‘Allyson’s Workshops, Courses, and Writers’ Retreats’ Archives

Spit and Polish: Self-Editing Workshop with Allyson Latta

IMPORTANT NOTICE

My April 8 workshop has been relocated to St. Thomas Anglican Church, 4 Mary Street, Bracebridge, Ontario.

Registration for the workshop will close tonight, April 5.

Please contact David Patterson to register: phone 705-999-1313 or email david.patterson@alumni.utoronto.ca

 

Muskoka Authors Association workshop_April2017

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Allyson Latta Interviewed on TVO’s The Agenda: “The Art of Memoir”

If you missed the original airing of this interview on August 8, 2016, or wish to share it with family or friends you think would be (or should be) interested in memoir writing, you can watch here. It’s also on YouTube.

Of the many lovely comments I received on this, the most meaningful to me were from viewers who said my words inspired them to begin writing their own stories, or to talk to older family members before it’s too late to ask the important questions.

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Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Coming Up: Writer to editor, Michelle Berry interviews Allyson Latta

Me with Sheryl Gordon, guest speaker for Turquoise Waters Writers' Retreat in the Kawartha Lakes, July 2016.

Me with Sheryl Gordon, guest speaker for Turquoise Waters Writers’ Retreat in the Kawartha Lakes, July 2016.

My students have always enjoyed asking questions of the guest authors I’ve brought to my online courses and writers’ retreats (such as Sheryl Gordon, pictured at left), but at the end of the spring session, a few of them said they’d actually like to interview me and find out more about what I do and why — editing, teaching memoir writing, and organizing residential writers’ retreats. In all my years as a creative writing instructor, it never occurred to me to let students “interview” me.

I’m not currently running my courses Memories into Story I and II*, but when I mentioned the students’ comments to novelist and fellow UofT online  instructor Michelle Berry, she admitted she was curious too. So here’s what’s happening: she’s sending me  some probing questions (not too probing, I hope), and I’m going to answer them here soon.

She’s not getting off that easily, though. This fall, we’ll reverse roles: I’ll interview Michelle, instructor to instructor, editor to writer.

This is going to be fun.

 

*I continue to be an adviser for Final Project Tutorials, the final course required for the UofT SCS Creative Writing Certificate.

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Allyson Latta Talks Memoir Tonight on TVO’s The Agenda

This is kind of exciting. Journalist Nam Kiwanuka of TVO’s The Agenda  interviewed me as part of a weeklong series on  memoir writing.

My interview airs tonight, August 8, 2016, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. There will also be a link available on the TVO website for later viewing.

I hope you’ll tune in.

 

Journalist Nam Kiwanuka with editor and writing instructor Allyson Latta

 

Monday, August 8th, 2016

“Identity is a difficult thing when you’re in between spaces”: Writer Sonja Boon on defining oneself

“I am the girl in the back. The quiet brown one in a sea of white. There’s another brown girl next door in the brown teacher’s class. Maybe she’s more yellow than brown. But she’s not white. And we are a unit, the two of us, outsiders sharing three letters of our four-letter last names. Three quarters. Seventy-five percent. Almost interchangeable. The teacher is a leathery brown, chocolate. That is, if we’re talking about colours. Look at us bobbing in the white ocean. The teacher shares two letters with us. Vowels. Brown vowels for brown bodies. O. O. O. Ooo. We shape our lips into matching sounds and almost drown….” [read the full story, “But Where Are You Really From?”, at The Ethnic Aisle]

Congratulations to Sonja Boon of Newfoundland, whose moving and thought-provoking essay, exploring the chasm between how we are seen and named and how we define ourselves, was published recently in The Ethnic Aisle‘s Canada Issue. She’s been busy with her writing: just this week she launched her book Telling the Flesh. More on that in her bio at the end of the post. Here, she discusses the genesis of her Ethnic Aisle story and how it, and her thinking about it, evolved:

 

Sonja Boon

Sonja Boon

I wrote this piece in December 2013. I’d just finished my first creative writing course — a short story course. I discovered early on that I was terrible at short stories, but all the writing exercises were fantastic. Shortly before the end of the class, I broke through. What exactly happened, I’m still not sure, but there was a rawness and openness — a release of some sort – in my writing that hadn’t been there for the other eight weeks of the course. The final short story was still pretty bad, but all sorts of stuff started percolating, brewing, festering, ripening in the background.

The heart of this short memoir came out almost fully formed, a big blurp. It was rough, yes. And it had too much in it. It lacked focus. But the core was true, and it was at a completely different level from my attempts at short story. I decided to massage it to submit to the CBC Canada Writes Creative Non-Fiction competition. I felt like a good goal to work toward: a clear word count, a deadline, and a genre. I revised. I edited. I checked and rechecked the word count. I gritted my teeth. And then I submitted it. It was the first piece of non-scholarly writing that I’d submitted for external consideration since my cringe-inducing, fraught teenage poetry.

It wasn’t until I shared this story — then still unpublished — with a class of English majors at the university where I work that I really realized what it was about. It took their words, and their thinking, to make the meaning clear.

The original title was “Brown Girl.” It’s a theme that’s been kicking around inside me for decades, because that’s who I was: the brown girl. As a brown girl I was never definable, open to definition. People were always curious what my background was, but they never got it right. And so I became a chameleon, adept at roaming in a category that is so broad — brown — as to be virtually meaningless. For others, I have been Vietnamese, East Indian, Maltese, Chinese, Aboriginal, or just even plain “exotic.” I have been asked for my treaty number. I have been asked for my heritage so that an employer could apply for special minority group funding. I have been confronted with paperwork that asked me to define my racial heritage and found that a challenge to complete.

Identity is a difficult thing when you’re in between spaces, and as I looked back at the piece after sharing it with English majors, I realized that if I had to “define” myself, it would be in that ambiguous space between all the names that others have tried out on me.

The challenge, in this piece, was to decide which episodes to include and which to leave behind. That, I suppose, is the art of memoir itself: figuring out what matters and what doesn’t; figuring out the best way to fit all the pieces together; figuring out which pieces might actually belong to another puzzle entirely, no matter how neatly they seem to fit at the outset.

I heard back from the CBC Creative Non-Fiction Contest in June 2014. A letter in the mail: “It gives me great pleasure to inform you that your short story ‘Brown Girl’ is one of the 35 works long-listed for this year’s CBC Creative Non-Fiction Prize.”

I still get shivers when I look at that letter. I still remember the shock, the awe, the wonder, the disbelief. I still remember the warmth rising inside me, spilling out of me, and all of the exclamation marks dancing around inside. I had never, in a million years, expected this.

It was a sign. And so I registered for Allyson’s Memories into Story I, and then, because I got completely hooked on the genre and on Allyson’s teaching style, I registered for Memories into Story II. It was even better. Now, to my surprise, I find myself working towards completing the whole Certificate in Creative Writing. I’m still writing. I’m still exploring. I’m still learning.

In the Summer of 2015, I submitted “Brown Girl” to The Ethnic Aisle’s  Canada issue call. They accepted it! A bit more revision. A bit more editing. And it became “But Where Are You Really From?”

 

SONJA BOON is an associate professor in the Department of Gender Studies, Memorial University. She has research interests in life writing and autoethnography, feminist theory, and embodiment. Her new book, Telling the Flesh: Life Writing, Citizenship, and the Body in the Letters to Samuel Auguste Tissotappeared in September 2015. In it, she looks at a collection of eighteenth-century letters to explore the stories that we tell about our bodies, and the stories that our bodies tell about us, and how all of those stories might be related to broader social and political concerns. Her short memoir “Accounting for Genealogy,” written and revised (over fourteen drafts!) during Memories into Story II in the Winter of 2015, was shortlisted for Room magazine’s Creative Non-Fiction Contest in Spring 2015. She has just started a new research blog at saltwaterstories.net. In a previous life, Sonja was a professional early musician.

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Surviving with Grace: Judy Bullis reflects on writing & publishing a personal essay

“I rise with the sun. Being late is not an option. I have come into my farming life too late to change old habits; rising early remains a challenge.

The dogs’ tails bang against the wall enthusiastically, unconditionally welcoming me into their morning. A momentary distraction.

Today is my daughter’s first trip to the chemotherapy clinic, and I am her chauffeur; okay, bodyguard. Intravenous immunoglobulin, a miraculous concoction of antibodies from donor plasma, will be delivered into her veins….” [read the full Facts & Arguments essay on the Globe and Mail website]

 

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Wednesday, October 14th, 2015