This morning, author Emily Pohl-Weary sent off a draft of her new manuscript, a YA novel titled Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl (to be published by Penguin Canada imprint Razorbill in 2013), just in time to talk with Quillblog about Impossible Words, a new reading series hosted by Toronto’s Academy of the Impossible.
The series, a bi-weekly, salon-style event, puts established writers on stage with emerging talents from Pohl-Weary’s youth writing group, the Toronto Street Writers. The 16-date series kicks off with George Elliott Clarke on Sept. 8, followed by Mariko Tamaki (Sept. 22), Krystyn Dunnion and Anand Mahadevan (Oct. 13), and Hiromi Goto (Oct. 27).
Why did you decide to start a reading series?
I get a lot of energy out of the Toronto Street Writers, so I thought bringing their enthusiasm and desire to learn about all aspects of the literary world and authors would make for really interesting conversations on stage. They’re not afraid to ask questions like, How do you make a living? Why do you write? What does it mean to be a black man in a largely white literary community?
There’s a formality to a lot of literary readings and events. When you bring youth into the mix who are curious and dying to learn, they break down those walls that make us feel removed from the discussion.
What is the Toronto Street Writers?
Toronto Street Writers is a free weekly writing group for young adults between the ages of 16 and 29. We meet every Tuesday, from the end of October to June, at the Academy of the Impossible to try our hands at writing all different kinds of genres. We bring in professional writers and artists to teach their craft to the youth and create a mentorship situation.
How did the group get started?
It started in 2008, in Parkdale, the neighbourhood where I grew up, in response to a very violent summer. I was looking around at my younger siblings and their friends, and then seeing that some of the boys in the neighbourhood couldn’t read. It’s so hard to function in this society if you don’t have the ability to communicate.
We get 20 to 25 people a week, and at least one or two of them are new.
How did you select the authors for this series?
When we applied for funding from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, the Academy’s operations manager, Irfan Ali “ he is the driving force who made this series happen “ and I brainstormed as many different writers as we could. We wanted a range of people who work in different styles and genres, and have different cultural backgrounds and interests and come from different parts of the country.
How does the series tie into Academy’s mandate?
At the Academy, we’re always looking to put the power into the audience’s hands “ people who don’t traditionally have power. In this case, we’re telling the youth, You are interviewing this established author, you have the ability to lead the conversation. You must read their work and prepare for the discussion, and you’re going up on stage with them.
It’s an opportunity for them to shine, and I think they will. In situations where they are respected and supported, they always do wonderful things.