Tuesday, 2 April 2013


On Sunday night I had a dream -- I was back in Montreal, and it seemed as though I was living there, if only temporarily as I did during sumer 2010, when I was 19 years-old. 

In the dream I found myself in a chochy nail salon, and my all-time favorite Montreal drag queen, Mado Lamotte, was doing my nails. Apparently that is her day job in my dreams. 

It was so bizarre, and despite that nothing more happened than her doing a rush job and having to replace the thumb nail on my left hand a number of times before fleeing Montreal possibly forever in the wake of a hurricane, my dream was heavy emotionally. 

The salon she worked as was dingy and messy with a series of small rooms and grey carpeting; she had shoe boxes everywhere and it appeared she was the only employee. She was wearing a white coat that estheticians typically wear. Despite that her job, at least on the surface, appeared mundane, I was still as enamored with her as I was in real life when I met her during the summer. She replaced aforementioned nail twice, and pushed down on it really hard the last time so it would stay, as I told her repeatedly how beautiful and cool she is (which I always do when I see her at the cabaret she owns in Montreal when I visit) and then, I had to say goodbye. 

A big hurricane was taking over the city and I had no where to go; everyone was just trying to survive so she was in a rush but she might have smiled at me and said I was sweet before running away, or something. 

After that I walked outside in the dream and the sky was all gray and swirling around, and I saw my friend Erik by chance and called his name. He said I could take shelter with him. 

How does this have to do with journalism?

Mado is a character I saw when I was a little 19 year-old face in a big crowd at her cabaret in Montreal. I immediately experienced an overwhelming sense of curiosity about her; I wanted to know who she was during the day and I wanted to be at the cabaret to watch her perform and speak French so fast I couldn’t understand it at night. Through journalism, and the basic sense of curiosity that sets the precedent for the lives of those who practice it, I have discovered more of characters like Mado. 

Well, none of them are quite like Mado, actually. Or even like each other. But they are the reason I want to be involved in this field at all -- the people who are so interesting and inspire such a strong emotional response when you barely know them that they end up creeping into your dreams and making you feel sad when they leave both there and in real life, as weird as that sounds. 

Although I know and have accepted, even if with sadness, that I will never achieve a close and intimate friendship with Mado, my goal for my relationship with her is to one day make a documentary film about her and the cabaret. My hope is to do it when I am a seasoned documentary filmmaker and I can do her justice as a subject. 

I don’t know why anyone would choose a different career path (or in my case, life) than making films about interesting people and events and provoking thought about the whole world when they can, but that’s probably because I am in love with it already.

I am going to be finished classes at CreComm after this week and I have the same hollow, sad feeling in my stomach that I had leaving Mado and Montreal behind when I had to come back to Winnipeg at 19; the same feeling I had leaving a hurricane in New York City in real life and as a result missing my first day of CreComm. But I have loved all of these experiences, and they have loved me back. 

I will miss Creative Communications more than I care to articulate as I sit here blogging at ten to six in the morning, but I will say that it has changed my life in a practical way; it taught me how to work. And it taught me that I can do things even if I might not have always believed that to be true. So if I ever do have the privilege to fulfill my lifelong dream and make that documentary on Mado one day, I will only have CreComm to thank.

I am in love with you, Mado.


I am getting a little nervous because I am having a book launch at McNally Robinson Grant Park tomorrow. It is for my first book, Late Bloomers. 

Local fashion and culture blog Poster did an amazing feature about it here

I feel nervous because I find myself in a vulnerable position both as an artist and a person while putting my work on the line. As a writer, I put my heart and soul into select works (the book being one of them) and then you bust it wide open so people can look inside. 

While thinking about this, journalism comes to mind. Particularly, print. As a print reporter last summer during my internship with the Winnipeg Free Press, I told the stories of others (which I have also done in the book, albeit through fiction), and the way I crafted the stories, the quotes I chose to include or not, and the details I decided were important enough to mention, all came from my desire to be a storyteller. Therefore, when my pieces were published, I sometimes felt scared or nervous (especially given how harsh Internet commenters can be). 

As journalists and writers and artists and whatever we like to call ourselves, we have an amazing opportunity to tell all kinds of stories, whether they be our own or those of other people. I’ve come to find that accepting vulnerability is only part of the process, and as scary as it may feel at first (I think back to how nervous I was to present the book at the Winnipeg Convention Centre last month), the fear does not compared to how good it feels for people to recognize and appreciate your work. 

So I am nervous for tomorrow, but mostly, I’m excited. I hope to see you there. 


I spent this weekend editing the first documentary film I was involved in making with my friend and fellow student, Cindy. 

Throughout the editing process, Cindy and I discussed a few times how we feel as though our broadcast journalism class has helped us become aware of and develop the skills we need to make documentaries. This continuous conversation got me thinking about different mediums for journalism.

I took for granted before how accessible, in many ways, print journalism is. And I don’t mean accessible to the audience, I mean accessible to the journalist. If you are able to secure interviews with the appropriate sources, even interviews that do not happen face-to-face but over the phone and, as a last resort, via email, you can write your story. As a broadcast journalist, however, you will need very specific footage to tell the story. 

Cindy and I discussed the importance of having footage that is relevant -- what I mean by that is the opposite of “wallpaper footage,” as the instructors of broadcast journalism instructors at school call it. Wallpaper footage is a term I’ve come to understand as footage that simply fills the space as the voice of the broadcast journalist speaks to tell the story. I’ve noticed it so much everywhere I look now and I love that I have the ability to spot it because it truly weakens the story and because I am aware of it, I can avoid the practice of shooting it. 

Our instructors say we should write to our footage, but I like to think of it more as shooting to edit. One of the best tricks I’ve found so far is working with the journalist while on the location/interview of the shoot and writing out a rough version of the script as you go based on the things your subject is saying and the environment. 

By practicing this you will end up with a story that would make sense even if the sound on the television was turned all the way down, with strong visuals and a sense of direction as to where the story is headed in every shot. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


For a long time, I have considered myself an experience junkie.

That means that I have been addicted to new experiences for as long as I can remember. So far in my life, I have had the cops called on me by the school for being a grade 8 bathroom graffiti artist, and I’ve graduated as valedictorian from high school.

I spent my nineteenth summer’s nights at a Montreal drag club befriending the 50-something queen of an owner, and my twentieth winter dancing in a cage wearing next to nothing for cash at a Winnipeg gay club, and accepting heartbreak when the woman who paid me to do it didn’t want to be my girlfriend. 

Shortly after, I sobbed before the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem while asking for help in a letter to God.

I did yoga poses with girls from the East village, who I never met before that moment, on the roof of a Manhattan apartment building during tropical storm Irene. I watched Irene own the city, and I vowed to do the same one day.    

I wrote enough, and well enough, to secure an internship at an esteemed Canadian media outlet. When I got the call, I believed I might be able to create a life for myself. 

One fall, I smoked an entire pack of cigarettes sitting on pavement steps in the rain when a significantly older love interest left me at a martini bar.

I feel lucky for my life. No matter how shitty the day is, or the week, or the month, I still thank God in my prayers every night for letting me be me. This whole post relates to writing because for as long as I remember, I have been taught as a creative writer to write what I know, and I have been taught as a journalist, to know what I write.

The experiences I’ve had usually find me, but it’s because I have been open to them. Some of them are considered questionable and strange and even wrong, and sometimes I just want to be “good.” The thing that stops me from staying on a straightcut path, though, is that I often worry that without experiencing everything I can, I will not have as much to write about. And I will not be able to empathize as much with people I interview if I shut myself away from the expeirences that open themselves to me.

But I also don’t want to keep finding myself in trouble in one way or another. I wish I could just do everything right and follow some formula or rules on life or something and find myself where I want to be. But then again, I don’t think the place I want to be exists without a long history of experiences.

So I am just going to keep being a junkie.


Sorry I haven’t been blogging lately.

Today I am going to talk about jobs, since Katherine mentioned in her post a conversation I participated in on Saturday night with her and a number of others who, unlike me, were actually employed by the Projector all year and for that reason, were at the party.

Everyone was, in some way or the other, concerned. 

To me it makes sense why everyone would be so concerned about potentially not having a job after school is over. One of my classmates says he already asked the restaurant he works at to make him full time again, because he does not know for sure if he will gain employment elsewhere (meaning in our chosen field), but “you have to pay the rent somehow.” 

There are few jobs in this industry available now, or so it seems. Journalism, as I often like to rant about, is simply not the amazing thing it once was. It’s still amazing, but it’s not a time anymore where quality is more important than speed and people expect news in the paper tomorrow morning, rather than immediately when it happens, told through social media. These things are, of course, dependent on the media outlet, however.

As for me, I have been trying to take one day at a time and I am still figuring out who I even want to be in the world and in the writing world and all of that stuff, but I know if I contemplate this forever without taking a leap onto something then I will end up being nothing. So I need to get a job, too. 

I am taking some basic courses at the University of Manitoba in the fall in the film department. I definitely want to make documentary films. I have never found something I love as much as documentaries. 

But I am troubled because after next year, what do I do? I used to have a romantic idea about starting off directly in documentary filmmaking, but now I don’t think that anymore. When I think about docs, I break them down into stories told through narration, character, visual, and sound. I feel as though I need to develop my storytelling skills through the first medium I ever did it through, and the one I will probably continue to love most for the rest of my life: writing.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is I want to start somewhere. Print journalism is calling my name lately, because I’ve grown throughout the last year in CreComm and I realize that even though it’s not everything it used to be, it’s importance remains the same and that is the way I can get my foot in the door - even if not in the doc making door immediately - and continue to learn what components to include when telling a story; learning what it means to tell a comprehensive, fair story. 

So no, I don’t know where I will be, or what I am going to do for a job, but I am starting to know where to start. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


“Candace had always been her father’s daughter. Maybe that’s why I had always found it so easy to love her and get along with her,” Wilma Derksen writes on page 31 of Have You Seen Candace? A Mother’s True Story of Coping with the Murder of Her Daughter.

Those sentences are only two of the many that provide insight into what it was like to lose a child to murder, and that insight is what works best in this book.

Naturally, the reader does not completely understand and feel what Wilma Derksen did following her daughter’s death -- not even close. However, the author behind the book and the things that she saw are what makes the book a believable read. The reader is given insight into her anxiety, pain, distress, and ultimate motion forward back into life as well as the separate journeys through those things that her family members experienced. 

As a reader, I trusted her words. I felt at ease reading the book because I knew Wilma Derksen was there, for the whole thing. I believed her book to be an honest one. 

In some instances, however, I feel as though Derksen gave too many examples, or used too many analogies, and it made the read slow at times. For example, on page 197 Derksen writes “Every minute, every second of the day, we were reminded of Candace. Every time I laid out five plates instead of four, I had to put that fifth plate back into the cupboard. Every times I needed to run to the store and wanted to ask her to watch the children while I was gone, the words stuck in my throat.”

Derksen continues to explain that many things she saw in the store she knew Candace would like but there was no point in buying them, and that she often spotted Candace in crowds only to realize it was strangers, and that she, in reality, just wanted to see her really badly. 

These details are the things that make the book come alive, and that allow the reader to imagine, even if only for a second, what it might have been like, and the effect losing Candace had on the Derksens. However, in some instances there were simply too many examples and I thought, from time to time, that I understood the message and that I wanted the book to move forward. 

Overall, reading the book made me feel sad. It was difficult to picture some of the things Derksen wrote about; not for lack of detail, but because I did not want to imagine them. It made me remember, however, the importance of story; the way documenting events can bring them to the minds of others who have not lived them, and that social change may be born from this. 

On the other hand, the book made me confused in some ways. This is complicated for me to articulate because I fear it will be interpreted as me dismissing the importance of the Candace Derksen story, but as I mentioned in journalism class recently, I feel confused as to why the Candace Derksen murder received significantly wide and frequent media coverage compared to the stories of other missing and murdered Manitoba women. 

The book discussed a variety of media coverage the case received, and after visiting the Manitoba Missing and Murdered website and reading about hundreds and hundreds of girls and women -- some who have never been found -- I cannot discern why their stories are not covered as widely by the media as this one was. I want the answer, but I don’t know where to ask. 

I am pleased, however, to see that this one received the amount of coverage that it did as it, along with those of other girls and women, are important ones to tell. 

I personally preferred this book to Journey for Justice: How ‘Project Angel’ Cracked the Candace Derksen Case by Mike McIntyre (which I blogged about last year here). To me, Have You Seen Candace? seemed more honest and credible than McIntyre’s work, simply because Derksen wrote it. 

Because I am interested in the human aspect to almost every story, I preferred this first person perspective to what I found to be a long series of psychiatrist reports in McIntyre’s work. 

My reaction to our in-class discussion with Wilma Derksen was one of sadness. I remember Derksen saying when she spoke to our class last year that she did not let the murder of her daughter destroy her.
My mother has a friend at work who allowed her four year-old daughter Ruby go over to her grandmothers apartment, which was a door away from their apartment. In the single instant that Ruby was trying to go from her apartment to her grandmothers, a man abducted her. He raped her and murdered her by crushing her skull with a rock.

My mothers friend rarely talks about the murder. She talked about it in the past, however she continues to live a life centered around many of the things my own mothers is centered around. The case was not covered in the media after the killer was convicted. 

I see Wilma Derksen as a strong woman, to say the least. I am not going to try to pretend to understand her pain. I cannot help but feeling, however, that in some ways she did let the murder of her daughter destroy her because it would appear that it is her entire life.

But as someone who has never lived through a tragedy comparable to this one, or any of those of murdered and missing Manitoba women, I am inclined to ask how one could not be destroyed. 

Sunday, 10 February 2013


This weekend I started thinking about what it would be like to blog about pop culture.

This is something I frequently think about, and I have never once wanted to be a journalist that covers that type of content. Although, my mind is changing in some ways. Not because now I want to be that type of journalist, but because I see the importance of popular culture, and the influence it has on our society. 

For example, I remember watching Barbara Walters’ ten most fascinating people, and Anna Wintour was featured. This must have been about four or five years ago, and Anna was describing how if you observe closely, and you have a keen eye, you can see fashion as a way of conveying current affairs. Then there were images shown that were taken from Vogue when Bush was in charge and war had an influence on the United States, and all the models were in combat gear. It was pretty neat.

I have also recently taken an interest in Complex, which is an online magazine. They cover a lot of cool, pop culture-oriented subjects and I love reading it because it’s obscure. I may have thought a year or two ago that the stuff they publish was not worth my time, but I have changed my mind. Journalism is not all about hard news, and I have come to really love reading about the top 25 indie films to watch out for this year, or the best 20 rap rants in history. Those things are important, and reading about them has lead me to discover new art that inspires me. 

I guess this topic took over my head on Friday when I was working at MAC and we launched a collection based on Betty and Veronica from the Archie comics. The collection is called Archie’s Girls and because I currently can’t do much with my hair, I wore my usual head wrap but created freckles on my face in honor of Betty (who has freckles in the comics) and also in preparation for a photoshoot I am doing for my IPP where the model has to have freckles, as they are a form of symbolism in the story. I wasn’t trying to look like Betty or Veronica, but I was inspired by the art behind the creation of their characters in the comics, similar to how I am inspired by the art I discover through pop culture-related journalism.

These are some pictures of my freckles. In the first one I am with a good friend of mine named Robyn, and in the second one I am with my friend Chanelle who is being goofy in the background.

Monday, 28 January 2013


I am watching The Carrie Diaries, which is a book-made-into-television-series about Carrie Bradshaw before we see her in Sex and the City. 

In The Carrie Diaries, Carrie is still in high school. She is around sixteen or seventeen at the time and it shows her developing into the columnist we see later on.

She deals with a lot of different experiences while growing up -- friends and their issues related to identity and typical of youth, her boyfriend who in the show is named Sebastian Kydd and had sex with his art history teacher before joining Carrie at Castlebury High, and losing her mother to cancer. 

I like the show because it shows Carrie, who in a way is an inspiration to me, growing into being her own person and finding her style as a writer. I like that is shows her using her experiences as material for her diary even at a young age, like I used to do.

And I feel as though a lot of people might write the show off as superficial or less than profound, but that alludes to another reason why I like it -- it shows that not all writers have to write to change the world, or whatever. There are writers who write about things that bring comfort to people, like Carrie writes about relationships in Sex and the City. 

I feel as though as an aspiring documentary filmmaker and journalist, I often pressure myself to produce something that is poignant and profound and will provoke thought and change minds. While that will always be my ultimate goal, watching the young Carrie every monday night with one of my best girlfriends Aneisha reminds me that it’s okay to write about every day experiences, however big or small, just for the sake of writing. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Yesterday my classmates and I watched the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry take place at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

The inquiry is trying to discover the factors that led to and allowed the death of the little girl, which happened in 2005. It was at the hearing that I remembered, in part, why I want to be a journalist/filmmaker/person who creates art to raise awareness and provoke thought and social change.

We were all sitting around listening to witnesses who had worked at Winnipeg Child and Family Services at the time that Phoenix’s file passed through, and admittedly it wasn’t the most thrilling experience. But I tried to listen really carefully and take as many notes, as accurately as I could. And then they got to the details surrounding what Winnipeg CFS workers typically look for when trying to assess if a child is being abused.

They named bruises and children walking funny and having trouble sitting down and a variety of other things that made me have to blink away tears. They said Phoenix went to Wellington School, and I don’t know why but that made the whole thing very real to me and it felt like my heart was fucking breaking right there in the room.

Journalists are, in some cases, required to know about things that are too horrible to imagine, like in this case. And while I am not claiming to be an expert on the case by any means, I did gain a lot of insight into what might have happened by attending the hearing yesterday knowing I was going to have to report on it. It reminded me of the importance of doing that; of listening carefully and gaining awareness about whatever is going on in this crazy world and of raising the awareness of others, too, so maybe one day they will rally for change. Basically making sure that people don’t forget about the Phoenix’s and the Beverly Rowbothams and the Aileen Wuornos’s (whatever your views are on her) and the Debs (see my post titled “Flying High Again -- Deb is the name of the woman in that story) and all the rest of the ones who can be noticed and even helped, maybe, if me and you, and all the other journalists can lend them a voice.

I will elaborate on this in my next post.  

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


I have learned a lot about coming up with story ideas in my second year of Creative Communications. For example, in Broadcast Journalism, I cannot simply put down the first story idea that comes to me. I have to consider what I will use for b-roll, who I will interview, whether the story will make an interesting one visually, and if I can arrange to pull the story off in time for it to be aired (or, so far this year, submitted to the instructor by the deadline).

While I, as a student, haven’t talked or thought about story ideas as much in regular journalism class as I have in broadcast journalism class, I have still considered it, and I feel as though my idea about how to find a story has changed.

While I never saw the value in ripping off stories from larger media outlets, such as the Freep or the Sun, I have developed some techniques that might appear basic to everyone but are news to me. I call them my “skills as an observer.”

The first skill as an observer I have developed is looking around at thing when I am walking, rather than texting on my cell phone or going on facebook. It is very surprising how much I actually notice when I really give things a good look and my eyes are open and all of that.

For example, in the summertime I was walking on Main Street by the Seven Eleven that’s a few blocks away from my house and I guess I decided to be more observant than usual that day. I noticed the Manitoba Clothing Company and for whatever reason, I stopped in front of it and just stared into the window. The mannequins in there had been figures in the backdrop for my entire life; I remember not noticing them as I walked by thousands of times with my mother when I was a kid, and later, by myself. I decided to go in and ask some questions about this place for the first time in my 21 years on earth. 

I found out that in addition to having a sweet selection of deadstock, high-waist Levi’s from the 70s, the company was closing. It had been open since 1944 and used to make uniforms for a whole bunch of city services and stuff (the Winnipeg Police Force, etc.) until outsourcing basically put them out of business. They had a whole factory upstairs that the owner told me used to be filled with forty workers, and now can only afford to employ seven. There were old men that still hung around there that had been working there since being sixteen. For those people, it was like the end of an era, or a bunch of eras. Now that’s a story.

The second skill I learned as an observer is to listen carefully to what people say. This includes reading things carefully, too.

And even if it looks weird, carry a notepad wherever you go. That way, when you are trying to brainstorm story ideas one day before your broadcast J class, you can just get out your notepad and look what you have written in there, waiting to be reported.  

Those are just a few tricks I’ve learned about finding story ideas. You might find, as I have, that using observational skills will not only make you a better journalist, but it will make you acutely aware of your surroundings and that might make your life easier. It’s made mine easier, and I generally feel better about myself, too. It might even make you a better friend or girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever you are. Sweet.