Incognito Press

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Archive for December, 2016

A Year of Light and Darkness

Posted by E on December 30, 2016

elisa-dec2016As 2016 comes to an end, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what has been a very transformative year for me. An extremely difficult one as well since this month marks one year since my mother’s death last December, and her loss still feels altogether raw and very recent.

But it’s also been marked by some personal and professional accomplishments: I travelled to South America for the first time on a research project, and I’ve finally completed my last course for my Social Media Marketing Certificate from George Brown college! I must confess, I was waiting to earn this degree before I publish my new Art of Social Media Marketing for Creatives book, and now it’s going through the final edits before heading off to the printer.

I wanted to also touch upon some memorable highlights. When it comes to publications, there are three I am most proud of this year:

1. In March I published my literary novel Daughters of the Air, which interweaves the tragic tale of Adele Hugo, a retelling of The Little Mermaid fairytale and a modern-day timeline into a story of obsession, reincarnation and exploration of everlasting love. It’s tone is similar to The Red Violin and Posession, in that it’s a haunting love story that spans three continents, three timelines and three hundred years – a search for the root of heartbreak that involves mermaids, political activists and haunted geniuses. It flows from Paris to the Channel Islands, from spiritualist séances to the austere coastlines of Nova Scotia.

I am extremely proud of this book and I really hope you guys will get a chance to read it, because I poured all my heart into this one and it’s by far my most ambitious novel.

Daughters of the Air  CV2 cover  CV2 poem

2. In April, my villanelle poem One Europe was published in one of Canada’s oldest literary journals Contemporary Verse 2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing (CV2). It’s the only national poetry magazine that continues to publish four times a year and I was so excited to be included in the Spring 2016 edition. I was inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art to create a similar pattern, and I’m so very glad that I wrote it. A villanelle has a very complicated rhyming pattern and creating it was a lot of work, but the joy and sense of accomplishment I felt for being able to create something this complex was tremendously rewarding.

3. In July, my editorial article was published in the Canadian Jewish News in a three-page spread. Moreover, it actually made the front cover for that week’s print edition! Nothing beats receiving a congratulatory message from my former university professor, mentor and self-described “Jewish uncle”, renowned Canadian poet Seymour Mayne, praising me for having my article featured on the cover – he’d just received it in the mail hours before Shabbat, and it made our weekend.

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Although I would gladly have written the piece for free, getting a cheque from the CJN for the article was a great feeling. Depending on Patreon, writing grants, freelancing projects crowdfunding sites to keep writing full-time is a haphazard, unpredictable process that can get stressful. A lot of people read my blog but very few realize just how time-consuming writing can be, and how generating money is a persistent issue. If everyone who reads my blog donated a single dollar to my Patreon fund each month, I would have a full-time income.

I’ve been a blogger and freelance journalist for years, but my work often went unpaid. My experience with CJN taught me that I can effectively pitch and sell articles to major publications, which has shifted my perspective and made me more ambitious about pursuing paid gigs with established publications. Who knows, lighting could strike twice and I might get another article to grace a front cover someday!

Elisa HasdeuIn the coming year I intend to work more on commissioned articles and less on regular blogging. Actually, I spent the early part of summer taking online courses to earn my certificate in Journalism from Michigan State University. Although I don’t believe that a formal degree is necessary in an oversaturated field where very few can find full-time employment, I see reporting, blogging and freelance work as a continuum in 21st century journalism. In a world where an increasing number of mainstream reporters are being laid off and digital publications redefine the profession, the lines between mainstream reporter, blogger and independent journalist have become blurred.

But don’t fret, my friends! Even though I will be making paid freelance work a priority, I could never give up blogging altogether – it’s become second nature to me. I started blogging in 2007 or -8 and it’s been such a helpful outlet of emotional and artistic expression for me, not to mention that I’ve met so many great people through it.

But time will be an issue. This spring I am booked for approx. eight to ten speaking engagements throughout Ontario and Quebec. In March I will be a speaker at a conference where Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion, former Attorney General Irwin Cotler and several United Nations staffers will also be presenting. It’s also a great opportunity to meet others involved in human rights, genocide documentation and social justice issues.

Afterwards I will be interviewed for a PBS special which will be filmed in NY state. I’ve also been asked to speak at SUNY that week.

Between the speaking engagements, a commissioned book I’m working on for a client, writing my own memoir and trying to finish my MFA (I only have a semester left), time is a commodity that I will have to plan carefully. Still, the excitement of achieving so many personal goals is more powerful than my ubiquitous jitters of speaking in front of large audiences.

Under a Trump presidency and alt-right governance, more than ever, it’s an important time to be a journalist and activist. I look forward to bringing my story, knowledge and expertise about extremist movements to a broader audience.

This year I was a consultant on a short documentary about Ernst Zundel‘s former home, titled ‘206 Carlton‘, produced by a Ryerson University Documentary Media student. I was also quoted in several articles about the resurgence of the ultra-right wing in Canada, such as:

CityNews: Alleged Toronto neo-Nazi publication expands west, pestering downtowners

National Post: ‘Hitler actually wasn’t that bad’: How Neo-Nazis are using attractive young women to boost their movement

All of this has led to a sharp rise of hate tweets, Facebook messages and threatening emails coming at me from social media trolls emboldened by Trump’s win to the point of delusion. Par for the course, I suppose – though the vile anti-Semitic, misogynist words reveal the persons behind them for the pathetic cowards that they are.

Lastly, I’m proud of an extensive, in-depth interview I did with author Samita Sarkar of Blossoms Writing. It’s a worthwhile discussion to check out if you’re interested in knowing more about me, the story behind Race Traitor and its aftermath.

So on this note, I wish all of you love and light for the New Year. May your 2017 be bright and inspiring, and remember – tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one!

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If you enjoyed the read and wish to support a creative writer, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar 🙂 

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A Winter Wonderland at Grail Springs Wellness Retreat

Posted by E on December 12, 2016

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Grail Springs is a beautiful property with great energy in Bancroft, Ontario. Called “The Holy Grail of mind and body retreats” by the Toronto Star, this unique place has won the Best Retreat in Canada award by World Spa Association and ranks high on TripAdvisor’s 2016 Traveler’s Choice. And yes, that is an actual moat (crossing a little creek) that leads to the medieval storybook castle turret entrance!

With packages starting at almost $400 nightly per person, this place has acquired a certain reputation as an exclusive destination for pampering the mind as well as the spirit. It has only 13 rooms, an amazing lounge room that rivals Deerhurst’s, and several rooms for yoga, meditation, hydrotherapy and body works. Outdoors there are hiking paths, a large lake, horse stables where you can sign up for horseback rides, and a garden labyrinth.

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Photo courtesy of the Toronto Star, Dec. 2016

And now I’m here!

One of the perks of having a partner who runs workshops all over the place is that whenever we travel on business our accommodations are covered – and sometimes we get to visit some amazing places like this one.

While my partner teaches seminars, I explore the property and get an opportunity for some rest and rejuvenation.

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I’m convinced that we have one of the best rooms in the entire place  – it’s an upgraded deluxe room and faces this huge forest and a narrow creek that runs behind the property. The room has a fireplace, chaise lounge, a super-comfortable bed and a lovely carved wood desk where I will be spending quite a bit of time for the next four nights and three days working on my writing projects.

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This is the last week of my George Brown social media marketing classes. Tonight, after I submit my final project assignments for two separate classes, I will be officially done! I held back on publishing my social media guidebook because I had so much schoolwork to get through, but also partly because I wanted to graduate the program and get my official certificate so that I could include my new credentials in the book.

Tomorrow I will get back to working on said book, but in the meanwhile there is beauty to behold. Look at the view from our deck!

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The first thing I did when I got up this morning was walk around the property and take lots of photos of the woods and the frozen lake. Here are the outdoor sauna and hot tub, where we’ll probably hang out this evening. Also a view of the woods, stretching toward the lake (which you can’t see because it’s covered with snow).

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Everywhere I look around this retreat, there are woven tapestries and wood carvings, plush sofas and ornate furniture, soft music and aromatherapy candles.

Here is the incredible lounge – which is completely empty at most times since the guests are attending various classes and spa therapies (I’m not on a package, so I’m free to schedule my day as I wish). I can’t believe I had it all to myself – though later on I met Ojoe, the resident pooch 🙂

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The room has crystals, singing bowls, a tea station and a slab of natural amethyst that glows vibrant purple.

img_5884I spotted a deck of oracle cards that has been left out for the guests, and I decided to draw a card to see what message I would get from the universe.

This is what I picked: Metamorphosis.

The card’s meaning, according to the guidebook:

“You are in the process of deep and beautiful change.

Butterflies earn their wings through great effort. The process of change is often painful, for it is never without losses and sacrifices….

Despite your fear, you must accept that this is a transformational time for you. There will be some loss involved, but you’ll love what you become.”

It’s a winter wonderland here, and oh so beautiful. There is much peace and serenity in the air. After everything that’s happened over the last year, I definitely needed this getaway. And who knows – perhaps I am indeed on the brink of a beautiful transformation. 🙂

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The Truth about Bucharest School no. 19

Posted by E on December 2, 2016

scoala-19

This note was originally posted in October 2016 on the Facebook wall of ‘Scoala nr. 19’ – the Bucharest elementary school I attended between ages 6-11.

This spring the nightmares came back. Hardly a month goes by without a flashback, but after my mother died in December 2015, everything that happened to me in Romania intensified. The last 30 years of my life have been a nightmare, and much of it stems from what happened to me in Bucharest, at Scoala Nr. 19.

I write this note in English because it’s the language I’ve spoken for the last 30 years. My parents are both dead, and I don’t have any Romanian friends in Toronto, Canada, where I emigrated at age 11 before the 1989 Romanian Revolution that toppled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. I feel awkward expressing my emotions in Romanian, but the scars of what happened to me at Scoala nr. 19 still haven’t faded. Pain doesn’t fade with time. Sexual exploitation has consequences, especially at a fragile, tender age.

I was 9 years old when my mother defected from communist Romania, four years before Ceausescu’s regime was defeated. My father was 68 years old and didn’t want a child; his long-time affair with his mistress was all that he cared about. I was nine years old when my father began to lock me out of our apartment on Magheru Boulevard, and when I realized for the first time that nobody cared if I lived or died.

At nine years old I was skinny, always hungry, and most of all – afraid. The boys at my school started to pick on me – none worse than Marc Faur, the gang leader of a posse of boys who made my life miserable. He sensed who the most vulnerable, defenceless kids were in our school and honed in on me.

Those boys attacked me before and after school – kicked me, grabbed at my breasts, and Marc always made sure to punch me in the stomach with as much power and force as he could muster. They stole my innocence and at only ten years old, they made me feel that I was worthless, garbage and should kill myself.

Marc Faur hit me almost every day, making me feel dirty and afraid because nobody else tried to defend me. I know what it’s like to double over in pain, gasping – choked out of breath, feeling as worthless as a cockroach. Feeling that nobody gives a shit about me, that anybody can do whatever they want to me with impunity. I was alone, and Marc – well, Marc was the Pioneer President of Class E. His mother was a renowned opera singer, while my own parents were deaf. Worthless.

After my mother defected on a trip to Italy in 1985, my father and me were labeled political traitors. No teachers gave a shit about me.

The teachers knew better than to pick on Faur, and consequently he became our class bully. Marc Faur was a big, overweight boy and I was scrawny and unloved. Nobody cared how much I cried behind the school gymnasium, how hungry I was because nobody had packed a lunch for me.

Our teacher, Tovarasa Elena Hlatcu, sent notes to my father that my hair wasn’t brushed and I hadn’t washed my face. She sent notes after my period started, saying that “Someone should make sure the child is clean and doesn’t smell so awful.”

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My father didn’t give a shit. I lived on the streets most of the time, fending off pedophiles, depending on my best friend’s family to feed me. I was a proud girl and never asked for food, but I didn’t turn away any sandwiches or leftovers, either. Marc and Silviu Constantin abused me in every way possible – kicking me, spitting on me, grabbing my breasts, punching me in the gut, and Marc Faur went so far as to look for cockroaches and drop them in my hair.

Marc wrote horrible things on the blackboard, calling me a whore, and (as always) punched me in the stomach and in the breasts, with as much force as he could. Others, like Dan Popescu didn’t care about my abuse; they were too delicate to hit me themselves, so they looked the other way. Even as boys teased, hit and abused me, Dan (who was the only boy I ever had a crush on) looked the other way.

To this day, I am terrified of bugs. I relieve what Marc did every moment I step into the shower and wash my hair.

To this day, often I look in the mirror I am embarrassed by the size of my breasts. Silviu and Faur did this – they made me feel like garbage. They assaulted me while (at only ten and eleven years old) I felt too worthless and ashamed to tell our teacher or my father, who probably would have beaten me for causing trouble.

Thirty years have passed. I am forty years old, but the trauma those boys caused me was worse than a sexual assault – it has permeated every pore of my being. It made me feel ugly and unloved. It made me feel disgusted with my own body, which I felt had betrayed me. As a teenager, I started picking, cutting at my skin; I hated every bit of me. I was as worthless as they made me feel – even worse.

The trauma that I experienced at Scoala Nr. 19 is still part of my daily life. To this day, nobody has apologized for destroying my innocence and causing me the nightmares that still return today. Nobody has apologized for making me feel ashamed of my body, for the disgusting words I still hear inside my head today.

But I have nothing left to lose – and I’m no longer willing to remain ashamed and feel worthless just to cover up what those boys did to me. They physically and sexually abused me. They raped my innocence, and I don’t owe them anything.

I refuse to be silent anymore.

Writing this post is part of empowering myself again – reclaiming the power that they stole from me.

Postscript: after I came forward with the truth about what happened to me, on Oct. 27 I received an “apology” via email from the bully ringleader of the abuse, Marc Faur, saying he was sorry for “not being nice” to me.

marc faur apology

“Not nice” meant beating me during recess, among other things.

I rejected the apology because it wasn’t genuine and decided to write openly about it and post about it on his Facebook page this past week.

For the last 48 hours I’ve received hate-filled messages from his friends in Romania, telling me to “Go fuck yourself”, “you’re deranged”, and calling me terrible insults and names. This is without them knowing any evidence.

THIS is the reason women and girls don’t report abuse.

Soon they enlisted Facebook friends to attack me – friends who weren’t even Romanian and had no clue about what happened in the 1980s. Foreign friends who simply wanted justification to attack a stranger.

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In the last 48 hours I also received messages asking me to excuse the actions of 11-year old boys. But none of those requests acknowledged the trauma caused to a 10-year old girl. Just because this happened decades ago does not lower the impact, the pain, the consequences of their abuse on my life.

Why are girls considered worthless compared to boys?

Why is my trauma considered worthless?

costin-craioveanu

Former classmate Costin Craioveanu writes on Marc Faur’s Facebook wall: “I remember her…a superb being…it was impossible not to abuse her.”

This is pathetic – it’s bullying, and it’s NOT right. Abuse does NOT have an expiration date.

December 4 update: Other women have approached me with memories of being assaulted by boys at my old school. A model whose photos are pictured on Faur’s Photography page also contacted me privately. Another woman spoke about being raped by a boy from School no. 19, but from a different graduating year.

Last night I also spoke with an old classmate who was also beaten and abused by Marc Faur and shared the effects it had on her life. I hid her identity to protect her privacy and ensure she won’t suffer the abuse I’ve received over the last week. However, her story is important and needs to be heard. Her account is written in Romanian, but states that she was repeatedly emotionally and physically abused by Marc Faur.

We are not alone!

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