Shiny! March letter

Shiny! March letter

Dearest magpies,

I have been trying to write this letter for most of the month, and it is arriving a full two weeks late. It has been a time, hasn’t it?

I’ve been thinking about what Shannon wrote in our very first in-person meeting – “The calm that exists because of it is wonderful and is like a vacation that never ends. I remember vacations and loving the way the days were shaped by desire and curiosity. I remember loving them. I know you love them. Imagine a world like that.”

I’ve been thinking about all the pressures we are under to be productive in this time of isolation and lockdown and physical distancing, and how we are also under a competing pressure to experience this time as a break, a rest, a reset, a vacation of sorts. I’ve been thinking about how both of those pressures land in unkind ways for many of us.

Right now, maybe not “more than ever” but certainly more than usually, we need ways to reach for hope, to find the shiny threads hidden in the gutters, to seek out possibility, to imagine our way into the future. We need ways to do this that are justice oriented, that are aware of existing power structures, that are welcoming of diverse experiences, that hold space for the discomfort and fear and grief of this time in our lives. We need robust hope, a light that can show us the next step forward.

So, here we are. The Shiny! speculative writing group meets again.

This month there will be no in-person meeting. And I’m not sure when we’ll have our next in-person meeting! We’ll be listening to the recommendations of health professionals, and then being a little extra careful because some of us have compromised immune systems or complex health concerns (including me!)

Instead, we will be meeting from 4-6 pm Mountain time on Sunday April 5 in a GoToMeeting chat. If you’d like the invite link, please send me a message.

In this letter, you will find a craft lesson, writing prompts, some recommended reading, and some shared writing.


Craft Lesson

How do we practice craft during a crisis? Plot, pacing, dialogue, point-of-view… all of these things seem so far beyond what many of us are experiencing in our daily life. How do we bring these onto the page? How can we write anything good while everything around us is terrifying and bad?!

If you’re having trouble writing anything at all, let alone anything that feels like it’s “good” writing, you’re not alone. Even Neil Gaiman has been having a tough time with it.

So, instead of our usual craft lesson, this month let’s try something else.

Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird, writes, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.

This month, let’s remember that craft includes shitty first drafts, incomplete paragraphs, stories that go nowhere, ideas that tumble around the page and end up looking like a mess. This is craft, too.

So just write anything.

Write five first lines, with no demand on yourself to take them further than first line.

Write one snippet of dialogue.

Write a list of ideas, no matter how far-fetched.

Set your timer for 10 minutes and free associate from the word “pandemic” and then set another 10 minute timer and free associate from “hope” and then spend five minute searching for resonances between your two lists. (Free associating just means that you start with the word and then you write as many words as you can think of that are in some way connected.) When your mind takes you down a path during this process, follow it – turn the timer off and go.

However you show up for yourself at this time, however you show up at the page (or not!) is craft.

I know it doesn’t feel like it. Trust me, my beloved magpies, I know. I feel the failure, too! I, too, saw that post that went viral about documenting our lives during this time for future historians, and even though I’ve had a three-pages-every-morning routine since my dad died, I still haven’t managed to journal in the morning this month. I know it feels like failure.

My favourite craft book is Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft, and the title reminds me that right now we are steering our craft through the storm.

Now is the time to be kind with our creative selves.

These gentle invitations to the page are craft, too.


Shared Writing

This month’s shared writing comes from Agnieszka, and although it was written before the pandemic was determined to be a pandemic, before we went into isolation, before we realized that everything would change… even though it was written before this time, the portal described is exactly what we need right now.

Now, with so many pressures to be productive, to be creative, to be well… it’s a possibility that some of us will experience create productivity, creativity, wellness, in this time. But let it pass. Just breathe. Hold onto the wall. Just be in the now. In the doorway.

A portal opens or closes

By Agnieszka

A portal opens or closes
March 1, 2020

(My gut hurts from worry about too many difficult things, unsolvable problems, total fear of failing at all dreams, time passing by, kids growing away from me, me hanging on too tightly and causing issues for their future but letting go causes issues for their future too. But, there is nothing coming from all this effort! I’ve been too serious, too worried. That’s always the problem – worry shuts down creativity… But does it really??)

I want this mind to open. Let life pass. Let ideas pass. Let hope and newness and possibility pass.
Why be so crammed in the dinghy basement of tension, freaking out, pressure, fear, and self-judgement?
Why breathe only comparison and self-judgement? Let possibility pass.

Let possibility pass. The door IS open. Yes, it is. Regardless of words not coming out perfectly. Just a chance to practice, to imagine, no matter what, doesn’t matter what.
Just let them pass. Breathe. Let whatever IS there just be there.

And stay. Stay quietly calm, present, patient. Curious.

Let it pass. Give it time. The door stays open. Approach slowly. No, it won’t suck me in. It’s okay. Hang on to the wall. Take small steps. Breathe deep and slow.

So. This is a threshold then.
Afraid that I’ll get lost. It feels like fear on the inside.
If I let go of the worry, what will be there?
The story of success is bullsh*t, I know…
If I let go of the tensions, what will keep me upright…?

Maybe it’s okay to let the tension go and just be.
Just be. Lie down. Rest.
And maybe it’s not all up to me.

The tension lessens. The door is still open. Nothing needs to happen.
Just let possibility pass. Stay here waiting.

Breathing into the vast space.
Take shelter in the sky.
Letting the blue feed me.
Drinking in the safety of the ground.
Letting skin be warmed by the sun.
That’s it.

Coming back into being. Not past, not future. Just now.
Just being now.
In the doorway.
When the breath passes through, the stories and possibilities will pass through as well.


Links and Recommended Reading

Reading it also part of our writing craft!

This month I have some excellent recommendations, along with short study guides.

First, AK Press is having a $1.99 sale on all of their published ebooks. I love AK Press, which is a worker-owned anarchist publishing house. Although I have enjoyed almost every book I’ve read from them, here are my top recommendations from their sale, and why I think they would be useful for this group:

  • Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. By adrienne maree brown. This book! It is the spark that grew into An Unexpected Light and it is a constant source of inspiration. I highly, highly recommend it. It also includes many, many references to speculative fiction works and writers.
  • Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories for the Transformative Justice Movement. Edited by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. This collection of stories is a brilliant place to spark your ideas for justice beyond the prison industrial complex and ideas of punishment and exile. If transformative justice is part of the future you want to imagine, this book will offer you a lot to work with.
  • Turn This World Inside Out: The Emergence of Nurturance Culture. By Nora Samaran. This book (which is phenomenal and inspiring) grew out of Samaran’s essay “Nurturance is the Opposite of Rape Culture,” and both the essay and the book invite us to imagine what might become possible if we cultivated communities based on nurturance rather than violence. Where the essay focuses specifically on men and women and rape culture, the book expands this conversation to include all of society. For those of us wanting to write speculative fiction that includes care and nurturance, this will help. (For those of us who want to understand violence, this is also an incredibly valuable book.)
  • Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times. By Carla Bergman and Nick Montgomery. This was one of the single most formative books in my own life as a social justice advocate, and it offers incredible wisdom for imagining (and writing) more just and more joyful futures.
  • Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief. Edited by Cindy Milstein. I think that learning how to grieve, and how to write grief, and how to grieve together, and how to become comfortable with grief and grieving – these will be critical skills for those of us who want to write through to more possible futures. It’s a beautiful and moving book.

I want to share hopeful short fiction. I think it is so important! But in reality, I have not been able to focus on reading any kind of fiction this month. And I won’t share what I haven’t read, so instead… I love this essay by Aislinn Thomas. “Disability, Creativity, and Care in the Time of COVID-19.

And I recommend watching Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts and Netflix. (Participants in An Unexpected Light have been invited to participate in weekly watch parties while we’re all in isolation together. Would you like to participate? Let me know!)


Writing Prompts

Here are the three prompts for our next writing session. (Which, again, will be happening on April 5, from 4-6 pm mountain time, on gotomeeting. If you’d like the link, let me know!)

The last prompt is an invitation, and a hope. I hope that you will contribute to the zine!

  1. An enchanted apple. (Or pomegranate seed. Or fruit from some sort of super fancy tree. Or, like, a really amazing raspberry.)
  2. The soft relentlessness of waves on sand.
  3. Write something for my Succulent Zine! (April 10 is the deadline for the zine.)

I love the comic about how we are basically houseplants with complicated feelings, and it got me thinking about how isolation means we need to be succulents, able to survive and thrive in conditions of scarcity and intensity, and how fear also turns out lives into deserts, and how precarity does the same.

So I thought we could use that metaphor, and make a little zine about what gets us through, and how we get each other through.

What are our skills of survival?

What are our strategies of mutual aid and collective action and care?

How are we keeping ourselves going, and what can we teach each other?

Many of us are in communities with generations-long histories of succulent lives in deserts of ableism, transantagonism, queerphobia, colonialism, white supremacy. Oppressed and targeted communities know the way forward.

If you’d like to write something about how you’re feeling about the news, the health guidelines, the government response, your own experiences of isolation as a result of disability or illness that were not accommodated and how this has given you insider insight into what gets you through

From the call for submissions here.

Alright, my magpies.

We’ll find our way. We’ll write our way out.

(On which note, have you listened to the Hamilton soundtrack recently? Do you need some historical hiphop in your life right now?)

Until next Sunday.

Warmly,

Tiffany

Welcome to Shiny!

Welcome to Shiny!

Welcome to Shiny!

This is the text of the introductory email sent out to participants in the Shiny! speculative writing group. The email is a digital version of the launch party we hosted in Calgary on January 26, 2020. (This email will also be sent out to new participants who sign up for the email list.)

The goal of this post is to let you know what to expect from the group, set out the various ways to participate, and share the schedule for 2020. This email also includes some writing generously shared by participants at our first Shiny! writing group meeting on February 2, 2020.

Our monthly emails (the first of which will be coming out mid-February, 2020) will not include quite so much background, and will not be as long.

So, first, introductions.

The first introduction is for the group itself.

Shiny! a speculative writing group is an offshoot of An Unexpected Light, a six-month online course in narrative therapy and speculative fiction. Although Shiny! extends the work that we’re doing in that course, and exists because course participants asked for it, you do not need to be a past or present (or even future) participant in the course in order to be part of this group. You can download the syllabus and find out more about upcoming rounds of the course here

An Unexpected Light was created in response to a growing sense of hopelessness and despair within my communities, and Shiny! extends this work into an ongoing, inclusive, joy-and-justice oriented writing group.

Then, me.

Hello! I’m Tiffany. I will be our facilitator.

I’m a white settler on this land, and the in-person events for Shiny! will happen at Loft 112 take place on Treaty 7 land. This is the traditional and ongoing home of the Indigenous signatories of Treaty 7, which include the Blackfoot Confederacy, including the Siksika, Kainai, and Piikani First Nations; the Stoney Nakoda, including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations; and the Tsuut’ina First Nation. This land is also home to the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3, and to all of the Indigenous folks who live here. The ongoing effects of colonization and capitalism mean that this land is home to many Indigenous folks whose traditional land is elsewhere or unknown. Shiny! is explicitly an anti-colonial and anti-racist group, and recognizing the ongoing effects of the colonial project is part of that work. 

I am non-binary, and use they/them pronouns. I co-facilitated a Non-binary Superpowers narrative therapy group with my colleague Rosie Maeder in Adelaide, South Australia, and we published a collective document in the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work. You can read a PDF of that document here.

I’m also bisexual, and am the founder and facilitator of Possibilities Calgary Bi+ Community Group. We meet once a month at Loft 112 in Calgary and have been running, with one extended break, since 2010.

I’m also fibromyalgia-enhanced, and constantly working to make peace with my inner demons.

I have degrees in English (Hons) and Women’s Studies (Hons) from the University of Calgary, and a Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work from the Dulwich Centre and the University of Melbourne. I’ve been published in a few places, and have worked as a professional editor for quite a while. I’ve been facilitating writing workshops and groups for over a decade.

We will be getting together in person most months in 2020, with the opportunity to write together, and to share our writing and respond to each other.

The next introduction, you!

This group is open to participants of every gender, orientation, ability, neurotype, race, class, body size, and experience with writing. Youth over 12 are also welcome.

You do not need to be a published or experienced writer to join us – everyone has a unique and valuable voice, and imagining possible futures is work for everyone. 

You do need to be interested in and invested in justice and liberation in order to participate in Shiny! The goal of this group is to write possible futures that are more just, more inclusive, more free than what we have now. The status, as Doctor Horrible so rightly put it, is not quo. I hope that this group will help us find ways to challenge the status quo, to find ways forward into futures that are more colourful and more liberated. Futures that refuse patriarchy, colonialism, racism, fatphobia, ableism, ageism, transantagonism, heteronormativity, and all the host of other systems and structures of harm that surround us in the present.

I am so excited to share this space with you!

So, what can you expect from this group?


The in-person meetings will include time to share snippets that we’ve read and appreciated over the last month and to reflect on writing that has really resonated for us, time to write together, and time to share our writing.

These meetings will happen on the first Sunday of most months at Loft 112, from 4-6 pm.

Our confirmed 2020 dates are:

  • March 1 (at Loft 112)
  • April 5 (location and time TBD – this will also be the launch party for the spring round of An Unexpected Light!)
  • May 3 (at Loft 112, tentative)
  • June 7 (at Loft 112)
  • July and August dates TBD
  • September 6 (at Loft 112)
  • October 4 (at Loft 112)
  • November 1 (at Loft 112)
  • December 6 (at Loft 112)

Participants are welcome to write between sessions and bring that writing to the group if they want. 

The emails will hopefully support that writing! And also be a way for people to fully participate from a distance.

The Shiny! online component exists in order to make the group accessible to participants who can’t make it to the in-person meetings because of work schedules, childcare, disability, distance, or any other reasons.

There will be two emails per month. The first will be short, and will be sent out the day of the in-person writing group and will share the writing prompts that set for that session. 

The second will be more substantial and will go out mid-month, with the first email going out mid-February 2020. 

The longer emails will include:

  • Some reflections on our topic for the upcoming month.
  • A couple writing prompts. 
  • Selections of writing shared by participants in the last month.
  • A small link roundup relevant to our topics.
  • Submission opportunities.
  • And a craft lesson each month!

These lessons are entirely optional, and nobody will be grading you! But if you want to fine-tune your craft, hopefully these lessons will be a resource. The craft topics requested at the launch party are: 

  • Dialogue
  • World-building
  • Plotting
  • Narrative voice and perspective
  • How to write short fiction
  • How to write mystery

These longer monthly emails will be shared as blog posts, which you can find on my website or on Patreon, with a link to the blog post sent out to the email list. If you would like to be added to the email list, let me know!


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Here are the two prompts we wrote on at our first writing group session on February 2, 2020.

First, we read an excerpt from Alexis Pauline Gumbs story Evidence in Octavia’s Brood. This was a letter written from Alexis beyond capitalism to Alexis within capitalism. (Although I can’t share that excerpt publicly here, you can find more of Gumb’s amazing future-thinking in this podcast episode.)

The prompt was: Write a letter to yourself from a future beyond an oppressive system that currently constrains you. (Some of these letters are generously shared below, and brought me to tears in the session!)

Our second prompt was generated using the Magic & Fairy Tale Storycubes, and we wrote stories that included a knight, a wizard, and a treasure chest. 


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Letter to Self from a Post-Apocalyptic Future.

February 2, 2020

Dear Agnieszka,

(How amazing that I can send this to you! So much has changed over all these years…)

The world made it through!

Somehow, we were able to stop destroying.

I don’t think anyone believed it would ever actually happen… that humanity would finally see Itself as intrinsically part of the Organism that is Earth… that all the self-harming practices – even if they relieve the pain of regret-isolation-sorrow – could be lessened respectfully… and that we-Earth can love us/Itself with compassion again.

Yes! We forgave each other! And Earth forgave us! Forgiving/forgiven for all the damage and harm done out of fear and misunderstanding. We moved forward, toward a patient re-learning how to care for and respond to the loneliness that drove us to distraction, production, the whole illness of progress.

Honey, I know that you *know* how hard this is to do. When the pain strikes, and it seems like nothing will stop it and pretending to “be normal and go shopping” seems like the only way out.

Sweetie, forgive yourself for not knowing. Continue doing what you are doing. I am telling you from here that imagining different possibilities in response to the pain and the regret and the fear, is exactly what was needed.

Relieving the pain makes perfect sense! No judgement against any human on Earth! Searching for true relief – the collective relief, for everyone, every life – through patient, respectful questioning – that is the work that eventually brought us towards Healing. Hope and peace.

We finally saw what really mattered! We saw how incredibly beautiful it all was, we all were! How unbelievably “enough”! And we could stop the cutting, the burning, the packaging, the injecting, the improving. And we stopped!

We looked at each other and at the Earth, and we were stunned. By the sheer beauty and wealth of just being and wealth of Being Just.

We really breathed! We breathed the Air. The Water that remained was slowly but steadily healing Itself because the Earth loves to heal. The Green things gracefully returned.

We were patient and respectfully waited. We used language and music and art and all the ingenuity of Earth to bless Life. With respect and awe.

Agnieszka, I know you offered yourself in Love and Compassion to People/Earth around you.

And I know you were often bound by rules/constructs in your society that created tensions and fear. I am so glad that you didn’t let it stop Your loving and forgiving (despite the harsh pressure to focus on the capitalistic bottom line).

I am so glad you persisted, because your persistence kept the Love growing, and practicing forgiveness allowed it to grow big enough for the Healing to take.

This Healing couldn’t happen without Forgiveness. So, thank you.

Love yourself fiercely. Always.

It’s the fuel of all our Potential.


To Me,

From a  place where you have all the time, the energy, space to do things.  Where you are no longer obligated to keep a space in your mind for bills, money and the like. 

Don’t worry, each step takes you closer.  Each choice, and while it seemed impossible, you weren’t the only one.  Everyone wanted to be free of the burden that is capitalism.  Time has the value you want in it, and not defined by dollars.  Passion is first and no longer questioned as a “side hustle”.  I remember the horror, the sadness each time someone asked “what next” expecting the answer to be monetizing. There’s no worry about those kinds of things.  There is space enough for everyone to explore, enjoy and live.

Lazy and productive are opposite sides of a coin that is no longer valid.  And with them went famine, suffering and the pain of depriving people of the necessities. 

The calm that exists because of it is wonderful and is like a vacation that never ends.  I remember vacations and loving the way the days were shaped by desire and curiosity.  I remember loving them.  I know you love them.  Imagine a world like that.

Don’t worry.  You’ll see it.  You’ll enjoy it, and it will all be surrounded by the wonderful relationships you, we, spent so long cultivating. 

I wish these letter could carry pictures to show but they only carry words and you’ll have to trust.  Trust me.  I am you.  Trust yourself, and walk forward.

Shannon


Dear Joseph,

It all fell apart.  Everything broke.  Nothing is the same.  The toil and pain, the exhaustion and the sadness, the aches, the darkness.  And more than anything, the fear.  It all came crashing down around us.  We just couldn’t keep it aloft.  It had gotten too heavy.  It got wide, and tall, and blocked out all the goodness in the world.  It grew sharp edges that tore at our hands, covered in the salt of our sweat, and seeped into our aching muscles.  Our nerves were on fire, and our tears streamed non-stop.  Until one-day we gave up.  We gave in.  We stopped holding it up.  In the end, it fell heavy upon us.  Set to crush every person to nothingness.

We were crushed.  We died.  But it was not at all what we expected.  For what died was not our spirit.  Not our bodies.  No.  What died that fateful day was our fears.  Our old ideas.  For when it all came crashing down, we realized its immense size and weight were illusions.  It’s needles and knives, imagined.  Like kinetic sand, it only held its shape because of we all pushed so hard to keep it up.  Once we stopped pushing, once we stopped caring, it crumbled into such a fine dust that a light breeze was enough to whisk is away. 

Now a warm wind blows, unencumbered by our fears.  It fills our souls and lights our minds.  We understand that we do not need towers, we need plains.  We are all important.  There are no gods among us, because it will only create devils.  There are no leaders, only advisors.  We are all peers, on different legs of the same journey.  With different destinations, but all going in the same direction.  Towards hope, and love. 

So, Joseph, keep your hope.  Do not give up as you may have thought about.  Be ready to give in.  And together we will all get through.  The other side is so different and so much better than anything we know right now.  Better that we could have imagined.  You can do it.


I am so excited to share this space with you.

(Though also excited to never again try and create so many rows and blocks of content in the email list platform. Yeesh!)

There is no cost to participate in this group, but if you’d like to support the work, you can find me on Patreon or you can make a donation through etransfer or at the events.

Much love and hope,

Tiffany

Welcome to Shiny!

Shiny! speculative writing launch party

Have you missed the in-person writing workshops that used to run regularly through Writing in the Margins? Me too!

Introducing Shiny! a speculative writing group.

We’re having a launch party on January 26, from 4-6 pm, at Loft 112 in the East Village here in Calgary. Our first regular writing event will be February 2 from 4-6 pm at Loft 112, and we’ll be meeting on the first Sunday of most months throughout 2020.

Shiny! is an offshoot of An Unexpected Light, a six-month narrative therapy and speculative fiction course. This writing group is open to anyone, whether you’ve taken the course, or are planning to take the course. The group does extend the Unexpected Light conversation about how we tell stories of hope and possibility in times that feel increasingly impossible, but participation in the course is not required.

This launch party will be a combination info session, coffee-and-tea chat, and writing group. Come find out what it’s all about!

Our goal is to build and support a community of writers engaged in creating what Walidah Imarisha describes as, “fantastical literature that helps us to understand existing power dynamics, and helps us imagine paths to creating more just futures.”

Shiny! will include an ongoing online component, with monthly emails including writing prompts and opportunities to participate in virtual writing community, as well as details about in-person events in Calgary, Alberta (and elsewhere). The online component isn’t quite ready to launch yet, but is being designed so that the group will be accessible to folks who can’t make it to in-person events, for whatever reason.

All forms of speculative writing are welcome – science fiction, fantasy, mythology, poetry, and speculative non-fiction including memoir.

Shiny! is an explicitly welcoming space for marginalized and targeted groups, including trans, queer, fat, disabled, neurodiverse, Black, Indigenous, people of colour, and others. An Unexpected Light’s syllabus is full of the speculative work of marginalized writers, and their ability to imagine more just and possible futures has made our work possible.

Everyone has a valid and valuable voice, and writers of all experience levels are welcome.

This launch party will take place on Treaty 7 land, the traditional and ongoing home of the Blackfoot Confederacy, including the Siksika, Kainai, and Piikani First Nations, the Stoney Nakoda, including the Wesley, Chiniki, and Bearspaw First Nations, and the Tsuut’ina First Nation. This is also the home of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3, and of all the Indigenous folks who live here.

There is no cost to attend, but donations will be accepted to help cover costs.

Read Walidah Imarisha’s interview at EAP Magazine.

Find out more about An Unexpected Light.

Find the event on facebook.

(Cover image by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash.)

Great Unexpectations: A Possibilities Calgary event

Great Unexpectations: A Possibilities Calgary event

I’m putting some of the material I’ve been generating for An Unexpected Light to work in other spaces. I’m proud of this, because one expectation I often apply to myself is that everything must be fresh and new, that it will have less value if it is something I created for another purpose, and that it reflects “laziness” on my part if I don’t come up with something brand new every time.

In the spirit of this month’s event, I am formally resigning from this expectation, which does not serve me and does invite me into significant feelings of failure and anxiety.

With the time and energy that would previously have gone into meeting this expectation, I will make myself a London Fog this afternoon – an act of solidarity with myself that I haven’t made time for in far too long.


You can find the Facebook event here. We are meeting on November 19 from 6:30-8:30 pm at Loft 112 in the East Village.

I am still working on getting an event calendar up on my website – hopefully this month!


In November, Possibilities will be borrowing an activity from An Unexpected Light, the six-month online course in narrative therapy and speculative fiction that I have been running.

We’re going to be resigning from some expectations of normality!

We all live under a significant (and growing) weight of normative expectations – to look the right way, to work the right jobs in the right way, to do our gender right, to do our orientation right, to be in our relationships in the right way, to not be too loud, too sad, too needy, too dependent, too … whatever! And also to not be deficient – not enough energy, not enough enthusiasm, not enough productivity, not enough independence, not enough self-care (how dare we be burned out – take a bubble bath and get back to normal!)

This month will be a bit of an experiment – rather than our usual facilitated-but-freeflowing conversation, we’re going to have a more structured event with a few exercises to work through together, some conversation about the role of normative expectations (and our “failures” to meet them), and a final exercise to formally resign from a few of these expectations and to start imagining the acts of solidarity that could take their place. (David Denborough defines acts of solidarity as “acts of justice or actions of care toward yourself, others, or the natural world”.)

We may collect some of these resignations from normal and commitments to solidarity into a small document to be shared with the rest of the community, because I think that this exercise might be helpful for folks as we head into the holiday season with its many demands and expectations.

Please RSVP so that I know how many handouts to print off.

(If you are participating in the current round of An Unexpected Light, this will give you a one-week-early sneak peek into the Integration and Care module exercise for November! And if you’re curious about An Unexpected Light and debating whether to join the next round, this will give a peek into one of the four modules in the course.)

There is no cost to attend this event.

You can support the event by either donating at the event or by backing the Patreon at www.patreon.com/sostarselfcare.

We have a focus on community care and narrative discussions for the bi+ community (bisexual, pansexual, asexual, two-spirit, with an intentional focus on trans inclusion).

This is an intentionally queer, feminist, anti-oppressive space. The discussion is open to all genders and orientations, as well as all abilities, educational levels, classes, body types, ethnicities – basically, if you’re a person, you’re welcome!

We will meet at Loft 112, which is wheelchair accessible through the back door, and ASL interpretation can be arranged. If you require ASL interpetation, please let me know asap so that I can make arrangements.

These discussions take place on Treaty 7 land, and the traditional territories of the Blackfoot, Siksika, Piikuni, Kainai, Tsuutina, and Stoney Nakoda First Nations, including Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nation. This land is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.

It is important to note that Possibilities Calgary is a community discussion group and not a dating group.

An Unexpected Light teaser

An Unexpected Light teaser

You may have noticed a new addition to the top menu, a link to the page for An Unexpected Light, the speculative fiction and narrative therapy course that will be launching on October 1. As of August 15, all of the scholarship spaces are filled, but there are still 11 paid spaces available and negotiating an extended or alternative payment plan is totally possible.

This post is a copy of the email sent out to people who have either enrolled in An Unexpected Light, or who have signed up to my Thinkific site. You can do either of those things here!


Dear Phototropes,

Phototropism, first defined in 1899, is the mechanism that causes plants to orient towards light. (I anticipate that our journey together will include both the phototropism of turning towards the light of hopeful stories, and also the bioluminescence of creating our own hopeful stories.)

So, welcome!  

First, a little teaser of some of our content (which I’m hoping will inspire you to enroll, if you haven’t yet, or to let your friends know about this course!)

In the lead-up to the course starting on October 1, I’m going to share some of the great writing that didn’t make it into the syllabus, and some writing about texts that are in the syllabus. 

First, Susan Jane Bigelow’s story A Memory of Windin Glittership (so you can listen to the audio or read the text).

I didn’t include this story, although it would be a great fit for when we’re working on memory in month 4. But I loved it, so I’m including it here.

Second, this video about Janelle Monae’s science fiction. Although this video was made before Dirty Computer (which we’ll be watching as one of our texts), the points about how she uses music, dance, and costume are all super relevant to the later video. I didn’t include this in the course, but it’s also worth a watch!

And now, the question.

The first two of the textbooks have arrived, and I am thrilled! Octavia’s Brood and Funambulist no. 24: Futurisms are in my hot little hands, and Witchbody is waiting for me at Shelf Life Books. The only one we’re waiting on is Variations on Your Body, which I anticipate receiving within a week or two.

This means, of course, that folks who have signed up early can get their textbooks early, too! As soon as all four are here, I’ll start mailing them out.

So, if you have already enrolled in the course, let me know, dearest phototropic readers and bioluminescent writers, whether you would prefer to receive your textbooks in physical or digital format. If you would prefer your books in physical form, please also send me your address.

Lastly, if you have any questions, especially if you’re on the fence about whether to enroll, please let me know!

And if you can think of anywhere that I should send information about the course, or if you know anyone who might be interested, I would love to hear that, too.

I’ll be sending out a few of these messages with teaser content as we approach the course starting on Oct. 1. 

One goal is to generate excitement for the course, another is to share some of the delicious content that didn’t fit into the course, and the last is to start getting some feedback from you about what kind of content most resonates, so that I can tweak the course before it starts.

I’m so thrilled to be on this journey with you.

Onward!

Warmly,

Tiffany

NEW! Polyamory and non-monogamy workshop for support providers

NEW! Polyamory and non-monogamy workshop for support providers

Supporting non-monogamous and polyamorous community members: a workshop for therapists, social workers and other support providers.

When: July 25, 2019, 6 – 9 pm
Where: 2632 24 Street SW, Calgary, Alberta
Cost: $60, with sliding scale available.
Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite and on the Facebook event.
Since space is limited, please do register ahead of time.

Do you work with polyamorous or non-monogamous community members? Do you want to? This workshop is for you!

In this workshop we’ll talk about what polyamorous and non-monogamous community members might need their providers to know, as well as some of the concerns that non-monogamous and polyamorous community members might bring into therapy sessions.

We’ll touch on:

  • Discourses of monogamy, some of the history of these discourses (including their link to colonialism and the suppression of Indigenous and other kinship structures) and how these discourses show up in people’s lives (including our own)
  • Marginalizing discourses within polycules (ableism, racism, sexism, cis- and hetero-normativity)
  • Beginning polyamory
  • Polyamorous families
  • Abuse within polycules

This workshop will also introduce some helpful narrative therapy practices, although it is open to practitioners from a wide range of therapeutic models.

The cost for this workshop is $60, with sliding scale available. If you would like to attend but the cost is an issue, please get in touch!

Accessibility:

This location is *not* wheelchair accessible – there are stairs to get to the boardroom. If you would like to attend but will not be able to access the physical space, please get in touch and I will try to arrange to have the workshop set up on Zoom so that you can log in. There are gender inclusive washrooms at the location.

This is part of an on-going project creating resources and supports for polyamorous and non-monogamous community members seeking therapeutic support, and for narrative therapists and other providers who are engaging with polyamorous and non-monogamous community members. Some of this work was presented at the Horizons: Polyamory, Non-monogamy, and the Future of Canadian Kinship conference last year.

Tiffany Sostar is a narrative therapist and community organizer on Treaty 7 land. They are a white, non-binary, queer settler with eleven years of lived experience within the polyamorous community.

Tharseo Counselling is providing the space, and suggested this event. Thank you, Jill!