The Word on The Street: A Reflection on Writing and Community

Written by: Vivian Li

The Word on the Street (WOTS), Toronto’s Book and Magazine Festival, is an annual fall event showcasing authors, publishers, and performers at Harbourfront Centre. This year, the marketplace tents were set up for Sunday September 22, from 10 am to 5 pm. I attended a cool panel and had the honor of tabling (for the first time!) for Augur magazine, a speculative online and print magazine. I originally thought it was going to be a glamorous experience (since people were eager to answer my questions whenever I stopped by booths in other festivals), but I was surprised by how hot it was even underneath the white tents and I became very sleepy. Still, I had a great time and met so many cool people!

During my break, I also attended a discussion session about Empire of the Wild, a novel with elements of the traditional Métis story of the Rogarou, by Cherie Dimaline. I really enjoyed the panel (it was really engaging and I laughed a lot!) and I was especially drawn to one of the points she made. She said that some stories are repeated word for word because they represent one’s history and map one’s culture, but other stories can be told with changes and incorporate other tales to show that one has learned its moral or understood its themes.

Picture of a notebook ONE OF MY FAVORITE NOTEBOOK COVERS WITH MY PEN OF CHOICE!

Showing up to literary events like WOTS made me realize the numerous reasons and ways people decide to put their pen to the page. Sometimes it could be a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings [with] emotions recollected in tranquility” (Wordsworth) but other times it can begin with an interest in the sound of words. For now, my writing impetus involves facing the darkness and also gives me time to become “friends” (or at least acquaintances) with some of the spiraling thoughts within me.

Toronto is really an amazing space with literary events happening every week, and I’m often overwhelmed with the number of choices. This year, I want to try attending every large event, starting with the International Festival of Authors! I’m also planning to go to events with friends (to make it slightly less scary and to keep me accountable).

Writing can often be an isolating and solitary experience, so it’s always great to get out there and meet people who care so much about sharing and preserving stories! It’s definitely hard to find time to attend literary events, especially with my academic and extracurricular commitments, but I feel re-energized after speaking to people and the energy in the room often sparks my imagination, propelling my desire to write.

Community Engagement at U of T and Beyond

Written by: Vivian Li

Hi everyone! My name is Vivian and I’m the new Centre of Community Partnerships (CCP) blogger this year. In this post, I’ll be writing about why/ how I got involved with CCP and why I wanted to be a blogger for the centre.

As an English and Philosophy Major, many of my courses are very intriguing but at the same time are mainly theoretical. While I improved in writing essays and conveying my thoughts on paper, I felt that I withheld the same amount of attention to my verbal communication, especially in front of groups. Last year, I really wanted to develop as an orator as well as to connect more to the community. Participating in Alternative Reading Week was a bit scary at first, but I really loved my team and had a lot of fun creating a podcast! It was really inspiring to see the team work together and research, script, and record everything within a few days. After my experience there, I realized I really wanted to be more engaged with CCP and connect to more people who cared about social justice.

When I saw the CCP Blogger and Social Media Assistant work study posting, I felt that I’d be able to develop some skills I already have and also get to know other projects happening in U of T and other communities. I also wanted to challenge myself to write for a different audience, as I’m often writing academic essays or stories and poems. At the same time, I knew that I wanted to build communities in the future and connect to people through art. This summer I was assisting an artist who led a series of workshops on African Vegan Art at a community centre servicing new immigrants and refugees. Over a period of two months, I got to know the people who came regularly to our program, and the room became a safe space for sharing languages and culture, especially music. I’m interested in combining my passion for the arts with community engagement, and I’m looking forward to the orientation for one of the Community Action Projects (CAPs) called Story Planet! Community Action Projects (CAPs) are long-term volunteer opportunities with local non-profit and public sector organizations in the City of Toronto. Story Planet engages youth and children with creativity, art, and literacy in an inclusive environment.

It’s my last year at U of T, and one of my goals this year is to leave behind positive changes. As such, I look forward to learning from other people, improving my writing, and helping people create more spaces that are safe and service others.