Once More, Poetry

On May 19th, I will be performing another poetry reading in my home town, and a local journalist named Grahame Woods asked me a few questions for an article he was writing about it, so I thought I’d post them here.

I wondered if you could send me a brief bio and, perhaps, an indication of what the audience can look forward to.

(I stupidly answered this one in the 3rd person for some reason)

My bio:
Megan Swaine grew up in Baltimore, Ontario and holds an honours BA in Creative Writing from York University. She has written blogs, video game content, trivia, two non-fiction books, and the occasional poem. She was an early member of the Cobourg Poetry Group. She is Treasurer on the board of the Rowers Reading Series in Toronto, and currently resides there with her husband, Brian.

My introduction to poetry:
Like any shy child, I hid away in books when I was growing up, and came to relate a great deal to the raw, emotional honesty of poetry. I think my inspiration for becoming a poet (and for reading other peoples’ work, especially) was the need to connect to, and explore those emotions that polite conversation doesn’t quite allow us to explore.

And that really is, I guess, what the audience can look forward to hearing from me- some emotionally honest poetry. Which they may, or may not, relate to.

Will you be reading any new work on the 19th?

I will certainly be bringing some new material on the 19th. Not just poetry that I’ve written recently, but also maybe things written earlier that I’ve discovered how to finish, or have a new-found confidence for. (I sometimes jokingly say that some poems age well, like wine. Sometimes they make more sense 5 years after they were written)

Do you have any thoughts regarding the state of poetry in Northumberland County?

As for the state of poetry in Northumberland County, I must preface this by saying I don’t spend as much time there as I used to (so take this with a grain of salt). But there are even more opportunities than when I was a teenager, which I think is great. I think there’s a lot of talented people in Cobourg, and also that the prevalence of poetry events and organizations can allow people who are new to poetry to discover it as an outlet.

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In My Write Mind

It looks like life got away from me a little bit, and I haven’t been updating as much. However, a little motivation came my way: my good friend David Newland tagged me for a writing exercise. (Actually more like a viral micro-interview. But I like it anyway.)

What am I working on?

I still write for Beeline Interactive, mainly on their Smurfs brand. It may sound silly, but it is a brand I still love and respect, even four years later. The characters are perfectly timeless, and their stories are evergreen.

I write poetry and songs when I feel particularly moved, and I suddenly find a pen in my hand.

I’m also working on a longer creative non-fiction piece.

I occasionally write comedy and I’m now working on spec scripts.

There are a couple of other projects I’d like to mention, but those have to stay confidential for now!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like the challenge of writing unusual stories that fit into unusual places. There are a lot of chances to do that in video games, but I’ve also done that in other ways, throughout my career.

Why do I write what I do?

Because if I didn’t, I’d lose my mind or I’d be unemployed.

Also, I write because I have something to say. I am so obsessed with the (beautiful) subtle nuances of the world, that I feel compelled to write them down, either for the public, or in private.

How does my writing process work?

When I’m working on a piece for my job (especially if it’s a new IP or concept), I do a ton of research. I make lists. I find out what makes that genre/category/brand/setting/historical period tick. And when I’ve thoroughly saturated myself with it, I set all of my notes aside and just dive in.

Even though I’ve read practically every Smurfs comic (in French) and seen many of the episodes, I still go back again and again to the characters to make sure I can nail their voices, and naturally just write how they would react in a given situation.

Once I start actually writing, I do 80% of my work in the first 20% of my time, and then I generally spend the rest of it editing and tweaking.

When I worked on Shrek’s Fairytale Kingdom (yes, really), I wrote more puns than I have ever written in my life. It was awesome. But to do that I had to make a lot of lists of related words, similar-sounding words and catchy idioms. Even the simplest form of comedy takes work.

However when I’m writing poetry or just writing for myself, I generally try to shove my brain out of the way for a while and get the words out. That’s where my real voice is. Me. And while it’s tough to spend as much time with my own voice as I do with the many characters I write for every day, it’s still well worth the time spent.

 

Okay, now it’s somebody else’s turn. Stay-tuned, I’m going to nominate two friends to pass this on!

Update: My friend Robert has now posted his response!

Current Projects

I don’t seem to post here very often, so I might as well post an update for what has been going on in my (professional) life:

  • I am now officially a Game Designer at Beeline Interactive Canada. So far, my job hasn’t transformed completely, but I am taking a more active role in the design process, as well as owning the design input I always had at the micro-level.
  • I’m taking the Comic Script Writing by Correspondence Program via Humber College. Comedy has always been something I’ve been interested in, and it plays a large role in my video game writing. I’m very excited about it. David Flaherty, the instructor I’m working with was, ironically, a writer for the TV show adaptation of Maniac Mansion. (Which is easily my favourite game of all time, and likely the game that inspired me to write for games later in life)
  • I’m now the Treasurer for the Rower’s Pub Reading Series, which is a poetry/fiction reading series that runs the first Monday of every month (October to June) in Toronto, at the Victory Cafe.
  • On August 7th of this year, I did a repeat performance of last year’s poetry reading, at the same place and time.
  • I just got back from volunteering at the Shelter Valley Folk Festival, and as usual, it was inspiring and exhilarating. 

On Poetry

Last Tuesday (August 9th) I had the pleasure of doing a full 20-minute poetry reading at Palisade Gardens in my hometown of Cobourg.

What happened was this: in an effort to stay in touch with my friend Ned over the summer while the Rowers Pub Reading Series is on break (it’s the only one I really attend regularly), I decided I would send him the occasional poem now and then. One day, I happened upon a poem I had jotted down into a blog a couple of years ago, and decided he might be interested. As an after thought, I carbon-copied it to a few other people.

One of those people was Eric Winter, a fellow who used to be Poet Laureate of Cobourg back when I was in highschool, and had been one of the people involved in starting the Cobourg Poetry Group.

Eric liked it so much, he forwarded it to James Pickersgill (or as Brian now calls him, Jimmy Pickles), the current organizer of the poetry group. It seemed that he was putting together a reading night that had poets who had previously read at a Young Poets Night coming back as adults and reading their current poetry. He asked me if I had read at a Young Poets Night, and I was ashamed to admit I couldn’t actually remember- I only attended the poetry group for about a year when I was 17/18 (before leaving for university) and I DO remember participating in some kind of group reading, but to be honest it was about ten years ago, so I could hardly remember.

At any rate, it seemed appropriate to have me there, since I was present for the group’s inception and probably one of the first teens to be involved. So he asked me to do the reading.

At this point, there was only a week separating me from the event, and I had not touched my poetry in any serious way since putting together a short anthology for my friends and family back at Christmas. My strongest poems were scattered across as span of about 6 years.

I fretted. I could tell that the other girls in the reading were not only younger than me, but had probably been working on their poetry at lot more regularly and recently than I had. I’m just a video game writer with a fondness for poetry and a rather unusual career. And a tendency towards stage fright.

In trying to script out my “banter”, most of it came out entirely wooden at first, and when practicing it at home to myself, it just didn’t sound right at all. Then one night I was laying in bed thinking about the conversations I used to have with Eric, and how supportive the group had been when I was just a terrified teenager, and I promptly jumped out of bed and jotted down some much more sincere comments that actually sounded a lot more like me and a lot less like a puppet.

To make matters worse (or better?) I quickly realized I would have to read in the second half, since there was a strong possibility that my boyfriend Brian and Eric Winter himself were going to be a little bit late. Historically, this is a bad thing for me: generally if I’m so nervous about speaking in front of people, it’s best I go first and get it done. Otherwise I have trouble enjoying the rest of the night.

When I got there, I realized the other readers were just as nervous as I was, and the wife of the man who had suggested the event in the first place said to us: “Don’t bother about the 20 minutes, just read as much as you want, for as long as you want.” Which made me feel a lot better.

Over dinner, I started to worry about some of the content of my poetry, since I was reading to an older crowd. So I asked her and her husband if they had read/liked Ginsberg. They said yes. With that, I resolved not to censor myself.

Eric showed up early, but I still ended up reading in the second half. James gave me an extended intro I didn’t really expect, and apparently he had found this website. (Hey, that’s what it’s there for) So when I got up, he’d already said some of the things I was going to say, so I had to wing it. Oddly enough, it worked out fine.

From there I went through my reading no problem as I had laid it out, and even ended with a Zombie Recipe I had written for work. I got a lot of reaction from the audience, which is nice, and I tried to make eye contact once in a while, since I know it’s always little off-putting when the performer never looks up.

Afterwards, some people came up and complimented my work and everyone there who knew me already said I didn’t seem nervous at all. (Actually, my hands were shaking throughout the whole thing, but I guess that wasn’t too obvious) I was given a little bit of money for the reading, which I promptly used afterwards to buy myself an ice cream cone, and a pint of Rickard’s white.

The other girls in the reading were fantastic- Alice McClintock, Kate Hunter and Ashley Elizabeth Best. All had very intense, beautiful poetry, but each of them was also very unique.

All in all, a wonderful night. Could not have been more perfect for my first time doing a full reading. It has probably made me significantly less anxious about reading again.

How to Write a Book in Three Days

(via Wet Asphalt)

A friend of mine showed me link to a page briefly explaining Michael Moorcock’s writing structure, which he detailed in the book “Death is No Obstacle” (sadly, now out of print). He wrote the “Elric of Melniboné” stories and many other books.

While I’m not super familiar with his work, I am kind of fascinated by what he lays out. It resembles Lester Dent’s Master Plot Structure.

The link:
How to Write a Book in Three Days

Both of them are the sort of thing I’d like to screw around with for National Novel Writing Month. I haven’t read much pulp since I was a little girl thumbing through my mother’s copies of Ellery Queen Magazine, but it could be the sort of thing to perhaps alleviate my prose fiction writing woes. Plus it just looks like fun.