Sunday, November 27, 2022

Online Writing Personal Stories course, offered at 2 different times: Monday and Wednesday evenings

Writing Personal Stories 

 ~ A wealth of writing and sharing

Offered at two times:

New: Online: Monday evenings, 6:30 – 8:30
January 30 – April 3, 2023 (No class March 27)

Online: Wednesday evenings, 6:30 – 8:30,
January 25 – March 22 2023
Offered on Zoom and accessible from anywhere there's internet 

"Exploring Creative Writing" and "Writing Little Kid Lit" are also offered starting in January. Details here.

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.

Guest speaker Sue Williams lives in Guelph, Ontario, with her husband. She worked as an occupational therapist and never dreamt of being a writer. But, after a life altering experience, she found herself with a story she felt needed telling and set about learning how to tell it.

The first of many creative writing courses Sue took was Brian Henry’s ‘Writing Personal Stories’. It was exactly what she needed, and she has never looked back.

Sue’s memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press, 2019) is endorsed by Miriam Toews, New York Times Best-Selling author of Women Talking, and Cate Cochran, CBC Radio producer of The Sunday Edition. It has been promoted by The Globe and Mail, Canadian Yachting, Good Old Boat, and her professional magazine, Occupational Therapy Now. And it has been a staff pick at many independent bookstores. Also, it was recently released as an audiobook by Scribd and has been translated into Portuguese for release in 2023.

Sue is now working on a novel set in the largely invisible world of home care. 

You can read more about Ready to Come About at Dundurn Press here

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. 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).

Fee: $176.11 plus 13% hst = $199

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

 See all of Brian’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

“What a City Girl Learned About Life North of Sixty” by Jo Anne Wilson

 

 

I had been in Yellowknife, in the northernmost part of Canada, for a little over two months and was slowly getting used to the cold and the darkness.

When I talked to my Toronto friends, they said, “But it’s dry cold.” Let me tell you, when it is 35 or 40 degrees below zero Celsius, cold is friggin’ cold! And everyone was so covered that if you didn’t know their particular parka or scarf you had no idea who you were passing on the street.

My colleagues were mostly welcoming, although I was conscious that they were wary of the Torontonian that had landed in their midst, a painted city lady with fancy clothes. I think they worried that there would also be fancy ideas that would antagonize the local tourism businesses I was now working with. What they didn’t know about me was that I love to listen to what life, my surroundings and other people can teach me. Perhaps because I moved so much when I was young, I am almost instantly attuned to the rhythms of life in a new place. And Yellowknife was no different.

Finding my rhythm in Yellowknife

Wrapping every part of myself in warm clothes, socks, boots, scarves, parka, hat and mitts; marvelling at the northern lights that I could see from my balcony some nights; not seeing the sun until 10 or so in the morning and then saying goodbye to it again at 2; watching foxes walking through the city...

Plus, paying an obscene amount of money for groceries or a bottle of wine; seeing more stars in the sky than I’d ever imagined; going to the Legion with my new friends for “meat night.” I thought it was “meet” night, but quickly learned that it referred to the raffle for a side of caribou – sadly showing my “city-girlness.”

One Saturday afternoon, my colleague Pete, called and asked if I would like to drive up the ice road with him the following day. You bet I would! “Dress warmly. See you at 9.” A few minutes later, Eric, another colleague, called and asked if I wanted to join a couple of workmates at the firing range the next day. Such exotic invitations for someone used to museum dates or eating out with friends after a movie on a weekend. I told Eric of my planned trip with Peter, asked for a rain check and said I would see him on Monday at the office.

An unexpected adventure begins

Sunday morning, I was bundled like the Michelin snow tire man and waiting in the lobby of my apartment building for Peter, who pulled up promptly at 9 am in his ancient Dodge Ram truck. We headed into the frigid, still dark morning toward the Ingraham Trail (pronounced “Ingram”). The Trail crosses the Yellowknife River then wanders for about 70 kilometres through jack-pine and spruce-lined trout-filled lakes – Prosperous, Madeline and Pontoon, Prelude, Reid and finally, after crossing the Cameron River with its enchanting waterfall, reaches Tibbitt Lake.

Peter gave me all the details of the pre-Cambrian terrain we were traversing. Over the next few years, I would return to parts of the Trail to stay with friends who lived or cottaged on one of the lakes to hike alongside the Cameron River, to kayak on Reid Lake and to go on a caribou hunt in the winter in the bush that hugged the Trail.

Peter also filled me in on all the safety gear he had in the back of the truck – an ax, candles, matches, tin cans, rope, hunting knife, rifle, space blankets, candy bars, extra socks and mitts, toilet paper, large plastic garbage bags, first aid kit, etc. etc. All I had with me was a large thermos of tea, my camera, some sandwiches and extra mitts.

Out in the wilderness in 30 below cold

After an hour on the road, the sun finally climbed above the horizon and we reached the very frozen and expansive Tibbitt Lake. Peter suggested we drive to the middle, stop, have some tea and walk around for a bit. I had walked on frozen lakes before in Muskoka but this was something new. The ice here gets between 50 and 130 centimetres thick and can bear trucks carrying up to 42 tons travelling the road daily from freeze up to thaw, taking supplies to the Lupin Mines 550 kilometres from Yellowknife.

Yet in all this harshness, there was beauty – the colour of the sky, a blinding bright blue so clear that it can only been seen where the soot of a city is not embedded in the air, and tender shoots of shore grass, trapped in clear bubbles of ice at the edge of a couple of small, low islands in the middle of the lake.

For those who have never seen true wilderness, it must be hard to imagine – no hydro wires or communications towers, no roads, no buildings, no other humans, no sound. Pure heaven! Both frightening and familiar at the same time. At one with nature, yet at its mercy.

Far from help, close to nature

After our break, we continued to the end of Tibbitt Lake and started to follow the ice road a bit further, when the truck started to make a growling sound and Peter said we should turn around and head back.

Shortly after the U-turn we started to see caribou and, Peter, a serious hunter, was frustrated. Minutes later, the truck came to a stop and would go no further. Peter swore, got out, popped the hood, tinkered around a bit and concluded it was a problem with the transmission.

So – I will set our new scene.

We were about 75 kilometres from Yellowknife, there was no means of communication with civilization; it was about 30 below and the sun was about to set. However, the North had some glory to show me even at this moment.

Sundogs appeared on either side of the setting sun. Sundogs are hexagonal ice crystals that form on either side of the sun like a halo when it’s too cold for clouds. They refract sunlight like a rainbow does; some people call them an "icebow."

A herd of about 40 caribou came to see what was up. The caribou knew they were in no danger and circled us. They even turned their rumps toward us in what Peter took as the ultimate insult to a now impotent hunter. But there was little time for loitering. We needed to make sure we were protected for the night and we needed to do it before the last streaks of the daylight disappeared.

Preparing for the worst

Peter and I dug a trench in the snow, lined it with boughs cut from the few spruce trees around us, covered them with the space blankets and covered the entire trench with a tarp anchored into the snow with rope and more spruce boughs. We were each alone with our thoughts – thoughts we only shared with each other days later.

Peter: She comes from the city. Any time now she is going to start panicking. I can’t stand weepy women. I hope I can calm her until help arrives. Goddamn truck!

Me: Okay – this is going to be a scary adventure. I think we’ll be okay. I wonder how many stories and campfire songs I can think of to get us through when we have nothing left to talk about and can’t sleep. Glad I’ve done a lot of camping. Damn, I hate being cold.

Peter said that we would have to rely on getting rescued by hunters going by or by a truck going to or from the mines since no one knew where we were and there was no way to contact anyone. (Remember I said no communications towers, therefore, no cell phones!!)

“Not true,” I said to Peter. I told him that Eric had called the day before and I had let him know that Peter and I were driving to Tibbitt Lake. When neither of us showed for work on Monday, someone would come and look for us. Whew – it would be a long night but help would arrive eventually.

Saved just in time

We sat in the truck, watched the caribou and waited for the last light to fade. About a half hour later we saw headlights coming up behind us. Hallelujah! It was three hunters in a truck, the back of which was filled with partly butchered caribou. We crammed into the two rows of seats in the cab of the truck amongst the guns and other equipment. The cab was filled with the metallic smell of freshly spilled blood, but we were safe now and comfort didn’t matter. The driver informed us that they were headed back to Yellowknife but had two stops to make first.

First, we stopped at a small gold mine that was operating on the east side of the lake. The hunters were delivering some of their hunt meat to the miners. We sat in a canvas tent beside a wood stove, drank tea, talked of our adventure and our rescuers’ hunt, and traded stories of where we all came from originally – not one of the 11 people was from the Northwest Territories. I recall that there were two of us from Ontario, three from Newfoundland, two from Germany, two from Quebec, one from Alberta and one from Scotland – a not atypical mix for the North.

Our second stop was at an old game warden’s cabin at the south end of the lake just as it joins the Trail back to Yellowknife.

Think of all the stories or cartoons or films you have seen of prospectors’ cabins or of what you imagine from the Robert Service poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee and you are now with us. Rough-hewn wood walls and roof. Small slits of windows high up in the walls, a hard wood platform that would have been a bed, a small table and a couple of rickety chairs.

But what dominated the small room was the stove in the corner, now burning so hot that the chimney pipe was glowing red halfway up to the roof. The hunters pulled out flasks of whisky and some caribou sausage from a previous hunt. The meat was skewered on a stick and thrust into the fire for a couple of minutes. We ate and drank, alternating bites of hot sausage with swallows of whisky from two shared flasks. And, yes, true to the setting, we each wiped the mouth of the flask on our sleeves before taking a sip.

Part of me was savouring all this adventure, part of me was worried that the stove would set the cabin on fire, part of me was trying to recite The Cremation of Sam Magee in my head from memory:

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;

Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher

The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see

And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

A grateful return to civilization

Finally, we were ready to head home. Fed and slightly tipsy, I was grateful to know that I would soon be able to soak in a hot bath and climb into my own mattressed and duvet-covered bed. But the North had one more marvel for me.

As we approached Yellowknife, the skies started to dance with a spectacular display of Aurora Borealis. Licks of green and pink and white twisted and turned and gyrated across the open skies and kept up their merriment for at least half an hour. Eleven hours in the wilderness, a day overflowing with Northern experiences – my senses were overwhelmed. Finally, at about 8 at night, we saw the glow of Yellowknife’s city lights on the horizon – civilization once more.

When I told the story to friends “south of sixty” (south of the 60th parallel) I said I thought Mother Nature threw all these quintessentially northern experiences at me to test me and see if I could stay. I’m glad I passed and neither had to leave nor had to meet an end like that of Sam McGee. The North, like so many other places I have lived in or visited, reached deep into my being and has remained a colourful thread woven into the tapestry that is my life.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who moil for gold

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

That would make your blood run cold

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights

But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee.

***

Jo Anne Wilson was Director of Marketing for Tourism for three years in the early 1990s, working for the Government of The Northwest Territories (at the time, Nunavut had not been established as a separate territory). She and her staff promoted tourism to the NWT throughout North America, Europe and Japan and assisted local tourism businesses with their marketing. She is now a retired college professor who enjoys theatre, art exhibits, travel and writing. 

“What a City Girl Learned About Life North of Sixty” was previously published in Journey Woman magazine. 

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Free Writers' Meet-up this coming Monday, November 28

 

Free online Writer’s CafĂ©

 – Brought to by the Burlington Public Library

These free get-togethers were full, but the library intends to open the last week to everyone on the wait list. So get yourself on the wait list here  and I'll see you Monday evening.

Mondays, November 7, 14, 21, and 28
7 – 8 p.m.
Sign up here.
(And no, you do not need a Burlington Library Card. The registration pages asks for it, but just ignore that.)

Join us to chat about your work in progress, successes you’ve had, difficulties you’re encountering, and questions you have. Bring your coffee or a glass of wine – after all, there’s no need to drive home. 

Come for all four evenings or just for one day; arrive sharply at 6:00 p.m. or wander in when you will. It doesn't matter, just come online and hang out with some fellow writers.  But note: You must sign up at least an hour before a session to receive the URL to join us. And yes, sign-ups will be open until our last session on Nov 28.

These meet-ups coincide with National Novel Writing Month, but you don’t have to be taking part in NaNoWriMo to participate. All you need is an urge to hang out with some fellow writers. 

This event is free, but, again, you must register at least an hour before a meet-up. Register online here~Brian

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

“Flying with American” by Sharon Saberton

 


I was 22 years old and in a terrible relationship. I wanted to escape. I decided that distance would be the perfect way to break free. I wanted to spread my wings thus I applied to American Airlines as a stewardess. I chose American Airlines because I do not speak French, a prerequisite for flying with Canadian Airlines. The role of a stewardess was considered to be both glamourous and exotic. This compelling job description appealed to my sense of adventure.

This was 1962 and it did not occur to me that the name stewardess was chauvinistic as it was a female derivative of the male term steward. I was attracted to the notion of travel and wearing a great uniform.

To get ready for the interview, I lost 10 pounds and weighed in at 118 pounds. I took my interview in Toronto and I wore a light yellow princess-line silk dress, flesh tone nylons and black high heeled shoes. I topped it off with a black wide brimmed sun hat. The interview was comprehensive and the interviewer (male) was delightful. I enjoyed the experience tremendously.

To be a stewardess in 1962 was a sought-after position. For this position with American of the 1,600 applicants only 40 of us were accepted into the program. I was both proud and relieved to be one of the carefully chosen. 

At that time American Airlines selected one or two young women from Canada and we were given a green card on being hired. I had no idea of the value of a green card I just accepted it as my due.

My father and stepmother saw me off at the Toronto International Airport and I was on my way to Dallas Texas. I was filled with self-importance and confidence but my father was filled with angst. He was concerned for my safety.

I was met at the Dallas airport by a college representative and my stewardess training was underway. At the College I met my classmates who like me were fresh faced young women keen to wear the uniform and travel the world. We were both honored and excited because we were to be the first class of stewardesses to crew the Boeing 727.

The college was set about 60 miles from Dallas. My recollection is that it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. However, the grounds were lovely with paths that meandered through well-kept gardens.

The college was modern and decorated tastefully with lots of light wood and bright colours. The rooms were comfortable and there was a lovely lounge to read or listen to music. It was here in this lounge that I heard the Beatles for the first time. It was a memorable occasion as we all sensed a shift in the culture of popular music.

The class rooms were well appointed and the cafeteria served exceptionally well prepared and delicious food. The actual training was a bit of a shock. We were not required to develop any technical skills, geography knowledge, or meaningful safety procedures. What airlines were looking for was simple, young women who were attractive, slim and single.

Click on photo to enlarge this checklist

The training focused on becoming a charming hostess with an emphasis on appearance and presentation. We were weighed in every morning and our weight was documented. I was required to lose 4 pounds. I was starving at all times and dieting became my way of life. The well prepared food in the cafeteria was clearly off limits for me.  

We were observed and critiqued at all times for good posture, a pleasant smile and the requirement to project a friendly charming affect. Those who did not adhere to these requirements quietly disappeared. 

We were kept very busy taking important classes such as maintaining a good hair style, performing manicures and pedicures and removing unwanted hair.  We were required to wear bright red lipstick with matching nail polish. Matching was critical.

The instructor’s gentle approach in changing our personal affect was carefully orchestrated. Since I did not have a mother or an older sister this was the first time that I was being directly guided in grooming and personal appearance. I felt quite comfortable with this transformational cloning process.

The uniform was both fashionable and functional but there could be no jiggle so we were all fitted for girdles. In the early 1960s girdles were still popular with women and so I was not unduly upset that I was required to wear a constrictive garment.  High heels were required except for when we provided the inflight food service.

However, I had one frustration that became a spark of discontent. Because we were the face of American Airlines, we were required to buy into and adopt American Airlines corporate culture. I felt like I was being initiated into a cult. 

When I was required to show slavish allegiance to American Airlines I seethed with anger and my body tensed. But I quickly learned to present a passive, teeth clenched smiling relaxed presence. Despite being hungry, mad or sad, it was critical to maintain the requisite stewardess affect at all times.

An example of this cultish behavior occurred when we were expected to joyously break out in enthusiastic song while standing in line in the cafeteria while waiting for breakfast. The songs were incredibly annoying.

One song that I vaguely remember was sung to the tune of Give my regards to Broadway. It went something like this:

“Give our regards to Delta, remember us to Eastern too.

Tell all the gang at TWA that they can be put to rest.

Because, we at American are the very best.”

This was finished with loud cheers of hip hooray. This was especially offensive to me because not only did I find the song mindless, but because I had to lose that last four pounds and I was hungry. 

It quickly became clear to me that I was alone in finding this part of the training both distasteful and disenfranchising.

There were a number of life skills that I learned and applied to my life as a result of stewardess training.  Perhaps the most valuable skill that I have applied in my career path is that I have been able to coach and develop good customer service skills in others. 

Finally, we were ready to be fitted for our stewardess uniform. This was an exciting part of the training. In the early 1960’s oil production was at its peak in and around Dallas and as a result there were a lot of ranchers who were now very well off with money to spend. The store Niemen Marcus in Dallas catered to this new money and it was here where we were taken for our fittings.

We were advised that the cost of our uniform would be taken out of our future paychecks.  This did not bother me in the least but little did I know the high cost of this gorgeous uniform.

The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back in my relationship with American Airlines was when I finally understood that the pay for stewardesses was appallingly low. Most stewardesses had to have another job in order to live.

Further, it was a career limiting profession. The career expectation was that a stewardess would only work a maximum of 18 months. Marriage was cause for immediate termination. This made promotion very difficult and only a very few would be able to achieve secure positions. I was ambitious and I could see that this was not a profession where I would be able to advance my career.

And so I resigned from American Airlines just before graduation. I have no regrets but I have wondered on occasion, how my life may have gone had the job offered a positive career path.

***

Sharon Saberton is a retiree whose interests and strengths lay in education, communication and facilitation. She now devotes her time to family, friends and caregiving.  One day she hopes to be a grownup. In the meantime, as she finds joy in writing.

*** 

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Journals seeking short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry (and art, comics, too)

Note: You can hang out and chat with quick brown foxes and vixens on my Facebook page (here). Just send a friend request to Brian Henry.

Also, if you’re not yet on my newsletter, send me an email, including your locale, to: brianhenry@sympatico.ca ~ Brian

 

EveryDay Fiction seeks flash fiction, 1,000 words max – no such thing as too short. Pays $3 U.S. 

For December issue, wants stories on holiday themes, including: are looking for winter and holiday stories for December 2022 issue, including: Winter Solstice / Midwinter / Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, New Year's Eve, anything winter or snow related, or summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Deadline: November 26, 2022.

For January issue, stories relating to New Year’s Day, Epiphany / Three Kings' Day, Martin Luther King Day, anything winter or snow related, or tropical getaways / escape from winter weather. Deadline December 27, 2022.

More holidays for the February issue, deadline January 27, 2023.

Full submission guidelines here.

 

Hi, Brian.

We are now accepting entries for our 13th annual Poetry Open with a first prize of $1,000 plus five additional cash awards. The entry fee is $9 for three poems. Deadline: January 3, 2023.

 We welcome all styles of poetry on any topic, so don't be afraid to send us your most creative poems, rhyming or non-rhyming. We'd love to read your work! All entries are also considered for publication in future issues.

Read the second prize poem from our 2021 Poetry Open, "Eyes (circa 1990)" by Beatrice Kujichagulia Greene here.

 Flash Fiction Prize results are expected to be announced around late October.

General submissions remain open year-round. We do not charge a fee for general submissions, and we have no rules.
Peace!

David Bright
Editor
Gemini Magazine

 

The Ravens Perch is an independent literary magazine published bi-monthly. Their mission is to promote emerging voices, support established writers, unite writers across generations, and help launch careers of unknown writers.

The Raven’s Perch publishes poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and visual art from writers of all ages. The Ravens Perch is not afraid of experimentation. They love voices with a keen attention to crafting imagery and language. They want to be surprised by truths told in fresh ways. They publish writers who are daring enough to break our hearts with delight and force us to want more. Note: They charge a $5 submission fee.

Full guidelines here.

 

Geist is a magazine of ideas and culture made in Vancouver with a strong literary focus and a sense of humour. “The Geist tone is intelligent, plain-talking, inclusive and offbeat.” Each issue represents a convergence of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photography, art, reviews, little-known facts of interest, cartography, and a crossword puzzle. All submissions must have a Canadian connection. 

Geist is always seeking short (800-1200 words) nonfiction, typically personal narrative, for the Notes & Dispatches  section. 

Longer nonfiction pieces (up to 5000 words) are published as FeaturesPays up to $1,200.

Fiction: Short stories (up to 5000 words). Publishes one story per issue, so please send only your best work. Pays up to $1000.

Poetry: Send a maximum of 5 poems. Pays $100 per page

Photography/Art to accompany written work in the magazine. Also publishes art and photo essays with text by the artist. Pays $50–$120 per page.

Comics: Seeks comics that are weird, funny, unexpected or experimental. Pays $100 per page.

These categories are flexible. Geist likes work that crosses genres or that surprises them in other ways.

Open for submissions year-round. Full submission guidelines here.


Quick Brown Fox welcomes your book reviews and your short stories, poems, and essays about reading, writing, favourite books, and libraries. Read a few essays on the blog to get a taste of what other writers have done (see here and scroll down).

Quick Brown Fox also welcomes reviews of any kind and of anything, anywhere or anybody. If you want to review your favourite coffee shops or libraries, babysitters or lovers (no real names please), go for it. See examples of book reviews here (and scroll down); other reviews here (and scroll down).

Submit to: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Include a short bio at the end of your piece and attach a photo of yourself if you have one that’s okay.

***

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.