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Literary Mixtape Vol. 5

Side A:

Side B:

December 3, 2023

Years ago I read an issue of The New Quarterly where writers were invited to meditate on how their writing practice changes with the seasons. They managed to find a good cross-section of people who made a case for flow + productivity in different seasons, but I've gotta say, I'm not super convinced that anyone is more productive in summer. (I say that as someone who cranked out my novel from May-August!)

I guess I'm thinking about seasons and productivity today in Ottawa. It snowed this morning, and I'm glad to see it cling to brownstone peaks and barren tree branches. I hope it stays. This is the only time of year snow is really welcome, because it still has novelty.

Starting a lit mag in autumn was probably a good way to stave off dark months, and the rhythmic flow of formatting work feels good to do while snow falls. Over and over I learn that creative work – the making, sharing, and studying of it – is a good way to stave off the dark at any time of year.

Productivity doesn't have to look like hammering words on a page, either. Truly seasoned writers know that the work never really stops. Whether you're ruminating on an idea, researching, gathering inspiration, reading, drafting, editing, (and editing, and editing, and editing, and editing) or marketing, creative work is constant. It endures in spite of weather, and often in spite of life.

I dunno about you, but I'm glad for that today.

Appropriate, then, that we'd start the first December issue of M7 with a Patricia Kusumaningtyas' "Warm on a Cold Night", weaving us us through Washington state with a cozy car ride, snacks and secrets shared between two friends contemplating their futures.

Sunshine Meyers ruminates on revenge and forgiveness in the middle of a bar in "everything i wanted", a silent, swift pardon of a friend's past sins after years of pining for regret, for apology, for closure. Sometimes best absolutions are the ones we grant ourselves.

Xavier Garcia takes us where the wild things are in "Bring Da Ruckus", a lonely tumble through a thickened forest of bodies, sin, and sweat at a Toronto house party. Most writers can probably relate to the relief --x feels falling into bed after social hour—and the lingering feeling that life would be less disappointing if we could script it perfectly.

"Shiver" is one for the over-the-ears crowd, the ones in their own private heaven with headphones to tune out the world. Kate Oden's tiny poem celebrates the main character energy of privately rocking your favs in public, a salute to how we make an anonymous sidewalk into the centre of the world.

Not gonna lie,"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" caught me in a hungry moment. Kevin Risner's sweet ode to first dates, friend dates, and lasagna-scarfing anniversaries gives this mixtape a bit of stick-to-your ribs romance (and gave me a massive craving for Olive Garden breadsticks!)

Kirsten Reneau puts moshpit under microscope in "Billy", a slide that captures the magic and electricity that sparks when bands bring their art to life at a gig. First as the crowd melts into a single organism, bonded by shared love of song; then as we zero in on two molecules, attracted and repelled at once, pulsing and ready to explode.

Wherever this finds you, I hope you're having a good day. I hope your creative work endures in spite of seasons, and in spite of life that distracts from it – or maybe, instead, endures because of the life that inspires it.




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