The Totally Unknown Writers Festival 2010
The eleven writers of this years festival.
Guy Allen opens the show.
Glenn James introduces the first reader.
Maureen "Mo"McKenna.
Natalia Segal introduces:
Phillip Parsons.
John Currie introduces:
Kathy Grant.
Rahul Sethi introduces:
Yanique Bird.
Virginia Ashberry introduces:
Jenny Qin Zhou.
Kwai Li introduces:
G. W. Markle.
Victoria Martinez introduces:
Monique Massabki.
Laurel Waterman introduces.
Andrea Perera.
Nadeem Basaria introduces:
Tamara Chandon.
Marianne Kalich introduces:
Fareshta Wardak.
Beth Dennis introduces:
Claire Saunders.
Financial assistance from the Toronto Arts Council made this event possible.

The Seventeenth Annual Totally Unknown Writers Festival and the launch of

Threads: Stories about community,

took place on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at The Rivoli in Toronto.

Readers ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s. Their families come from China, Ukraine, Barbados, Sri Lanka, Ireland, England, Afghanistan and, of course, Canada. Including a relative of the Dionne Quintuplets, and another whose great, great, great, great grandmother was one of “The King’s Daughters,” a group of Frenchwomen who immigrated to New France, under the sponsorship of Louis XIV, between 1663 and 1673 to start families.

Their stories range from winning a contest by collecting money from dead people, to human females transformed into village-roaming bloodsuckers, to a six year old boy who desperately tries to unwrap the bound feet of the little girl whom he’ll later marry.

The Toronto Arts Council provided support for this year's festival, and we are proud to say that every grant dollar went to the writers.

This year's stories, published in The Totally Unknown Writers Festival 2010: Stories, include:


Pink Steel-Toed Shoes

Maureen “Mo” McKenna trades in her high heels and cushy executive digs at head office for a pair of pink steel-toed shoes and a grey portable office behind some racks in a manufacturing plant. In an environment where managers and employees alike are accustomed to male supervisors—sparks fly!


My Last Presentation

Phillip Parsons dares to present a report on two books about World War 1 in front his grade twelve classmates through his guitar, voice and a song he himself wrote, “For The Empire,” a soldier’s narrative about “The Battle of Beaumont Hill.”


The Sixth Cent

Kathy Grant badly wants to win a contest set up by her employer to see who can collect the most from deadbeat customers. In only eighth place a third of the way through the competition, she devises a plan to collect from dead people. They don’t call Kathy ‘The Grave Robber’ for nothing!


Bound Feet

Jenny Qin Zhou’s narrator, ShuXen, listens as her mother tells why she married her father. From this unforgettable story, ShuXen, perhaps, learns why, despite his mistresses, her mother refuses to divorce him—and the significance of the silver neckband she holds in her hands.


The Outhouse

G.W. Markle, in 1949, lives with his family in a cottage with little plumbing and electricity on the outskirts of Toronto. The young boy’s curiousity about the temple where his father spends so much time in deep meditation—the family’s outhouse—leaves him up to his neck in....


Memère Rosa

Monique Massabki and her family celebrate her grandmother’s ninety-ninth birthday when she spots a small white leather pouch on her Memère’s lap, just like the one she has at home, made by Memère to hold her rosary on her First Holy Communion. Wanting to once more see her grandmother’s oh-so-familiar rosary beads, she watches Memère give the pouch a shake and expects to hear the tinkle of rosary beads. Instead she hears the distinct jingle of coins.



Yanique Bird sits on the verandah during a blackout when Mama tells a story about “sukuna”—human females transformed into village-roaming bloodsuckers by male voodoo priests and shamans. Yanique’s heard the tale before but her brother Eden hasn’t. And in the darkness of the porch they hear a shuffle from the street. A scrape. Could it be a sukuna? Or a pyromaniac, horse-legged diablese in a long dress and broad-brimmed hat…?



Andrea Perera, her father and 42 other Sir Lankan Canadians, including her six “aunties,” are on a bus tour of Egypt. She listens as her aunties repeatedly watch a favourite Sri Lankan movie featuring the “Sexy” Roger Seneviratne, and gossip about one of their children. Then there’s the security checkpoints at Giza…



Tamara Chandon learns all about the workings of an animal hospital during her first training shift—the Treatment, Operating and X-Ray rooms, the kennels, restraining methods, the importance of sanitization. Through Baloo, Tamara discovers the Necropsy Room, where pets are placed in two white freezers after death.


Edrees’ Afghani Engagement

Fareshta Wardak and her father are on a plane to Vancouver to meet her brother’s fiancée Giti. It’s an arranged marriage. Giti wears tight blue jeans, a red turtleneck top, long silver earrings and red lipgloss. Giti’s mother, in traditional Afghani dress, brings out a frame drum, tosses chocolates and candies, and sings and dances. So begins the celebration of a traditional Afghan engagement.


Speed Your Journey

Claire Saunders takes a trip to the French River to spend a week with a group of Voyageurs. Bill, their erstwhile leader, wears a paisley bandana tied around the top of his toupee, has a map of their canoe trip laid out on an easel, tells them they must draw three names out of a hat and observe and take notes of those people for a special Rave Ceremony, and tries and fails to teach them to sing the Voyageur song “Speed Your Journey.”