Thursday, 29 December 2011

Grind Writers as President Obama

Writing groups can't be serious and literary all of the time....

 Sometimes we need to have fun...........

 and play.....

Creepy isn't it......... but, then we wrote!

Grind Writers and the books they free-write and journal in

People write in fancy journal books, in 3 ring notebooks, in shorthand books.

You find the paper and pen and format that works for you.....

And then.....................just write.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Why We’d Rather Schmooze Than Write - Margo Lamont

This was actually a prompt from another group, The Closet Writers. We noticed that with the slightest provocation we would spend our entire meeting yakking and schmoozing, and decided to free-write as to why.

Why We’d Rather Schmooze Than Write

            We’d rather schmooze than write because writing is a lonely occupation. No, not lonely—who is ever lonely when the ink is flowing and the thoughts are piling out?
             No, not lonely: solitary.  It’s you + something inanimate: the pen & paper, the computer. It’s your brain and your thoughts – as convoluted or creative as they may be – and the paper, that daunting blank ahead of you. And we all read, explore, attend lectures, meet curious people—and we want to share it. The schmoozing is about sharing and support; it’s about looking up from that page and being part of something bigger than you & it.
It’s about community.

Margo Lamont
September 7, 2010

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Work #32 - by Lindsay Glauser

The female model came in to the room, wrapped in a blanket, while the man stayed in the corner setting up his easel.  She dropped her blanket, stretching her leg up against the platform, and he turned the page.  Sketches of conte, he moved his hand aroung the page while keeping his eyes on the shapes of her frame.  She stayed still until she knew he was finished, and she knew it was time when she heard the man take a breath.

(c)2011  Lindsay Glauser

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Candice James, the Poet Laureate of New Westminster, does the Grind Writers free-write challenge

by the Poet Laureate of New Westminster, Candice James

Not the same picture Candice
wrote to, but a similar landscape.
Same photographer: Warren Gordon
a 15 min. free-write done to a prompt: a photograph of a lone person fishing on the Margaree River in Cape Breton on a magnificently sunny summer day not unlike the one we were experiencing at the Summer Dreams Literary Arts festival where this challenge was offered up.

Footsteps sinking into silk
Wet flow of nature’s milk
The sustenance to which were drawn
In surreal world of peace and calm

The shine of sunlight on the fields
Unmeasured dreams and brilliant yields
The essence of the whispering wind
and secrets of the past begin
To unwind in the wind of the river
As it flows round my body like a shiver
And I pull my mind around my heart
Like a blanket, tattered, torn apart
The trees stand in jurious solitude
Against a sky opaque and nude
And life is shadowed in between
The river, stream and pastoral scene
Where we wander like wolves and sheep
Leaving this realm with nothing to keep
Save our sanctimonious souls
As - the thunder rolls.

 © Aug2011 Candice James (the poem not the photo)

George Bowering, Canada's first Poet Laureate adds his bit

We started a Round Robin story at the Grind Writers table at the Summer Dreams Literary Arts fest. It was was such a beautiful day--the sun and the seaside, and the dozens of poets reading and slamming, gulls, BBQ fragrances wafting on the wind, workshops, face-painting and wonderful blues--that I'm afraid we didn't get very far with the story.

However, we were fortunate to have George Bowering, Canada’s first Poet Laureate, start it off.

I think he was being a bit of an imp. He looks like he is capable of great naughtiness, don't you think?

If you'd like to add to the story with its auspicious beginnings, please do - and send me your bit in an email to ( and I'll post it up. The ///s indicate a new person is writing.

Rooting around in an old trunk in Mom’s attic after she died, I froze when I found /// myself covered in ice cubes. After the cubes began to melt suddenly I had this urge for peanut butter. Realizing, or maybe thinking, I was hungry, I headed down the crickety stairs she had always wanted painted--and I never did--to the kitchen. /// the pungent aroma of fresh Cuban coffee hung thick in the air, wrapping me in her embrace, leading me to the sultry yellow cup beckoning me to touch it. /// 
     But I didn’t…how could I?--he was holding it. “What are you doing here?” I demanded.

Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival - Freewrite challenge 2011

A day in the sun at the Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival and some takers to the Grind Writers DEAW ("drop everything and write") 15-min free-write challenge. Some prompts were text, others photographs:

Warren Dean Fulton   ©Aug2011

Prompt was a photograph of Russian nesting dolls


Nesting within
in decreasing size
smaller and smaller and smaller, yet
a layering chart of past mes,
down to the tiny bean
of a baby
I once was.


Ingrid Steenhuisen    ©Aug2011

prompt - her own

For a child, a park is a wonderful place for a wide variety of reasons. Regardless of whether it is a small open neighbourhood park or a large majestic and varied one like Stanley Park.

As a child born and raised in Vancouver by immigrant parents, being alert, aware, cautious and inventive, parks were a place for us to be adventurous. Being the eldest also meant sharing that curiousness with the others and teaching them things that were done in a fun way and encouraging varying types of independence -- first steps, first dip, first swing, first teeter-totter, first swim stroke(s).

We--my twin sister and I--found it amazing how each (next) child seemed to mature/learn faster than the one(s) before them. But, now we realize that it was because each one had more teachers than the sibling before them.

Stanley Park s fun, Fun, FUN! To arrive early in the morning to commandeer two picnic tables to have enough seating for all of us. Oatmeal cooked on a Coleman® camp stove (and Dad having to pump it, so it would work for Mom) -- then potato and other salads prepared for dinner, while lunch was always sandwiches. Playground and zoo in the morning - then swimming after lunch - then reading and playground again (for the little ones) until dinner.

Timothy Shay   ©Aug2011

prompt was “Describe a typical day for you”

A typical day begins………
I feed pepperoni the cat at seven a.m.
and assure him that he is indeed a
wild forest cat and we have killed
the grilled chicken chunks late the previous night
and as pepper the cat has short term memory
he accepts this with the dawn gusto
of a hungry hunter. After eating the bathtub curtains
must be adjusted to afford pepper the cat
a long secret tunnel to the waterfall (faucet) which
runs incessantly like an ancient river
then it is time for pepper the cat’s dose of nip
and his cantankerous day begins, bugs beware;
and like his tired cyclic god
I return to bed and dream other worlds.

Shan Kelly  
©Aug 2011
prompt: write a 500 word biography of yourself in the third person


Shan was born in Dublin in 1965 to a young, working class couple from Ballyfermot, Dublin, Francis and Eileen named their first child Patricia after Eileen’s dad and Sarah after Frank’s mother. But Grandma Sarah was unhappy--that hers was no the first name given to her first grandchild, so nobody used either name.

Eileen’s delivery was like being in a car rash and the young Mum was too ill to attend her baby’s Christening when the baby was gien a new name, Sharon.

For Sharon’s first four years, Francis, Eileen and baby Sharon lived with Eileen’s Mum, Josie, who had lost her husband to a brain hemorrhage the year before. In 1969, Eileen was expecting again and the Kellys moved to a new house in Milltown which was where Sharon spent her childhood.

Shan was a good student and won a place at the College of Commerce. She graduated in 1984 and moved to London on her twentieth birthday, not returning to live again in Dublin until 2007 when she moved back to the house in Milltown with her daughter, Grace, age two.

Frank was dead by then and Eileen had been widowed for more than two decades. Sharon had shortened her name to Shan after getting a degree at the London School of Economics where she studied under Dard Sterkey.

Shan/Sharon Patricia Jean Kelly--she had also collected a Confirmation name by now--managed to survive a brain hemorrhage in 2001 and to make a full recovery with “no deficits,” as the English National Health Service put it. But she found it hard to return to her job as a journalist and instead got involved with her community from 2002 until after the birth of her daughter in 2005 when she was 39.

Shan went back to work in 2006 and edited two business magazines in London and Dublin before beginning taking classes in creative writing. She is still hoping to write stories for publication as novels, plays or as screenplays, but life keeps getting in the way.

Maybe this year she will do it.

Aine Rathwell   ©Aug2011
prompt: unknown

Once upon a time in a flash of light far, far, further away there was flashes of lighting. Split a civilization disappeared on the wind like gone with the wind. A civilization blew away. Gone Civilization, gone with and like the wind. He saw it all in a cloud and all his fellow ancestors all mixed up like spoon that turned into soup. The soup of his ancestors are all marked like an ancient myths….a history of a totem.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Hiroshima, Aug 6, 2011 - by Niko Kerhulas

This was a 15-min. freewrite on the topic Hiroshima on the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the A-Bomb on that city.

Gosh, where to begin?  I wrote my Senior Thesis on the necessity of dropping both bombs.  At my young age I felt as if I understood why it occurred and how it helped.  It’s interesting using the word “help” when they did such terrible things to so many.  My views have changed as I’ ve aged.  I could still argue both sides if I wished but now I lean far more towards wishing such things never occurred.  I know why it occurred and all the steps that led to intelligent people saying, “Yes, this is a good idea” but when I take a step back and look at it all it’s hard to justify hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Becoming a parent changes views.  Everyone that died had a mother and a father.  Some had siblings or children of their own.  When viewed in that light it’s quite hard to ever justify such actions but when I was 21 I did just that.  The title was something like The Necessity of Dropping the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I had page after page of facts and quotes.

I put it in perspective.  Something like 54 million people died in World War II but less than ½ million died because of those two bombs.  I spoke of how many more lives were saved and how after so many years of war it was easier to make that choice.

Just end it.  No more. And it’s all true.  It did probably save lives.

Tens of millions more died from the billions of bullets and bombs used in the years prior not to mention all the deaths from hunger and exposure.  Why single out these two bombs from the billions of other causes of death?

It feels dirty too.  How do you justify death?  I guess by making it so prevalent and common as to remove the terribleness of it all.  I was able to do it in my younger days.  It’s probably why the military enlists such young men and women.  They view the world as black and white, right and wrong rather than grey.  Most things in life are a shade of grey.

I didn’t really question my views back then.  I had spent four years studying at a large university renown for its History program.  I had already questioned my views, hadn’t I?  Here is my conclusion; no need to question that.

Age is a beautiful aid to life.  I very much question my views now though I’m sure there are some that I still turn a blind-eye too.  I know though that I’ve been wrong in the past and will be wrong again in the future.  That’s not a bad thing.  Not questioning and correcting it is the great flaw.

How do I convince others to question their views?  That is a goal worth pursuing.  I don’t need to change their views.  I need them to change their own.

I got an A on my Senior Thesis.  I don’t know if the Professor agreed with me or not but he felt I had fulfilled the assignment well.  I don’t recall a single person in that small class disagreeing with me.  I do remember a couple that did agree.  I wonder if they still do?

August 6, 2011 Niko Kerhulas

Monday, 1 August 2011

Don't Write About What You Know -- article in The Atlantic

--quote:  Every Wednesday, I teach an introductory fiction workshop at Harvard University, and on the first day of class I pass out a bullet-pointed list of things the students should try hard to avoid. Don’t start a story with an alarm clock going off. Don’t end a story with the whole shebang having been a suicide note. Don’t use flashy dialogue tags like intoned or queried or, God forbid, ejaculated.
      Twelve unbearably gifted students are sitting around the table, and they appreciate having such perimeters established. With each variable the list isolates, their imaginations soar higher. They smile and nod. The mood in the room is congenial, almost festive with learning.
     I feel like a very effective teacher; I can practically hear my course-evaluation scores hitting the roof. Then, when the students reach the last point on the list, the mood shifts. Some of them squint at the words as if their vision has gone blurry; others ask their neighbors for clarification. The neighbor will shake her head, looking pale and dejected, as if the last point confirms that she should have opted for that aseptic-surgery class where you operate on a fetal pig.

     The last point is: Don’t Write What You Know. --unquote

Bret Anthony Johnston writing in The Atlantic. Rest of story.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Everyman by Lesley Prentis

A poem that came from a free-write 15 min. writing prompt at the Grind Writers Group – writing to a painting in an exhibit at the gallery. Below the freewrite version is a version that has been further revised, for comparison purposes. 

The paintings are on display until the end of June. We invite you to write to one of the paintings and send it to for posting here.

first version June 11, 2011

Everyman stares out
Of  black eyes, focused inwards
Looking inwards (outwards)
Staring out of sunken sockets in his
Weathered face,
Naked form gathered in on his self
Oblivious to the audience
Of stunned discomfort
Embracing the sight
Of he lost in (his) life’s storm
They sheltered in their clothes
And small minds
Shunned by others
Who turn their backs
Viewed with scorn
By narrow minded pouting lips

Everyman stares out of black eyes
Unfocused eyes, looking inward eyes
Scared eyes, angry eyes.
Staring out at an angry world
Bewildered to be at the centre of the storm
Unable to weather the daily comings and goings
Finally left exposed to the world,
Naked, body drawn in on itself

Inside he hears acceptance
Raison d’etre
I understand whence you come from my son
I know your pain
I know the worth of you
More and less than you think
More and less than others say
Walk the line
Do not dally or they will pull you down

Creativity lost and found

(c)2011 Lesley Prentis


June 16, 2011 (initial re-working)

Everyman stares
Out from black eyes focused inward
Looking inward? (Outwards)
Stares from the sunken sockets
Of his weathered face
His naked form gathered in on himself
Oblivious to his audience
Of stunned discomfort who
Embrace the sight
Of HE lost in (his) life’s storm
They sheltered in their clothes
And their small minds
Whilst he shunned by others
Who viewed with scorn
And narrow minded pouting lips
Who turn their backs
On his unspoken needs.

Everyman stares
Out from black eyes, looking inward eyes
Scared eyes, angry eyes
Stares out at an angry world
Suddenly aware, bewildered
To be the centre of the storm
Unable to weather the daily comings and goings
Finally left exposed to the world
Naked, body drawn in on himself

Everyman stares
Out from black eyes focused inward
Inside he hears acceptance
Raison d’etre
The words
I know whence you come from my son
I know your pain
I know the worth of you
More and less than you think
More and less than others say
Walk the line
Do not step on the cracks
Do not dally, do not pay heed

Creativity lost and found.


Saturday, 25 June 2011

The less you wear...

A scene that came from a free-write 15 min. writing prompt at the Grind Writers Group – writing to a painting in an exhibit at the gallery. The paintings are on display until the end of June.

-I have a secret, Gloria whispered.
-We don’t have secrets…well, not since grade two…
-I’ve something to tell you, Sandra…it’s important.
-OK, slow down, breathe…you’re not… (checking out tummy area)
-No, it’s not that…I’ve…
-Gloria, you’re not seeing him again??
-No!  Just listen.
-Ok, ok, shoot…
-I’ve got a new job…
-Well, that’s fantastic!  What’s the big deal?
-It’s how I’m earning…
-Oh God, no…Look, if staying at my place helps…
-Why do you always think the worst?!  Not that!
-What then?
-I’m modeling.
-Models make great money. What?--designer clothes, lingerie…?
-Less what, money?  Models make great money…you know 
  the rule of less?
-What’s that?
-The less you wear, the more you make.
-Not in this case.
-Why not?
-I wear nothing…except maybe some drapery--a scarf, a discretely
  placed cushion or bolster…
-How does that work?
-Well, I show up…
-At the figurative art studio.
-Then what happens…who’s there…do they watch?…is it seedy?
-Stop!! (laughing)
-Do they play burlesque music?
-Sandy! (exasperated) No!! I go to the bathroom.
-To throw up?  Nerves?
-No, to change…
-Then I wear my robe between poses.
-How long’s the session?
-Well, at first they’re short one, two, five and ten-minute poses.
-Do you move around?  Show me one of your poses.
-Ta da! (posing)
-Doesn’t your ‘hoohoo’ show?
-Look, it’s not an issue…
-Since when isn’t your ‘hoohoo’ an issue?
-They’re sitting all around me. I’m on a small, raised platform with locked wheels.
-Do you get to look at their work?
-At the twenty-minute break, I sometimes circulate…it’s…wonderful.
-Absolutely…one guy even gave me his half hour sketch.
-That’s a long time to hold a pose…
-You choose that one carefully…
-Show me…(demonstrating) hmmm, I don’t think I could hold that for thirty minutes.
-Never know ’til you try, Sandy, never know til you try.  Check out the model 
  requirements on   their website!  It’s not easy money, but it’s fun!
-Not on your life!  (dissolving to laughter)

(c)2011 Joan Boxall

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Supportive Wife

A story that came from a free-write 15 min. writing prompt at the Grind Writers Group – writing to a painting in an exhibit at the gallery. The paintings are on display until the end of June.

            Stella stood shocked, shaking, then slumped into a chair, setting her sherry down on a nearby table. For an instant she thought it might drop out of her trembling fingers and the last thing she wanted to do now was draw more attention to herself. She looked around her, as she reeled at the revelation that had just washed over her and she saw Terrence across the room, preening. He had not made eye contact with her when she came in. She had thought that strange, but now---now she understood.
            “He’s got such a bright open palette,” she heard a man saying to his companion.
            “Yes,” she heard the companion reply. “He’s a combination of C├ęzanne and Picasso.”
“And a little Matisse on the side,” the man said, pointing at No. 44 with his wineglass.
The comment swirled around her. Stella breathed in deeply, deliberately. Yes, Picasso—one infidelity after another… But this—
At that moment Terrence glanced in her direction. In a flash of a moment and even in her state of tremulousness, she saw him take her presence in and in such a brief flash that she could almost have believed she imagined it, she saw that gleam of malicious satisfaction—and then it was gone, papered over with a social smile to someone who had tapped his arm and asked him a question. Did he know she had caught it?
Stella finished her sherry and got up. She perambulated the room again. There it was up on the wall for everyone to see. In every painting featuring Stella, she had her back to the viewer and he had portrayed her as chunky, old and fat. Nos. 42 – 60 – 23 – 16 – 34 – 38. And, no mistaking it, in the rest of the paintings was the beautiful, younger woman who stood beside him now at the opening. Stella did not know her name but she knew enough from her wife’s instincts of twenty-three years.
Some knowing force caused her to look Terrence’s way just as the women, the naked subject in all his other paintings, was regarding her.
Stella felt a presence sidling up to her: her sister-in-law, Helen, Terrence’s brother’s wife.  “Stella—hiding here when you should be in the limelight with Ter?”
Was she being ironic? did she know? was she rubbing salt into the wounds? it was hard to tell; they’d never been the best of friends.
“I just heard someone compare Ter to the German Expressionists—how darling! I bet you know the difference between the French and the German Expressionists – and even between the Impressionists and the Expressionists, not like we Philistines, Stella!” Helen gave a champagne giggle.
Stella waited a beat. As always Helen was only asking rhetorically; she didn’t want any answers. “And who is that captivating European woman—I mean obviously she’s the model, but do you know her? Ter introduced me but I didn’t get the name—vaguely Czech-sounding or Eastern European. I think you are the most understanding spouse to let him spend all that time with someone twenty years younger…”
Helen’s words were getting lost in the packed room’s dialogue. “….dancing pastels maintain a precarious balance…”—A woman Stella recognized as an art critic.
Stella thought she might pass out. She was standing again in front of No. 60. He’d called it “Portrait of a Marriage.” It was she, back to the room, sitting naked and fat, fatter than she was in real life, with big bulges all over. It was such an unloving portrait. She recognized herself by the hairstyle. His model had cascading black hair in the paintings and here in real life, across this crowded hot room, long black hair she was sweeping back over her shoulder now as Stella regarded her. It was that gesture women with long hair make, where they sweep their hair off their face and shake it backwards, over and over when they are talking to a man, another kind of preening.
Stella’s grey hair in the painting was in a braided bun coiled around the nape of her neck like a serpent.
It was always the hair.
Her hand went to the nape of her neck and cupped the heavy bun. She had wanted to cut her hair years ago and had brought it up several times over the last ten years. He’d always said, “I like it that way. Why would you want to cut your hair, darling?”
She thought of her scissors back home.
(c)2011 Margo Lamont


Saturday, 30 April 2011

Grind Writers meeting dates 2011

Please email me before you attend, as we sometimes move the venue -

Sun May 29
Sat June 11
Sun June 26
Sat July
Sun July 24
Sat Aug 6
Sun Aug 21
Sat Sept 10
Sun Sept 18
Sat Oct 1
Sun Oct 16
Sat Oct 29
Sun Nov 13
Sat Nov 26
Sun Dec 11

AMBER STONES by Lilija Valis

Amber has been washing up
on Baltic beaches a long time:
pine-resin preserved life,
Ice-Aged for posterity
a leaf, an insect

connecting us to a past
millions of years back,
turning it into gold
Gintaras is what they call it,
(the Greeks named it “electron”)
made into jewelry, it has been
traded since 7000 B.C.

associated with the Sun God,
the Awakener, symbol
of happiness and healing,
purifying and protecting,
it permeates the body with light

the Baltic coast dwellers,
people of the sacred stone,
older than history,
dedicated themselves
to guarding the Sacred Fire,

through centuries of invasions,
deportations and forced conversions
by the stronger and more numerous,
they kept the Sacred Fire burning,
as did the Persian Zoroastrians,

something ancient
and essential to life,
hiding and shielding it
from the changing winds,

taking it with them
to the corners of this earth.

© 2011 Lilija Valis


REAL by Lilija Valis

          Someone was asked if there were any real atheists.
         Do you think, he answered, that there are any real Christians?

— Denis Diderot (1713-1784)

Is anyone real?
I mean, is anyone One?
Or does everyone
and everything
have the opposite mixed in?
A saint commits a sin,
a criminal acts generously,
a soldier brings about peace,
a pacifist invites war.
Good can produce bad,
and bad bring forth good.
Certainly carries doubt.
Love can turn to hate in a split second
and hate can fall into love
against the will of the both.

Maybe that works best.
Don’t blame me.
I didn’t create the world.

Though I did my part
in reshaping society
and, forgive me, if it’s not
all the better for it.

© 2011 Lilija Valis


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wine & Write with Grind Writers - May 20, 7pm

Wine & Write

“Ernest Hemingway loved the Mojito, William Faulkner had his mint juleps, and F. Scott Fitzgerald was convinced gin was the way to go (he thought its smell would be undetectable on his breath).” ~NPR

Could a little sip from the bottle help all of us writers? We’ll find out at an experimental Wine Tasting/Writer’s Workshop on Friday, May 20 at 7pm.

We’ll sniff and sip before we get set on a variety of writing journeys. There will be reading aloud of stories, but don’t worry, the wine should unleash your confidence, inhibitions, and brilliance… or so this is the thought. Very experimental! Definitely fun! I will be leading this as the writing facilitator.

When the wine is in, the wit is out
~Proverb floating around the Internet

I guess we’ll find out.

*Seating is limited so please sign up early to save your spot.

Friday, May 20, 7 to 9pm
Harvest Table, Legacy Liquor Store (yes, a liquor store with a beautiful wooden table where we can sip and write).
1633 Manitoba Street in Olympic Village. Five minute walk from Science World/Main Street Skytrain.
$25 for Wine, Bread and Cheese
Who: For writers and aspiring writers led by writer and writing facilitator Gloria Chang (
How: Sign up through Gloria’s recently launched meetup group for eaters and drinkers:
Or send Gloria an email:
What to bring
A notebook and pen or laptop to write on. 

Here’s a link to a special web feature by NPR on writers and their cocktails

More info:   Gloria Chang

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Vachon to Seattle Grey by Pamela Swanson

vashon to seattle grey
stone and tarmac muttering –
a shopping day of here to there
garlic oranges apples peas –

a windless rain of back forth  -
ferry hopping groceries –
the streets are washed to half a pace
carrots lettuce yogurt tea

from paper shops to cutting boards –
the giant man still hammering
a steady background silhouette
for lemon juice and anise seeds

the banks are closed against the fog
on this monday eastering
through memories of here and not –
avocados broccoli –

my mother born a sigh away
inside the Swedish hospital
more than eighty years before
bananas ice cream cinnamon –

i feel an echo of her now
in videos that cross my eyes
reweaving ancient yesterdays
vanilla coffee envelopes –

and as i pause a waiting breath
between the stops of here and there
i almost see her smiling
seattle rains and postage stamps.

(c)2011 Pamela Swanson

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Their Painted Faces - by Bonnie (c)2011

Prompt:  If you could start your life over what would you do differently?

            Maybe I would start wearing makeup at a younger age. I know, I know…most people would probably choose something like:  I would spend more time in the garden or I would judge less and listen more.  But do you have any idea how hard it is to learn to apply makeup when you are in your forties?   
           When I was younger I never had need of it. I was always athletic and fit and looked great in just my skin. Now, even though I am still in fairly good shape, still healthy, I need whatever help I can get to make me look a little more attractive, or at least a little younger. So I have decided to start spackling my face with colour.  Makeup!  Now there’s a minefield.  Who knew it was so complicated?  
            When I was a kid, my sister had one of those Barbie Styling Head toys. Have you ever seen one of these things?  It creeped me out then, and the thought of it still makes me shudder a little.  It’s basically a large, plastic doll’s head cut off at the shoulders and fitted onto a base. Little girls create hairstyles and apply makeup to it.  My sister would spend hours playing with this thing, experimenting with colour schemes and dressing the hair in different styles, but I never really got it. 
            “This look is for when she is going out on the town,” she’d say very seriously, standing back so I would have sufficient room to appraise it properly.  Or, “here she is going to work in an office.”
            I would roll my eyes at her and head outside to play with the boys. War was the name of our game.  It involved sticks and running around trying to use them on each other.
            Even as a teenager I became disoriented whenever I walked into the bathroom at school and found myself confronted by a line of girls jockeying for space in front of the mirrors.  There would be a noxious cloud of hairspray hovering over them as they applied yet another layer of sticky lip gloss onto their pursed lips. 
            I preferred sports, and still do.
            But now I find myself crawling back to those very same girly types I distained, sadly in need of some help.
Twenty year old makeup counter girls explain to me the absolute necessity of concealer and discuss the pros and cons of shades of brown vs. shades of green eye shadow with my skin tone.  I try to focus when they’re talking, honestly I do—but I find myself staring at their painted faces and wondering if I dragged my finger down their skin, would it leave a trail? 
            Maybe if I had spent less time running around in the empty lot behind my house, trying to ambush Mike (who really was a little shit and very deserving of whatever he got), and more dressing up with my sister, I would be having an easier time of this whole aging thing now.
            Maybe, if I had played with the doll’s head I wouldn’t feel so out of touch when I look in a mirror today and wonder about the middle-aged woman staring back at me, or why her hair is such a mess. Would that have staved off the rapid decline of my skin, or the graying of my hair?  Or worse still, the downward migration of my breasts?
            After a day navigating the perfumed makeup counters or the over-priced hair salon that has suddenly become de rigueur, I find myself tying up my sneakers with anxious fingers, desperate for a run, or packing my swim bag and rushing to the pool.  Afterward, in the showers, I notice the sideward glances of teenaged girls. They’re thinking what I was thinking at their age.
            I am never going to look like that. 
            I just smile and turn around to give them a back view of their future horror. And the potions I buy – the lipsticks, the face creams, the powders – just keep accumulating in my bathroom cabinet while I go, go, go.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Talking About Your Fat - by Bonnie Sim (c)2011

A 10-minute free writing exercise

Prompt:  Is it more difficult for you to speak kindly of honestly?

“Do I look fat in this?” Suppose the answer is yes.  Maybe the answer is, “a little bit.” What do I say?  How do I say it?
You know, I wish I could just say, “Yes, you do, just a little.  But never mind about what you look like, stop being so damn insecure!” That’s what I wish I could say.  But that will never happen.  I’m a nice girl.  So it’s obviously more difficult for me to speak honestly than to speak kindly.  But is it really?  I’m terrible at small talk.  I choke on the words because they sound phony.  I don’t think people care what the weather is so much as they care about having a distraction from revealing too much of themselves…truth.
I do it differently.  I don’t talk at all.  I’m against small talk.  I cut straight to the chase, but I won’t tell you you’re fat.
You don’t look fat.
Just big-boned.
Ridiculous.  I won’t say that either.  What the hell is big-boned and why is it better than being fat?  I’d rather be fat.  Who wants big bones?! Sounds like a medical horror to me.  At least fat melts away, or it can.
Whatever.  I won’t tell you you’re fat.  I’ll probably change the subject…tell you I like the colour of your dress and ask you where you found it.
I don’t care about the dress that makes you look fat.  Why would I?  It makes you look fat.  I definitely don’t want to know where it came from.  Or perhaps I do, so I can avoid that place always.
Well.  It seems there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get an honest answer from me.  If it’s not, then at least it will be kind.  Probably not both though… especially if we’re talking about your fat.

Bonnie Sim: