Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

An Opening Salvo -

Share |
An Opening Salvo -

Open Booker’s, this being the first post, let me say who I am and what I hope to do this month. Including a little note about a certain competition I'm throwing down to you. First, I’m thrilled to be here. After four years in Toronto, the Open Book Toronto Residency and the Coach House publication of The Drifts, are seeding roots here.

People tell me I am no longer a newcomer, which is probably true, but going into exile is jarring long after you know which way is north from Spadina & Bloor.

Background: my partner and I are two of those queers you’ve heard about who’ve had to leave their home countries. He from Zimbabwe, me from the States. Things are tight for queers in both places. Americans can pride themselves on keeping such close company with Zimbabwe and Iran. My favourite (note my spelling, please) Canadian response to my emigration has been, “Oh, I’ve heard about people like you. I just never met one.” My 86 year-old Arkansas aunt had a similar reaction when I came out to her, “Oh, I’ve seen that on TV.” Glad to bring it all home for everybody.

Aside from exile, I have a checkered past as a Hollywood actor and theatre (actor/director/writer) guy (The Fugitive, Seinfeld, Grace Under Fire, etc.). As writers, you know how satisfying it is to carry on working in spite of almost universal sympathy for your ignorance about reality. Whatever. Rule number one of a professional life in the Arts: never, ever believe the word can’t. I guarantee you, you can.

At the same time as Brett Butler and I pitched out cigarettes out behind the trailers on the Lorimar lot, I was beginning to lead theatre & writing workshops for under-served people. Now, almost twenty years in, I’ve become very good at creating safe creative environments where kids, teens, adults, seniors, non-native speakers, you name it can explore writing, theatre, visual arts and issues of importance to them. Check out my hands in the photo above after two youth got ahold of them today at Teesdale Place in Scarborough.

At the moment, I’m developing an arts program for ex-prisoners including HIV/Hep C+ and trans people. I’ve had the pleasure of working with TDSB teachers, independent artists, gangsters, sex workers, pregnant teens, seniors – you name it. Doing that work at a high quality level is almost as satisfying as publishing a novel. If you want to know more about me as an arts educator, visit my consulting website:

CONTEST: Oh, and just to keep our appetites licked, I'm introducing a little healthy competition. I write, you engage. Altho' it's totally subjective, whichever of you OB-ers engage with me the most substantively during the residency will get an inscribed copy of The Drifts and, if you're down for it, I'll buy you a coffee, a beer or a drink. Your choice. This is a community-building endeavour, not a ploy for dates. My dude keeps me fat and sassy. So, please, knock yourself out. Looking forward to it.

So, that’s enough for this first post. I’ve got some great interviews with local authors and literary professionals coming up; a series of posts on writing strategies & techniques; on what’s so great about this or that book from a writer’s perspective; on the state of the publishing world; on the use of social media for publicity and whatever else the lovely people at Open Book will let me squeeze in. Perhaps, too, I'll figure out how not to bold whole paragraphs.

It’s Canada Day and here I am. A happy one to you, eh?

Stay tuned, thom

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

Thom Vernon

Thom Vernon has worked in film, television and theatre since 1989. He has been the Actors’ Gang Youth Education Program director and has worked as an arts educator at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People. The Drifts (Coach House Books) is his first novel.

Go to Thom Vernon’s Author Page