Young Writers

This fall, we ran another of our popular Young Writers programs. For four weeks, young authors from our community attended sessions where we learned all about writing short stories. While many of our attendees had written longer stories, the idea of a complete story only a page or so long, was a little daunting. But they settled in and wrote.

We covered the basics of what made a good story (beginning, middle, end, more than one character, and a plot), and they went home with a plan to write a story about something that had really happened to them, but to change it so that it happened to someone else.

They wrote stories about shrinking girls, a crazy cat, a less than reputable doctor, a secret map, Halloween costumes gone wrong, and much more. And we laughed and cheered as each writer read out their first draft. There was plenty of great work to go on!

Over the next few weeks, they learned about revision and making their stories better. We worked on using exciting vocabulary, writing an opening that makes people want to read more, and finishing a story. It was hard work, and they came back with lots of changes, but the end result was great.

This week, we have all of the stories on display at the library for Ontario Public Library Week. Drop in to read each one, or read them here. We have such talent in our community!

Karen’s Funny Day 

The Boxy Halloween

Manhunt Mayhem

18″ Tall World

Domestic Pirates

Toby, the Karate Two Year Old

The Hilly Experience

Crazy Cat

The Good Problem

#OPLW

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Agony

Another little gem from one of our Carleton Place Writers, this time from Wayne Herrgott.

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AGONY

 

Here he comes again; his bowed legs describing his life.  He swings the blanket over my back and cinches bondage around my belly.  “Don’t put that torturous thing in my mouth.  You won’t need it now; I’ll be good.”  It hurts.

 

True to his experience, he flips onto my back.  I hate the burden, but don’t show it for fear of those spikes driving into my damaged flesh.  I’m cool man; see I’m calm.  Maybe if I move on my own he won’t need to injury me further.  God back don’t shake.  No!

 

Suddenly, it’s there! The pain makes me burst into rebellion.  I stand with my front legs straight and kick the innocent sky.  I’m going crazy with the pain.  It’s not me; it’s not the way I want of be.  But I can’t stop.  I have to eliminate this scourge on my back.  Let’s see if you can keep up, you Son of a Bitch; I’m going to change my bounds.  I can do it.  Ouch, man that hurt, but I’m out of there; you didn’t think I could do it did, let’s just see if you can stay on now.

 

How about a little ride through the bush, my sweety?  You bastard!  Watch out of the branch!  Oh I’m so sorry.   Happy trails amigo.

 

Happy trails to you, too!

Why You Need to Create

ggjrxqoeafy-alexander-solodukhinToday’s post is from another of our Writers’ Group, Gracey Patterson. Gracey is our youngest member, and has talent galore. We can’t wait to see what she’ll write next!

“Why You Need to Create”

“The greatest agony is bearing an untold story inside of you.” -Maya Angelou

The crushing weight on your heart when you cannot create, my friends I do not know how to tell you how much it hurts. It is there in the morning when the sunlight streams into the window, when you see the dust particles trapped in rays of light and your mind comes alight with the need, the twisting sensation in your gut to paint it. But when your feet hit the floor, and the little voice switches on and tells you you will never be able to paint it like that, you don’t. And the moment is lost.

You head down to the kitchen to fix yourself a cup of tea and find that outside it is raining, hard drops are coming down, giving you the feeling that your house is a cacoon, a snuggly blanket. Your pajamas brush against your skin and the tea is warm in your hand. Yet you have a longing in your heart for your husband who is away with work. And this moment–this perfect moment of melancholy, of comfort, but of longing. Of a moment tipping on just perfect, but not all the way. Of a flash of two opposite feelings like a double edged sword, the flip sides of a coin. And the words are already forming in your mind. But when you bend down to write about it, they flutter away into the fading clouds outside the window. And that creative spark leaves your fingers grasping for words that are not there anymore. So you shut your laptop and forget.

Your kids are sleeping in one bed, all three of them tangled in a heap of arms and legs, their snores reverberating around the room. Sticky hands, nails coloured with purple crayon–hints of yesterdays events. The lingering smell of sweat, from nightmares. But the soft feeling of comforters. The way it shapes a nest around your children, as if the bed is holding them in a gentle giant’s fist. You get the image in your head, stark and clear as day, as bright as sunlight in a mirror. You go as far as getting out your clay, to sculpt this beautiful moment, but when you look again, your children are awake and the moment fades away. The clay drops into hard lumps on the table and you wash your hands of the dust.

On the way to school you look back in the mirror at your babies, smiling when your song comes on the radio. It’s the one your husband first asked you to dance to. The one played at your wedding. The one you sang to closed eye-lids, of sleeping babies, rocking in a chair and humming to the moon. You open your mouth and hum along with the tune. “Mommy sing!” they shout. And you do. They sing along, their voices bending at uneven parts, splitting notes in half, but you don’t notice because you sound better than a gospel choir. You drop the kids off at school, with the radio still turned up. The last chords of the song come on, the build to the bridge–your favourite part. You sing loudly, and then feel the silence in the car, the glares of strangers and quiet down until the magic of the music fades away. You sound terrible, you think. And stop singing.

That night you have hooded-eyes, tired from a long day. You sit in bed and try to remember the good things this morning, but none come to mind. You have forgotten the dust particles, the melancholy feeling, your children sleeping, silly songs in the car. You held these moments in your heads for seconds, and yet when you thought of creating them into the physical world those seconds were infinite. But you shook your head and let those seconds slide away, to land on a pile of forgotten but great ideas.

At night you dream all these things and more. You are spiritual. You are creative. You are a soul. Part of the moon. Of the sea. Flowers in someone’s hair. And when you awake the day gives you these moments again, different shades, but still the same feeling, and yet you do not grasp them. What if you did? If only in years to come, after your parting from this earth, your daughters could hold these moments from your mind in their hands. In the shape of a clay sculpture, the pages of a novel, the lull of a song, the beauty of a painting or picture. But you have not “clapped the net over the butterfly of the moment.” You have not seized the day.

These moments are everywhere, in the reflection on a coffee shop window of the homeless man across the street. In the grimace of a young girl in the hallway of a high school. In the limp of the old man in the line at Tim Hortons. In the fold of a woman’s dress. In the crease of a man’s tie. In the lilt of the laughter of your child. In the sparkle of your mother’s eye. These pieces, threaded together are what the universe is built on. Is what humanity is made of.

What a gift you have. What a gift you are. Create my moon child, my summer breeze, my lipsticked stained coffee mug. Open the blinds at night and howl to the moon. See the moments and collect them like stamps. You think you are alive, but you have no idea what you are missing.

Fairy Godmother for Hire

19-3kdsrvqk-fredrick-kearney-jrToday’s short story comes from one of our talented writers, Joanne Payne Davies.

It used to be so easy: show up in a puff of pink smoke, wand in hand, and everybody knew the Fairy Godmother had arrived and was at their service. Easy!

Now? Try that trick in an enchanted wood and you’re likely to be chopped and winded by some street-smart runner who has her black belt in self-protection. Never mind that she’s unhappy and unfulfilled–she can take care of herself. Uh-huh.

Try ‘appearing’ to some lonely, over-worked, under-appreciated soul who could use a break, and she’ll probably squirt you with pepper-spray and scream for security. The others tell you to piss-off—you’re just another weird hallucination that’ll require them to have their medication adjusted again.

I even tried to advertise; figured that might mitigate the surprise factor. Fairy Godmother for Hire. Guaranteed Wish-Granting. The only takers were gamblers and politicians…not a single Cinderella.  Even the new-agers think I’m some kind of freaky high priestess with poor fashion sense touting the newest thing in goddess cults. Bibbity-bobbity-boo-hoo-hoo…

So, I tried to quit. The Guild didn’t like it, of course. But what the hell, they assigned me to this era; R & D really fell down on their research on THIS one. How am I supposed to do my job when no one over the age of six believes in fairies or magic or miracles anymore? And even those pre-schoolers are so inundated with high-tech special effects in their toys and entertainments they think I’m computer generated!!

There’s still sixty-odd years left on my contract: the Guild insists I stay here, maybe there’ll be an attitude change. Fat chance, I say…these people don’t believe what they see.

They don’t even believe in themselves. I guess that’s what frustrates me; a little magic could really help them get back in touch with what’s real. They just don’t know it. They’re so caught up in their own mass-media illusions they’ve forgotten that magic exists and that miracles are personal. Ah, well.

So here I am, wondering what all the other magicians are doing these days; maybe I’m the only one here in this when/where. I’m NOT going to try advertising again…

I just don’t fit in well with Canadian social groups; not even in the multi-cultural-anything-goes scene in Toronto. You see, we Fairy Godmothers are what we are, and we’re SUPPOSED to look what we are at all times. Our magic is for others, not for ourselves–I can’t even zap myself into a semblance of a ‘modern-day’ granny with blond streaks and in yoga pants. So I’m very limited in where I can go without being asked to leave.

I did finally figure it out–yes, I was a little slow there, but I AM a fairy, don’t forget, and I was born when there really WERE monsters under the bed. AND the competition for positions is fierce. However, since I don’t need money, I didn’t apply in the usual way; I just showed up one day and was accepted as one of ‘them’…the ‘characters’ that wander around the park and attractions at Canada’s Wonderland! Perfect for me–I fit right in. And a bit of magic THERE is hardly noticed; a ride that goes on for an extra round, lost kids found right away, ice-cream that ONLY melts in the mouth, not all over the hand….I know, I know, small stuff, but it keeps my hand in and gives some pleasure.

Of course, this IS a seasonal placement; I’m a little anxious about my future plans. I mean, it’s perfectly normal for Godmothers to go to Florida for the winter. I just don’t know if any other fairies are planning to ‘hide-out’ in Disney World, too. I wouldn’t want to crowd anyone’s patch!

On the other hand, maybe this is WHY Master Disney created his ‘Worlds’. I seem to remember a rumour of some disagreement between him and the R & D…

I must ask him when I get back to Guild Central eventually.

 

Great way to start off out New Year! Happy reading!

UNIVERSE INSIDE YOUR HEART

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Today, we have an excerpt from one of our original writers, Erica Roberts. She shares with us a part of her novel written for the first NaNoWriMo that she participated in at the Carleton Place Public Library. Can’t wait to read more! (Get on that self-publishing, Erica!)

An excerpt from Universe Inside Your Heart, written during the April 2014 NaNoWriMo session

Waking up in someone else’s body

Clarissa’s head was pounding, her stomach ached quite a bit, and the inside of her mouth felt like it was covered in sawdust. She thought of the term she’d heard several times in the movies describing the horrible way people sometimes felt after a night at the bar: hangover. She certainly had a hangover.

Clarissa managed to yank herself out of bed, and then headed toward Heather’s closet. She couldn’t wear the same clothes she’d had on the day before, which were currently lying in a messy heap at the foot of her bed, because people at the office had likely seen Heather wearing them earlier in the day, before Clarissa had taken over her body. Instead, Clarissa selected a navy blue jacket and a navy skirt that looked almost exactly like the gray set from the previous day, and another white blouse. She figured wearing the same shoes wouldn’t hurt. However, she did remember that before she got dressed, she needed to have a shower.

Clarissa found Heather’s shower small and uncomfortable compared to the large one at the McAdams house, but she got the job done, and then found a blow-dryer to dry her hair. This was a much harder job for Clarissa than it was when she was herself, because Heather had so much more hair. After she finished, Clarissa put on the clothes she’d picked out, and wondered what to do about makeup. She didn’t think Heather wore much, but she saw a tube of lip gloss lying on Heather’s dresser, so she put some of that on, and a bit of mascara, too, applying it as best as she could. She opted to leave her hair down, because that was how Heather’s hair had been when they’d met on the bench in front of the law firm. Clarissa couldn’t believe that was just one day ago, going by time in the real world, anyway. Oh, how things had changed since then!

Clarissa wasn’t sure how she was going to pull off being a paralegal, but she was going to give it her best shot. She thought that it couldn’t be that hard, since she was quite a good student, and she believed that most of the tasks paralegals did just involved paperwork anyway. She guessed that all the papers she needed for that day were in her briefcase, so as she put her shoes on to head out the door, she made sure to grab it.

Clarissa didn’t know if Heather usually walked to the firm or took the bus partway, but she walked, since she didn’t know where Heather’s bus pass was, if she even had one. To really get into her role as Heather, she decided to stop at the Second Cup across from the office building to buy a coffee before going in, just like Heather normally did. After she purchased it, Clarissa was suddenly hit with the semi-distressing thought that she hadn’t packed a lunch, assuming paralegals even got lunch breaks, and she also realized she had no idea what her boss looked like. She looked in Heather’s purse, thinking there might be a cell phone in there, on which she could do an internet search for her firm, but she didn’t find one. Drat, she thought. I’ll just have to guess. It’s probably a man.

An epic coffee spill

Clarissa then looked at her watch and realized she was going to be late if she didn’t hurry. She sprint-walked the rest of the way to her building, darting inside the main doors and almost running toward the open elevator. She got to it just as its doors were starting to close, nearly knocking a man over as she entered. Glaring at her, the man let out a slight groaning noise. Next, to Clarissa’s horror, her coffee flew out the hole in the lid of her cup and landed all over some incredibly grouchy-looking lady’s white blouse. “Oh my God,” the wiry, auburn-haired lady almost shrieked. “I have to defend a client this morning. Someone help me get this off!”

The man passed her a tissue, and the lady started frantically wiping at her blouse. “Heather, I need to see you in my office as soon as we get up there,” she said, her teeth clenched. “We need to talk.” With that, Clarissa felt as if her stomach had dropped to her knees. This was someone who knew her. This woman could be one of her coworkers, but with the tone she was using, it sounded as if she might be her boss.

“Yes,” Clarissa replied as politely as possible, not using a name because she didn’t know the woman’s name.

After the group of three exited the elevator and the man turned down a hallway to the left, Clarissa followed the woman with the coffee on her blouse down a hallway to the right, feeling like she was headed toward the guillotine. She followed her all the way into a small office which had Lesley Kelford, Lawyer inscribed on the door. It was seeming more and more likely that this woman was her boss.

“Heather, I don’t want to get too angry with you, because you’re a good employee,” Lesley began, shuffling some papers on her desk. “But I need you to be more careful. You knew that I have to go to court later for the Hawkins case, and I cannot walk into a courtroom and successfully spare my client jail time with coffee all over the front of my brand-new blouse.” Now, there was no doubt in Clarissa’s mind that Lesley was her boss. The young girl’s knees started to feel a bit weak.

“I’m so sorry,” Clarissa said, yet again at a loss for any additional words. “It won’t happen again, I promise.”

“Okay,” Lesley said sternly. “Now, I’m going to have to go to the Rideau Centre and buy myself a new blouse, so I need you to hold down the fort until I get back. Take this, please, and if Jason Hawkins calls, tell him I’ll get back to him in a few minutes. You have the Ashbury file prepared, right? I’m meeting with Ashbury this afternoon, so I’d like it on my desk when I return. Anyway, I’ve got to run. See you in a bit.” Lesley handed Heather a thick folder and hurried out the door, leaving a faint perfume scent behind her.

A not-so-calming candle

Clarissa didn’t know where Heather’s desk was, so she just stayed in Lesley’s desk for the time being. She was actually starting to freak out a little bit. She didn’t know who this Jason Hawkins was, or even this Ashbury, and where was the latter’s file? She opened Heather’s briefcase, and found a bunch more folders. The second one from the top, fortunately, said “Kenneth Ashbury” on the front. However, after Clarissa looked at all the information within it, she still hadn’t the faintest clue who he was and what it all meant. She didn’t think Heather had finished working on the file, since Clarissa had taken over her body when the evening was still young, but she didn’t know how she would finish the work for Heather if she had to.

Interrupting Clarissa’s confusion, a call came in on Lesley’s landline. Clarissa got nervous and let it ring without answering it. She was worried that people would have legal questions for her and she would have no idea what to say. She wished she was at least a few years older, and had taken a high school law class, and then she’d be able to fake being a paralegal better. One of her old neighbours in Toronto had taken law in Grade 12, and Clarissa had seen her big, thick textbook, but she hadn’t had the chance or really, the desire, to look inside.

Clarissa noticed that there was a candle on the desk in front of her, a good few inches from the neatly stacked paperwork. It was pink, and when Clarissa held it to her nose, it smelled like flowers. She guessed that Lesley used it to calm herself down, since she appeared to be quite an uptight person. Maybe that will help me, Clarissa thought. She wondered if there were any matches nearby. She started poking around in the desk drawers, mostly finding pens, elastic bands, and extra paper, but eventually, in the back right corner of the smallest drawer, she struck gold by putting her hands on a small box of matches.

Clarissa had recently learned to use matches, so she struck one of them up to light the candle with. She assumed it was okay for her to light the candle, because if it wasn’t, why would it even be there? After she lit it, she thought the flame was a bit too high, but that was nothing a bit of water couldn’t fix. She decided to head to the bathroom to get some. She’d just drip a few drops on the candle, and then the flame would decrease in scope, she figured.

Clarissa grabbed a mug that she spotted on Lesley’s shelf and headed toward the bathroom. As she walked through the office, she noticed several women in desks facing each other, working away on their computers. One of the desks, which Clarissa supposed was likely hers, was empty. None of the ladies even turned their eyes toward her as she went by. After Clarissa ran one of the bathroom taps for about 10 seconds to fill the mug with water, she headed back in the direction she had come from. However, as she entered the open workspace again, the women were no longer tapping away. Instead, some of them had their heads up, and they looked quite alarmed. One was wrinkling her nose.

“I think there might be something burning in Lesley’s office,” a tall, thin, red-haired woman said. “I don’t know what it could be. I know she used to burn that candle, but I thought she stopped lighting it because it was a fire hazard.”

“Uh-oh,” Clarissa said in an almost inaudible tone. Her stomach dropped all the way down to her knees again. Knowing she had no other choice, she willed herself to open Lesley’s door, which she’d left ajar. What she saw stopped her dead in her tracks. Lesley’s entire desk, still covered in neat piles of important files, was on fire. It seemed that even the wood was starting to burn!

“Fire!” Clarissa screamed. “Fire!” Instead of making a mad dash out of the building as she expected they might, all the women who had been working nearby came to join her at Lesley’s door, shocked to see so many flames.

A woman with short black hair grabbed the fire extinguisher from the common room’s wall and started spraying the flames, while shielding her eyes. Luckily, the flames were extinguished quite quickly, but all that remained of Lesley’s files was a pile of charcoal rubbish, and her desk looked like it had been barbecued. However, the partially burned candle in its glass holder was still intact, and seemed to stare at Clarissa mockingly.

“You burned the candle?” the red-haired woman asked incredulously. “You knew that was a hazard. Lesley told us all at the meeting last week that she was going to quit doing it!”

“I… forgot,” Clarissa stammered. All of her colleagues gave her strange looks, and she could tell some of them didn’t believe her.

The big dismissal

As if out of nowhere, Lesley all of a sudden materialized behind the group. “What in the devil is going on here?” she asked. “Why is the fire extinguisher out?”

“Heather lit your candle and started a fire,” said another blonde, who’d been quiet up until that point.

Lesley’s eyes flashed with rage. “What?! Heather, we’ve been over this. I told all of you just last week that the candle is a hazard. I haven’t even been lighting it myself! How much damage has been done?” She stepped forward and her eyes became saucers as she looked at all her destroyed files, plus her charbroiled desk. “Heather Agnew, pack your things and get out of my office,” she said, in a tone of voice that was quiet, but still effectively communicated the rage she must have been feeling. “You’re fired!”

 

What It’s Like to Write

writingToday, we’d like to share a piece written by another member of our CP Library Writers’ Group.  Sharon Holzscherer has self-published one novel, PATTERNS OF DISORDER (available now on Amazon.com), and is currently working on her next piece, hopefully to come in the near future. She shares with us what it’s like for her to write.

Being an author is amazing.  The best part is that you get to create a world.  No longer do you have to think about how you could have made that movie better or given a character a more interesting motivation.  You are now the creator.  You can bring people to life.  You can create new places or show your own particular viewpoint of an existing place.  And you can make anything happen.  Well, almost.

You see, you start from this position of supreme power.  Everything is potential.  You can do anything until you start to write.  And then a curious thing happens.  At least it does to me.  I lose control of the book.  The people whom I brought into existence take over.  They tell me, “You can’t make me say that because I would not say that.  I have to stay true to who I am.”  The creator can only stand by and watch (and type) as the creations write their own story.  And it may not go as I want.

This is particularly difficult for me since I write mystery/conspiracy books.  Inevitably, for the sake of the story, someone must die.  So now we have the other side of the coin.  I have the power to create someone but I am also responsible for that character’s death.  It is hard to imagine how traumatic this is for me.  When I am writing, the story becomes more real than my life around me.  (This may be why meals around the house are rather sporatic and random when I’m writing!)  The people in the book invade my thoughts and dreams.  And I know them better than my best friends or family, because I not only gave birth to them but I created their personalities.  Something which parents might wish to do but actually have little control over.  And then I kill one of my creations.  Even if I have known from the start that this person was created solely to die, it is very difficult.  I have procrastinated sometimes for days so that I don’t have to write the scene.  You see, if I don’t write the scene, the person is not dead.

These are the twisted thoughts of a writer.  It is amazing.  And scary.  And tragic.  But I wouldn’t change a thing.  So I hereby apologize to all those whom I must kill.  Sacrifices must be made for the sake of the story.

Go ahead and sacrifice, Sharon. We’re waiting for more!

 

A few words from Wayne…

Los Angeles

One of our group has offered up a glimpse into his writing world this week. Isn’t that exciting?  Here is an excerpt from Wayne’s work-in-progress called, “My First Trip”.

 

I don’t recall the plant guys telling me anything about the riots.  I was so busy doing my own thing that I never paid much attention to them all bunched up around a television set.  I just wanted to get some sleep.  At this time in the morning there normally would have been some light traffic going past the refinery, but once again mine was the only vehicle on the road.  However, after I drove a couple of blocks, I noticed a police car waiting for me to pass, immediately after I went by, it pulled out behind me and followed me for a couple of blocks.  Right after it turned off, another police car would again fall in behind me.  This happened all the way back to the hotel, perhaps the plant guys were looking out for me after all.

Things settled down in LA after that day and we got back to work.   The refinery expanded the crew so they could cover a 24/7 shift.  Graham came down to help me out.  The rotor was removed and set in a stand just before sunrise.  Graham and I were evaluating the damage and recording our findings.  There was a bright halogen light behind me and I could feel its pleasant heat through my clothes.  The sun was also rising and that was heating my back as well.  But something seemed unusual, the heat was increasing far too fast.  At first I thought the light was falling on me.  When I turned to check the light, I was facing the refinery flare.  The top was about 200 feet above me, it looked like a giant candle, white liquid was flowing down like wax and flames were desperately trying to catch up to the liquid.  The flame was at least twice the height of the flare.  The liquid fell to the ground and the flames seemed to pounce on each puddle like a cat catching a mouse.   People were yelling to get out of the area.  Others were running out to the road, many headed downhill, but there was a LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) tank down there; Graham and I ran straight out along another road, and many others followed us..

When we considered we were safe we stopped and looked back at the flare.  Except for some small flames on the guy wires and small fires burning on the ground and roofs, it was back to normal.  The flare flame was about half the height of the flare pipe.

We wandered back to the job, a roll call was taken to account for everyone.  It was some time before we could settle back into our work.  One of our techs was up on top of the HRSG, he was probably only 150 feet from the flames, and the stairs to go down brought him closer to the flames.  He was seriously considering jumping rather than burning to death, but as he went down the shape of HSRG shaded him from the flames and the heat.  There were others techs in a workshop at the front of the turbine, it was the closest building to the flare.  The gas liquid fell on the roof of the building and all over the parking area between the building and the turbine.  The workers inside the building feared for their lives, but they made the right decision to stay inside the building.  Luckily no one was hurt.  And also luckily there was very limited damage.  The flare was inspected and continued in use for several days.

Later I heard that an operator didn’t check the gauges before he pumped about 15,000 gallons of gas to the full flare holding tank.  That fire burned 15,000 gallons of gasoline in about three minutes.

Needless to say, the talk for the rest of that week was about the fire.  On Saturday we went to Red Lobster for dinner.  While I was returning to our table, I notice those little hanging signs they have at Red Lobster were all moving.  I really didn’t feel much because I was walking, but the guys sitting in the booth were all excited because they had never experienced an earthquake before.

Quite a trip!

 

Feel free to leave Wayne a comment!