Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Love letters – And two award-winning Christmas stories

Hi Brian:

Just a quick note to let you know that I won 2nd prize this year in the 2010 Not So Cynical Christmas Writing Contest.

Once again, your workshops are amazing and thank you for bringing them to the various cities throughout Ontario.

Take care and Happy Holidays.
Judy J. Thompson

Note: You can read Judy’ story, “The Christmas Kiss,” here.
For information about submitting to The Cynic, see here.

Hi, Brian.

The week before the holidays, I'd scheduled myself to go into my daughter's kindergarten class to do some storytelling. I was planning to take a few books out of the library, learn the stories and then tell them Tuesday morning. Only one hitch: I couldn't find holiday stories that were exciting enough for a bunch of 4- and 5-year-old boys. Everything was too wordy or too sappy.

So ... I decided to write my own story.

It was fun to churn out a story to tell that would get the kids involved too (I had them honking like geese and yelling out new names for the reindeer), but as I was writing out the kid-friendly piece for me to memorize, I realized that, with some tweaking, it might make a good story for older kids and grownups too. And ... I'd just read that the Guelph Mercury's holiday story contest's deadline was that night by midnight. I worked on the piece until 11:55, sent it in - and found out a couple of days later that it was a winner!

For anyone who's interested in reading “Santa recovers after big, honking crash over Guelph,” see here.

Writing weekly in our class was so great. It really got me back into the swing of things....
Thanks to everyone in the class, and have a wonderful holiday.

Cheers,
Kira Vermond
writer and editor

To see more of Kira's work, check out her column for the CBC here.

If you’d like a weekly dose of writing and inspiration, join us for the “Exploring Creative Writing” class Tuesday afternoons in Burlington (details here). If you already have some writing pieces you’d like to work on, join the “Extreme Creative Writing” class on Wednesday afternoons in Oakville (details here) or Wednesday evenings in Mississauga (details here).

For information about all of my writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Secrets of writing a page-turner," workshop Saturday, March 26, Brampton, Ontario

10:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Four Corners Library, 65 Queen Street East, Brampton (Map here.)

Ever stayed up all night reading a book? In this workshop, we'll show you how to build that kind of tension. And we'll help you put into practice the techniques professionals use - on every page and in every kind of story - to create drama and tension.

Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing teacher for more than 25 years. His proudest boast is that he’s helped many of his students get published and to launch their careers as authors.

Fee: $38.94 + hst = $44 paid in advance
or $42.48 + hst = $48 if you wait to pay at the door

To reserve a spot now, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

For information about all of Brian Henry's creative writing courses and writing workshops in Toronto, Mississsauga, Oakville, Georgetown, Halton, the GTA, Orangeville, throughtout Ontario and beyond, see here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Inland Waterways," poems from a peaceable kingdom by Linda Cassidy

Dear Members of my Writing Tribe,

With great excitement, pride and a twinge or two of performance nerves I announce the publication of my poetry collection "Inland Waterways" by the Mississauga publisher In Our Words, Inc. For those of you who know me as Linda Farmer, I am writing under my birth name "Linda Cassidy."

You can purchase copies of Inland Waterways online on the publisher's web site at http://inourwords.ca/

Instead of one big book launch my publisher plans a multiple-author reading event in late January or February. I will also be reading at various venues in the GTA over the next six months. On Tuesday evening, Jan 18, I’ll be reading at Prana Coffee Bar in The Beach, 2130A Queen St. E. (More here.) For information on upcoming readings see the News and Events section of my web site http://lindacassidy.ca (And if you know of any poet-friendly local bookstore in your vicinity, please let me know.)

And lastly, my thanks to you my writing tribe for the many ways you have helped me along the way, be it as tutor, mentor or friendly, encouraging comrade in the glorious activity of poem and prose making.

Regards,
Linda Cassidy
Author: Inland Waterways

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Writing for Children and Young Adults," Saturday, April 9, Peterborough

Writing for Children & for Young Adults ~ the world's hottest market
Saturday, April 9
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Jackson Creek Residence, 481 Reid Street, Peterborough (Map here.)

Whether you want to write the next best-selling children’s books or just want to create stories for your own kids, this workshop is for you. Learn how to write stories kids and young adults will love, and find out what you need to know to sell your book.

Special option: You may, but don't have to, bring 2 or 3 copies of the opening couple pages (first 500 words) of your children’s book or young adult novel. (Or if 1,000 words will get you to the end of your picture book or to the end of your first chapter, bring that.) If you’re not currently working on a children’s story, don’t worry, we’ll get you started on the spot!

Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He is also the author of a children’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Tribute Publishing Inc).

"Brian’s the real deal. He isn't just an inspiring teacher – he's plugged into the publishing world! He got me an agent who sold my first novel, Bitten, to publishers around the world. Last May, my young adult novel, The Awakening, hit number 1 on the New York Times bestsellers' list. And Random House Canada, Bantam U.S. and Little Brown in Britain have contracted my next seven books. So it looks like I’ll be writing for a while."
~ Kelley Armstrong, Aylmer, Ontario, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Awakening, The Reckoning, The Gathering, and other supernatural thrillers for teens and adults.

Fee: $38.94 + 13% hst = $44 paid in advance
or $42.48 + 13% hst = $48 if you wait to pay at the door

To reserve a spot now, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Photos: Two books by Brian"s students – The Awakening, a #1 New York Times bestselling YA novel by Kelley Armstrong and Journey to the City of Six Gates, a juvenile novel by Graeme MacQueen.

For information about all of Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Writer’s Union of Canada ~ Postcard Story Competition

The Writers’ Union of Canada is pleased to announce that submissions are being accepted for its annual Postcard Story Competition for the best Canadian story of up to 250 words in the English language. Are you up for the challenge? Can you create a dramatic, short, snappy piece in only 250 words? You can use humour, poetry, dialogue… anything goes!

Award: $500 and the winning entry will be published in Write: The Magazine of The Writers' Union of Canada and in postcard format.
Eligibility: This competition is open to all Canadian citizens and landed immigrants. Story must be previously unpublished, fiction or nonfiction.
Deadline: February 14.  Entry Fee: $5

How to Submit Entries
· Typed, double-spaced entry in a clear twelve point font on white paper, not stapled or exceeding maximum word length
· Faxed and e-mailed submissions will NOT be accepted
· Multiple submissions are welcome
· A separate cover letter with full name, address, phone number, e-mail address, number of words of entry, and whether submission is fiction or non-fiction
· Author's name should not appear on the entry, but on the cover letter only.

Send entries to:
PCS The Writers' Union of Canada
90 Richmond St. E., Suite 200
Toronto, ON  M5C 1P1

Complete rules here.

For a wonderful example of a winning entry, read The Invasion of the Snotty Badgers by Karin Weber – it will only take you a minute. See here.

To keep up to date with all the annual writing contests in Canada, get the 2011 Canadian Writers' Contest Calendar – just $23 including tax and shipping (or $20 at any of Brian Henry's workshops or classes). To order your copy, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca
More details here.

For information about Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Christmas with Cats," by Cecilia-Anca Popescu

My crazy cats
A blond and a brown
Are chasing around
My train on tracks
Under the tree
As I sing aloud
“Thank God it’s Christmas!”
With Freddy Mercury.

Holyday’s Spirit got
In these creatures again,
I’d better save the train
And take them to my spot
Beside the fireplace,
While I have eggnog
We’ll sing along a song,
Softly purr Amazing Grace.


Cecilia-Anca Popescu left Romania in 1993, shortly after the Revolution. Today she is managing a chemical lab in her country of adoption. Burdened with the nostalgia of every Romanian immigrant, Cecilia-Anca Popescu writes about the drama of the expat, about her life experiences, and sometimes about her cats.


For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Canadian agent: Carly Watters at P.S. Literary Agency in Oakville

"Endangered" by Pamela Beason,
a P.S. Literary Agency client
P.S. Literary Agency
20033 – 520 Kerr Street
Oakville, Ontario
L6K 3C7 CANADA
http://www.psliterary.com/

The P.S. Literary Agency is a newcomer to the agenting world, having been established by Curtis Russell in 2005.  It's located in Oakville (a suburb of Toronto) and represents commercial fiction and nonfiction. It is also seeking literary fiction and crossover Young Adult fiction.

"P.S. seeks to work with clients who are professional and committed to their goals. It is our desire to work with clients for the duration of their careers. In addition to contract negotiations, editorial and marketing guidance, our commitment extends to post-publication in pursuing foreign, audio, digital, TV/film and serial rights. Our team attends major national and international industry conferences and travels periodically to New York City to network with top editors."


Carly Watters – Associate Agent
Carly represents a diverse list of fiction, nonfiction and children's authors including Mary Akers, Ian T Healy, Jay Onrait, and Colin Mochrie. Never without a book on hand, she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents, including literary and commercial fiction, upmarket nonfiction, YA and picture books.

Carly did her MA in Publishing Studies at City University London in the UK where she worked in the publishing industry at the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency, and Bloomsbury PLC before returning to Canada in 2010 to join the P.S Literary Agency. She attends Book Expo America in New York, London Book Fair, and the International Festival of Authors in Toronto.

Note: Carly will be the guest speaker at the How to Get Published workshop Saturday, June 16, 2012, in Hamilton. Details here.

Curtis Russell – President & Principal Agent
Curtis began his publishing career nearly a decade ago as proprietor of a micro press. In 2005 he crossed to the other side of the desk and founded the P.S. Literary Agency. He has a wide-ranging and diverse client list, and is interested in discovering writers with unique ideas, no matter what the category.

Curtis is currently acquiring both fiction and nonfiction. In terms of fiction, he is seeking Literary, Commercial mainstream, Women's fiction, Chick lit, Romance, Young Adult/Middle Grade and Mysteries & Thrillers. In terms of nonfiction, he is looking for Business, History, Politics, Current Affairs, Gambling and Health & Fitness. He does not represent poetry or screenplays.

Submissions:
Query by mail or email: query@psliterary.com 
No attachments unless specifically requested.  Limit your query to one page and include...
Paragraph One – Introduction: Include the title and category of your work (i.e. fiction or nonfiction and topic), an estimated word count and a brief, general introduction.
Paragraph Two – Mini-synopsis: A concise summary or overview of your work.
Paragraph Three – Writer’s bio: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background (awards and affiliations, etc.).
Full submission requirements here: http://www.psliterary.com/submission.html 

Brian Henry has a "How to Get Published" workshop coming up in Burlington on February 19 with agent Alisha Sevigny of the Rights Factory (see here). On May 7, he'll be hosting the "From the Horse's Mouth" seminar at Ryerson University, where one of the guest speakers will be Marilyn Biderman (details to come).
For information about all of Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

“The Best Tree Ever,” a memoir by Fred Cahoon

I love December. I always have. Not only is it the month when the first snow arrived in greater Boston, where I grew up, but also the time when Christmas lights began to appear in the windows of neighborhood homes. There is just something so heart-warming about a walk past houses after dark with their windows casting the red and flame colored glow of Christmas cheer from their windows.

December is also the month in which I celebrate my birthday. Although this aspect of the month has become increasingly less important, the month of December still contains the most wonderful day of any child’s year, Christmas.

How vividly I remember coming downstairs, probably at the ripe old age of three or four, and seeing the Christmas tree in the living room, its lights already turned on with their colors reflected in the fragile red, green, silver and blue glass ornaments hanging delicately on the tips of its boughs. I stood there for a moment, mesmerized by the beauty and magical aura before my eyes. To this day, that vision remains the gold standard by which I still judge all other Christmas trees.

Throughout my pre-school years, my parents retained the tradition of not putting the tree up until Christmas Eve, a tradition most likely brought with them when they emigrated from Nova Scotia. My dad felt strongly that having the tree up for fewer days lessened the danger of fire, something that was always on his mind.

His childhood home had burned to the ground a few years earlier, presumably because of a spark from his parents’ wood stove. He was working in the Boston area during that winter and always felt that if he’d been there, he might have been able to prevent this tragedy. Though we had no wood stove, I guess my dad had seen sparks fly from overloaded electrical outlets and never really trusted the wiring in the tree lights. We always kept a bucket of water discreetly placed nearby.

As I grew older however, my annual pleading to put the tree up on my birthday, five days before Christmas, grew increasingly hard for my parents to ignore, eventually causing them to relent and agree. Putting up the Christmas tree became just as important, perhaps even more so, than my birthday cake and presents. Everyone I knew used to sympathize with me for having a birthday so close to Christmas, saying, “Oh you won’t get as many presents with Christmas just a few days away”

Wrong! My parents obviously didn’t want me to feel short-changed and I always received more than most kids I knew. My birthday and the Christmas tree from then on became forever linked.

With my sixth birthday only two days away, I looked forward with great anticipation to the night both things would happen. I was sitting at the kitchen table after school, enjoying warm Toll House cookies my mum had taken from the oven just a few minutes earlier. As she watched me enjoying her baking, she said, “I wonder if poppy doodlebugs,” (her pet name for my dad), “would bring a tree home with him tonight.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Whenever I began to whine about putting the tree up earlier, my mum had always been quick to say, “You know your dad works such long hours delivering oil and coal, starting when it’s still dark out, and once he’s finished for the day, he’s not too eager to go Christmas tree hunting.”

Since my mum’s eyes always conveyed whatever she was feeling, I had learned early on to recognize when she was happy, sad and occasionally angry, a mood which meant a slap on my backside was a real possibility. I also knew her mischievous look and this question of the tree coming tonight had been said with distinct mischievousness. As soon as she said it, her blue eyes twinkled and a half smile appeared on her face. I couldn’t wait for it to get dark and pranced around the kitchen yelling over and over: “Our Christmas tree is coming tonight.”

Of course, I did have one little concern however, even at this early age. Simply, whether or not the tree my dad would bring home would have the shape of the perfect Christmas tree. I don’t remember when this became so important to me; it just was. Maybe I had heard my mother or grandmother voice their critical opinions of previous trees my dad had brought home, obviously ones others had passed over and had been among the last few remaining in the lot when he finally went tree hunting.

Whatever the reason, the shape of the tree he would bring home that night was on my mind as I stood with my face pressed against the living room window pane, waiting for the red oil truck to pull into our driveway.

The red, blue and flame-colored Christmas lights, which I had been watching in the windows of several houses across the street since early in December, now took on soft and glowing radiance and shimmer through my condensed breath. It had been almost two weeks now since my mother had taken out our window lights from the box on the top shelf of the hall closet and put them in the two front windows facing the street.

Each set consisted of three candle-like cylinders wrapped in poinsettia covering and mounted on a wooden base, the center candle being higher than the two on either side. Each candle had a flame-colored bulb, the most common color of window lights. My mum had scotch taped them to the window sill, perhaps conscious of someone like myself or our gray cat, Katy, knocking them down. The first night they were lit, I remember her telling me that

Although it was much too early to think about a Christmas tree, she did believe in putting up the window candles, as she called them, early in December.

She said their light was a comfort to the weary travelers making their way home after work and cheery to all. Still, although I very much enjoyed looking at all of them, now all I wanted to see were the headlights of my dad’s truck coming up the street, hopefully with a tree attached to its side.

When my dad’s truck finally turned into our driveway, I saw our tree – just as I had hoped – lashed to the truck’s side. I tore through the kitchen and into the mud room and then burst out onto the back porch, a few steps from where the oil truck was parked. The kitchen light filtering through the window allowed me to make a preliminary inspection for fullness and shape.

As the cold night air engulfed me and my dad playfully admonished me to get back inside, I noticed that there wasn’t just one tree, but two, each appearing to be shaped perfectly. Happily I ran back into the warm kitchen shouting to my mum, grand-mother and older sister: “Dad’s brought home two trees.”

In a few minutes, my dad had the trees leaning up against the wall in the mud room. Their balsam fir aroma filled the outer room quickly, drifting into the kitchen whenever the door was opened. I remember wondering if the second tree would be placed in my room. My dad just smiled as he walked to the cellar door, the entrance to his section of the house and where he always went to change out of his overalls and work boots.

Unbelievably, my mother, grandmother and older sister seemed to be more interested in the last minute preparations for supper. I attempted to comfort myself by remembering that if there was a problem with the tree’s shape or if the spacing between the boughs left unsightly gaps, my dad was not adverse to drilling a hole in the trunk and moving a limb from another part of the tree to fill in the affected area. Sometimes he actually brought home a handful of boughs which had been cut off other trees in the lot, presumably to make them more appealing, and used them to fill in missing spaces.

The first time this had happened, I remember feeling almost ill as I watched him place the old hand drill next to the trunk, turning it to create a hole an inch or so deep. Ignoring my cries of. “Dad, what are you doing?” he repeated this process several times.

“Just wait,” he said as he went out onto the back porch and brought in several loose boughs he had brought home. He whittled their ends with his pocketknife and placed them into the newly drilled holes. I couldn’t believe my eyes; what had made me come close to throwing up now looked like the most perfect tree anyone could ever want.

Since I hadn’t seen any additional loose boughs being brought in with these trees this year, I figured they must already be perfect and wouldn’t need any of my dad’s modifications.

All through supper, I tried to convince my parents to put up at least the living room tree as soon as they were finished. The bedroom tree could wait.

“No, it’s too soon,” Dad said but with a mock frown on his face which only encouraged me to continue.

“Aw, c’mon,” I whined, although the smile on my mother’s face assured me we would put up the tree. My grandmother and sister remained quiet, but with knowing smiles on their faces.

Finally my dad looked at me and said, “If we do, you’ll have to help me with the lights.”

Nothing my dad could have said would have thrilled me more. Preparing the lights for placement on the tree was a task that my dad and mum and older sister had always done after I was asleep in bed. Now I was being asked him to help and I couldn’t wait.

Except for the window lights, all the boxes of Christmas decorations were stored in the attic, with the only access through my sister’s closet. Under her watchful eye, perhaps somewhat annoyed that we were disrupting her studies or that her little brother had now been elevated to the role of light assistant, our dad slid her clothes to one side. He then lifted me up so that I could push the piece of plywood covering the access hole off to one side. With one foot gingerly balancing on the closet’s clothes pole and the other on my dad’s large open palm, I climbed up into this world of loose insulation, dust and articles from bygone days.

“Be careful,” Dad cautioned, “and don’t stand on the floor of the attic, only on the boards lying across the floor beams”.

During the day, a small window just under the peak of the roof, allowed the late afternoon sunlight to illuminate that part of the space just around the access hole. The floating dust particles, visible within the streaming shards of light, danced in a random perfusion. After dark, however, the dim, dust-covered bulb hanging from the roof joists barely gave enough light to see.

I loved being up there though, whatever time of day it was, with all the Christmas boxes, old trunks and other hidden treasures of many yesterdays. There was the mandolin my mum had played in supper clubs in Boston before she and his dad had been married, as a member of The Musical Bells. Parts of my God-father, Tom’s uniform, when he had served as a lieutenant in the Army during the Second World War.

“C’mon, hurry up, up there,” my Dad said. “Pass down the boxes marked Christmas.”

I passed down a half dozen boxes, the two biggest containing the Christmas lights. After Dad helped me down and slid my sister’s clothes back into position, we’d carried the boxes downstairs to the living room and put them by my dad’s chair. Before the first box could be opened, however, he had to light up his cigar. Soon its smoke filled the corner where his chair sat.

Many years later, I would realize the smell of cigar permeated not only the area around my dad’s chair, but throughout the whole house. Twenty years after my dad’s passing at age eighty six, my children and I could still smell the aroma of his cigar in the few pieces of clothes that still hung in his closet. We enjoyed burying our faces in one of his old sweaters which I had saved, inhaling its saturated smoky aroma.

“The first job,” Dad said, “is to get the strings untangled.”

Our mutual impatience made this an aggravating job, but one we both secretly enjoyed, especially my dad’s playful bluster. Oh my gosh,” he admonished me, “don’t pull so hard! How the deuce do these things get so tangled?”

When we had somehow managed to disentangle each string, my dad plugged each one into the outlet beside his chair. Sometimes the string lit up, shedding the bulb’s colorful glow on the carpet where it lay. Quite often however, the string remained dark, forcing us to begin the trial and error process of replacing each bulb with a new bulb until the string finally came to life.

At that time, strings of tree lights were wired in series so that if one of the bulbs was burned out, the entire string would not light. The bulbs were also longer and narrower than today’s lights and when on, burned much hotter – another reason for the pail of water to always be close by.

I also recall the colors of the tree lights as more vibrant, and they included purple and green bulbs as well as the red, blue and flame colors. The star for the top of the tree was a five pointed star, with a blue bulb at each of its points.

Having been so focused on getting the strings of lights sorted out, I hadn’t noticed my mum quietly place an old oil tablecloth on the floor by the piano. On it she placed a tripod tree stand with three large clamps and the red and green tree skirt to cover the metal legs and hardware.

Dad held out his hands form me to to help him out of his recliner. “Okay,” he said. “You wait here.”

I could barely contain myself as I settled into his chair and the rest of the family sat on the living room sofa waiting for the tree. To my amazement, my dad brought both trees into the living room, leaning them up against the wall in the corner. To my utter disbelief, I could now clearly see that both trees had a very skinny trunk and one flat side with almost no branches. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked from my dad to my mum, grandmother and sister.

“Now just wait and watch,” said Dad, probably to everyone but directed at me.

To my amazement, he put the bad sides of the both trees together, creating an unbelievable symmetry of boughs that actually looked almost perfect. As I wiped my eyes on my sleeve, he placed the two slender trunks into the holder and checked to see if we all were in agreement. I guess by our faces he could see our approval. He removed a few pieces of wire coiled in his pocket and wired the trunks together.

“Honestly,” said Mum, “if we hadn’t seen you do it, we would never have ever known. Once we get it decorated, it will be the best tree we’ve ever had!”

I could see the reassurance in my dad’s face as he started near the top of the tree to loop the lights down and around the branches, securing them at the bough ends using the wooden button through which each of the two wires approaching the bulb slid as the base of the loop.

“Don’t let the bulbs touch the boughs,” my mother told him, as if Mr. Smokey Bear needed any reminders. I’m sure my dad was also quite aware of the danger posed by the multiple outlet adaptors we used to accommodate the three or four tree light plugs. As I think back now, that electrical octopus was the reason that my family never thought of leaving the tree lights on when they weren’t in the house.

Finally, my dad picked me up so that I could put the star on one remaining tree point, the other having been snipped off. It fit snugly into the slender cone of the star base. He then motioned for my mum to turn off the two living room lights. With everyone watching, he plugged the lights into the wall socket and, like magic, the tree glowed with the multi-colored lights and purplish-blue star. It was perfect.

Once the lights were in place and my dad sat back down in his recliner, the rest of us carefully removed the ornaments from their protective tissue paper wrapping. I remember being amazed by their fragile beauty. Red, blue, gold and silver and green glass ornaments, as large as naval oranges, were hung by metal hooks. Once hung, they reflected the lights with an almost radiant sheen. Garlands and icicles were the final dressing on the tree, a task usually left to my mum, who everyone acknowledged was the artistic person in the family. But this would wait till tomorrow.

Though it was well past my bedtime now, I lingered on the stairs heading up to my bedroom, soaking in the magical aura of our most beautiful Christmas tree. I promised myself though, that this would be the last year that my dad ever went to pick out our tree without me. And it was.

Fred Cahoon is a retired Microbiologist and lives with his wife on the Severn River. Blessed with a keen memory for the details of his youth and primarily written as a memoir for his son, daughter and grandchildren, Fred has compiled a collection of over a dozen short stories related to his boyhood years in New England. Fred is currently working on his first novel. Fred also feels passionate about the beauty of nature and the sea which has inspired him to write many poems using a variety of rhyming styles. Fall is his favorite season.

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wag's Revue fiction, poetry and essay contest

Founded in the spring of 2009, Wag’s Revue is an online-only literary quarterly of poetry, essays, fiction, and interviews with waggish luminaries of our day. All issues are available both online and as PDF downloads, for free, indefinitely. Click here to read the current issue.

Wag’s Revue invites you to enter its Winter 2011 Contest in fiction, poetry, and essays. Submissions of electronic writing are also encouraged in any of the above genres. First prize receives $1,000 and publication in Wag’s Revue; second prize is $500, third is $100, and all submissions are considered for publication.

The contest deadline is January 15, and winners will be announced with the publication of Issue 9 in April 2011. There is no limit to the number of entries an author may submit, but each entry must be accompanied with its own submission fee of $20.

Full contest rules here.
Home: http://www.wagsrevue.com/index.php

To keep up to date with all the annual writing contests in Canada, get the 2011 Canadian Writers' Contest Calendar – just $23 including tax and shipping (or $20 at any of Brian Henry's workshops or classes). To order your copy, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca
More details here.

For information about Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Waiting for Barney," an appreciation of Mordecai Richler & a review of Charles Foran's "Mordecai: The Life & Times," by Beverly Akerman

The first novel by Mordecai Richler I read was Son of a Smaller Hero in the late ’70s. I was a McGill undergrad in an intro to CanLit class taught by a Caribbean member of the professoriate, the punchline to the course being: there’s no such thing as Canadian literature because lit-rah-chure is universal, don’t you know?!

Though set in the same Mile End district as later works Duddy Kravitz and St. Urbain’s Horseman, Son of is worlds away in sensibility – dark, angry, and bitter, unleavened by any of the renowned Richler ribaldry.

I’m pretty sure I acquired St. Urbain, Joshua Then And Now, and Solomon Gursky was Here through the Book-of-the-Month Club (something you won’t often find a literary writer admitting), in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. And while Gursky is, by some accounts, supposedly Richler’s masterpiece, I had to force myself through while the other two I read with pleasure, and more than once.

Here was a Montreal I could still see evidence of, if only in broad strokes. Sort of like those chalk outlines left over at crime scenes. It wasn’t my Montreal but, in fact, my parents’, especially my father’s. But where my father was the good son – who stayed close to and cared for his parents, no matter their faults – Richler was the angry young man who flung himself across an ocean to drink, fuck and write himself into adulthood ... more

Beverly Akerman spent the better part of two decades in molecular genetics research, learning more and more about less and less. Skittish at the prospect of knowing everything about nothing, she turned, for solace, to writing. She’s been published in The Antigonish Review, carte blanche, Descant, Grain, The Nashwaak Review, Vocabula Review, and Windsor Review, among many others and has received 3 Pushcart Prize nominations and one each for Best of the Web and the National Magazine Award. This year, she won an Editor's Choice Award for Best New Writing 2011 and the David Adams Richards Prize for her soon to be published collection, The Meaning of Children. It pleases her strangely to believe she’s the only Canadian fiction writer ever to have sequenced her own DNA.  Beverly blogs here.

Quick Brown Fox welcomes your book reviews and other book-related articles. Guidelines here.
For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

carte blanche literary review

"At carte blanche we believe there is more than one way to tell a story. Our mandate is to provide a venue for narrative of all forms from fiction and nonfiction, to poetry and photo essays.  carte blanche is just that.  It is open-ended and open-minded.  It is a blank page that gets filled up, scribbled on, and passed around. It is where writers can sound off, send up, amuse, follow their muse, versify, dramatize, sketch, snap, think big, get famous, polish, perish and, above all, publish."

carte blanche is published online twice a year, in the spring and the fall.
Deadlines: Spring issue – March 15th (May publication)
Fall issue – September 15th (November publication)
"We accept original, previously unpublished submissions through our online Submission Manager only."

Ful submission guidelines here: http://carte-blanche.org/submissions/
Home: http://carte-blanche.org/

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Agents at Caren Johnson Literary Agency seek adult & children's fiction, memoir, etc

Katie Shea
Caren Johnson Literary Agency
132 East 43rd Street
No. 216
New York, NY 10017
http://www.johnsonliterary.com/

The Caren Johnson Agency is a full-service literary agency based in New York City. It represents all types of books but specializes in romance (such as The Princess in His Bed by Lila DiPasqua - see here), women's fiction, high-quality middle grade and young adult fiction and narrative non-fiction.

Submissions: Query the agent you're interested in. Make sure your query is in the body of your email; we do not open attachments unless they were specifically requested). Please include the first 3-5 pages of your manuscript or your overview/ideas page pasted directly into the email below your letter. Do not query by snail mail.

Katie Shea is the newest member of the team.  Katie has been working in the literary industry since 2008. She began as a reader with FinePrint Literary Management, to assisting agents at Folio Literary Management and Langtons International Agency. She is now ecstatic to be building her own client list with the Caren Johnson Literary Agency. Katie is particularly interested in beautifully written literary fiction, sassy commercial fiction and heartwarming memoirs. She seeks a story with a strong honest voice, psychological depth and deep emotion.
Query her at: katie@johnsonliterary.com

Elana Roth is focusing her list on children's and young adult books, and is primarily looking for high concept middle grade and YA fiction. She will consider picture books from author/illustrators only If you are an author/illustrator, include a link to your online portfolio or website so we can see samples. Do not send attachments with artwork.  Elena will also consider a select number of adult projects in the areas of narrative nonfiction, pop culture and pop science. No vampires.

Elana spent 5 years at Parachute Publishing learning the ropes of the children's book industry.  She describes herself as: "A dweller of Brooklyn, an agent of books, a support-teamer of Squarespace, a purveyor of snark, an employer of awkwardness, a lover of coffee, a mistress of bourbon, and an enforcer of comma-placement.'

Query her at: elana@johnsonlitagency.com

Full submission guidelines here: http://www.johnsonliterary.com/submissions-info/

Brian Henry has a "How to Get Published" workshop coming up in Burlington on February 19 with agent Alisha Sevigny of the Rights Factory (see here). On May 7, he'll be hosting the "From the Horse's Mouth" seminar at Ryerson University, where one of the guest speakers will be Marilyn Biderman (details to come). Brian also has a few "Writing for Children and Young Adults" workshops coming up: on January 29 in Kitchener (see here), on February 26 in Barrie (see here), and on March 5 in Toronto (see here).

For information about all of Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

“Washroom Wisdom,” by Susan MacDonald

The main differences between men and women are not always those of appearance. On a recent visit to a crowded public washroom I was reminded of how washrooms or rather, the way the sexes use the washrooms, points out those differences rather sharply. For men, the washroom is a place of utility; they walk in unzipping, do the job and walk out rezipping. Hand washing is optional.

Women, on the other hand, rarely arrive alone. They are often accompanied by a friend, or two, a child or two and or armloads of baggage. They walk in sometimes tentatively, inspecting a cubicle before using it or sometimes not using it at all. They check themselves in the mirror, haul out the war paint and do a makeover, redo their hair, change or re arrange their clothing, change diapers etc. In short, they set up shop. They camp!

How do I as a female, know what goes on inside a men’s washroom? I’ll tell you how. I’ve been there! No, I’m not a transvestite but for many years I was privy (no pun intended) to the goings on inside many a facility. I was a janitor, a janitorial supervisor, and a janitorial contractor. I cleaned toilets. They were all kinds sizes and conditions of toilets from schools, airports, office buildings, car dealerships, department stores, campgrounds and restaurants. I’ve seen them all! Oh, the things I’ve seen!

In spite of a rather conspicuous “closed for cleaning” sign that I usually employed, I would often be interrupted by a person or persons who either couldn’t read or just “had to go”.

Early in my career, at a Kmart, I apprehended a shoplifter stuffing her old clothes into the garbage can after changing into a new outfit that she had just lifted from the racks. How she got past the eagle eyed “buzzer lady” remains a mystery. On another occasion, a smartly dressed upper manager peed all over his highly polished shoes when I stepped out from the cubicle I had been cleaning catching him by surprise.

Washrooms can be very revealing of character. I’ve overheard devious plots ranging all the way from the wrecking of a marriage to the sabotage of business and overthrow of companies to mundane mutterings of what to have for dinner tonight. I’ve polished gold plated fittings in executive powder rooms on Bay Street and literally shovelled red mud from the toilet floor at a farm equipment dealership in PEI.

I’ve seen all sizes, shapes, and ages in all stages of life and states of mind. I have been variously horrified, humbled, and at times judgemental. I once helped police apprehend a local street nuisance when he had eluded the male constables by crouching on top of a toilet inside the ladies washroom.

Another time, I called an ambulance when a rather large gentleman collapsed of a heart attack inside a cubicle. They had to remove the door to get him out. I’ve led a group of terrified female government employees out of the darkness during a power failure. They were inside the windowless washroom when the lights went out.

After a career that has spanned some twenty five years, I can confidently state that be you a doctor, lawyer, native chief, a captain of industry or the queen of the garbage room, when you’re sitting on the toilet and the roll is empty, you’re all in the poop!

Susan MacDonald is a transplanted Prince Edward Islander who now lives in Brampton with her husband and their cat. Susan’s stories reflect aspects of daily life now as well as memoirs and short stories based on tales heard during her childhood on the farm. Her works have been published in a two anthologies as well as receiving an honourable mention in an online contest in the UK. She is a member of the Brampton Writers Workshop as well as a group that meets in Oakville.

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Come write with me ~ a writing open house

Tuesday afternoons, February 8, 15 & 22
1:30 – 4:30
Free
CJ’s CafĂ©, in Bronte, 2416 Lakeshore Rd W, Oakville.
(On the south side of Lakeshore, just east of Bronte Rd, next to Lick’s ice cream – map here.)

On the last 3 Tuesday afternoons in February, you’re invited to bring your laptop or notebook and a piece of writing you’re working on down to CJ’s Cafe to spend a couple hours writing in the company of other writers.

This isn’t a class – there won’t be any lectures or critiquing. It’s an opportunity to write in a convivial atmosphere, with other writers around doing the same you’re doing – getting a story on paper (while sipping the best lattes in North America).

If you’re not working on a piece, and you're looking for something to write, here are some prompts to get you started:
For Feb 8: “An almost perfect ski day”
For Feb 15: “Heartbroken”
For Feb 22: “17 crows”

You don’t have to use these prompts and you don’t have to use them as given. Maybe you want to write about some winter activity other than skiing or about someone who finds her fantasy of true love fulfilled or about some other kind of bird or animal – go for it! Prompts are just to give you a beginning. So get on down to CJ's and order a cappuccino, pull up a chair and get a wisp of a story in your head, and then begin to write…

Note: You don’t need to come for the whole three hours. I won’t be there myself until after 3:00, as I teach a class Tuesday afternoons.

We’ll see how these three Tuesdays go, and if there’s interest, we’ll keep going.
I hope to see you there.
- Brian

To RSVP or for more information email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca
For information about my writing workshops and creative writing classes, see here.

Perth Writers Guild

The McMillan Building, Perth, Ontario
Hi Brian,
Tis the season, so I wanted to pass on some news about what the Perth Writers Guild has been up to. We are a small critiquing group (six of us) focussed on improving our writing. As a result, individually we have won competitions for our short stories.

This fall we held three garage sales to raise funds, then published a collection of our stories titled Tales for a Winter Night. Within two short months, in this small town, the sale of that book has raised $1,500 for the Children's Aid Snowsuit Fund. We can hardly wait to start writing and critiquing our stories for another volume next year.

To order a copy of Tales for a Winter Night email HelenOfPerth@Cogeco.ca

The cost is $10 plus $2 for shipping. We challenge other writing groups to do something similar for charity. It's a great motivator to write, is lots of fun, and gives back to the community.

Helen Gamble
Perth Writers Guild
Perth, Ontario

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Love letters

Hi Brian,
Good news: My novel, Tainted, won the 17th annual Arts Hamilton Literary Award for Fiction. A panel of judges from across the country assessed the contending novels and announced the winner. I was surprised, thrilled, and delighted. The honour comes with a small cash award!

I gave an acceptance speech that highlighted the fact that writing a manuscript may be a solitary act, but turning it into a marketable book takes a dedicated professional team backed up by writing teachers and champions of the arts, such as your good self.

Tainted is coming out in paperback from ECW Press on April 1, 2011 and the next in the series, Tampered, is coming out in hard back May 1, 2011.

I understand that you and I are both appearing at the Elliot Lake writer's festival in October 2011. Should be fun. See you February 5 in Ingersoll (where Ross will be the guest speaker for my “Writing Your Life” workshop. Details here.)

All the best, and thanks so much for getting me started on this terrific journey as a professional writer,
Ross Pennie

Hi Brian,

I hope you are doing well. Just to let you know, I've had a couple of recent successes. First, I was shortlisted in the 2010 Matrix LitPop Awards for fiction.

Also, I've just been notified that my short story "The Russian Soldier" will be published in the Spring 2011 edition of Descant. I workshopped this story in what is now called your "Extreme Creative Writing" course. I really enjoyed the course and found all of the
feedback, especially yours, invaluable!

Thanks, and see you soon at an upcoming workshop.
All the best,
Christopher Canniff
http://www.christophercanniff.com/
For information about Matrix LitPop see here.
For information about submitting to Descant see here.
And for information about Extreme Creative Writing classes starting Jan 19, see here for the Wednesday evening class and here for the Wednesday afternoon class.

Hi Brian,
I'm contacting you to share what I have been working on in Burlington for just over two years - The Burlington Slam Project. While "Slam" may sound aggressive; it is actually a competition for writers and performers; you see it started as a way to make poetry readings more interesting and in the last 20 years has spread like an epidemic throughout North America.

I am trying to connect with the artistic community of Burlington, as I don't know many people here (I moved here to be with the woman I love) and thought that you (or other local writers you know) might enjoy this candid confessional and crafted expose, called "slam." Our next month's event has the 2010 "Women of the World Poetry Slam" Champion as our featured guest and I would love to see/hear some new voices come out and share the stage.

If you have any interest or know someone who might; please kindly spread the word.  And if you have any questions, please let me know and/or feel free to check out our facebook group page or the blog for more info.

Regards,
Tomy Bewick
Open Minds Respect Events - Founder/ Organizer
Burlington Slam Project - Host/ Artistic Director
www.burlingtonslam.wordpress.com

For information about Brian Henry's writign workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Two poems by Cecilia-Anca Popescu

Mango

I open a mango fruit
Meticulously, voluptuously
Its smell takes my memory
On its usual weird route.

Each slice as it slowly melts
Feels like a drop from your being
Sweet poison impairing my seeing
As in my blood it deeply gets.

And I cannot stop
I continue to eat
Until you live in me complete
Or dead poisoned I drop.





Reborn

I wish to lie down on the ground,
Nobody to sense my presence around.
The soil to swallow my last bit of worry,
I don’t have to say anymore I’m sorry.

And then to stand up from my muddy bath
Purified, knowing my real path.
The world will find me everywhere around
As a pure breeze and a calming sound.




Cecilia-Anca Popescu left Romania in 1993, shortly after the Revolution. Today she is managing a chemical lab in her country of adoption. Burdened with the nostalgia of every Romanian immigrant, Cecilia-Anca Popescu writes in her poems about the drama of the expat and about her life experiences, whose mysteries could only be solved in the crucible of the creative act.

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Sara, a Canadian Saga," by Audrey Austin

Brian,

I wanted to let you know that I've self-published my first novel: Sara, a Canadian Saga. The story begins in 1916 and tells the story of Sara and Roy from the time they are children to Roy's death in the 1950s. The reader follows them through their adolescence, courtship, and marriage, but focuses especially on the years of the Great Depression.

I self-published with great assistance from Maggie Lacroix, of Wynterblue Publishing Canada. I'm overjoyed to report that it’s into its third printing.

Here is some feedback from readers:

"Your book brought memories of actual places and people to me. I was a child growing up on Prince Edward Island in the dirty thirties." K. Austin

"I've read your book already and loved the story. It reminded me of the stories my parents and grandparents used to relate about the 20s and 30s.” Judy Donovan-McDonald.

"I received Sara on Tuesday and couldn’t wait to read it. I couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed the story especially the streets in Toronto. It brought back a lot of memories. It is good for the soul to remember the past. Could that be why we call them the good old days? Looking forward to a sequel. Maureen Jones-Motchan.

"I truly enjoyed reading Sara. At times I laughed and at other times I felt tears welling up. It was such a good story, well written and I loved it." Eleanor Lambert.

This is just a taste of the amazing feedback I have received from some of my readers. Copies are $20 and to purchase yours, just email me at: audrey@persona.ca

I will deliver your copy to you if you live here in Elliot Lake. Otherwise your book will be in the mail the same day I receive your payment.

Thanks in advance.

Audrey Austin
Visit my website: http://writeraudrey.homestead.com/index.html
Visit my blog: http://writecreatively.blogspot.com

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Commuter Lit wants your (very) short fiction and poetry

CommuterLit.com posts a new short story, novel excerpt or poem each day from Monday to Friday, specially formatted to read on a mobile device (smart phones, iPads, Blackberries). Of course, you can also access the stories and poems from the CommuterLit.com website at any time.

"Our focus is on works of fiction or poetry that can be enjoyed during a 20- to 30-minute public-transit commute to work. And because we know your taste in reading material is varied and sophisticated, we plan to surprise you by selecting samples of not only literary fiction, but sci fi, fantasy, horror, mystery, thriller, romance and experimental combinations thereof." 

Fiction submissions should be 500 to 4,000 words, but I'd guess that, for a mobile devices like a smart phone, the shorter, the better.  Also, twice a year, they plan to publish The Best Of CommuterLit.com in hard-copy form.

Submit on-line here: http://commuterlit.com/for-writers/submission-guidelines/
Home: http://commuterlit.com/

Update, April 23, 2012. Nancy Clark, the editor of CommuterLit writes:

Upcoming themes: Summer vacations (anything with travel or exotic locations at its heart) and Summer romance. Send your submissions here

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Gravenhurst, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary, seeks middle grade & YA fiction

Molly Jaffa has been an assistant at Folio Literary Management since 2008 and is now building her own client list, as part of Folio's push into children's literature.  Folio also recently recruited the well-respected children's literary agent Emily van Beek. (More about that here.)

Molly is seeking: middle grade and young adult fiction. "I’m looking for books that challenge the reader intellectually and emotionally, from the high-concept and fantastical to the frank, fresh, and contemporary," says Molly. "I love fiction set in another country, time, or place (real or imagined!) that opens up a rich new world for the reader to discover. Stories featuring characters with strong passions, talents, or smarts—or characters in search of theirs—resonate with me. I’d also like to see: Edgy YA that’s not afraid to explore complex social issues, historical fantasy, smart adventures (I’d love a modern-day Indiana Jones with a female protagonist!), dystopian fiction, and—most importantly—books with a voice that makes the reader think, 'This narrator gets me.' "

Molly is also seeking nonfiction for women. "I’m looking for books that explore social issues relevant to women of all ages," she says. "Think Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters; The Purity Myth; Pledged; The Morning After; Enlightened Sexism.

What I’m not looking for: "Adult fiction, memoir, diet/fitness, religious/inspirational, or YA with vampires and/or zombies (unless they’re part of a larger, well-developed fantastical universe– think Cassandra Clare’s books)."

Query her at: molmolly@foliolit.com
Include your query letter and the first ten pages of your manuscript in the body of the email. "I will always respond within two weeks with a pass or a request for more material," says Molly. "If you haven’t heard from me in that time, please resubmit, as your query may have been lost."

More about Folio here.
Folio home page here: http://foliolit.com/
Folio Jr (devoted exclusively to representing children’s book authors and artists) here.

Brian Henry has a "How to Get Published" workshop coming up in Burlington on February 19 with agent Alisha Sevigny of the Rights Factory (see here). On May 7, he'll be hosting the "From the Horse's Mouth" seminar at Ryerson University, where one of the guest speakers will be Marilyn Biderman (details to come). Brian also has a few "Writing for Children and Young Adults" workshops coming up: on January 29 in Kitchener (see here), on February 26 in Barrie (see here), and on March 5 in Toronto (see here).

For information about all of Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Something to Focus On," a short story by Therese Montes Hall

Marisa lay back on the reclined hospital bed and pulled the thinning cotton sheet up to her chest.

“You cold?” Jules played with his cell phone, holding onto the belt clip with one hand and turning the phone around with the other so that it made a clicking noise with every rotation. He leaned forward. “I could get you another blanket.”

“I’m fine. I’m just nervous… and excited. Aren’t you?”

“Of course.” He leaned back into the seat then started drumming the sides of the chair with his thumbs. “I think this is one of those chairs that turns into a bed.” He raised his eyebrows at her playfully, channeling Charlie Chaplin.

“Is that all you ever think about? It’s for the comfort of the father, should he decide to stay.”

“Whoa! Easy, babe. I’m just kidding.”

Marisa looked down at her feet, peeking out below the blanket; her toes looked like ten little sausages jammed on muffin tops. Her ankles were so swollen that she couldn’t distinguish her feet from her legs. “You’re staying, right?”

“Of course. Don’t be ridiculous.”

Marisa shrugged and rubbed the top of her rotund belly. Inside, Eve was still, typical for the afternoon. In the last trimester, she’d noticed that “Eve’s dance parties,” as she thought of them, were prompted by food or by the sound of her voice when she spoke in a low, soft whisper.

Jules’ deep, booming voice elicited nothing from Eve. On one hand, Marisa was pleased that she and Eve were so bonded that she alone could evoke a response. On the other hand, she was saddened that Eve didn’t react to her father’s voice. Evidently, absence did not always make the heart grow fonder.

“I had to ask,” she said.

She massaged the sides of her stomach in a circular motion. The clock on the wall showed 4:30 PM. Though it had been only three hours since she had come in to be induced, she felt like she’d been there for an eternity. The pitocin in her drip was working, albeit slowly. She thought she might have felt her first contraction moments ago when she pulled the blanket up. It had felt like a concentrated cramp low and deep in her pelvis.

She wasn’t sure why she hadn’t told Jules about the contraction. He’d been more attentive to her these past couple of months. Perhaps it was because although he would do anything she asked and would even offer to do things for her without being prompted, his offers seemed half-hearted, as if he were hoping that her requests were not serious. Like with the car seat. Two weeks ago, she had bought it – by herself because he had been too busy at work to go with her. She dragged it from the trunk of her car, left it by the front door and asked him to please put the car seat in because even though the delivery date had been set, there was always the possibility that she would go into labour early. For one week and five days, she walked by it, sitting in its unopened box until she asked him again.

His response had only frustrated her more. “I was going to do it tomorrow morning, before we go to the hospital."

“But I asked you to do it two weeks ago. What if I’d gone into labour early?”

“But you didn’t, so it’s fine.”

“That’s not the point, Julian.” His full name she used when she was frustrated; since the start of her pregnancy, that “Julian” seem to punctuate all her conversations with him.

“What is the point? You want the car seat in? I’ll put it in now.”

She followed him into the garage even though she knew it would only lead to greater aggravation. She watched him tear open the top of the box and pull the car seat and base out.

“The point, Julian, is that I asked you to do something that was important to me. Even if you didn’t think it was important, it was to me. Because you love me, shouldn’t you have just done it?”

He’d struggled in the back seat with the base and seat belt and gave no indication of having heard her. She’d stood by the garage door, waiting for his response. He’d pulled himself out of the car, rubbed his palms together then he’d pointed with both hands at the car. “Done.”

The onset of the next contraction pulled her back from her reverie. This one started like the first but increased in intensity as it progressed, so she could not hide it from Jules. She sat up, grabbed the side rails and tried to breathe like the nurse in the prenatal course had showed the class: two quick breaths in, one long exhale out. “It won’t take the pain away,” the nurse had said, “but it will give you a job to do; something to focus on.”

Jules looked up from playing with his phone. “Are you having a contraction? Should I get a nurse?”

She didn’t answer until the pain had subsided. “Who could you possibly be texting that we haven’t already told?”

“It’s my brother. He just wants to know how it’s going.” Jules stood up to show her the screen of his phone.

She waved the phone away. “Please, just… I need you here.”

“I AM here, babe.” He shoved the phone into his pockets. “You don’t see me standing here?”

Marisa covered her face with her hands, then leaned back and put her arms around her stomach. “You know what I mean. Why do you always try to misunderstand me? It’s like you’re always trying to pick a fight.”

“You’re being ridiculous.”

Marisa looked up at the ceiling. “Can we just stop this? Can we just focus on Eve?”

Jules took in a deep breath and then exhaled. He covered Marisa’s hands with his. “Of course.” He chuckled, then leaned into her and said, in the deep, throaty voice he knew she loved, “You know this is the way with us. What’s that saying? ‘You always hurt the one you love’.”

Marisa nodded and smiled at him weakly. “I know, Julian.”


Eve was a screaming ball of life who came into the world demanding Marisa’s attention. She was placed briefly on Marisa’s chest for their first hello then whisked off so her nurse could finish their duties.

Jules stood beside the nurse as she showed him how to swaddle Eve. Cocooning her inside the soft cotton wrap silenced her new born cries. From the bed, Marisa craned her neck to glimpse her baby.

“Here’s your daughter. Just cradle her in your arms like a football.” The nurse laid Eve in Jules’ arms. Eve opened her mouth and let out a whimper.

“She’s like her mama,” Jules said, chortling as he bounced her gently, “never happy.” He brought her closer to his face and nuzzled her neck. Her whimpers escalated into cries. “C’mon, Evie, stop crying.”

“Don’t tease her, Julian.” Marisa pushed herself up on the bed.

“She’s gotta learn who I am.”

“Just give her to me. Please.”

Jules rocked, bounced and cooed. Still, Eve’s wails reverberated in the room.

“Julian, I am not asking.”

Shaking his head, Jules put Eve into Marisa’s outstretched arms.

“She’s gotta learn,” he muttered, returning to the chair beside the bed.

Marisa brought Eve into her chest and whispered softly into her ear until Eve’s cries were assuaged into silence. Marisa smiled down at Eve, whose eyes were wide open, staring into hers. Marisa had read that newborns could not see well in their first few days, but she was positive, as they stared into each others eyes, that Eve knew who she was; knew that this person holding her was the one who would take care of her.

Marisa held her like that until, eventually, Eve’s eyes closed and her steady, quiet breathing told Marisa that she was asleep. Only then did she look up at Jules, slouched in the chair like a petulant child who’d been scolded.

“When Eve and I get home, I want you gone.”

Julian balked then opened his mouth to protest, but Marisa continued. “I’m not asking, Jules. I was so scared you were going to leave me alone… I didn’t want to raise this baby by myself. But it’s been such a fight to keep you here. I didn’t want to see that it’s because you don’t want to be here.”

“You’re being a fool, Marisa. You need me. Eve needs me.”

“Eve doesn’t even know you. I give it two weeks before the novelty wears off and you’ll be back to your wicked ways. I’m not waiting for that. You’ll always be her father, but you don’t need to be my … whatever you are.”

She looked down again at Eve, sleeping peacefully in her arms. Jules continued to sit in the chair, fuming. She knew that it would take time for him to realize that this time, she was serious. She was okay with that. He would just be in her periphery now because this bundle of life in her arms, this was her job to do; this was her something to focus on.


Therese Montes Hall lives in Oakville with her husband and their labradoodle, Ella. She’s had a keen interest in storytelling since childhood, though always in secret, until she stumbled upon Brian's creative writing course. “Something to Focus On” is her first published story – she hopes, the first of many.


For information about Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.