Archive for the ‘Book Club Forum’ Category


And below is the letter we recieved from “D” — another participant in the Idefix program in Berlin (and a new Intrepid Pens friend). Scroll down to the Comments Section to see what we sent back.

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January 5, 2011

Hello you people from Vancouver!

How do you do? I hope that you are very well. The English teacher in our English learning group called “Sonja” told us about your project. I learned that you meet once a week to write about different things in your life. Is that right?

Can you tell us something about the new trends in Canada or American? That way we can see what comes to us in 4-5 years. I think it’s interesting to hear what happens in the future.

I’m 48 years old, named [“D”]. The name comes from Dutch. My second name is [“S”] and comes from Russia. Both name[s] were a problem for the church. I was born in a very catholic part of Germany. I have no wife and no children.

Ok. I’ve also seen your website, but only shortly, so I can’t say anything about it.

My favourite films are:

  1. T II
  2. The Fifth Element
  3. Starship Troopers
  4. Showgirls
  5. Alien
  6. The First Contact

With friendly greetings,


Last month, Intrepid Pens worked on replies to our new friends in Berlin. Below is the letter we received from “K”. In the Comments Section are our replies.

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January 5, 2011

My name is [“K”], I’m a German woman, I’m 42 years old, and I live in Berlin! I’m also an ex-drug-user and I’m substituted [“in recovery”] now for 3 ½ years. My passions include dogs, especially my own, and I would be interested in becoming a streetworker [“social worker”] job.

I work in a social organization where substituted people [“recovering drug users”] works. In this organization we have an English course, where a very cute woman from Canada, called Sonja, teaches us. She told us about you and your place! I found it very interesting, and I would love to correspond with you!

In addition to getting to know Canadians, it would greatly improve my English. I would be very happy to hear from you!

Sincerely yours,

“Tuck Everlasting”

Posted: February 21, 2011 in Book Club Forum

“The Flying Troutmans”

Posted: February 21, 2011 in Book Club Forum

(Jan. 2011) The Book Club started a new book this evening: “The Flying Troutmans” by Miriam Toews. Copies came to us thanks to a very generous donation by a Vancouver-based Book Publicist. We read through the first few pages together at tonight’s meeting and laughed out loud. Comments from group members will be posted below as we make our way through.

A few months ago Intrepid Pens received a letter from an English teacher in Berlin. She’d seen an article about us in an online Canadian newspaper, and was inspired to get in touch. Her name was Sonja. Here’s what she told us:

Originally from Canada and now living (and studying) in Berlin, Sonja teaches ESL at a Berlin-based organization called IdeFix (

IdeFix is “a reintegration, qualification, and occupational project for [recovering] drug users. The [program] offers daily structure, by means of activities and work for methadone substituted people.”

IdeFix began in 2002 as a project that aimed to provide meaningful activities in a safe environment for people who struggled with addiction. IdeFix offers participants, many of whom have been unemployed for years, the opportunity (through programs, classes, and services) to improve self-esteem and to hone their skills (“punctuality, commitment, and dependability”) in order to “later find their place on the job market”.

IdeFix participants, among other things, run a store that sells self-made products (ranging from dog food to dog accessories) and offer dog-sitting services.

Sonja had shared the article about Intrepid Pens with her Advanced ESL Students, and they were inspired to write to us. They thought, it turns out, that we might make good Pen Pals! They were keen to practice and improve their written English, and to learn more about North America. In fact, they thought the Downtown Eastside seemed like a place to which they could relate. And while Intrepid Pens is a group made up of women from all walks of life, some participants could certainly relate to their struggles.

I took the idea back to Intrepid Pens and they were thrilled that someone as far as Berlin was inspired by what we were doing; was keen to partner in some way. (And I thought Sonja was brilliant for having imagined such a wonderful partnership!)

Last week we received three letters. They were enthusiastic and honest and Intrepid Pens (excited to have received mail from across the globe) wrote back with the same enthusiasm and honesty.

And while the activity was fun (and inspiring) it also provided great fodder for a writing workshop. The group was able to explore a narrative style we haven’t yet covered in detail.

I think (hope) you’ll find the letters (and their enthusiasm and honesty) as magical as I did.

We’re doing one letter each week, so that at the end of the month, the IdeFix students will each receive between 15 and 20 replies from Intrepid Pens. The first letter we read was from a young woman who, out of respect for her privacy, we’ve called “D”. Her letter is below. The Intrepid Pens replies are in “Comments”. Click the link to view them.

>>> (January 5, 2011)

Dear Intrepid Pens,

My name is “D” and I’m 23 years old.

I’m from Berlin, Germany and I’m working in a social project called Idefix where I, amongst other things, joined the English class. In this lesson I have heard of you. We’re a group about 6 people. We are looking for penpals, which we hope to find amongst you.

My English is unfortunately not the best, but I hope that it will improve. Until then my dictionary will be my best friend. It would be nice to get to know you and to share stories with each other about our cities, our lives and so on. I hope to correspond with you!

I wish you a merry x-mas and a happy new year.

Friendly greetings, “D”

“Runaway: Stories”

Posted: February 21, 2011 in Book Club Forum

(2010) Last week we started on Alice Munro’s Runaway: Stories. We’re doing a story a week. Post your feedback in the “Comments” section below.

“The Liar’s Club”

Posted: February 21, 2011 in Book Club Forum

(2010) The group will dig in to Mary Karr’s “The Liar’s Club” this afternoon. (It’s one of my favourite memoirs so I’m looking quite forward to it.) Special thanks to Carnegie Library, Aaron, Susan, Heidi, Rhianna, and Rachel for working so hard to get us copies of this hard-to-find title.

“Where The Heart Is”

Posted: February 21, 2011 in Book Club Forum

(2009) And post your feedback for this one here!

(2009) The Cactus Book Club has already tackled this book. The DTES Club will start on Saturday. Post your feedback here!