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Local writers to release “Earthbound” at When Words Collide Festival in Calgary

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 Local writers Megan Fennell and Leslie Van Zwol are excited to have their story “Earthbound” included in a new anthology, “Earth: Giants, Golems and Gargoyles,” which is to be released at the When Words Collide festival, Aug. 9-11 in Calgary.Megan Fennell and Leslie VanZwol aka authors VF LeSann. Photo submitted
“Our story, 'Earthbound', will be appearing in the upcoming anthology "Earth: Giants, Golems, & Gargoyles", edited by the terrific Rhonda Parrish, who is also an Alberta-based author. (This follows the fire-themed anthology "Fire: Demons, Dragons & Djinns,” in which we also have a story.) Our tale revolves around a dragon-less dragon-rider in a grubby urban world who teams up with an iron dragon currently dwelling and sulking in an underground parkade for a good old-fashioned treasure heist. It's been lovingly referred to as 'Dragon Indiana Jones', which is completely accurate,” they write in an-e-mail.
 Leslie Van Zwol and Megan Fennell met as co-workers and have been writing together five years, under the pen name V.F. LeSann.

“We originally met as coworkers and bonded through a love of literature. We've been co-writing for about five years but have both been writing independently prior to that as well. The name 'V.F. LeSann' is a mash-up of both of our names, although we like to joke that it stands for Victor Frankenstein, and was probably the toughest thing we've jointly produced,” they continued, adding a co-write begins with a concept.
“Typically, one of us will come up with a concept that we verbally hash out before one of us starts writing. Then we'll throw it over to the other author, who'll edit and re-write the parts already on paper and continue the story from that point, and so on back and forth until the draft is finished. Editing takes place side by side in the same room and, perhaps surprisingly, hasn't resulted in bloodshed so far,” they add.

 In addition to releasing their new story this month, they will also be speaking at the Festival.

“We'll be on panel for the publisher of the ‘Earth’ anthology, Tyche books, called “Tyche Presents”, with other authors published by Tyche (a Calgary-based publishing house!). The anthology will also be launching at When Words Collide – last year the ‘Fire’ anthology sold out, so we’re hoping for a repeat! We are also doing a panel with our wonderful friend, Cat McDonald (another Alberta-authoress) about RPG’s. We try to get to as many writing conventions as we can, including Pure Spec in Edmonton and Creative Ink out in Burnaby, British Columbia,” they noted.

 They are fans of science fiction authors Neil Gaiman, Lara Elena Donnelly, Cat Valentine, Kelly Sue DeConnick, V.E. Schwab, Chuck Wendig, Victor LaValle, Tamora Pierce, Joe Hill, Sarah Rees Brennan. They have been published through Tyche Books, World Weaver Press and Edge Publishing, but have never self-published their works.
“No, we've never self-published, though props to those who've got the stomach for it,” they noted.

 Fennell is also an actor, drummer and artist, though she doesn’t do the cover art for the books.
“Luckily, being traditionally published, the publishing houses take care of cover art, formatting, binding, and all that good stuff that the self-pubbed crew has to figure out from scratch. (Again, props to them!) I'm a last-minute dasher who needs to be dragged kicking and screaming to the keyboard, and Leslie goes into a Sherlock-esque focus while in the zone, but somehow it works.”

Their stories can be found on Amazon and Goodreads under V.F. LeSann or their actual names, Megan Fennell and Leslie Van Zwol.
“The room to play in the world of sci-fi is limitless, so why would we restrain ourselves to just writing about the here and now? The world is more interesting to us with more bends and cracks in the rigid reality we actually live in. I would describe our style as 'speculative fiction', though we've ranged as far as android-narrated, deep-space sci-fi ("Nautilus: 20,000 Light Years Above the Sea") to dystopian Western ("Riders in the Sky"). Our only rule is not to do the same thing twice in a row,” they enthused.


Casa celebrates women in the arts with new exhibitions

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Casa celebrates local female artists in their latest exhibitions, which opened June 22 and runs until Aug. 24.And Still She Persists is one of several new exhibitionas at Casa. Photo by Richard Amery
The first half of the main gallery features  “ And She Still Persists,” featuring works by  Lynne  Hunter-Johnston and Barbara West.
“They have looked at the myth of Lilith as a way to explore issues affecting women including wage inequality reproductive rights and history with the justice system,” said curator Darcy Logan, noting  the pieces include fibre based sculpture and installation components.
“They are both important parts of the art community. Lynne unfortunately passed away in the weeks leading up to the exhibition,” Logan said.
 The other half of the main gallery is bedspreads eat me up  and it really isn’t anything  to concern yourself with by Graze Wirzba.
“ They are inspired by bedspreads. Grace is a recent graduate of the University of Lethbridge,” he said.
“ she likes to  bring installation elements that examine the sense of comfort that reflects on childhood memories,” Logan said.
The Concourse Gallery features Elaine Henderson’’s ’“Landscape Impressions.”
“They are a suite of 18 paintings that are just stunning. Also upstairs  we have a group exhibition Child’s Rara Avis. (A Cluster of Rare Birds) It is a group of  nine artists who were inspired by the same poem, written by Lorraine Lee, that she wrote when she was a teenager. it shows how  diverse and subjective artwork can be,”he said.
 Meghan MacWhirter’s “Weight” is in the passage Gallery of Casa.
“There are exhibitions that are not to be missed. They are all a celebration of women working in the arts,” Logan summarized.
— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

Rick Gillis explores early twentieth century Crowsnest Pass in new novel

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 Local author Rick Gillis revisits the Crowsnest Pass in his second novel  “Buckskin Girl and Blackheart.”Rick Gillis is proud of his latest novel  Buckskin Girl and Blackheart. Photo by Richard Amery
 But unlike his first book, “ The Boy Who Couldn’t Die”which was directly inspired by his childhood growing up in the Pass, this book comes directly from his imagination.
 Gillis returned to Crowsnest Pass artist’s retreat the Gushul House Blairmore last March to get his idea about a woman, Danielle, who inherits the memoirs of an elderly woman’s adventures beginning with growing up in the Crowsnest Pass at the beginning of the twentieth century.

“It’s completely different than the last book,” Gillis said, describing it  as ““Buckskin Girl and Blackheart follows the extraordinary life of Rebecca Sarah Deering ( Buckskin Girl) from her birth in  a simple, rough cabin in the north valley woods north of the Pass from her birth in 1907. Her terrible birth left her father an embittered widower and Sarah a confused and lonely child.”
 Gillis noted the story, told  through Danielle’s reading of the memoir, takes the reader through Buckskin Girl’s life as Danielle learns about the woman who turns out to be her long lost mother.
  She meets a massive black wolf (Blackheart) and forms a mystical bond with him throughout the story. He provides a mystical guiding influence  throughout her life.
“It plays with the preconceived idea that people have of wolves and darkness are bad,” Gillis explained, adding writing the book itself was fairly quick, but a lot more work went into editing it and researching the era, so the background was as accurate as possible.

“It was all in my imagination, so I just let loose and wrote it all down in about four months,” Gillis said.
“I did a lot of research into things like whether they actually had school buses in  the early twentieth century. I also researched the language,  some of the language might not fit into that era, but Sarah was writing her memoir in the ’80s so it fits then,” he said, adding even though   the story is fictional, ensuring his historical details were accurate was essential to not distract from the story.
 “ I Have to write when I’m inspired  to write. I’m not just going to sit in front of a desk and write like professional writers who have  to release books every couple of years or so. If something comes to me, I’ll write it down,” he said.


Diana Zasadny inspired by Waterton Lake for Shadows From Fire at casa

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Lethbridge artist Diane Zasadny draws a lot of inspiration from Waterton Lake Park. So she decided to create art out of the tragedy of the Kenow Fires in Waterton Lake in 2007 for her new exhibit “Shadows From Fire” in the Upper concourse gallery and showcase. It is a combination of paintings, photography and her fist foray into wire sculpture which not only explore the devastation wrought by the wildfires, but also the rebirth of flora a year later.Diana Zasadny was inspired by the Waterton Lake fire for her new exhibit Shadows From the Fire. Photo by Richard Amery
“I’m inspired by hiking with my family and painting in Waterton Lake. I was actually evacuated from there while painting,” she said, setting up her works.

“I have four life sized wire sculptures of plants and animals. It’s my first time working with  sculpture,” Zasadny continued, who graduated from The Alberta College of Art and has been painting for over 20 years.

“The four paintings are very abstract and very similar to what I usually paint, she continued.
“I was distressed by what I saw happening, I painted the devastation but I also painted the regrowth,” she continued, listing an array of colourful flowers which grew from the ashes.

“In the winter of 2017, I explored the area where the Kenow Fire hit in Waterton. Walking through charred trees, bones, artifacts, ash and litter were exposed. The experience was upsetting, seeing my favourite sites diminished. On the way home from the park, I took a shovel full of ash which I mixed into my paint for the next year. In the original proposal for the exhibition, I planned a series of large scale drawings and paintings, depicting the change of the landscape. I imagined laying out an enormous sheet of paper or cloth in an open field and drawing out a scene in big sweeping gestures using a big graphite stick.

Then I wondered how to move the artwork without damaging it, thus I arrived at the idea of wire sculpture as an alternate means of making a line drawing. A trio of whitetail deer comprised the first sculpture, from there I decided to make this an exhibit using new materials. The sculptures focus on whimsical, larger than life plants and arrangements of deer. Over 2018, I sketched and photographed the explosive super bloom of wildflowers at Waterton, making several trips to document the scene. In August, I took the opportunity to try another new method for me, cyanotype printing. Photographic impressions of plants were created in the fire areas near the Bison Paddock and Maskinonge, documenting the renewal. Shadows from the Fire is an opportunity to challenge myself as an artist and explore materials outside of paint on canvas. It required imagination and problem solving that will hopefully enhance my practice,” according to her artists statement.

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