The Brain & Science – The Problem With Wanting It All

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

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Update: May 2017

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).

Stay tuned.

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ReLit 2016 Nomination!

I am honoured to have The Society of Experience shortlisted for the 2016 ReLit Awards. What are they, you ask, and wasn’t 2016 last year?

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.

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Essay in Humber Literary Review #6

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.

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Alberta Tour 2016

Here’s the short and sweet on my upcoming tour of Alberta:

The Society of Experience Matt Cahill Alberta Tour 2016

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.

November 13 — Edmonton, at Audreys Books, reading from The Society of Experience. @ 3pm  I’ll be joined by writers Tim Bowling and Greg Bechtel! Books will be sold and signed. Facebook invite here!

Updates will be made as the week progresses. I hope to meet new friends and readers during this whirlwind-ish five days!

 

 

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IFOA Reading, Alberta Tour & A New Essay

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…

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A Note For Book Clubs

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting a book club in Brantford, Ontario. It was my first experience and I truly enjoyed it. I valued the perspective of the readers and was able to hear questions I often wouldn’t get a chance to hear in professional Q&As, which end up being rather tightly formatted. The questions I received were often challenging and thought-provoking. It was also fun talking about my history there (I spent a chunk of my early years in Onondaga), which was referenced in the Brantford Expositor last year.

I wanted to share this because if anyone reading this has a book club and would consider having myself (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.

 

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THE SOCIETY OF EXPERIENCE Gets a Sunburst Award Nomination


My debut novel, THE SOCIETY OF EXPERIENCE, has made the longlist for the 2016 Sunburst Awards! It’s with such esteemed company as Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, Andrew Pyper’s The Damned, and Giller-winner André Alexis’ Fifteen Dogs. The shortlist will be announced in early July. I’m very happy to have SOE receive this sort of attention, and grateful. I’ll keep you posted on whether it makes the cut!

In the meantime, the book is available in stores in Canada and the USA, online at various merchants, and the ebook is available for worldwide download.

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Upcoming Readings With Kyp Harness and Mark Sampson & A ChiSeries Video

I have two new gigs lined up over the next few months. I have to say that my visit to Ottawa was wonderful — everyone involved, organizers and audience alike were very friendly and great people to chat with (in case you were curious, or thought these were terribly serious affairs). If you’ve been thinking of making it out, it would be great to see you at either of the next two events.

June 10th @ The Belljar (2072 Dundas St W, Toronto)
I will be reading from The Society of Experience as part of a launch for indie musician Kyp Harness’ debut novel, Wigford Rememberies. We will be joined by poet Mark Sampson, reading from his new collection, Weathervane. Details of the event can be found here. Authors’ books will be sold via Another Story Bookstore.

July 6th @ McNally Robinson Booksellers (1120 Grant Avenue, Winnipeg, MB)
I will be joining the ChiSeries once more, this time for my first reading outside of Ontario! Also reading that night will be David Neil Lee — we will be joined in conversation by Chadwick Ginther and S.M. Beiko. Details can be found here. I haven’t been in Winnipeg before so I’m really looking forward to it.

Speaking of Ottawa, the people at Silver Stag Entertainment managed to tape my reading. I normally can’t stand the sight of myself reading (or hearing my voice), but it ain’t bad. The audio quality is a little rough, as you can overhear bar patrons in the room next door, but I thought I would share it with you. Enjoy!

Lastly, I’m hoping to announce a brief Alberta tour that will be happening in September. It’s in the planning stages, so fingers are crossed!

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Look Out, I’m Coming At Ya [updated April 25th!]

Late April/early May is going to be busy with appearances! First up, I will be participating in the 35th annual Ad Astra Convention (happening April 29-May 1 in Toronto). UPDATE: I’m appearing on Sunday the 1st of May at 2pm on the panel The Trials and Tribulations of Writing About Time Travel (along with fellow authors Kari Maaren and Kelly Robson).

Then, on Saturday April 30 I will be taking part in Authors For Indies Day, working the floor at Type Books during their 10th Anniversary (Queen West location) from 12pm to 1pm. Come by and I will help you find books!

Lastly, I will be reading in Ottawa on Tuesday May 3rd at Patty Boland’s (101 Clarence Street). UPDATE: I’m appearing at 7pm, alongside authors Chadwick Ginther and Mark Shainblum. Event listing here.

Like I said: it’s busy!

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