By: Jenna, Ivy, Fadi, and Aurora
Jennifer Illanes is an artist who recently displayed vast talents in her a CSpace Marda Loop exhibition Pilgrimage of Stories and Stones. From March 6th to March 20th, one could see the many stunning pieces of her works of leather, metal, fabric, poetry, and sculpture.
Reality is Optional - An Interview with Director Eli Smart
By: Jenna Karmali
Young director Eli Smart shared the creative process behind the newly filmed documentary about the AWCS youth programs. Recorded in late 2022, the short film ‘Reality is an Optional Guide to Taking Over the World’ (yes, it is a very long title but it’s fitting) is about the different youth clubs and classes at AWCS, their origins, how the programs affect the members, and their future.
According to Smart there were many challenges with the crew in the project. The biggest one being differences of opinion among the many people involved, such as Caelan Bell, Kim Firmston, and Emily “Lee” Firmston.
“It's something you'll always have in the creative world.”
When asked about advice he would give himself before starting the film, he said that being assertive is not bad and that it didn’t necessarily mean you were being a jerk. Smart claimed that the key thing was balance and listening to each other.
“However, just keep giving out your ideas. And there will be some that people take and people don't take and that's okay. That doesn't mean you're a bad person. That doesn't mean they have anything against you at all. No, it just means that everyone's trying to give ideas that best fit the movie.”
Despite facing such challenges, the team behind the documentary managed to pull it off.
Eli said, “There were other days that were just really easy in that it felt like everyone was listening to each other. So it was just about finding that balance and how people mesh and what we can do to help each other out and support each other while making sure that everyone is listened to, and that we're giving back our ideas.”
Funded by Telus STORYHIVE, the film will be released on Telus Optik TV in the spring and on the STORYHIVE YouTube channel in 2024. The producers and directors hope to enter it into short documentary competitions and festivals.
By: Jenna Karmali, Fadi Haider, Maria and Danielle Hurd
Sydney Ball is a Calgarian who has published two available books, The Girl Who Knows the Birds and Tales of Underdown. Only in ninth grade, Syd turned to writing during the pandemic when she was forced to select a course for the upcoming semester. She is now a published poet, author, and active member of the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society (AWCS). Zed News YYC interviewed her and discovered all about her journey through the world of writing and literature at such a young age.
What have you learned about self publishing that you would like to share with other young writers?
Sure. I'm self publishing, I'm one of those people who over plans and I was researching about it before the book was done. And so the first thing I would say is, before you even think about publishing it, you have to get the thing to a place where it's actually done. Because it's much easier to focus on the figuring out aspect of it, because it is a little bit of a learning curve. Once you have the actual product finished, get it to where you want it to be, where if it went live tomorrow, you'd be happy with it. And then I would, I guess, mechanically, the easiest way to do it is through Amazon. I'm not super well versed on the other forms, but there are a few other websites.
But Amazon is the most well known when you give someone an Amazon link, they know where they tend to know where it is, unless they live in a very small, or in one of the very few countries that don't doesn't have it, but like you're in Canada, they probably know. So I would do it on Amazon, I'm setting up your author page, it's actually quite an easy thing. It's very intuitive, kind of, you know, say you were setting up an Instagram profile for the first time the buttons are labeled, you kind of just go through and click the buttons and you end up with a kind of like a template. And then Amazon, you can download templates. And you can do it through words.
So if you don't have that, maybe borrow your parents or get a limited subscription just to get it set up. But you can get that template and you put it into Word and you can pick your page size. And then you know how big your pages are, because they show up like that on Word. And you can copy and paste all your, all your beautiful writing into your templates. And it just makes it really easy, because then you know, everything's gonna fit.
The other big thing, if you want to learn more about self publishing, like the actual mechanics of it, there's a bunch of really awesome YouTube videos. That's where I did most of my research, other than being part of the short story collection initially…. Online is a great resource. I would also I guess another big form of self publishing is the marketing itself because it falls completely on you.
Whereas based on insider info from people who are publishing, the marketing also falls on you even if its traditional publishing. You need to have a website before you publish the book because, say, you published 10 books, it would be really inconvenient if you don't have the website and … they can also find the next 10 books if they really liked it.
Designing a Cover
For the cover itself, I did not take the photograph. But I designed it – kind of putting the text over. I picked that, and kind of the back, I designed all that stuff. It was really easy. They have a cover creator, where you can input your things on the actual Amazon (website). So I would recommend using that. It looks very old, but it works very well. And then it's and then for pricing. That's of course, a thing that's up to you. Just make sure that you do your math beforehand.
And you're making enough that Amazon makes a certain amount that it needs to make and that you still make say, I don't know at least one cent because you don't want to be losing money based on production costs. So just like making sure you're well educated about that you could make it so that then you're not making any profit, which is fine, just like make sure you're not losing money. Because that would be very sad to find out that someone's ordered 100 copies and you've just lost $100.
Cecile Albi, a painter trained at the University of Manitoba, has a studio in CSpace where she creates and displays her distinctive artwork. She spoke with Kate, Lucas, Heather and Kristina in June about her paintings.
What got you into art? What made you more interested in it?
Ever since I was a kid, I've always loved to color and draw. So I think it was always in me. And then my whole life, for my work, I've always done art. So right out of high school, I went into fine arts. I always knew I wanted to be creating some kind of art. I think I've always been an artist.
Were there any people in your life that made you realize that you liked art? Or did you discover it by yourself?
There was my grade one teacher, I think she probably ignited it. Because it just made me aware. She was an artist herself and she'd always have storytime. And during the story, we were allowed to colour and she would doodle for us. She was a really great artist, I thought at the time, and she would let us borrow her pastels. So that was pretty cool. She also had little art competitions. Everybody puts up their art on the wall, and then somebody wins the prize or whatever. And the few times I won. I think that really made a difference for me that I had that kind of encouragement right from grade one. Her name was Miss Reimer and her birthday was May 1, I don't know why I remember that.
I was wondering how you take your inspiration from previous art movements like Impressionism and Cubism and portray that in your own art?
After years of studying and being immersed in art, we pick up things and then subliminally we do it, or it becomes second nature. So when I went back into art, because I had studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts with art history and was a graphic designer, I went over all the Impressionists and all kinds of different eras. I was just exploring all kinds of things. And just putting things out there. And one day I saw in my work these lines that started creating these refracted pieces, and what they signify when rendered, look like tree branches, and vines, leaves and foliage and whatnot. And so I kind of went with that, and it just took off and it grew. And so I think it's probably stuff that I pull from in my mind as inspiration but I'm not really consciously aware of it.
With your artwork what do you aim to capture and show to the public?
I'm following my heart. I really believe that there's something for everyone – and not everything is for everyone. So I do what moves me and what I feel I want to portray, rather than trying to appeal to a group or to the public. So there's some people I'm imagining that are drawn to my work and then others that maybe don't like it. So I'm just doing what I want to do – what feels right for me.
Was there anything specific that you did that you would say makes it easier to get into painting?
Just exploring and doing a little bit every day. I spent hours and hours in classes, just even learning the technique of the brushes and colors, and kind of mixing colors and all that kind of stuff. Now when I go to do it, it just becomes second nature. I can just pull from that. And I don't have to think about it. But I think it's probably just something that just comes after a lot of practice. But what I always tell people is try to just do a little bit every day – five minutes, ten minutes here and there. And then eventually, you can put your brush down and you're painting. I think it might seem a little intimidating. But I don't think anything is wrong when you actually create. And you might come up with your own style too. Don’t worry too much about what you've learned before. Just keep on doing something and then looking at what you put down and letting it evolve as you go.
When you're trying to figure out what you want to paint, do you ever get stuck? And if so, is there anything you can do to help yourself figure out what you want to do?
It's kind of funny because I don't get stuck when it's my own work. If I have to do a commission based on something that somebody wants me to paint, that's when I get stuck. It's kind of bizarre, but if I do feel tired or – I don't often feel like I don't want to paint – but when I do, I just do something fresh. I'll often walk in nature. Nature is very inspiring for me because I grew up with lakes and forests and so that is always for me a kind of kickstart. And sometimes too if I don't feel inspired about something I'm working on, if I put it away for even a couple of weeks and don't look at it and bring it back with fresh eyes, all of a sudden I have more motivation. Music is also very good for me. I like to play music when I'm painting. It helps motivate me. It can change my mood if I'm feeling kind of sluggish or tired, I can put some EDM on and paint.
Aside from nature, there are also some paintings you did with animals. Would you say it's easier or more challenging to paint living creatures?
For me, it's much easier to create forests and nature because I'm just very drawn to it. And everything that I paint, except if I have a specific subject, like some kind of an animal or person, has to be from a reference for me. So for me, I have enough visual ideas in my head to just go with the flow with the painting of trees and forests, and all that. And I think that's why I'm a landscape painter. I have a new painting that's going to be shown at the Stampede this year – at the Western Showcase – and it's a mother deer and a baby fawn. It took a little bit more preliminary thinking before starting the canvas and I actually sketched it out, whereas a lot of times when I go to do my forests and landscapes, I don't even sketch it, I just start painting right away.
Are there certain times or settings where you find it easier to create?
Every artist is different. But for me, I allot a certain amount of time every day in the studio. I find I paint the best in my studio space. It's just very quiet and I know that it's dedicated to my art. So for me, I paint from nine until two. And sometimes that changes. If I have a little bit of extra work, I will bring it home just to break up the pace. And I have my dog at home. So I don't want her to be cramped. She'll come to the studio once in a while, but she does like to bark. So that's what's best for me – I have to have a structured set time for painting.
Do you find your art to be more methodical? Or is it more for you like random bursts of energy … as soon as that idea comes to you, you do it?
It's both. So I'll start with kind of an idea of what I want to do. Maybe a vision that I've seen – grouping of trees, some kind of colors I've seen in nature, something like that. And then I will go to the canvas and just apply color. And that's pretty random. And once I start shaping the trees, I have to step back and really think about it. So oftentimes I’ll be thinking about the composition for a while before I go in and make the next step. So it's both. If it becomes too tight, I want to have an overall looseness, kind of a looseness versus the refraction that I have going on in there that could become very stiff. So many times, if my composition is looking stiff, I'll just go in and blow it up with more and more swipes of color and splashes of color and texture. And then I'll go in and refine it some more and then step back and think. So there's many, many layers in my art. Both spontaneous and thought out.
Final question. It's a personal question. What would you recommend other aspiring artists do in order to get inspired?
Be very explorative and not get into your head too much. Try all kinds of things. Because that's what I did when I went back into painting. And then my style evolved from that. I have been doing it my whole life. So not to expect something's going to come out of it right away – just to have fun with it. Creativity is a form of play physiologically, so if you worry too much about it, you're gonna stifle yourself and it's not going to happen.
Was there anything else that you wanted to talk about before we go?
Thank you very much for interviewing me. And I do find I'm fortunate to be able to have the luxury to paint full-time as an artist. A lot of people don't have that opportunity. It's taken me my lifetime to get to this point. But I am finally here now. And it's been about eight years that I've been painting. So I do feel very, very lucky to be able to do it, and have fun with it. And to be able to make a living at it. It's a lot of hard work. It's definitely not for the faint of heart. Because I'd say painting is probably only about one-third of the time that I spend on the job - there’s having to show up with things, to do shows and galleries and all that kind of stuff. So there's a lot of business side to it as well. You have to wear two hats. But you just follow your heart and keep on doing it. I love the saying 'get up, dress up and show up.' And I can also add to that stay up because there's many, many hours of work. But it's fun so it doesn't always seem like work.
Visit her webpage at http://cecilealbi.com
Kate Ware is an artist with a photography installation at cSpace and Heather, Lucas and Kate interviewed her. We asked questions about her art, inspiration and methods. Read this Q&A to learn more.
Okay, so the first question we have for you was what drew you to the theme of nature?
I have been a fan of nature ever since I was young. My parents were divorced, I was a latchkey kid, I wasn't allowed to go out and hang out with my friends. So I spent a lot of time in the field behind my house just kind of wandering around. And it's, it's interesting, how much you better notice things when you're kind of just thrown into the environment, because there's nothing else to do. And I just, I loved being outdoors, I had some of my best memories outdoors. And, and I think most of all, I really wanted to share the beauty that a lot of people with their really busy busy lives just tend to overlook. Most of the pictures that are hanging at cSpace right now, I took when I was staying home with my kids. When I had kids, they were both actually born with some health issues and I couldn't go back to work. Which by the way, was also a nature related job because I love nature so much. But I really, I wanted to stay connected with nature, even though I was no longer doing that job. And so I would just take my camera outside in the backyard, or when we would go for a walk or whatever. And I would just try to capture those moments of beauty that so many people would just overlook . Like I don't know how long you guys have been in Calgary, but this time of the year is kind of lame and boring, right? Yeah. But if you take the time, there's some really cool stuff going on right now, especially with all the budding trees, and things just starting to pick up out of the ground and the birds that are coming back. So my long answer is right there. But a short answer is I've always loved nature and, and taking pictures of nature to share that enjoyment of it and to reveal the beauty that people might sometimes just overlook. I think that's why I was drawn to nature.
The next question is on what mediums did you choose for this installation?
Photography - and there are actually a lot of ways you can present your photographs. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to a darkroom. So I had to think. I guess I could have made prints on my printer. But it's a little bit different than working in a darkroom. And I wanted something that was really, really bold and really bright and really caught your attention. And so I stumbled across this company that made some just really nice pieces. They have, like aluminium printing and canvas printing and acrylic printing and all sorts of things like that. And when I saw the quality of their work, and they're Canadian, and they use environmental processes as much as they can, I kind of went yeah, that's the company I want to go with. And I started getting a few canvases printed and it kind of took off from there. And that said, there were a couple pieces that didn't quite work the way I wanted to. And so now I'm just being who I am … I've taken those pieces and now I'm trying to collage them or stitch them or turn them into something that will work.
What motivates you to go and take photographs?
Again, it was a lot because I was stuck at home with my sick kids and, and I couldn't really go out and hang out with my friends and I couldn't really go out and go back to work. And I couldn't do those things. But I knew that nature has so many lessons to be shared and so much beauty to be shared. So I would try to take the boys out in their strollers or try to just mommy needs a half hour, daddy you're watching the kids, I'm gonna go on a camera walk. So mostly it was trying to stay connected with the parts of me that I had. When you become a parent, sometimes it kind of takes over your life, depending on your experience. And I was feeling really overwhelmed by it. And being connected with these photos and nature. And it was kind of I don't know, it was just a way to stay connected to who I was. And to stay connected to nature even though I didn't get out as much as I used to. Um, before I took these photos I had had jobs working in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, and working out in Kananaskis Country doing interpretation. So I loved being outdoors and I loved those experiences but I couldn't do them anymore. So even going and taking these few small nature moments trying to sneak them on film, just to have something beautiful to remember and to remind me of and inspire me. It kind of kept me sane
How do you get information about what you photograph? Like the names of certain plants or insects?It's kind of a mixture again, because I have a zoology background. So some of the stuff is just stuff that I've picked up over the years, either through work or just experience. Going on a hike I'll bring my nature guides with me and I'll be like, oh what is that? I want to figure out what that is. And I'll look it up. Nowadays, as you know, we have the beauty of the computer and the internet. So I can look things up quite easily there. But most of the things that I'm drawn to it's just things that I've already known about that I've learned over time.
What would you recommend aspiring nature photographers do to try and get into it?
Well, number one is get outdoors. And simply take the time to go out and not just on the bright sunny days. Take your camera everywhere you go. Because you are surrounded by nature, whether you recognize it or not. Go and seek out some interesting images. I mean, most of us have access to a phone these days, so it's really easy to do. Some of my favourite assignments I'll challenge myself with. One summer I was like, okay, I'm going to take my large format camera, which is big and bulky and kind of a pain in the butt to carry around. But I'm going to take that everywhere, every single day for the whole summer. And I've got some of the most beautiful, amazing pictures, including that dragonfly shot that came from that summer. That, believe it or not, was taken outside of a Walmart. I was going to Walmart to pick up toilet paper of all things and I saw this dragonfly flying around and they had those big shelves with a bunch of flowers and then the dragonfly landed, I was like, opportunity! And so I kind of snuck up and took shots, the closer I got. And I can't believe how close I got to that dragonfly. I got the most beautiful shot, it was wonderful. And then I just also took that moment to just be in that experience to be, nose-to-nose with this dragonfly. And I even reached out a finger and it climbed up on me and then kind of flew away. And I was like, that was the most amazing experience. So I would say that the biggest thing is to get out into nature, and to take your camera everywhere. But (number) three, also remember to take a step away from the camera and be in the experience. I remember one time I was on the shore, and we were in California, and out of nowhere, this sea lion kind of went up right on the shore. And I was like, oh my gosh, I need to dig in my car to find a camera. And by the time I got my camera, it was gone. And that was the moment that I went, you know what, some things you need to experience before you worry about the camera. Right? So it's kind of a learn as you go thing, but definitely those are my top three.
So is there anything else that you would like to add? Or that we haven't asked you?
I guess I kind of just wanted to add something about my main motivation for a lot of the creativity that I do. It comes from a quote.. And I believe it's by Edith Wharton, it's: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” And I really try to embody that. I don't try to go out there to be all sunshine and rainbows and puppies, and everything's great. But at the same time, I also try to go, you know what, there is beauty in the world, even in the darkest times. And I really want to reflect that natural beauty. I want to show that beauty and share that beauty in the hopes that people will really go, we live in such a magical wonderful place like we really need to do what we can to take care of it and notice it a bit more and appreciate it a bit more.
By: Priya Migneault
On November 7th, 2020, Robin van Eck released her first novel ‘Rough’ with Stonehouse Publishing, on their live virtual book launch. The launch was a huge success; the other authors featured in the launch included Anna Marie Sewell, Danika Stone, Sabrina Uswak, and EB Frank.
After the launch, I had the incredible opportunity to interview Calgarian author Robin van Eck on her novel based in Calgary during the 2013 flood.
Robin was born and raised in British Columbia. She moved to Calgary in 2000 and started classes with the Alexandra Writing Center (AWC) in 2003 as a student. Currently, she is the executive director for the Alexandra Writers' Centre Society (AWCS). Robin is a mother, author, and proud Calgarian. She decided to stay in Calgary because of its extensive and inclusive writing community and because of the people.
Her novel ‘Rough’ is based in Calgary, Alberta, during the 2013 floods. The story begins when the main character, Shermeto, lands himself in the hospital after a bar fight. As he is in recovery, the city is in the midst of a natural disaster and his community, who is already displaced, becomes even more vulnerable. Shermeto’s daughter, Kendra, visits him in the hospital and brings him face-to-face with a part of his past he is trying to hide from.
Robin wrote ‘Rough’ as a kind of love letter to Calgary. “The intent was to write a story that’s engaging and interesting, but also had a really valuable message,” says Robin, “For me, the message was, as a community it is so easy for us to come together, to help our displaced friends who lost their homes during the flood. But it’s so easy to forget about the people that need that help all the time. It is community that is going to fix homelessness.”
The novel's idea came after the flood when Robin was grabbing coffee and discussing homelessness with a friend in early 2015. Throughout the flood and afterwards, she could not forget that homeless people are always displaced and had the recurring image of people evacuating the drop-in center and crossing the Center Street Bridge. These thoughts inspired her to write ‘Rough’ and make the main character, Shermeto, homeless. As soon as Robin got home, she started writing the novel and worked on it until its release in 2020. Her personal experience inspired parts of the novel.
In 2019 the novel was accepted by Stonehouse, and because of their aligned views and passion, she decided to publish with them. “I had a conversation with Stonehouse about homelessness and (because of) how passionate they were about it (....) I really felt like they were the right publisher,” says Robin.
The food and drink pairing with this novel is mac’n’cheese and pinot noir. In the novel, there’s a scene where Kendra makes Shermeto mac’n’cheese, but before they can enjoy it together, he leaves. Robin chose to make pinot noir the drink pairing because ‘wine is just good’.
For those looking to pursue a career in writing, Robin says, “Be patient. Learn how to write and write well, and be really patient when you’re trying to get published because it’s hard.” Robin sent her manuscript for ‘Rough’ to multiple publishing houses before being accepted.
You can find ‘Rough’ online at Amazon and Indigo. However, she highly recommends trying to find it at your local bookstore first or ordering directly through Stonehouse Publishing.
By: Priya Migneault
This November 7th, Stonehouse Publishing will release their newest collection of novels via a virtual book launch. The authours included in the launch are Anna Marie Sewell, Danika Stone, Sabrina Uswak, EB Frank, and Robin van Eck, four of whom are Albertan.
This week I had the fantastic opportunity to talk to first-time author Sabrina Uswak about her novel ‘All the Night Gone’.
Sabrina Uswak received her Masters of Science with a distinction in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh and her Masters of Arts from Oxford Brookes University. She is an author, editor, full-time content creator, and born and raised Calgarian.
Her novella ‘All the Night Gone’ is based in Three Hills, Alberta, where we meet two brothers, Ben and Charlie, trying to cope with a tragic accident. The two can’t express their feelings and have contrasting styles of dealing with grief, which begins to pull them apart. Then Dill arrives. She enters their lives and brings more questions than answers with her. As Dill and the boys grow closer, they almost become a family of sorts, but just when things are going well, Dill disappears. Ben and Charlie go on a road trip to find her and discover that they need to deal with their grief together before it separates them completely.
The book is written from Ben’s perspective and is a coming-of-age story.
Uswak says that one of the novel’s main questions is ‘What is family?’; is it who you are related to through blood, or is it something more than that? “Family is given to you, and sometimes you choose it,” she says. However, the novel also touches on humanity's broader themes, such as belonging, loyalty, grief, and connection.
In the book, as the boys face the unknown, they discover more about themselves and who cares for them without explanation, which Uswak says, “I think that’s something that people always yearn for. We are always trying to find where we fit, where we belong, or who cares for us; who loves us; who will be there if things go sideways.”
She says that the idea for ‘All the Night Gone’ started when she began feeling nostalgic for Alberta while living in Scotland. However, she first thought of the characters before the story. “It feels like an ode to nostalgia and an ode to growing up in Alberta.”
Uswak moved to Europe for her education, where she completed both her Masters. “I wanted to live abroad to experience new horizons’ outside of my own, meet people, and travel. I applied based on the program, and the program (at Edinburgh) interested me, as well as the location.” What got her into creative writing was a fascination with reading fiction as a child, which later pushed Uswak into English classes at school.
She is an editor by trade and finds that both writing and editing are fluid while she works. “You can’t write without editing,” Uswak says, “You need to look at your work with a critical eye, which can be hard.” Even if you struggle with editing, she says anyone can write a book; you just have to sit, write, and surround yourself with supportive people. But you should write or carry on being creative for yourself, not for anyone else. If you are looking for support, Uswak says there is a very encouraging literature community in Calgary.
Sabrina Uswak decided to publish ‘All the Night Gone’ after finding out that Stonehouse Publishing was looking for novellas, which she says is rare. Her book was not completed at the time, and she thinks she might never have finished it or showed it to Stonehouse without the support of her friends and family. Uswak always wanted to publish through a small press and did admire Stonehouse from afar. Publishers take a chance and risk on people’s work when they agree to print it, which is part of why she is grateful that her work is being published.
Uswak says she is a mix of both excited and nervous for the launch. She plans to continue writing in the future, hopefully focusing and finishing up some of her short stories.
Stonehouse Publishing launches ‘All the Night Gone’ on November 7th on an online zoom call, which you can attend by purchasing your ticket here on Eventbrite. Each novel has a recommended food and drink pairing to enjoy with the readings. For ‘All the Night Gone’, bring a few salted peanuts to munch on and a Pilsner or Whiskey neat to drink.
You can find ‘All the Night Gone’ online at Amazon and Indigo. However, she highly recommends trying to find it at your local bookstore first or ordering directly through Stonehouse Publishing.
By: Priya Migneault
This November 7th, Stonehouse Publishing will release their newest collection of novels via a virtual book launch. The authors included in the launch are Anna Marie Sewell, Danika Stone, Sabrina Uswak, EB Frank, and Robin van Eck, four of whom are Albertan.
This week's interviewee was Danika Stone, who talked about her third and final installment to the Waterton series, called ‘Fall of Night’.
Stone is a multi-genre author, mother, teacher, and proud Albertan. She grew up in Waterton, AB and now lives there part-time with her husband and kids. In the past, she has written (Young Adult) YA, contemporary fiction, and mystery novels, all of which feature a strong female lead. Her previous work includes books such as Switchback (Macmillan, 2019), Internet Famous (Macmillan, 2017), All the Feels (Macmillan, 2016), The Dark Divide (Stonehouse, 2018) and Edge of Wild (Stonehouse, 2016).
The Waterton series is based in Waterton, AB and is about a town of people who will do anything to protect their secrets, including murder. Based in the late ’90s to early 2000’s we meet a community of people who are all in danger of being next on a serial killer’s hit list. As the town tries to discover who the killer is while grieving the continuous loss of their neighbours, they realize that time is running out, and any one of them might be next.
In ‘Fall of Night’ we follow Constable Sadie Black Plume as she tries to uncover the killer before they strike again while dealing with the immense and sudden loss of her partner. As the story unfolds, the killings’ start to tie into an organized crime unit and all the relationships between the tight-knit community are tested. As the townspeople attempt to prove their innocence, the killer gets closer and closer, and Sadie realizes she has to act soon, or she may be next on their list.
Each novel in the Waterton series has a different main character with multiple perspectives in the narrative; ‘Fall of Night’ is Sadie’s story.
Danika Stone wrote this installment of the series after her younger brother's death, which she says affected how the story went, because while Sadie was dealing with loss, so was Stone. “It would be a different book if my brother had survived,” she says. Stone stated that personal experience and present circumstances will filter into what people are writing. When people die in the series, it brings the community together, or it tears them apart.
The main message behind the series is, “How do you keep going forward if you’re the one left behind?” Stone says, “You can’t be alive without the risk of living.” You have to keep going and be open to your feelings to feel alive, which Sadie struggles with throughout the novel.
The Waterton series is a thriller, which she claims is quite challenging to write because you must continuously keep the reader guessing and on their toes. In thrillers, authors have to build up the plot without spoiling the end or revealing too much. Stone says that the characters in the series take on a life of their own and go directions that even she did not anticipate.
She finds it challenging to switch between genres while writing her novels because she finds it difficult to pick just one. However, she finds that while writing the stories, they slowly reveal what genre they most relate to. Stone has written in various genres, but she frequently writes YA. While writing YA novels, she is careful to think of the age of her readers and include content that is acceptable for them, “That’s not to say that you can’t have incredible and powerful writing in a YA book.”
YA novels have to get rid of all the fluff and be crystal clear in their plot; every sentence has to tie into the story's heart. “So, one of the things I do is write and read a chapter at a time (to my kids) and if at the end of that chapter they’re like ‘yeah, okay, that’s nice’ well I’ve failed. But if at the end of the chapter they’re like ‘no, keep going, we can’t go to bed yet’ then I’ve succeeded,” says Stone.
In all of Stone's books, there are LGBTQ+ relationships and characters even if it isn't clearly stated; this includes ‘Fall of Night’. When asked why she does this, Stone explains that as an author your job is to reflect truths, values, and different aspects of reality, which includes LGBTQ+ characters. She also ensures that the character's sexuality and sexual orientation are not the main pieces of the story or their entire personality. “I love that we see it (LGBTQ+ relationships) throughout the world, …like why would our stories not reflect that?,” says Stone, “When I’ve heard authors say ‘well that’s not my personal experience, so I could never write it,’ it just makes me wonder why would you ostracize your readers. And also realistically you do know people that fall within those communities.” Because Danika Stone is not a part of the LGBTQ+ community herself, she hires sensitivity readers to ensure her depictions are as authentic as possible.
For those interested in becoming published authors, Stone says that you need to be picky about finding an agent; they are what can make or break your career in writing. You are typically tied to them through a contract. She expresses that an agent is worth the time and money as they can open doors you typically couldn’t. The second piece of advice, she has, is that once you have an agent, don’t be afraid to send your manuscript to as many publishers as possible. The more companies who want your novel, the more options you have when making a final decision on the publisher. The third piece of advice is to have a second job. Although Stone has published numerous novels, she still works as a teacher throughout the school year because she finds that the money you make as an author isn’t always stable. Very few authors make a sustainable amount of money for their work.
Stone began writing fiction while writing her Master's thesis. She hit a low point while completing the paper and had no motivation to continue writing until she found her passion for fanfiction and fiction writing. “The big defining moment was almost losing my love of writing,” says Stone. Her favourite TV series to write fanfiction for was the ‘The 100’, but that was until she began creating her own characters. She soon discovered that she cared more to write her creations and worlds into books, and with that, she started her career as an author.
‘Fall of Night’ is being launched on November 7th on an online zoom call, which you can attend by purchasing your ticket here on Eventbrite. Stone has set up several small activities for the launch that center around her novel.
You can find ‘Fall of Night’ online at Amazon and Indigo. However, she highly recommends trying to find it at your local bookstore first, ordering directly through Stonehouse Publishing, or through her website Danika Stone, which allows you to purchase merchandise for the novel as well.
By: Priya Migneault
This November 7th, Stonehouse Publishing will release their newest collection of novels via a virtual book launch. The authors included in the launch are Anna Marie Sewell, Danika Stone, Sabrina Uswak, EB Frank, and Robin van Eck, four of whom are Albertan.
As the launch approaches, I will be releasing an interview with one of the authors featured every week and this week, I had the privilege to interview Anna Marie Sewell.
Anna Marie is an award-winning multi-genre artist, who has published two poetry books: Fifth World Drum, Frontenac House, 2009; and 2018’s For the Changing Moon, Thistledown Press. In addition to writing books, she runs a blog at prairiepomes.com which covers various topics.
Anna Marie Sewell was born in New Brunswick, to a Polish mother and Anishinaabe/Mi’gmaq father. She was brought up with Indigenous storytelling and philosophy, and incorporates aspects of both into her first novel ‘Humane’. However, as she notes in the after-word, this is a work of fiction, which does not claim to represent the ‘authentic lore’ of any particular people.
In ‘Humane’ we meet Hazel, who is a mother working to ensure her daughters are strong and prepared for the world. However, she gets sucked into the unexpected when she agrees to help the August family find the killer of their daughter, Nell. Hazel is unable to find any leads, and she shouts her despair into the night. A vision encounters her and requires her to steal a dog. As the story unfolds and new connections are made, it puts not only Hazel but her family at risk. Now, the case not only becomes a question of ‘Who killed Nell?’ but as the protagonists become more tangled in the mystery and closer to the killer, the question becomes ‘Who will survive?’.
The novel is a thrilling mystery from beginning to end, with the unexpected happening at every turn.
‘Humane’ is based in an alternate reality in which Canada has allied with India to receive new technology while accepting more immigrants after a series of crises. The main city the novel is based in is called ‘Amiskwaciy’in a version of history where Edmonton has chosen to change its name to represent Indigenous history, which Sewell says would be interesting to see in real life.
The main message of the novel “depends on who’s reading it,” says Anna Marie. “But central to it, is we live every day in a world that is infinitely stranger than we can possibly comprehend and in the face of that anything really is possible. (...) And given that all things are possible, what do you choose to make of the fact that you’re human? What does it mean to be human? What does it matter to be humane?”
She named the novel ‘Humane’ because she found it interesting how closely the word ‘human’ and ‘humane’ are to each other. Because although humans claim to be humane, we are the creatures that have been hurting the planet and starting wars since the beginning of time. “Humane is one of the highest ethical qualities we can possess, and what does that mean when we look at humans and the utterly nasty things we get up to?” Sewell questions.
A comparison she makes is that dogs, who are loyal, kind, and trustworthy, are more humane than people sometimes, which is a subject she touches on in the novel.
“All around the world, we have stories of shapeshifting, in every culture and it’s usually tied to something fearful. There’s a monstrousness in being able to change your form (...), but there are also heroic qualities,” she says. ”I think that it’s fascinating that people everywhere have those stories. Particularly in the stories that I grew up with; a lot of shapeshifters (that were evil) were dogs. They are turning into a creature that pretends to belong to what is domestic and good, that’s where the danger is. If you think about a werewolf it really in some sense is saying that the danger is in wilderness, in the thing you don’t own. In the version where they’re dogs it is really telling you the trouble is close to home.”
Shapeshifting and canines are two of the topics central to Humane, and which resonate in Lana Gilday’s‘Bad Dog Blues’, which will debut at the launch. Sewell says that the song was a perfect fit because she feels it is a song Hazel and Spider would sing together as a duet. “The blues is such a thing that people relate to because it comes from a specific history, but it has spread out and touched people all around the world. It’s such a human thing,” she says, “Everyone can relate to this feeling of this burden, and you love, and you hate, and you don’t know what to do, so you just gotta complain about it. You’re just pleading your case.” The song is unique as it is written from the dog Spider’s point of view.
The cover art for ‘Humane’ was created by Anna Marie’s sister, Trish Sewell. “She captured brilliantly that sense of what it is to live in a world of wonders,” Anna Marie says, “And to wake up understanding that you're actually a part of it. You’re a part of the wonder. You’re a part of the working of it, even though you don’t know how to be, you have a part that you have to play.”
Sewell says that releasing her first novel has been quite the journey. She has a long career as a poet (and was Edmonton’s 4th Poet Laureate along the way), but writing poetry is very different from writing a mystery novel. “Poetry is sprinting. Novels are endurance racing,” she says.
Once she began writing the novel, it took her six to eight months to complete. A lot of Humane was written with the support of the Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund. Anna Marie believes there should be more funding put into the arts and that artists and writers should consider looking for artistic funds or grants in their area.
As for publishing and finding an agent, she recommends that aspiring writers keep trying and experimenting until a company accepts their work. Sewell claims that there aren’t enough Canadian authors, and she highly recommends people try to write from a Canadian perspective, which includes a beautiful mix of cultures. And she sees writers as servants of potential, who offer visions of what might be.
“You might put out 100 visions of how things might work better, and 99 of them might turn out to have some flaw in execution, which means they can’t actually happen. But the 100th one might be the really great next thing, so that’s what a writer is for.”
Stonehouse Publishing launches Humane and four other novels on November 7th on an online zoom call, which you can attend by purchasing your ticket here on Eventbrite. Each novel has a recommended food and drink pairing to enjoy with the readings. For Humane, bring maple popcorn to munch on, and an Italian espresso. Popcorn and maple are both traditional Indigenous foods, while Anna Mariechose Italian Espresso to pay respect to ‘Spinelli Bar Italia’ where she spends many hours writing.
You can find ‘Humane’ online at Amazon and Indigo. However, she highly recommends trying to find it at your local indie bookstore first, after it is released, or ordering direct through Stonehouse Publishing.
By: Lindsay Cummings and Priya Migneault
Moments after sitting down with Calgary-based photographer Scott Campbell, my fellow interviewer and I ruffling through our prepared questions, we’re immediately given a warning. “There’s something I should tell you before we start. I’m half blind, half deaf, and half stupid,” says Campbell. After pausing for a moment, we realize he’s being dead serious.
After preparing questions for weeks, we thought would get at what we needed - interviewing a photographer involved asking about his career pathway, camera techniques, and technical details to learn from. But after nothing but his first few sentences, we realized it wouldn’t be long before those questions were thrown out the window.
“I have a hidden handicap,” explains Campbell. “I had cancer as a kid, and I grew up half-deaf. Because I only have one side, it can take me up to 5 seconds to figure out what you’ve said. So that’s why I say I’m half stupid. But it’s hidden. So anyway, just to let you know if you have to repeat something.”
It had been one minute sitting with this man, and he had already shared a huge part of his life - one that didn’t seem like a big deal to him. Bring my very first interview, I was naturally very interested to listen to someone with such a vulnerable story. We began to ask more about his experience and his life journey.
Scott began taking pictures at 12 years old, from what initially began as a fun invite from his homeroom teacher to come and check out how pictures were developed. “I just thought it was really cool. I said I wanted to try and do this myself, and he said, ‘Well, go and try and get your mom’s camera, and get some black and white film, and take some pictures.’” Campbell’s instant connection to photography is explained very simply: “I saw things.”
This phrase is frequently mentioned by Campbell throughout our conversation. We follow this up by pondering him for his inspiration, purpose, or reason for expressing his talent, as we expect that most artists have. “Unlike some artists, I don't have a yearning to get a message out... I realized I saw these things in my head that other people couldn’t see. For me, it’s just a thing that I have to do, right? When I have a compulsion it actually hurts till it comes up. I see pictures in my head, and they have to come out.”
Being handicapped sure hasn’t stopped him pursue his passion for photography, but has been a huge obstacle in Campbell’s main career - business and engineering. Scott is the current CEO of computer software Solv3D. “Not being able to hear and not being able to figure things out is hugely impactful in a negative way in the business life. That environment with lots of people talking can be really hard. People forget that I can’t hear and they think that I’m ignoring them or being stand-off-ish,” explains Campbell. “But on the art side, ehh, not so much.”
Despite juggling two successful careers, Scott still manages to put an extraordinary amount of effort into his photography projects, but only began to take interest in dance photography later in his life.
“I've been doing landscape photography forever. And then I happened to be at a dance performance, and as I say, I just see these wonderful pictures in my head, but they were all outdoors - which I guess historically speaking, is where we learned to dance.” He also emphasizes the importance of seeing his work and seeing the talent of dancer, not necessarily the talent of the photographer. “I never shoot a dancer without sitting down for coffee or hot chocolate and talking to them about why they dance and what it is that they're looking for,” Campbell states.
Not only does Scott value the importance of the subject in his dance work, but also when taking headshots. However, when questioned about his headshot methods, Campbell declined sharing too much information with a sleek smile. “I can't tell you too much about it. I have a method for my headshots, which if you sit for me for a headshot, you'll understand, but it involves psychology.” He later explained the concept of a Duchenne smile, which is named after a 1800s Frenchman who electrocuted people into smiling. The term is mainly used to describe a genuine smile using the eyes. “I tried to recreate that, not by electrocuting, but by getting inside people's heads...with a businessman or an artist, they are terribly awkward.”
Campbell laughs that his big secret to calming subjects down is, unexpectedly, chocolate. “I’m a chocolate nut,” joked Campbell. “It just calms people right down.”
Throughout our conversation, I most definitely took away Scott’s main message - even a technical art form such as photography requires the use of human connection. “Ansel Adams, a famous photographer has a famous quote - ‘There's two people in every picture - the photographer and the viewer.’ And so my job as a photographer is to use my knowledge of psychology to capture that person for who they are.”
To view Scott’s work, visit scottcampbell.photography.