Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year!


Auld Lang Syne
by Robbie Burns
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.
Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne,
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
Chorus
We twa hae run about the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.
Chorus
We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn,
Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.
Chorus
And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.
Chorus
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And long, long ago.
Chorus
And for long, long ago, my dear
For long, long ago,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago
And surely youll buy your pint-jug!
And surely I'll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.
Chorus
We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we've wandered manys the weary foot
Since long, long ago.
Chorus
We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.
Chorus
And there's a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we'll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.

Chorus

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Mid-pandemic schedule for writing workshops and retreats continues to develop

December

Happy Hanukkah! Sunset on Dec 10 to Dec 18
Merry Christmas! Friday, December 25

2021
January

Happy New Year! May 2021 bring you health, happiness
     and all good things.

Online: How to Get Published with Barbara Berson
    of the Helen Heller literary agency, Sunday, January 24.
    Details here.

Online: Writing for Children and for Young Adults with
     Scholastic Books editor Anne Shone, Saturday, January 30. Details here

January ~ Weekly courses
Online: Exploring Creative Writingan introductory, low pressure course to get the creative
  juices flowing. Offered at two times: Thursday evenings, Jan 21 – Apr 1 {no class Feb 25} and
 Friday afternoons, Jan 22 – Apr 2 {no class Feb 26}. Details of both here.
Online: Writing Personal Stories, nine weeks of creativity and fellowship. Thursday
  afternoons, Jan 28 – Apr1 {no class Feb 25}. Details here.  

Online: Writing Kid LitPicture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade books, and Young Adult
 novels, with enormously talented and experienced authors as guest speakers for two of the classes,
 Tuesday evenings, Feb 2 – March 30. Details here.

Online: Writing Little Kid LitPicture Books, Chapter Books, and Middle Grade books, with
 enormously talented and experienced authors as guest speakers for two of the classes, 
  Wednesday evenings, Feb 3 – March 31. Details here.
February
Online: Writing and Revising, Saturday, February 6. Details here.
Online: Writing for Children and for Young Adults with Kids Can editor Kathleen Keenan.
  Saturday, February 27, Details here.

April
OnlineHow to Write a Bestsellerwith New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong,
  
Saturday, April 3.  Details here.

May

Algonquin Park: Writing Retreat at Arowhon Pines Resort, an island of luxury in the
     middle of a wilderness. Friday, May 28 – Monday, May 31. Details here.

For more information or to reserve your spot at any weekly class, weekend retreat or Saturday
     workshop, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca


Monday, December 28, 2020

“A Mimico Boy’s Christmas” by Gary MacLeod


Mimico, Ontario, 5 a.m. Sunday, December 25, 1955

When I was seven years old, Christmas mornings in Mimico always seemed like they were among the coldest days of the year. In our city-sized backyard the icy glaze-topped snow reached to our thighs; temperatures were always “minus something.”

Inside the house, in the hastily converted back porch that my older brother Alan and I now called our bedroom, it was a little warmer but the insulation sciences of the 1950s hadn’t yet developed enough to keep us anywhere near toasty. Meanwhile below us, in the dirt-floored basement, the coal-fuelled furnace chugged away, fighting to deliver enough heat to make our family comfortable on this magical morning.

My brother and I lay silent but wide awake in our matching twin beds set side-by-side, barracks-style along the thin wood paneled wall painted powder blue in the fashionable colour of the day.

It was Christmas, the most wonderful day on the calendar! Santa’s day! Presents day! The day that kids around the world spent the other 364 days of the year dreaming about! And who could blame us? Mr. Eaton’s and Mr. Simpson’s colourful catalogues, as thick as the New York City phone book, stoked a level of greed in us that would make even the most ardent capitalist envious.

Specially produced kids’ television programs which emanated from stations WBEN and WGR in Buffalo, took black and white electronic marketing to an art form and inspired in us an overwhelming desire to own every Slinky, every Lone Ranger Pistol and Holster Set, every Meccano building kit yet created.

“Alan, is it time to get up yet?” I whispered.

“No. Go back to sleep,” he responded with no conviction.

I checked the Westclox wind up alarm clock on the night table between our beds. It warned me that it was just 5:17, far too early to wake Mom and Dad.

Ah! But wait. There were the Christmas stockings we had hung the night before at the foot of our beds. Something to satisfy our Christmas morning curiosity, like an appetizer before the main course. Would they contain treasures or trinkets? We used our Eveready flashlights to find out, but please, please God, no oranges or socks or crummy bow ties! Not again this year!

We leaned forward, plucked our stockings from their perch on the foot boards and dove in.

My heart was crushed! Two walnuts? I dug deeper. New underwear? I kept going. I pulled out an apple, then the inevitable socks. I sat up in bed as a combination of disappointment and anger invaded my excitement like a black smog. A tear slipped from the corner of my eye.

My brother remained silent and I sensed that at that moment we were sharing one of those bonding sibling events … mutual disappointment. Were these meager stockings intended to warn us that we couldn’t expect to find much better under the tree?

I was well aware that we were not a rich family, though not poor either. We were, like most other families on Eastbourne Crescent, very blue collar. Something to be proud of but not something a seven-year-old boy could build his Christmas dreams on. We could only place our faith in Santa to fulfill the inflated, unrealistic expectations we had conjured in our youthful brains.



“Listen!’ Alan said. “I think I hear the kitchen radio. It’s playing ‘White Christmas.’ It must be okay to get up.”

“Let’s go!”

We sprang to our beds as if shot from twin cannons. We headed straight for the Christmas tree in the living room. There it was in all its glory. Green, red, blue, yellow lights sparkled like stars illuminating the bright metallic balls, all covered in glistening silver tinsel. The ivory angel on the tree’s highest spire beckoned us forward, giving us her permission to come closer. Gifts wrapped in plain tissue, some red, some green were scattered in a five-foot radius at the tree’s base.

We stood like athletes waiting for the starter’s pistol, watching for Mom’s barely perceptible nod of her head, our signal to let our pent-up curiosity explode in a flurry of riotous ripping and tearing. In the darkness of a cold, cold winter Christmas, 1955 was starting to look a whole lot better than our stockings had portended.

I can’t recall what gifts I received; they don’t seem important now in the least. It’s the memories of that boyhood joy that matter beyond measure and I draw on them now each and every December to lighten my steps and my heart. Mom and Dad are gone now of course, but their spirits still visit us faithfully each December 25 as I watch my own children and grandchildren delight in the special joy that only Christmas can bring.

Gary MacLeod is a Sales and Marketing Executive who, now in retirement, is eager to make good on a personal promise to himself: to learn something new every day. Brian’s Creative Writing Course helps him fulfill that commitment perfectly by making it fun to develop his interest in communicating more effectively. Gary enjoys spending his time reading biographies, following Canadian political and social change, and exploring the countryside with his wife Linda in their sports roadster.

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Online writing courses this winter: Exploring Creative Writing, Writing Personal Stories, Writing Kid Lit, and Writing Little Kid Lit

Exploring Creative Writing

10 weeks of discovering your creative side

Offered at 2 times:

Thursday evenings, 7 – 9 p.m.

January 21 – April 1, 2021 {no class Feb 25}

and

Friday afternoons, 2 – 4 p.m.

January 22 – April 2, 2021 {no class Feb 26}

Offered online and accessible wherever there's Internet

This is your chance to take up writing in a warm, supportive environment. We’ll explore writing short stories and writing true stories, writing in first person and in third person, writing technique and getting creative, getting down your very best writing and just for fun writing.

You’ll get a shot of inspiration every week and an assignment to keep you going till the next class. Best of all, this class will provide a zero-pressure, totally safe setting, where your words will grow and flower.

Note: This class will be held live via Zoom. To participate, you'll need Internet access and a microphone and a camera {i.e., a webcam} on your computer, tablet or smart phone.

Fee: $176.11 plus 13% hst = $199

To reserve your spot, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

 

Writing Personal Stories

9 weeks of sharing and writing

Thursday afternoons, 1 – 3 p.m.

January 28 – April 1, 2021 {no class Feb 25}

Offered online and accessible wherever there's Internet

If you've ever considered writing your personal stories, this course is for you. We’ll look at memoirs, travel writing, personal essays, family history ~ personal stories of all kinds. Plus, of course, we’ll work on creativity and writing technique and have fun doing it. 

Whether you want to write a book or just get your thoughts down on paper, this weekly course will get you going. We'll reveal the tricks and conventions of telling true stories, and we’ll show you how to use the techniques of the novel to recount actual events. Weekly writing exercises and friendly feedback from the instructor will help you move forward on this writing adventure. Whether you want to write for your family and friends or for a wider public, don't miss this course.

We’ll also have a guest speaker for this class – to be confirmed later.

Note: This class will be held live via Zoom. To participate, you'll need Internet access and a microphone and a camera {i.e., a webcam} on your computer, tablet or smart phone.

Fee:  $176.11 plus 13% hst = $199

To reserve your spot, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

 

    Body Swap, a YA novel by     
Sylvia McNicoll

Writing Kid Lit

Picture Books to Young Adult Novels

Tuesday evenings, 7 – 9 p.m.

February 2 – March 30, 2021

Offered online and accessible from anywhere there's internet 

 This course is for adults {or teens} interested in writing picture books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade books, or Young Adult novels. This course is accessible for beginners and meaty enough for advanced writers. Through lectures, in-class assignments, homework, and feedback on your writing, we’ll give you ins and outs of writing for younger readers and set you on course toward writing your own books.

We’ll have two published children’s authors as guest speakers: Sylvia McNicoll and Kira Vermond. For more details about our guest speakers, see here. 

Fee: $176.11 plus 13% hst = $199

To reserve your spot, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca


Tough Like Mum, by guest speaker Lana Button

Writing Little Kid Lit

Picture Books, Chapter Books and Middle Grade Novels

Wednesday evenings, 7 – 9 p.m.

February 3 – March 31, 2021

Offered online and accessible from anywhere there's internet 

 This course is for adults {or teens} interested in writing Picture Books, Chapter Books, or Middle Grade books. Accessible for beginners and meaty enough for advanced writers, this course will be focussed on helping you develop your own writing projects. Through lectures, in-class assignments, homework, and feedback on your writing, we’ll give you ins and outs of writing for younger readers and set you on course toward writing books kids will love and parents will buy.

We’ll have two published children’s authors as guest speakers: Lana Button and Erin Silver. For more details about our guest speakers, see here

Fee: $176.11 plus 13% hst = $199

To reserve your spot, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Instructor Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada's most popular blog for writers, teaches creative writing at Ryerson University and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John.  Brian is the author o f a children's version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  (Tribute Publishing). But his proudest boast is that he’s has helped many of his students get published. 

Read reviews of Brian's various courses and workshops here (and scroll down).

See Brian’s complete current schedule hereincluding online and in-person writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

“Christmas Pickle” by Marian Dykstra


I was at work on a Saturday in November, making pots of steaming coffee, sweeping up sesame seeds from bagels, and serving a customer with a macchiato when I noticed my husband walk in, concern on his face.  My brother had called him following a frantic conversation with Mom.  Dad had had a seizure at home, had fallen unconscious, and was being taken to the hospital by ambulance. 

My family lived farthest away, an hour from everyone, and my husband suggested I leave work immediately as my coworker offered to finish the shift.   Along the drive, I thought of Dad’s health, his high blood pressure, smoking habit, two shots of whiskey a night, and how his mom, my Oma, died of a stroke.  We braced for the worst. 

My brothers, sisters, an aunt and uncle gathered with Mom and Dad in the emergency department.  While he was being examined, Dad had a second seizure.  We knew it was serious and my siblings and I held hands to pray.

On Sundays we go to church.  We get up, eat breakfast, take showers, and put on clothes that are a bit nicer than the ones we wear the rest of the week.  My Oma’s watch is the last thing I put on and the most important part of the outfit.  

It is laid out on a special shelf, in a protective case, near an angel figurine I bought in the Maritimes last year after hearing of my Oma's death.  The watch lays in front of a framed print that Dad had the graphic artist in our family design for each of his six children.  The sign reads:
Words to live by
Happy Moments
Praise God
Difficult Moments 
Seek God 
Quiet Moments 
Worship God 
Painful Moments 
Trust God 
Every Moment  
Thank God

On the Sunday following the emergency room visit, I got up and went for a long run.  It was dark, cold, and I woke up groggy.  Running is routine on mornings when I wake up feeling crappy.  It’s meditative and lifts spiritual angst.  A natural high occurs when the running is through and stored tension gets released.  


After the run, I called my parent’s home, knowing that Dad had a planned follow up with a neurologist at Hamilton General Hospital.  My twelve-year-old son was going to play guitar in church that morning and I wanted to be there.   I felt Dad would be in good hands and I could help by praying.

My sister, who answered the phone, heard of the church plan and suggested the hospital appointment instead.  My runners high balanced to calm submission.  She told me to meet them on the seventh floor.

I thought of other times I’d been in a hospital with people who were dying or facing devastation.  Being present was the best gift in moments of uncertainty.  I packed several magazines and leftover banana bread, alongside directions to the hospital and a pocketful of change. 

Arriving at Hamilton General, I parked the car and fed eight dollars into the meter, noting later that for a few extra dollars, I would have hit the maximum and had parking for the day.  The elevator was beyond the gift shop, whose Christmas colours, ornaments, and cardinal paraphernalia beckoned.  Later, I thought. 

Dad lay on a hospital bed, Mom on one side, two sisters on the other.  A nurse was at the foot of his bed and all looked up as I entered with the bag of magazines.  I was the only one with coffee. 

“I brought magazines,” I announced.   “And O magazine for you,” I quipped to dad, knowing how much he hated Oprah. 

“Oh no, no, no way!” he responded on cue. 

“Don’t you remember how you used to yell at me to turn her off and get you coffee when I was younger?”  I said.

“Does anyone want coffee?” I asked, looking again at my cup.  I pulled out the Redbook, O, and People magazines, passing them out, waiting for a response about coffee. 

Mom decided it would be helpful, while waiting, to have two of us sit with Dad and two go for a walk so the room was less crowded.  My sister and I took the first shift, opting to get Mom’s coffee and a peanut butter cookie.  She always liked a little treat with coffee.  While waiting to pay, I noticed a cereal called, “Holy Crap Breakfast Cereal.”  Laughing, I took a photo. 

While passing the gift shop again, I saw a group of pickles among more traditional Christmas ornaments.  This strange display became a new focal point and later, when I brought Mom down to see them near the cardinal ornaments, she paused, perhaps trying to see the value. 

“I have to have that pickle,” I said.

“I’ll buy it,” replied my conservative, Dutch mom.  My protests fell on deaf ears.

When we returned to Dad’s room, he was being tested by the female neurologist who looked like she had just finished high school.  Earlier I recalled him asking the nurse whether his doctor would be “a young guy or an old guy.”  Knowing he would have preferred “an old guy,” this young doctor had everyone’s attention and completed a thorough exam. 

“Do you want to see my pickle ornament?” I said to my bewildered sisters and slightly amused dad.

It wasn’t my first round in an emergency room with a loved one in critical condition.  Several weeks later, Dad is still alive, recovering, and everyone is grateful.  I’ve learned that navigating life’s rough patches goes better with common sense, strong faith, and a healthy dose of humour.  The pickle ornament will hang on our tree, serving as a reminder of the time we were in the hospital with Dad and we nearly lost him but then didn’t.  Being present in the moment with some humour is a great gift.    

Marian Dykstra wrote this piece in Brian's, Writing Personal Stories course. Having this piece published is a thrill and an honour.  She is a retired social worker, enthusiastic barista, aspiring writer, and mom of three great kids.


See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.