The Pulse: Sept. 22, 2022

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  • 23°C: Sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h gusting to 40 late in the morning. High 23. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • White: The High Level Bridge will be lit white for Edmonton International Film Festival opening night. (details)

A brown paper coffee sleeve with a short story called Zoltar by Mona Bacon printed on it

Editor seeks lasting stories for disposable formats

By Brett McKay

For nearly 10 years, Jason Lee Norman has been curating flash fiction and putting it out into the world in unconventional places, like coffee sleeves and beer cans. Now he's tweaking one of his long-running projects, so he can spend more time on stories and less on distribution.

To get his #yegwords coffee sleeves project off the ground, Norman took to buying the cardboard sleeves in bulk, getting very short stories by local writers printed on them, and distributing them to participating cafés himself. Along the way, he got some grant money, but the program has shrunk quite a bit lately.

To make it more sustainable, Norman is looking to shift #yegwords into something he does for just one business, as a way to bolster its marketing.

"I am working with one of the cafés about doing just that, about keeping the coffee sleeves going but branding them to that specific café," Norman said. "It's something that I wanted to get ahead of it at the time, which was offer branded stuff, but it's so difficult with just me trying to do stuff on my own."

Norman likened this approach to his ongoing collaboration with Blindman Brewing. It publishes stories and poems on cans of its Super Session Ale, which are also featured on CKUA's Session Stories. Blindman Brewing handles the design, printing, and ordering, allowing Norman to focus on collecting and preparing the stories that appear on the cans.

The deadline for submissions for the next round of Session Stories is Sept. 23. Winter is the theme, and the story or poem must be no more than 200 words.

Lizzie Derksen's work has appeared on the #yegwords coffee sleeves, on the Blindman beer cans, and in the short story vending machine that Norman got set up at the Edmonton International Airport.

"I think that part of what characterizes this type of publishing is the extremely wide audience that it's trying to reach," she told Taproot. "As a writer, you really have no demographics to aim for, especially the one at the airport. That's literally everyone."

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Headlines: Sept. 22, 2022

By Kevin Holowack

  • The City of Edmonton has a variety of initiatives planned to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, including a commemorative crosswalk downtown, an ETS bus wrapped in Indigenous artwork, and a giveaway of 1,500 trees, shrubs, and wildflowers through the Roots for Trees program to honour victims, friends, and intergenerational survivors of residential schools. Employees with the city, the police, and the library will receive a day off with pay.
  • As Homeward Trust looks for ways to support five new or upcoming supportive housing complexes in Edmonton without provincial funding, the Alberta government's anticipated action plan to address rising homelessness is three months late. Opposition NDP critic Marie Renaud called on the government task force, first commissioned by Community and Social Services Minister Jason Luan in November 2021, to release its report and take immediate action. Rising rates of homelessness in Edmonton are "inexcusable for a government with a $13-billion surplus," said Renaud. Homeward Trust CEO Susan McGee said she plans to move tenants into complexes in Inglewood and King Edward Park this summer regardless, using existing funds.
  • Edmonton Public Schools informed parents that more than 6,800 students were home sick with a "respiratory illness" last week. Having received questions about what this means, board chair Trisha Estabrooks told the media that the term was chosen by Alberta Health Services. "We're not health officials," she said. "This is us still navigating this pandemic. This is the language of AHS, and this is the language we have to use." Estabrooks continues to encourage parents to tell schools when their kids are sick and keep them at home.
  • A widely viewed video of an Edmonton police officer pushing a woman to the ground has prompted continued calls for police dash cameras and body cameras, including by Judith Gale of Bear Clan Beaver Hills House. Police union leader Sgt. Michael Elliott tweeted support for cameras and asked for council to fund them, while Coun. Michael Janz called his request a distraction from needed "accountability tools" and de-escalation training. Meanwhile, Tom Engel, a criminal defence lawyer, has called on the Edmonton Police Commission to conduct a public inquiry after EPS decided to not charge the woman, but Coun. Sarah Hamilton, who serves on the commission, cautioned the public to temper their expectations about the commission's abilities.
  • The City of Edmonton's solar rebate program for homeowners ran out of money on Sept. 2 and is no longer accepting applications. First launched in 2019, the program provided $2.1 million this year after receiving more applications than the previous three years combined, according to a city spokesperson. Heather MacKenzie with Solar Alberta said she has seen "incredible growth" in solar, and the loss of the rebate will hurt up-and-coming solar companies.
  • The Edmonton Journal will no longer produce a Monday print edition as of Oct. 17, nor will the Edmonton Sun. The editions will still be available with ePaper, and subscription rates will not be lowered. Postmedia also cancelled Monday print delivery of papers in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, and Montreal.
  • The 36th annual Edmonton International Film Festival will open on Sept. 22 with Rosie, a film about a foster child in Montreal in the 1980s. Métis director Gail Maurice spoke to Edmonton AM about her desire to "tell a beautiful story about a little girl who has an open heart." This year's festival features 152 films.
  • In a tweet made in response to news about the federal government's plan to drop COVID-19 vaccine requirements for people entering Canada, Alberta's labour and immigration minister Kaycee Madu suggested the measures were always about "political control and power" and thanked the "freedom convoys" for resisting them. Madu is the MLA for Edmonton-South West.

What it's like to pitch investors on TV

By Karen Unland

Episode 30 of Bloom features an interview with the founders of Umay, who pitched their Rest tool on Dragons' Den and came away with an offer.

CEO Ali Habib said reality TV was not exactly part of his company's plan, but when the opportunity came along, it struck him as a "low-risk, high-reward, medium-effort" way to promote and maybe fund the device he developed with his sister, Sharmin Habib.

They tell Faaiza Ramji what it was like to hear "no" from most of the Dragons, and how it felt to get a yes to their offer of $380,000 for 5% of their company. "You're in such a state of execution," Ali said. "When you get that one yes, you celebrate it, you feel good about it, you feel heard, and that's a great feeling."

Investment aside, a show like Dragons' Den is a marketing opportunity, and Ramji advised the Habibs to take full advantage of this moment.

"In the liquor business, I learned the phrase 'sips to lips' — the more sips you can get to more lips, the better your business is going to be," she said, referring to her company, Field Notes. "I think it's the same thing with Umay. The more people that try it out, and the more people that are buying it, the more people you have talking about it."

Hear the whole Umay story on the Sept. 22 episode, where you'll also get updates on Claire Theaker-Brown of Unbelts, who was on Dragons' Den three years ago, and Mallory Yawnghwe of Indigenous Box, who recently pitched on Bears' Lair.