Espresso Gang - Winter Art Show

Tis the season for snow, celebration and reflecting on the year. I was asked to participate in a group show with others in the Espresso Gang. We meet and draw, share conversation and laugh together. Jaz Pawa has organized this show for us.

Espresso Gang - Winter Art Show
Opening night: Saturday, Dec 7th, 7 pm
Caffe Rustico
3136 Main St, Vancouver
contact: Jaz Pawa 778-235-7969
Show will continue through December

The Art Studios Winter Sale Video

The members appear in this video about The Art Studios and our upcoming Winter Sale. Thanks to Waynes World Studio for putting it together and helping us out.

The Art Studios Winter Sale and Silent Auction

Another great sale of pottery, paintings, cards, jewelry, textiles and more!

Thursday, Nov 21st, 12-8pm
Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street, Vancouver
Admission by donation.

Canon C100 'The Chair'

Waynes World Studio explores a conceptual approach in this video 'The Chair.' It's a taste of what's to come in one of Wayne's projects. I'm excited to work with Wayne and Susie Lee, a talented actress. Check out his blog to see more of Wayne's artistic work including a Conceptual Photo Test Shoot about schizophrenia which utilizes themes, atmosphere and symbolism.

Art Against Stigma 2013

As a member of The Kettle Friendship Society, I invite you to bring a friend and come see a wonderful display of original art for sale created by people in recovery. This event is to build awareness around mental illness in the community and share what we do. Art helped me to heal and keeps me well. There will be 300 works including pottery, paintings, drawings, photography, and art cards.

Art Against Stigma 2013 Opening Reception

When: Friday, November 15, 2013

Time: 5 – 7pm

Where: 1784 East Hastings St (at Salsbury)
Featuring guest speaker, artist Venus Soberanes on Expressive and Outsider Art
Light Refreshments will be served
When: November 15, 2013, 5 – 10 pm
, November 16 to 17, 2013, 11am – 6pm
Expressive Arts Workshop with Venus Soberanes
A hands-on workshop open to the community Sunday, November 17, 2013  1 – 3pm, 1784 East Hastings St (at Salsbury)
Admission is free, but space is limited. Please email Jackie at to register
For more information call: 604-251-0999

The Kettle Friendship Society is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1976. They provide housing, advocacy, employment services, and support to aid people in recovery from mental illness, some who have experienced homelessness or deal with addiction issues. They have a drop-in centre that services 3,600 individuals a year and provide supported housing for 200 people with more units proposed.

Maria Savva's new book release

Memories from the past can haunt the present. - Maria Savva on 3.

I'd like to introduce Maria Savva's new book titled, "3." It's a trio of short stories including:

Never To Be Told - Tom and Amber are on a romantic date... but the past is always present.
The Bride - In this paranormal short, Olivia makes a chilling discovery.
What The Girl Heard - Victoria revisits a place that holds a dark reminder of an incident from her childhood. She had vowed she would never return.

I've read several of Maria's books and wasn't able to put them down because of their intriguing qualities. I recommend this latest offering by this talented author.

Author Bio:
Maria is a writer of short stories and novels. She has always been a storyteller, and an avid reader, and is now having a lot of fun in her adventure with the creative art of writing. She has published 5 novels, including a psychological thriller, a family saga, and a fantasy/paranormal/time travel book. She also has 5 collections of short stories, the latest “3” has been described as an “Innovative showcase” of her short stories. If you like stories that will take you deep inside the characters’ hearts and minds, and you like twists in the tale, you will probably want to try these stories.

As well as writing, Maria is a lawyer (not currently practising law). During her career, she worked in family law, criminal law, immigration, residential property law, wills and probate, among other things. Many of her stories are inspired from her own experiences and the experiences of those she knows or has known. Chances are, if you get to know this author it won’t be long before you are changed forever into a fictional character and appear in one of her books. If she likes you, you may become a romantic hero/heroine; if she doesn’t... well, she writes a good thriller!

Maria currently divides her time between working as an administrator in a university, and writing/reading/editing/blogging. She maintains the BestsellerBound Recommends blog helping to promote fellow indie authors. She’s also a music blogger for UK Arts Directory where she helps promote independent musicians.

For more info, please visit her official website: You may also find her on: Goodreads BestsellerBound Recommends Twitter Facebook and UK Arts Directory. Her book is available in Kindle format with a paperback version coming out soon on Amazon US or any other Amazon site.

RERUN by James D. Young

      James D. Young recently published his novel, RERUN. It is the story of a U.S. war veteran who experiences a series of mysterious paranormal events.
     Also in print is a collection of his short stories, Time Passages, and an English language version of Jonathan Marsh’s Japanese novel, Bounty Hunter, about a wannabe who soon regrets becoming a rookie member of that profession. He also wrote the screenplay. In the following Q&A, he shared with me some creative insights for other writers and readers.

SYM: You began writing RERUN December, 2007. How long did it take you to complete it?

JDY: About five months. The ideas came faster than I could put them into coherent sentences. It has taken five additional years to mold it into its present form. Just this past summer, I was ruthless in the elimination of over 8,000 words and 30 pages of unwanted narrative and repetitive dialogue.

SYM: Yet you told me last spring you also managed to add a new character. Why?

JDY: Most novels have a protagonist and an antagonist. Unless you consider paranormal events as the latter, mine had no real human antagonist, other than several characters who appeared briefly late in the book. Bobko “the Bohunk” provided an additional element of dramatic tension, just enough for readers to remember him and to say, “Ah, that creep...”

SYM: Pretty much like you used barfly Earl Nagy for needed comic relief?

JDY: As ol’ Earl would say, “Correct-a-mundo.”  

SYM: So how did you know in April, 2008 who would win the U.S. Presidential election later that November?

JDY: Not having access to a crystal ball, I used an “X” in boldface type for the winner. When the primary nominees were selected during the summer, I put in all their names. In early November, Barack Obama was the eventual victor here.

SYM: RERUN has elements of sci-fi and the paranormal. What is C.H.I.P.S. and is it real? I read what it can accomplish and want one if it exists.

JDY: C.H.I.P.S. (Comprehensive Historic Integration of Photography and Sound) is a fictitious super-computer I devised in the hope something like it would be on the market by summer, 2011, the beginning of the story. It is a small-sized unit that can clean up the pops and clicks of your old LPs and 45s, reproduce film up to 35mm, and restore and arrange photos in any order the operator selects. In RERUN, the machine functions as a background character, and is virtually the only sci-fi element I retained from the original.

SYM: What was the impetus for the original storyline?

JDY: Other than having an old college photo of me unexpectedly published in a historic book about New York, it more or less began as a “what if” question that developed in stages as the novel progressed. But more than two years after finishing the book, I had a “RERUN moment” of my own in the still open-for-business Borders bookstore over Penn Station in midtown Manhattan. I was perusing a book about a Brooklyn neighborhood near which I was raised. One house pictured looked all-too-familiar. It turned out to be the one my grandfather had purchased in 1903. Standing on the porch steps in this 1919 photo was my grandmother as a young lady with three of her children, including my then five-year-old mom. My jaw dropped to the floor. For that moment, I was in Joe Bello’s boots, and that really rattled me. (Joe is the main character in the story.)

SYM: Without revealing the name, you killed off a memorable major character in Part One. Why?

JDY: There was never a Part Two in the original outline for a novella. When the doors opened for a full-blown novel, I felt I could not undo the dramatic shock effect of that death, but still had to do something to remedy it short of a miraculous resurrection. Every chapter in the second half contains a reference or flashback incident to fix my mistake and to keep the memory of that character alive. Preview readers have told me that it has worked for them.

SYM: Have you ever been to Selah, Yakima or anywhere in the Pacific Northwest?

JDY: Nope. Pure invention and research on my part to include in the story.

SYM: And that includes the bars – the Dèjá Vu Lounge and the Casbah?

JDY: Yep. Think I got the names out of a San Diego newspaper ad and integrated them into the storyline. Too bad I couldn’t use “The Alibi Club,” one which a late relative of mine frequented years ago in Brooklyn. What a terrific name for a gin mill.

SYM: There are 27 chapters of varying length, each containing 3 to 19 numerical subheads. Why did you use these?

JDY: For two reasons. They act as scene changes in a movie, and also to allow for shifts of time more seamlessly for the reader. The entire timeframe of RERUN covers only five months, but spans almost a century due to the “events.” I didn’t want to begin any early sections by italicizing “January, 1934” or “Summer of 1921” for whatever happened at those times. The use of subheads, along with clear, straightforward narration, prevented me from creating unnecessary confusion which might lose some readers along the way.

SYM: Late in the story, Joe Bello, flawed with a mercurial temper, is confronted by two Homeland Security agents and questioned. His reaction is argumentative, almost violent. How realistic was this scene? Wouldn’t he get into big trouble in real life?

JDY: Probably. However, true to character, Joe Bello was not about to cower to bureaucratic bullying by this pair because he had done nothing wrong, and that was the essence of his defense, later quoting the passage of the well-intentioned but misguided Patriot Act: “Turning citizens into suspects since 2001.”

SYM: How much of RERUN is autobiographical?

JDY: A little, especially Bello’s Brooklyn childhood. We writers – and this includes the highly interesting material of yours which you’ve shared – seem to insert a little of self wherever that can work effectively for the story. I gave the protagonist my love of trains. It was easier to write about and ended up being integral to parts of the plotline.

SYM: You also seem to enjoy old movies, music and memorabilia, much like your protagonist. Am I correct?

JDY: Guilty as charged. By the way, the 1957 hit by the Coasters, “Searchin’,” takes on additional significance within the story, as do a few others.

SYM: Throughout the book, there is drama and mounting suspense, along with clever, comedic dialogue, and even a few incidents that can cause some heartfelt tears. 

JDY: Thank you. I wanted to reflect real life situations concerning human characters. I’m hoping readers will identify with many of them in RERUN.

SYM: The novel has good flow and smooth pacing. How difficult was that to achieve in a three-hundred page manuscript?

JDY: Honestly? At times, almost impossible. There were three separate occasions when I lost interest and was about to consign the unfinished draft to the trash. Patience won out.

SYM: In one sentence, would you provide an “elevator pitch” for potential readers?

JDY: A career Marine who has fought in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf has one last battle in retirement against paranormal events which force him to “rerun” significant and often painful periods of his life.

SYM: Thank you, Jim. You may find RERUN on

Kickstart 5 Festival of Disability Arts

September 5-8th, the Festival will be having workshops, performances and forums at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre in Vancouver. A juried art exhibition called Magic/Realism and a non-juried visual art show will run until September 12th. (The postcard has the wrong date.) I have 2 pieces in the non-juried show. The festival has some amazing talented performers and innovative workshops. They accept donations if you'd like to support their events. For more information, visit

It's worth checking out!

Coast Resource Centre 2013 Art Show & Sale

Come on out and see amazing art including paintings, photography, prints and sculpture. This year the artists are showing art boxes - an intriguing idea. The opening reception is Thursday, September 26, 6 to 9 pm at 1225 Seymour in Vancouver. Support local artists and buy a piece if you like. I hope to have some pieces in the show as well but it is juried.


Vignettes from an Insane Asylum by Zerom Seyoum

      Zerom Seyoum is a courageous fellow whose life began in Ethiopia. He became a refugee and moved to Canada to escape chaos and war in his mother country and to enrol in graduate studies. He became psychotic and committed a crime. When his judgment came, he was found not guilty by reason of a mental disorder. Zerom ended up in the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital for twenty years after which he was finally discharged. In his book, Vignettes from an Insane Asylum, he tells stories about his time spent in hospital with other patients written with sensitivity, insights, and touches of humour. Despite discrimination and suffering, he carries a message of hope. In the conclusion, he offers a solution to some of the problems his fellow patients face.
      If you would like to purchase a PDF of this book for $3.99 (CDN) through Paypal, please contact me through this website (see upper right tab). Zerom has given me the honour and responsibility to sell PDFs on his behalf.
      His previous other books are Not Guilty but Not Free and Alone in the Crowd.

Thank you,

An Anonymous Donor keeps The Art Studios open

So in case you didn't know, The Art Studios has received a donation to keep their doors open until March 31st, 2014 after a previous announcement they were to close August 7th, 2013.

The members were told that conversations had happened behind closed doors and a foundation or group donated the monies to Vancouver Coastal Health designated for The Art Studios, a renowned rehabilitation program in Canada. The members were very thankful but still had questions.

When the announcement was made, there was a pause of relief, joy and gratitude until members spoke out again about their fears around the instability of this service. Members still reeling from news of closure were now responding to the latest news.

The question was, "Will we go through the same painful crisis in March that we just went through?" The response was that this next term will be different. There will be more time to figure out a game plan than the two months to closing deadline we had earlier. The staff and members are willing to hopefully work with the anonymous donor and/or find other funding outside of Vancouver Coastal Health. The objective is to maintain long term funding to decrease the uncertainty and instability experienced by members and staff.

The Vancouver Recovery Through Art Society was first launched to aid The Art Studios in fundraising, advocacy and related projects. This society would like to work with possible donors to help keep The Art Studios open and maintain their present location.

It is important to recognize because the members are a vulnerable population, that occupational therapists and/or rehabilitation workers are necessary to run this program. We need people in charge who can handle conflict resolution, problems that come up, screen clients, and administer the program. The current staff at The Art Studios are very competent and one of the conditions of the donation is that the coordinator stay on.

I can remember saying to my mental health worker that it would be awful for the staff to be let go from The Art Studios after all their hard work and dedication. "The closure of The Art Studios would set us back 20 years in community care," I said. "Why close the program, end their jobs and let them go? Is that how you reward excellence?"

Sandra goes solo

So after a mere two decade interval, Sandra is having a solo show of new acrylic paintings and ink drawings. Opening night July 6th starting at 7 pm, you may meet the artist and others at Caffé Rustico Galleria, 3136 Main Street in Vancouver. The show will end the morning of July 31st.

Also the same weekend on July 7th, The Art Studios members will be having an opening at the Havana Gallery at 1212 Commercial Drive from 4 to 7 pm. The show titled "Honouring the Earth" will run July 4 to 17th. Some of the artists will be in attendance.

The Art Studios, due to government mental health cuts, is looking for a new space for artists to meet and create. So this Havana show could be our last show together as a group but who knows what the future will bring.

Connect with CONNECT

Bring a friend and please join us on Thursday, June 6th, 5:30 to 8pm to meet the artists on opening night of CONNECT, The Gathering Place's Annual Community Art Show with over 100 works of art for sale from Vancouver's Downtown South Community.

Paintings, drawings, prints, photography, ceramics and sculpture.

I hope to have a few paintings in this show.

The Beautiful Mind of Sandra Yuen MacKay

Monday night, Wayne Lam, a photographer and cinematographer, came to my home to videotape my art and myself speaking about the impact of art and writing on my life and the connection between imagination and mental illness.

He came up with this cool title, "The Beautiful Mind of Sandra Yuen MacKay" for the film. I got a chuckle out of that. But seriously, you will see into my philosophy on art for sure. Thanks to Wayne Lam of Waynes World Studio, who made this video possible.

Images of Italy: Original work by the Espresso Gang

This group show is a collection of original two-dimensional work by a local group of artists, the Espresso Gang.

Opening night is Saturday, June 1st, 7 pm. Artists will be in attendance.

The show will run until July 5th.

Caffé Rustico is a wonderful bistro with friendly service and a relaxed atmosphere. The food is delicious too.

I will be showing one painting of a recognizable Italian locale.

Caffé Rustico Group Art Exhibition

You're invited to the Caffé Rustico Group Art Exhibition with original artwork by the Espresso Gang. The opening reception will be Thursday, May 2, 7 to 9 pm. All artwork is $100 and under. It's not a large space but there should be over 20 pieces in total by 6 artists including photography, mixed media and paintings. Come meet the artists!

Caffé Rustico is an Italian café with a warm, friendly atmosphere. It's located near Main Street and 16th Avenue in Vancouver.

The Espresso Gang is a group of artists who meet there during the week to draw, drink coffee and share stories.

The show will run for most of May.


A Voice of Victory

Nicolle Hodges, a journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, took the time to interview me about my story of recovery. Her recording is titled, "A Voice of Victory." Thanks to Nicolle.

To listen click here to access the mp3. Sorry but blogspot unfortunately doesn't have audio uploads!

This interview is timely leading up to the 2013 Courage to Come Back Awards Gala Dinner where six individuals will be sharing their experiences and honoured as this year's award recipients. Attending this event is a memorable occasion.

This year, the gala is being held Thursday, April 25th at the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre West, 1055 Canada Place. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Meet the author in April

During the month of April, I will share my story of recovery, memoir and artwork. $20 cash only for book purchase. Here are the dates, times and locations. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 4, 7 pm         Tsawwassen Library, 1321A 56 Street, Delta, BC V4L 2A6

Wednesday, April 10, 7 pm    George Mackie Library, 8440 112 Street, Delta, BC V4C 4W9

Saturday, April 13, 2 pm        City of Langley Library, 20399 Douglas Crescent, Langley, BC V3A 4B3
                                                  604-514-2850 Pre-registration required.

Monday, April 15, 7pm          White Rock Library, 15342 Buena Vista Avenue, White Rock, BC V4B 1Y6
                                                  604-541-2201 Pre-registration required.

Tuesday, April 23, 7 pm         Terry Fox Library, 2470 Mary Hill Road, Port Coquitlam, BC V3C 3B1

12 Monkeys versus Looper

I watched 12 Monkeys (1995) and Looper (2012) which are both science fiction movies starring Bruce Willis with a theme about time travel. In 12 Monkeys, a virus spreads across earth in 1997 and forces the survivors to live underground. Scientists send James Cole (played by Willis) back in time to gather information and find a sample to create a cure. Jeffrey Goines (played by Brad Pitt) meets Cole in a mental institution in 1990. Cole is heavily drugged but tells a psychiatrist, Dr. Kathryn Railly, of the future disaster.

The mental institution depicted in this movie is a prison where patients are overmedicated and at the mercy of the staff. Goines' behaviour is convincingly insane with odd mannerisms, a continual flow of manic outbursts and incessant talking. Cole tries to escape but is pinned down by about five nurses and put in restraints in an isolation room. He disappears when the scientists return him to 1997. As the story progresses, Cole has a recurring dream of a shooting at an airport. He thinks the future he knows is actually a hallucination. The ending results in a time loop, Cole forever trapped in a series of events.

The director Terry Gillam marries imagination with fantasy in his films. He depicts a paranoid apocalyptic point of view with dark humour.

In Looper, time travel has been invented but is used by criminals to send victims to the past to avoid detection. In 2044, Joe Simmons (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a "looper", one of the mercenaries who kill these victims and are paid in silver. A friend tells the young Simmons that a crime lord called the Rainmaker is responsible for murdering many loopers.

Simmon's future self (played by Willis) from 2074 is sent back in time to 2044. Young Simmons needs to kill his future self in order to "close the loop" to avoid severe punishment from his superiors. The future Simmons tells his younger self he must find and kill the Rainmaker as a child in order to prevent him from murdering the loopers.

A young boy Cid who is gifted with telekinetic ability is discovered on a farm and identified as the Rainmaker. Cid and his caregiver Sara try to escape to the fields. Sara tries to protect Cid from a bullet from the older Simmon's gun. The younger Simmons predicts that if Cid sees Sara being shot, he will seek revenge on all the loopers.

The questions arise, can we change history through our actions? Do our actions define society as a whole? To what length will one go to preserve one's own life or make sacrifices for others?

In these movies, love is fleeting if present at all. The dark side of humanity is much more prevalent throughout these films. The two worlds presented in these films are both the result of destruction caused by man. In 12 Monkeys, Cole cannot change the future. In Looper, Simmons does.

Looper isn't about mental illness but it does provoke a discussion about the power of the mind. ESP and telekinesis in this movie are seen as part of human evolution. Someone with mental illness might sense things that others don't but that is seen as a defect not a strength. Suspension of disbelief in films pushes the audience to ignore logic and reason and see the action and special effects as real while viewing. A person with psychosis may temporarily lose judgment and live in a fictional world but through insight, he can train himself to know where the line of reality lies.

Depictions of madness and asylums have become stereotypical in a way. Is it too much to ask that if I were to time travel to a decade from now, that cruelty toward the mentally ill will have been eradicated and people with mental illness will be treated properly, have purpose and joy in their lives, and live in a recovered state? I would hope that through scientific research and ethical standards, we can change the direction of how we treat people with mental illness. And then we can make another movie about it.