Archive for January, 2014

Paintings and People

One day,

I won’t know you anymore

Nothing about me

Will still be familiar

To you…and nothing

About you

Will make me feel better

It simply won’t be

Like it is now

 

That painting on the wall

The one where

Vermeer painted

His hometown

And called it,

“View of Delft”

Yes, the one where

I can look at it

And lose myself

 

That painting

Won’t even remind me

Of how you’d make fun of me

And my “alternate universes”

But even if it does hold

A touch of the memory

It will be more the feelings

Of knowing you

But not the certainty

Of the friendship

We have now

 

Because

Like it or not

One day,

I won’t know you anymore

 

Despite your protests,

I only speak a truth

One I have yet to accept

Because right now,

The painting still

Reminds me of you

And our memories

 

It reminds me of how

I still know you today

But come one day

In the future

I won’t know you anymore

Be Good

Based off the picture prompt for this week.

 

It wasn’t as if I wanted to do this. I grew up believing that I loved Lillian, but I also grew up with the knowledge that if a war were to start overseas, I had to enlist. Germany had invaded Poland in 1939, two years ago, and as of now, America was involved. I had to do my duty. In wars before my time, my brother had down his duty, and so had our father, and our grandfather, several great grandfathers after that. They did their duties and so would I. I grew up knowing I would enlist if the opportunity arose because that was what was expected of me and that’s what I expected of myself.

Yet the same, I could not deny that I believed I loved Lillian. The problem was, she didn’t deserve me: she deserved someone who’d at least vow to stay on the same continent as her. She was too great a person to stay and wait for my return, something that may never happen. She’d deserved – no, she needed – better.

“One day I won’t know you anymore.” I paused to gain my composure. I didn’t want to say this, but I had to.

“You’re being silly,” Lillian protested. “The only people who can say that and really mean it are old people with dementia.”

“Lillian,” I said with a sigh. I was trying to say goodbye to her and she was making it so much harder. “I need to say this, alright?” I took a deep breath. “One day I won’t know you anymore, but someone else will. Promise me you’ll be good to him.”

“But I know you right now. I know you’re leaving, but that’s doesn’t I won’t know you when you leave. It means…”

She paused and I looked down. It was exactly what that means, and that’s why she couldn’t think of a different answer.

“It means we’ll know each other from far away,” she finished.

“I wish it worked that way, but I don’t think it does.” I flung my bag over my shoulder. The train blared its horn. It was time. “Be good to the lucky man, whoever he is.”

2014-01-27 12.07.24What story does this picture inspire? What sort of person would say this? What situation revolves around this picture?

 

Spirit

by: Rebecca Taylor

I wrote this article a few years ago and I think that it fits with the “On Writing” theme for this week because as writers we are compelled to write about different topics for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we don’t know why but we need to sit and write about something. Maybe it was something that happened in the day or a few words that someone said that got you thinking. Our writing inspiration comes from so many places, some of which you may find in this article.

 

            Something unseen moves us. It propels special people to do some amazingly wonderful things for others. People we have never met can make us feel something. There is a spirit lurking in the shadows of our lives, a greater power pushing to let the light of human souls shine through.

            We can read the story of someone battling a terrible illness giving back to his or her community, the courage of this person touches our heart, and we feel empathy for them and their family not knowing what the future will hold and how much longer they will have their brave family member. We have never met the person we are reading about, we don’t know his or her family and friends but we care about them. Our desire is for this person to get better and from time to time for the rest of our lives we may remember this story and wonder what has become of them.

            It is important to feel compassion for others throughout our daily routines but we must also act. In many cases, it is hard to help someone we have never met but if you look around you will see people and organizations that can use you in your own community. When you feel the invisible spirit pushing you to do great things, do not ignore it. Everyone’s neighbourhood will be structured differently but they will all have some need, a need for you to reach out and help others. Explore volunteer possibilities, you may find the opportunity to read to or chat with seniors, make posters for your local Alzheimer’s walk, groom dogs for the animal shelter or any number of worthwhile activities which will make your spirit show. Helping others is contagious, if you can do it and do it with pride and joy others around you will want to get involved as well and before you know it a multitude of other activities in your neighbourhood may be possible. Your true spirit is your personality directory. It will portray you wherever you go within the world. It is necessary to have a positive outlook on life in order to accomplish the most in your lifetime. Think of the way you live your life as passing the Olympic torch, from one person to another so that passion is handed off. When you give of yourself to others, they will do the same, rallying everything possible into collective goals. If you believe, anything can come true. It is necessary to be proactive and make things happen.

            No matter how you use the spirit you were given, it is important to be happy with yourself for what you are doing. At the end of the day, you need to feel as good as the people you reached out to and helped. Helping others is a beautiful gift. When your heart feels as light as a feather and you fall asleep with a major sense of accomplishment the minute your head touches the pillow you know that you have provided a worthwhile service to someone else as well as yourself. 

Asking your Editor to Ask Questions

When I write something, I love getting feedback. It can be a little bit scary to let someone read something I slaved over (or in some cases, really didn’t work hard at all) but I like it because someone else can give me suggestions.

But my favorite part about getting an edit is when the editor asks questions. If the editor is good, they will ask helpful questions.

For example:

Questions that clarify- “What do you mean by this line?”

Questions that predict- “Will this be a love triangle?” “Are you planning on making her personality lead her to trouble later?”

Questions that make you reflect- “Is this scene necessary?”

What does this have to do with you? Next time you edit someone’s writing, ask questions! Ask your editors to ask questions.

Questions, questions, questions.

How to Come Up with Story Ideas – Part 1

My mother always asks me how I think of a story idea. The short answer is that I make them up. The long answer is complicated. I don’t always know how to trace back a story to the specific thing that sparked it. When I do remember, it can be fascinating to look back at the tiny beginning and see how far it went.

The next time you’re struggling with what to write about, consider trying something off this list:

1. Use childhood memories.

a. Everyone’s childhood is unique. Freewrite and describe your childhood. Discuss your bad habits, your sibling rivalry,  and your little-kid mistaken assumptions (i.e, when I was five, I thought the people on the TV screen could see me). Act as if you’re writing the intro to your memoir.

b. Pick one memory and incorporate that in a story.

Your main character need not be like you; the setting need not be like your childhood home. The point here is to take a memory you have and create a different context. The memory may not have any direct importance in the story – but it may serve as a good starting point.

I found out how powerful childhood memories are when I wrote the story Ghost Town. I’d been thinking of when I was a little girl, and I made mud pies with my babysitter. My mom was horrified when she came home. Somehow a whole story idea spiraled from that. The story has nothing to do with mud pies…

2. Synthesize experiences.

This is similar to number one. It’s important to note, however, that synthesizing things like memories and experiences is not the same as creative non-fiction, nor should this exercise be simply writing down an experience and then changing the names of the characters. Instead it’s a way of using a concept you understand and writing a story based on it. You’ve probably heard the writing advice “write what you know.”  I adhere more to the adage “write what you’re passionate about,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t write about what you know. If you’re passionate about something you’re an expert on, then do it. But sometimes the process it daunting. It can be difficult to know what you know.

Here’s what to do:

a. Make a list of the topics/activities that you know a thing or two about. Anything is fair game.

My list looked like this: horseback riding, writing, living in a small town, working in a restaurant

b. Pick one and write a list of things you know about it. It will feel awkward at first, but it’ll be worth it.

I picked the topic horseback riding and wrote: “I’ve fallen off a horse many times. I know about fear, about doing things even when they physically hurt, I know about the internal debate that takes place: am I being foolish or am I being brave?”

And from that last sentence I wrote the story Brave.

Do you use any exercises or methods when brainstorming for a story? Let me know!

Stay tuned for Part 2 on how to come up with story ideas!

A Stepping Stone

by: Rebecca Taylor

For their latest win a fabulous adventure trip to the destination of your choice contest, three radio announcers were sitting around a table trying to decide who was the most worthy candidate. They had read over hundreds of submissions. There were a lot of I’d like to go on a vacation because I haven’t had one in “x” amount of years or I can’t afford to go on a vacation, but these didn’t stand out to the “judges.” The judges were down to their deadline, they had to announce the winner in two days time. They all agreed that whoever won would be thrilled but they wanted to do something more if they could. They knew that if they had to they could always just choose a name from a hat but the contest’s description was “win a trip for you and four others to a destination of your choice. Tell us why you think you should be the winner.” All of a sudden, one of the announcers came across an interesting entry. It read:

Dear Announcers of the RBL Morning Show,

There are a lot more deserving people in this world than me but I would like to share some words I have learned on this road of life. Some people are asking to travel somewhere, after all that is what the contest is about. I on the other hand have learned that the greatest adventure is life itself. When you have a family, a career and the people around you to think about, you may find yourself bewildered and wondering how to deal with it all. I believe that wise woman Eleanor Roosevelt said it best; she is often quoted for saying, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift.” We need to be thankful for the chance we get to live and experience so much. After an eight‑hour shift somewhere you may not think that the trip to the grocery store is an adventure but it is. Just as you can learn and experience new things on an amazing trip to Paris, France, you can while you’re out getting your week’s groceries. You may be wondering, how? The answer is simple, by paying attention to the things around you. In the fruit aisle, you may see a non-native item like a coconut and by taking it home; learning how to open it and tasting the flavour of a fruit unknown you can be a little adventurous. An adventure to your neighbourhood school with your daughter after a long day for show and tell and seeing the world through her precious eyes may be just the adventure you needed. Sometimes you will have a bad day but cheer up because once the day is over; it is in the past. Our gift of the present will soon enough become history and our tomorrows will become the present. With every passing day, we should just enjoy life because where we are now is just a stepping stone, a ripple on the big lake to a better tomorrow, a mystery unknown. It will bring us to our next adventure in life. A week in the sun at the beach or a trip to the ice hotel somewhere is great but if I had to choose between all the trips in the world and the life that I have, I’d have to choose where I am in my life today, just home from a day of work and rushing out the door to go to grocery store and then stopping by to pick up my daughter at her friend’s house.  

 

The announcers just looked at one another and nodded their heads. The writer of this letter didn’t win a trip somewhere but she and her husband and three children did get the cost of the trip and during spring break they went grocery shopping, chose the plants for their garden and a lot of other small tasks and were just happy to be together exploring their world and making their own adventures. Sometimes it is the little things in life that count. 

Once Again…

Sometimes I just want to be a kid again.

But not because it was more fun or because I had less responsibility, like they say.

I want to be a kid again because back then I was still learning and didn’t know any better.

When I had a bad day, I woke up the next day feeling better but not bad for it. When I thought that the people around me could handle me and the things I did because there I was, not knowing any better.

When I had my Mom as the person who didn’t make mistakes. When I was too caught up in my playhouse stories to realize that there are bad things in the world.

Unfortunately, now I know better. I know more. When I wake up the day after having a bad day, I wonder how many people I’ll have to apologize to. I wonder why I didn’t do it better. I wonder why I can’t seem to truly learn how to “fake it till you make it.”

I wonder who or what I can fix today, how it all turns out. I wonder why I can’t stop thinking about what it was like to be a kid, what it was like to not wonder who I was or where I was going.

Sometimes I just want to be a kid again. Sometimes I buy Bubblicious gum to remind me what it was like to be there and what it was like.

And I sit here and wonder because when I was a kid I was always wondering. I guess in some ways I can just be a kid again, for a little while.

Integrity International (pt. 2)

This is the second installment of a previously posted story, Dreams Come True. The third installment will be published in February.

—–

On my first day at my new job, I approached my company’s building. It was small portion of an strip mall with darkened windows and a sign smaller than the building’s address label announced the building was called “Integrity.” Squinting at the sign, I knew I was in the right place. Before I could reach the door, a guard in sunglasses appeared from around the corner. “Miss Camille Kenrick?”

“Yes. Call me Cammie.” I stuck out my hand, but he didn’t even bother shaking it.

“I will escort you inside to Mr. Adam and the rest of the team.” He ushered me through one set of darkened glass doors. “Finger, please.”

“What?”

“Your fingerprint is your key to get in. Press your index finger here.”

I did so, the keypad beeped and the door buzzed open. I opened the door to see another dimly lit foyer, with another set of doors in front of me. “You will need to create an eleven digit code. It will serve as your second pass code to get in.”

“Eleven?”

“Yes.”

“Right, of course. How am I to remember that?”

My escort rolled his eyes. “Find a way.”

After coming up with that code, and two more, I was finally able to get on an elevator and head to the right floor. The elevator’s doors dinged open. A sea of heads turned to stare at me. I picked out Adam’s face among them.

“You’re late,” he said with a wry grin.

“I would have been on time, but you failed to mention that security clearance takes almost half an hour,” I said sourly, yet with a smile on my face.

“I didn’t mention that?” Adam shrugged. “Remembering things like that isn’t my gift. You’re just in time for our meeting.” He turned to his room of employees. “Our newest member, Cammie Kenrick.”

The room erupted in vigorous, genuine applause. I made a little, anxious wave at all my new co-workers.

“She came to us from the inside – from Express itself. She’ll be a great asset here.”

The guard pointed me towards an empty chair and then disappeared into the elevator. I sat down slowly, next to a brunette girl with pin straight hair down to her waist. She smiled at me. I smiled too, but crossed my arms and gripped them tightly across my chest. I knew we were all supposed to be on the same side, but how was I really supposed to know who to trust?

“In the last few weeks, we’ve been focusing on mentoring the new dreamers and on any cases that might come up. With all that, Express went down, down in our priorities. Now it’s back up, right were it should be at number one. We need to shut that place down. Group 1, you will go undercover to Express, and pose as costumers shipping a package. Cammie will be available to answer any questions that she can about how they operate, and we want even more of us to know what it’s like inside that building. Group 2, contact the Integrity group in Korea and see if they have any hits on that bomb case. Groups 3, you’re our dreamers.  Be hypersensitive to your visions this week, alright? Write every dream down, tell each other what you know. We need all the information we can get.”

The room broke up into soft conversations. The blonde girl grabbed my elbow. “I’m Skylar. You’re with us, in group three.”

I frowned. “How’d you know?”

“That you’re a dreamer?” She grinned. “You act like you have something to hide and something to lose. I used to act like that too, but I learned to open up.”

“Oh. Right.”

Suddenly Adam was beside us. “Thanks for taking her under your wing, Skylar, but I need to steal her away.”

He pulled gently aside and into his office. “You find our place okay?” He asked, rearranging files on his desk.

“Sure. I was looking for a bigger sign, though.”

“Yeah, yeah that’s the thing. We don’t want to advertise that we’re Integrity International:  an Agency Dedicated to Stopping Hit Men and Hit Agencies.”

I shrugged. “Makes sense.”

“I just wanted to tell you how happy we are to have you.”

That was not what I expected. “Thank you.” Suddenly I noticed how beautiful blue his eyes were. I hadn’t noticed that the first two times I’d met him. He looked so young to be in such an important job like this.

“… if you ever need anything, know that we are all here to help.” He paused, thinking. “I’m  going to be double assigning you. You’re in Group 3, with the other dreamers, but you’ll also be on the special task force that I’m creating as we speak.”

I nodded. “And what will that entail?”

“We’ll have to see, won’t we?” He answered.

The day passed by in a blur, as first days often do. I returned home that evening and collapsed on the couch. My brain was overwhelmed with operation plans and confidentiality agreements and undercover protocol. I must have fallen asleep – not a restful kind of sleep, but sleep nonetheless. Just like I did during most sleep, I had a dream. This one was odd.

Adam was leaning closer to me. His beautiful sea blue eyes watching me with sincerity and care. “Cammie, you’re a novel in a sea of magazines.”

“Baby, you’re too kind,” I said, staring into his alluring eyes.

And I woke up with a start. That tiny snapshot of the future gave me reason to pace around my living room for the rest of the evening. The way his eyes looked. “No, no,” I yelled to the empty room. “This can’t happen.” Already my dreams were diverging. I was supposed to dream about what those on my side wanted. Those on my side. My eyes grew wide. Adam was on my side. He wanted that dream to happen? He wanted that? I shook my head. There had to be a margin of error when it came to a dreamer’s dreams. This one had to be a fluke.

I was lost in my thoughts and did not realize someone else had entered the room.

“Where’ve you been?” It was my mother.

“I fell asleep.”

A pouting child, my younger brother, trailed behind my mother. “You didn’t remember you had to help your brother with homework tonight?”

“Mom, I can’t…”

“Well, it’s his bed time now. See if you can take off work early tomorrow. He wants you to help him with his math.”

My mom shepherded Austin up the stairs to send him off to bed.

I exhaled slowly. I loved my second grade brother dearly, but I was eager to have my own life. Eager to rent my own apartment. Eager to earn my first paycheck so I could do just that.

The Trouble Tree

by: Rebecca Taylor

       Hanging a small purple ribbon on the oak tree outside the kitchen window freed me as it did everyday. It is a habit I learned to adopt so as not to project all the pain in my world onto my husband Roy and three children. I work ten hour days at an emergency dispatch center reassuring people, trying to keep them calm in a crisis. The things I hear are nerve wracking and often heart breaking. In order to protect my family from the pain I frequently feel, I hang a ribbon on my trouble tree every time I come home from work. My name is Amber Delaney, I’m thirty-three and the trouble tree has helped me let go of the pain and sadness in my life. It doesn’t mean I never feel stress, or get sad or even cry but it helps to let some go of the bad times in my life. Every few months I cut the ribbons off the tree to cleanse it too.

            Now that I leave my tension and pain outside when I return home from work, my husband greets me happily. I have been married for seven years; I’ve been a dispatcher for most of it. I love my work because I know I make a difference, I help save lives but the things I hear are hard to deal with. I used to walk into the house saying things like:

            “You wouldn’t believe how sad the world is,” or “the voice on the other end of the phone sent chills down my spine.”

I didn’t even greet him, I blurted out some remark about my day which wasn’t even positive. His days are long too, he looks after the house and our young children. Like the emergency professionals I work with, he’s an everyday hero. Now I walk into the house feeling free. Tying a ribbon around a tree branch gives me hope and continuity. I can’t pretend that my life is easy or painless, but whose is? I go to work and come home to purge myself with my trouble tree in order to keep my family’s lives free of the daily pain I experience. I never believed that a tree could do so much for a person but this one does. It carries reminders of my past, the pain of my present and the expectations for my future. While I have a trouble tree to talk to and tie ribbons around I will be able to turn the knob on my front door and go inside ready to face another moment in time.

            Amber went inside with one last look at her trouble tree laden with its multicolour ribbons; one for everyday she had gone to work and come home since she had last snipped the tattered ribbons from the old oak. Life goes on no matter how hard it may be, coping is the objective, the trouble tree is proof of that.

 

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