Storytellers: Daniel Karasik wins Canada Writes Prize

One of the things Canada’s public broadcasting company, the CBC, does well is encourage Canadians to read and to write.  There are recommendation lists, interviews, contests and hoopla that all quietly support a sense of national pride in the simple act of enjoying a good story.

Today the winners of the short story competition in CBC’s“Canada Writes” competion were announced.  Out of more than 3750 entries, the grand prize was awarded to Daniel Karasik, an Ontario poet and playwright.  His marvelous story, Mine, is well deserving of the honour.   You can find it here, on the CBC website.

Here’s what the CBC shared on their website about Daniel Karasik:

Daniel Karasik’s award-winning plays have been seen in Toronto, New York, and Germany. He is the author of The Crossing Guard and In Full Light, a volume of plays published by Playwrights Canada Press, and is one of eleven poets featured in Undercurrents: New Voices in Canadian Poetry, a Cormorant Books anthology; Cormorant also plans to publish his first poetry collection in 2013. He recently completed his first novel, for which he received the Alta Lind Cook Prize and the Norma Epstein National Literary Award.

Storytellers: Patrick Howse — Baghdad, Bombs, Trauma and Poetry

I’m just starting to get the hang of Twitter. I’m not interested in what you had for breakfast or how cute your dog is, and I don’t want a new car, house paint, face paint or a bunch of new chatterbox friends.  No thanks.

But if you worked in Baghdad as a rotating bureau chief and turned to writing poetry to regain your emotional stability in the wake of bombs dropping on your work place, you’ll get my attention.  So it is that I happened across Patrick Howse, of the BBC on Twitter.  I worked in television news for a long time, but the greatest risks I faced were primarily limited to getting through traffic.  The people in news who volunteer to go into war zones are a special breed.

Patrick’s poetry is at times gentle and moving, yet also stark and harrowing.  Through it we get a glimpse of what it means when the journalist needs a flak jacket to go to work.  Even more important, we get a sense of the story that can’t be told on air.

Here is Patrick Howse reading his poem ‘Hostile Environments Refresher Course’.

Discovering Ari Seth Cohen

It’s wonderful to start off the New Year with an exceptional find. For me it was discovering Ari Seth Cohen who blogs about fashion. This is not your regular take on what you need to buy, or which shoes are the latest “must have”. This is about attitude, storytelling and embracing life. Visit his blog at and be inspired. Here is a delightful trailer for an upcoming documentary on Ari’s work. It’ll make your day.

The trailer for the Advanced Style Documentary debuted at a Paris film festival in 2011 called A Shaded View of Fashion.  Cohen has teamed up with Lina Plioplyte, a New York-based freelance videographer for the production.

According to the New York Times, Advanced Style gets 100,000 hits a month and has 5,ooo followers.

Lynn Dell believes living is a party to be enjoyed and she dresses every day as if she was invited to the biggest and best of them. Her credo: "Dress for the theatre of your life." - Ari Seth Cohen

I started Advanced Style to present a fresh perspective on aging.

The ladies I photograph take pride in how they look and their style is a reflection of their vitality and spirit. One of my favorite ladies, Debra Rapoport, believes in the healing power of style. Dressing up gives her joy and in turn her colorful outfits inspire creativity and merriment in others. Debra lives by the mantra, “Look Good, Feel Good. Feel Good, Look Good.” The fashion she and the other advanced style ladies display is merely a reflection of the care and thought they put into every aspect of their lives. The energy they expend towards dressing is manifested in their passion for living life to the fullest.The Healing power of style is a reciprocal process that can benefit each one of us. Let’s all try a little harder to dress up, feel good, and appreciate beauty in others.

-Ari Seth Cohen, from his website.

Viral Winnipeg Videos

The Canadian News organizations and talk shows are abuzz with the latest viral video sensation to hit the Internet.  Sean Quigley, a 16 year old student and mega talent from Winnipeg, is fielding phone calls and juggling interviews since his joyful rendition of The little Drummer Boy was posted late last week.  This video was shot, directed and edited by Sean with borrowed equipment and a little help from his family and friends.  Well done!

It made me think it would be fun to make a listing of the videos that go viral from Winnipeg. I will add to this from time to time, so please do let me know if you see videos that should be included on this page!

This video for the Winnipeg Humane Society made the rounds some time ago but I thoroughly enjoy it.

Maria Aragon of Winnipeg caught the attention of the Ellen show with her outstanding talent in this video of her singing Lady Gaga’s Born This Way.

Surround Your Working World with Discomfort: Advice from Author Andrew Pyper

Some time ago, I started a special category called “Storytellers” on my blog to highlight inspiring work and insights from talented artists, writers and filmmakers.  Today, I am sharing a most interesting speech by author, Andrew Pyper, who addressed the recent Ontario Writers’ Conference. I found this in one of my newsfeeds on FB and enjoyed it so much I had to pass it on. Andrew also happens to provide some very sound advice for those of us who have chosen to make writing a central part of our lives.

Most of what I read is non-fiction and includes old newspaper articles, rare texts, journals, diaries, court testimony and academic research.  Now that I have exposed my true nature, I can tell you that reading fiction is a treat and I am careful about what I choose just because of the limits on my time.

I came to know of Andrew Pyper when he was featured as a guest to discuss The Guardians on CBC’s The Next Chapter, hosted by Shelagh Rogers.

Andrew  is a very successful author with five bestselling novels: The Guardians, Kiss Me, Lost Girls, The Trade Mission, The Wildfire Season and The Killing Circle. Four of his novels are in active development for feature films and the most recent, The Guardians, will be released in the U.S. this fall.

The Writers’ Conference organizers chose well in having him for their keynote speaker, as you will see in the video clip.

Finally, a word about The Next Chapter.  This is the only radio show I actually listen to on a fairly regular basis. Shelagh has a warm and inviting interview style that makes her listeners feel as though they are eavesdropping on a delicious private conversation at the next table in a fine restaurant. Always intelligent and exceptionally well prepared, she puts authors at ease and delivers solidly interesting discussions that are so much more sastisfying than the customary two or three minute author segments we have on other talk programs. Warning:  The show is very addictive (and available in podcasts to access at your leisure).  Way too easy to justify as work avoidance for writers, readers and transplanted Canadians like me.

Storytellers: Gillian Laub – Take Care

Gillian Laub is a photographer and multimedia storyteller whose work deserves a wide audience. From striking portraits to documenting the lives of families, she compels us to stop and think as she brings us to places that are often far removed from our own reality.

I am starting a new category- Storytellers- on this blog so that I have a special place to share the work of outstanding artists, writers and filmmakers.

As someone who has worked in television journalism and related pursuits throughout my career, I have a deep appreciation for strong storytelling and especially for the talent of the person looking through the lens. Documentary production is a team sport and the strength of the story is ultimately dependent upon the images that are captured.

The works I intend to feature here will largely be films that bring us a glimpse into the daily lives of ordinary people. I call it social history in the present tense. Most important, these works represent moments that most of us would miss because we don’t know how to see them, or because we don’t go to places like this to meet people like this.

I’ve chosen Take Care, to be the first film to feature because to me, Gillian’s gift is the blend of a fearless approach with a compassionate touch in bringing truth to her audience.

Click on the image below to see the film.

Take Care was produced in a one-week work shop by MediaStorm. The workshop team included Gillian Laub, Henrik Björnsson, Elena Ghanotakis, and Laura Varma, as well as associate producer Brad Horn. It caught my attention because it was selected by Time magazine as one of the best of 2010, in Time’s list of Top 10 Talented Web Videos. Good choice. Great film. I would have ranked it much higher than 9th.

The following bio was written Bernstein & Andriulli, who represent Gillian’s work.

Gillian’s love of storytelling and family narratives led her to begin photographing her own family while studying at the International Center of Photography in New York. 2005 she was the recipient of the Nikon’s Storyteller award for her work in the Middle East. With the support of the Jerome Foundation Laub’s first monograph “Testimony” was published by Aperture to critical acclaim. This body of work is comprised of portraits and testimonies of Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians all directly and indirectly affected by the complicated geopolitical context in which they live. In 2007, Laub received Aperture’s Emerging Artist Award. Her work is widely exhibited and her gallerist is Bonni Benrubi. Laub graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in comparative literature and lives in New York City. She is currently working on a project in the American South and continues to explore the family with her camera.

To learn more, see Gillian Laub’s website.