A series in which Isabella is excited about everything that is happening at #GrowingRoom2019, so she sat down with some festival authors to hear about their work and what events they are most excited to take part in. Learn more about the 2019 Growing Room festival by visiting our website, festival.roommagazine.com.
LJ Weisberg is a published author and spoken word poet living in Vancouver, BC. They currently attend Kwantlen Polytechnic University for Creative Writing.
ROOM: Hello, LJ, how are you? I’m so glad to have the opportunity to have a conversation with you. Can you believe it’s only been a few months since we first met? First of all, Let’s establish the facts. At 19, you are the youngest panelist I believe, to have ever featured at the Growing Room festival. So, tell us about yourself, who you are and the spaces that occupy you. How did you come to writing and specifically, slam poetry, this early on?
LJ: Hi Isabella! It’s hard to believe it’s only been a few months, it feels as if I have been in Vancouver much longer. It’s truly an honour to be a part of this festival when I am a newcomer to Vancouver’s writing scene. I identify as a queer non-binary artist of many different forms, but poetry has really been at the forefront of my creative drive since I was in my early teens. I began performing in my hometown of Kingston, Ontario. There is a really vibrant slam poetry and live music scene within the Queen’s University campus, specifically the Queen’s Poetry Slam, which I discovered and eventually started performing at around the age of fifteen. Since then, but before moving here, I’ve performed in many venues around Kingston, including at the Isabel Bader Centre with the Queer Songbook Orchestra, and at the Skeleton Park Arts Festival with acclaimed Canadian poet and novelist Steven Heighton.
ROOM: You recently moved to Vancouver from Kingston, and already, you have thoroughly integrated yourself within Vancouver’s slam poetry scene. In the few months that you’ve been here, you’ve managed to tie first place at the Vancouver Poetry Slam, make it to the Van Slams semi-finals for women and non binary folks, and perform at Mashed Poetics: Against me: Transgender Dysphoria Blues. That is an impressive feat. Would you like to speak more to the importance of community, finding it, and what that means for you.
LJ: Kingston really has a wonderful arts scene, it must have hundreds of events every year featuring everything from local bands to visual artists. I can really give it credit for instilling the importance of connection in me, and driving me to put myself out there when I came to Van. As for how I have integrated so quickly, I honestly have no idea. I can say I had lot of practice in Kingston performing my work, and since I arrived here I have started school at Kwantlen Polytechnic in creative writing, which has directly effected the quality of my work for the better.
To me community is about connecting with people within a shared space. Since my work is often deeply personal and raw, to me community also means bringing people together with my writing, and sharing an experience while we share a common space.
ROOM: Like me, you are also in your first year of university, at Kwantlen Polytechnic University where you are pursuing creative writing. How is that going? I want to hear all about it!
LJ: I am lucky to have had wonderful professors so far who have been a brilliant influence on my creative pursuits and projects. My writing has really grown since I arrived here, which I can credit both to Kwantlen’s wonderful creative writing department, and also my time spent with the weekly Vancouver Poetry Slam.
ROOM: I’d love to hear about what you turn to for inspiration — what are your favourite writing spots? favourite books that you return to time after time? other writers? and, what are your hobbies outside of writing?
LJ: I seem to get the biggest bouts of inspiration whenever I’m on public transit. I have an hour an a half commute each way when I go to school, so I have plenty of time to people watch and work on editing poetry. The only problem is I get motion sickness. But it’s definitely worth the nausea when I see a nicely polished piece.
Regarding reading material, I read a lot of the classics when I was growing up so I can say I’m a fan of Harry Potter, and of stories for all ages. A favourite of mine has always been Watership Down. I’m a huge fan of the surreal, Animal Farm and Fahrenheit 451 are also on the favourites list. As for poetry, I have seen both Shane Koyczan and Billy Ray-Belcourt live, and have the utmost respect for them and their incredible work.
When I’m not reading and writing I enjoy creating visual art, shooting short films, and longboard-skateboarding.
ROOM: We have you featuring in the event, "So You Think You Can Slam?". But tell me, what are some other events that you are most keen on attending?
LJ: Everything looks amazing, I wish I could attend every event! But I’m definitely hoping to sign up for some workshops.
ROOM: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me, LJ. I’m so excited to have you for Growing Room 2019!
Isabella Wang is a young, emerging Chinese-Canadian writer from Vancouver, B.C. Her poetry is published/forthcoming in Looseleaf magazine and Train Journal. At 17, she was the youngest writer shortlisted for The New Quarterly’s 2017 Edna Staebler Essay Contest. She is studying at SFU in the fall of 2018, working with Books on the Radio and interning at Room.