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.