We were planning on only running our weekly Writer Features until we closed submissions for Issue 14 (they closed on April 5), but we have made liars of ourselves. Truth be told, we had too many stories and poems from our back catalogue (and some new ones, too) that we wanted to share with you again.

This week's story is falling under the "new" category. We published "Tobaco Babies" by Daniel Perry in Issue 11 (and you can read it here) and now we're following up with an exclusive-to-this-site story by Daniel, called "99 Per Cent", along with a little chat.

Hey Daniel! Would you please introduce yourself to our readers?

My short story, "Tabaco Babies" (sic), appeared in echolocation 11, and is part of a collection of 16 interlinked stories I completed in 2013, titled Nobody Looks That Young Here and currently seeking a publisher. The book is set in Southwestern Ontario small towns a lot like the ones I grew up in before I left for Western University, and after that, the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, where I obtained an MA in 2007. I was accepted to the Ph. D. program, but I didn't go through with it – I finally wrote something about that, recently – and in 2009, I began writing fiction and enrolled in Richard Scarsbrook's Creative Writing courses at George Brown College. Since then, my fiction has been included in more than 25 print and online magazines and anthologies, including Exile Literary Quarterly, The Dalhousie Review, Little Fiction and Maple Tree Literary Supplement. I live in Koreatown ("South" Korea: Bloor & Clinton, not North... uh, York), and I'm also a volunteer blogger for the Brockton Writers Series.

 Could you tell us a bit about the process of composing this new piece, "99 Per Cent"?

This particular story is very close to a factual truth, based on something I saw that brought to mind the American Motorcycle Association's statement decades ago that "99 per cent" of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens. (It’s what gave rise to the "1%" patch on outlaw gangs' vests.)

Process-wise, writing itself lost a lot of mystical qualities for me a long time ago; I have a background in journalism. For this piece, the process was linear and maybe a little boring: something happened, I wrote it down, and then I fudged a few details, edited, workshopped, edited again… it might be more interesting to talk about the piece’s motivation.

When re-examining it, I’m reminded of a chapter by Georg Simmel I read in undergrad, in which he says that in rural living, though the geographic distance between people is larger, the psychic distance is quite small – and that in cities, the reverse is true.

Where I grew up, everyone knew everyone, often by the make and model of their vehicle, blowing by on the county road. There were secrets aplenty, but there was very little mystery. By contrast, urban life is full of mystery. Many of us in Toronto – in apartment and condo buildings, particularly – don't know the first thing about our neighbours, nor do we want to. This image of full-patch bikers disappearing into Christie Pits contained a mystery that stuck with me, as did the child on his bicycle possibly aspiring to be like them... whatever they in fact were like.

 Can you tell us about what you’re working on currently? Where will we see you next?

"99 Per Cent" is part of Hamburger, a second, smaller group of stories I recently submitted to a Canadian publisher as part of a special program for writers as-yet unpublished in book form. Here's hoping. For now, you can read two more stories from Hamburger that were just published in January: “Rocky Steps,” in The Prague Revue, and "The Locked Out" in BareBack Magazine. A third, "Vaporetto," about a cranky Creative Writing teacher's ill-fated trip to Venice, will be in the next issue of Riddle Fence, and “Five Stages of Sorry” – another story that features bikers, but from my Souwesto book this time – is forthcoming in The Loose Canon.

The next project I’m starting – restarting – looks like it’s going to be a novella.

99 Per Cent

            The Electra Glide stops first, all black with batwing and hard bags. The portly rider in black leather steps off and looks into Christie Pits, removing his helmet to reveal a stars-and-stripes bandana. His face is sun-burned pink with a long thick white goatee. He squints in the morning sun then turns his back to me. The gold-on-black bottom rocker reads “CANADA” but I can’t make out the top one or what’s in the centre of the patch, looking up only occasionally from the novel I’m reading at a picnic table under a tree. I wouldn’t want to stare – a Hells puppet club out east uses a similar colour scheme. What or who is he waiting for? Of course I think drug deal. They happen all the time on the park lip, but the characters are usually baggy-clothed and young – very young – with cock-eyed baseball hats and neck tattoos.

It’s a Sunday. This is heavy for a Sunday.

The biker crosses Christie Street’s treed island and brick surface. He enters the Tim Hortons and I eye his ride a while. There’s something less tough about a motorcycle with a trunk, but where else would he carry what he came to sell? A backpack would hide his colours – the colours he’d best be flying on club business – but then again, business seems to be the paper-wrapped breakfast sandwich he’s stuffing through his facial hair as he returns to the park.

He turns his head and so do I when a rumble comes down Bloor and a leaner Softail turns off urgently. Its obese rider wears a neutral expression under thin mustache, blue shades and orange half-helmet; the skid lid matches the paint flames on his fuel tank and fenders. He’s obviously late, guiding the bike to a reckless stop, and with his back to me he climbs off and hangs his helmet on his handlebars, revealing a bald spot on the back of his skull. He pulls his leather vest over his blue T-shirt and the men set off on foot, past tall trees toward the houses north of here to do God knows what.

They’re still gone when next I look up, and in their place a boy of eight has stopped his teal bicycle. Beside the Harleys he balances with his toes on the ground, wearing a yellow T-shirt and black and red shorts. His brown hair needs cutting and curls out the back of a silver helmet. The hogs’ front tires block his back one from view, which makes him looks like an extension: a third wheel, a future. The kid’s mother snaps a photo. I worry that the men will return now and demand her camera to destroy it, maybe toss her on one bike’s back and roar away. I’ve seen Sons of Anarchy. But the next time I look up, the machines are alone again.

It’s been an hour. I mark my page and leave the park. In my apartment and spend sixty more minutes on Google, scanning M.C. sites whose links are purple from the last time I visited. But today I find a new one, a Canada-only club; the patch looks pretty similar. Membership is restricted to military and police veterans, and the jackets are the toughest thing about them.

That’s probably who the men were.

Probably.

This may or may not be obvious to you, but Echolocation Magazine is run out of the University of Toronto and is mostly staffed by students from the Graduate English department and, in particular, students from the tiny but mighty Masters in English in the Field of Creative Writing program. We might flatter ourselves by saying that we're one of a kind but, really, we're one of many magazines that have made their homes in Universities across Canada.

So this week we're talking to Rob, Managaing Editor of Qwerty Magazine, based out of the University of New Brunswick, about what it's like to run their magazine. Qwerty has been running for 18 years (!) and has published around 30 issues, each one full of the best and brightest writing.

Hey Rob! Thanks for talking to us way over here in Toronto! I wonder if you could you tell us a bit about the relationship between QWERTY and the University of New Brunkswick. Who makes up your staff?

qwert cover 1Qwerty is run by UNB graduate students and receives most of its funding from various channels through the university. People in the Creative Writing program here make up the bulk of staff, but other English grad. Students as well as others from other departments also make up the staff as well. For example, I am finishing a PhD in English. Generally, anyone who puts in the leg work on the slush pile in their first year will have an opportunity to get one of the genre editor or managing positions.

What’s it like working as part of a team?

For me it’s fun. I have an excellent editorial board this year and everyone delivers on deadlines in a most blessed manner. The graduate program here is quite small in comparison to a place like Toronto, so we all knew each other before taking our positions. As a result, Qwerty feels to me like a group of friends who decided to run a magazine. Mostly though, being Qwerty Managing Editor has been about sitting alone at a computer, answering emails and assigning submissions.

Give us a rough breakdown of how your year goes down. How many issues do you print? When do you start the solicitation/editing processes and what does it consist of? ...continue reading

This week we're breaking into the Echolocation vault to bring you a poem by Rebecca Hilda Rosenblum! Rebecca says it's the only poem she's ever published (she also had a short story published with us in the past) - which makes us twinge with a weird mix of tragedy and honour. We're excited to bring it to you again!

Dead Boyfriend Disco

There are things that the dead don’t do—
desire, demand or debate—
but they dance if they feel it and
if you want you can watch,
if vicarious seems like your thing.
In teakettle steam and exhaust from the dryer and
fog on the windows they dance.
All these visuals that just barely are
bring the past for the partnerless waltz.
A little cigarette smoke and the
zydecco’s sliding for aunts who drank sherry out back.
Grandpas who disapproved,
constantly, always,
in rivermist foxtrot like they did in the old days.
And then there’s that best of the specters,
The one that I wait for in dreams:
The dead boyfriend who does disco while I shower, in steam.
The thing about dancing is that you do it in twos,
and the thing about dying is that you go it alone.
So these dead that are dancing, they dance all alone, but
they’re moving to music for me.
A snuffed candle smoking invites smooth ...continue reading

Cynthia Flood
I recently had the opportunity to correspond with Cynthia Flood about her new collection of stories Red Girl Rat Boy (Biblioasis 2013). These stories have been described as taut, elliptical, deft, difficult, and beautiful; Flood, who has won the Journey Prize, can add to her list of successes the acclaim of Caroline Adderson and Steven W. Beattie both of whom named Red Girl Rat Boy one of 2013’s remarkable books (in The Globe and Mail and The National Post, respectively). I agree with Beattie that Flood is a writer’s writer: each story taught me something, made me say, “I can do that?” You’ll learn something, too, I think, from her answers to my questions–-Liz Windhorst Harmer

LWH: Red Girl Rat Boy, if I’m not mistaken, is your fifth book and your fourth book of short stories. I wonder if you could start by telling us a little bit about how you came to this stage in your writing. How has your writing life evolved, in terms of your process, your style, and also your feelings or thoughts about it all? 

CF: During the years when I was writing the linked series that became The English Stories (Biblioasis 2009), occasionally ideas arrived for unrelated short fictions. Thus, by the time ES appeared, I had a backlog of stories-in-draft. (For a writer that's like having a well-stocked freezer). As I worked on them, more ideas came. I concluded that I'd stick with short fiction.

Partly that decision had to do with age. I'm 73. I've published one novel (Making A Stone of the Heart, Key Porter 2002); in some unknown drawer there's one I wrote in the 70s about the women's movement, and a known drawer holds one about a Canadian/American daughter of very-far-lefties. However, a novel demands that its writer disappear into a fictional world for a long deep time. I don't want that. To abandon 20 failed pages is much easier than to dump 200. Also, trying to write good short fiction creates quite enough stress and excitement.

Technology has certainly changed my process. I began by handwriting first drafts, sometimes second drafts, before turning to the typewriter. Revision of typed mss. often involved much cutting, taping, stapling strips of paper. . . and of course endless retyping. Still I sometimes begin by hand, when I'm feeling my way to a new story through an image or a scene-fragment. Soon the computer's lure is irresistible, though. Likely as a computer-writer I throw out way more than when I wrote by hand or typed. ...continue reading

Hey Shanna! Welcome to the esteemed Writer Feature crew. Would you please introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Shanna, I'm 26 and when I was 18, I got a weird, flying gargoyle tattooed right between my shoulder-blades. Lately I've been trying to figure out how I really feel about it. In any case, as it turns out, I'm not 18 anymore.

Could you tell us a bit about Smoke and Mirrors?

Writing Smoke and Mirrors came in the aftermath of a very nostalgic, foggy time in my life. It was mainly about coming to terms with the first moment when you realize that shit isn't working out.  It's a snapshot of being young and romanticizing everything; pain, sadness, drugs. It's about believing you're most beautiful when you're lonely because it makes you interesting, and all the other self-involved things young people in their early 20s are wrong about.

I think there is a moment for everyone, maybe even more than one, where you go: okay, this isn't fun anymore, time to figure it out. Smoke and Mirrors straddles the line between what we perceive as courage or cowardice, and trying to be genuine--as opposed to some reduced, compartmentalized version of yourself.

Can you tell us about what you’re working on currently? Where will we see you next?

I recently completed my first novel, titled The Lying Juilliards, about a morally corrupt suburban family trying to come to terms with the weight of their secrets. I've also been shopping around my first feature-length screenplay, The Grass Is Always Yellow, about a pack of hot mess twenty-somethings trying to get it together. Write what you know, they say.

I'm hoping you will see me next as you walk by Chapters, on a glossy jacket cover with my hands clasped, looking off in the distance, just above an interesting list of my writing credentials. Until then, you can catch my name in the credits of 30 Vies Monday to Thursday ...continue reading