Archive for January, 2012

January 27th, 2012

Breakfast Before Bombs

by JP Gural, Learner, Writing Workshops

We were looking for bombs. And since the Americans had dropped so many, they wouldn’t be hard to find. First, though, we both needed breakfast.

This was in New Xephon, in Laos’ southern province of Savannakhet, wedged between Vietnam and Thailand like a tragic stab of history. The bombed rubble of Old Xephon sat across river. The Ho Chi Minh trail cut just to the east, beyond which stood the mountains of Vietnam. A cold air mass descended from the heights, chilling my nose.

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January 19th, 2012

Diamond Opportunities

by Lindsay Bell, Learner, Writing Workshops

The diamond mines are still on maintenance mode; production frozen like the arctic ground surrounding the open pits. Ruth calls after lunch. She heard one of the mines is hiring again. She asks me to help her with an online job application. “You know us old folks with the technology,” she jokes.

That evening we sit in front of a computer at the community college where we first met. We upload Ruth’s edited resume and finalize the cover letter. We haven’t addressed what is both necessary and taboo. Uncomfortable, I ask, “Do you want the letter to say you are an Aboriginal woman?”

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January 13th, 2012

Colour Me In 2

Colour Me In 2
by Isis Essery

To see more of Isis’s work, visit her website.

This photo was taken for Karen Levy’s fashion photography course, Fashion Photography (CDFC 200).

January 12th, 2012

Free of Guilt

Free of Guilt

by Maria Andrea Parra, Learner, Fashion Coordination and Styling

To see more of Maria’s photos, visit her website:

This photo was taken for Karen Levy’s introductory fashion photography course, ‘Fashion Photography’ (CDFC 200).

January 11th, 2012

Colour Me In

Colour Me In

by Isis Essery, Learner, Fashion Coordination and Styling

To see more of Isis’s photos, visit her website:

This photo was taken for Karen Levy’s introductory fashion photography course, ‘Fashion Photography’ (CDFC 200).

January 11th, 2012

Excerpt from Hello Brother, Goodbye Mother

by Allen McAvoy, Learner, Writing Workshops

I see him before he sees me. It’s not hard to pick him out from those awaiting loved ones in the arrivals area: he’s absolutely not boisterous. It’s like surveying a photo where he’s in focus but the background is blurred.

Walking up to him is like walking up to a fun-house mirror. I move right; he moves left. I’m slightly taller, he’s slightly shorter. We’re about the same build. He wears Khaki-coloured cargo shorts, a long-sleeved, white linen casual dress shirt, and brown leather, buckled Birkenstocks.

I let out a chuckle. It’s like we’re five years old and mom has dressed us for a trip to the zoo.

He continues to look around absent-mindedly with large coffees in each hand. “Cleaver,” I say to myself, knowing full well I would do the same thing to avoid hugging him if I were the one waiting. You can’t hug if your hands are full. It’s an emotional avoidance trick we practised, then mastered over our forty years.


I’m immediately disappointed with myself. I don’t want to sound impatient with him.

Taking the trip home with him when we haven’t talked, let alone seen each other, in five years was not so much a decision, but a reaction to her health.

“Hey! I thought you might need this.”

He hands me a coffee.

“You remembered,” I say struck by the Irish Crème scent. It reminds me of our morning trips together to university.

“Remembered what?”


We take sips of our coffee.

The silence is too much. I take a deep breath and blurt out: “So, tell me, how bad is it?”

“Well, it’s like this! She doesn’t know how she gets home and she repeats the same story, word for word, over and over.”

I suspect what it is, but I refuse to name it.

“Christ!” What are you saying; c’mon, spit it out!”

“Really, are you that dense?”

“Why are you being like that? You never could answer simple questions. You always have to draw things out! Bloody well spit it out.”

“Alzheimer’s! They think it’s Alzheimer’s!”


We sip our coffee.

“We need to make decisions!”

“Yes, we do,” I say emphasizing that we together and not he alone will make decisions for mom.

Our eyes moisten. We turn away from each other.


Another sip.

We walk toward the exit with eerily matched gaits.

I remind myself this trip is about her, not us.

About Allen McAvoy:

Allen has had a lifelong interest in travelling and writing.

Allen’s piece was written for Ann Ireland’s online workshop introducing short fiction writing: ‘Short Fiction Writing – Level I’ (CWWR 410).

January 11th, 2012

Muskoka, August 1955

by Leslie Hobson, Learner, Writing Workshops

Lake Muskoka, August 10, 1955

Dearest Mama, Poppa, Aunt Irena and Uncle Milos;

After a very long time riding in the bus we have at last are arriving at the camp. We are to be sleeping in cabins! Each of them has 12 girls, 6 on each side and having a bathroom in the middle. Some of the girls has been complain that so many to be sharing in the bathroom but not for me! I am used to sharing. (please say hello to my brothers and cousins for me also – but tell them that I do not miss them – ha ha).

Our cabin sits very near to the lake and is also a large dock on which you can sit and look out over the water most very, very far. There is also area in the water which is having a long, thick rope with big corks that are floating it to mark off the area for swim. (I have not told anyone yet that I am not knowing how to swim.)

Tonight after our dinner (so much food! but not like at home) we had a fire outside in a large circle of stones. The camp leaders each told stories and then they taught us songs. Later, one of the Canadian girls had brought from her home a little transistor radio and she was to play a music station all the way from Toronto! They have promised that they will teach me the new dances.

Mama, I know that you were most afraid of my being so far away from my family. Thank you for letting me to be here. Aunt Irena was right that it is going to be something I will not soon be forgetting! I will sign off now before I am with the homesickness.

All my love,


About Leslie Hobson:

Leslie Hobson is a writer and farmer in King City, Ontario.

Leslie’s piece was written for Ann Ireland’s online workshop introducing short fiction writing: ‘Short Fiction Writing – Level I’ (CWWR 410). Students were asked to take a character from their stories in progress and imagine the person as a child, writing a letter home from a summer camp.

January 11th, 2012

Excerpt From ‘I Had to Confront My Fear of Needles’

by Lisa Jackson, Learner, Writing Workshops

“Does this scare you?”

The therapist pointed a needle in the air like a pistol. I clawed my nails into my chair and tried not to hyperventilate.

People are often surprised by my phobia of blood and needles. Working as a community health promoter in a public health unit, I doled out clean needles to drug users and talked to clients about injection site rotation. In the three years I worked there, I probably had more daily interaction with syringes than the average person, sometimes taking in 500 used needles a day. But the truth is, at 31, having my blood drawn scares me.

So where did this phobia come from? When I was 9, I had a bad experience while in the hospital with scarlet fever. A nurse restrained me and abruptly poked a needle into my arm, inflicting a pain that felt worse than a bee sting.

I avoided having blood taken for the next 20 years, even if it meant risking my health. Lab requisitions landed in the recycling bin. The mere suggestion of a blood draw made me recoil like a vampire facing a crucifix. Whenever Canadian Blood Services ran a mobile blood-donor clinic in my office building, I would walk faster through the lobby.

Then one day, my 70-year-old grandmother was hit by a car while crossing the street and barely survived. When I got the call, I rushed from my university dorm to the hospital intensive care unit where family members had gathered. A nurse in green scrubs appeared. “She’s alive, but needs a transfusion,” she said.

Family members of all ages immediately volunteered to donate blood, ready to roll up their sleeves for Grandma. All except one – me. I stayed silent and flipped through a magazine. In that horrible moment, I realized how debilitating my fear was…

To continue reading, see Lisa’s article published in The Globe and Mail.

The text above is Lisa’s opening to her personal essay, which was written for Beth Kaplan’s course on writing personal narratives: ‘True to Life: Writing Your Own Story’ (CWWR 336).

January 11th, 2012


by Charles Shamess, Learner, Writing Workshops

April 1969

He’s in the living room pouring a drink, ‘Baby the Rain Must Fall’ playing loudly. The smell of fried sausages and potatoes hangs in the kitchen air.

‘I should go home now, Mom and Dad will be wondering.’

‘They won’t mind, you’re with me.’ He’s back in the kitchen with a fresh rye and ginger. ‘Help me with the dishes.’

‘Okay but just til they’re done.’

He flicks the dish towel at me and I jump away and swat back. He grabs me from behind, hands finding my pockets.

‘You know you’re a special kid, we’re special.’

‘Stop, Mr. Southfield.’

‘Don’t call me that…call me David.’

‘Sorry.’ I squirm away but he clutches closer, his hands grasping.

‘Want a beer?’ His whiskers grate against my cheek.


‘Drink this, it’s sweet.’ He holds his glass to my lips and I choke it down. ‘Come to bed with me.’

‘I’m not tired.’

‘We’re not going to sleep silly.’ He wrestles me down the hall to the bedroom.

I lie still, every part of me stiff, his breath on my neck, now my mouth. I feel like I’m going to barf yet there’s an excitement rising in me.

‘Look at you, you like this,’ he whispers.

I hardly hear him as I’m pretending to be one of the Lost Boys, flown away to Neverland. I wait til he’s done.

‘Look what you’ve made me do,’ he sneers. ‘I need to wash up.’

I wipe myself on my shirt and zip up my jeans.

The toilet flushes and through the door I hear, ‘You should go now.’

‘I know, it’s past my bedtime.’

April 1993

There’s a Dodge Caravan in the driveway, the sheers of the house drawn tight, the furniture squatting like ghosts in the living room. I drive by slowly, wanting to catch a glimpse, dreading being seen. I round the corner and as I park at my parent’s home, I’m filled with a memory I’ve never had before. I was home sick when I was 5, the tv on to keep me quiet when they announce President Kennedy was shot. Mom cried out then wept and wept and I felt so happy to be with her when she was so alive. I know now how she felt, bitterness wrapped tight hiding the sweetness of what could have been.

We’re both home now. He’s just back, having finished his sentence; I know, I put him there.

About Charles Shamess:

Charles Shamess writes when he can between working, commuting, and everyday living.

Charles’s piece was written for Ann Ireland’s online workshop introducing short fiction writing: ‘Short Fiction Writing – Level I’ (CWWR 410).

January 11th, 2012

Excerpt From Delights of Hatchet Bay

by Wendy Hodgson, Learner, Writing Workshops

“Watch out for the rocks!” I yelled as Altona’s bow plunged through foaming breakers. Even after three months of sailing the Bahamas, running the inlet into Hatchet Bay was a tense adventure for two retired pencil-pushers from Lake Ontario.

Hands clenched around the wheel, Ralph concentrated on surfing our 37′ sailboat between jagged piles of stone. The opening was so narrow it would have been frightening even without the wind whipped waves, and if I leaned out of the bucking cockpit I thought I could touch the low cliffs on either side of the manmade entrance into the bay. “The Cut” is an opening slashed through a wall of rock, as though by some giant’s hatchet, to allow marine access to a previously landlocked lake. It leads to the most sheltered harbor in the Bahamas, and with 25 knot winds in the forecast, it was shelter from the inhospitable shores of western Eleuthera that we needed.

Accompanied by the shrill cries of gulls and the thunder of wind and surf, Altona shot through the hazardous slit and into the calm, protected waters of Hatchet bay. Rocky crags that had threatened disaster only seconds before now transformed themselves into sentinels of peace. Gliding serenely through every shade of blue on the spectrum, past empty docks perfumed by “Eau de Fish,” we detected no signs of life or activity. The clustered buildings of Alice Town perched on low hills like pastel smudges in a cloud of green, and a lone ketch floated lazily on a mooring, its masts piercing cobalt sky. It was as though the world had forgotten Hatchet Bay.

About Wendy Hodgson

Wendy is a retired teacher and principal who indulges her lust for travel, writing, and photography by cruising with her husband aboard their 37’ sailboat. Of her experience in ‘Creative Travel Writing’ (CWWR 952), Wendy says, “Creative Travel Writing was a wonderful opportunity to improve my writing skills and confidence. Throughout the course, Ann provided us with excellent lessons, encouragement, and guidance.”

Wendy’s travel writing piece was written for Ann Ireland’s online course for beginning travel writers: ‘Creative Travel Writing’ (CWWR 952).