Sometimes, you just never know when someone will say something to brighten your everyday. That happened more than once during my recent tour of Jewnique, my solo show. In Calgary, Ottawa and Blue Mountain Resort, I met folks who saw my show and shared such glowing sentiments with me, it made up for the bubbling anxiety I felt in my chest each time I thought Oh boy, time to perform an hour of memorized spoken word for a room full of strangers.
One Ottawa man told me, “If I had you as a history teacher, I would’ve paid more attention in school.” Another woman told me, after my performance at the Calgary Jewish Book Festival, that what I was doing was remarkable, truly remarkable, and I should definitely bring Jewnique to the Fringe Festival (don’t worry, I’m on it). Several attendees told me it was impressive how I painted scenes so vivid, they forgot they were in a social hall and were transported to the scenes I painted in the show, such as Syria in the 70s, or a concentration camp, or a mikvah’s calm waters.
When I look back at the sparkling moments of my tour, those compliments shine bright, much like the kudos I heard when I debuted Jewnique in Toronto earlier this year. It’s not just the quick euphoria of an ego boost; to be validated by those who have no relationship to me beyond spending an hour watching me tell the story of my relationship to Judaism…I feel a great deal of nachas knowing my work has touched them in some way.
And it’s a great feeling to know I’ve accomplished what I set out to do: Create a piece of art I can be proud of, from its first-draft iteration in May to the final touches I gave it in October. While I’ve always admired the journalistic work I’ve done, for a long time I never felt that same glow around some of poetry work (even though I created little new work in the past six years, due to the heavy obligations of running Toronto Poetry Slam and an online news network).
Now with Jewnique, and the kind words bestowed upon me by strangers, I feel a deeper confidence in creating theatre work I’m excited to stage for more audiences. Jewnique is just the beginning and rest assured I’ll be leaping back on stages to see what else is burning inside me that deserves to taste air.
My solo show Jewnique is on tour and I'm thrilled to bring this very personal show to more audiences across Canada.
My first stop is Blue Mountain Resort, but that's a private event called Limmud FSU which is a weekend-long event to foster a deeper relationship to Judaism for Canadian Russian Jews. I have no idea what to expect from this event, or Blue Mountain Resort, so I'm thrilled to launch my November tour at this unique event. Dare I say...Jewnique event?!
Next I'm bringing Jewnique to Ottawa on Nov 18 at the Ottawa JCC (21 Nadolny Sachs Private). It begins at 1:30 pm and cover is only $5. Note my show is 55 minutes long, no intermission.
After Ottawa, the weekend after, Jewnique debuts in Calgary on Nov. 25 as the finale show at the Calgary Jewish Book Festival Finale Event at Calgary Jewish Community Centre (1607 90 Ave SW). The show begins at 2pm and it's free entry.
I plan to bring Jewnique to more folks in 2019, and I've reveal more details on next year's touring schedule soon. If you know anyone interested in bringing Jewnique to their event or synagogue, get in touch with me anytime.
A question I often get is: How do you hustle to get those freelance gigs? Isn't it nerve-wracking to not know where your next cheque is coming from?
My short answer is often a variation of, "It's only frustrating when I don't come up with ideas or have the energy to reach out to potential clients. Otherwise, the hustle is exhilarating."
The long answer is, well, this blog post. What I mean by "exhilarating" is the thrill of the hunt, the internal high-five of Yes! Got the gig I wanted! With the hunt, though, comes the pain of rejection, but I've developed a thicker skin than ever before thanks to the dozens of pitches I send each year. With the good comes the sting of the stiff-arm.
Note that I wrote "sting" because it feels more like a momentary prick than a sustained bruising. I've learned to pick myself up after a round of dejection and realize I just have to hone a pitch better, find a more alluring story idea, select a more appropriate outlet for the idea. Often a rejection can energize a freelancer to be better than he was yesterday.
The hustle of freelance writing is a 24/7 exercise. So when I read an article in a magazine, there might be a quote from someone who isn't central to the story but whom I find intriguing. That person might form the basis of my next pitch, once I learn more about what they do. Or I might be a tech conference or a cannabis expo like Lift for kicks but my journalistic Spidey-sense will be tingling when I come across someone or something that could be my next pitch. To paraphrase Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Closely Watching.
As to the nervey bit of business of not knowing if I'll be getting a hefty cheque this month, that's the game I decided to play so I have to go with the flow. Some months are more lucrative than others, sure, but lately I don't get out of bed for anything less than my minimum rate and such discipline has invigorated me. I realize I'm beyond the $150/article rate of 30-year-old me. I realize I'm only interested in writing about topics that tingle me in that can't-wait-to-tackle-this-article kind of way.
I'll end with a quote from one of my favourite thinkers on freelancing and productivity, Seth Godin. He was once asked about the notion that “Freelancer” was “mostly considered a second class citizen."
Godin swiftly refuted that prejudice: “Think about the people who are truly great. The programmer who can save you months. The cartoonist who draws life-changing images on the backs of business cards. The guitar player who can sit in on a recording session and change everything…These people are first class. They’re in charge. Top of their game. The best of the best. That’s the freelancer each of us is capable of being.”
I've been writing about cannabis policy and culture for more than 15 years, having first published in High Times and then in The Globe & Mail (ganja yoga was a thing back in 2010, folks). So it's frustrating to see so much misreporting by Canadian journalists on cannabis, whether mistaking certain terms for others or trying to add "balance" by having a throwaway quote from a critic who seems oblivious to new research/studies into cannabis as a medicine.
Below are some missteps I've seen by Canadian journalists covering cannabis, and note I'm not highlighting any journalists or publications by name, because I think that kind of shaming isn't in my wheelhouse.
The 140-character limit on Twitter. 140 sharpened your editing skills. Now, it's messy.
Playing improv games for fun. Or... was that just me and my friends in grade 11? Probably not, right?
Shift Magazine. I always liked that weirdo Canadian tech magazine.
When Kanye made great albums. And that's all he was known for. Basically.
The smell of fortune cookies on my street. OK, I know that's just me, because not everyone lives on a street that used to have the gloriously sweet odour of cookies wafting into their windows, soon to be replaced by the dusty clouds of drills and shovels upturning earth to make way for splash new condos. Yeah. I miss that.
I always buy more almonds than I actually want to eat.
Foxes are animals running cat software on dog hardware.
Lip-reading would be a great skill to have if you love watching sports.
I'd rather face a freezing cold day than a deadly hot day because I can always add layers but I can't do anything about a hot day. Nudity is not an option.
The best Red Hot Chili Peppers album is Blood Sugar Sex Magik. They lost some of that funk and groove post-BSSM.
Marshmallow and bacon can be delicious together. Don't knock it til you try it.
If New York is the city that never sleeps, Toronto is the city that often naps.
Kendrick Lamar would make an awesome slam poet.
You haven't had gelato until you've had Death in Venice's Ricotta Lemon Rosemary gelato.
Don't hang around people who end up looking over your shoulder to find someone else to talk to.
Waiters always seem to ask how my food is just as I'm stuffing my face with something.
Ray Bradbury Theatre, the TV show, might look dated but its storytelling impact still holds strong today.
Knowing the art of turbo-walking past slow pedestrians and cigarette smokers is a crucial skill if you live downtown.
Don't touch other people's hair without asking them first.
My new book of poetry will be out in April 2019 from the fine folks at ChiZine and I couldn't be more excited. I wanted to give my blog readers a little peek into this new collection of poetry by publishing a poem here.
While I brand this book as "sci-fi poetry" it's not hard science fiction and some poems veer away from that niche into speculative and fantasy and sometimes horror. Below is a new poem from that collection.
As always, I encourage feedback, no matter what you want to express, whether in the Comments section or via a note to me via the Contact page.
In the shiny museum, we avoid looking at the reconstruction of
the 21-st century body.
We turn our eyes to the ceiling,
a clutch of fake stars welcoming us.
When we get home, we unfold our bodies
Like suede suitcases,
All soft folds and deep sighs.
The museum forced us to remember how it used to be,
we could see the fracture in each other’s faces.
We should have stayed home.
In the morning, we creak our screws into the sunlight.
Tell ourselves we’ll do something lightning today.
We’ve had enough of the rain. The soggy highways.
When we pass by a dog wandering by itself,
We both smile, we both admire his curious teeth.
In the battle of women's-prison TV shows, I'm leaning heavily towards Wentworth, an Australian TV series that began in 2013. I used to watch Orange is the New Black but last year's season lost me and my interest in Piper and the gang waned. If something can "wane hard", that's what happened.
What is it about Wentworth? There's a grittier more realistic tone to what these women are dealing with in prison, whether the drama unfolds over romantic relationships or who's "top dog" or shifty guards. The writing's tight dialogue also weaves wonderfully through the series, while I always felt OITNB's dialogue felt "filmic".
Opting for Wentworth over the American series could be a matter of taste. I felt the humour from OITNB to be forced, while the sly jokes in Wentworth hit homes precisely because they fit seamlessly in the relationships between the many characters I've grown to care about over five years.
My love of prison dramas began with HBO's Oz back in the day, and later fuelled by films such as The Shawshank Redemption. Something about this intense universe where the allegiances and vengeance sidle behind almost every cellblock has always ratcheted up the tension to a point I can't look away.
So where do you stand on prison TV shows? Feel free to comment or chat with me on Twitter via @SilverbergDave.
When I finished writing my first solo show Jewnique, relief blanketed me in a way I never experienced before. "Finally, it's done!" I said to myself more than once. But oh, how wrong I was because although Jewnique went through many drafts before its debut in May 2018, I realized it was far from finished.
Thanks to feedback from friends and family who attended the debut performance, I've been tweaking the show to add more personal reflections on my up-and-down relationship with Judaism. I wasn't as vulnerable as I could have been in the final draft.
At first, when I was confronted with the daunting obligation of editing Jewnique once again, I was frustrated. This? Again? Ugh! But then I began to see the forest through the trees, to borrow a terrible cliche. I discovered the joy of editing, which is something I experienced often with my journalistic work. Now, with an hour-long show requiring some cuts and added material, I was smiling wide at how I could add a phrase here or a joke there and strengthen the show to become something I could see being performed across the world.
Editing takes a different skillset than writing or performing. You have to kill your most treasured lines if they weigh down the story or come off as corny on a second read. You have to be merciless. And in my latest Jewnique draft, I have been cutthroat, so much so I was sad to see some great lines go but overjoyed to welcome new ideas to the party.
If you're a writer disappointed to learn you need to write another draft of this or that piece, learn from my story: Editing can be a lesson in chipping away at your finished sculpture to reveal even more nuances you missed the first time around. And when you get it right, there's no better feeling.
When I was reading John Cleese's autiobiography recently, the Monty Python star dropped a gem of a term I never heard before: pronoid. Known as the opposite of paranoid syndrome, pronoid folks believe everyone likes them thanks to a blind conviction that is almost comical if it wasn't so detrimental to their personalities.
We all are acquainted with one particular fool in the highest office in the world who boasts the most pronoid behaviour many have ever seen. But I'd caution that we've all come across people who bring a dislikable confidence to their behaviour, as if they couldn't ever conceive someone would find them abhorrent.
To be pronoid is to hold horse-blinders to your face and let the tunnel vision carry you through decades of blissful ignorance, viewing a friend's distancing as HIS issue, not a consequence of egotistical boastings. I can't handle these kinds of people, which is why I feel the heat of anger rise in my throat every time I cross paths with an oblivious pronoid who believes everyone's gaze is constantly admiring their every decision.
Maybe the ubiquity of social media has shone a spotlight on this behaviour most vividly, thanks to the quick hits of double-taps hat-tips that tell the pronoid, "You are appreciated, no matter what you do."
I don't have any grand solution on changing those afflicted by such a never-ending daydream. I just prefer to steer clear of such toxicity, even if it's infected a friend or acquaintance whose company I've previously enjoyed. And I recommend you do the same.
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