Zakiya Kassam (@zakkasam on Twitter) is a 22-year-old graduate of the Ryerson University Journalism Program. Recently, she interviewed me for an article she was writing on new models of Journalism like Beststory.ca and we thought we’d share the Q&A here!
Z: Tell me about your own personal story with beststory.ca. How did you hear about it? How did you become a writer for it?
D: Warren Perley sent me an email a couple of years ago after he’d come across some of my work. I was intrigued by the concept, impressed by his credentials, and we stayed in touch. Because I’m primarily a book writer, and generally can’t afford to write articles until I have a contract in hand, it was some time before I had a piece to submit.
Z: What is your experience working with Warren Perley, the founder?
D: My experience has been very positive working with Warren. He’s an excellent editor and was quite patient working with someone who’s been trained as a historian and creative writer but not as a journalist. I did a significant rewrite to incorporate his suggestions, and it strengthened the piece and my skills overall.
Z: Have you experienced any setbacks or limitations when writing for the site?
D: I’ve heard from some people that they find the idea of paying for articles on a one-off basis frustrating, and are lamenting that a lot of the big (and not-so-big) dailies are going this route. My writer colleagues also question the wisdom of writing “on spec”: doing all that work without the guarantee of revenue. It has certainly been a calculated risk on my part, but I see it as being one more tool in my “bookonomics” kit.
Also, I love that the site works great on tablets, phones, and “phablets,” like the Galaxy Note, but I would like for readers to be able to download copies of the articles they’ve purchased onto their computers and other devices. At the moment, they can only read them when they have an internet connection. This is one area where Warren and I have different opinions: I don’t believe in digital locks. While copyright protection and the fair compensation for content creators is very important to me, I think digital locks end up frustrating the consumer/reader more than anything, and if a pirate really wants something, he or she can easily circumvent them.
Z: What is your readership for the site like?
D: Very small at the moment. I don’t have any demographic breakdowns, but that would be interesting to know.
Z: How long have you been writing for the site?
D: I submitted my first (and so far my only) piece in June 2012. Now I’m back to work on other columns, articles, and a narrative history book called Polar Winds: A Century of Flying the North.
Z: Why did you choose to be a writer for beststory.ca?
D: I thought the concept was neat and liked that Warren was trying to create a space for writers to do long-form journalism with lots of great photos. I had it in the back of my mind that I’d like to write for beststory.ca someday, and so when I found myself with a homeless article, I queried Warren. I’m not the most adventurous person technologically, but I think it’s smart to experiment with different means of delivering content.
Z: Given the current state of journalism, do you think that a site like beststory.ca can survive in the long-run? Why/Why not?
D: Journalism, book publishing – it’s all in a state of flux right now and I think having a multitude of connection points with readers is important. I don’t know what the long-term viability of beststory.ca is, but I don’t think anyone really knows the long-term viability of anything at the moment: newspapers, book publishers, agents. Are we headed to a day when all writing will be self-published, crowd-funded, and open-source done by so-called citizen journalists? Who knows!
Last year, fellow Edmonton writer Dawn Dumont was nominated for the Alberta’s Readers Choice Award. Her book, Nobody Cries at Bingo makes fun of her misadventures during her younger years on the Okanese First Nations reserve in Saskatchewan. For a province that has 31 bingo halls, locals can’t seem to get enough of the 75-ball bingo that is popular in Fantasyland Bingo, Cheekybingo.com, and Lucky Horseshoe. Even churches in Saskatchewan use the game for charity fundraisers!
In her book, Dawn admits the game was a staple in their family gatherings. She was once quoted as saying: “Bingo was an understood rule in our family.”
Of course, the book goes far beyond bingo: Dawn apparently recounts, with much mirth, her various experiences as a typical Canadian teen who faced weight issues, bickered with siblings, and had boy problems. .
Dawn’s ability to make fun of herself apparently stems from years of being a stand-up comedian. She’s performed in Toronto and New York comedy spots like Laugh Resort, Yuk Yuk’s, Improv, New York Comedy Club, and Comic Strip. She now authors plays and currently writes for radio and television. She is also a story editor for the satirical cartoon series “By the Rapids.”
Some of the reviews from Goodreads have piqued my interest as well: “Gives us a new horizon against which to measure our experiences – inviting us into life on the reservation,” and “she paints a picture of rez life with great affection and understanding and humor.”
How do you write a lively and fascinating family memoir? How do you draw and satisfy readers from in and outside the family? What particular issues arise when writing family stories?
Both the instructors of this workshop, Caterina Edwards and Jean Crozier, faced these questions and more in producing their own families’ stories. They came to understand the complexities of family story-telling: the benefits and anxieties, the need for accuracy and the need to handle certain materials with great sensitivity.
Through discussion and examples, this workshop will assist students in identifying the unique characteristics of their own families. The instructors will assist students in weaving family perspectives and personalities - and their accompanying foibles, adventures, and challenges – into an intriguing, readable narrative. Literary techniques such as voice, dialogue, evocation of time and place, as well as truth and viewpoint, will be considered as students practice bringing family members
to life right on the page.
Students will write short pieces in class with prompts from the instructors; class members will read their work and share their situations, challenges, and successes in a supportive environment.
Our students have told us that:
- “The two instructors complemented each other so well; they truly enhanced the program with their individual and shared expertise.”
- “I leave the course inspired and much further along in my project.?”
Maximum class size: 10 students
Date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 and Thursday, August 15, 2013
Time: 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Price: Early bird registration (registration and payment received by July
20, 2013) just
$225; regular price of $250 payable after August 1, 2013.
THE WAR OF 1812: The politics, the battles and the people
Facilitated by Norman Leach
Want to learn more about the War of 1812? Want to know why General Sir Isaac Brock, Laura Secord and Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon were important to all Canadians? Want to know who really burned down the White House?
Learn about the people, battles, tactics and weapons through video, seminars, tours, and group discussions.
The Military Museums Foundation Presents :
WAR OF 1812: The politics, the battles, and the people
WEDNESDAYS: 27 February, 6 March, 13 March, and 20 March 2013
A four week course by
The main news this year was the arrival of Andre Barrett Pagnutti on April 17. We named him for my paternal grandfather, André Chenail, and my maternal grandmother, Shirley Barrett, and tried to encompass his French-Canadian, British, and Italian heritage. We’re also embracing his aviation connections as you can see in this photo!
From the beginning we knew he wasn’t going to be a mellow baby. Luckily Home Depot carries inexpensive industrial-strength ear muffs, and nature endowed him with an adorable giggle and a heart-melting smile.
He put these to good use to charm family and friends on “Baby Tour 2012.” The Eastern Leg took us to Ottawa, Gatineau, and Belleville in June, where we introduced Andre to his grandparents, great-grandparents, and about 100 other loved ones. Then in August we went to Victoria to visit another part of the clan and attend the wedding of our dear friends. Of course Doug took this opportunity to sneak in a bit of scuba diving as well.
All this excitement and upheaval has meant work’s been going a bit slower than usual. I stepped down as president of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society and am now “just” on the board of directors. My unofficial portfolios include managing the social media accounts, and helping with promotion and fundraising. I’ve managed to write and publish a few pieces in addition to working on “the book” and hosted a lively panel at LitFest that included Noah Richler, Alexis Kienlen, and Dana DiTomaso. I was also named to Avenue magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 list for Edmonton, which was really neat!
2013 looks like it will be a fun and busy year for all of us: Andre’s now in childcare three days per week, which he seems to love; Doug’s moving into a new phase of his work with Schlumberger as an engineer that could lead to some travel opportunities; and I have a few essays, articles and poems in the pipeline for publication. My next book, Polar Winds: A Century of Flying Canada’s North, is also slotted to be released by Frontenac House late in the year.
Hope this note finds you well and I wish you all the best this holiday season!
And now the making of that photo…
Getting the antlers on the dog and getting him in position was pretty easy. He takes direction well, especially when there are treats involved.
Wrestling the cat into the Santa suit was a different story. And getting him into the “sleigh” was nearly impossible…the dog is getting anxious now!
This photo almost could have worked, except it’s blurry, and the “reindeer” is looking pretty emotionally battered by “santa.”
Finally the photographer comes to the rescue, holding the cat “just so” so we’ll be able to digitally insert him into a photo with the dog. And voila! A Christmas miracle shot after 15 minutes of painting an old drawer, an accidental discovery of a pet santa suit at Homesense, and a bag of pet treats! (Oh yeah, and Photoshop)
“The shoe lady: a modern cobbler with vintage tools,” Toronto Star (May 6, 2010)
Ryersonian.ca has a short video featuring her and her work. Click here to watch.
Katie also has a blog for here: http://solesurvivorcobbler.blogspot.com/.
There are so many tablets on the market that it can be difficult trying to decide which one to buy. Here, guest blogger and tech-toy junky Doug Pagnutti gives his take on which pass the test for the average consumer:
My favourite one so far is the Asus 10″ Transformer. The tablet itself is pretty much like all the other Android honeycomb tablets but the keyboard that comes with it is genius. Not only does it provide a few USB ports and an SD Card reader (perfect for getting pictures from cameras) but it has a built-in battery so you can double the battery life on the road. Basically you get a netbook where the screen detaches and becomes a tablet.
All the other tablets at the moment seem pretty uninspiring. The iPad and iPad2 are probably the best for ease-of-use but the fact you can’t view flash sites, as well as the proprietary ports make it less useful. The slew of android tablets are all pretty much the same although prices seem to be going down quickly. Definitely get one that runs honeycomb (3.X) because Android 2.X doesn’t really work for tablets. The only other 10″ of note is the HP TouchPad that just came out. Apparently the software is great (it’s really made by Palm, which HP bought) but the hardware is already out of date (HP should only make printers).
Personally I’m holding out for a good 7″ tablet with usb ports and there’s a good chance the Acer A100 will fit the bill. Amazon is planning to come out with a bunch of tablets this year too but it’s hard to guess what they’ll be like. The one I was really hoping for was the Asus Memo but they just announced it would be “indefinitely delayed”.
I should also say that if you’re looking for something to read e-books, you’re much better off buying an e-reader. The screens don’t hurt your eyes, they’re much much lighter (easier to hold for extended periods) and the batteries last months instead of hours.
This past Sunday, September 6, 2009, my wonderful mother-in-law, Dawn Kenny, passed away. Last November this upbeat, energetic woman was diagnosed with an exceedingly rare form of cancer, cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) at the age of 48. There has been no shortage of exclamations from friends and family: “It’s so unfair!” “How can it be?!” But rule #1 on the playground is life’s not fair.
KENNY-PAGNUTTI, Dawn Adele (nee Atkins) (July 10, 1960 – September 6, 2009) Dawn Adele Kenny (nee Atkins) did not live with moderation. She loved fully, laughed loudly, traveled extensively, and was happiest when surrounded by friends, family, good food and wine. Dawn was also an accomplished shopper – whether at snappy boutiques or garage sales – and collected everything from nutcrackers to tea pots to shoes. So much of what she bought or made (she painted, knit, crocheted and refinished furniture) went to loved ones, but she gave most generously of her time and enthusiasm, which she shared with many as a volunteer at local schools, Vintage Wings of Canada, and other places.
For those of you who don’t know, my mother is a super-hero: she is an incredibly good researcher and advocate who can clearly and concisely get her point across on paper and in a meeting. Since I was a child, she has used her gift to right wrongs and keep people (like me) safe from corporate sloppiness, university bureaucracies, and plain old meanies.
I have been her apprentice all these years and – like a good grasshopper – have gone out in search of additional training. There was the summer I worked at McGill in the Donor Research programme, basically receiving training in sniffing out info on alumni. Then there was my work as a facilitator at the Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth at the University of British Columbia that taught me how to move difficult discussions along, listen to people without rolling my eyes, and ask probing questions to get at the root of the matter. (the second skill is probably the most useful one, btw!)
Well, the Metcalfe genes and training kicked into overdrive yesterday! Someone wrote a vicious (and hugely overblown) email about the Rock Springs Humane Society and had been circulating it for over a week before a caring supporter sent it to the director to give her a head’s up. Basically this alarmist email was trying to raise a mob to descend on our board meeting yesterday. We found out about the email the day before and by yesterday morning the director (my good friend) forwarded it to me. It was on.
Within a few minutes, I had compiled a table of all the people who had forwarded and received the email (at least in the ‘email tree’ that had ended up with us). You see, the people had not thought to use the useful BCC function on their email accounts, and so all their names were in plain sight. Soon I had added their addresses and phone numbers, some of their ages, and some additional details – like place of work – to my table. It’s amazing what you can find out on the internet if you know where to look…
Then I set about responding to the email piece by piece. It turned into a three-page rebuttal. If all else fails, kill ‘em with a logical, reasoned response. It’s a good thing I did, too, since the Rock Springs mayor, Tim Kaumo, had gotten wind of these accusations and came to the meeting yesterday. It was with more than a modicum of satisfaction that I gathered my document up and handed it to him.
I then briefly summarized the contents of my rebuttal to the board members and the dozen or so concerned citizens who had been roused by this email (or who had written it in the first place – that is still unclear!). While they did not show up bearing pitch forks, if we had been blindsided by this whole affair, things could have gotten very ugly.
In the end, though, while there were some heated discussions, I think we managed to squelch what could have been a huge blow-up. I, for one, walked away from the meeting feeling like some valid concerns had been raised, people were willing to be part of the solution (we even had a few people sign up to be volunteers!), and that most people present had conducted themselves in a reasonable manner. In addition, the mayor seems like a very approachable and animal-friendly sort of man, and is willing to work with us in the future for possible funding, etc.
It’s amazing what having a super-hero mom can teach you!