It’s my very favourite time of year – all crafting and baking and twinkle lights, gingerbread and ornaments and candles lit when the sun goes down and shovelling in the sparkly sunshine…and giving back.
A few weeks ago, I took my two kiddos to one of my very favourite places in Toronto – The Children’s Book Bank. They focus on building literacy in low-income neighbourhoods and provide books to kids and their families – every kid who walks through the door gets to take home their very own book! It’s truly a remarkable place. We took a load of book donations and my kids came home with a dino book that has been read multiple times a day since, and a copy of The Snowy Day – a perfect read for this week’s first snow fall! of the year! (They are always looking for donations, ps!)
If you’re looking for places to give back this holiday season, I’ve worked with some amazing organizations that are doing incredible, important work building strong, vibrant communities:
Having kids has made me even more aware of the need to counter all of this gift getting with gift giving, so yesterday, while my toddler was waiting for the sun to set so we could light the Hanukkah candles, we went through the SickKids “catalogue” and chose to give Holiday Cooking & Baking Supplies,Water Therapy, crayons, Arts & Craft Supplies and parking $ for patients’ families (and I sobbed the entire time!)
I also am a huge fan of the work by:
FoodShare, a Toronto-based organization that increases access to vegetables and fruit through community led projects
I just spent the last 8 weeks leading a writing workshop with 11-15 of the most inspiring, generous, dedicated writers at Parkdale Library. We met each week and wrote about our city, and Parkdale, sharing paragraphs and pages of our lives. It was a once in a lifetime group of people. Truly.
We began each week with a freewrite and used the neighbourhood for our inspiration, creating haikus and fake sestinas (faux-stinas), created maps out of words, wrote from long ago photos and from recent photos, and personified Parkdale. We used lines from inspiring books set in Parkdale and created new characters. It was so much fun. (The links are to the brilliant Angelica LeMinh’s blog!)
On the final night we ate chocolate cupcakes and shared our work and lingered, not wanting the 8-week-long bubble to burst…
It felt like second nature, folding zines, the bend and crease of many years ago, returning as if I’d never stopped making zines. And so, this week, we made Parkdale zines – mini guides to Parkdale at the library. It was SO. MUCH. FUN. (Note to self: make more zines!)
One of my very favourite places in Toronto is Parkdale Library and I’ve had the great pleasure of hanging out there twice a week this fall. In addition to an adult writing workshop every Wednesday, I’ve been asking patrons to undertake all sorts of different projects eachThursday. This week, we drew an experiential map Parkdale (more maps here!):
And we also made a Portrait Gallery of our favourite Parkdalians:
AAAAND, because I love mail oh-so-much, we made more postcards:
It’s no secret that I love letters…love letters, and well, any letters, really!
For years I’ve been writing letters to Amelia Earhart, and in the last little while, I’ve been turning these letters into what one day will be a novel. AND the first letter of the project, which in all honesty is a love letter has been published in the inaugural issue of The Temz Review. You can read“You Showed Up Wearing Pants” here!
And this fall I wrote some of the hardest letters I’ve ever written. Citadel + Compagnie’s artistic director, Laurence Lemieux asked me to write letters from WWI soldiers to their next of kin in the weeks before the Battle of Vimy Ridge to accompany her dance piece, Jusqu’a Vimy.
It was brutal, reading actual letters from soldiers, just boys many of them – their optimism, their despair, their memories of home and often making light of the situations they were writing from.
I wrote letters, fictional letters based on the characters of the eight local soldiers in the dance piece. Every audience member will receive a letter when the show premieres at The Citadel in Toronto next week. You can read a few of the letters here!
On Thursdays, I host a drop-in event at Parkdale Library from 4:30-6 (c’mon by!). One week, we wrote postcards to our favourite places in Parkdale…
And last week, we created a portrait gallery of wonderful Parkdalians and made a Parkdale Portrait Gallery! The world can feel hard to live in these days, but witnessing such kindness and generosity fills me with such hope and light.
For the second year in a row I had the great pleasure of heading to Prof. Robert McGill’s Literary Citizenship class to create love letters with them. We talked about the how and the why (and the ongoing financial how!) of this project that never ceases to delight and inspire me. It was such a wonderful afternoon and such an honour to meet these engaged, intelligent students who wrote such genuine, heartfelt letters…
I wrote a not-quite-as-eloquent letter to the horror movie lockers in the basement of the building we were in. I remember these lockers from taking a grad class a million years ago with a wonderful, kind professor… (They’re creepy, but awesome, right?!)
P.S.: How amazing is does this course sound? Makes me (almost!) want to go back to school!
Literary citizenship involves participation in building and sustaining cultural communities through things from podcasts and micro-presses to reading series and book clubs. Examining Toronto-based activities, some with a local focus and others with a national or transnational emphasis, we’ll investigate how and why they developed, whom they serve, and what functions they perform.
We’ll consider the economics and demographics of contemporary publishing, the effects of new media on book culture, the use of literature in fostering literacy and social justice, and the relationship between literary citizenship and the state. We’ll also practise literary citizenship ourselves through blog posts and book reviews,while students will conduct independent research into literary-citizenship initiatives. The course will cultivate expertise regarding a wide range of possibilities for literary citizenship while attending to broader issues such as the valuing of literature, labour, and community in the twenty-first century.
I am having THE BEST time leading a writing workshop at Parkdale Library.We’re exploring Parkdale, and the city through words and holy smokes is it inspiring. Every Wednesday evening I get to hang out with such engaged, wonderful people and write and write and write about the places we live.
This week, we created written maps of the city and it got me thinking about other mapping projects like:
The Toronto poetry map (Man, I love this project!): With the help of Toronto’s fourth poet laureate George Elliott Clarke, the Toronto Public Library created a new way to explore the city through poetry.
A few falls ago, I got to chat with placemaking writer, Melody Warnick, for City Lab, and THEN I got to read her wonderful placemaking book This is Where You Belong, and THEN we dreamed up a little tour together (that didn’t happen, but man alive, it would’ve been fun!) And now she has a wonderful TedxFargo talk about Restless Soul syndrome and different ways to plant your feet and start to love where you live (complete with a Love Lettering Project shout out!)
I had no idea about this incredible project! The Greenest City has a H.O.P.E. Garden (Healthy Organic Parkdale Edibles!) right beside the Parkdale Library!
I have had THE best week. I spent two afternoons at Parkdale Library, asking folks to write love letters to the neighbourhood. There were so many incredible letters penned and taken out and hidden in the community for others to find. It was so very inspiring.
ps: we’re going to be writing a lot more about Parkdale in my (free!) Writing The City workshop (one for teens, one for adults!) in October and November. More info and registration info.
Some of the brilliant letters:
(HOW AMAZING IS THIS? An instrument library! This woman and her family headed home with a mandolin, a teeny violin and a huge djembe!)
I LOVE this globe sculpture outside the library and was so thrilled to spot a love letter tucked in it!