C/O Paulina Rzeczkowska
The Silhouette: Please provide a brief summary of the research you and those at the NeuroFit lab do.
Jennifer Heisz: I am the director of the NeuroFit lab and we study the impacts of exercise on the brain, as it can be used to improve cognition and mental health in individuals who are younger, older and with Alzheimer's disease.
Tell me a bit about your new book!
My new book is called Move the Body, Heal the Mind: Overcome Anxiety, Depression and Dementia and Improve Focus, Creativity and Sleep and this book is really special for three reasons. First, it showcases the greatest research studies from my lab and others around the world, showing the benefits of exercise for the brain. It also has a very personal story of my own. I personally have struggled with mental health issues in the past and was able to use exercise to heal my own mind and I share pretty candidly those stories in the book. Then, finally, a really special feature of the book is, at the end of each chapter, there are these specialized workouts [where] I synthesize the research into these workout plans.
What are you most proud of in this book?
I'm really proud of the messages that are sent. It’s a compassionate piece that I think, based on the early reviews, is really resonating with people who have felt lost or are struggling with mental health and feel alone, or have struggled to be active and now find the new motivation to be more active. I'm really, really proud of the book. I researched it extensively, I poured my whole heart and soul into these personal stories . . . I feel like when we think about mental health, our stories can remain secret, but I think when successful people share and open up about their own struggles with mental health it can give young people hope.
Was it difficult being so vulnerable and open with your personal experiences in the book?
Yes . . . It's so hard to be vulnerable and [share] this story, but the hope is that by being so honest and so open, it will really help the people that need it the most.
If there is one thing you want readers to take away from the book, what would it be?
That they're not alone in their journey and their struggle. That there is light at the end of the tunnel and you just need to hold on to that hope that it'll be better . . . It can be hard but you're not alone and successful people struggle and still achieve many amazing things in their life, you know, and asking for help is important when you need it.
For students who maybe want to pursue a variety of passions or develop their careers in different ways the way that you have, do you have any advice for them when it comes to having multiple roles in their career?
Yeah, I think that variety is the spice of life, right? And having different passions is a really great way to stay excited and invigorated in your work, your life's work . . . For me, the big thing is having a vision, having a dream about what you want to do and what contribution you want to make in your life and then putting those pieces in motion to make that dream a reality even if it takes years. Some of the big things we want to do, like this book from inception to publication was three years, it takes a long time, but you know, step by step, piece by piece, it comes together and so having this vision and this long-term planning can be really beneficial.
Anything else you would like to add or share with students?
I think especially during busy times, like exam times, it's important to make time for self-care. It seems counterproductive, but it's so valuable because when we take time to care for ourselves . . . [it] helps our brain to thrive and function better optimally so that we are more efficient at studying and we're more productive during our work time . . . Five-minute breaks are enough to improve focus. A 10-minute break’s enough to increase creativity and then the 30-minute break three times a week we've shown is enough to buffer against stress-induced depression. So just brisk walking for five to 10 or 30 minutes is enough to really have a big impact on your mental health and cognition.
C/O Charlotte Schwartz
Questions of literary expression and political tensions at the core of this alum’s debut novel
Chinmayi Yathiraju, contributor
Amidst an enduring global pandemic and rising political tensions, one needs only scroll through social media to become uncomfortably aware of our precarious and shifting political climate. There are several difficult issues that arise in the face of this transition, including the effects of individual actions on our political atmosphere and the turning of blind eyes to social issues. These are the kinds of issues alumnus Luke Beirne explores in his debut novel, Foxhunt.
Having grown up surrounded by books and a father who is a writer, literature has always been a constant in Beirne’s life. During his undergraduate studies, his passion for writing developed further when he took creative writing courses. Since then, Beirne has written in a freelance capacity and has been published in various magazines including the Hamilton Arts & Letters magazine. Foxhunt is his debut novel.
Set in 1950s London, Foxhunt follows Canadian writer, Milne Lowell, who leaves Montreal to work for a literary magazine supporting free expression. However, with rising political tensions and the progression of the Cold War, suspicions about the magazine’s affiliations begin to rise, leading to disconcerting encounters and calling everything Lowell knows into question.
The inspiration for Foxhunt came from Beirne’s undergraduate thesis project, when he first learned about the political affiliations of a major literary magazine and its role in perpetuating propaganda.
“I thought it was an interesting thing that one of the largest literary magazines in London at that time was being used for propaganda purposes. One of the things about that magazine was that people claim they didn't know . . . if they really didn't know that they were contributing to propaganda, how could their words be used for propaganda purposes?” said Beirne.
During his years completing his master’s degree in cultural studies and critical theory at McMaster University, Beirne’s research led him to a similar story of another magazine from the United States. Fuelled by his interest in literary culture and his fascination with the history of the Cold War and political propaganda, Beirne began writing Foxhunt in the fall of 2018. The novel took shape over the next three years, with much of his initial draft having been written at his home in New Brunswick.
In researching the historical context relevant to his novel, Beirne was able to delve into the relationship between the Cold War and the professionalization of creative writing. He was intrigued to learn the University of Iowa’s writers’ workshop, which has inspired and offered the framework for creative writing programs and workshops across the world, had links to the Cold War.
“I thought that it was very interesting, that the way that creative writing has been structured — and is still structured — has certain political implications,” said Beirne.
While his previous works have centered around genre fiction, Beirne considers Foxhunt to be a distinctly character driven novel. Grappling with complex social phenomena and the development and spread of propaganda, this is a novel he hopes will stay with readers long after turning the last page.
Beyond simply enjoying the story, Beirne hopes readers walk away with questions and can return to the story to find new insights and develop new interpretations.
“People go along in their daily lives and don't think about the political implications of their actions . . . [This novel] is an exploration of themes that are relevant today in terms of passivity and ideology, political participation and how people get sucked into things,” said Beirne.
Brimming with suspense, political drama and allusions to various literary works, Foxhunt is a rich and thought-provoking novel on the pursuit of creative expression as it is entangled with the surrounding political climate.
Foxhunt will be released on April 1, 2022.
McMaster alumna Elizabeth Ivanecky’s first book tackles questions of happiness
C/O Elizabeth Ivanecky
Happiness is a guiding light in our lives. It’s something we all aspire to but rarely, if ever, do we actually ask people if they’re happy. McMaster alumna Elizabeth Ivanecky is asking this question. Her new book The Child in Us: A Collection of Stories about Happiness explores her own search for happiness through the stories of influential people in her life.
Growing up in Dundas, Ontario, stories were always an important part of Ivanecky’s life. Her father initially inspired her love of stories by sharing stories with her and siblings before bed. It had always been Ivanecky’s dream to be an author.
Ivanecky completed two bachelors of arts at McMaster University: one as a double major in English & cultural studies and history, the other in French studies. After graduating in 2018, she entered the job market and worked mostly freelance jobs, doing translation work.
“After I finished university in 2018, I knew I needed to enter the job market quickly and so I just applied for whatever job I could get. But my brother was confused because he knew that I always wanted to be a writer and I'm applying for translation jobs, but those are the ones that I could get at the time. During my conversation I had with him he really pushed me to pursue my dream of being a writer, so that was the first thing that inspired this book,” explained Ivanecky.
Combined with this conversation with her brother, there were two other things that inspired her book. First was the song “The Child in Us” by Enigma, which really moved Ivanecky. Second was a quote from the late actor, Heath Ledger: “Everyone you meet always asks you if you have a career, are married or own a house as if life was some kind of grocery list. But no one ever asks if you’re happy.”
“I took that quote really literally and I thought I want to be that person that asked about people's happiness because I myself was going through moments after university where I realized I really need to do the things that make me happy,” said Ivanecky.
She started the process of writing her book in 2019. First, she interviewed many of the influential people in her life and asked them what happiness meant to them. From there she refined her writing style, ultimately opting to use creative nonfiction to fully do justice to the stories she was sharing.
The thread that unites these stories is the importance of channelling your inner child in order to find and remember happiness.
“My goal was that people reflect more on their happiness. I think after you read my book you really get a sense that there's no one right way to be happy in life and there's no one right path. We each have different paths toward our happiness and it's really just a matter of being intentional about your choices so that you can find happiness along the way in your journey . . . I include lessons at the end of each of my chapters so you learn different ways to find and remember your happiness and to channel the inner child within,” explained Ivanecky.
The Child in Us was published in December 2020 and is available on Amazon and through many local bookstores. The response so far has been very heartwarming and Ivanecky hopes that it encourages people to continue reflecting on their lives and their happiness.
“[Reflecting on happiness] allows you to experience joy more in your life and while you're never going to completely avoid sadness or these negative moments, it's just how you deal with these moments that really define you. I think when you also think about your happiness more part of that is thinking about how you cope with the negative in life which is also actually a big part of my books, is showing how people have coped with their unhappiness,” explained Ivanecky.
Ivanecky thinks her book might be a good read for students in particular.
“I think in today's day and age we just want things so fast and we think they come so quickly as well but even just thinking about my own life and all the people who I've interviewed, things take time. It takes hard work, dedication, passion, effort, all these things. It takes time for things to happen in your life, to achieve your goals and dreams. So I think this is a good read for students because it puts things in perspective for them so that they don't feel like they need to get everything all at once. They don't need to rush through life,” said Ivanecky.
More than that, she hopes that it will also remind readers to have hope.
“It's always important to have hope and I think that's always the tone of my book. It's a tone of optimism and hopefulness, so I wanted to make sure the reader felt they can like they can handle whatever life throws at them. I think it's good for students in that sense as well,” added Ivanecky.
Reflecting on our own happiness can give us direction in our lives as well as the strength to persevere in trying times. Books like Ivanecky’s The Child In Us offer insight into how others have found happiness and coped with unhappiness, helping us on our own journeys.
[feather_share show="twitter, google_plus, facebook, reddit, tumblr" hide="pinterest, linkedin, mail"]
Every few months, we get a message from a student or alumnus who wants us to take down something they’ve written for the paper. Our policy around removal has always been that if the published article poses a safety risk or creates any other form of danger, we’ll take it down or take your name off the article as requested. Otherwise, we will work with the person to find alternative ways to mitigate their discomfort with having the article published.
Sometimes their requests are unreasonable — for example, requests to take the article down because the writing was bad, the author no longer agrees with an opinion article they submitted or that a true fact published in the paper will damage someone’s reputation. I understand these concerns. Now that all of The Silhouette’s articles go online, student’s writing, or the news about their on-campus activities is no longer just under university-wide scrutiny. Anyone around the world has access to it. This has been great for many of our writers and articles. We get readers from unexpected countries (as far as Australia!), and have expanded our readership significantly. It also means we get more complaints from people who don’t want the articles they wrote or are mentioned in to show up in their Google searches.
Wanting to delete articles you’re not proud of is fundamentally misguided. It speaks to a lack of understanding of individual growth. Whether it’s because your writing wasn’t as good as it could be, or you said something you don’t believe anymore, your acknowledgement of both shows how much you’re grown and improved as both a writer and a person. Publishing a controversial opinion in any online platform is an important decision. You have to be prepared for the backlash and the feedback, and be ready to defend your point of view. If you change your mind later and realize that you don’t even know the person who wrote those horrible things, then it’s up to you to own up to it.
Wanting to delete articles you’re not proud of is fundamentally misguided. It speaks to a lack of understanding of individual growth.
If you fear a damaged reputation because you reported true facts, all I can say is: that’s too bad. The Silhouette won’t censor itself to help you clean up your public image. These situations can vary in severity, but they all speak to the need to act ethically, kindly and wisely in all aspects of your (public) life. This is especially true for student politicians.
While student newspapers and organizations are less serious and more forgiving than their “real world” counterparts, they’re still no joke. It’s a reality that’s not meant to scare you, but to inspire you to make the best of your time here. Put a lot thought into what you write and how you act. Stand up for things you believe in, but be open to changing your mind. If you make mistakes, the best thing to do is to own up to them. Even if we delete your article from our servers, rest assured that the internet at-large is not such a forgiving place.
By: Nimra Khan
It seems that fiction’s intrigue for Scotland can never be quenched. This intrigue lies at the heart of author SJ Garland’s recent Scotland-based Markinch series which includes the books Scotch Rising and Pretender at the Gate.
Garland’s books follow the story of Captain Clyde-Dalton, an English soldier sent to the town of Markinch, Scotland at a time when England and Scotland are to join Great Britain. With his Native American wife recently murdered, Clyde-Dalton arrives in the town ready to finish his post there. But surprising murders and accusations turn up, leading to the unearthing of a Jacobite plan that continues into the second book. While the beginning is a little slow as you get used to the Scottish dialect and history, the story only gets more suspenseful as it unfolds. It’s hard to reveal much about the plot without spoiling everything, but there are plenty of gun-toting, brash men, along with a surprising love interest that ends in the most unexpected of ways.
I’ve yet to visit Scotland, but Garland has actually lived there. When asked what she loved most, she admitted: “The people. Scots are great fun...whether I’m taking in a show at the Edinburgh Fringe festival or having a pint down the pub, there are always friendly Scots around.”
Garland also stressed that she is a historical fiction writer, not a historian.
“The large part of my research happens after I have the major plot lines written. It is important, I think, to add just enough historical detail in order to set the time and place of a historical novel without it becoming a history lesson. Historical fiction should be an escape from the banality of everyday life.”
Speaking of a history lesson, Scotch Rising involves the Captain learning a lot about the Highland’s love for scotch and taking pride in scotch-making.
Garland admitted that it actually took her a few years before she enjoyed scotch. “There are so many different variations of scotch, that it can really symbolize the local culture of each village in Scotland. Some areas use unique distilling techniques.”
The perspective of the Captain in this series is interesting because he isn’t a likeable hero. When asked why her books involved such an abrasive and harsh protagonist, Garland said, “I like a flawed character, one who must look within themselves in order to overcome some sort of obstacle. It is a much more realistic interpretation of the human condition.”
Another major theme of this series is about being an outsider (otherwise known as a Sassenach). While both sides have their own prejudices, Garland explains that, “at the time of the story’s setting, 1707, many people never left their village ... most people would have received their information from the outside world through hearsay and rumours. Once the Captain lived in the village for a few months, [the] inhabitants ... realized most of the rumours about the English were not true.”
Finishing this series, I discovered that it’s the first published work by Garland. Considering the challenges involved in writing books, Garland admitted she had to adjust to many things. “The first was having the confidence to put my manuscript out into the world. The second has been engaging in a marketplace for authors that is changing every day. It is still possible to get book deals with the big five publishers, but ebook readers and print on demand services have also made it possible for authors to get their work out to readers.”
Far from a fresh-faced author now, Garland is busy with future books. Captain Hawk, the first in a series of four books, comes out May 2015. Leaving Scotland this time, Garland explains that it will be set in Singapore between 1822 and 1823 as a port is secured for the East India Company. “The main character, Nathaniel Hawk, finds himself in Singapore battling pirates, the East India Company and his former friends.”
With Garland bringing more spark to history in the coming year, there’s a lot to look forward to. Meanwhile, the Markinch series is a must for lovers of historical fiction, especially when it concerns Scotland or Outlander fans.
When Sarah Olutola isn’t working on her dissertation here at Mac’s English and Cultural Studies graduate program, she can be found on bookshelves across Canada under the pen name Sarah Raughley.
Sarah’s first published book, Feather Bound, is the result of her creative writing efforts done after hours, after being encouraged in some of her English classes.
“Mac gave me encouragement in a roundabout way in that I had this class that we had to share our work and get feedback on it every step of the way. It wasn’t something I was used to as I didn’t usually show my creative writing to others,” said Olutola.
The book, an entry into the young adult fantasy genre, tells the story of a young girl with a secretive past getting swept up into a world of glitz and glamour, but soon finds that same world has disturbing connotations.
“It’s more low-key magical realism which basically means contemporary but with a touch of magic. You know, how sometimes fairy tales are creepier than they let on? It’s like those, but transposed into the modern world.”
Though this is Sarah’s first book published, it is not the first work taht she has tried to get bound and sold. “Just because you may have a debut doesn’t mean it’s the first book you try to get published. There are other works I’ve tried but wasn’t able to. This was an outlier for me, a bit experimental, and that’s how it went.”
She talks of her influences beyond other books, being that she plays a great deal of video games and wants people to take the medium seriously. “I’m sort of a geek and I found when I was a kid I did read, but I played video games more than I read. A lot of people dismiss video games as a way of storytelling. You see a lot of really creative, out-of-the-box storytelling in games.”
To aspiring McMaster authors, she stresses the importance of doing your research and investigating alternative publishing avenues.
“There’s the traditional route, which I did. Getting an agent, writing a manuscript, and e-mailing a query to a bunch of publishers. Nowadays, because of the rise of e-books and e-readers, you don’t really need to go through the traditional route. I’m happy I have an agent and that kind of support, but I’m also open to putting myself out there, for a dollar or two on Kindle,” said Olutola.
“Another big tip would be to read, read, and read a lot in your field, and even outside your field. It helps you build your vocabulary and evolve your writing style.”
She is not ready to put her passion to bed just yet, as she has already taken steps towards another publication. “I just wrote another manuscript, along the lines of big epic fantasies that I like [such as LOTR and ASOIAF] and I am currently sending that to publishers. I’m hoping that becomes my next book. It’s something completely new.”
When asked about the pen name, Olutola responded, “I’m eventually going to have to publish works under my professional name, and I didn’t want to get my academic work mixed up with my fiction writing. Raughley is a nickname for my Nigerian name, just a spelled a little differently.”
“It’s the dream that makes artists go on.”
With this line from his novel Flashforward, renowned Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer addressed a crowd of faculty, Trekkies, undergraduates and library staff in Faculty Club’s Great Hall on Nov. 25.
Sawyer was recently awarded his twelfth Canadian Science Fiction ‘Aurora’ award for his novel Watch. He is also the only Canadian ever to win all three of the most prestigious awards for science fiction writing – the Hugo, Nebula and Campbell awards.
Yet, he doesn’t even like the term science fiction.
“I actually like to say that I’m writing philosophical fiction,” said Sawyer, adding, to assorted chuckles, that the moniker Phi-Fi doesn’t seem to be catching on.
Describing science fiction as a literature of ideas, Sawyer stressed that his writings and those of his “intellectual grandfathers” Jules Verne and H.G. Wells should not be dismissed as fantasy.
Instead, they are biting social commentaries, distorted by the lens of science and futurism.
Using the 1969 Planet of the Apes movie as an example, he spoke of science fiction’s ability to draw people into considering ideas like colonialism and race relations without preaching or becoming disengaging.
Speaking out against the ease with which the public dismisses science fiction, Sawyer discussed the freedom to grapple with powerful ideas – fate and determinism, the truth of religion and more – that writing science fiction allows.
Part of his love of the genre, he claimed, came from the ease with which one can “ask big questions” and create imaginative, but realistic scenarios to test possible answers.
His book Flashforward, adapted into an ABC television series in 2009, poked at determinism by describing a world where all people momentarily caught a glimpse of themselves twenty years in the future.
Sawyer concluded his lecture with a reading of an excerpt from Flashforward. He described aspiring creative types – artists, writers, actors – who had glimpsed a future in which their dreams for fame were not realized.
Accepting future mediocrity and normality, they gave up their quest to be different. The reading tied together the themes of Sawyer’s lecture.
The “dream” his character refers to, the ideas that keep painters painting and writers writing, match well to the philosophical ideas that science fiction presents and explores, and are meant to provide visions of the future that encourage readers to question their current lives and world.
Sawyer’s own imaginative world will soon take residence at McMaster. His visit to campus was spurred in part by his decision to donate his archives to the University.
“McMaster has a history of collecting the archives of Canada’s great writers – people like Farley Mowat and Pierre Berton,” said Jeffrey Trecziak, McMaster’s University Librarian, when asked why he had approached Sawyer with this request. “It’s only fitting that Canada’s great science fiction writer takes his place among them.”
The archives will be compiled and transported to McMaster in several instalments over the next few months and is expected to be available by March 2012.
Assistant News Editor
If somebody said that David Adams Richards, a prominent Canadian novelist from New Brunswick, would have stopped by the smoke stacks of Hamilton to discuss the finer things in life, the appropriate response would be to ask if the individual was taking any illicit materials.
Illicit materials or not, Richards found himself in Hamilton from Nov. 12 to the 14.
His appearance was part of an annual Distinguished Visitor Speaker Program, funded through the Harold and Lilojean Frid Endowment and sponsored by the Westdale United Church.
Richards spoke on a variety of issues regarding topics large and small, from a wine and cheese meet-and-greet to the existence of God.
In addition, there was a secondary event entitled, “Reading, Discussion, and Reception” at the University Club, sponsored by the McMaster Arts and Science Program, English and Cultural Studies, Labour Studies and Economics, and Religious Studies departments.
Known primarily for his novels, such as Mercy Among the Children, which was a co-winner of the Giller Award in 2000, Richards stands as a leading Canadian writer.
Currently, he is one of the only three to have ever won the Governor General’s Award in both fiction and non-fiction.
Richards has also been shortlisted for the Trillium Award, Thomas Raddell award, Canadian Booksellers Association author of the year, countless regional awards for his novels, and the prestigious Canada-Australia Literary Prize in 1992.
To say the least, this literary paragon’s list of accolades is long.
Yet, under the hum of an anxious audience, his eminence consistently preceded him.
At each event, the audience was left with lingering thoughts of ambiguity: could this really be David Adams Richards?
Where superior knowledge of the literary world should have been, there stood unbridled modesty. In place of splendor and extravagance were unkempt hair and a five-o’clock shadow. Instead of impatience and arrogance, there was a friendly smile.
It was such a characterization that, despite expectations otherwise, perhaps fueled Richards’ opening comment at the wine and cheese event.
“I almost never got into university because I almost never got out of high school. I got expelled four times.”
Such a comment began a brief outline of Richards’ early life as a truly gritty struggle.
From his birth in Newcastle, New Brunswick to his original aspirations of being a professor, because “it looked so grand, sitting in a chair all day and smoking a cigarette,” Richards claimed he had difficulty staying afloat.
But it is only because of difficulty that happiness has any meaning.
Richards, despite his overwhelmingly difficult start to his professional life, soon discovered a passion for writing, and more importantly, the happiness that his writing provided.
Richards attributes his success to a written tone that mixes a bitter realization of moral verisimilitude and indelible nostalgia neatly packaged into a Canadian setting.
Much of this comes from the fact that all of his novels centralize on the region of Miramichi, a familiar New Brunswick territory for the author.
It is in this region, one that Richards’ described as “leaving numerous unforgettable impressions,” where the sobering realities of life dominate.
Far away from the stereotypical enchantment of the East, where unforgiving waves lap across a jagged landscape, where quiet serenity is only interrupted by the roaring of the sea, where an ocean gives way to life and life gives way to an ocean, stands reality, and more conspicuously, the struggles life holds.
Such realties were highlighted during the wine and cheese event as Richards read two passages from his book The Friends of Meager Fortune.
Both of the excerpts were centred around the idea that “human greatness does not involve money, power or authority,” said Richards. “It involves character.”
It is this character, one of equality as opposed to superiority, that emanated from Richards as he read.
With an inviting tone, the room became a setting and the audience became characters in his books.
As he concluded the night with the second passage, one could not help but feel that perhaps art was imitating life, for his shaggy, soft-spoken, working-class sort of demeanor echoed the words that he himself had written, and he walked with an uneasy sway that mirrored the sea.
Or, maybe, it was the other way around.