Wednesday, 30 July 2008

What the Free-write Challenge at the Summer Dream Literary Festival Was All About

Free-write Challenge – Summer Dream Literary Arts Festival

Lumberman’s Arch, Stanley Park
Vancouver, British Columbia
July 26, 2008

Posted here are a series of free-writes written by people attending the Summer Dream Literary Festival, which was held in Stanley Park, beside fabled Lumberman’s Arch, on Saturday July 26th. The Grind Writers Group of Vancouver issued a challenge to writers attending the fest and to the random beach-goers who just happened along.

We wanted people to experience the joy of free-writing, and the pure bliss of writing-without-editing, believing as we do in the total separation of “church and state” when it comes to writing and editing.

The challenge was to choose a story starter that Grind Writers spent many a cozy hour by blazing fires, sipping on hot toddies, and creating on dark and stormy nights. People drew starters randomly out of a hat, starters such as “The couple on the bench…” or “A kayak glides by…" Their mission (if they chose to accept it and about 20 people did) was to free-write for 10-15 minutes, while the Summer Dream Festival rocked & roared around them, bands played, poets declaimed, seagulls screetched, crows fought, and children zigzagged amongst adult legs.

The only rule was no stopping, no going back, no editing while writing. Just to write – full steam ahead. Here's hoping you will enjoy the creativity, imagination and rich variety of the work that emerged.

19 pieces are posted from the Free-write Challenge so keep clicking on "Older Posts" and you'll see them all.

............................ o .............................

For more information on the annual Summer Dream Literary Festival or Pandora's Collective, visit:

Returning - Lesley Prentis

©2008 Lesley Prentis
Starter was: “In the light of distant civilization he could see his ancestors stir in the totem…”

I no longer stand straight and tall
I now lean a little more each year
Eventually my light will fade
And I will lie
Embraced by the land
Where my end will come
In slow decay
Returning to the soil
That which gave me life.

My children have moved on
To new lands and new homes
Remembering dimly
The stories of our ancestors
Theirs and mine
In time they will make new stories.

Lost in his own life - Shelley Haggard

Lost in his own life
©2008 Shelley Haggard

In the light of distant civilization, he could see his ancestors stir in the totem. Stanley Park was quiet. The Sunday crowds that had circled the totems earlier in the day, hunting the perfect angle, the perfect distance, with their myriad cameras, were gone. Now it was just him gauging the shadows the totems cast, trying to see if they were writing directions for him on the grass. He was lost, not physically, he was lost in his own life. It had become a maze that he couldn’t navigate on his own any more, and he had come here for help.

He felt the ancestors’ presence fully, could hear them drumming in the echo of his heartbeat. He could hear them chanting old words that lifted his spirit to position where it could look Eagle Clansmen in their eyes. Those eyes penetrated the shields he had placed in his mind as protection from the battering the humans in his world kept inflicting. Eagle spirit telegraphed an ancient wisdom into his brain. “Trust yourself,” it said. “Do not let the negative voices of others rule your spirit. Your spirit, mind, and body should operate as one—-then life will be as full as it can be.”

He got the message and he felt a calm descend. The negative voices within and without were getting too much of his precious time. He resolved to cast them out, to get back to what made him happiest, creating art through carving; showing gratitude to the ancestors.

Even if the sun should set - Kayla Feenstra

Even if the sun should set
©2008 Kayla Feenstra

Stars in her eyes
But the sun hasn’t set
they shimmer
and she dances
innocent, perhaps
but so wise
and she stops to pick up
her fancy
She won’t remember
what it was
but I will
and I watch, enthralled
and enchanted
her feet catching
small leverages to higher ground…
always higher farther, more
with her, never satisfied
her insatiable thirst for
beauty applauds me
I have succeeded
my work is done—
she will look always to the skies
the mountains, the trees, always up,
never to the rocks, the weeds,
the dirt, the garbage – down
and as she holds the
pink-glassed seashell
next to her ear
I wonder what great sage
has been hidden inside,
whispering lost secrets
and promises for joy
and love and happiness,
always dancing
with stars in her eyes,
even if the sun should set
and the day turn black.

Harder than I thought to grow up - Maximilliano Gonzalez San Juan

Harder than I thought to grow up
by Maximilliano Gonzalez San Juan

I’m travelling around the world
Looking for myself.
So far I’ve found friends and smiles
But no luck with giving peace to my heart.
I’m scared, at 28 years old,
Having so much energy to
Waste away and no plan for it. It’s
Harder than I thought to grow up
Even though it’s a one-way street.

My heart is filled with anger
But I have no clue where it’s from.
Contaminated with TV and Internet
I hope that my generation
Will find a cure for our disease.

My solution so far
Is to try my best and hopefully
G*d will take care of the rest.

Respectfully submitted…

A man and his chickadee family - George

A man and his chickadee family
©2008 George
Story starter was: “On the edge of the Beaver Pond, playful chickadees whiz by…”

The random pile of colourful covers, jackets, plastic parts stirs at one end. An old sneaker kicks at the hidden shopping cart sending one wheel spinning.

“Owhh! Shit! Damn toe!” comes from under the other end of the pile. A hand waves at the green and yellow sleeping bag that covers the head end of the cloth pile. The hand parts the pile, showing a fully haired head, eyes squinting in the morning light.

A chickadee whizzes by, playfully stopping near the cloth pile. The man slowly turns his head to look directly at the chickadee. It cocks its head at the man, hops twice, then zips into the air toward the rushes on the edge of Beaver Pond.

The man, disappointed, stares after the little bird. After a minute of waiting to see his only friend, the man sinks back down into his possessions.

Two chickadees whiz in from the path toward the man. One stops on a dime on a thin branch over the man, chickadee’ing at him like laughter. He smiles up at it. The other chickadee zips between them, pulling the laughing bird along to more adventures down the path.

The man sinks down again into his pile. He looks over to the sky showing above the pond. “Better get up. Might be late, heh heh.” He rolls over, grunts as he settles back into a more comfortable position, but hits his toe again, “Owhh! Shit! Damn toe!”

I will return - Andrew Beddoes

I will return…
©2008 Andrew Beddoes

The waves rolling in have a rhythm and calm that take me back to my childhood, visiting North Vancouver, laying at the beach. The beach was cold and alive. What it was, it was the rains from Earth’s early atmosphere, the water which begat the plant kingdom, from whence animals came; to my mother it was the source of all giving. And surely I will return to the sea, in our cloudy future, and become the waves rolling in.

And the ferry sales by... - Barbara Coleman

And the ferry sails by…
©2008 Barbara Coleman
Story starter was: “And the ferry sails by, a passenger waving and pointing at me……”

And on the ferry sailing by a passenger was waving and pointing at us, or at least that was what it seemed to all the passengers on my side.

Anyone who takes the ferry from Tsawwassen to Victoria knows at approximately mid-point the ferries pass each other. Our passengers looked at each other in wonderment. Was there a problem with our vessel that we were not aware of?

Only I knew the secret. My love as waving and pointing at me.

A storm is coming - Addena Sumter-Freitag

A storm is coming
©2008 Addena Sumter-Freitag

The storm is coming. There was no denying. You could smell it. (You know that scent just before it hits). It’s like the air freezes as it nears, and the next thing you feel is the impact. The pounding numbs you after a while, and you feel like a boxer after a good ‘spar.’ It takes a while for the colours to spread on the canvas. The obvious colours— the reds—spread out, splatter and splotch on contact, but the blues and the yellows and blacks and purples appear on their own time, in their own pattern, depending. Sometimes it’s almost like painting at the summer festival colouring tent. I can see the perfect open hand pattern .. here.. on my cheek. My lips are matching the hired clown. Big, and puffed, and look! split like a pea pod.

The marks and bumps, that are camouflaged by eighteen dollars of Mac cover, throb and ache as I see the lightning flashing in your eyes. My body quivers as you roar in that thunderous boom, your fists opening and closing. The hate that drips like poison in the air makes me brace my soul ‘cause it lets me know .. A storm is imminent.

The couple - Darlene

The couple
©2008 Darlene

The couple on the bench sat quietly as they peered over English Bay. Until something came over the wife and she immediately started chattering a blue streak, while the husband listened attentively, occasionally getting a word in edgewise. They have been together for many years and this has been part of their daily routine. They finally decide it is time to go home and begin their way back to the bus stop.

The empty kayak - Louise

The empty kayak
©2008 Louise

I was sitting quietly facing the water thinking of nothing in particular when a noise caught my attention. I squinted into the sun, shading my eyes to get a better look. I was so surprised to see a kayak glide by, but no one was in it. This can’t be, I told myself; it must be a mistake. Where was the owner of the kayak! I began to ponder the possible reasons – did the owner fall out? -- was there a leak? -- maybe it had been stolen then released? My mind became distracted and began to wander until I was drawn to a commotion down the beach where a small crowd had formed. I heard voices raised in excitement. Suddenly there appeared………

The empty kayak - Peter Lojewski

The empty kayak
©2008 Peter Lojewski

A kayak glides by. Sleek, no one is inside. Green as the river, upside no one near by. Oh, my God! Where is the kayaker—floating nearby? The kayak on is way, effortless in its manoeuvre, missing the jagged. It disappears in the bend of the river, out of sight Then bobbing along the river a body floats by. A lifeless body. Oh, my God! Drag it ashore and see a hole in the head of the kayaker. A sniper bullet found the mark. But, why? A former politician, corrupt and criminal who stole from us. No longer enjoys spending his/her ill gotten gains.

The couple - Liz Ong

The couple
©2008 Liz Ong

Shoulder against shoulder, they sit on a worn wooden bench on Main Street. The side of her head tilts towards him and fits perfectly in the place where his shoulder meets his neck. I see this couple once a week, she in her wide-brimmed hat and a matching blouse, modest knee-length skirt, nylons and heels; he with his freshly-ironed black suit. He is a Chinese gentleman in his fifties, she a Caucasian woman with bright red lipstick and shining powder over the worn old skin. They shine with ageless joy, the joy of being together, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder. I wonder how they met, how they came together in this place where Chinatown and downtown meet.

This time I approach. “You’re a beautiful couple,” I say shyly, smiling.

“Thank you," they giggle and I leave them, giggling myself.

Twisted homonyms vs. Californian Spanish? - Jill Binder

Twisted homonyms vs. Californian Spanish?
©2008 Jill Binder

There is a man on stage from California. (I just noticed you’ll never read my handwriting so I better print—it’ll be interesting how it changes my writing.) Half of his poems are in Spanish. Just as he says there is a richness to the language. There are sonorous sounds, melodious trebles, a fluidity to the rush of tongue. English, our Canadian English, sounds chopping in comparison. Not choppy like Cantonese, and certainly not one steady stream of water like Mandarin. We are the in-between. We re the bastard child of many fathers. We have Latin, Greek, Italian, French. We have strange tenses and twisted homonyms. I hear that learning English is one of the most difficult things to do. Why would anyone want to? When they could instead have the soft ballad of Parisian French, or the deep bass of this man’s Californian Spanish. I blame globalization. The U.S. media making American drinks, sneakers, movies, and television cool. English is—what was that European amalgamation language they tried to instate?—English has become that … the language that is not its own but a child bred in back alleys with many dirty lovers.

It has grown up to be the rock star everyone wants to be.

I want to be this man’s Californian Spanish.

A time when there are no more words - Charlene

A time when there are no more words
©2008 Charlene

So I’ve picked “beach combing” as a prompt for the impromptu writing exercise. Have stumbled across a writers’ festival in Stanley Park – hear a children’s storyteller shrieking joyfully to my right; a man on another stage thanking people for the opportunity to be heard—he starts his reading with an Incan invocation—has survived the Spanish Inquisition.

“Listen, you who abide in the Ocean In the Sky.” Reminds me how much we all long to be heard—long for a listener—when beach combing—see how cleverly I return to the topic?—when beach-combing, I find myself listening to the ocean inside, waves lapping gently or cracking relentlessly and then to the sweet relief of the water flowing – knowing the Earth will survive, in all its beauty, long after my petty problems have been put to rest.

There’s a crow hopping towards me – another lifts off, crosses the flight path of a white seagull’s outstretched wings. I realize I, too, am dressed today in black and white, but inside am singing green and inspired by the peaceful gathering of people around me—biking, talking, relaxing, listening to each other—then—WAR—we are also Canada—a nation sending our young sons to Afghanistan—to kill “insurgents”—read Afghan citizens who will not tow the Western line. It is hard to hold this newly-budding optimism with the seeming obliviousness to that horror being carried out—in our names, with our tax dollars, and the blood of our people and the terror they bring to a distant country—this is a war about oil—not about compassion. When will we take the responsibility to live our principles? Democracy is not about invading others for our gain.

Sometimes there comes a time when there are no more words.

Who's afraid of Sylvia Plath? - Jennifer Getsinger

Who’s afraid of Sylvia Plath?
©2008 Jennifer Getsinger
Prompt was: “What stops me from writing every day is………” (blue paper)

Nothing. Nothing stops me from writing except my own choices not to write. Those choices may favour paid work, which is a good thing or too many crossword puzzles, sudoku, cooking, gardening, or other things that fill in the day because I’m not a very disciplined time manager. I have probably written more “every days” than most published writers. I know I was devoted to daily journal-writing for the first fifteen years of my journal, and relatively dedicated to writing often for the rest, about another quarter century. That should add up to forty-one and a half years since I started the journal.

Now my writing challenges are different—in addition to the journal-diary, I try to write down and get around to writing about a dozen novels I have made up in my head over the years. It just seems so silly to do that when I hardly work enough to get by, but now it’s possible due to doing editorial work at home on my own schedule, part time.

I’m almost done typing up the first draft of a love story with the working title, Red Rock Romance, about a couple of geologists. I’ve promised it to an editor so am somewhat motivated to finish it, although the thought of anyone reading these hopelessly naïve and boring stories is kind of scary.

Another work is a novel in diary format, which is constrained by having a limited point of view and a chronological narrative by necessity from the diary structure. This is not the flip and cheerful brief diary of Adrian Mole or Bridget Jones; nor is it the morose journal of Virginia Woolf, or fascinating social life of Anaïs Nin. It is loosely based on my own style of describing the natural world around me as I proceed through life as more of an observer than participant. But the plot is not based on my own story any more than a sparkly micaceous garnet schist resembles the mushy black mud from which it was metamorphosed. This one is called Moss & Woodsmoke and is on its fifth draft. What keeps me from editing it to a finished work is my commitment to finishing the romance first, a story with more of a typical narrative arc.

What keeps me from writing is mainly embarrassment. Embarrassment that my writing is not scintillating enough (I guess we can’t all write diaries as clever as Sylvia Plath, but then I wouldn’t want the same results). Embarrassment about trying to write intimate moments without creating mockery in the reader. Embarrassment about weak stories. And lately, embarrassment that it has taken me so long to write them down. When I tried to promote the romance to an editor from a well-known publisher of romances recently, I was told my story—which takes place in the 1970s and 1980s—wasn’t “contemporary.” After a few drinks I got over feeling depressed that I was so old my real life couldn’t even be defined as “contemporary,” and decided I would start a new genre of “historical fiction!”

Mr. Zipper - (c)2008 Theresa Dunphy

Mr. Zipper
©2008 Theresa Dunphy

They’ve got the facts wrong again about Mr. Zipper. Here is what he is really like:

Stout and smart—a whippet really. Short of genius and already a Mensa member, although he never gloats. Humble he is, Mr. Zipper. Stocky posture brings forth his grounded presence, but at times it is easily misconstrued as potentially aggressive or possibly personal-space invading. Mr. Zipper is a fifty-nine year old Albanian that wears a reputation unbeknownst to him. What he’s really like is kind and gentle. This man’s hands have been worked through the bone and into marrow itself. A person seeing the scaling flesh dangling from between his fingers might presuppose the digits are of eighty or more years. Mr. Zipper has hands to shake upon first greeting that hug one’s heart within three strokes, and he leans softly upon your eyes, silently whispering, “Let go but hang on.” Most people think Mr. Zipper is homeless. The fact is Mr. Zipper is a millionaire a few times over. Mr. Zipper hardly speaks with words. He is a man of movements and gestures and subtleties.

Where did Mr. Zipper come from? No one knows for sure. He is Albanian, that’s a fact. Rumors have circulated that Mr. Zipper is somehow related to Mother Teresa. Since he has an overwhelming presence, (one might consider spiritually engulfing once one is within his zone) there is no doubt he is studied or practiced in meditation and centering. At a distance, Mr. Zipper seems to offend the general public’s ideality of aestheticism, what with his second-hand torn and tethered t-shirts and cargo pants. Every one knows those pants. The forest green pair we’ve only known him to be seen in. The ones that have a zipper with a Holy Cross on them.

Mr. Zipper is really like a friend who shows up in the midst of a flash flood. You always remember that day—and never forget his name.

A dear diary - (c)2008 Belle Curd

A dear diary
©2008 Belle Curd

A long time ago one Christmas, my mother gave me a five-year diary. She must have known I liked writing and now I had my very own book to write in every day. At first I started out enthusiastically but occasionally missed a few days. No problem. I’d catch up or maybe write more than space allowed for each day. I had fun embellishing the pages with odds and ends from school. I shared my secrets, thrills, accomplishments, tears, and the mundane thoughts of an adolescent. Amazingly, I still have that old diary, tattered and torn though it is. I have been keeping a diary ever since, thanks to that precious gift my mother gave to me.

You're wrong about Wynn - W. Ruth Kozak

You're wrong about Wynn
©2008 W.Ruth Kozak (aka Wynn Berton)

They’ve got the facts wrong about Wynn. Here’s what she’s really like: she’s actually quite shy though the way she carries on when she’s with her friends out salsa dancing you’d get the idea she’s a real party girl. Actually, she does have that reputation and some people (the ones who know how old she really is) are amazed! Yes, she does give the impression she’s a bit like the Energizer® Bunny, but she’s actually a quiet person, spends a lot of time alone, and loves quiet moments of solitude. She puts on this really brave front about doing things like going off camping alone in foreign places but she’d never risk camping alone here in her own province.

Some of her friends raise eyebrows and worry about her seeming nonchalance about roaming around town on foot and by public transit at night. They’d never take the chance. What they don’t realize is, Wynn’s been wandering about the city on her own for most of her life and as “shy” as she is in some situations, she’s pretty street-smart. Wynn’s a world traveller, a gypsy soul. If you didn’t know her well you’d probably think that she’s somebody’s mom or grandma (and she is).

Nor would you imagine that she spends half her time in “other worlds,” most specifically the world of ancient Greece—her favourite place to be. Because Wynn’s a writer and that’s what writers love to do most of the time, when they’re not out salsa dancing or enjoying sunsets on the beach, lost in their wonderful thoughts and memories.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The Price Of Gas

Alright, as promised, a random poem just for here:

The Price Of Gas

"Have you seen the price of gas?"
Asked the lass, the pretty lass.
"'Tis enough to tear your hair!"
Said the bear, the grizzly bear.

"I no longer drive me truck!"
Cried the buck, the whitetail buck.
"It costs an arm and a leg!"
Complained the chick, in her egg.

"They've gone completely insane!"
Called the crane, wincing in pain.
"I do believe we've been had,"
Said the lad, looking quite sad.

"Don't you just love my new tan?"
Asked the oil company man.
"I must say you're looking fit!"
Crooned the gas lobbyist twit.

"How much more must we endure?"
Demanded the working poor.
"Why, it just went down a cent!"
Laughed the fat cat government.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Writing Exercise for July 20, 2008

I'm going to cheat and repost todays writing prompt from my Daily Writing Practice blog. Please feel free to add your take on the prompt in the comments!

I'll come back later in the week and add something original and (hopefully) exciting.

The exercise:

The starter for today is "If I had a dime for every..."


If I had a dime for every time I was given flowers, I would never see the Bluenose. But guess what - I like flowers. Yes, a straight guy who likes pwetty wittle bwossoms. Go figure.

My question, though, is this: am I in the vocal minority, or am I part of a mostly silent majority? Is this just another symptom of insecure machismo running wild? Probably.

Guys, let me let you in on a few secrets here: when someone sees you walking down Broadway with a big bouquet of daisies they would never think it's yours; flowers are pretty and smell nice, just like girls except they only need water and a bit of sun to be happy; and having flowers around your apartment makes you more secure in your masculinity, not less.

No, this is not a plea for flowers. Yes, I would be thrilled if I did receive some as a result of this. Yes, I fully expect to get crap from my male friends about this. No, I won't care.

And for God's sake don't call me a metrosexual - that term is offensive to homosexuals, heterosexuals, and the entire human race. Just call me secure.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Geyser Stew (c)2008 Wayne Smith

Wayne Smith said... A great idea Margo!
Here's a short story just to start your blog going.
It's about how I went from being a tenant to homeowner.
When I was 24 about 30 odd years ago. Its called Geyser stew

by: Wayne Smith Aug 10/06

The first explosion occurred while my back was turned; by the time I reached the window all I could see was pink mist. A violent hissing filled the air and my heart sank, realizing what I had done. The pressure cooker left on high, had somehow been forgotten, the consequences never will be.

As a tenant in the basement suite of George and Elli Varaljay I had become more sensitive to my landlords' needs. Elli had suggested I try cooking the more smelly things outside, as she does. Odors from my cooking in the basement rose upstairs, lingering in the air, causing considerable discomfort and tension, in our relationship. I began hearing the sound of stomping feet, going around to all the heat registers, slamming them shut in an attempt to thwart the foul odors, and then a volley of something incomprehensible would follow, in Hungarian.

It was under this concern that I had fashioned a small cooking table outside my bedroom window, well away from the windows upstairs. A hot plate was set up on the table, with an extension cord running through the window, into the suite. I had begun experimenting with one-pot meals, in my new pressure cooker. The dinner meals included lots of tomatoes, ox tails, beets and other juicy salubrious fluids, all combining to make an interesting reddish colored meal of sorts.

My meal had been started around five o’clock. I am not sure what had called my attention away from cooking but when I returned to open the bedroom door, memory swiftly returned. A pink mist was beginning to congeal on the outside of the bedroom window. Just beyond the geraniums in the window box, great blasts of red goo erupted high into the air followed by intense hissing from the now valve-less pressure cooker.

I flew outside as fast as I could, out the back door, around the house to where my makeshift kitchen cooker was set up. The site was spectacular a massive V-shaped swath of vulgar colored ooze covered George’s siding, all the way to the sofit, two floors up. Thick messy drops strung down everywhere. My once-full pressure cooker sat spluttering the last of my supper over the burner and was beginning to smoke and smell terribly.

I felt sick. How could I tell George, and surely the Hungarian would flow from Elli. Courage found, I told George there’s been a bit of an accident. Yes it seems my stew pot somehow exploded and the contents got onto your siding. What! He exclaimed, yes, well we’d better take a look. I’m not sure how it happened, I explained as we stood looking up at the now red wall. I expected the worst, but all he said was never mind it will wash off, yes, I agreed and I will get at it as soon as I get home tomorrow.

The next day, before I had time to wash the siding, George had been up and cleaned it all off. All Ellie said was, Vain don’t you vant to buy the house next door, it's for sale. Yes I said, I would; that was over 30 years ago. Today George and Ellie still say I was the best tenant they every had. And I say they have been great neighbors, as good as anyone could ever hope for.

George and I have covered many topics in the back lane over the years from raccoons to plum trees; the topic stew or red siding has never been mentioned.