City of Hamilton Arts Awards

Monday, 26 January 2015

A few weeks ago, at the Hamilton Literary Awards, Stephanie Vegh (Executive Director of the Hamilton Arts Council) let us all in on a terrible secret. Last year, there were zero nominations in the category of Literary Arts at the City of Hamilton Arts Awards. Zero. With a wealth of literary talent in this city, that just should not happen.

The 2015 Arts Awards are now open and accepting nominations. Visit for all the information you need. Let's not let another year pass without honouring an established and emerging artist in Hamilton.

Canada Reads 2015

Saturday, 24 January 2015

On your mark. Get set. Go.

Sunday marks 50 days until the CBC Canada Reads debates begin, which means finishing one book every ten days. If you're a slow-ish reader like I am (It took me about two months to read Us Conductors, which is freaking incredible, by the way), this may seem like a tall order. But I've crunched the numbers, and they're not so bad! Thank you Canada and thank you Canada Reads for choosing books that are short, making Canada Reads completely manageable this year. This slow-ish reader appreciates it!

Here are this year's Canada Reads contenders. This year's theme is "books that can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes, and illuminate issues."

I'm really pleased to see so much diversity on this year's list, and I'm especially thrilled to see a young adult novel (put out by Arsenal Pulp Press, an independent!).

"You will break your neck on that monument some day."

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Today marks the 200th anniversary of Sir John A. Macdonald's birth. Two years after he died in 1891, the larger-than-life bronze statue that stands in Gore Park was unveiled, having been shipped from London, England to Hamilton. The statue itself is eight-feet-three-inches, but with the addition of the granite pedestal, it stands at more than nineteen feet. 

According to the Hamilton Public Library, the statue's dedication ceremony in November 1893 "brought together many dignitaries including the current Prime Minister, Sir John Thompson. Over twenty thousand onlookers were in attendance for the unveiling. The ceremony was held and the statue was unveiled by Sir John Thompson through the use of an electric button which released the veil. The crowds reportedly cheered as the 13th Battalion band played 'Hail to the Chief'." 

However, the most interesting part of this ceremony is where it took place. It took place where the statue originally stood, at the intersection of King and Hughson Streets. 

I pass the Macdonald statue, where it stands today in Gore Park, nearly every day en route to work. But since a Hamilton Cemetery tour with Historian Robin McKee a few years ago, I don't think of John A. Macdonald as I pass, rather, I think of a story about a fire chief who died more than 100 years ago. 

On April 5, 1905, Hamilton's first full-time fire chief, Alexander Aitchinson, was racing toward a small grass fire when, according to Margaret Houghton's book The Hamiltonian's: 100 Fascinating Lives, "his buggy collided with the chemical wagon at the corner of King and Hughson Streets." Aitchinson was thrown from his buggy, colliding with, of all things, the base of the Macdonald statue. He died later in hospital.

Before and after this accident, Hamiltonians debated whether a statue in the middle of this intersection was safe. In his book Their Last Alarm, Robert Kirkpatrick writes, "When the Sir John A. Macdonald monument was erected citizens had objected, stating that its location would be dangerous. Two reporters quoted Chief Aitchison as saying 'You will break your neck on that monument some day.'"

In 1907, the John A. Macdonald statue was removed from the intersection of King and Hughson, arriving in its new home, where it still stands today, in Gore Park. 

Former location of the Macdonald statue.

Hamilton Literary Awards

Saturday, 10 January 2015
Congratulations to all who took home an award, and all who were nominated, at Monday night's Hamilton Literary Awards.

The winner of the Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Poetry was Brilliant Falls by John Terpstra.

The winner of the Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Non-Fiction was Blood: The Stuff of Life by Lawrence Hill.

The winner of the Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Fiction was The Manager by Caroline Stellings.

The winner of the Kerry Schooley Award was A Nervous City by Chris Pannell.

Graphic Novel Monday

Monday, 29 December 2014

Finishing two graphic novels in one day makes me feel like a reading superstar.

Living Arts: I Write, So I am a Writer

Sunday, 28 December 2014
This post originally appeared as part of the Hamilton Arts Council's Living Arts series.

Some of the most important advice I’ve ever received came from a Carleton University journalism professor, though I can’t remember which one. Back then, I was one of hundreds of teenagers packed into a large, impersonal lecture hall, wondering how the hell I was going to succeed in a program where more than half of students get cut after the first year.

I can’t remember the exact wording of this advice, but it went something like this.

“As a student in this program, you’re doing the work of a journalist. You’re collecting facts and interviewing sources. You’re packaging together stories. You’re not just a journalism student. You are a journalist.”

These were empowering words, and they gave me a sense of purpose in the four years I spent in journalism school. It’s advice I think about often. It’s also advice that I often fail to apply.

In bookish circles, I sometimes find myself the lone editor among writers, and I inevitably get asked the question, “Do you write, too?”

“I write, but I’m not a writer,” I’ve found myself saying, insecurities creeping to the surface. “I write book reviews and blog posts,” I’ve said, “but I don’t really write.”

I know I’m not the only one who struggles to find the words and phrases needed to define oneself as writer. There’s no exam to pass to enter the literary arts. There’s no magical moment when we look in the mirror and say, “Yes. Today is the day I’ve become a writer.” Writing is just something we’ve carried with us every day since we were small. It’s just always been something we’ve done.

The holidays are here, bringing with them gatherings of friends and family who inevitably ask me prying questions that force me to question the legitimacy of my work. “When will you write a book?” I’ll inevitably hear, as though the only worthy writing is a 300-page novel that can be stocked on the shelves of Indigo.

In the literary arts, we work tirelessly to hone our craft in the way those in any other career might. But I’ve yet to hear someone say, “I perform surgeries, but I’m not a surgeon.”

The Living Arts blog attempts to answer the question, “What do artists need?” We need confidence! It might seem early for resolutions, but there’s one thing I need to do this holiday season. I need to suck back some eggnog and assert to everyone I can that “I write, therefore, I am a writer!”

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