Hello dear readers, writers and those who are both,

Oscar Invites You to a Conversation

I began writing Oscar of Between: A Memoir of Identity and Ideas while in London in 2007. In late 2012, I created Oscar’s Salon — a new interactive publishing form I find provocative, even magical. Every month, I invite a guest writer or artist to dialogue with or bounce off of my excerpt. You, the readers, have also become a vital part of this exchange through your online comments.

This March, Oscar the book was published by Caitlin Press’s new imprint, Dagger Editions. It’s an elating, unique experience to have both Oscars running alongside of one another!

I am particularly eager to hear from those of you who have read both Oscars. How is your experience of each similar? Different?

I am always intrigued to read your thoughts! One reason I created the salon was that I missed giving frequent readings from my work-in-progress (there used to be more reading venues). When I give a reading, I directly experience the audiences’ and my own reactions. I can viscerally tell where the writing is (and isn’t) flying. The salon has created an accessible simulation of that environment. Now that I’m giving lots of readings, I realize that the salon has urged me to trust my readers even more.

We—myself along with the guest writers and artists—are all ears! Tell us about your experiences of, and thoughts about, “the Oscars” in the comment box that follows the Featured Reader.

-Betsy ala Oscar

Buy Oscar of Between here and I’ll sign the copy with a personal message.

Next excerpt(s):

  • Tuesday June 14th 2016 with Guest Writer Alisa Gordaneer and Featured Reader Laurel Sproule
  • Tuesday July 12th 2016 with Guest Writer Ray Hsu and Featured Reader Jan Redford
  • Tuesday September 13th 2016 with Guest Artist/Writer Annie Ross and Featured Reader Elee Kraljii Gardiner
  • Tuesday October 11th 2016 with Guest Writer M. NourbeSe Philip and Featured Reader TBA

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Oscar, Part 33 A Excerpt with Guest Writer a rawlings

“Hey. Watch out! This is the latest scam! Don’t help him! It was on the news last night!”
Oscar. Squats to pick up coins and tokens, glances up at him as he stops to watch. Quick assessment. He decides. Crouches down and helps as people stream by on either side but continues on to his girlfriend:
“If you put your bag down to help them, they grab it and take off!”

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Oscar, Part 32 C Excerpt with Guest Writer Cynthia Flood

Czeslaw Milosz said a writer in the family is the end of family.
Jamaica Kincaid said she writes about her family as if they were dead.
What do author and family have in common?
A book can bring us to our knees.
It has taken Oscar almost forty years to acknowledge in writing the other author in the family.
Thomas Heggen.

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Oscar, Part 32 B Excerpt with Guest Writer Rahat Kurd

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted and was stationed on a Navy supply ship for fourteen months. Utterly bored, he repeatedly requested a transfer to a destroyer but his commander repeatedly denied his request. To counter numbing monotony, he began writing vignettes about the small dramas being played out on ship.

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Oscar, Part 32 Excerpt with Guest Artist Ellen Moffat

Two large hives. Oscar and bees gingerly becoming acquainted. When they buzz around her (don’t bat them away!) she hums the note they make and this seems to ease their uncertainty. She watches their typical fourteen-hour workday: constant stream of ninety-degree-angle ascent and descent to and from control-tower hives.

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Oscar, Part 31B Excerpt with Guest Writer Miranda Pearson

October 2013. Oscar in Vancouver at the reception before the Virginia Woolf Conference banquet. Oscar nervous “in the extreme” (Orlando). As Oscar walks into the hotel convention lobby, she spots Miranda and Sharon (who’s also reading) huddled together by Helen, the conference chair. Helen offers to buy them a drink. Oscar confesses she’s socially inept in these situations, to which Miranda and Sharon confess similar feelings.

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Oscar, Part 31A Excerpt with Guest Writer Suzette Mayr

Vancouver. Oscar invited to read at the 23rd Annual Virginia Woolf Conference banquet – between the entree and dessert.
Of all her betweennesses, this is a new challenge for Oscar.
She considers. A palate cleanser? Something refreshing, humorous (the typical fare), but this is not Oscar’s forte.
Oscar flummoxed. Every idea of what to read nosedives like an inadequately made paper airplane.
Then Orlando taps her on the shoulder.
There’s the fit: Orlando and Oscar– food, drink, lively exchange of ideas.

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Oscar, Part 30 Excerpt with Guest Artist Allyson Clay

On Vancouver streets, panhandlers most often are met with suspicion, anger or averted eyes (“you don’t exist”).

Street people streetwise living close to the ground see through who we are as we rush by. Panhandlers’ eyes and Oscar’s often meet; sometimes they speak and, not infrequently, Oscar gives some change (change—what is needed here).

No “Milord! Milady! Milady! Milord!” Street people spot-on about gender for they cannot afford even the most unintentional insult.

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Oscar, Part 29 Excerpt with Guest Writer Erín Moure

Over the course of her life, all the unacknowledged, unsaid undercurrents about her betweenness denied outright but mostly camouflaged. To have it spontaneously shouted at her and to shout back was refreshing. Yet, she also realizes she is safe, she is not a young Black man who could have been as easily shot.

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Oscar, Part 28 Excerpt with Guest Writer Cathy Ostlere

Big Data collection corporations on average have 18,000 pieces of information culled from every aspect of our online activities to sell to other corporate marketing departments. Big Data’s cannibalizing of our habits and preferences is becoming the world’s most valuable and profitable resource.

Big Data refuses to disclose its information on us, to us. Harmful misinformation is almost impossible to correct.

For Big Data (echo of Big Daddy), anonymity on our computers, our handheld devices is a ruse.

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Oscar, Part 27 Excerpt with Guest Writer Phil Hall

It happens.

Happens after twenty years of writing; twenty years of applying; twenty years of “Unfortunately(s) …”

It happens on a sunny Montreal day as the magic realism of the storm’s creations begins to melt. On this 20th of March, 2013, day: the spring equinox. This day when the length between sunrise and sunset/sunset and sunrise is exactly the same. It happens on this one day of perfect betweenness. Oscar receives the call.

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Oscar, Part 26B Excerpt with Guest Writer Arleen Paré

Librairie Le Port de tête on Mont-Royal: Carla Harryman reading from her new book Adorno’s Noise, Gail Scott presiding. When Carla reads from final section, “Headless Heads,” Oscar reverberates, shifts in folding chair, spreads her knees apart to rest her forearms on tops of her thighs and looks down at the old pine floor. Carla’s piece riffing off everything from Max Ernst’s La femmes 100 têtes! to Blake’s “The Ghost of a Flea” to Richter’s painting “Betty” (his daughter the model for adult head on butcher’s paper).

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Oscar, Part 26A Excerpt with Guest Writer Cathleen With

The paper is coarse and browned with time. She reads the first page, a Short Biography. The sentence “Recurring bouts of madness plagued both her childhood and married life and in April 1941 Virginia Woolf took her life” startles Oscar with its confident use of the term “madness.”

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Oscar, Part 25 Excerpt with Guest Writer Stephen Collis

2003. Shock. Press Gang (a major feminist publisher) bankrupt. Rita and Oscar organize the Press Gang Authors Benefit Reading.

The Western Front is packed.

Below, the sidewalk is filled with those who couldn’t get in but refuse to leave. After each set, the authors go down and give their readings again.

During the intermission, several younger feminist writers seek Oscar out and ask, “This is amazing! Why doesn’t this happen more often?”

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Oscar, Part 22 Excerpt with Guest Writer Anne Stone

It was imminent. How imminent Oscar couldn’t tell. What to do? Drive around the island yelling out the window: “Watch out! A woman is going to be murdered”?

No one would take her seriously. Oscar could scarcely take herself seriously. It persisted: it was going to happen. There was nothing she could do to prevent it.

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Oscar, Part 20B Excerpt with Guest Writer Larissa Lai

Sharon had sought out Oscar as an editorial consultant for her increasingly unconventional scholarly writing not long before she was diagnosed. Two of Sharon’s central concerns were traumatic ignorance and memorialization of violent deaths.

Oscar, preparing for the conference, fails (once again) to turn down the volume before the CBC’s top story begins: Seventy-two people have been shot while attending the new Batman movie…

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Oscar, Part 20A Excerpt with Guest Writer Joanne Arnott

Recently back from Berlin, Oscar commenting to Rahat that strategies of camouflage promote forgetting. And although she had no direct connection to WWII, it seems to be in Oscar’s DNA, and she’d wanted to go to Berlin for years; needed to draw closer to its reality.

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Oscar, Part 18C Excerpt with Guest Writer Denise Chong

It doesn’t end there. It never ends there.

Since Oscar returned home, the dismemberment murder in Montreal. Videoed and posted on the Internet. Reported to the police. The police dismissed it as fake.

We don’t want to believe it. Seldom believe it.

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