if you have a book club and would like to have me and my book, The Society of Experience, make an appearance, please feel free to get in touch. My contact info is on my author page: http://mattcahill.ca. I can’t always guarantee my availability, but wherever I can make it work, I will. I’m happy to make a visit in-person, as well as field a Q&A via email, or take part in a Skype session.
As a psychotherapist, I have taken an interest in the rise of neurobiological research being applied to my field. At first, particularly upon hearing about “interpersonal neurobiology” (or IPNB), I was excited — I was seeing the intrapsychic and biological converge into what appeared to be a fascinating model of understanding human behaviour. But here’s the thing: while I have a deep reverence for the subjective life of the individual, I’m also interested in looking at things empirically, where applicable. Without this latter aspect, I feel we fall prey to magical thinking.
The more I looked into some of the new ideas permeating my field, I became aware of a few things. While certain concepts, such as the idea of neuroplasticity, were taken from science, the more I looked at who was writing about this, the more I noticed that the people applying these complicated concepts to psychotherapy weren’t neurologists or geneticists. One of the oft-referenced authors in the field of IPNB is Allan N. Schore, who is a psychologist and researcher. His books are popular with those looking to harmonize neurology and psychotherapy. And while I respect his multidisciplinary work, I have difficulty with binary conceptions of how the left and right brains work (whereas, supposedly, the right brain is responsible for emotional attunement, the left brain for insight and analysis). Why do I have difficulty with this? Because I asked a neurologist, and they confirmed that this is too simplistic a way to look at the brain.
This is a blog post and not a long-form essay. I could go on. I suppose what irks me is the amount of material being written about a myriad of complex neurobiological research findings that skip over the necessary cautions that are the hallmarks of science. Correlation is not causation. How big was the sample size? Continue reading
I’ve noticed more and more over the last decade that less and less people want to use the phone. I cannot help but draw a correlation between this observation and the ubiquitous rise of digital communication. Email? Sure. Text? Yup. And what’s wrong with this, you might ask? On paper it would objectively appear that text-based communication (particularly including social media) is superior at transferring information without error, if only us pesky humans didn’t make mistakes. And this last part is key: we are not objective, we balance the objective world with our much less easily measurable experiential (or personal) reality; this second reality is informed by our experiences, which are diverse and sometimes punctuated by trauma or loss. When we talk to someone on the phone we are leaving ourselves prone — to fallibility (stammering, going off on a tangent), or having our hesitations read as something we may not otherwise wish to reveal.
I was thinking about these things (and many others) when I began reading Sarah Schulman’s powerful book, Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair. The problem with nearly all forms of digital communication and social media (with the exception of apps like Skype, etc) is that there is no actual dialogue — we aren’t allowed to have the sort of vulnerable conversations that speaking in-person or on the phone forces us into. And, in one of the book’s more important diagnoses, Schulman recognizes this as a key ingredient in the escalation of violence. Instead we are only allowed to trade unidirectional statements, leaving nuance and human connection by the wayside. So, when we have a disagreement with someone via text it becomes easy to pile on them, to vilify them. We can’t see them and there is no way for them to interject. On a social media platform like Twitter, this sort of conflict easily escalates into directing the wrath of groups upon an individual. Continue reading
My lack of updates (at least over the last few years) represent activity elsewhere (offline, or online somewhere else). In April I had the wonderful pleasure of being accepted at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity for a self-directed writing retreat. I hadn’t been to Banff since I was in my teens, so it was a great refresher on a very unique part of the country. It was also my second time visiting Alberta in the space of 6 months (previously over 20yrs before that), so with all that (including altitude and time changes) it was an intense, and dizzying, yet ultimately productive week.
When I say “productive” I mean that I’ve been working on the next novel. I can’t say that I achieved any fist-pumping wordcount, but the quality of the content was my focus. I realized when I began to work that I’d written much of the “easy” stuff beforehand, leaving this idyllic escape the setting for me to enter a very challenging series of character mindsets. Not fun. There was beer.
This past weekend, I got to take a getaway to Prince Edward County for some much-needed not work/not writing time away from home. I really love that neck of the woods. I have an affinity for rural environs: the smell of manure, the birdsounds, the expanse. And yes, the wonderful wine and beer, and cheese. Yet, coming back to Toronto, I realized that there were things missing that I would struggle to live without. Rural areas don’t have a lot of diverse culture (I will say that Picton has a very nice movie theatre, and Bloomfield has a cool-looking drive-in), and they also happen to be very white. By “very white” I mean they are almost exclusively enclaves of white people. I grew up in those sorts of enclaves and I am in no rush to return without some evidence that [wherever I fancy moving to one day] welcomes POCs (persons of colour).
I’m working through a lot of ideas as a result of these two trips, some fictional, some filtered through autobiographical experience. Along the way, I’m hoping to begin posting writing-related ideas here (I say “ideas” because I’m not comfortable with “tips,” which springs from my work as a psychotherapist who eschews advice-driven approaches).
The ReLit Awards are, to quote the blurb on their site, “to acknowledge the best new work released by independent publishers — may not come with a purse, but it brings a welcome, back-to-the-books focus to the craft.” In other words, rather than being about money and televised coverage, it’s about quality. One distinguishing element of the ReLit Awards is that they select books from the previous year. Thus, the 2016 ReLit shortlist represents fiction, poetry, and short fiction from 2015.
I am with some good company:
The Capacity for Infinite Happiness, Alexis von Konigslow (Buckrider)
All-Day Breakfast, Adam Lewis Schroeder (Douglas & McIntyre)
One Hit Wonders, Patrick Warner (Breakwater)
Split, Libby Creelman (Goose Lane)
Chinkstar, Jon Chan Simpson (Coach House)
Too Much on the Inside, Danila Botha (Quattro)
Martin John, Anakana Schofield (Biblioasis)
Winnie’s Tongue, Nic Labriola (Insomniac)
One Hundred Days of Rain, Carellin Brooks (BookThug)
The Theory of Light at Midnight, Elizabeth Ukrainetz (Tightrope)
A Superior Man, Paul Yee (Arsenal)
A Free Man, Michel Basilieres (ECW)
The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan, Robert Hough (Anansi)
The Hunter and the Wild Girl, Pauline Holdstock (Goose Lane)
The Society of Experience, Matt Cahill (Buckrider)
Where Did You Sleep Last Night, Lynn Crosbie (Anansi)
I expect the selected category winners to be announced in a month’s time.
I’m happy to say that the latest issue of Humber Literary Review (#6) is out, and I have an essay included. This is their first themed issue, and it’s about mental health. Because I’m a psychotherapist who is deeply reflective about the way in which we choose to see the world, I saw this as a golden opportunity to submit a pertinent perspective; my essay, On Madness Within Imagination, confronts a cultural blindspot – the depiction of madness in fiction.
It is available at the following Toronto bookstores:
Another Story (on Roncesvalles)
Book City on the Danforth
Book City on Queen
Book City on St Clair
Book City in the Village
Presse Internationale on Bloor
Presse Internationale in the Beaches
Type Books (on Queen)
It is available elsewhere, of course, but I have no clue where. You can also purchase a subscription from HLR.
It’s been a hell of a run. I am exhausted and happy to focus on my (very busy – not complaining) day job.
November’s tour of Alberta was wonderful, and I’m happy I pushed myself to make it happen (and grateful my publisher was able to wave her travel grant wand my way). I met readers, old friends, new friends, and relatives. I saw Alberta — a place I haven’t set foot in for almost 30 years — with fresh eyes (and a driver’s license). I could not have asked for a smoother tour, and I am thankful.
I am also tired, and am happy to put The Society of Experience to rest so that I can focus on the next book. I don’t want to publicize anything for a while. That said, I will have an essay coming out in the next issue of the Humber Literary Review, looking at our skewed depictions of madness in film and literature – that’s coming out in January, I am told.
If you are reading this, I hope you have a good December, and are able to find light in what was quite a dark 2016 for many.
Here’s the short and sweet on my upcoming tour of Alberta:
November 9 — University of Alberta, Augustana (Camrose) campus: reading from The Society of Experience at the bookstore @ 2pm. Books will be sold and signed. If you are in Marina Endicott‘s creative writing class, you will have the added bonus of having me hang over your shoulder and talk about writing and stuff on November 10th!
November 12 — Calgary, Literary House Concert, from 2pm to 5pm: the inaugural launch of a literary salon that is going to be awesome, but due to its intimate location will be RSVP only. Go here to find out more. I’m reading with Nikki Reimer & Shannon Maguire! Books will be sold and signed.
Updates will be made as the week progresses. I hope to meet new friends and readers during this whirlwind-ish five days!
I do a lot of talking about my novel, The Society of Experience, however that’s not the only work of fiction I’ve had published. Found Press, who has published my stories in their unique digital singlet format, is experimenting with the idea of creating limited print editions of select authors’ stories. I’m happy to say that one of those chosen is Snowshoe, my spooky piece about a father trying to get his son to sleep only to realize the boy is haunted by something more ominous than the wind outside.
This is well-timed since I read from Snowshoe on October 25th for the International Festival of Authors and it got a great reception. I have in my possession 15 copies – that is the extent of the initial print run since they are handbound. I am selling them for $15 each (optionally signed, if you wish). Or, if you haven’t yet read The Society of Experience (longlisted for the Sunburst Award, fave of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, as well as Emily Saso’s favourite book of 2015) I will sell a bundle of Snowshoe and The Society of Experience (regular $37 if bought individually) for $32 (and yes, optionally signed, if you wish). Crazy cheap bargain Cahill stop it.
Obviously, I only have 15 copies of Snowshoe, and while there will most likely be more in production (I can tell you there is a lot of interest from independent bookstores here in Toronto in this and other FP titles) because they are hand-made they don’t exactly slide off a conveyor by the hundreds. In other words, there’s no guarantee when more will be available.
If you are interested, get in touch: matt [at] mattcahill [dot] ca. Note: postage is extra (but reasonable)
I’ve got some great things in store for the next month or so:
October 25th: I’m going to be reading at the Literary Press Group‘s Boos & Books event, which is part of the International Festival of Authors. I’m thrilled to have been selected as well as honoured to be part of the IFOA. Because it’s a Halloween-themed event, I’m going to be reading an excerpt from my short story, Snowshoe (if you haven’t read it, it’s available at Found Press for the price of a cup of coffee – super cheap!)
November 9th – 13th: I’m going to be on a (very fast) tour of Alberta, reading/promoting my novel, The Society of Experience. Current dates are as follows:
November 9 – Camrose (University of Alberta campus)
November 12 – Calgary (location tbd)
November 13 – Edmonton (Audreys Books)
Somewhere in here I’m hoping to make an appearance in Red Deer – stay tuned! I’m looking forward to seeing old friends from when I lived there, as well as meeting readers, not to mention members of the Alberta publishing community (this last part may not sound exciting, but I think it’s significant!)
Lastly, I have an essay coming out in the next Humber Literary Review (due in November). This is a themed issue whose topic is mental health. My essay explores fictional depictions of madness in contemporary mainstream media, their worrisome undertones, and the challenges with working with the idea of madness. This is a very challenging piece, written from varying perspectives (as a psychotherapist, as an artist, and also someone who has a personal perspective on mental health challenges).
Stay tuned for updates — this is going to be a busy last quarter for 2016…