LivingArts: Resolutions

Tuesday, 27 January 2015
This post originally appeared on the Hamilton Arts Council's LivingArts Blog.

I learned a new word over the holidays. Tsundoku is a Japanese noun meaning "leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled together with other unread books." It's a stunning word, and it, briefly, prompted a New Year's Resolution.

A handful of months ago I bought a house, moving from Durand to Hamilton's Stinson neighbourhood. The move went smoothly, with the exception of one thing. Well, hundreds of things to be exact -- the many books I've accumulated over thirty years as a reader and ten years as a book reviewer.

"I hope you like this place," said my better half, "because I'm not moving these books again for a very long time." Besides realizing that books are a pain to move, I realized another thing. I've never read many of the books that line my bookshelf.

Enter my logical New Year's Resolution. Instead of adding more books to my collection, I should read the books I've been neglecting for years, right? This seemed like an obvious resolution -- for about five seconds.

What writers need is support from their local community, meaning a moratorium on buying books is the last thing I should have. For an arts community to thrive, artists need to feel supported, and they need to be able to support themselves. It's important to buy books, and it's even more important to buy books by local authors.

We tend to look inward when we make New Year's Resolutions. In past years, I've made (and broken) promises to eat healthier, to further my career, and to travel more. I've made resolutions to better myself, but not my community. This year I'm going a different route. I'm going to be more generous with my resolutions, making promises that will support others in the arts community.

I know this sounds expensive. Supporting artists financially isn't always possible, but there are other ways to be supportive. That said, here are my 2015 resolutions.

1. Read more books by local authors, both books I've bought and books from the library.

2. Attend more lit events! Almost every week there are book launches and readings in #HamOnt, and they're often free or pay-what-you-can.

3. Spread the word. I always have good intentions of reviewing local books, but reviewing gets buried on the list of things I want to do but don't.

4. Be vocal! A local writer whose work I've reviewed emailed me the other day, and her encouragement went a long way. In an age of twitter and Facebook, it's often easy to tell someone when you appreciate his or her work. This year I'll do more of that.

There. Now that my resolutions are posted on the Internet, I have no choice but to hold myself accountable and make them a reality.

Happy reading, #HamOnt!

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.

Designed with ♥ by Nudge Media Design