Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Open Book Special Series: Toronto Street Writers - Krystle McKenzie

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Krystle McKenzie

The Toronto Street Writers program is an initiative headed by author Emily Pohl-Weary which brings together talented young writers from different walks of life. The group meets weekly, ten months out of the year.

On July 1, the Toronto Street Writers will be launching their 2012 anthology, West of What We Know. You can find event details here — the launch is open to the public, with readings from some of the city's rising literary stars.

As a celebration of the anthology, Open Book: Toronto is proud to host a special series of interviews with several of the contributing writers. We're pleased to launch the series with today's conversation with artist and writer Krystle McKenzie. Be sure to stay tuned this week and next to read interviews with several other promising young writers whose work appears in West of What We Know.


Open Book:

What drew you to the Toronto Street Writers program?

Krystle McKenzie:

I was told about it at a really low point in my life and needed — NEEDED — somewhere I could feel safe and accepted.


Was there anything about the program that surprised you once you were a part of it?


The openness to talk about issues like marginalization, home life and other sensitive topics. For once I didn't feel like I had to keep my mouth shut.


Tell us a bit about a piece of writing you've created during the program that you're proud of.


There’s one that’s not in the upcoming West of What We Know book, since it was written just a couple weeks ago, about a person reflecting on a break-up. The prompt that was given to me was awesome, because it was supposed to be write from the perspective someone who’s the complete opposite of what I am (a lightweight woman of colour). So I wrote it from the perspective of a Hell's Angels biker, who’d broken up with a punky tattooed lady. It was a lot of fun to write, just because of the way the prompt was determined! Ha ha!

Other ones I'm proud of are the ones that are in the book — so you’ll have to read it! I subverted the recipe form, because I like to bake, and it feels very relevant in a lot of ways. It makes me think of my dad. And my second piece in the book was a chance to vent, without necessarily having to focus on difficult things or sharing happy memories.


Who are one or two of your favourite authors or poets?


To be honest, I haven't read enough books to really solidify that yet. As far as childhood books go, I’d have to say Brian Jaques, and the person who authored Sibylline — Raymond Macherot. There's also Hergé, because I loved the Tintin cartoons, and possibly Maurice Leblanc since Nighthood, one of my favorite shows of all time, is based off the Arsin Lupin books. Sadly I still haven't had a chance to read those yet. Nor Alice and her adventures underground. As for nowadays? I still have a lot of books to read before I can answer this question, but one of them would have to be J.K. Rowling — as long as you don't talk to me about the seventh book. No... just.. no. That one was a travesty.


What are some of your goals or dreams when it comes to writing?


To create a way for people to see me, as in understand or "get" me. Because I’m a visual artist first, I’d like to use my writing to help give my characters and world more of a voice. Hopefully, one day, I’ll have it all set up the way I want, so people can see these words and creations, and so I can share my stories with them.

Krystle McKenzie is a visual artist and a member of the Toronto Street Writers group. Her work will be included in the 2012 anthology West of What We Know.

For more information about West of What We Know please visit the Toronto Street Writers website.

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