In July 2019, a very short play that I wrote will be produced at this gorgeous festival.
The Narrow Café
The café was a wide hallway in a refurbished century home. It had Doric columns at the entrance and stained-glass windows in the doors. It was all offices now, walls moved around, glass doors upstairs, very sleek. You had to look hard to see the bones of a family reading the paper or playing checkers. But inside the main-floor dark hallway lived magic.
Halim’s Bibbeh always claimed the boy had a wizard’s touch. (He fashioned her Turkish coffee pot into a lamp that never needed a new bulb, and, she swore, he cured her arthritis with his drinks.) Halim was a quiet young man, who’d studied art and mathematics at Waterloo University. The math was for his parents. After college he worked three years at cafés, playing with art on the side. One café was a famous chain, but at the co-op, staff braided their beards and sported tattoos. He enjoyed the complexity of coffee, the precision of temperature, grind size, the mineral content in water, the aromatics. The other staff joked around, but coffee, to Halim, was serious.
At twenty-seven, Halim decided to open his own café.
His extended family tried to reason with him. They argued and prayed. A café! What a gamble! Still, family was family, even crazy. They lent him money and helped Halim hang Edison bulbs and install four train tables with seats, scrounged from an old Via Rail car.
Beside the tables, Halim mounted four unusual windows, piano lights above each. They looked like sorcery and perhaps they were. Behind the pebbled glass were painted scenes one might see if crossing Canada on a train. Halim, born in a refugee camp (more of a mud pit, really), had never left Waterloo since arriving at age four. He designed the paintings working from hundreds of photos. After work, he liked to sit and look at his scenes: a rusty car at the back of a farmer’s field; skinny backyards with scrap tin forts; the prairies before cities had sprung up; mountains. Sometimes a blade of grass shivered.
In February, The Narrow Café opened, with a seven-thousand-dollar espresso machine.
Local people wandered in, curious. They liked his perfect brews and the fresh herb pastries from a Lebanese bakery. Thought his windows were spellbinding. With various milks, spices and Fair Trade beans from 6,000 feet up in Los Andes—or indigenous farmers in Chiapas–Halim created something new. Word spread through social media. The lawyers and accountants upstairs soon had to bring their lattés back to work.
By the time fall leaves were under snow, the café was so popular that he’d had to post a sign, then ask people quite firmly to leave after one hour, laptop or no. He kept a blackboard behind the cash to jot the time someone sat down. Locals nicknamed him The Coffee Nazi; students hated him.
Others loved him, however. He brought in a Golden Latté in his second year, a base of shaved turmeric root, cardamom and ginger. He whipped it up with various milks and honey. It was a life changer for some. Later, he melted Camino chocolate in a copper pan, added local fresh eggnog and cinnamon. He couldn’t keep up with the lines; people had to wait ten minutes sometimes, even with him hiring a part-time cashier. These drinks couldn’t be hurried. . . .
Read it online at the Yale Review Online Nov. 12 2018 ! I hope you enjoy the ending!
When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline.
That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.
Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.
In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”.
Today we continue with this contribution from Jerri Jerreat how she stays optimistic.
Why I’m Still Optimistic
By Jerri Jerreat
I think a writer needs to be drenched in the real world, not holed up in a garret or mansion, separate from life swirling around. I am terribly curious, nosy, my sister says, about everyone. I enjoy chatting with the person beside me on the bus or plane, the waitress, the logger, the cashier. These small connections give me hope. I’ve learned that ordinary people are resourceful and hopeful. They’re all trying to create good lives, make wise choices. They are capable of learning new ways.
I support a variety of kick-ass charities, including Ecojustice, Greenpeace, environmentaldefense.ca, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Help Lesotho, Women for Women International, etc. They are each accomplishing amazing things. I sign petitions, walk in marches. Martin Luther King taught us.
As well, I teach a classroom full of students under the age of 13. They have anxieties. My 9 year olds came to school in a panic after Trump was elected and I had to soothe them, explain that that was not our country. We were safe. But are we? We have to fight for our safety, our Human Rights and our right to clean air, water and land. Throughout the year, in class, we read newspaper articles together that inspire us all with hope. There were those kids in Yellowknife who wanted to be a sledge hockey team to play with their friend with cerebral palsy; the clever off-grid tiny houses built by the Secwepemc people to protect their alpine meadows; shaggy haired Boyan Slat, with an invention to use the ocean currents to remove plastic; and the Malawain lad, William Kamkwamba, who built a wind turbine out of scrap metal bits and an old textbook. I read them the book, “And Tango Makes Three”, to which one lad responded, “Well why can’t penguins be gay? People can be!” We heard Malan, a local teen, recently a refugee from Syria, chat to us about her life, and we played with her baby sister. My class ate a gorgeous lunch with Muslim Canadian families.
People are creative! We can unlearn prejudices. We can learn to repair our excesses. We can rein in those negative leaders, and work to halt the world’s warming.
I am optimistic, but I am also a fighter.
Jerri Jerreat’s fiction has appeared in The New Quarterly, The Dalhousie Review, The Antigonish Review, Fireweed, Canadian Storyteller Magazine, and won a Room fiction competition. She has a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and has taught a variety of writing courses at St. Lawrence College, in Kingston, Ontario. She now teaches younger students, and each year, mentors a class to create a play together, then directs it. She read A Wrinkle in Time and other fine books aloud to her own kids, Tanner, Adan and Haven, walking them to school, and is proud to say she can still walk and read at the same time. When her family canoe trips somewhere like Algonquin Park, they all stuff massive books secretly into their packs.
Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) is a collection of optimistic speculative fiction stories. These stories explore the optimism that drives us to seek out new worlds, to sacrifice for others or to just keep going when everything seems lost.
The stories in this anthology of optimistic SF are some of the darkest optimistic stories you’ll ever read but, nevertheless, they are optimistic. And powerful.
Featuring stories and poems by: James Bambury, Meghan Bell, Gavin Bradley, Ryan Henson Creighton, Darrel Duckworth, Dorianne Emmerton, Pat Flewwelling, Stephen Geigen-Miller, Jason M. Harley, Kate Heartfield, R. W. Hodgson, Jerri Jerreat, Jason Lane, Buzz Lanthier-Rogers, Alison McBain, Michael Milne, Fiona Moore, Ursula Pflug, Michael Reid, S. L. Saboviec, Lisa Timpf, Leslie Van Zwol, Natalia Yanchak
Amazon link below: (Kindle price $5.99)
Welcome to the latest installment of Breaking In, where I interview authors about their experiences breaking in as writers — how they did it, what it felt like to get there, and how it differed from what they were expecting.
Today I’m happy to have the chance to interview a writer, traveler, and canoe enthusiast who I’m very pleased to be sharing a Table of Contents with – author Jerri Jerreat.
As she notes on her website, Jerri writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her fiction has appeared in The New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, Room, Canadian Storyteller and Fireweed. Her story “Camping with City Boy”, set in a greener future, is now available on Amazon in the anthology Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers from World Weaver Press (June 2018)! Jerri is an Ontario paddler who has lived in St. Catharines, Vancouver, Ottawa, Victoria, and in Tübingen, Germany. She now lives on an ancient limestone seabed with her family near Kingston, Ontario.
Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers
Solarpunk is a type of optimistic science fiction that imagines a future founded on renewable energies. The seventeen stories in this volume are not dull utopias—they grapple with real issues such as the future and ethics of our food sources, the connection between technology and nature, and the interpersonal conflicts that arise no matter how peaceful the world is. In these pages you’ll find a guerilla art installation in Milan, a murder mystery set in a weather manipulation facility, and a world where you are judged by the glow of your solar nanite implants. From an opal mine in Australia to the seed vault at Svalbard, from a wheat farm in Kansas to a crocodile ranch in Malaysia, these are stories of adaptation, ingenuity, and optimism for the future of our world and others. For readers who are tired of dystopias and apocalypses, these visions of a brighter future will be a breath of fresh air.
Jerri seems to have a knack for optimistic speculative fiction, because she’s also a fellow contributor to Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-One). Which means, of course, that once again I’m Not Entirely Unbiased here.
[SGM] Welcome to the blog, Jerri! To begin, when did you feel like you’d broken in as a writer?
(JJ) I felt, absolutely, that I had become a professional writer when I was nine years old, reading my rhyming couplets to each family member. They clapped and praised me, but I didn’t need outside validation; I knew my writing was brilliant.
To tell the truth, I haven’t felt that again. However, I love writing, and I work hard on my craft. As well, I have a soft rule that every time a story is rejected I read it over once, edit if needed, then I send it out within 48 hours. Having a lot of stories out there, searching for a market, makes me feel that I am, indeed, part of that doubtful shady business of writing.
What was your path to breaking in? Did you have a strategy? Did it work, or did you end up getting there another way?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a straight path toward your writing becoming frequently published? Hah. I began by studying journalism at Carleton University and envisioned a ladder tilted at 60 degrees toward a Nobel Prize. However, that first year only convinced me that journalism, for me, was killing the fun in writing. I switched to English and History. I read copiously, worked a variety of jobs, travelled across Canada, did volunteer work in West Bengal, canoed every summer. I absorbed. I lived.
One year I decided to Grow Up. I would become either a Writer or a Medical Doctor. When McMaster refused me, (a good story there), I packed up and went to Vancouver. Plunged full-time into Creative Writing courses. I learned a lot, and not just how to squeeze a fresh avocado onto a customer’s sandwich with sprouts, (hey, that was just crazy stuff, coming from Ontario). I improved my grammar, tried different styles and genres. I listened to criticism.
Later on, small children at home, I tried writing pieces about parenting. The first that sold fixed our chimney. The second bought me a wooden cabinet for all the children’s art and building equipment.
I began to teach writing, also slunk out for an hour here and there to write in a library. I grew wise: set aside my novels and focused on short stories. They’re hard! It is merely the peak of a mountain, with, instead of twenty chapters to lead up to it, only a few paragraphs.
Thus, zigzagging through life, writing whenever possible, was my only strategy.
And following up on that, knowing what you do now, what would you do differently?
I should have read short stories. Explored them. Written them. I would still take several writing courses with a variety of instructors at a college or university, and study a serious grammar book. Writing short stories is polishing my writing today. I am still working on a novel or two at any given time, but stories are where I learn everything. I’ve also noticed that some of the finest writers were poets first, so there’s something to mull over. They think in metaphors.
Now that you’ve broken in, is it like or unlike what you expected? How?
I love writing. Period. I steal time for it, which is far easier now that the wonderful kids have grown up. I have more modest expectations that I did at nine or twenty. Each story acceptance is delightful, but I realize now I’m in it for me, for the joy of writing, and for hoping to touch someone, to make them think, or feel.
I hadn’t expected the business side of researching markets, reading a wide variety of journals and magazines, etc. would take up as much time as it does. It’s fine though. I no longer bite my nails and worry about each darling story. I begin another story.
What are you working on now?
I heard a story while living in Tübingen of a zoo which burned down during the war. Farmers claimed to have seen a tiger or bear twenty years later. This has inspired a novel with copious research, and deep tendrils into my dream mind. I’ve broken it up and am rearranging the pieces in a more interesting way, learning more as I play with it. I also have a sci-fi novel mapped out across my wall and half written. These are fun projects to keep returning to.
Stories, though? I find a good place, a café or my back yard, and I write for an hour from a random image or word. It’s playing. Imagining. I do this a couple of times a week or more, and from that nebula, a new story sometimes emerges.
How can people keep up with you online?
My website is www.jerrijerreat.com . Email me through the site! I hope readers enjoy the stories!
Thank you to Jerri for the interview! I know that for my part, I always appreciate being reminded that I should refrain from biting my nails and worrying. “I begin another story.” That’s good advice.
Book Signing in Picton!
CANADIAN WILDERNESS INSPIRATION-Posted as a guest blog on http://www.worldweaverpress.comJune 8th, 2018
by Jerri Jerreat
At age 12, I leaned over the gunwale of the canoe and plucked a mussel shell out of a drowned tree. Inside, it was a pearly purple, a miniature shining world.
This is what happens on a wilderness canoe trip. You discover a waterfall pouring in a trident over a tall monster of pink granite, or find yourself blinking at a thousand fireflies under a collection of stars shaped like a deer.
I wish for such experiences for everyone, especially those growing up on the twenty-sixth floors or fleeing acts of war.
“Camping with City Boy” has many inspirations, but wilderness trips in Ontario were foremost. I’ve taken thirteen-year-old feisty girls, family, and friends tripping. The being-shoved-in-a-cold-lake incident was inspired by a hotshot lawyer somewhere.
If you’re from the prairies, the coasts, or south of the 49th Parallel, come on over. The towns of Haliburton and Bancroft are good places to aim. The steep wooded hills of Haliburton demand you ease your foot off the pedal to peek at blue water vistas. The Haliburton School of Art and Design is itself worth a visit. In Bancroft, you should become acquainted with blue sodalite. The artists and artisans in these towns have some kind of ancient magic, perhaps touched by their rocks and lakes. I haven’t been able to resist them.
I deliberately set this story in that area. The residents of Bancroft who now sell freshly roasted pear soup beside slices of leopard rock and hand-knitted wool socks are quite likely to build a Skycity — tall condos connected by high parkland where they make electricity and grow food — in the future. They’re a resourceful people, spunky and good natured, this hardy mix of Algonquin and newer immigrants from Europe, Asia and the world. Makemba, the main character, would blend right in.
Hope you enjoy the story.
The anthology is now available at Amazon! Search for it.Reviews so far have been quite good. Here are a few:
The price for the ebook to come to your Kindle, iPad, or computer is $5.19. The stories look pretty great. Note: they only list a few of the authors on Amazon, and I’m not one of the lucky ones. My story, “Camping with City Boy,” is set in Bancroft, Toronto, and north of Algonquin Park, in the future. Hope you enjoy it! – Jerri, June 15th, 2018
Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers
Jun 5 2018edited by Sarena Ulibarri
Short Fiction in the newest “The New Quarterly”
This literary magazine is presently in bookstores, full of excellent fiction, poetry and non-fiction. I’m honoured to have a story in their pages.
– J.J. February 14/18
** expected to be available for purchase late this summer or early fall, 2018**
Rhonda Parrish dot com
Nevertheless Table of Contents
Posted: 26 Jan 2018 12:33 PM PST
Greg Bechtel and I co-edited Tesseracts Twenty-one and our theme was optimistic speculative fiction.
“…one of the best reasons for doing an anthology of optimistic future this year was because of the current political situation, and other relevant social and political movements ongoing in the world. It’s been a really tough year (no matter which side of the political or social spectrum you land on), but ‘Nevertheless’ we try to remain optimistic despite the darkness. Nevertheless, we don’t give up. Nevertheless, yes, we persist.
These are those stories:
1. “Inside the Spiral” by Dorianne Emmerton
2. “Pin and Spanner” by Pat Flewwelling
3. “Red” by Alison McBain
4. “Tera & Flux” by Leslie Van Zwol
5. “A Breath for My Daughter” by Jason M. Harley
6. “Steve McQueen and the Hope Particle” by Gavin Bradley
7. “On Reading to the End” by Buzz Lanthier-Rogers
8. “Missed Connections, Mactaquac” by James Bambury
9. “Pirates Don’t Make Amends” by S. L. Saboviec
10. “A Walk in the Woods” by R.W. Hodgson
11. “Hill” by Ryan Creighton
12. “Anhedonia” by Meghan Bell
13. “A Room of His Own” by Ursula Pflug
14. “Mountaineering” by Leah Bobet
15. “It’s in the Eyes” by Jerri Jerreat
16. “Across the Seas of Sand” by Jason Lane
17. “Lt. Anderwicz Goes Applepicking” by Natalia Yanchak
18. “With Two Left Feet” by Lisa Timpf
19. “A Threadbare Carpet” by Kate Heartfield
20. “Green Leaves Don’t Fall” by Stephen Geigen-Miller
21. “Proteus in the City” by Fiona Moore
22. “The Garden” by Darrel Duckworth
23. “One Way Ticket” by Michael Milne
24. “The Rosedale House” by Michael Reid