Monday, January 31, 2011

Love Letters

Hi Brian,
After attending your How to Make Yourself Write workshop in Brampton and hearing your suggestion on going on a writing date, I decided to do just that.

Dorothy Bush (who has written book reviews for Quick Brown Fox), another gal from our local group, and I met at the food court in our local mall this afternoon to write and get good vibes from each other. It was a great success and the three of us are planning another Sunday afternoon date next month.

Also a bit of good news: an article I wrote on the Brockville and Westport Railway was published in the Winter edition of The Country Connection.

Melanie Robertson-King

For information on submitting to The Country Connection, see here.
If you’d like to catch those good vibes that come from writing in company, join us Tuesday afternoons at CJ’s. See here.

Hi Brian,
Just wanted to thank you for your newsletter – it prompted me to submit a couple of essays to the INHOUSEPRESS 2010 Human Potential Non-Fiction Contest. Lucky me! I won 1st place for a piece entitled “Learning, Upside Down”. They also published a longer version of a second essay I did on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
So, many thanks from an aspiring BC writer!
Laurie Crookell :)

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

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Come write with me ~ a writing open house, Tuesdays at CJ's Cafe

Tuesday afternoons, February 8, 15 & 22
1:30 – 4:30
CJ’s CafĂ©, 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 networking and 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 network and to write in a convivial atmosphere, with other writers around doing the same as 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 (or on the days suggested). Maybe you want to write about some winter activity other than skiing or about someone who finds her every desire fulfilled rather than being heartbroken or about some kind of bird or animal other than a crow – go for it! Prompts are just to give you a beginning. So get on down to CJ's, order a cappuccino, and pull up a chair. Get a wisp of a story in your head and 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

For information about my writing workshops and creative writing classes, see here.
To find out what else is happening at CJ's see here.

The Scruncher, a true story of organizational change by Alf Rock

When she was 12, I said to my daughter, “You know, you're so much more advanced than I was at your age.”

“What are you talking about?” she replied scrunching her face. “I’m more advanced than you are now!”

We laughed and within a few months she demonstrated that reality with this tale of transformation.

At that time my youngest son was at the threshold of attending school, but was still at the stage of his development where he was announcing his bodily functions.

“Dad, I need to go for a pooh,” he would announce prior to every visit to the toilet. This made perfect sense, since he needed to secure someone to perform the administrative “paper work” once he had finished his business. When he was ready for this, his ritual would be to announce, “Dad I need your help.”

We had however come to a point in his life were I was going to have to sunset this outsourced function of my son’s ablutions, so I could retire from being a Chief Wiper.

A change intervention was needed and it would have to be handled delicately.

The first phase of the plan was to begin to introduce a level of dissonance and discomfort within the status quo of our dependant relationship. With a clear need for change, one has to stimulate the movement towards the change and gently reduce the resources supporting the old ways.

So when he next announced, “Dad I need to go for a pooh,” I replied with a change to the ritual.

“Unless you want to upset your mother, I would recommend that room right there,” pointing to the washroom.

He found this more amusing than the following change to the ritual, which was to leave him feeling isolated and marooned on his porcelain island throne when he announced, “Dad I need your help.”

To this I stopped responding in my normal way and let him call it out at least a second time. I tip-toed up to the door of the washroom and timed my response with his latest foghorn blast for help, whereupon I popped my head around the door and delivered the next ritualized line.

“If ever a sentence deserved a please on the end of it – it would be that one!” I emphasized with a pointing finger. Then I held out for him to make the request with the proper protocol.

“Dad, I need your help, please!”

“It would be my pleasure,” I responded and performed my C-Level duties of Chief Wiping Officer.

After a few weeks of this, I felt it time to put the second phase of the plan into effect. Our dependant relationship had shifted to the point that if he had hired me for the job of C.W.O, he would have surely fired me by now. The environment was primed for him accepting change.

The next phase required some finesse, since having a need and target of change was only half the story. What was needed next at this critical juncture was an extraordinary change agent. I resolved to use the old corridor-ambush technique to recruit my change agent.

Between the kitchen and laundry room I bumped into my daughter. “So I was thinking,” I said casually.“Your brother will be spending all day at school, and I would hate to think that some mishap would befall him because he hasn’t learnt to wipe his ass yet.”

“What’s that got to do with me?” she responded with immediate suspicion.

Dealing with extraordinary people was a tricky proposition, especially when I was so obviously transparent in my entrapment technique.

“Well I was thinking,” I continued still ever so casually, “someone’s going to have to teach him to wipe his own ass”

“What’s that got to do with me?” she repeated, maintaining her defensive posture.

“Well, you know, sometimes, it’s harder to get someone to do something, than to do it yourself,” I maneuvered.

“I’m not wiping his ass!” she declared.

“Exactly,” I pounced. “If I try to instruct him in those finer points, I will simply end up doing it myself. You on the other hand would never be tempted to do anything other than train him in the proper way. And,” I added moving to close the agreement, “the experience will be much less traumatic for him, since your people skills are so much better than mine.”

“Okay,” she conceded. She turned and walked away into the mission, from which I heard nothing more.

The ritual of declaring of bodily functions and requesting help abruptly stopped. I felt smug at having crafted a masterful change plan.

That was the end of it, so I thought, until a few weeks later, in a ritual of parental anxiety I found myself shouting for the kids to: “Get in the car! We’re going to be late! Where’s your brother?” I asked my daughter.

“I’m in the toilet” he shouted at the top of his voice.

I rushed down the corridor to the washroom and swung the door open with no regard to privacy.

He looked up at me.

“Are you done?” I said, and then proceeded to swipe some toilet paper, prepared to regress out of my retirement.

Suddenly pandemonium ensued. Screams of protestations had me step back, and then my daughter hit me with a profound line that became part of our family sub-culture.

“Oh my God Dad, you don’t even know what a Scruntcher is!”

“A What?” I responded.

“Didn’t you ask me to teach him how to wipe his ass?” She was furious with me.


“So I told him that I was going to do that, and made sure that he was cool with it. Then I told that the first thing that he had to do was to make a decision of whether he wanted to be a Folder or a Scruncher.”

I turned and looked at my right hand holding the folded paper tissues, and then looked down at my son.

“Yeah, Dad,” almost in a plea, “I want to be a Scruncher”.

It turns out that my children where way more advanced than me after all. When I had grown up, folding was the only option. Suddenly realizing that my kids had freedoms beyond the conventions of my upbringing was a pure delight.

“Peace,” I said, scrunching up the tissues in my hand and surrendering them over to my son.

I retreated and allowed order to prevail. And suddenly being late wasn’t the end of the world.

Alf Rock is a man of many talents and highly trained in the art of organizational change. This piece was originally writtten for one of Brian Henry's "Welcome to Creative Writing" classes.

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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Accenti invites submissions for writing contest & accepts regular submissions

The contest is open to all writers, established and emerging, worldwide. The topic is open, too. Any type of prose piece that meets the submission criteria below is eligible. Multiple entries welcome.

• Entries can be fiction, non-fiction or creative non-fiction.
• Entries must be previously unpublished and not under consideration by any other publication.
• Maximum length: 2000 words.
• No poetry, plays, reviews, and scholarly essays. No footnotes and endnotes. No pseudonyms.
• Submissions must be in English, but may be an English translation of the author’s unpublished original work in another language.
• Entry Fee: $20 per entry, non-refundable.
• Deadline: Postmarked on or before February 18, 2011.

• Top prize: $1000 and publication in Accenti.
• Second Prize: $250 and publication in Accenti.
• Third Prize: $100 and publication in Accenti.

If you have any questions, please write to:
But no email submissions please
For instructions on how to submit and full contest details here.

Regular submissions:
Based in Montreal, Accenti describes itself as "the Canadian magazine with an Italian accent." It strives to reflect the cultural imprint of Italian Canadians in its editorial content. Accenti appeals to Canadians of Italian origin and anyone who shares an affinity for things Italian. In so doing, it endeavours to act as a cultural bridge among peoples.

Accenti considers unsolicited articles for publication. These can include news items, commentaries, works of fiction, non-fiction, etc. Photographs and illustrations can accompany submissions. However, please do not send images unaccompanied by an article or story. Submissions must be in English and be between 500 and 2000 words. Email submissions must be sent as attached files, preferably in Word format.
Submit to:

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 More details here.

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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kim Perel at Wendy Sherman Associates, seeks fiction and nonfiction

"Lunch in Paris" by Elizabeth Boyd,
a client of Wendy Sherman Assoc.
 Wendy Sherman Associates Inc.
27 W. 24th St. Suite 700B
New York, NY 10010
Kim Perel joined Wendy Sherman Associates in January 2009. After graduating from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communications, Kim worked in the editorial department at Forbes magazine and later as a copywriter and freelance journalist.

While pursuing a MFA degree at The New School in New York City, Kim joined Wendy Sherman Associates and fell in love with the idea of championing emerging talent and helping writers through the process of getting published. With over five years experience as a writer herself, Kim brings her magazine background to the world of books.

Kim is enthusiastic about discovering fresh voices. She is drawn to voice-driven fiction, novels that illuminate an unknown world, and true-to-life characters. She looks for queries that provide fresh insight or a wide lense that captures life at a certain period in time. She also loves humor, memoir that tells a unique story, and journalistic non-fiction.

Like all new agents, Kim is in need of good authors to represent.

Wendy Sherman has been in publishing more years than she cares to admit. She has held senior, executive positions at Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Henry Holt. During her tenure at these major publishing houses, she worked in the areas of subsidiary rights, marketing, sales, and editorial. With a desire to work more closely with writers and develop their careers, she founded Wendy Sherman Associates Literary Management in 1999.

Wendy loves voice and story-driven fiction. She is interested in women’s fiction that hits that sweet spot between literary and mainstream and has a passion for Southern voices, historical dramas, suspense with a well-developed protagonist, and writing that illuminates the multicultural experience. ”I have a weakness for family secrets and mother-daughter relationships and love stories that make me cry.”

She is also interested in non-fiction with a unique twist by authors with strong media platforms. Memoir, narrative non-fiction, practical and prescriptive, self-help and mainstream psychology are also general areas of interest. Strong categories for her include parenting, relationships, lifestyle, pop-culture, and just about anything to do with food.

Email submissions to
Include your last name, title, and the name of the agent you are submitting to in the subject line. For fiction, please include a query letter and your first 10 pages copied and pasted in the body of the email. We will not open attachments unless they have been requested. For non-fiction, please include your query letter and author bio.  Full submission guidelines 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, with literary agent Marilyn Biderman, Mike O'Connor, publisher of Insomniace Press, and a third guest from the publishing industry, still to be announced.

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

Monday, January 24, 2011

"The Tenderness of Wolves" by Stef Penney, reviewed by Rita Bailey

This book is a must for all who love to read - or write - historical fiction, murder mysteries, or just a good love story! I first picked it up at my local library, hoping to find a model for some of the problems that were plaguing my writing - how to blend description into the narrative without dragging it down, how to change point of view, how to introduce new characters.

I got all that plus a damn good read. From the first sentence - "The last time I saw Laurent Jammet he was in Scott's store with a dead wolf over his shoulder" - I was hooked.

Stef Penney makes her debut as a novelist in this story, set in the Canadian North in 1867. A man has been murdered, a woman discovers her teenaged son has disappeared, and the Hudson Bay Company is searching for stolen furs.

As a reader, I often find myself skipping over boring description, but in this book I didn't have to. Ms. Penney deftly conveys a sense of time and place without getting bogged down in pointless details. We see the gleam of moss in the forest, breathe the thin, sweet air, feel the aching cold of the frozen lake, but it never detracts from the forward motion of the plot.

The story begins in the first person, and is told mainly through the eyes of the protagonist, Mrs. Ross. Interspersed throughout this narrative, Ms. Penney uses the third person to gradually introduce a whole village of compelling characters and interwoven plot strands. Traders, trappers, treasure seekers, native guides, and fugitives trudge across the frozen tundra, all following the same tracks, each searching for something different.

Another interesting aspect of Ms. Penney's style is chapter length - varying from two to thirteen pages. Each chapter is a scene, like in a movie, and when the setting or the characters change, we have a new chapter. This adds to the lively pace, and makes for crisp writing.

Like all really great fiction, this tale is bigger than the characters portrayed, as it examines the politics of the Hudson's Bay Company, the treatment of Native people, and the dialectic between insiders and outsiders in shaping Canadian culture. A perfect book for a cold Canadian winter night!

Rita Bailey lives and writes in downtown Hamilton where she can be found cultivating cats, heritage vegetables, and fireflies. Other interests include hiking local trails, working with environmental and social justice groups, and talking to plants. These activities have a way of weaving themselves into her stories. Currently she is working on a historical fiction about her hometown of Hamilton.

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

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Memoir contest for people in York Region

Hi, Brian.
Don’t know if you already know about this: A new writing contest sponsored by the Canadian Federation of University Women and the York Region Media Group for people who are residents of York Region. (Sorry, I know that leaves most people out.)
Deadline February 15, 2011
750 words on Family: A Memoir (real or imagined)
Winner receives $750 and publication in the Era/Banner
Details and entry form here.
Best Wishes,
Laura Higgins
Acrylic Paintings

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 More details here.

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

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fitzhenry & Whiteside children's books and nonfiction books for adults

Fitzhenry & Whiteside Children’s Publishing Division is currently seeking manuscripts for the following:
Primary picture book text (approx. 500 to 800 words) for children ages 3 to 5,
Middle Grade fiction text (approx. 25,000 to 35,000 words) for children ages 8 to 12,
Young Adult fiction text (approx. 40,000 to 50,000 words) for children 12 and up,
Non-fiction texts for juvenile picture books 5 and up - school curriculum related,
Non-fiction texts for older readers 8 and up - school curriculum related, and
Non-Fiction manuscripts for Young Adult Readers 12 and up.

We are no longer accepting manuscripts for board books, narrative poetry, seasonal stories or books designed to be a series. Nor are we interested in manuscripts written to convey a lesson or a moral.

Submit your manuscript to:
Fitzhenry & Whiteside Children’s Books
195 Allstate Parkway
Markham, ON L3R 4T8

Adult nonfiction & poetry
Please submit all queries and manuscript proposals by mail; because of the volume and time frames to process submissions material submitted will not be returned.

Manuscript proposals should contain an overview of the work, with a list of contents, and representative samples (preferably part of one chapter). Also, a current cv. Please do not send complete manuscripts. Altogether, please submit no more than ten pages of work.

Proposals regarding photographic or illustrative works should be initiated through query only.

Please remember that the adult trade department considers only non-fiction and poetry. We do not consider fiction. Queries and proposals can be sent to:

Fitzhenry & Whiteside Adult Books
Attention: Sharon Fitzhenry
195 Allstate Parkway
Markham, ON  L3R 4T8

Full submission guidelines here. Home page 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), and Brian will host a "From the Horse's Mouth" seminar on May 7 at Ryerson University with literary agent Marilyn Biderman, Insomniac Press publisher Mike O'Connor, and an editor from anther publishing house to be announced.

Brian also he 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), on March 5 in Toronto (see here), on April 9 in Peterborough (see here), and on April 10 in Kingston (see here).

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

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Country Connection Magazine

The Country Connection
691 Pinecrest Road
Boulter Ontario, K0L 1G0

The Country Connection is Ontario’s magazine of choice for history, heritage, nostalgia, nature, environment, travel and the arts. It is published twice a year: winter/spring and summer/autumn and is mass distributed throughout Ontario and at selected outlets across Canada by Magazines Canada.

As a general interest magazine, our readership includes residents, cottagers, travellers and eco-tourists to Ontario. We look forward to discussing your ideas and receiving your submissions.

We accept articles and stories on a wide range of rural themes with a special emphasis on history, heritage, green travel, environment, ecology, nature, nostalgia, the arts, studio tours, culture, fiction, leisure, etc. We do not accept stories with references to hunting, fishing, animal husbandry or pets (with the exception of critical essays).

We accept only Canadian content by Canadian authors. References to food and recipes must be 100% plant-based (no animal products) and contain only wholesome, natural ingredients. Except for historical references, all measurement units must be in metric. Stories must be original and unpublished.

We are now accepting material for the summer/autumn issue.
Deadline: By April 1. Acceptable stories that do not make the current issue, or arrive late, may be held over to another issue.

We are looking for proposals for "country" stories directly related to the environment, nature, history & heritage, nostalgia, humour, fiction, poetry, photography and original art. Please submit a summary of your proposal, and if available: research sources, interview contacts, and a good lead paragraph. Please indicate whether you will provide photographs or illustrations.

All submissions are on speculation only and publication is not guaranteed. Publication is dependent on the quality of writing, relevance to our philosophy of living in harmony with nature, and space available. Good quality photos or illustrations are essential (see recommendations and warning under Visuals below).

Future Issues:
Winter/Spring No.63: January 1, 2012 (Deadline Oct 1)
Summer/Autumn No.64: July 1, 2012 (Deadline April 1)

The preferred story length is from 1,000 to 1,500 words. Stories should not exceed 2000 words, unless approved by the editor in advance.
Visuals: Please include only high quality, visual material for your article. Photographs, sketches, maps, historical documents etc. should be sharp and well lit.

Payment will be made at a rate of 10 cents per word (electronic), or 7 cents per word (handwritten, typed, and computer printout not accompanied by electronic file) within 90 days of publication, for all words published. Original photography or drawings range from $10 to $50, depending on size and use. Payment for short poems is $20. All other visual materials will be negotiated separately.
Query the editor here.  Note: Stories can not be attached at this e-mail address link. This is for queries only. Once we review your query, we will send you the e-mail address so that you can send us a complete story file as an attachment. Sorry for the inconvenience.  Full submission guidelines here.

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

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Falling for Rain," by Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirk

Dear Brian,
As former workshop students of yours and the authors of two traditionally published historical novels, we have decided to take the plunge, embrace technology, and publish a good old-fashioned romance novel in ebook format available on Amazon Kindle (also available in paperback).

A contemporary romance set in rural Ontario, Falling for Rain is a story about homecomings and forgiveness. When Emily was eighteen, her mother died in a farm accident. Devastated, Emily vowed never to suffer the loss of love again. She fled to Toronto and transformed herself from a farm girl into a sophisticated businesswoman.

Now, ten years later, Emily is back to sell the family farm and put her past behind her forever. However, she didn’t count on finding Ray Storm, the farmhand she'd nicknamed Rain, more attractive than ever. But as Emily struggles to come to terms with the tragedy of her mother’s untimely death and learns to trust again, Rain harbours a secret that he fears will keep them apart forever.

Falling for Rain – Worldwide Kindle edition (US$0.99)
Falling for Rain – UK Kindle edition (£0.71)
If you don’t have a Kindle or Kindle app, you can download the Kindle app for free to your PC or laptop.

You can also read Falling for Rain in traditional paperback on for US$9.99 (unfortunately it is not currently available on

Happy reading!

Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirk
Authors of The Sidewalk Artist and Ciao Bella

For information about my writing workshop and creative writing courses, see here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Another Sunday Afternoon Drive," by Ann Ivy Male

We pack the car and head off for another Sunday afternoon drive. It’s a sunny day, the air is crisp and the deep blue sky is a stunning backdrop for the chalky clouds floating above. The kids make themselves comfortable in the back seat of the truck. Books, DVD player, crayons, blankets, snacks and neck rests – you’d think we were going to be away for days.

As we turn out of the drive-way, Alize, my youngest, asks in her whiniest of voices, “Mom, where are we going and how long is the drive this week?”

“Um, let’s see” I say, “I think we should just drive until we stumble upon something incroyable!” I always try to practice my French when given the occasion.

“O.K., well that’s just boring, Mom,” Aidan pipes up, “can’t I just stay here and hangout with my friends?”

Aidan turned thirteen last month, and it appears that as the clock struck midnight on his birthday, I was faced with an unrecognizable offspring.

We head north towards farm country. It’s mid-October and the scenery is bursting with autumn colour. I love gazing out the window and watching the changing landscape as it unfolds. The colour palette of gold, brown, yellow, vivid green and fiery red creates the perfect inspiration for an artist’s blank canvas.

Encouraging the kids to look out the window and imagine the many different shapes in the clouds is futile. They are content to immerse themselves in the latest Harry Potter movie, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” I quietly give up, pop in a Diana Krall CD and tap my fingers to “Peel me a Grape.” Let the day-dreaming begin.

After an hour or so of driving along Concession Roads and intersecting side roads, I spot a sign: Antiques and Fresh Eggs. “Perfect!” I think. As I turn into the long tree-lined driveway, the leaves crunch under the tires of the truck, creating a tornado of dust and bits of leaves behind us.

The kids look up from their movie, “why are we stopping here?” they ask, almost in unison.

“Well, we need eggs and I wouldn’t mind looking at what’s in the Antique store,” I say.

“Ah, c’mon, Mom, do we have to?” Aidan pleads. On cue, Alize states her point of view.

“We can go to Loblaws for eggs, Mom, it stinks at this farm!”

“Suit yourselves, I’m going in,” I inform them.

As I’m heading towards the store, I hear the truck door slam behind me, Alize is hopping on one foot while pulling on her canvas shoe on the other.

“Wait for me, Mama!” she cries out.

The antique shop is situated in an old barn. I push open the rusty door, and smile as I look upon the plethora of treasures. Alize follows closely behind, her big green eyes scanning the room frantically.

“Ugh, what’s that smell, Mom?” she shrieks.

“Not so loud, sweets. Someone may hear you.”

The smell is a concoction of rotting barn-board, musty books, stale perfume drifting from a rack of old fur coats and a delicious aroma of soup coming from the back room.

I encourage Alize to start looking around. She strolls off to a corner of the store which is piled high with puzzles, children’s books, wooden blocks and wicker doll carriages.

The door creaks open again and the faint ring of a bell accompanies the creak. It’s Aidan sauntering in, i-pod in hand, ears plugged tight. He gazes at me with a strong impatient glare and says, “Mom, what could you possibly find amongst all this crap!”

“You never know what special treasures might be uncovered under all this so called “crap,” I say.  “Why don’t you look around, I’ll just be a few minutes.”

As I walk towards a shelf of floral patterned china, old bowls, serving platters edged in gold, ivory carving sets and crystal glassware, I can’t help but imagine all the delicious meals that were once served on these pieces. The celebrations and the heartaches, what were the stories and who is left to remember them. As my thoughts wander, a voice from behind me asks,

“What can I help you find today, Madame?”

I turn around and standing before me is an elderly gentleman. His eyes behind a set of thick bi-focal glasses are a brilliant blue, gentle and kind. He speaks with a slight French accent and a hint of sweet tobacco wafts from his woollen vest. I guess he must be about seventy-five years old.

“Oh, I’m not looking for anything in particular,” I say. “Just waiting for the right thing to jump out at me.”

He smiles and starts walking towards Alize. “Have you found something, Cherie?”

Alize is down on her knees pulling a box from under an old school desk. The box is dusty and smudged with her fingerprints. The shop owner wipes off the dust with his hands and places the box on a desk. It’s dark brown in colour and has an etched brass latch on the top.

“Ah, you have discovered my favourite item. Well c’mon now, open it up and look inside,” he says to Alize.

I watch from a slight distance. Alize unlocks the latch and finds a gold velvet sack cinched with a crimson ribbon. She gently unties the ribbon and unveils an intricately detailed carousel.

“Oh, it’s beautiful,” she gasps, her eyes open wide. ‘Mom, come look at this.”

Aiden, who is skimming through a stack of Superman comic books, is also intrigued and joins his sister.

The carousel is two-tiered and joined in the center with a tiny golden staircase connecting the two levels. The top is shaped like a tent, with crimson and gold stripes; at its tip is a ruby red jewel. Tiny, mirrored squares along its center reflect the detailed horses, unicorns, elephants and princess carriages.

“Would you like to see how it works?” the old man whispers. He takes out a glass key from the bag and slides it into a slot at the base of the carousel. The two tiers start to turn in opposite directions as the music starts to play. I recognize the tune immediately; it’s a fading version of “La Vie en Rose.” The horses and unicorns move magically to the sound and we all look in awe.

“Do you like this?” he asks Alize. She nods affirmatively, but keeps her eyes glued to the carousel.

“It’s the most beautiful music box I have ever seen.” she says.

“Well then, it’s yours!” the gentleman announces in a very definitive tone.

“Um, how much is it?” I ask, hesitantly.

“Oh, non, non, Madame, this is a gift for your daughter. You see, I have had this box hidden amongst the children’s toys and books for over a decade. No one was curious enough to pull out the box until today. It belonged to my grandmother who came from a small village in France. She brought only a few items with her and this one was her favourite.”

“But you cannot be serious to just give this away, let me pay you for it,” I plead.

The shop owner just shakes his head and smiles. “I have no family here to leave this to and it makes me proud to know that it will be treasured by someone special who has a very curious mind.” He winks at Alize.

She beams as she carefully puts the carousel back in the gold bag, ties the ribbon and places it in the box; she then proceeds to give the old man a tight hug.

I look at him and smile. “Merci,” I say. The warmth in his eyes brings tears to mine.

Aidan is already bolting for the door.  His sister follows and I close the creaky door behind us.

Back in the truck, I look in the rear-view mirror. Alize is sitting in her seat clutching the wooden box. They are both staring out the window.

“Hey Alize,” Aidan remarks, “that cloud looks just like one of the unicorns on your carousel.”

As Alize glances up, the shape of a horse starts to fade and dissipate into the blue sky.

I turn into the parking lot of Loblaws. “C’mon kids, let’s go get some eggs.”

Ann Ivy Male has owned and operated a flower shop, collaborated as an interior colour consultant, and taught introductory French to Montessori children. Ann is passionate about anything that inspires her creativity, whether it be gardening, playing music with friends, travel writing or photography.

Her greatest source of inspiration, however, comes from a busy and fulfilling life spent with her husband and two children. This short story is part of a longer work in progress and was written during one of Brian Henry’s Creative Writing Courses. Ann continues to write about the things she loves.

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

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Love letter

Hey, Brian:
Thanks so much for your writing seminars. They obviously helped since my first novel, Cherry Beach Express, is being released this May 2011 with ECW Press. I learned so much from your classes, I'm still considering taking more despite the fact that I'm technically a professional now.

Having you do the novel critique was also clearly worth it. Thanks for finding the time for me. If there is anything I can do for you, just let me know.


For information about submitting to ECW Press, see here.
If you want to get your writing in shape for a publisher, your best bet is to join one of my “Extreme Creative Writing” classes - Wednesday afternoons in Oakville (see here) or Wednesday evenings in Mississauga (see here).
For information about all my writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Writing and Revising," Saturday, April 16, London

"Writing & Revising"
~ a workshop to help you become a more successful writer ~
Saturday, April 16
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
London Central Library, Stevenson & Hunt room A
251 Dundas St, London
(In the Galleria Mall - map here)

If you want to refine your story-writing skills and cut the time you will need to spend editing, this workshop is for you. You'll learn how to step back from a manuscript in order to find - and fix - flaws in your plot, structure, characterization and style. You'll learn how to rethink, rework and rewrite so that your manuscript will live up to your vision.

Special option: Participants are invited to bring a piece of their own writing (though you don’t have to!) If you do bring a piece, bring 2 or 3 copies of something short (1,000 words maximum, though 800 words or fewer is better).

Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructo for more than 25 years. He teaches at Ryerson University and George Brown College and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Charlottetown. But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get published.

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

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

Friday, January 14, 2011

A night of poetry & prose at Prana coffee bar, Tuesday, January 18

"Grasshopper on My Shoulder." a picture book by Nathalie Montcalm & JoAnn Thompson

Dear Brian,
My very good friend JoAnn Thompson and I wrote a children's story Grasshopper on My Shoulder for entry into The Writers' Union of Canada Writing for Children Competition. (Coming up in April - see here).

We were thrilled to place 9th out of over 1200 entries at that time! One of the judges happened to be Robert Munsch, and he described our story as: "A wonderful animal story for kids".

JoAnn suggested we should self-publish. I had become a Meme and she was about to be an Oma, and she said Grasshopper on My Shoulder would be a meaningful gift for our grandchildren. As of 26 November 2010, Grasshopper on My Shoulder was published with colour illustrations and is now available to purchase.

This is a story of a father and his child spending a wonderful day together exploring the wonders of nature. The father is shown by his child that little acts of kindness are appreciated and reciprocated.

Sample reader comments:

"As an adult I found it charming, I can't imagine how thrilling this story will be for parents to share with their children during the bedtime ritual. ...I enjoyed both the story and the fantastic illustrations." D. Duncan, Windsor, ON.

"... I enjoyed it very much -- as will son James and family -- fun, friendly, warm, considerate, interesting, beautiful & inspiring!" J. Loaring, Essex, ON.

This book is suitable for reading to preschoolers, or reading by children up to ten years of age.  Copies area available for $10 plus $3 shipping each within Canada, and can be obtained by contacting us at our email address
Thank you, Brian, for helping us through your workshops.

Nathalie Montcalm

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Two poems by Zen poet Stevens Han

A white cube of soap
on the white tiles.
I rub it within my hands,
Soap is a cubic word.

Bubble it, bubble him.
It lives bubbles, iridescent.
It dies bubbles, atrophic.
I wash my face in bubbles.

Soap is lullabies, bubbles.
I am cleaned by its death.
I put down his pieces on a rack,
all whites, shards, and clams.

Death is purged by bubbles.
Bubbles grow by emptiness.
Body turns clean and tough.
Soap is a life to die as bubbles.

Lamp must stand on a foot.
A wick man is not a foundation,
Not a root, not osmotic.

Lamp is a light in a shade,
white veil, a bamboo hat.
It can’t shoot the light up to the roof.

Lamp is deaf, mute, and dyslexic,
only click on & off on its tongue
by the wild hand, unknown.

Lamp light is His darkness.
I turn it on to see his images,
but only the roach’s light, scurried black.

Stevens Taeho Han was born in Korea and came to Canada in 2008. A Zen poet who is interested in new innovative poetics, Stevens is the editor for Poetic Direction, Poetic Reality, & Poem and World. He is the vice-president of the Korea Yeats Society and Korea East–West Comparative Literature Society and international director of Korea Creative Writing Society. He is also a literary translator. In 2009, he was short-listed as a finalist for the CBC Literary Awards.

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

Joanne Wyckoff joins Carol Mann Agency

"Man Killed by Pheasant"
by John T. Price,
one of Joanne's clients
Carol Mann Agency
55 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003

For the past five years, Joanne Wyckoff has been an agent with Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. Prior to becoming an agent, she was a Senior Editor at Ballantine and Executive Editor at Beacon Press. She joined Carol Mann Agency this month (January 2011).

As an agent, Joanne represents a wide array of nonfiction and selected fiction. She has a great deal of experience working with academics and experts in diverse fields, helping them develop and write books for a broad market. She also has a particular love of the memoir and is always looking for exciting and strong new voices in this genre.

The quirky personal narrative is also a favorite, as is narrative nonfiction on almost any cultural topic. She is always looking for writers who explore a subject in new and surprising ways. Her nonfiction list includes books in psychology, women’s issues, education, health and wellness, parenting, serious self-help, natural history and anything about animals, religion, and spirituality.

In fiction, her interests run to literary women’s fiction and novels that evoke a strong sense of place.

Books Joanne has recently represented include The Cracker Queen: A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life by NPR commentator Lauretta Hannon; The Global Achievement Gap by Harvard education expert Tony Wagner; Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life by highly regarded life planning expert Fred Mandell, Ph.D., and organizational psychologist Kathleen Jordan, Ph.D.; and Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships by John Price.

Query Joanne at:
For fiction and memoir, please include a synopsis, a brief bio, and the first 25 pages of your manuscript. For all other nonfiction, please send only a synopsis and brief bio. If you are submitting via email, all material should be pasted into the body of your message; attachments will not be opened.

Myrsini Stephanides is also actively seeking clients.  Myrsini joined the Carol Mann Agency in September 2009. She is interested in non-fiction projects in the areas of pop culture, music, humor, popular science, narrative nonfiction, memoir, and cookbooks. She is also on the lookout for offbeat literary, graphic, and YA fiction.  For much more detailed information about what Myrsini is looking for see here.

Query Myrsini at:
If your query has a graphic component, attach it to your email as a low-res PDF or JPG.

Full submission guidelines 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, with literary agent Marilyn Biderman, Mike O'Connor, publisher of Insomniace Press, and a third guest from the publishing industry, still to be announced.

But if you're really interested in getting your own work in shape for possible publication, consider Brian's "Extreme Creative Writing" class, offered Wednesday afternoons in Oakville (see here) and Wednesday evenings in Mississauga (see here). But if you're interested, sign up soon - these classes are popular and will fill up.

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

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Great workshops and classes starting this month

Writing Dialogue – the writer’s most important tool
This Saturday, January 15
~ Space still available ~
10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
The Mills Room, St. Catharines Public Library, 54 Church Street, St. Catharines
Accessible to beginners and meaty enough for experienced writers, this workshop will show you how to use dialogue to make your stories more dynamic and dramatic. Fee: $48 at the door. More here.
To register, email

"Extreme Creative Writing"
This class is available at two different times and locales:
Wednesday afternoons, 12:30 - 2:45
January 26  April 13
St Cuthbert's Anglican Church, 1541 Oakhill Drive, Oakville (more here)

Wednesday evenings, 6:45 – 9:00 p.m.
January 26 Apr 13
Sheridan United Church, 2501 Truscott Drive, Mississauga (more here)
(NB: Just 2 spots left in this class!)

This course is for people who are working on their own writing. Over the twelve weeks of the course, you’ll be asked to bring in six pieces to be critiqued. Besides critiquing pieces, I'll also be giving short lectures at the start of each class, addressing the needs of the group. This is a challenging course, but extremely rewarding. Fee: $193.  To register, email:
(Note: Though the first class is Jan 26, we begin with readings distributed by email on Jan 19 – so we're starting soon!)

Exploring Creative Writing
Tuesday afternoons, 12:45 – 2:45
January 25 – March 22
Appleby United Church, 4407 Spruce Ave, Burlington
In this course you'll explore all kinds of creative writing. We’ll visit short story writing and personal writing, children’s writing, memoir 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 environment, where your words will flow and flower. Fee: $130. More here.
To register, email:

New York Times #1 bestselling
Young Adult novel by Brian's student
Kelly Armstrong
Plotting novels and writing short stories
~ an editor & an author explain it all ~
Saturday, January 22
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Oakville Central Library, 120 Navy Street, Oakville
This workshop will show you how writers plot a novel. You’ll also get the best tips on writing short stories, where to get them published and how to win contests. Best yet, you’ll see how to apply the story-building techniques you’ve learned to your own writing. Fee: $44 in advance or $48 at the door.  More here.  To register, email:

Writing for Children & for Young Adults ~ the world's hottest market
Saturday, January 29
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Forest Heights Library, 251 Fischer-Hallman Road, Kitchener
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. Fee: $44 in advance or $48 at the door. More here. To register, email:

Note: Brian will also be leading "Writing for children and young adult" workshops in Barrie on February 25 (see here), in Toronto on March 5 (see here), in Peterborough on April 9 (see here), and in Kingston on April 10 (see here).

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Two contests from The New Quarterly: for poetry & for personal essays

The New Quarterly
c/o St. Jerome's University
290 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G3

The Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Contest
This contest is for poems written in response to an occasion, personal or public - poems of gratitude or grief, poems that celebrate or berate, poems that make of something an occasion or simply mark one.

We will award a grand prize of $1,000 to the poem judged most worthy. Another $1,000 in prize money will be distributed as the judges fancy. However the prize money falls, the best of what we see will be published in The New Quarterly, at our usual rates, and posted on our website.

Entry fee: $40 for up to 2 unpublished poems, $5 each for additional poems. Submissions include a one-year Canadian subscription (or subscription extension) to The New Quarterly, and may be accompanied by a brief paragraph describing the event that occasioned the poem. Entrants must be Canadian or currently residing in Canada.  Deadline: Feb 28, 2011

The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest

We are interested in essays of any length, on any topic, in which the writer's personal engagement with the topic provides the frame or through-line. Our only restrictions are that the work be previously unpublished and the writer Canadian.

We offer a $1,000 prize for the winning essay; all submissions will be considered for paid publication in the magazine.  Entry fee: $40 per submission. Each submission includes a one-year Canadian subscription (or subscription extension) to The New Quarterly.  Deadline: March 28, 2011

Full rules for both contests and entry instructions here:

For regular submissions, The New Quarterly pays $250 for a short story and $40 per poem or "postscript" story. Full submission guidelines 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 More details here.

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

Monday, January 10, 2011

Insomniac Press

520 Princess Avenue
London, ON  N6B 2B8

Insomniac was founded in 1992 as a small press that published poetry chapbooks. It is now a medium-size independent press that publishes eye-catching non-fiction titles as well as the great fiction and poetry. Insomniac's books are sold in 40 countries around the world. Some things remain the same: Insomniac always strives to publish the most exciting new writers it can find. Celebrated authors like Natalee Caple, Lynn Crosbie, Stephen Finucan and A.F. Moritz either got their start at Insomniac, or have published important books with us.

Insomniac has developed special niche areas in which it publishes unique books. For example, its black studies books, gay and lesbian books, personal finance books, celebrity writer-as-musician books (including titles by Matthew Good, Jann Arden and Terri Clark), and gay mysteries have developed devoted followings.

The common denominator in Insomniac's publishing program is its willingness and ability to venture in new directions, both editorially, and in the areas of promotion, marketing and publicity, all the while maintaining the highest standards in all that it undertakes.
Insomniac accepts unsolicited submissions and eventuallys get around to reading all of them but that can take six months or more.

Hre are a few tips for catching our attention:

1. Know what we don't publish. Right now this includes science fiction, cookbooks, romance, and children's books. Our poetry list is also full for the foreseeable future because we are booked up for the next several years.

2. Query first. Sending us a short letter or e-mail describing your book, rather than a complete manuscript, will save everyone involved a lot of time. If we're not interested, we can tell you so immediately, and if we are interested, your manuscript will go to the top of the pile when it comes in. It's that simple.

3. Get published somewhere else. We love new authors, but some sort of track record helps a lot. If you've finished a brilliant novel and have never been published anywhere else, keep your shirt on and start sending short stories or excerpts to literary magazines; most of them accept unpublished authors, and we'll look a lot more closely at authors who have been in print before. (If you have a truly stunning non-fiction proposal, however, you might be able to bypass this step.)

4. Write something good. It's harder than it sounds and, of course, impossible to define. We can tell you we're looking for compelling stories, beautiful writing, unique perspectives and fresh voices, but that probably doesn't help you much. Still, it's worth saying. Before you put your manuscript in an envelope, ask yourself if it really says something new (or something old in a new way). Be honest. Even an editor who loves your book will think parts of it need work—that's our job—so don't trust anyone who tells you your writing is beyond reproach.

5. Know what we do publish. We're now actively seeking commercial and creative non-fiction on a wide range of subjects such as business / personal finance; gay and lesbian studies; black canadian studies among others. Check out the books we've published in the past couple of seasons to get a feel for our tastes.

Full submission guidelines here.

Mike O'Connor, publisher of Insomniac Press, will be one of three panelists at the "From the Horse's Mouth ~ strategies for getting published" forum hosted by Brian Henry at Ryerson University on May 7, 2011.  Lynn Henry, publishing director of Doubleday Canada, and new Canadian agent Marilyn Biderman will also be on the panel.  Details here.
Brian also has a "How to Get Published" workshop coming up Saturday, February 19, in Burlington, with literary agent Alisha Sevigny of the Rights Factory (see here).

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

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"School Trip," by Sharon Walker-Zeman

I knew I was in trouble as I stepped off the school bus. The kids were already excited that it was the last day of school. Now that we had arrived at the local amusement park, they were totally wired.

I had two thoughts running through my mind: First, how the hell did I let myself get talked into being a parent-volunteer on this school trip? And second, I cursed that other mother who took it upon herself to bring and distribute chocolate on the school bus.

Didn’t she think they were hyper enough already?

Looking over the heads of the fifty-odd ten and eleven-year-old kids milling about the amusement park gates, I felt like I was looking down on a beehive. They were in constant motion and the noise was a deafening drone. Just the bus ride here had already given me a headache.

The kids had been allowed to make their own groups and one teacher or parent had been assigned to watch each group. My group consisted of my son, Jonathan and seven other boys.

The other parents and teachers were all assembling their groups and I heard them calling out names. I took my list of names out of my pocket and breathed in deeply as I went to take charge of my group.

“Hello boys, I’m Shelly Gunther, Jonathan’s mum.” I raised my voice authoritatively. “Let’s do a roll call…Hello? Boys?”

I wondered if they had heard me at all. Two were completely turned around looking in the opposite direction and a few were throwing a tennis ball back and forth. I cringed as I realized the latter boys were throwing the ball hard enough to see if they could elicit cries of pain from each other.

“Everyone’s here, Mum,” Jonathan said from beside me.

“Well, I don’t know everyone, why don’t you introduce me?”

Jonathan turned, pointed and spoke very quickly. “That’s Doug, Greg, Tyler, Ted, Tyler, Rob and Cameron. Now let’s go, Mum! The other groups are already leaving.”

I scanned the group, trying to put the names to the faces. Did he say Tyler twice? How the hell was I ever going to keep track of these kids? I figured I’d just have to count them.

A teacher’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Everyone remember to meet back at the bus here at three pm sharp!” She was walking away with her own little group. Her kids were walking quietly two by two, a perfect image of well-behaved children.

I looked back at my group. Now, a few of them were competing to see who could make the loudest fart noise.

I glanced at my watch and swallowed hard. 9:03am. I’ve got to entertain these kids for six hours? My God.

We were off. I managed to distribute the admission tickets and get the boys through the gates and into the amusement park without a problem. I counted the boys from one to eight. So far, so good.

“Where to first, boys?” I asked as I looked at the amusement park map.

“The water park!”

“Swing ride!”

“Let’s play the games. I wanna win something!”

“Roller coasters!”

“Hold on, hold on,” I said trying to diffuse the situation. “The teacher did say that most of the roller coasters are out. You’re not quite old enough or tall enough yet.”

“How ‘bout the Go-Karts?” It was the kid with the tennis ball. “I’ve done those before.”

The other boys’ faces lit up as I listened to a chorus of “Yeahs” and “Awesomes.”

My face fell. The Go-Karts sounded more dangerous to me than the roller coasters. At least they wouldn’t be driving the roller coaster.

“How about mini-golf?” I ventured.

The kid with the tennis ball spoke up again. “That’s lame! Let’s do the Go-Karts.”

I thought for a moment. “Well, that’s on the opposite side of the park, why don’t we start with something close by and work our way around? That way we won’t miss anything.” I was happy to see that some of the boys were nodding and seeing the logic in this plan. Of course, my hope was that time would run out before we got to the Go-Karts.

Everyone seemed happy except that kid with the tennis ball. It was my son who spoke to him.

“Don’t worry, Cameron. We’ll do the Go-Karts later, right, Mum?”

“Sure,” I muttered.

And so, we started our day at the amusement park. After every activity, I would count the boys from one to eight and then look at my watch. First we did the swing ride. …6-7-8, 10:06am. Then the kiddy sized roller coaster, …6-7-8, 10:58am. Then carnival games, …6-7-8, 12:20pm. By the time we sat down for lunch, I realized that I was really starting to relax. I was getting to know the boys a little better and I even knew which Tyler was which. I found myself smiling as I realized that the kids were having a good time and so was I.

Then, I heard Cameron say something that made me nearly choke on my hot dog.

“When we get to the Go-Karts, I’m going to kick all of your asses!” he snickered. “Anyone gets in my way, I’ll knock you off the track!”

I felt I had to speak up.

“Now, Cameron, I don’t want to hear talk like that, okay? We’re supposed to be having fun here.”

Cameron looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and went back to eating his hot dog.

After lunch we hit the water park and then the mini-golf course….6,7,8…

“Go-Karts!” one of the boys shouted.

Uh-oh. There has to be something else. I looked at the amusement park map.

“How about the…gift-shop?” I tried feebly. We really had seen everything else that was age appropriate.

“No! Go-Karts, Go-Karts!” the boys chanted.

I looked at my watch. 2:13pm. Damn-it, forty-seven more minutes to kill.

“You promised, Mum.” Jonathan tugged at my sleeve.

“Ok,” I relented.

We approached the Go-Karts and a roar that sounded like a thousand lawn mowers. The boys were jumping up and down with excitement as they ran ahead of me and into the queue. I was left gulping with anxiety at the gates.

Then a small miracle happened.

“Hey kids!” It was one of the teenage amusement park employees. He was pointing at a sign in front of the line up. It read, “You must be this tall to ride.”

One by one the kids stood in front of the sign. All but two were too short to ride the Go-Karts. Six grumbling kids, including Jonathan, returned to my side.

“Maybe next year.” I said trying to hide my grin. But it wasn’t over yet. There were still two kids to worry about as they took their turn in the crazy little karts.

Cameron and Doug were putting on helmets and hopping into a Go-Kart.

I heard Cameron laughing, “Hey, Doug, I’m going to beat your sorry ass.”

Before I could react, Cameron was roaring out onto the Go-kart track with Doug following closely in his wake.

We watched as the two boys tore around the Go-Kart track. After a few minutes, I began to relax a little. They seemed to be handling the contraptions okay and Cameron was miles ahead of Doug, far enough apart that I wasn’t worried about the two of them colliding….Or was I? Cameron was going so fast that he had rounded the track and was approaching Doug from behind. My eyes widened as Cameron got closer and closer.

“Careful!” I cried out.

It was too late. Cameron had cut Doug off and taken the lead. Doug’s Go-Kart weaved and then after tense moment thankfully became stable again. The moment I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, grateful that Doug was okay, I heard an ear-splitting SMASH.

Oh God.

I opened my eyes and whipped my head over to see Cameron’s Go-Kart careening through the rubber tires lining the track. I heard Cameron yell out as the kart turned sharply and then flipped on its side before finally coming to a stop.

Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!

Instantly, I sprang to action. I pushed my way through the line-up, and into the Go-Kart track. “Cameron?” I cried as I ran towards the over turned kart. “Are you okay?” I reached the kart panting, my face white with fear.

Cameron looked up at me with wide eyes. “That…was…awesome.” He started to grin.

I looked at him dumbfounded. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

One of the amusement park workers had come up behind me and I jumped as he walked past me to Cameron’s overturned kart.

“Happens a couple times a week, Ma’am,” the worker said as he deftly turned Cameron’s kart back to the upright position and pushed him back onto the Go-Kart track.

Before I could say anything else, Cameron revved his engine and was off once more to finish his laps around the track. Mercifully, the rest of the ride was uneventful.

On the bus ride home, the kids were all talking about Cameron’s death-defying Go-Kart adventure. Cameron himself had embellished the story a fair bit. I hadn’t exactly counted but I was pretty sure the kart hadn’t flipped over five times.

But however it happened, I felt pretty sheepish as the parent-volunteer responsible for Cameron. I slumped down in my seat and quietly vowed not to volunteer again.

“Hey, Mum?”

It was Jonathan. He was sitting on the bus seat next to me.

“Yes, Honey?” I said.

“I just wanted to tell you that you were pretty great today. I’m glad I got to spend the day with you.”

I gave my son’s hand a squeeze. Suddenly, I remembered why I had volunteered in the first place.

Sharon Walker-Zeman is an optometrist and a mother of eight-month-old twin boys. She was able to take Brian Henry’s "Welcome to Creative Writing" class while on maternity leave and re-awaken her love of creative writing. She hopes to take further courses in the future and continue writing for many years to come.

Note: If you want to re-awaken your own creatvity, sign up for Brian's "Exploring Creative Writing," Tuesday afternoons in Burlington, starting Jan 25, 2011 (details here).  If you already have some writing that you want to work on, sign up for "Extreme Creative Writing," Wednesday afternoons in Oakville (details here) or Wednesday evenings in Mississauga (details here). But register soon - these classes are popular and will fill up.

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