Kim Erickson Writes about Making Her New CD

Kim Erickson Writes about  Making Her New CD

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Making of the Raven's Wing. Kim Erickson talks about creating a CD.

On Saturday, June 13th at 7:30pm in the Unitarian Hall, I will be unveiling my newest cd release, 'The Raven's Wing'.  There will be an opportunity to listen to the project, hear a few words about the songs and the album, and buy a copy to take home. And while you are there, you can support two worthy causes if you like - Stoves for Humla, Nepal and The Underground Gym.  Admission to the event is free and all are welcome. 

This will be my first launch activity for the project, and the first Canadian launch event.  'The Raven's Wing' was already released in the EU on May 11th by my record label for this album, Route 61 Music, who are based in Rome, Italy.  Route 61 will work with me and for me to distribute the cd worldwide.  The project has its wings. 

'The Raven's Wing' is a previously unpublished collection of my own songs - with the exception of Pete Seeger's setting of Ariel's Song from The Tempest, "Full Fathom Five".  A couple of the songs are traditional folk lyrics that I gave fresh musical settings to.  There is a decidedly cohesive flavour to the songs and their treatment in the studio.  And the songs take the listener on a journey of "10,000 Miles", across oceans and landscapes, and into the deep interior of the human heart.  The album is a nod to my mother's North Sea Scottish roots, and is a taking stock and a looking forward to "the time the will come to be."  And that brings me to one of my greatest joys, which is the addition of a backing vocal on one song by my daughters Roisin and Lesya Roberts.

The title of the album comes from the song that I consider the centrepiece of the album, and the song that I recall writing first in this collection, "Dark Is The Raven's Wing".  It has an old world feel, and tells the tale of an encounter with a beloved as dark and bright as a raven's wing, against the backdrop of an "autumn garden" and a far off hilltop.  This song, along with four others, was given extraordinary arrangements for violin, cello and double bass by former TBSO Principal Bass Joe Phillips, who also played on every track on the album. 

I had once thought that the sound I needed for this project could only be attained by a full orchestra.  But the three players assembled with me in the studio - Drew Jurecka, Amy Laing and Joe himself - played so true while I sang and and performed the piano "live", and we were caught so well by engineer John Bailey and producer Danny Greenspoon at The DriveShed studio in Toronto, that one can scarcely believe the deep, rich, full sound was produced by only this small group of players.  We recorded all ten songs in a miraculous three days, and then spent one day on a handful of overdubs that included Damon Dowbak's evocative mandocello.  At long last the songs had been captured - and captured exactly as I had imagined and hoped.

If all that sounds like a neatly wrapped up happy ending, there is much more to the story, as there is always much more behind every work of meaning.  I spent years writing and composing the songs, living some of them, and played with them in various settings (including the TBSO, my trio Canto, the dance-theatre collective Broken Moons, and my Angelic Upstart Ensemble).  

I was dreaming of the kind of sound and the type of high quality project I wanted to attain at this point in my career and in my life, but often felt that what I wanted was out of reach.  There was a major fundraising campaign undertaken and I brainstormed pre production ideas with Lauri Conger and consulted with Ian Tamblyn.  I negotiated and signed a deal with a European record label, and finally the impossible project became possible.        

I am a mature artist and my voice gives witness to that fact, celebrates that fact.  So while I  struggled a bit with whether or not my time had passed, I knew in my heart that the quality of my work had never been better.  This was a project that could never have come from the younger me.  

There were many delays, ranging from my own procrastinations, to the illness of a key player, to scheduling difficulties and sudden changes of personnel.  Trickster Raven hovered nearby, presenting challenges.  I delivered the mixed and mastered final result to Route 61 Music....went on vacation to Cuba....and fractured my shoulder in a bad fall there!  My piano arm is coming back, though at a measured pace, and there will be concerts again in the not so far off future.  In the meantime, I am busy making further plans for this old soul of a new baby...and for the next baby....

For more information or to order, visit

Atwood contributes book to be published in 100 years.

LONDON — The author Margaret Atwood — perhaps best known for her dystopian-future-set novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” — made a further contribution to the fictional future today, handing over a secret manuscript to Oslo’s public library to be published in 2114.
The handoff is the first phase of the Scottish artist Katie Paterson’s “Future Library” project. For the next century one author a year will contribute a new written work to the project. They will be sealed in secrecy by the library until being published 100 years from now on paper made from trees planted in a local forest.
The day’s events began with a public walk from a local train station to the wood near the northern edges of Oslo whose trees were planted for the project. There, Ms. Atwood gave a reading (not from her new work). She handed the secret manuscript to Ms. Paterson who then gave it to a representative of the library. A similar ritual is to take place every year for the next 99 years.
Ms. Atwood announced that her manuscript is named “Scribbler Moon,” but revealed no other details. “She won’t tell anything at all,” Anne Beate Hovind, a project manager for the Future Library project, said in a phone interview. “She’s very, very strict on this. She won’t even talk about the process of writing. No content, no process, no nothing. Nada.”
Ms. Paterson will announce the name of the author who is to contribute next year on Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Winner of 2015 International Man Booker Price

László Krasznahorkai, a Hungarian who is often called a "visionary writer," is this year's Winner of the Man Booker International Prize. The prize honours a body of work either written in English or available in English  translation.

His translator George Szirtes has called his prose  a “slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type.”

Chair of Judges, Marina Warner, spoke about Krasznahorkai's novels. “The Melancholy of Resistance, Satantango and Seiobo There Below are magnificent works of deep imagination and complex passions, in which the human comedy verges painfully on transcendence,” said Warner.
“He has two different periods, the earlier one, from the 80s, when he wrote apocalyptic, dark, brooding novels about small towns, small people being destroyed. Then he moved into a luminously beautiful phase, from which we’ve got Seiobo in English. It’s really an extraordinary book.”
Warner called Krasznahorkai’s prose “absolutely stunning”, and a “thrilling” experience to read. “This extraordinary style he has, which people sometimes object to – if you think of it like music, the piece begins, and at first you don’t know where you are, it’s unfamiliar, and then it begins to feel natural, the rhythm keeps puling you along,” she said. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pics from NOWW Awards Party

Jim Foulds Congratualtes  playwright Roy Blomstrom, on his play "Beaches" and actor Norman McDougall.  On right,  writer Marion Agnew.

Sue Blott, triple winner, receives certificate from Deborah deBakker  

Member of Parliament Bruce Hyer (standing) with wife Margaret Wanlin,  Jim Foulds, and poets Doug Livingston and Mary Frost

Cathi Grandfield announces winners of writing contest. Richard Wagamese and Dr. Paul deBakker, in background.

Sharon Irvine, double winner, receives award from Deb deBakker.

Northern Women's Bookstore Table. 

Award winning Writer Susan Rogers with Deb deBakker.

Richard Wagamese signs books with NOWW president, Jane Crossman.

Writer John Pringle, Catherine Anness and Jack Shedden

The Emcee Joan M. Baril

(all photos by Rob Lem. Many thanks)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Short Fiction "Still Life with Baby," Finds a Place after 21 Submissions.

I wrote the story in 2008 and immediately sent it out to “The New Quarterly” Back came a very nice rejection.

A nicely resonant title and story. The tensions are understated but you still feel that the stakes run high in this story. Written with assurance and restraint, it ends with a moment of decision and leaves the reader to play out the consequences. In this case, that’s a strength.

This rejection gave me confidence in the story. Maybe too much confidence, Over the next seven years I sent the story out exactly twenty times, and it was always rejected, sometimes with complimentary notes like the one above. My three writing groups liked it but, alas, no one else did, or not enough.

Meanwhile I kept sending it out. I did so because I thought it was a good story. In fact it was my favourite story. I hoped somewhere, some time, some one would “get it.”  And, at last, on my twenty-first attempt, someone did. 

Here is the note from Paul Carlucci, the judge for the NOWW fiction competition.

Loneliness has its layers. A military spouse in her basement apartment, snow building up against the windows, blocking out the day, and she looks forward to the sounds of the passing ploughs, their flashing lights, and the programs that start on TV in the afternoon, those little connections she gave up when she gave birth.

This bitter-sweet plight of motherhood she has in common with an Englishwoman upstairs, also a military wife, but a braggart, obnoxious, like her destructive twin boys, whose visits are more like invasions.

Still Life studies our increasingly nagging social selves, the compromises we make in the name of isolation, and the surprising exchanges of tenderness we find when we do.

The language is calm, but busy, and the setting is richly drawn, creating an ideal stage for the author to nudge her characters from universal to unique.

On May 7, many years after I wrote the story, “Still Life with Baby” took  first place in fiction in the NOWW contest.  I was overwhelmed.  Whelmed right over.  It will be published in the NOWW magazine.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What a Party it Was!

Sue Blott, triple winner

Last night at the Prince Arthur, the 17th Annual Northwestern Ontario Writers' Workshop Awards Party rocked with applause for guest speaker and Kouhi Award winner, Richard Wagamese, the players of a ten-minute winning play called Beaches, and the winners of the annual writing contest. 

Congratulations to all the winners. They are:
1. On An Otherwise Ordinary Day, Sue Blott, Thunder Bay
2. The Cruelty of Nearness, Tristan Khan, Toronto
3. Shirts on the Clothesline, Sharon Irvine, Thunder Bay

Young Adult Fiction
1. Roundabout, Sue Blott, Thunder Bay
2. Fashion Show, Roy Blomstrom, Thunder Bay
3. Best Friends Forever, Sue Blott, Thunder Bay

Creative Non-fiction
1. Confession in the Time of Social Media, Susan Rogers, Thunder Bay
2. Out to Lunch, Sharon Irvine, Thunder Bay
3. Ringo, Cindy Matthews, Chesley, ON.

1. Still Life with Baby, Joan Baril, Thunder Bay
2. Connections, John Pringle, Atikokan
3.The Boy Who Wasn't There, Heather L. Dickson, Thunder Bay.

Cathi Grandfield, one of the contest organizers, announced the names of the winners and read short selections from work of first prize winners. 

Stay tuned for more photos, interviews etc.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Joseph Boyden and Richard Wagamese Talk Mental Health

Richard Wagamese and Joseph Boyden at the Victoria Inn May 6.

They talked, laughed, joked, and talked some more. They told us straight what they had suffered, what they had learned.  I was taking notes as fast as I could but often I had to stop because the honesty and wisdom pouring from that stage was carrying me into my own journey.  I think the 400 people in the audience felt it too. 

Wagamese: For years he thought he was crazy, Despite his writing success the emotions were overwhelming. He called it a “tsunami of emotion” and he “would disappear down the rabbit hole.”  He used alcohol to kill the episodes of darkness. Many times he was drunk, unreliable, mean. He had only two feelings, anger and silence.  He was afraid that others would see into him, “see the truth that I thought was me."

But in 2003 his therapist gave his a diagnosis. He learned he had PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome) and this diagnosis really helped him.

Wagamese was born north of Kenora into “a family who were survivors of the residential school system.” It was a “fractured community.” He was taken away  at 18 months old before he could speak and so he had no language to describe the experience, only sights and sounds. He was placed in three foster homes and the last was the worst. He suffered physical, sexual and psychological abuse. For years he was unable to make eye contact with anyone because he believed they would see the shame in his eyes.

When he left that place, he lived on the street. At 24 years old, he was “a mess,” but he could not explain it. The Ojibway elders called him a “disappeared one.” He had no traditional skills and he felt he did not fit in with others. But the elders told him that he was a story teller and helped him learn what that means. The traditional ceremonies helped him too and gave him strength as did therapy.

 He learned to deal with the discomfort, telling himself, “I can deal with this discomfort. I can move beyond it.” He stated that a person is never completely healed and something might hit you even after many good years. “A bit of brokenness can come and snap at you.” 

 Now Richard takes walks and talks out loud to the Creator. Now he writes wonderful novels and now he tells us what he learned. 

Boyden grew up in a large family. He was a withdrawn quiet child who loved to read. He suffered from depression and tried to commit suicide several times.  He worried about ridicule, but he stressed it is important to admit that you are damaged and broken. He even became depressed after winning the Giller Prize. His success was a burden.  He feared he could not continue to write. Now he tries to find youth who may be in danger of suicide and if possible help them. He hopes that his words will touch even one person. Boyden dislikes labels and says that so often, Aboriginal people have been labeled. He spoke about the stigma of talking about your mental health issues. You have to admit you are not perfect, you are not a whole man and parts of you are weak. 

Boyden's story touched me deeply. Like many women, I once suffered from depression. It was almost impossible to admit to it at the time. It took a long time to understand it. I had a tough time taking notes because I was being drawn back into my memories. 

The two writers gave the us, the audience, a wonderful gift of clarity and honesty. Thank you.