Tuesday, May 3, 2011

He Said What?!

I talk a lot.

Given the gender makeup of the world's population, the likelihood that I'm within earshot of a woman is high, and given my limited intelligence and the sheer volume of words that spill from my mouth, the chances that I'll say something stupid is practically a statistical certainty.

My only comfort is that I'm not alone.

Luckily, not all the things I say are stupid. Of course, not everything I say is smart either. But smart or stupid, given the sheer number of things I say and the people I say them to, occasionally I'll say something important.

Again, I am not alone.

On that theme, journalist Avril Benoit hosts a night of fiction-free storytelling at the Gladstone where Victoria Zackheim and contributing authors Dianne Rinehart and Amy Ferris will be launching their new book, "He Said What? Women Write About Moments When Everything Changed".

In it, they talk about women's game-changing moments and the men who created a big impact with only a few small words, and they'll be discussing their stories on stage as part of This Is Not A Reading Series (TINARS).

But to kick off the evening, storytelling group 10 1/2 Stories (that's us!) will be inviting three storytellers on stage to share their true-life tales about what he said and what happened next.

The last time we had a storytelling event, I got up on a stage and told a story about my testicles on a day meant to celebrate women. We can't dip into that well twice. Well, we could. But we really shouldn't.

That is my horribly awkward way of saying we need other (re: different) storytellers interested in sharing their stories.

If you're interested, please write to either myself (leonardchan@gmail.com) or my fellow diminutive (but in no way small) storyteller (tasleemthawar@gmail.com). 

Alternatively, when you arrive at the event, please put your name in the hat and if it's drawn, then you will be one of the lucky winners of storytelling fun time (five minutes, to be exact). 

To recap, the theme is about the things men say (whether stupid, smart, or otherwise) and how it's changed your life. 

Please come share your stories!

Details on the event itself:

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
The Gladstone Hotel, Ball Room
1214 Queen Street West
Doors open at 7:00; Event starts at 7:30
Admission is $5.00 or FREE with a book purchase

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Morning After

The theme of the night was mistakes.

The back room at the Gladstone Hotel was packed.

Ostensibly, they were there for Farzana Doctor, being interviewed by Marc Glassman about the launch of her brilliant and tragically-themed book, Six Metres of Pavement, about an immigrant who accidentally leaves his child in a car on a hot summer day.

The literary crowd listened intently as Farzana discussed how she went through fourteen drafts of her novel, revealed the soft spot she has for misbehaved Muslims, and described how the grief resulting from such a horrible mistake would stick to her characters like the invisible silk of spider's web.

The audience was humbled and awed.

Then I got up on stage, and told a story about my testicles.

What better way to celebrate International Women's Day?

My tale of substandard kitchen cleaning protocols and misguided ingredient substitutions resulting in burning genitalia was the second story of the night.

The first was from Liz Worth, an author whose book, "Treat Me Like Dirt", an oral history of the punk rock scene in Toronto, had launched last year through This Is Not A Reading Series (TINARS).

Liz's story described the two years she spent ignoring red flags (she was a vegetarian and the only fruit he ate were organic strawberries from his mother), enduring forced walks through the rain (to retrieve money for her too-cheap-to-spend-$1-on-convenience-charges-from-nearby-ATMs boyfriend), and all the other elements of hell one suffers when trapped in a relationship they don't want to be in.

The women in the crowd were appropriately empathetic.

Right before the night concluded with music from local blues artist Sarah Greene and her band, there was one last story from Sage Tyrtle, who had previously contributed a story to our second 10 1/2 Stories event. Hers was a heartbreaking, heartwarming story about her long-time relationship with her husband Todd, and how the simplicity of love can so easily be derailed by the complexities of life (and boys on the Internet).

Normally, at this point in the post, I would be including a link to the audio from the evening, but we neglected to mention to the sound engineer on hand that we wanted the audio, and so, nobody, including and especially us, pressed the handy little button on the sound system marked "REC" (which, I have it on good authority, stands for Record). 

We also neglected to set out an iPhone with a running recording app next to a speaker as we have done at every other storytelling event we've held.

And so, while I would normally, at this point in the post, include a link to the audio from the evening, I will instead be signing off with the assurance that it was a fantastic night, that any recording would not have done it justice, that you simply had to be there to truly appreciate it, and that if you missed it, you will drown in an unending sea of regret for the remainder of your days.

Did I mention the theme of the night was mistakes?

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Worst Mistake Of Our Lives


We all make them.

After all, to err is human. 

Sometimes, it's as simple as a typoe. But sometimes, it's something much worse. 

For Ismail Boxwala, the worst mistake of his life happened one summer morning, twenty years ago. He forgot his baby daughter in the back seat of his car where she succumbed to the suffocating heat. After his daughter's tragic death, he struggles to continue living. Divorce, alcoholism, and anonymous sex drive him deeper into isolation.  

To err is human. 

To forgive divine. 

That is all well and good if you are a deity, but how does a mere mortal find forgiveness in his own heart? How does one rebuild after a tragic error has torn everything apart?

That is the central question of Farzana Doctor's stunning new book, Six Metres of Pavement. 

NOW Columnist Susan G. Cole and Farzana will be sharing an intimate conversation about writing, neighbourhoods, and how we recover from the worst mistakes of our lives. Also joining in the celebration will be Toronto musician Sarah Greene, who will play songs from her debut solo album, Toronto Blues, and local storytelling group 10 1/2 Stories (that's us!) who will invite audience members to come up and tell a story on the theme of "Mistakes". 

There will be three stories from willing participants, drawn from a hat to decide who gets to share their tale. 

See all you storytellers there!

Monday, March 7, 2011
The Gladstone Hotel, Ball Room
1214 Queen Street West
Doors open at 7:00; Event starts at 7:30
Admission is $5.00 or FREE with a book purchase

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night...


There we sat with Cathy Lasagna, proprietor of Terrazza, our venue for the inaugural evening of 10 1/2 Stories, and raindrops streamed down the window.

The current topic of discussion: How many people were we expecting?

Facebook told us twenty-five, which was about fifteen less than we were hoping for. But the precipitation was worrisome. We told her thirty, crossed our fingers, prayed to our respective deities for some assistance, and distracted ourselves with food.

Despite the proprietor's namesake, there was no lasagna on the menu.

Two pizzas and a grilled Panini later, we were fast approaching our 8 o'clock start time. The host hadn't yet arrived. The restaurant was still two-thirds empty. We were on the verge of panic. Had we not done enough promotion? Had an Act of God ruined our night? Had we painted ourselves into a corner with the event's title?

But as a wise Hitchhiker once said, "Don't Panic".

In the end, the restaurant was filled. The fine people at Terrazza were fabulous (as was the food). Our host Daniel Goldbloom was pitch-perfect . Our storytellers were wonderful.

Ah yes, the stories.  

Varying from clandestine communications in Bangalore to a dog orbiting the earth, the stories induced laughter and tears, sometimes simultaneously.

For those who could not make it for whatever reason (ignorance, apathy, pluviophobia), we've put the stories online for you to peruse at your leisure.

To refresh, the theme of the night was "Choices".


Dan Yashinsky: The story of a Californian commune, tear gas, and a prison wall.

Leonard Chan: The story of a volunteer, a gang of raccoons, and a cat named Ramone.

Andrew Gooderham: The story of a satellite, a poison pill, and a crying dog...

Tasleem Thawar: The story of a lost girl, a broken pipe, and the letter that will save her.

Timothy Millican: The story of a dropped cigarette, law enforcement, and excessive honesty.

Jerry Silverberg: The story of a stroke, a heart rate monitor, and a relentless morphine drip.

Jacqueline Sharp: The story of a contest, a middle-aged dancer and a gold lame thong.

Ivor Tossel: The story of a Kenyan gastroenterologist, a bouncy castle, and Idi Amin

Faizal Karmali: The story of a one dollar bus-ride, a bootlegged DVD, and...

This inaugural event of 10 1/2 Stories is part of the FOOL Festival (www.foolfestival.ca)