Saturday, March 16, 2013

Interview with Ontario Poet Susan Ksiezopolski

I recently had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Susan Ksiezopolski, local poet who recently launched her first book of poetry "My Words" in the Toronto area. 
SF Girl: When did you start writing poetry and why?
Susan: I can’t really recall a time when I was NOT writing poetry. I started at a very young age and it stayed with me. Writing was a way for me to get the words out of my head and onto paper. It was almost like the words were jumping and screaming for attention to get out and if I didn’t capture them on paper they just circled around and around in my head. As I got older writing poetry became a way of expressing my experience of life. I enjoyed the creative process. It was both comforting and rewarding to see the reflection of myself and the expressions of my life experiences in the words on the page. It’s almost as if seeing the words in black and white confirmed and validated LIFE.
SF Girl: Who are your favorite authors and/or poets? Did you have a mentor or person who influenced you in your writing? What other events or places have influenced and continue to influence your writing?
Susan: I absolutely LOVE to read and I have an eclectic collection of favourite authors ranging from Charles Dickens (Tale of Two Cities), to Victor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) and to Carl Jung and his various writings on psychology. One of my new favourites is Nina Munteanu, writing about contemporary strong female characters of substance positioned in quality science fiction stories.
My favourite poets include Maya Angelou, Pablo Neruda and Edgar Alan Poe. Maya has a unique way to use words to create vivid imagery; her words paint a canvas that brings her poems and stories to life. Pablo Neruda always fascinates me as to how his poems, even in translation, remain powerful and don’t loose their impact! I also enjoy reading Edgar Alan Poe’s, my two favourites of his are Eureka and The Raven – timeless classics!
My high school English teacher, Ms. Margaret Howe, was a great mentor who tremendously influenced my writing. She created the Writers’ Circle at Bloor Collegiate Institute as an outlet for our creativity and she invited Marshal McLuhan to judge our poems in 1976. He picked one of my poems for Writer of the Year Award and this was a great motivator for me to keep writing. Over the years, Margaret continued to encourage my writing, even beyond high school.
Other mentors that influenced my writing include world leaders such as Gandhi for his humanity, Mandela for his perseverance, Pope John Paul II for his message of hope, Mother Teresa for her demonstration of a life dedicated to service and love, Dali Lama for his teachings on compassion and Martin Luther King for his “I have a dream” speech. Their teachings influenced my writing.
My own life events also influence my writing. I like to write about places I have been, people I’ve met or experiences that I, or others around me, have gone through. Music has also been a great inspiring force behind my writing. The lyrics of Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, the Bee Gees and countless others would easily and often spark my creativity!
SF Girl: Define poetry. Define a poet. Would you say that your poetry carries a “message”? What role does your poetry play in your own personal growth?
Susan: A poem is a song where the reader brings the music. A poet is a lyrical storyteller, using the power of words and their meaning, sound and rhythm to convey a story or emotion.
The message that my poetry carries is my view of the world. A poet absorbs the world and events that shape the life and times they live in like a sponge. When the poet is full and totally absorbed, poems ooze out. The broader message that I hope my poems portray is fundamentally that of the human experience. Stripped of all our differences what is left are the words conveying emotion common to all humanity.
My poetry, like any poetry, initially starts out as a tool for documenting personal growth and insights. In coming back to the poems, my own personal growth is enhanced in re-reading and re-living the emotions behind them.  Looking at my poems from a different point in time and through a different lens always generates more enlightenment on the human experience.

SF Girl: Would you call your poems “Canadian”? If so, what makes them so?
Susan: Although I was born in Italy and I have one chapter in My Words written in Italian- I have always considered myself a Canadian. Therefore by default, naturally I would call my poems “Canadian”. They were generated from my Canadian experiences, such as growing up as an immigrant in Toronto, attending Bloor Collegiate Institute (my high school). There are a number of poems in My Words that are reflective of the urban environment that was my home and the community and neighbourhood that shaped and defined my “Canadian” culture.

SF Girl: When do you prefer to write? Do you have a special place where you write?
Susan: The inspiration to write can hit anywhere, while riding on a GO train, sitting on a “Red Rocket” in Toronto or walking in the park. I always made sure to have a pen and paper handy to capture the moments, now I have my handy iPhone. Sometimes if an image percolates a poem, I use my iPhone to snap a picture and then come back to it again to put it into words.
When I was younger I would write at the kitchen table in my parents home or sitting at my Dad’s desk. I do find though that a coffee shop is the best place to percolate poems. I find that there is something about the aroma of coffee, the coming and going of people and the soft music in the background that ignites the imagination.

SF Girl: Your book “My Words” consists of a collection of poems you wrote over a period of over thirty years, beginning with the early 1970s. As I read them, I could almost feel a palpable time wave wash over me from one period to another. Can you explain…
Susan: As I changed, my writing changed, capturing the relevance of the experience through the years. What was important to me as a teenager, a young married woman, a new mom, a middle age woman – this is reflected in my writing and translates into the sensation of a time wave.

SF Girl: The extensive collection of poems over a four decade period suggests prolific writing. Was there ever a time that you didn’t or couldn’t write? If so, tell us about it.
Susan: Writing has always been a part of who I am and how I express myself. I have never had a time when I couldn’t write. There are periods of time when my writing flowed more easily but when I didn’t write it was largely due to being distracted with the “busy-ness” of life.

SF Girl: Most of your poems contain very evocative language, metaphor and imagery. Do these come to you through inspiration, intuitively, or do you work them in through second and third drafts?
Susan: The imagery germinates, folds and morphs into the poem. The metaphors present themselves as I write. There is little editing that I do on my poems. The first draft is very often the final draft. The editing takes place intrinsically and holistically in the writing process itself. When I was collecting and preparing My Words for publishing, I had thought about whether or not I should edit the earlier poems, but in the end I did not edit any of them. I don’t like to edit my poems once they have been written – I feel that they have a greater impact in their raw, natural unpolished form.

SF Girl: Several of your poems explore our life journey as evolving souls. For instance, in your 2012 poem “Fragments United” your language, imagery and concepts (e.g., ‘connected in community’, ‘alone our world contracts’, ‘together our world expands’, ‘integrated and one’, ‘the sameness between us’, the vibration of the universe, and ‘energized’) suggest a spiritual, metaphysical worldview. Can you speak on this and how your worldview has evolved to what it currently is?
Susan: My spiritual view of the world set root from early on in my life. My grandfather had laid the groundwork with the Saint prayer cards he would send to me, long before I even knew how to read. The St. Francis prayer, Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace was and still is a favourite of mine.  When I was 10 years old I received my first Bible from a Baptist roomer that lived on the third floor of our home. These shaped my early interest in religion. I loved to read the Bible, the words and flow had a strong resonance for me.
In my teens I rebelled against the Catholic framework and disliked the formal institutionalization of religion. I felt that religion was created and defined by man and served to divide us rather than to connect us to the Divine. I have always felt a spiritual presence in my life grounding me to the view that there is a metaphysical force from which we all came from and through which we are all connected.

SF Girl: The proceeds of your book sales are going to United Way. Can you speak to us on this?
Susan: Volunteering and community involvement is something that I am very passionate about. The United Way programs touch many lives. Having been a volunteer and a Board member of the United Way of Halton Hills, I saw first hand the positive impact that the funded programs have on moving people out of poverty, helping children to succeed and building healthy strong communities. The call for action motivated me to donate all proceeds from my book to help fund much needed social programs. The $3,500 raised from My Words will benefit one in three Halton Hills residents.

Thanks, Susan!

About Susan:
Susan Ksiezopolski is a project management and change specialist. She is currently taking a break from 30 years of working in the public service and recently self-published My Words, a collection of her life’s poetry. In 1976 she was the recipient of the Bloor Collegiate Institute's Writer's Circle Writer of the Year honour, awarded to her by Marshall McLuhun. Susan was born in Italy and now lives and writes in the Toronto area of Ontario, Canada. Her website, where you can purchase her book, is: You can find Susan on Facebook.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Julie Czerneda Launches Turn of Light at Bakka Books

On March 9th 2013 Julie Czerneda launched her first fantasy novel "A Turn of Light" at Bakka Books, Toronto, to an enthusiastic crowd of erudite readers and loyal fans. A festive atmosphere of books and food had transformed the store into a gala reception. I spotted the toad cookies right away. As I headed for them, I saw many familiar faces: avid readers and established authors too. I traded smiles and stories with fellow SF Canada colleagues, Derwin Mak, Claire Eamer, Peter Halasz and many others. Ira Nayman showed me his new book, “Welcome to the Multiverse”, which will be launched at Ad Astra later this month. 

As I wormed my way unobtrusively toward the toad cookies, I bumped into friend and colleague Costi Gurgu and his wife Vali. Costi’s award-winning e-book “Ciuma de Sticla” (The Glass Plague) is now available on Amazon. Last year’s Aurora finalist for his imaginative cover art (for my book "Outer Diverse"), Costi is eligible for the Aurora again this year for his artwork on "Inner Diverse" (don’t forget to vote!). We had a lot of catching up to do before Julie, glowing with the energy of a powerful dragon (she must have had several of those cookies), leapt on a chair—to see everyone—and began to read from her book.

I never did get to the cookies…

Like me, Julie is an ecologist, avid researcher and passionate teacher. Julie’s work showcases her reverence and respect for the diversity of life on this planet. Most readers know her by her prolific science fiction works  (e.g., Beholder’s Eye, The Clan Chronicles, Species Imperative, and Esen and her Web series).

"Turn of Light" is her first fantasy novel and it is, like much traditional fantasy, large (a whopping 896 pages). In her interview with Speculating Canada, Czerneda admitted some trepidation at the reception by readers of her first fantasy nove. From what I’ve seen on Goodreads and elsewhere, she need have no such worries. The Library Journal proclaims: “Brilliant fantasy debut…Fans of L.E. Modesitt Jr. and Charles de Lint will love this fantastic and magical fable.” As for Charles de Lint himself, here’s what he says, “An enchanting and gentle fable, rich with detail and characters you will love.”

Here’s the description of the book on Amazon:

To see things as they are, wait for the turn of light...

The village of Marrowdell is an isolated pioneer community, but it is also the place where two worlds overlap, and at the turn of light--sunset--the world of magic known as the Verge can briefly be seen.

Jenn Nalynn belongs to vothe Verge and Marrowdell, but even se doesn't know how special she is--or that her invisible friend Wisp is actually a dragon sent to guard her...and keep her from leaving the valley. But Jenn longs to see the world, and thinking that a husband will help her reach this goal, she decides to create one using spells. Of course, everything goes awry, and suddenly her 'invisible friend' has been transformed into a man. But he is not the only newcomer to Marrowdell, and far from the most dangerous of those who are suddenly finding their way to the valley...

Here’s a short excerpt:

By night, Marrowdell posted sentries. Massive toads lined the road. Their eyes were perfect disks of moonlight, like so many silver coins tossed in his path.They weren’t toads. Or rather they were something else as well. Like the road, silvered by moonlight also had an amber hue, and the sky, which was mostly dark and star-filled but was also shot through with vivid colours for which he needed names. When he looked closely, the toads’ loose folds of skin became coats of fine mail and their warts, rich gems. No idle gauds, he judged those, but medals of some kind. Accomplished toads.

He hoped for their favourable opinion.

Biologist Julie E. Czerneda's science fiction has received international acclaim, awards, and best-selling status. She is the author of the popular "Species Imperative" trilogy, the "Web Shifters" series, the "Trade Pact Universe" trilogy and her new "Stratification" novels. She was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her stand-alone novel, In the Company of Others, won Canada's Prix Aurora Award and was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award for Distinguished SF. Julie lives with her husband and two children in the lake country of central Ontario, under skies so clear they could take seeing the Milky Way for granted, but never do.

Find out more about Julie and the cool stuff she is doing for science literacy in an interview by Derek Newman-Stille of Speculating Canada.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nominate Fanzine Europa SF for a Hugo Award

The closing date for nominations for the prestigious 2013 Hugo Awards is tomorrow! Get your nominations in by March 10, 2013. LoneStarCon 3, this year’s Worldcon, must receive your ballot by Sunday, March 10, 2013, 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

The Hugo Awards are given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. They are named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories (recently resurrected by Steve Davidson et al. at The Experimenter Publishing Company—and itself worthy of a Hugo nomination). 

Organized and overseen by the World Science Fiction Society, the awards are given each year at the annual World Science Fiction Convention as the central focus of the event. They were first given in 1953, at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention, and have been awarded every year since 1955. Over the years that the award has been given, the categories presented have changed; currently Hugo Awards are given in more than a dozen categories, and include both written and dramatic works of various types.

Like the Canadian Aurora Awards, the Hugo Award winners are selected through a process of initial nominations to determine a short list from which voters then choose the winner. This makes the initial nomination stage critical. Eligible works must receive sufficient nominations to be considered “nominated” and to warrant being on the voting ballet.

This year, voters should consider a wonderful new fanzine out of Europe dedicated to the European science fiction community: Europa SF, the European Science Fiction portal.

Europa SF appeared online in October 2012 and has already attracted worldwide attention. Here’s what Marian Truta said in the first editorial:

The website is the successful outcome of the discussions I have had with several SF writers, translators and fans. So it is but fair to say that the idea of creating an informative site whose purpose is to cover the activities going on in the European fandom does not belong to a certain person. It is a collective idea. Through this portal, science fiction lovers can keep in touch with one another and members of the national fandoms will get the feeling that they belong to a larger, continental community with a common but diverse cultural basis.

To analyse our activity so far would be too soon. Yet, judging by the reactions and the messages we have received in the past month, I am convinced that in time, with help from both fans and professionals, this portal will become increasingly important and will provide as much info as possible about the European fandom. It will also facilitate information exchanges between fans, artists, writers and editors, giving us all the chance to discover one another.”

“We believe it’s high time things started changing. Diversity is a quality of European science fiction... European SF writers provide a cultural reservoir that is not exploited enough on a continental scale. We believe it’s high time European authors had the courage to cross frontiers and meet one another. We believe it’s high time European editors had the courage to publish more authors from Europe than they have so far. We believe it’s high time we knew and appreciated one another. This is what Europa SF wants. And any of you reading these lines can make it possible.”

The site contains a monthly editorial, films and book reviews, On the Spot feature articles about science fiction and fantasy events and interests throughout Europe, news about authors, publishers and magazine and the latest news updates.