Category Archives: Prose

The Cat in the Hat

by Barb Day, March 2013

The Cat in the Hat
That Cat in the Hat Is a very spry guy
He can balance on a ball with a book in his hand!
And a cup on his hat!
But not everyone is as spry as a cat

Take old Mr. Jones who lives alone
Not quite ready for an old age home
He asked his wife after they wed, after the war
“Will you still love me when I’m 64?”

Now Mr. Jones is 84
Mrs. Jones has been dead fifteen years or more
And Mr. Jones’ old bones are feeling quite frail
It’s been awhile since he ventured out

But today his pension cheque is in
So he must venture out
To pick up bread and honey
With his nickels and pennies

But poor old Mr. Jones’ feet are unsteady
And that curb’s concrete is crumbling
Now Mr. Jones lies crumbling and crumpled like a tossed away crumpet

If only Mrs. Jones was here
But now he lies alone in pain and fear
Why does a walk have to be so hard for Mr. Jones
Wherever he goes?

Then there’s Elyse
Elyse had Baby One when C.J. was still around
And things were sound
But when Baby Two entered the scene
C. was no place to be seen you see
He went back to the hood

And Elyse understood
This time C. was gone for good
This morning Elyse must walk downtown
Baby needs diapers and food
Elyse is not in the best mood
Struggling with a stroller
With a two-year old in tow on the way there

But on the way back
The skies are no longer clear and it’s clear
They must take a bus
Now she juggles an umbrella and the bags from Pharma Plus
The fold-up stroller and baby on her shoulder

Those steps up to the bus are just too much
She stumbles and the bags tumble
Spilling their contents onto concrete
As she weeps

Then there’s the story of nine year old Neil
One day he can walk and run
The next a crash leaves Neil crushed in car metal
He wakes in hospital
His mother crying trying to suppress her pain
Knowing her child will never walk again
Neil will be in wheelchair

But Neil perseveres
And pursues a career
Designing buildings with improved accessibility
To make changes for people with disabilities

So planners and developers
Keep in mind your design
And municipalities keep our roads and our sidewalks maintained
And make public transportation user friendly

Because not everyone is as spry as that Cat in the Hat
Look! Look!
He can hop up and down on that ball!
But that is not all
Oh no. That is not all

No, that is not all we can do
We can do more to make the lives of 1.9 million Canadians living with disabilities
Barrier free for a complete community
Because we don’t always see and conceive
That not everyone is as spry as that Cat in the Hat

*published in Broken, Barb Day’s collection of spoken word poetry

image by Stuart Miles | freedigitalphotos.net

image by Stuart Miles | freedigitalphotos.net


Barb Day, lives in Paris, Ontario with her husband and daughter. A Writing for Publication graduate of Mohawk College, Barb’s short stories frequently appear in local publications like “Daytripping”.

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Making Dialogue Sound Real

by Rob Quehl

photo by Stuart Miles | freedigitalphotos.net

photo by Stuart Miles | freedigitalphotos.net

Writing dialogue is tough. Like many, when I began writing, I thought that dialogue was simply prose with quotation marks around it. At a workshop last year, I had the pleasure of meeting award-winning Canadian playwright Gary Kirkham. Talented, funny, and an expert in dialogue; here are four insights he spoke to us about:

  1. Dialogue is completely different from prose. Completely different. Traditional grammar and punctuation rules go out the window. The principles of writing great prose simply do not apply. Creating dialogue is like “converting” the sounds of the human voice into words on paper.
  2. Similarly, it needs to sound real. Only a “professor” type character speaking to his class would speak in a crisp and clean style, with perfect grammar and succinctness. Gary emphasized that real speech can be many things, including: odd, clipped, slangy, repetitive, interrupted, fragmented, stuttering, cryptic, bland, quirky, four-lettered, etc.
  3. Pay close attention to the emotions of the character. Like real people, their speech patterns, vocabulary, and word choices will change depending on whether they are happy, sad, angry, excited, gossipy, giddy, depressed, or drunk. Gary advised us to speak the dialogue out loud and to act it out like an actor would.
  4. Sound. We did a fun exercise to practice this: the raw sound patterns that can be discerned regardless of the words used. The exercise was to produce an emotional dialogue between two people using only nonsense words. Example:“Blah blah blah.”
    “Blah? Blah blah blat!”
    “Twee.”
    “Twee…twee? Skrak twee. Shish fu frak twee!”

    The point of the above example is that if someone is in a gentle, peaceful mood, you hear soft and gentle sounds, flowing, and pleasant to the ear. But when a character gets angry, their speech changes because angry words tend to have harsh sounds, hissing and spitting sounds like: s, sh, t, k, d, f, ck, etc.

    So give it a try on your dialogue. Say it out loud and act it out to see how it sounds.


Rob Quehl lives in Kitchener and is currently working on two novels

Frontier Woman

by Wendy Visser

photo by Boaz Yiftach from freedigitalphotos.net

photo by Boaz Yiftach from freedigitalphotos.net

Howdy,
I wrote a ‘researched’ prose piece years back, in the voice and character of Calamity Jane which has been published several times and has become one of my favourite performance pieces. If you can believe it, I use a chair with a rung- and ‘mount it’ as if it’s a horse, and no performance about the old west is complete without the boots, hat, and toy guns strapped around my waist. My Calamity Jane speaks in a Montana drawl so all put together, usually goes over quite well.

Frontier Woman
© Wendy Visser

I was born in Northern Missouri, in a town called Princeton ‘round 1852. No one really knows the exact day, as things was never exact in the West, ‘cept if you was shootin’ at somethin’. Record keepin’ was for the sheriff who could read and write so’s he could keep track of all the desperate hombres passin’ through, leavin’ their likenesses tacked to the wall in the sheriff’s office.

I was named Martha Jane Canary after no one I can remember in particular, ceptin’ my mam thought the name held great expectation for parlour sittin’ and tea drinkin’ in some fancy establishment she most likely would never see in her lifetime. I don’t recall much about Princeton ‘cept the sheriff’s office, the saloon open day and night upstairs and down and one church just open on Sunday. The preacher and the undertaker was one and the same. Poured the holy water on ya comin’ in and poured the dirt over ya goin’ out.

We high-tailed it to Virginia City, Montana, when I was around twelve, give or take. Now there’s a town! Saloons on both sides of the street with a few stores saddled in-between. A barber shop and bath house for the men, a milliner’s shop tucked beside the fabric place for the ladies and a general store frequented by both. The town boasted two graveyards but only one church, still open one day a week.

My mam and pappy couldn’t see eye to eye on most things includin’ what each of ‘em saw fit to have their eyes on, accordin’ to mam’s version. Pappy up and disappeared one winter mornin’ after he’d fetched his frozen long johns off the outdoor line where mam had hung ‘em the night before; warmed ‘em up by puttin’ ‘em on, filled himself up on mam’s flapjacks and ham and just strolled off with those lukewarm clothes he was wearin’, his eyes awanderin’ and awishin’ on somethin’ way off in the distance. Mam and me- we never did figure out what it was he was seein’.

Mam hired on in minin’ camps in Wyoming and Utah where I learned to keep the men’s firearms cleaned and primed for the unfortunate wildlife that would wander into camp. One of the miners saw potential in the way his gun and me fit together like we was made for each other. I remember his voice like an inside echo, “ If you’re cleanin’ and primin’ and aholdin’ that gun as smooth as a new born babe, then I’d best be teachin’ ya how to use it.” Twern’t long ‘fore I was outshootin’ the miners and the visitin’ gamblers who’d be shufflin’ their decks with one hand and pocketin’ miners’ pay with the other.

I could sit a horse like it was part of my own body and soon enough my horse skills led to a job deliverin’ messages up and down the mines sprawled everywhere in the hills. I’d be back and ‘outta the saddle ‘fore them other critters had one boot planted in the stirrup. The extra wage lightened mam’s load, but she was none too happy ‘bout forfeitin’ the parlour sittin’ and the tea drinkin’.

Plenty of rumours ‘bout how I got the name – Calamity. Been said any man messin’ with me would be courtin’ calamity. Lookin’ back though, I think, it was that some men weren’t too comfortable with a woman dressed like them who could outride ‘em and outshoot ‘em and who got hired by the Seventh Cavalry of the US of A in Wyoming. Hell, I even scouted for General George A. Custer ‘fore his last stand. For the record, I was not the one scoutin’ for him at Little Big Horn when he and the troops were run over by 5,000 Indians fightin’ to keep their country, their way of life, their spirit. Some men thought the frontier where the sky and earth are one solid line of loneliness and peace belonged to them and a woman ain’t got no right to that. Women should only be acrossin’ the prairie to get from one town to the other.

I finally settled in the Black Hills of South Dakota in the town of Deadwood and everyone was livin’ crazy on account of the gold rush and dyin on account of small pox. Entire towns, includin’ mine, almost wiped out. I was kept busy nursin’ and buryin’ but I never caught the pox. Tough I guess or jist plain too ornery.

Married Burke and moved to Texas but I don’t yatter too much about them times. Better left to the historians to fill in any blanks ‘bout the kind of wife I might have been. I did go back to Deadwood. Deadwood was family. People there took real good care of me and my girl. Even helped pay for her bein’ educated back east in some high-fallutin’ school. My mam would have liked that. Would have been dustin’ off the china, polishin’the spoons and boilin’ the water for tea if she were still here. But me: my every breath was meant to be that mighty fine prairie dust separatin’ the hairs on my skin washed by the wide open trails of gentle blue sky this side of paradise.


Wendy Visser is a long time CWC member. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies nationally & internationally and many of her poems have received awards. She is the author of ‘Riding A Wooden Horse’,an award-winning collection of poetry and her second poetry book,’This Side of Beyond’ was launched in November of 2011.

Titles

by Becky Alexander

photo by africa from freedigitalphotos.net

photo by africa from freedigitalphotos.net

The first thing a reader sees when you have a piece of poetry or prose published is the title. This will instantly soak into the reader’s mind: will it hook, or will it sink?

I’ve always found titles to be a challenge. They either fly right into my mind perfectly, or I cannot think of one easily. This is where one’s critiquing group can be of great help.

What should a title do, other than to hook the reader?

A title should:

  • fit the mood, theme or tone of the written piece;
  • offer some clue as to why it was selected; be a bit of a tease;
  • not give away the entire plot of the piece;
  • not be the first line of the poem (which is a common practice when a writer cannot think of another title: in today’s literary world, this is considered to be a ‘cop out’)
  • be fresh and original; e.g.: not The Oak, but something more creative like Mother.

Rules for Writing Titles

Be careful of capitalization in titles;

It was the custom of old to capiatlize every letter in a title. Now, in this cyber age, using capitals is considered to be ‘shouting’;
the first word in a title should be capitalized;
nouns, verbs, adjectives must be capitalized;
articles are not capitalized, unless they are the first word in the title.

So, put on your thinking cap. Let your titles inspire the reader to read.


Becky Alexander is a Cambridge writer. Her work has been published in five countries, and has won hundreds of awards. She runs Craigleigh Press with her husband Dave Allen.

Pumpkin

by Lee Anne Johnston

“I’m pregnant,” my sister announced dramatically. My husband and I had gotten together with Christine and her brood to carve the pumpkin. We have done this every year since she had began producing children, four children ago.

I felt sucker punched. Why was it so easy for her to pop out these adorable babies who turned into adorable toddlers then children, when Steve and I had tried every method under the sun to conceive. Frozen sperm, frozen eggs, IVF, ICSI, IUI, cryotherapy. Acupuncture. You name it, we had endured every indignity under the sun to pursue that elusive pregnancy. My husband had even produced a fresh sample in a Hamilton Tim Hortons’ bathroom for sperm count analysis at McMaster. And now my sister so cheerfully, gleefully, positively GLORYING in her fecundity.

stuck in a pumpkin

photo by 707d3k from Flikr.com

It just was not fair a voice inside me screamed. I wanted to grab the god-damned pumpkin and smash it into her face!

“And who is the father this time?” I asked innocently.

That is how I ended up with my face stuck inside the pumpkin.


Lee Anne is a prose writer and has been a member of the CWC Since 2008. Her love of writing started when she learned to read as a young child. She holds a BA and an MA in English from the University of Toronto. One of Lee Anne’s current works in progress is a Victorian piece set in the City of Cambridge. It is chock full of drama, rich language and time period references. Lee Anne currently lives in Cambridge with her husband and daughter.

Joy

by Lee Anne Johnston

Image by kongsky | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sometimes I think we writers take ourselves a little too seriously. I am a writer. I have much to say. I have much to say about the sad, inequitable state of the world. I know what I’m talking about, as I write murder mysteries.

While pondering about what to write for this blog, thinking of what might be helpful to other writers, I thought of my favourite moments in the Cambridge Writers Collective. You know what? They are the silly moments.

One writer almost never takes himself seriously, and his work is incredibly intricate and poised. Another acclaimed writer shared a short story last week that had me in stitches. I laughed like a goof. The power of words extends to pure pleasure and this is a good thing.

I’m going to continue writing my stories of death and family dysfunction, but I always keep in mind a lecture I attended by P.D. James, one of the most literate and prolific murder writers of all times. She said that murder mysteries are a modern extension of the medieval mystery plays which were produced and performed entirely by the Catholic Church. At the end of a murder mystery, the crimes have ended, the perpetrator is punished, and harmony in society is restored. Life, and writing can be hopeful and even touched by grace, whatever one perceives that grace to be. For me, it’s a giggle.


Lee Anne Johnston is a devoted member of the CWC and writes historical murder stories as well as varied flash fiction.

Short Story Challenge

by Marion J. Smith

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The short story challenge: Some years ago the collective gave themselves the challenge of completing a short story on a postcard. This is a great way of getting straight to the point. I find this a good exercise for cutting and editing unwanted words. Sometimes one word can be found to replace two or three others just by rewriting the sentence.

July 1908.
Dear Mama,

You will be so proud of us. Yesterday morning nearly a thousand ladies assembled on the Southwark bank of the Thames. As Big Ben struck nine we marched. It was an amazing sight to see the suffragettes in their white dresses with green and purple sashes, marching across Westminster Bridge toward the houses of Parliament.

Mama dear, I wish you could have been there to see how our movement of “Votes for Women” has grown in the past ten years.

I was honoured, not only to be a banner barer but, to walk right along-side Mrs. Pankhurst herself. That brave lady suggested I be one of the team of suffragettes to chain our selves to the railings of the Parliament buildings.

This I gladly performed along with ten other ladies fighting for our great cause.
Quite a stir ensued when we were arrested. The police used cutting tools to free us from of our chains. We were herded into a Black Maria and brought here, to Holloway goal where we spent last night.

We are presently awaiting trial for trespassing and public nuisance. There are other suffragettes here who have been in the jail for some time. They are on hunger strike. The awful thing about that is they are forced fed through rubber tubes. I’m praying I will be free before I get to that stage.

A policeman and jailor are now here to take me to the courtroom. Wish me luck and don’t worry we will take care for each other and ourselves.

—c. 2012 Marion J. Smith.


Marion has been a member of the Cambridge Writers Collective for almost 18 years. She enjoys writing short stories and poetry. Marion has published “After Sunset” a selection of her poetry. Other work has been published in various anthologies. Marion is also a lifelong thespian and watercolour artist.