Categories
Sports

An unforgettable first year at The Concordian

A recap of my first year as Assistant Sports Editor

In my first year at Concordia University, I got out of my comfort zone more than ever before, and I was determined to keep the ball rolling during the 2020–21 academic year.

When I found out last summer that I would be the Assistant Sports Editor at The Concordian, I was happy, but simultaneously worried, because I had no clue how sports would be operating down the line during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have always kept tabs on professional sports leagues, but I was thrilled to get an opportunity to bring a similar level of enthusiasm to collegiate sports prior to the pandemic in the form of Concordia Stinger profiles, game recaps, interviews with coaches, and much more.

Leading up to the opening weeks of school, I spent weeks mentally preparing myself for the challenges ahead, like how a kid playing basketball alone in the backyard might envision game scenarios and buzzer-beaters in immaculate detail. But when the spotlight was on, and it was time to produce the stories I had mentally built up, I was stumped for ideas.

Suddenly, there was “nothing” to write about.

Everyone on the publication staff helped me at some point — but none more than Alec Brideau, The Concordian’s Sports Editor. He pointed someone like me, a deer in the headlights for most of the year, in the right direction on a near-daily basis. When I had questions, be it about life or work, he was responsive, supportive, and friendly.

After a couple of weeks of trial and error, things started to settle down as I slowly but surely got habitual with the pitching, writing, and editing routines. Stories were becoming easier to come by, and I was relying less on the default pitches that pertained to collegiate and professional sports.

What was at first a bitter notion became a blessing over time — I eventually took immense pride in writing stories on businesses and people that would never have gotten sports media attention in a normal year.

I embraced the idea of branching out to include Esports, and I am grateful to The Concordian’s staff for having an open mind to the idea. In writing about the lives of streamers and covering international Esports tournaments, I realized how enormous the gaming industry is and how much room it has to grow.

Talking to business owners that were struck hard by the pandemic was a sobering process that often left me grateful for the little things. Meanwhile, covering the more fortunate businesses that are benefiting from these exceptional times was enlightening for me as an emerging sportswriter.

One of the many things I learned through two years in J-school is that the world is full of worthwhile stories and interesting people to write about. During my time with The Concordian, I realized that finding stories is an acquired taste that develops through experience and impartiality.

To the entire editorial and management staff that helped turn my raw ideas into full-fledged stories, words cannot express how grateful I truly am for the guidance. I only regret the fact we never got the chance to meet in person.

Brideau was a magnificent mentor that balanced everything to a tee. He kept me coordinated and held me accountable during a hectic year.

In hindsight, I could not have asked for a better overall learning experience, and I look forward to what lies ahead.

 

Graphic by Lily Cowper

Small Steps: A goodbye

When approaching the idea of closing out this column, I’ve found it difficult to figure out where to start. To me, the idea of writing about writing often seems a bit overdone, and as a 21-year-old who still forgets to use spell check and typically writes these entries the morning they’re due, I struggle to think of what I could possibly say about the act of writing a column.

However, as I look back through the backlog of Small Steps, I realized that I’ve already answered that question for myself. In a previous column, I discussed how creativity is not something that is innate to the core of a person. Creativity shows itself in different ways, and we should celebrate the ways in which it manifests in ourselves, even if that looks more like bullet journaling than it does abstract painting. I think writing can be seen in the same way.

To be honest, Small Steps was quite the challenge for me. My typical beat is pop culture critique and media commentary, so the act of sitting down to write a personal reflection every two weeks was a lot harder than I originally thought when I pitched the idea.

Yet, in a very pragmatic way, this writing has helped me get in touch with my beliefs.

I really relate to Joan Didion’s approach to understanding the act of writing. In her essay, “Why I Write” she states, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

It’s easy to go about your life with a general understanding of what you believe and what you’re passionate about. However, articulating these thoughts is a whole different issue. When writing Small Steps, I have sat down many times on a Friday morning (sorry copy editors) without more than a vague notion of what I wanted to say, and lo and behold, the ideas eventually started to flow. Often, I found I would write myself into a different opinion than I thought I held to begin with, and that’s totally okay.

Whatever style of writing you feel the most comfortable with, I encourage you to use it to learn a bit more about yourself. While I had a requirement to write every two weeks, lest our editor-in-chief, Lilly, come banging down my door, it didn’t have to be that formal. A journal, blog or poetry notebook can be a great way to stay in touch with yourself.

Above all, I’m thankful for this opportunity to write and learn, not just from myself but from all my amazing colleagues and editors.

 

Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam

A journalism student’s wake-up call: first time reporting about homelessness

… Or how NOT to be a journalist

During reading week, I spent my Wednesday afternoon at the Abri de la Rive-Sud (ARS), an emergency shelter for homeless persons based in Longueuil. To be clear, I wasn’t there as a volunteer, I was there to complete a photojournalism assignment.

At the end of the day, I came out of this experience with two conclusions:

  1. I am not ready to be a “real” journalist.
  2. I am an even worse person than I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot more than that during my visit. I have met great people and the ARS is an organization worthy of imitation. However, that is not what I am here to talk about.

On March 3, I did everything a professional journalist shouldn’t do.

For starters, I let social anxiety win and wasted way too much time thinking: how do I approach people without being invasive? Do I look like I’m taking myself too seriously? Do I look serious enough? What if I ask dumb questions? What if I do/say/think the wrong thing?

I was so scared of disturbing people that I shied away from asking more questions and ended up cutting corners. I even refrained from recording some interviews because I was afraid of asking people experiencing homelessness if I could put a microphone in their face. Thankfully, I only had to take pictures and gather enough information to write captions, but if I were to produce an extensive piece of journalism on the subject, there would be major holes in my story.

As an example, take Mr. A, who lost his job and his home due to COVID-19. Even though he did not seem to mind giving details about his life prior to the pandemic, I could not gather the courage to ask him: Why him, why now? What happened that made him unable to stay afloat, like many others did thanks to governmental support like the CERB or Employment Insurance?

Should I have pushed for more information?

At the end of the day, I talked to an employee at the ARS who made a comment that really made me regret not asking those questions to Mr. A. I don’t remember the exact words (always record your interviews, kids!), but the person said that, to become homeless — with no previous history — in the specific context of the pandemic, you almost “have to want it.” Referring to the government’s laxity in terms of monetary aid distribution, the employee told me that COVID-19 had actually made some of their clients better off.

“You have to want it” ???

I was so shocked by the comment that I froze. It was the last thing I thought I would hear from a social worker. I think they were able to read the disbelief in my eyebrows because they then took it upon themselves to specify that they were specifically referring to the current situation. At least, that’s what I understood… but instead of making sure that I had well interpreted the comment, I just stared in silence trying to process what had been said.

Whether it is because I didn’t want to be a burden for the employees who had “real” work to do or because I didn’t want to disrespect the few residents who were willing to talk to me, I shot myself in the foot by not digging deep enough for answers. By not addressing those missing pieces of truth, I threw the journalistic mandate in the trash and did not do justice to anyone who agreed to take part in this project.*

And here is another big no-no for all newbie journalists (and I guess people in general): I forgot to set aside any preconceived ideas.

I consider myself very open-minded, but as a person who was brought up in a very sheltered middle-class environment, I was never inclined to talk with people experiencing homelessness beyond the usual brief greetings.

At the ARS, I got to speak with Mr. B, who became homeless in 2014 and has been on and off the streets since then. He told me about his last psychotic episode and how different the situation is in Longueuil compared to Montreal. He was very articulate, perfectly lucid, and completely open when talking about his difficulties with substance abuse and schizophrenia.

Our exchange lasted a bit less than 25 minutes and let me tell you: it was the first normal conversation I have had with a stranger for a very long time. By “normal” I mean that I did not have to pretend to be someone I am not (i.e. a pseudo-reporter, a top student or a person who knows what they are doing). In fact, I was struck by how much Mr. B and I have in common, which ended up making me lose my journalist goggles. Obviously, I am not even close to knowing the same kind of struggles he did, but it only confirmed what I already knew: anyone could end up in this situation.

When I arrived on location, I had my main question ready and had prepared myself for the most plausible answer. Since the pandemic had made a lot of people lose their jobs and become isolated, I thought they would all say that COVID-19 had made the situation worse for people experiencing homelessness.

But my ignorant self had not thought of one thing: the homeless were already isolated. For many of them, nothing has changed. For many of them, things could not get much worse. When talking to Mr. B, I learned that most people in the homeless community did not spend their time worrying about the pandemic.

“An acquaintance of mine once told me that he had taken so many drugs in his life that COVID wouldn’t want to get into his body,” he said.

Under which privileged rock was I living to think that people without homes would experience the pandemic in the same way as everyone else?

In the end, a lot of the things I thought I knew about the issue were proven wrong when I visited the ARS. And all I can do about it is to tell all five people who will check out my not-so-thorough school project.

When I started working on it at the beginning of the semester, my intention was to achieve something truly meaningful. I agree; it was a bit delusional and I might have aimed a bit too high for a first-year student without any relevant experience.

Still, since I have started studying journalism, the same thought keeps lingering in my mind: maybe I am not made for journalism.

In two months, I visited two homeless outreach organizations and have been asked twice if I was a new volunteer or a recently employed social worker. Both times when I answered “no,” I was overwhelmed by the same feeling: guilt.  

If I cannot become a successful journalist, will I keep feeling bad for reporting on issues that I don’t have any real power to eradicate? If I wanted to change the world so much, shouldn’t I seek to actively help others instead of writing about things that I wish would change?

Putting that little existential crisis aside, I have to say that I am not ready to give up on journalism just yet. After all, I’ve only been studying in journalism for six months. Maybe this time I was not as good as professional journalist Christopher Curtis who’s been covering homelessnessness consistently for years, but facing these kinds of challenges so early in my student career only motivates me to do better. To be honest, I don’t think I will ever be able to grow into this groundbreaking investigative journalist I had envisioned myself becoming. But that doesn’t mean I should stop trying.

*This is why I decided not to mention my sources’ real names. They have signed a waiver regarding a specific assignment, but they were not informed that their story would be repurposed in this context. This article is about my own mistakes and “journey,” and until I am able to reach out to the persons involved, names will not be disclosed.

 

Feature photo by Christine Beaudoin

Categories
Opinions

All jokes aside, satire’s in danger

Satire, the art of lampooning the powerful, is in crisis

What do you do when the satire of the past, by definition an exaggerated, lampooning, grotesque imagination of society, looks a lot like society of the present? When actual, critical satire operates like a cheat sheet for the rich and powerful on what to do next, on how to further fortify power, on how to better trick the public?

Our constant exposure to advertising psychology, which is the cognitive research that informs advertising best practices to ensure it will leave a lasting and positive impression, and social media have caused us to unconsciously prioritize narrative over truth: the facts are less important than how you spin them. In this context, satire operates as a form of image-management, where, for example, YouTubers criticized for hateful rants can shield themselves from accountability by retroactive claims that their words were “satirical.”

Satire is meant to tear at the root and face the reader, without relief of tension, with the exposed source of the suffering. It is not meant to dance around symptoms of oppression with deadpan memes printed on T-shirts.

At its ideal, satire is a form of comedy that examines and criticizes the stories, systems, and people that subjugate others. It uproots carefully planted ideas that hold together harmful ideologies. By its function, satire cannot simply look at the symptoms of the problem, but the source.

It should come as no surprise that the best satire bleeds into political rhetoric, systems of power, and ideology. Did you know that the slogan “Make America Great Again” originates from a line uttered by the totalitarian government in the graphic novel “V for Vendetta?” Did you know that many gruesome technologies featured in Netflix’s “Black Mirror” either already exist or are in development?

There is a scientific term for the feeling you get when considering a science-fiction horror film come to life, and it’s called the “yuck factor.” The yuck factor is the instinctual resistance you feel to a new idea or technology that violates your sense of morals, sanitation, or safety.

We feel yucky, for example, at the thought of eating lab-grown meat, despite the need for an alternative to our current, over-polluting meat source. The solution, researchers found, was that a generation born into a world where meat is lab-grown won’t feel the same hesitation as those who’ve had lab-grown meat introduced in their lifetime.

This begs the question, what are we putting up with simply because we were born into it?

As a form of comedy, satire is unsettling in how it manipulates tension. In typical comedy, a jokester builds tension with details, with pressure, with delay even, and then relieves it with the punchline. In satire, this “relief” comes when the reader realizes that the author is joking, and that they actually intend the opposite of what their words superficially mean, thus inviting the audience in on the joke.

But how can we click into a relief of tension when satire either gives frightening ideas to frightening and capable people or operates as a convenient alibi for cruel-minded people to create wealth by propelling the very ideas they swear they contest?

In order for satire to diffuse tension to make the reading palatable, it needs to sacrifice the honesty and integrity of the work.

As a society, we are fixated on our symptoms and how to mitigate them. Depression and anxiety result in medication, tempers result in anger management training, overconsumption results in rehabilitation, homelessness results in temporary beds.

Late-stage capitalism is structured as a consolidation of wealth at the top of the pyramid built on a foundation of an underclass literally working themselves to death.

The cultural values that facilitate this structure define the worst thing you can be as lazy, unproductive, or degenerate. These are not antisocial traits but symptoms of a deep social suffering from and resistance to our social context.

But how can satire accomplish its goal when the work needs to be done by both the writer and the reader, and one or both parties is unwilling? Really good satire, charismatic and bold, would impose a resizing of all that we have adapted to without knowing it.

Do readers really want to walk through a museum of every yuck their conscious mind suppressed and absorbed into the unconscious?

Do writers want to examine the way their dark parodies of culture can speak themselves into reality? Are writers impelled to depict uncomfortable truths despite the risk of it damaging their publishing potential or “objectivity?”

Are any of us willing to examine the way culture requires our complicity?

Getting to the root of things requires digging. It’s work. The world creates the misery we call comedic tension. Really good satire showcases the tension and never relieves it. It’s up to the reader to decide how willing they are to engage in the discomfort, to examine their assumptions and their self-image, and to create that relief themselves by engaging with the world differently.

Punch? (There, a punch-line.)

 

 Graphic by @the.beta.lab

Categories
Sports

Writing about sports in a year without them

I wasn’t expecting my first year as Sports Editor to look like this

My experience with The Concordian these last two and a half years has probably been the best thing that has happened to me since starting university.

As a huge sports fan, I‘m always looking to share my passion with people, and quickly got the chance to do so when I was offered the Assistant Sports Editor position in my first year on campus. I started covering Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) games, interviewing athletes and coaches, and had to look for a story to write about each week.

After two years in that position, I applied for the Sports Editor role. I was lucky enough to get it, and embrace this new challenge in front of me. I would be lying if I told you that my goal, when starting out with The Concordian, wasn’t to end up leading the sports section one day.

I was looking forward to learning all the duties of the Sports Editor position, and getting experience in that position for later. I was excited about the fact I would be the one deciding which Concordia Stingers games we would be covering each week as well.

However, this challenge came with a second one: I was going to write about sports in a year where there practically wasn’t any. COVID-19 forced most sports leagues to cancel or postpone their seasons and playoffs, and I was therefore stuck with an interesting problem at hand.

What was I going to write about? For me, there was no way I was only going to give COVID-19 updates for the different sports leagues and events. I was also wondering about my weekly Colour Commentary piece, where I would usually give thoughts on relevant or important things that happened recently in the world of sports.

Despite all that — and, of course, a bit of sadness at first — this has been one of the most enriching experiences of my time at Concordia. From ways to stay active from home to online competition stories, I quickly learned that you can find sports stories everywhere. The Concordian’s staff, especially our Creative Director Chloë Lalonde, have been doing a great job to help me find ideas. The challenge of writing for sports during the pandemic made me realize I sometimes had to get out of my comfort zone, which is actually what you need to do if you want to succeed.

My Assistant Sports Editor Liam Sharp has literally exceeded every expectation I had. In his first year with The Concordian, he’s brought some of the most original stories I’ve seen for our sports section since I joined the staff. That shows how much you can find stories even without the Stingers or major sports leagues filling out your section. Having learned all of this, if I ever had to restart my year as Sports Editor, but without the pandemic, I’d definitely  make sure to write more often articles that differ from what we’re used to reading. Try new things, and be open to ideas —  that’s probably what I’ll retain the most from these past months, and that’s something I’d suggest everyone to do.

 

Graphic by Lily Cowper

Trevor Ferguson writes his way through trying times and forges ahead with new novels

A Canadian Novelist’s voyage through the literary frontier

Trevor Ferguson, also known by his crime writer pen name, John Farrow, has gone from teenage wanderer to bestselling fiction author. And after nearly six decades of writing, Ferguson remains as committed as ever to the craft of storytelling.

On a clear day, Ferguson can see Mount Baker in the distance, a far cry from the gritty streets of Park Extension where he grew up. He moved from his home in Hudson, Que., to Victoria, B.C., right before the pandemic struck.

“For a writer to be required to stay home and not move around much means business as usual,” Ferguson said. His day-to-day may not have been interrupted by the pandemic, but connecting with readers has proved challenging. “Dead in the water,” he said of his 15th novel, Roar Back, which was released last January. His most recent novel, Lady Jail, was released on Feb. 02.

Ferguson believes that the pandemic has cast a dark shadow over the publishing industry. “People are trying online engagement, but public readings are out, and travel is out, so it is far more difficult now to get a book into the hands of readers,” he said. “What’s not working out for writers will hurt publishers and booksellers, some will not survive.”

However, Ferguson is no stranger to obstacles. His childhood reads like a coming-of-age story in which the main character overcomes the harshness of a mesmerizing but hostile world. At 11, he narrowly escaped an assault while on his newspaper route. At 14, he ran away from home and ventured west where he worked odd jobs and began to write. There, he camped beneath the northern lights and was almost run over by a train. In a motel Bible, he wrote a promise to become a writer, and he kept his word.

“I had to break the bonds of trauma,” he said. “I’m lucky to have survived in those wilderness camps but having done so I have a deep appreciation for anyone’s willingness to gamble with one’s life to create a new beginning.”

These trials helped shape the writer he would eventually become.

“Hard experience, such as a violent attack intended to be sexual, or starving on the road as a kid, which really can rip a person apart, and being and feeling utterly alone in a hostile world, all these things formed me as a person and in a way shaped me as a writer, but helped to imbue a certain resilience which over a long career has been necessary.”

But there were also struggles on the page.

“I had to write through the Faulkner influence, and that took a decade of hard-slogging and much misery, before I could break that down and rewire how my brain worked and come out the other side with a voice that is my own,” he said. “That is the magic a writer is looking for: the natural voice that in its own way simulates breathing yet spits onto the page all manner of notion.”

Ferguson published his first novel, High Water Chants, in 1977 and went on to publish a host of critically acclaimed novels like Onyx John. Yet, a wide audience of readers eluded him. To support his writing, he continued to work odd jobs for years, including driving cabs and bartending. It was not until he began writing crime fiction under the name of John Farrow that his writing achieved commercial success.

Today, the author continues to be drawn to his detective muse, Émile Cinq-Mars.

“He is a mystic in a secular age with a great interest in cosmological sciences; a moral cop among ‘dirty’ cops and living in an amoral time. He’s conservative yet living with a younger wife and he’s a French-Quebecker whose wife is American; a faithful Roman Catholic yet he considers himself a heretic. A city cop who lives in the country with a stable of horses,” he explained. “There’s dimension and contradiction in everything he is and in much of what he does. I continue to discover wells and veins I hadn’t realized were there, so while the lazy writer in me might repeat myself from time to time, the better writer in me discovers much for the first time.”

In 2014, the author returned to literary fiction with his first Trevor Ferguson novel in a decade, The River Burns. However, he did not find the transition difficult. The prose in literary fiction is more demanding, he explained, but crime fiction requires greater attention to narrative drive.

“Good writing is good writing,” he said, regardless of the  genre. “A well-conceived, intelligent, well-written crime novel can blow away a lot of poorly craftly, ho-hum writing, even if it calls itself literary,” he said. “I think there is a distinction, in ambition and style, scope and narrative inclinations, but there is no automatic distinction in quality. That has to be earned and demonstrated.”

Ferguson seeks to engage his readers with multi-dimensional characters to match the complexity of the worlds they inhabit, regardless of book classification. He believes in the power of fiction and hopes that in his characters his readers will find a world beyond themselves. “Fiction is a way of restoring the world — not necessarily repairing it — but restoring its energy to carry on.”

The future of the publishing industry may be uncertain, but the author, whether telling stories as Ferguson or Farrow, has more projects lined up, including television and film writing. After a lifetime of traversing borders, both narrative and geographic, Ferguson continues to place his faith in fiction and is busy penning new chapters.

 

Feature photo by Rod Ferguson

Jack Todd presses on with new stories amid publishing and print media freefall

Heavyweight sports columnist Jack Todd talks journalism and his new novel

Newsrooms are abandoned. Bookstores await shipments to stock their empty shelves. As Quebec braces for the next wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jack Todd is hunkered down in his basement office in Longueuil’s Greenfield Park. Despite the decline of the print media and publishing industries, Todd is focused on penning his next piece of writing on his own terms. Whether it’s a new novel or commenting on a Canadiens game, Todd is typing up the new stories he wants to tell.

“All in all, life isn’t that different for me,” Todd says. “I spend much of my time holed up in my basement office anyway. I write very quickly so the usual pattern is, faff around for three hours, then write 2,000 words in an hour and quit. Then tear it all up and start again the next day.”

The Nebraska-born writer had worked in the newsrooms of the Miami Herald and the Detroit Free Press before being drafted to fight the Viet Cong in 1969. Although he wanted to write about the battlefront first-hand, Todd conscientiously objected to the Vietnam War. He defected from the U.S. Army and moved to Canada in 1970.

Thirty years after his military desertion, Todd published his 2001 memoir, A Taste of Metal, which marked the start of his literary career outside of the newsroom.

On the journalism front, Todd has fired up his readers with hard-hitting sports columns and features for the Montreal Gazette since 1986. In his signature combative style, Todd has sparred with sports figures and angry fans alike, including Don Cherry whom he called a “national disgrace” in a 2019 article and accused of espousing “bigoted, semi-coherent rants.”

Todd was furloughed for the first eight months of the pandemic, but he has since returned to the Gazette.

“Journalism right now is at a bit of an impasse – there has probably never been so much good journalism done in so many places but it comes at a time when advertising revenue has dried up because of COVID-19,” he says.

“I hope there’s a future for print journalism,” he says. “I think that print has to remain print to succeed and to stop turning itself into a pale imitation of television or the web.”

Despite the media turmoil which has also seen the literary publishing come to a near halt, Todd released a new work of fiction in July, The Woman in Green. As a ghost story and romance mystery novel, it is a departure from his earlier work that mainly focused on stories about surviving the violence and desperation in the American heartland. It is also his only novel set in Montreal.

“For some reason, I’ve always found writing about Montreal difficult,” he explains. “I have a love-hate relationship with this city that I have to work out some day.”

Lucinda Chodan, Editor-in-Chief at the Montreal Gazette, believes that Todd is the rare breed of writer with both literary and journalistic chops.

“In his fiction he has an incredible sense of detail and a command of setting a scene which is also something that he does very effectively as a feature writer and as a columnist,” she says. “He is a masterful writer in making sure that the tone is a multidimensional tone, not just painting a picture, not just reporting facts.”

Although his journalistic career began in the 1960s, Todd released his first novel in 2008.

“I think I’m much more confident now than I was when I first began writing fiction,” he says. “It was what I have wanted to do since I was 18 years old but an early obsession with the work of writers like James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon did not help at all. I’d write a few pages, compare it with their work, feel that it just didn’t stand up, and rip it up.

“My goal now is actually quite simple. Having spent a long stretch of my life flying around the world to cover sports, the thing I valued most was that book that would get me through a flight to Australia,” he explains.

Todd’s goals moving forward remain unchanged.

“For the past 15 years or so I’ve always had multiple projects going,” he explains. “One of my problems is that I have trouble settling on one thing.” The Shadow Boy, a psychological horror story set in New Mexico and Maine, is the one he hopes to see in print next. By the sound of it, the novel-in-progress represents another departure for a writer unafraid of embarking on new territories in both fact and fiction.

Newspaper revenue may be plummeting and the writing world may be subsiding around him, but Jack Todd is soldiering on.

 

Feature photo by Christine Beaudoin

Categories
Student Life

Jad Does Things: Journaling

Hi! I’m Jad Abukasm, News Editor at The Concordian, and in this segment, Kayla runs my life!

[Upbeat music] 

Before I start, I need to confess that I always thought journaling was lame before this week. When Kayla told me to do it, I was more pissed than the cold showers. Fifteen minutes a day writing what happened during my day? No thank you; I’ve lived it once and I don’t need to rub in my face how I made a fool of myself once again.

Surprisingly enough–just like with every other Jad Does Things challenges–journaling taught me plenty of things!

Day 1:

I genuinely had no idea what to write about, so I decided to just write my whole day down. I also ended up writing down all the meals I ate and calculating if I ate enough calories. Kayla never told me exactly what she meant by journaling!

Day 2:

I did the same as day one but in a medieval setting. My family and I were in Quebec city so the old city made for a good mise en scène.

Day 3:

I was feeling down that day so I decided to write about it. I didn’t mention my day, just what I was feeling and why. It actually made me feel a lot better.

Day 4:

As the person with the emotional capacity of a teaspoon that I am, I found an old journal I had lost a few years ago and changed it to my personal “Jad Figures Out Stuff (Finally)” journal. In it, I started jotting down recurring behaviours I had that were either funny, problematic or had to work on.

Day 5:

Jad Figures Out Stuff (Finally) has now a good ten pages…

Overall, journaling has shown me that it can be about anything. It’s putting aside a little time of the day to think about yourself and facing situations you otherwise wouldn’t think about. Feeling happy, sad, overwhelmed, anxious; journaling is an easy starting point in talking about it. Will I keep doing it? Maybe not every day but definitely a few times a week. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m already thinking of the new addition to Jad Figures Out Stuff (Finally)!

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Arts

Happening in and around the White Cube this week: Finding balance

Writing has always been a subcategory of making for me; they are one in the same.

Hi, my name is Chloë and I am in the midst of a brain fog, of some sort, while simultaneously drowning in coursework. I’ve got one foot in Arts & Sciences (Anthropology), and another in Fine Arts. I write stuff, I make stuff, and I teach stuff. Art stuff. I like stuff – there are lots of projects.

Among all my proposals for my assignments this semester, there is one element in common: my inability to focus, and my interest in finding a balance between working intuitively with what one has, as opposed to buying new, following a strict step-by-step process. I was never one for instructions, I improvise recipes and toy with the proper ways to do things, questioning that very notion of “proper,” “authentic”… Why can’t I be… just?

Why must I do anything in any specific way? I am not trying to copy or replicate. I want to absorb what speaks to me, cycling that knowledge out it a way that is my own. I want to investigate industrial and craft practices, how they can both lead to something very well made, though higher value will be placed on that which is handmade, rather than machine-made.

Finding this balance, drawing a line between different genres of Arts writing, between making, is one I still struggle with.

I think of how power and politics lie in the way a message is embedded, in the material they’re conveyed in. Whether in paint or printed words. There seems to be a tug between that which is free, liberating, therapeutic, and that which is skilled, following a specific framing.

It may be this idea of needing to frame work that frustrates me. To differentiate between my writing for The Concordian and my writing for research projects. Why can I not write in the same tone? Why can that not become my very practice?

I hope to do that without failing my classes. It’s hard to create within your own framework… let alone a professor’s? I need clear guidelines in order to make (write) work in the way they would like. If it were me alone, making, writing, it would be easier. I hope. Otherwise… why bother? What’s the point?

I’ve found solace in my not-so-turmoil-turmoil with The White Pube, an online alternative art criticism platform with pieces like,I LITERALLY HATE THE ART WORLD,” “WHY MUSEUMS ARE BAD VIBES” and “Are White Girls Capable of Making Art That’s Not About themselves??”

In “I LITERALLY HATE THE ART WORLD,” White Pube creators, Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad write: “art doesn’t have inherent value, it’s always worth prodding […] the art in amongst all of this is hardly ever worth what we put ourselves through to facilitate it.”

I feel that GDLP/ZM, I feel that. And I don’t really know what to do.

 

 

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

Categories
Arts

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Expressing trauma through creation, of any form, is healing – How Karina Lafayette is writing and directing her way through trauma. 

Inspired by classics like Charlie Chaplin and Stanley Kubrick, Karina Lafayette has been chasing her dreams of filmmaking since she was a teenager. Following her studies at Dawson College, Lafayette studied in Concordia’s film department until 2015, when she was forced to work full-time, dropping out for personal reasons.

She had the opportunity to create several short films, all published on her Youtube channel, Carus Productions. Among those are a series of vlogs and video diaries, tutorials, and responses to events taking place in popular culture, including a short romantic-comedy, titled A Good Man (2014) and experimental short, Give Me a Smile (2017.)

After creating a documentary about the 2012 student strikes in Quebec, Lafayette made the decision to move to Toronto. There, she began doing short term work in the industry, serving popcorn at film festivals and freelancing on various sets, where she met her now ex-husband.

It was during this time that Lafayette began writing poetry, which would eventually become her first book, Queen of Hearts. She wrote in order to process her experiences. Her relationship, once idealized, was beginning to become increasingly toxic.

Her work speaks to the emotional abuse she experienced while juggling her hopes and dreams for her career, and her relationship. 

About a year after the couple separated, Lafayette lost everything, turning to the streets and shelters with her dog.

Following Queen of Hearts, Lafayette began working on a second project to continue documenting her story. Persephone Rises, available Oct. 16, is a first-hand account of empowerment and perseverance. The name draws from the Greek myth of Persephone, the goddess of vegetation, and Hades’ wife. Persephone’s story is one of unwitting love. Hades, ruler of the underworld, set his sights on her, keeping her as his lover and prisoner in the dark depths. To keep her there, Hades feeds Persephone pomegranate seeds, binding her to him.

It was in this story that Lafayette found comfort, a character that she could relate to. Expressing trauma through creation, of any form, is healing. An article written by artist Terry Sullivan in The New York Times elaborates on four steps to use art to process trauma. Choose a medium you are comfortable with and work when you feel relaxed, don’t be hard on yourself, date and document your work to keep track of your progress and finally, be selective of who you show your work to.

If you are experiencing trauma you would like to express in a safe space, visit the pop-up zen den in the Counselling and Psychological Services room 300-22, Guy-De Maisonneuve building (1550 De Maisonneuve W.)

Categories
Opinions

Writing is not a job, it’s a way of life

On a cold, autumnal weekend, I curled up on my couch, hot chocolate in hand, ready to watch Eat, Pray, Love. Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, it’s the story of Gilbert herself – played by Julia Roberts – in a borderline existential crisis, unhappy in her marriage, unsatisfied with her personal life, struggling to find herself. Ultimately, she buys three tickets to Italy, India, and Bali to get a new perspective.

Personally, I have always been a fan of the “Eat” part of this movie. Watching Roberts down all the carbs Italy had to offer is all the spiritual journey I need in my life.

However, in that first part of her quest for self-discovery, there is a scene that has always bothered me. A simple detail that may have gone unnoticed by most.

Roberts’ character is having lunch with some friends when they start brainstorming words to describe the various cities they’ve been to.

“Stockholm?”  “Conform.”

“New York?” “Ambition, or sut.”

“Rome?” “SEX!”

Then one of her friends asks her what she believed to be her word. After a few musings, she confidently states, “my word is writer.”

“Yeah, but that’s what you do,” her friend tells her. “It isn’t what you are.”

Liz quietly chews her food and ponders that thought, while I got ready to hurl my mug at the TV screen. If I were Elizabeth Gilbert, as soon as he had uttered those words, I would have put down my fork, stared straight into his eyes, and said:

“Have you ever woken up from a restless night because thoughts were being translated into words, and you just had to get them out? A feeling so strong that the need to find a pen and paper seemed paramount? The words escaping you; your hand moving so fast that your writing would be unintelligible to anyone but yourself? Have you ever felt a lump form in your throat, and nothing could appease it t, but to bleed on paper? Have you ever been in a place so captivating that you just had to describe it down to every single detail, because pictures could never express how it made you feel? Has a thought ever crossed you, and made you reach for your bag, cursing to yourself when you realize you’ve forgotten your notebook at home? Have you ever smiled at the simple sound of how a word made you feel? Until you’ve felt the pain of not being able to pour your words on paper, until you’ve laid your soul bare between the pages of your notebooks; until you’ve felt the magic in your fingertips as you type or write your words, you don’t get to tell me writing is just a job. You don’t get to tell me it doesn’t consume every fibre of my being. Because you don’t question an athlete’s love for a sport. You don’t put in question a musician’s passion, or a painter’s consuming art. So why do you question a writer’s?”

 

Graphic by Victoria Blair

Categories
Student Life

The art of formally asking for money

FASA hosts a workshop on the art of grant proposal writing

Many students will have to write a grant proposal at some point during their careers. Since a grant proposal is essentially a money request, writing one must be done with care.

On Feb. 1, the Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) held a grant writing workshop aimed at arts students, but it was relevant and open to students from all faculties.

The workshop focused on tips for writing the perfect grant application for various projects.

Guest speaker and regular grant writer Amber Berson said grant writing is basically an application process where you ask for money for your work. The PhD student said the first and most important thing to focus on is mastering writing skills.

“Grant writing is an important skill, and it is a wonderful way to fund your art practice. But being a successful grant writer does not make you a successful artist,” she said. Berson said the skill is also useful when writing an artist statement, or, a description of the project, in a cover letter for a job, residency or an open call for submissions to galleries.

Berson said it’s important not to feel discouraged when applying for grants. “Even if you keep applying and you do not get positive results, it should not and does not take away your value as an artist,” she said.

Berson advised students to be clear and precise in their proposals—introduce yourself, and explain what your project is, what you need the money for and why would you or an organization needs to fund this project—why the project is worthwhile.

“You should never try to apply for all of the grants just because you need the money. That is very transparent to the grant agent. In certain cases, it even hurts your eligibility for grants in the future,” said Berson. She said students should contact the FASA agent or another grant agent if they have doubts or questions about the process.

As with any application, deadlines are very important with grant writing. “If you absolutely cannot meet a deadline, contact your agent immediately,” Berson said.

She stressed it’s also crucial to follow the instructions and meet the word limit or minute count for video submissions. While it seems obvious, she said, it isn’t always executed.

Asking for money must be handled with delicacy. Being realistic in terms of budget is an important thing to keep in mind.

“When you apply for a grant, you are applying for a not-for-profit project, which means you should not be making money off the project. Asking and getting [money] are completely different, and you should always ask for what you or your project are worth, and it should be realistic.”

For any student interested in applying for a grant to fund a project, Berson highly recommends visiting the Canadian Artists Representation (CARFAC) website.  This website is a useful tool for helping students with grants and planning their budget. For students interested in finding out about arts funding, the Regroupement des Centre d’Artistes Autogérés du Québec (RCAAQ) and Artère are also great resources that have helped many artists get grants for their art.

For more information or to apply for grants, visit their website.

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