Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

David Tucker

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David Tucker is an award-winning television writer, producer and director. A former chair and associate dean at Toronto’s Ryerson University and Oakville’s Sheridan College respectively, Tucker has been a frequent guest speaker at international arts and media conferences and has been published in several journals. Best known for his work on CBC’s The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, Tucker has garnered dozens of international awards including a Gemini for Best Direction, multiple Gemini nominations, a Gracie, a Chris, a Prix Italia and a Freddie, and presented at Hot Docs Film Festival. As a television producer, writer and director, he has created arts, drama, science, children’s and current affairs programming. He also contributed as an associate producer to the feature documentary Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Story. Tucker is a member of the Writers Guild of Canada, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television and the Documentary Organization of Canada.

Visit David's website, davidltucker.com.

Please send your questions and comments for David to writer@openbooktoronto.com

On Writing, with David Tucker

Open Book: Toronto's August 2012 writer in residence, David Tucker, tells us about the process of writing a story, future projects and his recently published collection of short stories, One Way Ticket (BookLand Press).

One Way Ticket

By David Tucker

From the publisher: Years after a near-miraculous birth imposes impossible life expectations on him, a lonely and unaccomplished man tries to radically reinvent himself. A prominent female author is stricken with writer’s block a few hours before she is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech of her life. On a train, a struggling former advertising executive becomes paralyzed by the silent presence of a young woman who reminds him of a lost love who derailed his life and career. One Way Ticket is a riveting collection of stories that explore the jagged psychic journey of characters forced by circumstance and fate to rewrite their life narrative or be destroyed by it.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Chance Encounters and Butterfly Wings

Early in my career, I wrote and produced a television documentary that got some mail. While most of the viewers were seeking additional information or requesting addresses of people in the film, one letter really caught my attention. It stated, “Your film changed my life.” Apparently, the viewer had been so inspired by the main character’s story that she had finally summoned the courage to leave a deadbeat, abusive husband and reclaim her life. She credited the film with giving her that courage.

Beauty

The following was partly inspired by a research paper that I presented in Berlin last year on the topic of 21st century aesthetics:

Ah, Beauty, who thinks of you now? Forlorn and forgotten, you lie like Ozymandias, abandoned in the desert of antediluvian dreams. No longer the font of truth, you’ve become the lackey of branding and celebrity, simultaneously the sad embodiment of dumbed down consumer culture and old guard sexism. Yet still, I long for you, even if, like Orpheus, my wistful gaze should prove fatal to us both.

The Web of Critique

Once, long ago, in a distant galaxy, my Grade 2 teacher singled me out for critique. She had asked the class to draw a baseball game, and given that I had limited interest in sports and knew little or nothing about baseball, I made a half-hearted attempt to imagine and then sketch out a baseball diamond, some players and a stadium filled with onlookers. It was only after my teacher explained to the class that I had grasped the basics of perspective that I noticed a sea of stick men drawn across flat horizons. Suddenly, I was special—I was “the artist.”

On Being Naive

Years ago, there was a joke circulating that went something like this:

A great spiritual leader (insert your sage of choice) visits Los Angeles and is met by city officials. Hoping to entertain the wise one, these bureaucrats suggest a visit to Universal Studios. The spiritual leader politely declines. Nonplussed, they suggest Disneyland but this, too, is quietly declined. One by one, all of their suggestions are turned down until they find themselves out of ideas. Fearing they may have offended the great leader, they nervously inquire: Then, what would you like to do? Without hesitation, the leader replies enthusiastically, “Well, I always wanted to direct..!”

The Point of Purchase

Okay, I admit it. I’m in a grumpy mood today.

Perhaps it is just from looking in the bathroom mirror too early in the morning or nearly stepping in that raccoon mess in the garden. Whatever the reason, grumpy is not a good state to be in, especially when I have a book to flog (okay, I just did).

Poetry

Last evening I watched a wonderful Korean film call “Poetry.” It is the story of Mija (played by Yun Jung-hee), an older woman struggling to write a single poem, a challenge that I am certain many Open Book readers and contributors can relate to. Fittingly, its writer/director, Lee Chang-dong, is a former novelist. Poetry also won Best Screenplay at Cannes in 2011, indicating that Lee Chang-dong, also a former Minister of Culture, clearly discovered a more rewarding profession.

Poetry is a meditation on human frailty and the transformative power of nature. It is a simple story, difficult and painful to watch at times, like a train wreck about to happen. Yet, it is also an inspiration, as its profound themes linger long after the closing credits.

The Silver Lining

The day is rapidly approaching when hard drives and backup discs, CDs and DVDs will become relics of a quaint age when we still relied on the tangible storage of words and images. In a sense, these devices are a last link to the mechanical past when things were actual, like paper-based books. In these transitioning times, print, memory sticks and Blu-rays continue to mark our place, in the same way as films, tapes and vinyl records once did.

A Summer Place

The late poet Dorothy Livesay once lamented to me that the era of the cottage was dying. At the time—1980—Dorothy had a cottage on Lake Winnipeg and was saddened to see her neighbours trying to turn their cottages into city places. In contrast, her charming little cottage had neither electricity nor running water. As she hauled a bucket of water up from a nearby well, she said that she was trying to preserve a little bit of the past to keep memories of her parents alive.

The Store of no Returns

During the course of a recent few days away to take in some Stratford productions, my wife and I made the rounds of local shops in the region. While antiques have largely fallen out of fashion in large urban centres like Toronto, they remain the life blood in rural Ontario. Here, in addition to truly rare and valuable antiques, stacks of inexpensive old books and memorabilia abound.

One store I came across appeared to be run by a certifiable hoarder, so vast and congested was his collection. A veritable Noah’s Arc of Ontario past, the store extended back endlessly, room upon room, ten foot ceilings crammed to the rafters with possessions of lives past. Here, all manner of popular books, magazines and bric-a-brac lay entombed, waiting for their deliverance.

Techno-phobia

Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with new technology. Once upon a time, I was actually an early adopter. After buying my first modem, I recall typing in the word “Photography” and calling up only six sites, all featuring a few stamp-sized images. I took prehistoric PC, DOS and Mac courses, bought graphic-starved CD-ROMs and even studied early HTML. But keeping up with the digital Jones’s eventually began to wear me down. Today, I consider myself only slightly ahead of a Luddite, resistant to many of the new-fangled devices because, too often, rather than saving me time, they eat it up. For me, updates have become the equivalent of 1950s tail fins.

Reading Between the Links

Today, time is the greatest luxury, the one thing that even money can’t buy much of. Our lives are consumed checking email, texting, blogging, tweeting, friending, Skype-ing, posting, uploading, down-loading: myriad tasks we never used to do. It seems that with the introduction of each new time-saving digital mod con, we end up with less time, not more. Too often, reading becomes one of the casualties, like healthy eating and going to the gym. I know I should read more, but excuse me while I respond to that email.

Musical Notes

Whenever I sit down to write fiction, I take inspiration from music. Jazz, classical, pop, avant-garde, alternative, club, country; it can be any kind of music, even music that I seldom listen to or particularly like. When writing, I play music to find inspiration and establish mood. I try to select music that my main character might listen or relate to, something that reflects her/his values, personality, lifestyle and tastes. Then, once my character and I have bonded over a narrative “theme” song, I gradually let him or her take over at the keyboard, encouraging discovery of their own lyrics.

Story worlds

Story worlds: those non-linear, interactive storytelling experiences are the next narrative wave. According to a growing chorus of new media seers, soothsayers and salespersons, transmedia is poised to split the storytelling atom.

YouTube Brute?

Over the past decade, teachers, lecturers and other sages of the stage have morphed into transmedia performance artists, spending much of their time scouring online archives in search of visual content for their presentations. I begin my graphic odysseys on YouTube, that great mausoleum of media. Within this online vault resides the mother lode of past collective consciousness, a vast treasure trove of the world’s neglected narratives crowding virtual discount bins. Each clip is a discarded time capsule, representing a once shiny aesthetic, dulled by the passage of time.

Look on the Dark Side of Life

Deserved or otherwise, one persistent stereotype of the (usually male) writer is the image of the hard-drinking, chain-smoking, misanthrope, holed up in some dingy apartment hunched over a grimy Underwood. Like engineers with pocket pens and bankers in three-piece suits, the image of the rumpled scribbler dies hard: the perpetual loner, recluse or outsider, suspicious and cynical about the world—the writer as eternal pessimist, the jaundiced observer of life.

Picture This

As the ubiquitous smartphone/digital camera transforms how we document our lives, we have become a society visually obsessed, constantly recording our lives in minutiae, rather than just on special occasions and holidays like we once did barely a decade ago.

I must be something of an anomaly, since I rarely take a picture of anything. Maybe it is because I have no family to take pictures of and hence no legacy to be concerned about. Yet, I too am obsessed with the visual, perhaps the result of working in television for many years. Besides, even as a writer, I don’t see fonts, syntax, punctuation, synonyms or alliteration. I see shapes, colours and forms. Pictures are my nouns, verbs and objects, edited and linked to actions.

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.

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