Margo Prentice – Surrey Muse

Margo Prentice is a writer of short stories and poems, stage plays and standup comic scripts. She established Golden Age Theatre that ran successfully for 15 years. Her play ‘Women and Escorts Only’ was performed at the Firehall Arts Centre, and her most recent play ‘Mother’s Day’ is being considered by Vancouver Fringe Festival. Margo’s short stories have been published in Canadian Magazine, Vancouver Sun and Royal City Literary Arts on-line magazine, and her poems have appeared in anthologies locally and in Ontario. She performs as a stand-up comic at local comedy venues including Yuks Yuks, Lafflines, Rosedale Pub and Corky’s. She has also done comedy shows in Mexico and Europe. Margo runs Short Story Open Mic in New Westminster, and she is in the process of editing and organizing materials for a book-length work.

Margo considers herself ‘the oldest comic standing’.

Visit Margo’s Facebook page
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At the April 28 gathering of Surrey Muse, Margo will be our Featured Author, and we expect to hear/see anything from short stories to standup. More about the event is here: april-28-gathering-of-surrey-muse

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Virginia Gillespie – Surrey Muse

sm-virginia-gilespieIt is natural to sing and dance poetry. What is not
natural is to bury poems in skinny books lined up on dusty shelves

Virginia Gillespie is a writer, an arts advocate and a multi-media artist who is passionate about making performance an innovative tool for personal, societal and cultural transformation.

Virginia creates projects and events in the verbal arts at VG PlayRoom studio in Crescent Beach, her short play Hoarder was in a curated reading for the 2016 SHIFT Festival held in Vancouver in support of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre. Her book of poetry and lyrics, Taoist Inner Tube Rider, includes a CD featuring the work of some of Virginia’s actor and musician colleagues, and her ‘Grandmothers: Agents of Transformation’ exhibit with fabric artist Elizabeth Carefoot at Douglas College, features poetry, an art book of fictional travel journal, and a soundscape narrative.

Virginia has toured in a rock musical in England, sang and acted at the Irish Sugawn Folk Kitchen in London, created an original piece for the Sechelt Storytelling Festival, devised and directed a youth against racism performance, and she has managed a Business Theatre program in Munich

Drawing from her global experience that is both experiential and cross-cultural, Virginia now explores new forms in theatre.

More about Virginia is here
Contact Virginia

At the July 22 gathering of Surrey Muse, Virginia will present excerpts and narrative from an art book she created for the exhibit ‘Grandmothers: Agents of Transformation’. More information about the event is here:

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June 24 Gathering of Surrey Muse

50th Gathering


June 24
Author Fauzia Rafique
Poet Pamela Bentley
Performer Sana Janjua
Open Mic Opener Ashok Bhargava
BookSigning Author Patrick Blennerhassett
Host Mariam Zohra D.

Room 418 – City Centre branch
Surrey Public Library
Phone: (604) 598-7420
(Surrey Central skytrain)

Book Table
Free event
Donations welcome

Updates will be posted here
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Surrey Muse 6-Month Program – January to June 2015

We are excited to have this amazing lineup for the 7th Session of Surrey Muse.

Surrey Muse Session 7
January 2015 – June 2015

January 23
Author Sylvia Taylor
Poet Lorna Goodison
Performer Tom Oleman
Open Mic Opener Randeep Purewall
Host Sonja Grgar

February 27
Author Dennis E. Bolen
Poet Phinder Dulai
Performer Carol Sawyer
Open Mic Opener Summer Pervez
Host Mariam Zohra

March 27
Author Renée Sarojini Saklikar
Poet Ibrahim Honjo
Performer Poul Bech
Open Mic Opener Nefertiti
Host Randeep Purewall

April 24
Author Christine Grimard
Poet Alan Girling
Performer Hasham Nasir
Open Mic Opener Rita Wong
Host Helga Parekh

May 22
Author Larry Nicholson
Poet Carol Shillibeer
Performer Tim Mar
Open Mic Opener Idrian Burgos
Host Sana Janjua

June 26
Author Juliane Okot Bitel
Poet Pamela Bentley
Performer Let It Pass (DVD)
Open Mic Opener TBA
Host David Macilwain

All updates to this program will be posted at the Program page below

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Sherry Duggal – Surrey Muse

Sherry is an actor, playwright, writer and poet. She has written and performed her work in India, UK and Canada. She played the lead in a comedy-mystery feature film Plus in 2012, and she has worked on a number of short films and music videos since then. Her scripts and plays have featured in international festivals including Rabindranath Tagore Festival, Sufi Legacy Conference, Diwalifest, Summer in the City, Mother Tongue Festival, Masala Mehndi Masti!, and Pull Festival. She presented her play ‘Eve: A Balancing Act’ in New Delhi and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Sherry has been featured as a writer/presenter at World Poetry, Poetic Justice, Pandora’s Collective, Holy Wow poets, Writers International Network, Surrey Muse; and she has taken part in spoken word events throughout Vancouver. Sherry published her first book Beneath The Surface (Leadstart Publishing, India) in 2016, and she is looking forward to the release of her second book soon.

Visit Sherry’s web page
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At the March 24 gathering of Surrey Muse, Sherry will be our Featured Performer. More on the event is here:

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Ushna Shah – Surrey Muse

Ushna Shah is a Pakistani Canadian actor who has performed in various dramas and radio and television shows. She has just begun hosting her own radio show ‘Saanjha Aasmaan’ on Radio Punjab, and she hosts segments on ethnic television shows. She is in the process of writing a script for a television drama she plans to produce in Pakistan.

Ushna directed and acted in school talent shows and small stage productions in Canada and in Pakistan. Even at the ages of 10 and 12 she was strict about rehearsals and work ethic.

Born into an artistic family, Ushna had no qualms about what she wanted to do in life. With an actress/radiohost/writer mother, Ushna spent her childhood watching rehearsals in studios and on sets. In 1997, her sister was the lead in a critically acclaimed drama serial on Pakistan Television and won the best actress award, and her brother happens to be one of the most established theater directors in Pakistan.

Ushna truly realized her path when she acted in a theater production of a Ray Cooney farce at sixteen. This was it! The smell of the stage and the rush of performing in front of thousands of people was her drive.

Ushna went to York University to study English and Professional Writing, and now lives in Surrey as she continues to work towards her beachelor’s degree by herself.
I love writing, but studying it was making me miss the things I lived for. Going without theater was like going without water, and going without writing would have been like going without air… I’m inspired by James Franco who studies, gets his degrees, acts, directs and writes at the same time.’

Ushna’s motto in life is ‘The show must go on’ which also happens to be the name of her favorite song.

In the August 24 meeting of Surrey Muse, Ushna will present some of the roles she has performed, and some that she would like to.

Contact Ushna at
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Surrey Muse 2012 Program

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‘February 24 Surrey Muse’ by Sonja Grgar

 The third meeting of Surrey Muse took place on February 24th, 2012, and was hosted by Mariam Zohra-Durrani. The event featured another blend of versatile artistic presentations, diverse open mic readings, and lively discourse.

Ben Nuttall-Smith launched the evening with readings from his autobiographical novel ‘Secrets Kept / Secrets Told’. The novel  is based on the author’s journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse.

Nuttall-Smith pointed out that, although dealing with difficult subject matter, his book is about survival and personal transformation, and therefore has a very positive tone in its essence. He explained that the reason he highlights that the book is not filled with despair despite its emotionally weighty subject matter is that, in his experience, audiences are less receptive to books dealing with heavy topics. It seems most readers don’t take into consideration that the same work can not only depict the negative experiences, but also convey how they have been overcome over time, and how they made the survivor more resilient, and once again capable of experiencing life fully.

The excerpt Nuttall-Smith read featured a childhood memory from war-torn England where boyhood mischievous victory of sneaking candy away from the boarding school dorm with his sister, was interrupted by a bombing. One got the sense that this contrast between childhood innocence and violence beyond one’s control is the overarching metaphor for many of the life experiences Nuttall-Smith wove into the book.

The author also read an excerpt from his historical fiction ‘Blood, Feathers & Holy Men’ which explores Precolumbian history in the Americas, and was specifically inspired by the legend of Quetzalcoatl, an alleged Toltec ruler of that period. The featured excerpt described a wonderfully detailed Quetzalcoatl’s vision of impending doom and destruction. Nuttall-Smith noted the great responsibility involved in depicting another culture’s history, and the joy of having the book serve as a testament to some of the great achievements of that civilization, thereby debunking deeply ingrained stereotypes that the Toltec culture was solely preoccupied with combat and violence.

Some of the questions that Mr. Nuttall-Smith received in the discussion period following his presentation focused on the amount of research it took him to produce ‘Blood, Feathers & Holy Men’, for which he made several trips to Mexico. Some also wondered about the amount of time it took him to write ‘Secrets Kept / Secrets Told’. He reflected that the latter was decades in the making, and that it paralleled the evolution of his healing journey, while also being motivated by the need to help other survivors. The author was particularly moved by the statistic that one in five men in the prison system today were victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Candice James took the stage after Ben Nuttall-Smith as the evening’s featured poet. Ms. James is the current Poet Laureate of the city of New Westminster, a full member of the League of Canadian Poets, member of the British Columbia Writers Federation, and Vice President of Poetic Justice poetry group. Ms. James is known for her distinctive reading voice, and her presentation had a quality of a dramatic performance. She read from several of her poetry collections, and her poems most often featured discernible rhyme which gave the work a melodic quality.

One of the audience members actually pointed out after the reading that the regular use of rhyme seems to be rare in poetry today, and commended Ms. James for the courage to go against that apparent poetic trend. Ms. James responded that she felt that, although not all poetry has to have rhyme, that all of it should have rhythm. Towards the end of her reading, she echoed some of Mr. Nuttall-Smith’s observations from earlier about audiences being more reluctant to embrace difficult or dark subject matter in writing. She said that in tonight’s reading, she specifically stayed away from some of her darker poems for that very reason. However, the audience present at this gathering obviously had a bit of a different approach since, upon hearing about that reservation, they urged her to read a few of her darker poems which were then very well received.

In the discussion period, several questions for Ms. James expressed the curiosity about what her writing process was like, and how she started writing in the first place. She mentioned that she began writing almost by accident when she was a young mother, and had to accompany her child to school, and wait there for her for several hours each day. She mentioned that she writes and jots down ideas all the time, and usually immediately after they occur.

In a unique set of circumstances, open mic followed Ms. James’ reading while some technical difficulties were resolved for the last presenter. Fauzia Rafique, Dulai sisters.

Jason Sunder began the open mic readings, and once again delighted the audience with his trademark poetic style that blends experimental technique with humour and social satire.


Ibrahim Honjo, who had a book signing that evening, also read from several of his poetry collections. His work echoed the negotiation with one’s past, and one’s cultural sensibility in a new environment.

The open mic readers in general had a range of writing experience, and presented with a variety of literary styles, subject matter, and even media.

We heard poetry, an essay, a recipe, and had a live performance of an original song set to the tune of a guitar.

Nadya Cleary Dulai

After the open mic, the last of the evening’s featured artists took the stage with a power point presentation about her work. Tabatha Visutskie is an actress, flimmaker, and a writer, and a member of the New West Writers group.

Her versatile artistic achievements include a Best Actress Award for the 2011 feature film ‘Forgive Me Father’; she wrote, executive produced and acted in a short film called ‘Making It’; the play she co-wrote titled ‘Green’ was performed at the 2011 Festival of Volunteers, and she provided two character voices on a popular children’s animated series ‘Snapatoonies’. Ms. Visutskie spoke about being creative from a young age, and routinely conjuring little theatrical performances with her twin sister. She said that she had a learning disability that, because of how it was presented to her by adults, damaged her artistic self-esteem, particularly when it came to writing. For years she shied away from fully engaging with creative writing, though she always kept a journal. She remembers that at one point one of her teachers made a world of difference by telling her that she had a gift for writing, and that she should make sure she used it to the fullest. With several writing projects currently on hand, Ms. Visutskie feels like these days she is indeed thoroughly exploring her gift.

After the presentation about her body of work, Ms. Visutskie and two volunteers, Jo Martinez and Robin Visutskie, read a scene from a play she is currently working on titled ‘Counting Down’. The scene featured a disgruntled waitress who is disengaged from her job, and rushes indecisive restaurant patrons on their order. The play was performed at the 2012 Festival of Volunteers.

Most notable comments Ms. Visutskie received in the discussion period focused on the audiences’ admiration highlighting the fact that she is in a position to inspire others to successfully engage with their talent.

Copyright Sonja Grgar