Monthly Archives: September 2011

Introducing the Writers Community of York Region

SPECIAL GUEST BLOGGER: Hyacinthe Miller, Writers Community of York Region (WCYR)

Catherine Sword, Librarian for the Whitchurch-Stouffville Public Library hosts SHELF LIFE, a half-hour radio program on Whistle Radio – 102.7 FM. If you’re not in the Stouffville area, you can access programs online. Catherine is a proud WCDR and WCYR member.

On Wednesday afternoon, I sat in on an interview with B.W. Powe, an amazing author, poet and university professor at York University. We had coffee at a lovely coffee shop called For the Love of Jo, at 6308 Main St, Stouffville, just across from the clock tower. They also have locations at 54 Water St, Port Perry and closer to home, 372 The Queensway S, in Keswick. They have a great selection of hot and cold beverages plus a changing daily menu of comfort foods like butternut squash soup with cinnamon, beef chili (delicious and loaded with vegetables), sandwiches on tasty bagels, chicken pot pie and of course, an array of tempting desserts, including berry scones. Their tag line is “you can sleep when you’re dead… have another cup”. They also actively sponsor music and arts-related events, including Open Stage nights on Saturdays in Stouffville and Fridays in Port Perry. So drop by, check out what’s on and maybe even take to the stage.

I have to say, after spending an hour deep in wide-ranging conversation with Bruce and Catherine, I came away inspired by their incredible energy and love of books. I confess, I now have coffee shop envy. For the Love of Jo is a great place to linger. Are there any similar spots like that in Newmarket or East Gwillimbury? Let me know and I’ll make a list.

I shamelessly promoted WCYR to everyone who came in to the cafe and in the process, met a lovely young woman named Aurora. She dropped by for lunch and since she had a huge Nikon dangling from her neck, I figured she might be a writer. Alas, not yet, but I mentioned that we’re thinking of having local artists exhibit their works in conjunction with our meetings, so perhaps when she’s completed a year or so of her photography program at Humber College, she’ll get back in touch. Listen to this – to get to the campus on the Lakeshore, she has to take four buses and spends upwards of 2 1/2 hours in transit. Now that’s dedication. I told Aurora that folks like her are our hope for the future.

Bruce will be giving a reading at the Whitchurch-Stouffville library on September 29, 2011 at 7:30. Plan on attending – Bruce is a phenomenal speaker, it’s well worth the short drive from Newmarket and you’ll get to ask him questions about writing and about his body of work.

The radio show, Shelf Life, will air during the next two weeks:

Tuesdays at 5:30 pm
Thursdays at 8:30 am
Sundays at 5:30 pm

If you can’t get the station at 102.7 on the FM dial, then listen to the interview on the website Catherine is always looking for interesting published authors to interview, so check out the library website and drop her an email if you’re volunteering for an interview or if you have a suggestion!


Hyacinthe Miller!/WrtrComYrkRegn



When is a good time?

It is only a matter of time when the arts sector will take a big hit from politicians. Even though the arts and culture sector gracefully helps to sustain the economy, more so than sports entertainment does, our intrepid leaders fail to notice. Fundraising only works if people are willing to give. It also helps if governments lead the way.

With the potential cutbacks that have been debated over and over in Toronto, and by vague promises by MPP candidates, it is becoming more and more obvious that maverick attitudes need to be adjusted to save the arts industry. Sure, make cuts so that buses can run for the less fortunate. But don’t waste taxpayer’s time and money on frivolous spending?

Commercial construction developments are sprouting faster than a chia pet, yet vacant spaces in ‘older’ buildings grow just as quick. Who’s getting the tax break? Who paid for the infrastructure that leads to said building? What happens to that space? Can it be utilized by the arts sector or NFPs?

You know what it takes to put on a theatrical production, dance performance or concert, an art show or spoken word. Where is the support and space you need to rehearse, to learn, to exhibit?

If you belong to an arts organization, it’s time to get on their case and push for advocacy. What are they doing to support you the individual? You pay your dues. What are you getting for it? If your member organization is unable to provide an adequate answer, its going to be up to you to take a stand.

Do the same with politicians and community leaders until you are satisfied. Rise up and tell the leaders of society that the arts and culture sector is as important to the economy as raising taxes. Rally support from your peers. Use social media networks. Get the message across to as many as possible.

The character, Howard Beale’s signature catchphrase from the movie, Network said it all: “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.”

All it takes is your voice. The time is now!


A Special Thank You From Sher

The Aurora jazz+ Festival wishes to thank all those who helped us create an amazing community event – the Aurora jazz+ Festival this past August long week-end in the heart of York Region.

This year the festival had dozens of Food Vendors, Crafts and a new Visual Artists area, 28 Official Musicians/Entertainers, Kids Craft Blast Zone, Boogie Boy Blues at the Cultural Centre and many sponsors, including the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Over 6,000 folks attended and more than 2000 of those included kids and Seniors who enjoyed free entry!

Festival Organizers, the Board of the non-profit Aurora Festival of the Arts, comprised of Sarah Sparks, Sher St. Kitts, Hilary Musker, Susan Morton Leonard, Bob Leonard and Bernice Morrison were thrilled to be able to give $3,000 to Safehaven and $3,000 to The Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness from money raised at the festival this year!

We wish to grow the festival larger and to attract more Artists and Patrons.

If you are interested in becoming involved as a volunteer and/or on our Advisory Board please email detailsArtists/Musicians – send in your information if you wish to be part of the 2012 festival to  (Reference: 2012 Aurora Jazz Fest)
New sponsors welcome!

Mark your calendars for the 2012 Aurora jazz+ Festival – August 3, 4, 5th.

Visit us on line to see all we thank


Sher St. Kitts, Chair – Aurora Festival of the Arts 2011


Feature Filmmaking: York Region-style

SPECIAL GUEST BLOGGER: Sean Cisterna, Independent Filmmaker and President of Mythic Productions Inc.

In looking at the recent media coverage for the Toronto International Film Festival, it really makes the movie industry seem whimsical and magical. In my working experience, along with that of my colleagues, it’s just the opposite. For all that glitz and glamour we see in the press, there’s generally a small core team of self-sacrificing film artists behind the camera, sweating and stressing to make sure audiences have an enjoyable time at the movies.

When I made Moon Point, a new feature film road-trip comedy that debuts this September 19th at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, I knew that I had to stretch every penny that we were allotted and put it up on the screen.  To do this, I followed a few simple rules.

1.     Write around what you know

I worked with a fantastic writer, Rob Lazar (a Thornhill scribe). Rob knew exactly what kind of production we were going for, and therefore tailored his script around locations and situations that could be brought to life without breaking the bank. Moon Point is a fun, road movie. We don’t have massive explosions and costly epic battles – but we do have a fun plot, bizarre characters, witty dialogue…and one stunt.

Rob Lazar (writer) and Matt Hopkins (who plays The Innkeeper)

2.     Ask your community for help

I can’t tell you how many potentially devastating situations we ran into when filming Moon Point – from locations falling through at the last minute, to crew members simply not showing up.

Bringing a film production to a smaller community outside of Toronto – as we did in places like Richmond Hill, Oak Ridges and Orillia, for example – was incredible, because it’s still a relatively exciting thing to catch a glimpse of. You’d be surprised at how many members of your community will offer to help the production just to be involved in the filming process. We were able to use people’s trucks, generators, showers, cottages, clothes, food, even random people came by to volunteer as extras…all without asking for anything in return. Don’t be afraid to ask your community for help.

Actress Paula Brancati and a borrowed ice-cream truck from Oak Ridges

3.     Work with hungry people

 The Canadian indie landscape is full of hungry people. Not hungry for food hungry, but hungry for creative expression and for having a platform to showcase their talents! It’s not every day that a young actor lands a lead role in a feature film, so in assembling a strong mix of relative newcomers (including Degrassi/Being Erica’s Paula Brancati) with a few seasoned veterans (such as Canadian acting icons Art Hindle and Jayne Eastwood), we came up with the perfect Moon Point cast.

And sure you can blow your budget on an uber-experienced cinematographer with numerous film credits, but in taking a chance on a talented up-and-comer, Moon Point’s director of photography Carl Elster gave it his all and shot a really beautiful-looking film with a tiny Canon 7D.

Director of Photography Carl Elster and his Canon 7D camera

4.     Look for funding in unlikely places

 Face it. Toronto is full of crusty industry execs who love to say no. Trust me. I’ve met them.  In trying to get Moon Point up and running, I applied for numerous filmmaking grants, met with talent agents, attended distribution meetings, and they all ended with the same two letter answer. “No”. Only it took them a full rejection letter to get the message across. Which is why I was shocked when I was given the great news that both the York Region Arts Council and the Richmond Hill Mayor’s Endowment Fund for the Arts would support my project. Who knew that if you got involved and dug deep enough, funding could be found right in your backyard? These combined funds allowed me to actually finish Moon Point – without their support, I wouldn’t be writing this blog entry.

5.     Shamelessly self-promote

Sure, my core group of good friends knows what project I’m working on at any given time, but does that girl I used to sit beside in grade 10 English class? And do people in that girl’s social network know about my film? Facebook/Twitter/YouTube have been instrumental in letting people know about Moon Point. Yes, it feels gross sending out pleading messages to friends and family to come see your movie…but the journey of a thousand steps starts with the first, and your movie will fill a thousand seats only after it has filled one. It’s been said numerous times by everyone because it’s true – use social media to your advantage…but offer something – even something as simple as an autographed 8×10 poster – to those that take the time to “like” or “follow” you.

By the way, please LIKE Moon Point here:

And FOLLOW US on Twitter here:



Sean Cisterna is an independent filmmaker and president of Mythic Productions Inc, a successful film and video production/post-production company. His new feature film road trip comedy, Moon Point, featuring a number of well-known Canadian stars, is currently on the festival circuit. See the trailer here:



Writing your story gives you the opportunity to challenge your readers, your talents and social order.

We are all born with the gift of language and communication but unfortunately our words become entombed by political correctness, etiquette and piddly details. Your story will help you to free those words and to experiment with language and ideas, to think limitlessly, to confess, to role-play, to eat dirt, to brag, to gamble, to poke fun at, to empathize, and to create.

As you take off your muzzle and show your teeth you run the risk of tarnishing your reputation, but the good news is – you will be known and revered as being ‘one helluva character who rose to the challenge of telling it like you see it!’

This is your opportunity to break the shackles, walk proudly on centre stage and announce, ‘This is me!’ And as Buddha said, ‘If you don’t like what I have to say, you’re welcome to leave my house (theatre).’


Music and Horses

Sometimes, as a musician, your music life spills over into other areas of your life – and vice versa. Lately, for me, that’s happening in a big way: my music and my passion for horses are trotting along together in tandem.

And no, I haven’t run off to join the Mounties and their Musical Ride. J But for the last year I’ve been writing some horse-themed songs – enough, in fact, that along with five I’ve already recorded, I’ll soon be able to release an all-horse song CD. (See www.marielynnhammond for more info.)

A special barn concert                                                                               Not only that, on Saturday September 17, I’ll be playing my very first-ever BARN concert. That’s right, I’ll be playing some of those horse songs, and others, at a fundraising event at the stable where I ride in Whitchurch-Stouffville.  (A while back in this blog I wrote about house concerts – concerts that take place in someone’s home. Well, this is a spin on that concept!)

The stable is a special place, called Horses of Course, which accommodates riders with a range of disabilities as well as able-bodied riders. One of them, Krystianna L., was a plucky little girl diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was very small. Krystianna spent huge amounts of time at Sick Kids’ Hospital, but whenever she was well enough, she’d take riding lessons at Horses of Course. Her favourite horse was a little chestnut Quarter Horse mare named Meg.

Sadly, Krystianna died in 2009 at the age of 13 – but not before the folks at the barn put Meg on a trailer and took her to Sick Kids so Krystianna could see her one more time just days before she died.

Canter for a Cure                                                                                          So this Saturday her friends and family are organizing a day called Krystianna’s Canter for a Cure, full of horsey demonstrations, and activities to raise money for neuroblastoma research, and also for a bursary for young riders with disabilities who need financial help with riding lessons. And that’s why I’ll be singing my horse songs there. If you’re a horse lover AND a music lover, then this is the event for you. Not to mention you’ll be supporting two worthy causes.

It’s a benefit!                                                                                               And that’s something we musicians do a lot of: I don’t know a single musician who hasn’t played benefits and fundraisers, and we’re always happy to do it, because we rarely have much money in our pockets to donate, but we can usually find the time to sing for a great cause. In fact I’ve played so many I’ve even written a tongue-in-cheek song called “Not Another Benefit.”

But as well as singing about chestnut mares, naughty ponies, and other equines, I’ll be more than happy to play that song this Saturday with the sound of horses nickering around me.


Marie-Lynn Hammond is a co-founder of Stringband, a seminal Canadian folk group, and a critically acclaimed songwriter living in York Region. In past lives she’s written plays and magazine articles and hosted national CBC radio shows. In between working on two new CDs, she freelances as an editor of both fiction and nonfiction.


Reflections about my paintings and my technique by Ernestine Tahedl

The concept of multiple canvases and panels has always fascinated me. It leads me towards the medieval concept of religious paintings and their spirituality.  I hope that spirituality and serenity are integral to my work. Colour and light are additional factors that guide my work. Colour to me is light. For me, my Paintings come close to a musical experience; as a result, many of the works have musical titles.  I feel these paintings are a direct, human and spiritual experience without confinement of the motif or formal restriction, yet still consist of all those elements that I have explored in my work over the years.

As long as I can remember, my preferred technique for painting has always been acrylic. This started early in the 1950s, when the medium was still in its early experimental stages. My father, Prof. Heinrich Tahedl, was approached by a paint manufacturer in Vienna, Austria, to try some of their newly developed paints in acrylic. The medium suited my style and expectations from the beginning.  I tried them and have continued to work with acrylic paints ever since.

After I painted my early works on paper, I had developed a keen interest, like so many artists in the 1960s, to strong textural work incorporating textures and fillers such as plaster of Paris, sand and other relief-creating materials. Over the years I have developed more and more, a ‘glazing’ technique that I based on the theories and techniques of the Old Masters, but using these new materials. The concept is quite similar, yet, in contrast to oil paints, acrylic paints allow me to be a lot more flexible in layering colours, such as from light to dark, as well as dark to light. For me, this characteristic is one of the most important advantages in using the acrylic paints. The other advantage is the option of thinning paints to any consistency one desires.

This might be the place to talk more about the technique I am using. I have referred before to the ‘glazing’ technique, somewhat borrowed from the medieval panel painting.  Through various layers of transparent paint layered over each other, one achieves a quality and harmony of colours not obtainable through other painting techniques. For example, to get a certain green, I would do an under-painting of cadmium yellow and glaze over this colour after it is dry, a variety of blues, paynes gray, and umbra to get the desired green. As pointed out, the under-paint naturally has to be totally dry so not to mix with the other paints. The colour choice of the over- or under-paints is up to each individual painter’s preferences. It is a lot more flexible than other painting techniques. Most of the time I use paints with a very thin consistency, and for this reason, I execute most of my painting with the panel or canvas placed flat on the floor. I make sure to give my work enough time to dry, sometimes taking several hours. I might start a second painting, so as to not waste much time waiting for the drying process to be completed. This also gives me an opportunity to allow me some distance and objectivity for evaluation of the work and not to get too ‘restricted’ and ‘hung up’ on the painting.