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Deathmatch Writer Braydon Beaulieu Tells ALL!

deathmatch2016nubbannerThis interview was originally published in 2011. Braydon is now a doctoral candidate in creative writing and a community manager for Feminist War Cult. Submissions for the Indie Writers Deathmatch are open until December 21st. Visit Deathmactch.ca for more info.

The Windsor-based English grad student Braydon Beaulieu won entry to last year’s tournament with his Kafkaesque submission “Field Guild to Kleptoparasitism” only to be felled by a true Deathmatch tragedy in the semi-finals. Beaulieu, who at that point held a steady lead, was suddenly left in the dust when a StarCraft blogger gave orders to his 5,000 followers to rain carnage on the comment board and take away his imminent win. But Beaulieu is not so easily beaten. Hell, blood stains are no match for a bathtub of bleach! Since taking part in the Deathmach, he’s found supporters and readers who have helped his writing thrive.

What do you get out of being a Deathmatch contestant?choo-choo

Exposure. Believe it or not, some pretty heavy-hitting authors were reading those stories when they were online. My story went viral on Twitter and in various forums. Several thousand people voted each round. Even professional StarCraft II players know my name now. It also got me a few dates. No, I’m not lying.

Is there anything from the comment board that still resonates with you?

Rosemary Nixon’s crazy-deep analysis of “Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism.” Rosemary is one of my favourite fiction authors, and her book of interconnected short stories The Cock’s Egg remains a very influential book for me. Her posts were long and very thoughtful, and provided insight into my writing that I had never before considered. Since the Deathmatch, Rosemary and I have become very close friends and I’m really grateful for – and flattered by – her supportive interpretation of my story.

What brought you to submit to a tournament that pins up stories like targets at a gun range?

As laid-back as I am, I love competition. I love walking that fine line between being sportsmanlike and beating your opponent into the dust. Obviously, I didn’t win last year’s Deathmatch in terms of votes, but I definitely won in terms of exposure, publication, and learning to remain gentlemanly in the face of some pretty heavy adversity. I think we all won in that respect. You can’t ask for much more than that as an up-and-coming writer.

Zine Review: Three Bloody Words

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Three Bloody Words
Stephanie Bolster, 23 pgs, above/ground press, abovegroundpress.blogspot.ca, $5

This is an anniversary publication, a reissue twenty years after the original release, celebrating Stephanie Bolster’s chapbook Three Bloody Words—a sequence of poems and short paragraphs aiming to rewrite well-known fairytales from the perspective of the princess. In an new afterword, Bolster describes her feminist project and her desire “to reclaim women’s narratives … I was, simply and sincerely, claiming identity as a writer. In giving these women a voice, I was giving myself one.”

Modeled as retellings of fairytales, these pieces are thematically linked by their consistent exposure of the latent violence inherent to so-called children’s stories—“To think they read these stories to children” being one of the poem’s titles. While the fairytales are never named, the narratives are presumably so familiar to most readers that select elements are enough to clue in reader that, for example, a man lurking in the forest, threatening a girl dressed in red, is most probably based on Little Red Riding Hood. Similarly, a girl with “snow-white skin/ blood-red cheeks, hair as black as ebony” is sufficient to position the under-aged, coerced and subsequently vengeful child bride as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

What sets Bolster’s retellings apart from similar work by, for instance, Anne Sexton, is her insistence on the contemporaneous nature of the narratives. When “this guy in a suit comes & asks what’s it like being in fairytales he’s doing his thesis,” it becomes clear that the entitled, patriarchal, often aggressive and nonconsensual archetype of the Disney prince has just changed his guise for modern times; “it was the same old story.” The legendary “happily ever after” postures as the continuity of fairytale violence and inequality into the present day. (Klara du Plessis)

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Seven Stories Press added to the Deathmatch Prize Pack

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The Deathmatch prize pack is now wrapped up with the inclusion of Veronica Lui from Seven Stories Press. Broken Pencil is honoured to have Veronica on board with experienced knowledge of the publication world, but also of DIY publishing and community building. Seven Stories is fearless press, both with its fiction and political non-fiction.

les_first_ride_2Veronica Lui has been an editor at Seven Stories Press since 2006 and was formerly a publisher at Fractious Press. In 2011, she founded the community bookstore Word Up, a membership-based literary collective and art space. She was also active in the Seven Stories Institute which was designed to circulate books in underserved populations.

sevenstoriespresslogoNew York based Seven Stories publishes works of the human imagination—sometimes in the form of fiction and literature, sometimes in the form of political nonfiction and sometimes in a hybrid form that has elements of both. Seven Stories earns its reputation for bringing books that might otherwise have been marginalized thunderously into the mainstream conversation.

For more Deathmatch info Click Here

Hal’s Pick: The Palace of Champions

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The Palace of Champions, by Valium (Conundrum Press)

Just in time for the disaffected ex-punk rocker on your list comes this homage to, and collection of the work of, the legendary long-standing underground Montreal comic artist Valium. The work in this volume is a where’s Waldo? spew of intricate drawings in which we are challenged to find the anuses, references to 9/11 conspiracy theory, empty beer bottles and Quebecois swear-words. Like all of Valium’s long-standing work in zines, underground anthologies and even painting from the 80s on up to the present day, the style is instantly recognizable. But the larger format and full colour gloss are new, and give Valium’s vintage NSFW hallucinations turned upside and inside out a whole new urgency. Valium is the real deal and his book is a portal into a lost world of anarchist Montrealers living on the mental and material edge in every possible way. That time is over, tabernac, but at least we still have the sole remaining survivor – witness the shame, people, and keep taking your Valium.

 

Book Review: The Conjoined

ECW17 The Conjoined R2.inddThe Conjoined
Jen Sookfong Lee, 264 pgs, ECW Press, ecwpress.com, $18.95.

In Jen Sookfong Lee’s The Conjoined, the death of Jessica Campbell’s mother Donna leads to the discovery of two dead girls at the bottom of a basement freezer. The girls, Jaime and Casey Cheng, were once troubled foster children of Donna’s in the late eighties. They mysteriously vanished, leading all to believe that they’d just runaway, allowing their deaths to go overlooked and forgotten for nearly thirty years. While the premise sounds like a crime story or a murder mystery, Lee’s novel is neither. The Conjoined is, in actuality, a story of forgotten lives and the uncaring reality of a social system.

Upon discovering the Cheng sisters’ bodies, Jessica begins investigating their lives, as well as Donna’s, through agency files and her own memories. Hoping to find a clue as to how they ended up in her mother’s freezer, Jessica instead, faces the weak illusion of a functioning, supportive society. In actuality, Casey and Jaime fell between the cracks, and their lives got lost in a sea of thousands just like them. Through Donna, Sookfong Lee is careful not to demonize the system, rather she portrays it as something that is just as overworked, tired, and broken as the people it’s meant to help.


The greatest strength of Sookfong Lee’s novel is the absolute humanization of her characters, particularly when we get into the heads of Donna’s mother Beth, and Casey and Jaime’s mother Ginny. On the surface they are neglectful, cold, and unfit for parenting. In reality, their lives reveal the heart-breaking trials of motherhood – women desperately trying to keep it all together for the love of their children, then ultimately failing in the eyes of unforgiving social and legal institutions. Even Wayne, who on the surface appears to be a predator, is just as stupid and afflcited as any other human in the novel.

The Conjoined is a fantastic read that offers little in the way of a conclusion. The lack of a satisfying close drives home how incomplete the lives of Casey and Jaime remain, and reminds us that sometimes things end without explanation. (Rayna Livingstone-Lang)

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