life rattle show no. 1319

Presented on THURSDAY, october 23, 2014


hosted by laurie kallis


"Working at the Smoker's Pit"
by Phyllis Mak


"Ron's Smile"
"Mi Kyeong"
by Jason Swetnam


tonight's Show

Life Rattle No. 1319 features three stories by two Life Rattle Writers
Phyllis Mak and Jason Swetnam.

All three stories on tonight’s program start from a workplace setting. Yet each writer expands on the initial work theme and takes their stories into totally different realms.

Phyllis Mak, our first reader, was born in the spring of 1995 in Mississauga, the older sister of a smart younger brother, the daughter of an imaginative mom and a hardworking dad.
Both of her parents emigrated from Hong Kong twenty-one years ago. She spent the majority of her childhood painting incredibly bad pictures and writing curious little stories until she got busted tricking a teacher into thinking that she had nine siblings. Phyllis Mak is currently in university, where she enjoys studying English and professional writing. In her free time, she either hops over to the archery range with her family to shoot a few ends or attempts to wake up before noon.

Phyllis Mak writes with a restraint that grants readers the latitude to absorb the atmosphere of her setting. The psychic space she creates allows the subtlety of her words to penetrate slowly. We are not told how to feel about a given situation; she brings us there and let’s our awareness develop at its own pace.

"Working at the Smoker's Pit" places in a distant corner of hockey arena concourse, where our narrator, a young woman, stands post at an isolated exit used by those who leave the arena to smoke, and then return. She works alone.


Jason Swetnam, tonight's second reader, was born in Springhill, Nova Scotia in 1972.  He grew up in Amherst on the wrong side of the tracks but crossed to the other side in time for high school where he learned the habitude of the right side of town. Since then Jason has tried to find his own place in the world. He’s looked for it on a boat in the Pacific, a camel in the Sahara, a bicycle in California and at various universities—in Halifax, then England, and now again in Toronto.

He used to hitchhike everywhere, then he started riding his bike everywhere. Now, he subsists on those memories while he waits for his kids to get old enough to talk them into going on adventures with him. Jason Swetnam lives with his partner and kids in a house, in Toronto, where he teaches high school English and Philosophy, and feels guilty for not writing as much as he wants to.

The prose of Jason Swetnam will stay with you for a while. His fully realized characters have such complexity that days from now you will still ponder their motivations.
Again, as in Phyllis Mak’s “Working at the Smoker’s Pit,” Jason Swetnam’s featured stories begin with a work theme. But, by the time we come to the end, the idea of work is a distant memory.

In "Ron's Smile" the workplace environment of a group home quickly fades in comparison to a particularly chilling resident whose behaviour has haunted me since I first read this story over a year ago.

In "Mi Kyeong" a position teaching English as a second language in South Korea, is the launching board for a delicate affair between instructor and adult student.

Both of Jason’s stories come from the multi-author collection There’s Going to be Trouble, published by Life Rattle in the fall of 2014. Jason will read “Ron’s Smile” at this year’s Totally Unknown Writers Festival on November 11th at the Rivoli in Toronto. Both "Working at the Smoker's Pit" and "Ron's Smile" will be published in The Totally Unknown Writers Festival 2014: Stories.


Please Note: Tonight's stories contain intense situations.
Listener discretion is advised.