you. Not that I don’t need you still…
Thursday, 22 September 2011
Dear child #1 (25 years old), child #2 (22 years old), and child #3 (16 years old)
I've already spoken with child #2 about this, but in the interest of being sure you all have the same information, I am repeating everything here.
First of all, an update on the leak from the upstairs bathroom all the way down to the main floor closet:
I have put another layer of hooks on the shower curtain, so it hangs lower in the tub & is less likely to leak. Please be careful when you turn the shower on & when you enter/exit the tub.
DO NOT hang the rubbery bath mat (the one you stand on IN the shower) over the side of the bathtub: all the water just drips down and penetrates either below the tub or dribbles down to the wall at the back of the toilet & leaks there.
As I told you all yesterday, please check to see if there is water on the floor & mop it up with the cloth bath mat or a towel, and then hang the towel over the edge of my laundry basket so we will know it is dirty.
Somebody dumped several sopping wet towels into my laundry bin yesterday, soaking all the dirty laundry…I suppose whoever did it did not realize what would have happened if it just sat there for 5 days till someone (ie. ME) went to do the washing.
Well, what would have happened is mould. And stink. And maybe even ruined clothes.
PLEASE DO NOT PUT WET THINGS IN THE LAUNDRY!!
Secondly, please take some time together this weekend to figure out what you are going to be cooking for dinner 2-3 times a week. You are all adults (or almost adults…and I’m not say which of you is which!) so I think we should start thinking about living together in this house by SHARING the responsibilities here. With 3 of you opening the fridge regularly, just expecting to find yummy home cooked meals waiting for you to decide you are hungry, I have reached my limit!! I cook a chicken for my lunches and by the next day, it’s
gone…(usually, a whole chicken would last me 4 lunches…do you see how fast that gets old? Everyday I cook 4 days worth, only to find it gone in 1 or 2 days).
There are many things you can make already, or that I can easily teach you: fajitas, rice, hamburgers, "my favourite chicken dish," broiled salmon with dill mayonnaise…really, cooking is unbelievably easy.
You just have to plan a little in advance. And when I say “you,” I really do mean YOU—or at least, you too!
That is all—for the moment.
Saturday, 17 September 2011
let's try a little more relaxed form of blogging, shall we?
and, for anyone who hasn't found me yet on Facebook, please look for me at:
and my book page is:
The Meaning Of Children is available in fine bookstores across Canada and online at Amazon.ca, Chapters, and through Exile Editions.
up at the cottage, one of the last weekends. leaves starting to turn. too soon, too soon. it’s glorious: no bugs, sunshine streaming. went to the Val David market, locally grown corn, apples, pears, strawberries, monster organic chicken, emmenthal bread…hubby has an appointment with his chainsaw…it’s electric, lol! life is good...hope you are all having a good weekend, too.
the laurentian lake...soon it will be covered with x-country ski tracks...
DATE: SEPTEMBER 24, 2011
TIME: 2:00PM TO 4:00PM
PLACE: HURLEY'S IRISH PUB
1225 Crescent Street, 2nd Floor
and finally my FB peeps were impressed with this Rape analogy posting, and so am i...
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Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Five years later…
First off, I think today is a day for offering our condolences to the De Sousa family, and our best wishes for healing to them especially, and
Photo credit: Peter McCabe, The Canadian Press
to anyone who was hurt at Dawson College five years back. I’ve learned a bit more about Anastasia De Sousa the past couple of days, from a website called “mypinkangel.com,” created and maintained by Lucie Bouchard Antoniazzi. Ms. De Sousa had had a hard time while growing up because she had asthma and scoliosis. She was treated—amazingly well treated—at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. When she was 14, she underwent a gruelling six hour operation to straighten her spine. Steel rods, the whole works. It was painful and difficult. The first time she got out of bed after the surgery, she was 3 inches taller.
I mean, that girl suffered.
And everyone knows that means her whole family suffered with her. And after recovering from all that—her breathing eased because her spine no longer pressed on her lungs--she’s shot to death by some unwell guy who had unbelievably easy access to guns.
Nineteen people shot, thousands terrified, their sense of safety shattered. I’m sure I feel the way all Montrealers feel in wishing the De Sousa’s all the best in the future. But I think they and the entire Dawson community are also owed an apology.
You know, I was struck by today’s front page stories about that kidnapped 3-year old in BC. The boy’s father is in the papers saying, “The judge and the system failed us.” I’ve been thinking about that—“The system failed us.”
Because I think our federal gun laws failed us. I think they failed Anastasia De Sousa and her family.
I’m not even talking now about the gun registry, which I support. I have a more basic question. Why was the Dawson College shooter—I don’t even like to say his name--able to amass all that firepower? With official government permission.
For what purpose? A young, troubled, unemployed guy…I mean, the guy had 4 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition with him that day…I’ll say it again, why did our society allow it? Why did our government allow it? Why do we treat guns like cameras?
I started writing in favour of gun control in 2006, and I haven’t stopped. On a day like today, I’m also thinking about the late Stephanie Hoddinott. Stephanie Hoddinott was wonderful 20-year-old woman with her whole life ahead of her. She had a 4.0 GPA in her veterinarian technician program, was smart, beautiful, and well-loved. On January 10th, 2010, she was murdered in her home by an ex-boyfriend who had legally purchased a handgun—supposedly for target-shooting. That ex-boyfriend then killed himself.
I mean, an 18 year old is too young to buy beer in Ontario. But he can buy a gun.
Why is that? Why do we put up with it?
The De Sousa family has helped set up The Pink Angel Fund to help combat asthma and scoliosis. They’re also trying to build a memorial room in the hospital (called a Best Care Unit) in order to help and inspire patients struggling with the same medical issues she struggled with.
The Pink Angel Fund is holding a gala on September 24th; Premier Charest and his wife Mme. Michele Dionne are Patrons of Honour at the gala. You can buy a ticket or make a donation on Ms. De Sousa’s behalf.
I was very touched to hear about this. This family has lost so much but they find solace in thinking of...helping...others.
So that’s what I’m thinking of on this day: the grace of the De Sousa family in reaching out to help others who suffer. And I’m asking myself why we allow anybody to get a gun…I know there are hoops people have to go through to buy them. But if Marc Lepine, Valery Fabrikant, and Kimveer Gill could jump through them so easily, they’re obviously not set high enough.
The Public Safety Minister has a firearms advisory committee. The day after the Dawson shootings, a member of the committee, Tony Bernardo of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action told the Canadian Press, “To be perfectly honest it's a lot of fun to shoot.” He also owns a Beretta CX4 Storm. He repeated the comment at last year’s parliamentary committee hearings on Bill C-391, the law proposing to destroy the gun registry. He made the comment in front of Anastasia De Sousa’s mother, Ms. Louise De Sousa, and Ms. Suzanne Laplante-Edward, mother of Anne-Marie, a victim of the Polytechnique massacre. They had been announced as being in attendance.
I think our government has a lot to apologize for.
Monday, 12 September 2011
(Versions of this article were originally published in The Montreal Gazette and The National Post)
The solution is simple
No more guns!: if psychiatrists can’t tell if someone is violent, how can gun registry officials?
BEVERLY AKERMAN, Freelance
Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2006
I am the mother of a Dawson College student, was friendly with a beloved husband and father killed at Concordia University 14 years ago, and worked in a non-traditional occupation - molecular genetics research - when the Ecole Polytechnique massacre took place. My husband, Russell Copeman, is a provincial politician who spends much of the year at the National Assembly in Quebec City, where three were killed and 13 wounded by a deranged Canadian soldier in 1984. And so I feel myself uniquely placed to respond to the events of Sept. 13.
My response is not to launch a fruitless inquiry into the "root causes" of this catastrophic occurrence. I couldn't care a whit whether the perpetrator of last Wednesday's atrocities was refused academic admission to Dawson College, whether he was bullied as a child, either in school or at home. I think it's irrelevant if he grew up with a chip on his shoulder because of some imagined slight, or even if he or his family suffered in the past from some form of persecution, be it real or imagined, in Canada or elsewhere.
To me, there can be no mitigating factors for murder, whether the locus of attack is a college campus in downtown Montreal, a nightclub in Tel Aviv, a skyscraper in New York City, or some parched crossroads among the rubble of Afghanistan. Murder is murder is murder. Each one should fall under the rubric of "hate crime."
When 14 young Montrealers, full of hope, ambition and promise, had their lives snuffed out because they had earned the privilege of studying engineering while another could not, many people I knew, especially women, insisted the "root cause" of this crime was our society's oppression of women, an opinion at which I scoffed.
When gun control was trumpeted as the panacea to these horrible killings, I was skeptical. I bought the argument that gun control penalized the law-abiding, rather than the criminals. I was sensitive to the position that people living rural lifestyles needed firearms as part of their daily lives, a situation unimaginable to me, given my urban existence.
Well, I am skeptical and sensitive no more. Last Wednesday was the drop that made the glass overflow, as we say in Quebec. The balance has shifted. I realize more clearly now that my choice must be to care more for the potential victims than the potential perpetrators.
So that's my response to the Dawson killings: No more guns. It's as simple as that. Because no one can accurately predict who among us will become unhinged enough to explode in bloody slaughter, I believe that guns should be unavailable to the public.
I don't trust psychiatrists - much less gun-registry officials - to ferret out what lies deep in the hearts of men. After all, Concordia administrators, some of whom had equipped their own offices with locks and panic buttons because of Valery Fabrikant's continued harassment, consulted a psychiatrist about the demented professor before his murderous rampage. I saw the same psychiatrist on television last week, hovering in the background following the Dawson shootings.
According to journalist Morris Wolfe, the psychiatrist had deemed it "unlikely" that Fabrikant, a professor repeatedly denied tenure, would become violent (www.grubstreetbooks.ca /essays/fabrikant.html).
So if a trained psychiatrist with an abiding interest in severe and chronic psychotic illness, confronted with a man he himself has diagnosed as having "a personality disorder" cannot foresee the coming explosion of rage, all the administrative screening in the world won't be able to keep legal guns out of the hands of loonies. The solution that's clearest to me is to make guns - both legal and illegal - impossible to get.
And so, as a mother, a woman, and a sentient human being, I'm telling Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the entire government of Canada to wake up and smell the coffee: If you persist in your intended dismantling of the gun registry instead of making it harder for people to own guns, there will be hundreds of thousands of us marching in the streets of Montreal. I guarantee it.
Beverly Akerman is a Montreal writer.