Page 1


2018 RCLAS Write On! Contest Judges (Our 2017 Winners) Sylvia Symons grew up in northern BC. She now lives with her family in Vancouver where she rides a bicycle with a rusty chain, volunteers as a collective member at Room magazine and teaches ESL at a community college. Her poetry appears in EVENT, Geist, Room, Best Canadian Poetry 2016, and the Sustenance anthology (Anvil Press).

Clara Cristofaro works as a cheerful bureaucrat by day and a writer and parent by night. She is a recent graduate of The Writer's Studio at SFU, with work published in emerge16 and the Cheese Issue of SAD Magazine. The 2017 Write On! contest is the first she's won since eighth grade. She lives in New Westminster, BC.

Grayson Smith was born in Alberta, but spent most of his school years in Germany before moving to the Lower Mainland to attend Simon Fraser University. For the vast majority of these years, he spent time writing stories when he should have been paying attention in his various classes. He is currently a police officer, and also the primary at Peppermint Toast Publishing, an independent small press in New Westminster that produces children's books in active partnerships with local charities. Grayson lives in New Westminster with his wife and three sons, each of whom are smarter and better-dressed than he is.


Julia Schoennagel WHERE WRITING BEGINS It was a thrill to be asked if I would like to be the RCLAS feature writer for February, though I requested it be put forward to March so that I'd be sure to have enough to fill fifteen pages. Fifteen pages seemed like a heap of space to fill, and I wasn't sure I had enough poems and stories. First of all, I haven't written nearly as often or as much as I'd like. And what I had written—some of it probably garbage and some of it rather good—was lost. I found myself recalling bits and pieces of brilliant poems, a line or two here and there, and wondered what happened to them. Then I remembered a big box of stuff I'd been carting around for years, fortunately rediscovered during my last recent move, and decided to unearth it. BINGO! I spent an evening sorting through faded foolscap and folded scraps of stained paper and ripped restaurant napkins. There were several school Key Tab exercise books filled with pages of writing and blanknesses, plus pages and pages of lined loose-leaf sheets stuck every which way into a file folder jammed in the back of a large binder. Fortunately, I'd been clever enough to date 'most everything, so I put it all into date order, punched everything that wasn't, and produced a neat, orderly collection of writings and correspondence dating back to 1968. Apparently, according to what I've saved, I was about fourteen when I started writing. Then about 1990 I stopped—or at least I didn't save anything I wrote—for over thirty years. I suppose I was too busy writing for everyone else as I spent many years working first as a secretary, then as a proofreader and editor. Fortunately, at the instigation of Janet Kvammen, I started writing again about two years ago. (Thank you, Janet, for your encouragement!) Sifting through the pages, I found poems and limericks—obviously school English assignments—and some short stories—obviously about high school loves—and many letters, obviously none of them sent. (Good thing, too, I note.) There are letters to old beaus, people I don't remember, my parents, myself. There are the beginnings of three autobiographies. Favourite quotes. Words to songs. It's actually quite fabulous to find such a record of my life, for there are deeds and incidences I don't remember, but which came brightly to life in pencilled lines and ink-spotted pages. I also noticed the many changes in my handwriting: in high school years, I printed with a very fancy cursive hand, small and difficult to read. Other times I printed large, round letters reminiscent of elementary school teachers. Still other pages were inscribed in very neat J. B. McLean compendium script, and others scribbled in a not-so-neat hand, presumably because I was writing under the pressure of angst and depression and a broken heart. The happier I was, the better my handwriting. I wonder what a psychologist would do with all of this. Additionally, I was struck by the maturity and farsightedness of some pieces versus the pathetic naiveté of others. Again, I remind myself that a great portion of the earliest writings were composed during hormonedriven teen years, so it's best I show some leniency and forgive myself somewhat. As I read, I found an early penchant for loving Nature and animals. In some, there's certainly an unexplained tendency for the maudlin. In any case, what a potpourri of writing! What a miscellany of my personal history! And so I share with you some of my heart's thoughts, some of my assignments, and some of my musings. Please be kind.

Julia Schoennagel 2018 January 18

“Nearly every summer, we went on road trips, usually to visit my dad's parents in San Francisco. This story must have been written in the late 1960's, probably 1969 or even 1970. It actually took place at a roadside turnout, in the middle of nowhere, with sandy hills and no sign anywhere of houses or people. Of course, I would like to have had a different ending to this story, but my pragmatic dad was firm about animals not being able to cross the border. I've always wondered what happened to him.”

He came, right up to the trailer door. He was very little, and filthy, with mournful brown-gold eyes which looked at us with loving need and longing for a good friend. H was awfully cute, with a sadness hanging around him as though he would die if he failed to get our attention. "He's hungry," I said. "we should give him something." "Well, what have we got?" my mother said, opening the ice box. "Sausage, bread." I was anxious to ease his obvious hunger. I went to the door and looked down at him. "You're cute," I remarked, and reached down to pet him. He cringed slightly, but wagged his tail as I patted him gently. He wolfed down the sausages I gave him, and looked hungrily up at me; his way of asking for more. "Give him some bread and butter if he's still hungry," my mother said. I did—he ate it ravenously and nearly devoured my arm, too. It was fun to see him sit up, and wag his tail at the same time, as he begged for each piece of the welcome food. He followed me around as I walked about, waiting for Daddy to finish shaving. He was adorable; I wanted him. I even started to think of names for him: Vagabond, Traveller, Rover, Tramp. But we were soon ready to leave. I unlocked all the car doors and opened both the front ones with the hope that he would jump in. It was almost as if he knew how much I wanted him, for he bounced around the car and looked longingly at me. But he was a moment too late. He could not quite get his courage up enough to jump into our strange car. Daddy climbed in and closed his door. I could see the little black mongrel looking sadly at the car. He knew, as I knew, that he wasn't going to be quite that lucky. As we drove away from the trailer park, I saw his sorrowful gaze follow our car out onto the highway. Then he smelt the ground where we had been parked, as if searching for a bit of something to remind him of me; something for him to lock in his chest of doggies memories as a keepsake of our brief friendship. The last I saw of him, he was walking away, up the hill, without a backwards glance. I cried the remaining miles out of California. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- © Julia Schoennagel

The Eighth Sin © Julia Schoennagel Julia Schoennagel

When I considered the pro-offered topic of “Seven Deadly Sins” for our writing group, I was pretty much stymied. I mean, it’s not that I think I’m above sinning or anything like that, but the fact is I just couldn’t think of anything to say about sin that hasn’t already been said, probably about seven times. So, having said that, I decided to write about what I consider to be a pretty big problem, at least for me. I don’t know that we could necessarily call it the eighth sin or anything fancy like that. Some people may think it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a sin, but I suppose that depends somewhat on one’s definition of “sin”, doesn’t it? After all, according to The Living Webster, the noun “sin” means, “a voluntary or willful departure of an individual from a custom prescribed by divine law, divine command, or society in general . . . an offense against any standard.” As a verb, it is “to transgress”. Well, I can’t say much about any divine intervention in my life, but, yep, I’m pretty good at being able to ‘transgress’. Anyway, back to what I was saying. They always tell you to write about what you know, and believe you me, I know a lot about this. That’s because I’m always doing it, almost every day of my life. It’s a big problem for me. (Perhaps I said that already?) And because I’m always doing it, I am extremely well practised at it. In fact, I think I’d consider myself an expert. Yes, that’s definitely true. I am an expert! And while I can’t say I’m exactly proud of being an expert

at it, ‘cos it’s by no means anything to be proud of, I am glad I am good at something. Mind you, I’m thinking it must be better to be good at something than to be good at nothing, don’t you agree? Hm. I don’t seem to be making much progress here at this transgress stuff. But you see, that’s it, in a nutshell. That is exactly my problem: the lack of progress I can make. And you see, the difficulty isn’t that I can’t make progress some of the time—or even a lot of the time, once I get going . . . it’s the getting going that’s the problem, if you see what I mean. It’s a predicament, all right. I have all sorts of great ideas, especially when it comes to writing. Or buying presents or cooking fabulous dinners. Or cleaning the house, for that matter.

But you know it’s awfully difficult sometimes just

getting up and getting showered and getting dressed and breakfasted. Isn’t it nicer, sometimes, just to lie in bed, and contemplate the vacuuming? Isn’t it a good idea to formulate a plan on how to tackle all those dust bunnies that are speedily accumulating? I mean, it’s not as if the dust is going to get up and move away or anything helpful like that. It will still be waiting for you to get around to it, tomorrow or the next day or the next. And if you don’t, oh well. It’s like the stuff in my in-box. I always have a heap of stuff in my in-box, don’t you? And the stuff sits there in the in-box on my filing cabinet, frowning reproachfully at me, and I keep thinking that I must get to it and clear out my inbox. It won’t take me long, I’ll just . . . well, there we are. I’ll just do something else—anything, in fact, as long as it’s not the task at hand. Particularly if it’s a task at hand that I don’t particularly want to do! It’s not even as if the stuff in my in-box is exceedingly tricky to deal with. As a matter of fact, when I finally get down to it, I often find a lot of newspaper pages and pizza menus and unopened credit card applications, and I can’t imagine how they all got in my in-box in the first place. I mean, I know stuff breeds, but sometimes it reproduces at such an alarming rate I really can’t

believe it. I mean, wasn’t it only just a few weeks ago that I got around to cleaning out my inbox the last time? Well, there you go. It’s all nice and organized again, and all that’s left is a couple of bank statements to balance and the phone bill to pay and those four letters to mail. I can always do them tomorrow. Oops. See what I mean? But it’s not as if the roof will fall in if they aren’t done, will it? I can hardly be arrested for not balancing my chequebook, and I don’t see how it can be deemed a sin to not pay my bills. And I know I’ll do it all when I’m good and ready. ‘Cos that’s what I’m good at: getting ready to do things. Just call me a pro at procrastination.

----------------------------------------- The Eighth Sin. copyright Julia Schoennagel, November 2003

“What makes the best writing? Flood, fire, free fall. Let your heart go to these places and your words grow out of them.” – Emily McGiffin

FLOOD Sometimes the words rushintomymind as quickly as aspringflood rushesbetween thebanksofadryriverbed. They comein soquickly Icanhardly writefastenough tocatch the flowing and notlose the senseofthemagic before something marvellouslyintelligent has been written.

FIRE Sometimes the words BURST into my thoughts like CRACKLING FLAMES JUMPING over dry branches. They HOP and SPUTTER and FLASH like FIREFLIES BLINKING and it's difficult to make sense of them all until I write and rewrite and rewrite again.

FREE F A L L At other times words D R O P slowly and

all over

and I can't always catch


until they are

ready to be caught and tied up and G L U E D

Julia Schoennagel at RCLAS Wordplay with Alan Girling • June 2017

to the page

A Reflection © Julia Schoennagel Julia Schoennagel

It is the closing of the year. We are coming to the time of the Winter Solstice, when the darkest days begin to shorten and we look forward to longer days of brightness. We celebrate the Festival of Light, as do so many other cultures in this world and beyond. In Germany, for example, the Advent wreaths are made with evergreen branches, having five candles—three purple, one pink, and one white, arranged on them. The first purple candle is the prophet’s candle, and it symbolizes hope.

The second purple candle is the

Bethlehem candle. It represents Christ's manger and symbolizes love. The third candle is pink and is called the shepherd's candle, symbolizing joy. The fourth candle is purple and is called the Angel's candle. It symbolizes peace. The final white Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve, and symbolizes purity. A candle on the Russian Christmas dinner table symbolizes Christ's light. Fortune telling is a big part of the Christmas season in the Czech Republic. One of their customs is to put a candle in a walnut shell and float it in a pond. If the candles of a man and a woman float toward each other, it is foretold they will be married before the end of the year. On Christmas Day in Finland, many people visit the cemetery to pay respects to departed loved ones. They leave lit candles on the graves in remembrance. Later in the evening, the countryside is illuminated with the lovely glow. Apparently Denmark uses more candles per person than anywhere in the world. Every day in the 24 days before Christmas, a calendar candle is lit in anticipation of the holiday. Candles decorate the inside of the houses and all the trees and yard surrounding the houses. Also in Scandinavia, Santa Lucia wears a wreath of candles on her head as she leads a procession of girls carrying a single white candle, singing as they walk.

In London, England, the choir boys of St Paul’s Cathedral hold tapers as they lift their voices in heavenly song, filling the great dome with the magic of melody and light. And many cultures believe that the candles on the Christmas tree represent the radiance of Christ, the everlasting light. The simple candle, a column of wax and string, has amassed a million meanings and has become a part of a million traditions. Light. We talk of the light of the world, the light of love, the light that chases away the darkness. We are fearful of the dark, for we cannot see into the corners, into great distances, into the recesses of another’s heart. A candle brings warmth to a cold room. The lighting of candles often takes place with great ceremony, as at a wedding where a bride and groom each use a candle to light another, larger one to represent the beginning of their new life together. We put candles on a birthday cake to be blown out as a seal on the person’s secret wish. We place a candle on a table as a focus for meditation. When we look into a candle flame, we see the blue circle of heaven; the red, rosy aura of love; and the yellow blessing of knowledge. We feel the warmth and are uplifted by the happy halo. When we place a tiny candle in front of a mirror, we see a hundred reflections and realize the continuity of the light and how it connects, one light to another. Light, warmth, connectivity. We are like that candle light, or can be, if we choose. When we are happy, we glow from inside.

People are attracted to our brightness.

We can decide to keep the light to

ourselves, hoarding it, covering it, never sharing the warmth or illumination, keeping others out there in the darkness. But by so doing, we keep our hearts in darkness, too, for if we cannot open ourselves to the light we cannot grow. On the other hand, we can welcome all who come toward our light. We can replicate the light and love by passing it on and on, like the ripples in a pond, or echoes in a canyon. Buddha said, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” There are many songs about light—This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. You Light Up My Life. I Saw the Light. Light My Fire. Light a Candle.

They all describe aspects of how we need light, how we use light, how we are light. The light inside. But perhaps John Milton said it best, He that has light within his own clear breast May sit i' the centre, and enjoy bright day: But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts Benighted walks under the mid-day sun; Himself his own dungeon. When we’re feeling blue and disheartened, it is easy to forget that we are all connected and we do have power—power to love, power to change, for our inner light will touch others and meld and become one with All That Is. The Divine Spirit. God. And thus you pass on the light in your heart, and the light will return to you.

-------------------------------------------- A Reflection. copyright Julia Schoennagel, December 2013

Golden pennies of sunshine trembling on white skeleton fingers Grey-blue mountains edges etched on brilliant blue sky ~ Julia Schoennagel, September 2017

Source Material Travels with Jerena Tobiasen

“Ok, we can book our trip to Europe now!” I hollered down the hall to my husband. “I’ve finished the first draft of my manuscript. I need to authenticate the details.” Moments later, he appeared in the kitchen doorway. My tiny office space shares the expanse of our kitchen. “When?” he asked. The question provoked a discussion of dates and availability and eventually a telephone conversation with a booking agent. Using our points guaranteed us business class seats from Vancouver to Dresden with one transfer in Frankfurt. We arranged our trip to follow the journey of the characters in my novel. Dresden, Germany to Legnica, Poland, then north to the Baltic Sea following the Oder River as closely as we could - at least as far as Szeczin - then south to Brno, Czechoslovakia, onward to Prague, ending in Bayreuth, Germany where I hoped to meet up with two of my real-life characters for an interview. My husband, Robert, diligently investigated every destination, every train route and any possible point of interest. We would be researching my story together, looking for new sources of material that would add flesh to it.

As our departure date loomed, we decided that we might have more flexibility if we rented a vehicle instead of trying to find trains that would accommodate our needs and destinations. Another flurry of activity followed as I called a few rental agencies and gathered additional information. ~ That spring, we had been researching new vehicles, and the Mercedes GLC was at the top of our list. We thought that it would be a great opportunity to test drive one on the Autobahn. Alas, that was not to be. Our internet search suggested that German car rental companies would not rent any Mercedes for travel into Poland. Too many parts went missing between the pick-up and the return. Conversations with agents of the various car rental companies confirmed our findings. In the end, we were offered a Ford Mondeo or a Ford Kuga. We booked the Kuga because it was more in line with our new-car thinking. We were also offered GPS for an additional cost. Robert declined. “I’ll just use my Apple iPhone” he stated confidently. Three days later, we nestled into our business class seats and slept as our Lufthansa pilot and crew chauffeured us to Frankfurt. Hours later, we arrived in Dresden, where we spent four days sourcing material that would embellish my manuscript. On the last day, we collected our bags, paid the hotel account, and took a taxi to the car rental outlet where we had arranged to pick up the Kuga. Being the overcautious individuals that we are, we purchased the super insurance package, just in case any vehicle parts disappeared while in Poland and listed both of us as drivers. When the agent retrieved our rental vehicle from the garage and parked it in front of the outlet, it was neither a Mondeo nor a Kuga. It was an Opel station wagon. We looked at each other and shrugged.

“I guess we’ll have a different experience,” I stated, hoping that I sounded positive. We were given the key and encouraged to inspect the vehicle for any damage that was not already noted on the rental contract. I asked whether the agency had any folding city maps that we could use to get out of the city and onto the Autobahn. The agent advised that the outlet had no maps but that the vehicle came with GPS at no extra charge. Again, we looked at each other and shrugged. Another different-experience, we agreed. Having GPS readily available proved to be a good thing in the long run. Robert drove the entire way, eliminating any opportunity to use his iPhone. Failing to identify any unreported damage to the Opel, we loaded our luggage, adjusted our seats and introduced ourselves to the GPS system. Silently, it charted a course for us, out of Dresden and onto the Autobahn. In short order, we were on the street and following along with the GPS directions. ~ The first instruction provided by the GPS was to prepare to bear right. The system did not anticipate a quiet little side street that accommodated a premature right turn. However, it adjusted to our enthusiasm and promptly provided revised directions. We followed along with the directions provided for quite sometime, with me checking regularly to ensure that the route Robert drove matched the GPS route. He was confident that we were headed in the correct direction, having studied the route on his iPhone the evening before. I began to doubt Robert’s route, however, as the GPS system was no longer reflecting his choices. Keen to ensure that the GPS and Robert were in agreement, I re-entered our destination. The system sprang into action revising its route and guiding us forward once again, now in sync with Robert’s choices. By that time, Robert was gallantly negotiating the ins and outs of the Autobahn. I tried to be discrete, keeping my nail-biting to a minimum, and encouraging his clever efforts.

As Robert negotiated the Opel along the Autobahn, he pointed out a small white sticker next to the steering wheel. On it, the number 210 appeared inside a red circle. “Do you see this?” he said pointing to the sticker. “It means we shouldn’t exceed 210 kilometers.” “Wow!” I said, “Do you have plans to drive that fast?” “Pffff,” he responded. In other words, not bloody likely. Sometime later - we cannot recall whether it was hours or days - after keying the next leg of our route into the GPS, I observed the need to select the start button, which I had not realized earlier. We were both startled to receive our next navigation instructions from a friendly female voice that encouraged Robert to continue driving along the recommended route ‘for 198 kilometers and prepare to turn right’. ~ Days passed as we navigated our way through Poland, changing our preferred route, eliminating our tour through Czechoslovakia, and abbreviating our travels through Poland. I found a substitute for the material that we hoped to source in Brno, and replaced it with a location in Tarnow, Poland. Instead of a long drive south, we now had a shorter drive east. From Tarnow, we retraced our path west. As we neared Wrocław, Robert began complaining of muscle spasms in his back. I suspected that the stress of driving at high speeds on the Autobahn, and having to sit rigid for hours on end, were contributing to his discomfort. “I know you enjoy long road trips,” I said to Robert, “this driving it’s a far cry from what we usually do in Vancouver. “I’m sure it doesn’t help either that you worry about Audis closing in behind us when you’re in the passing lane.

“Why don’t we skip the drive to Szeczin and spend a few days in Wrocław?” Fortunately, in Wrocław, I found everything that I had hoped to discover on the tour north, and Robert’s back spasms had subsided by the time we resume our journey on the Autobahn. ~ Each time we changed our mind, Miss GPS guided us through revised routes, helped us back on the highway when we deviated to purchase fuel, and corrected us repeatedly whenever Robert decided to explore something that piqued his curiosity. Early into our second week of driving, we grudgingly concluded that Miss Bossy Pants was persistent and intolerant for the most part, and only encouraging when we followed her guidance. Her constant nattering of ‘turn left in five hundred meters’, ‘turn right in two kilometers’, ‘veer left in fifty meters’, ‘turn right now’, reminded us who wore the badge of Ultimate Navigator. ~ Two days into the third week, we arrived in Bayreuth at the home of my long-time friend, where we parked the car and silenced our audio guide. We unloaded our luggage into the guest room, laundered our accumulation of soiled laundry, and embraced to the hospitality of our hosts. “Your driving was great today,” I told Robert later. My words fell on deaf ears. It was not just that my praise had become repetitive. He had packed his hearing aids in their carrying case, which was still safely stowed in our luggage. I changed tact. “I think we’ve sourced some great material for my manuscript! I’m excited to get home and start writing again.” For this comment, I was rewarded with a warm smile.

“That’s what we came for,” he sighed, stepping forward with a supportive hug. ~ On the evening of the third and last day of our visit with our hosts, my friend’s wife shared a recent incident that happened on a short journey to visit her sister who lived a few hours’ drive from Bayreuth. During her road trip, she found it necessary to use the windshield wipers, only to find that, when she switched them on, they failed to respond. She pulled off the road to investigate and discovered that the wiring and hoses connected to the wiper system had been chewed through. My friend’s wife then went on to explain that, in Germany marders have been classified as an endangered species, and that a family of marders resided in the bushes across the street from their home. “Mother marders,” she informed us, “like to source material for their nests from under the hoods of available motor vehicles. Further, they like to gnaw on electrical wires and rubber hosing; hence, the damage to my car.” “Uh … what’s a marder?” I asked. “I believe they’re called weasels in North America,” my friend said. My friend’s prized Audi sedan is always parked in the one-car-only garage when he is at home. His wife and daughter have no such luxury. Their vehicles are parked in outdoor stalls, inconveniently near the bushes across the street. Robert and I looked at each other - horrified. For the past three days, our rented vehicle had been parked on the street opposite those same bushes, conveniently closer than those of my friend’s wife and daughter! “And, as it turns out,” my friend’s wife concluded her story, “for some reason, these mother marders really like Opel cars.” Opels! Now, she really had our attention. Robert and I shared another horrified exchange. “Oh, no! Our rental car is an Opel!” we said together.

Comments made by my friend about car insurance and marders fell on ears deafened by worries that our rental car may have been vandalized. As we finished our packing and readied for bed, I wondered out loud why our hostess had told us this story on the last day of our visit and not the first. “Maybe we could have parked somewhere else,” I said. “She probably didn’t want to spoil our visit,” Robert responded charitably. “We would have fussed for three days, instead of one night.” The next morning, we lugged our suitcases out to the Opel and loaded them into the back. No longer able to deny the inevitable moment, we opened the hood under the watchful eyes of my friend and his wife. Nothing! No chewed wires and no chewed hoses. As we collectively sighed in relief, I looked up. “Oh, no!” I said, looking at the underside of the hood. A mass of insulation approximately twenty-three centimeters in diameter was missing. It was then that we noticed small tufts of insulation floating about the motor. Invasion of the mother weasel was confirmed upon closer examination. Tiny, dusty paw prints betrayed her nightly forays over the hood and the roof of the car. “Don’t worry,” I said, trying to calm my friend’s fussing wife. “We have super insurance coverage!” ~ Minutes later, Miss Natter seemed thrilled to receive details of our next destination and swiftly charted the next course. We said goodbye to our friends and allowed the chatter to guide us onto the Autobahn, with a side trip across Bavaria, heading toward Frankfurt. Several hours later, we neared the airport, keeping watch for the car rental outlet where we would return the Opel. “We need to stop for gas,” Robert reminded me. “There’s always gas stations near an airport.” I responded confidently.

“That shouldn’t be a problem.” The airport drew nearer but we had yet to spy one gas station. “We have lots of time,” I said. “Let’s just drive around until we find one.” “I’m tired,” Robert sighed. “We’ve been driving for hours. “I’ll pay the extra cost for returning the car without a full tank.” I agreed. I could hear exhaustion in his voice. We pulled into the rental outlet, waved ahead by a team of young men ready to relieve of us of the vehicle. “Good afternoon, sir,” one young man greeted Robert as he lowered his side window. “My name is Christian. Are you returning your vehicle today?” Robert nodded, and the young man keyed the license plate number into his hand-held computer. “Sir, your contract says that you are to return the car with a full tank,” Christian reminded us after reviewing the contract. “Is the tank full?” “No,” Robert said. “It’s not full, but, I don’t care. I’ll pay the extra cost for you to fill it. ‘It’s only down a quarter of a tank of diesel. How much can it be?” “You contract says that you should pay four euros and twenty cents for every litre that we add,” he stated. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to fill it yourself?” I quickly calculated euros to Canadian dollars. “That’ll be way over one hundred Canadian dollars,” I hissed. Remarkably, although he was not wearing his hearing aids, Robert heard my words clearly. “Never mind,” he said hastily to the young man. “Where’s the nearest gas station?”

I was otherwise distracted and did not hear the instructions, which meant that I could not engage the assistance of Miss Bossy Pants. I had to trust that my husband could find his own way. Out onto the road he drove, up a ramp, over a bridge, down another ramp, and made a left turn, advising me that he was doing as instructed. Then things became a little muddled and, before we knew it, we were right back where we started, driving into the rental outlet. “I thought you knew where the gas station was,” I exclaimed. “I did too,” he said, awed by our circumstance. “The guy’s instructions weren’t clear, but I know where I have to go now. I saw the gas station when I turned left. I should have taken the second left.” As we entered the outlet’s drop-off bays, we realized that several vehicles had populated the lanes in the few minutes it took us to travel our boomerang route. Far to our right, a fellow stood madly waving his arms like a windmill, trying to attract our attention. When Robert veered to the left and drove through the drop-off zone, the fellow jammed his hands in the air in exasperation, likely thinking that we had never returned a rental car before. ~ Back out on the street again, Robert drove up the ramp, across the bridge and down the other ramp. This time, he turned left at the second corner and pulled into the gas station, stopping next to a pump. I hopped out of the car, read my way through the instructions written in German, and topped up the tank with diesel. Total cost – seventeen euros or twenty-six Canadian dollars. I hopped back into the car and advised Robert of our savings. Happy knowing that we had saved over seventy-five Canadian dollars, he drove back to the rental outlet once again. On our second return, the bays were empty, and we parked in the same spot we occupied on the first drive-through. Christian greeted us once again with the necessary paper-work in hand.

“You are an amazing driver!” I exclaimed, before engaging the young man again. Robert’s expression conveyed a hope that he would not have to hear my declaration of praise again, at least not for a long time. We removed our belongings and watched as the young man scrutinized the vehicle for damage. He retrieved a mechanic’s lamp and shone the light on the vehicle from a multitude of angles looking for fresh dents and scratches. We held our breath. We had been to Poland after all. However, knowing that we had super insurance coverage gave us comfort that we would not have to pay for any damage, but half the challenge is not-having-to-pay. Is it not? Although the rain and snow that we had encountered during our drive from Bayreuth to Frankfurt had long since washed away the tiny telltale paw prints of the mother marder, we knew that damage existed under the hood. We waited, anticipating a great reveal. The young man returned the lamp to its resting place, collected the paper work and walked towards me. “Sign here, please,” he instructed. I did. “Everything is fine,” he said. “You may go.” I looked at Robert. ‘He didn’t check under the hood’, his eyes exclaimed. ‘I know’, mine responded. I asked Christian whether it was difficult to reach the airport hotel from the outlet. He directed us to an elevator a few meters away, around a corner. Quietly, we towed our luggage to the elevator and stepped inside when the doors slid opened. “Phew!” we said simultaneously, releasing the breath that we had been holding as the elevator doors closed. “I can’t believe he didn’t check under the hood!” I said smiling.

“Me neither,” Robert grinned back. When the doors opened again, we walked toward the hotel, relieved that the hood was never raised and that we were not required to explain how a mother weasel had sourced a chunk of Opel insulation as material for her nest, not that it would have mattered, we had purchased the super insurance package, after all. ~ A few weeks after our return to Canada, my Bavarian friend telephoned. During our conversation, I explained our experience when we dropped the car at the airport, and how relieved we had been not to have to explain the marder damage. “Ya, but I told you not to worry,” my friend explained. “The marder is considered an endangered species in Germany. Therefore, you cannot be charged for any damage it might cause. That’s the law in Germany!” As he spoke, I recalled his efforts to explain just that on the evening prior to our departure. When I shared this new information with Robert a short while later, we both had a good laugh, realizing that we had fussed for nothing. “On reflection,” I concluded, “I suppose the mother weasel was just as successful at sourcing material for her project as I was for mine!”

--------------------------------------------------------------- Source Material. copyright Jerena Tobiasen

Upcoming Events – March 2018 Info: RCLAS Write On! Contest 2018 Call for Submissions Important Dates: • Submissions open January 15, 2018 • Deadline April 1, 2018 • Winners will be announced April 30, 2018 3 Categories: o Non-Fiction (1500 words max) o Fiction (1500 words max) o Poetry (1 page single spaced max) RCLAS presents “Songwriters Open Mic Night” Date: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Free admission. Location: The Heritage Grill, Backstage Room, 447 Columbia St, New Westminster, BC Hosts: Enrico Renz, Lawren Nemeth and Poul Bech More info Description: Original music only, performed by the songwriters! Great venue: good sound, food, beverages and a friendly, supportive audience that actually listens. RCLAS presents “Wordplay” Date: Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Free admission. Location: Buy-Low Foods Community Room, 555 – 6th Street, New Westminster Host: SheLa Nefertiti Morrison More info Description: Wordplay is our monthly idea-generating drop-in series for writers of all kinds. Find new approaches to your writing; unlock that treasure chest in your head! This group generates some fabulous first drafts; all you need to bring is writing tools, paper, and a ready mind. This is not a critique group; let’s have some fun!

RCLAS presents “Tellers of Short Tales” Date: Thursday March 8, 2018. 6:00pm – 8:00pm, Free admission. Location : Anvil Centre, Room 411A, 777 Columbia Street, New Westminster Host: Lozan Yamolky with Open Mic Feature Author Patrik Sampler Open Mic Sign Up will be available for writers who would like to share their stories. More info Description: A program of monthly readings designed to engage fans of the short story genre with emerging and published short story writers. BIO: Patrik Sampler‘s writing has appeared in a variety of publications including The Guardian, The Millions, and The Scofield. He is a contributing editor for Peculiar Mormyrid, and author of The Ocean Container, published in 2017 by Ninebark Press. Sampler devoted much of a postgraduate degree to the latecareer novels of Abe Kobo. Blending elements of surrealism, dystopian science fiction, and the experimental novel, The Ocean Container is the tale of an environmental activist in a North American petro-state. Labeled an “economic terrorist”, he takes hiding in a shipping container, where the division between imagination and external reality is fatally blurred. RCLAS Writing Workshop: From Memory To Meaning Facilitator: Sonja Larsen Reserve your spot: Date: Saturday March 10, 2018, Time: 1:30pm – 3:30pm Location: Anvil Centre, Room 411 A, 777 Columbia Street, New Westminster Workshop Fees: RCLAS Members $15/Non-members $25 Pay via Paypal here: Description: From Memory to Meaning will explore ways to spark and engage with our memories to create work that connects the writer and the reader on multiple levels. Mary Karr said “Every memoir should brim over with the physical experiences that once streamed in—the smell of garlicky gumbo, your hand in an animal’s fur…” Starting with the idea that our stories live not only in our memory but in our bodies, the workshop will include writing exercises to help ground your work, as well as ideas for finding the thematic connections that give your story meaning. Recognizing that most memoirs are about painful events, we will also look at strategies for writing about difficult topics. Sonja Larsen’s memoir Red Star Tattoo — My Life As A Girl Revolutionary received the 2017 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction for 2017 and was listed on the National Post, CBC and Now Magazines best books of 2016. A

graduate of SFU’s Writers Studio program she is currently working on a new book about her experiences working with youth in the Downtown Eastside. RCLAS presents “In Their Words: A Royal City Reading Series” Date: Thurs, March 15, 2018, 6:00pm – 8:00pm, Free admission Location: Anvil Centre, 4th Floor Room TBA, 777 Columbia St, New Westminster Host: Ruth Kozak 3 Featured Readers: Sylvia Taylor reads Pamela C. Ball (historical fiction) KB Nelson reads Susan Blackwell Ramsey (poetry) Janene White reads A.A. Milne "Winnie the Pooh". Description: In Their Words happens on the 3rd Thursday of every other month. Feature speakers present their favourite author from any genre in poetry, fiction, non-fiction or drama. Presentations include a brief commentary about the author and a reading of selections that exemplify what the presenter loves about the author’s work. A short Q&A follows each presenter.

...and a reminder for all you poets and poetry lovers: “Poetic Justice/Poetry New West” Sunday Afternoons (except Holiday Weekends) Time: 2:00pm – 4:00pm, Free admission. Location: The Heritage Grill, Backstage Room, 447 Columbia St, New West Description: Two Featured poets and Open Mic. Admission is free but donations are welcomed. For information visit and Email

New West Festival of Words by Federation of BC Writers and LitFest New West April 13-15, 2018 New West Festival of Words is a collaboration of the Federation of BC Writers' Spring Writes Festival and LitFest New West. This 3-day festival takes place at the Inn at The Quay and River Market and other New Westminster locations. Join us as we celebrate the written word!


Janet Kvammen, RCLAS Vice-President/E-zine General Inquiries: Lozan Yamolky

RCLAS Members Open Call for Submissions No theme required to submit. Deadline March 22 Suggested April themes include Form poetry Spring Blossoms Solstice Rain Ongoing Submissions for an upcoming “New Westminster” Theme Feature. Submit Word documents (Please include YOUR NAME and Title on document name) to Poetry, Short Stories, Book excerpts, articles & lyrics are all welcome for submission to future issues of Wordplay at work.

Thank you to our Sponsors & Venues 

City of New Westminster

Anvil Centre

Arts Council of New Westminster

Buy-Low Foods

The Heritage Grill

New Westminster Public Library

"I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees." Pablo Neruda

See upcoming events at


March 2018 Wordplay at work ISSN 2291- 4269 Contact: RCLAS Vice-President/ E-zine

March 2018 Ezine Wordplay at work, Issue 52  
March 2018 Ezine Wordplay at work, Issue 52  

March 2018 Wordplay at work, EZINE ISSUE 52 ISSN 2291- 4269, 59 pages. Feature Writer of the Month: Julia Schoennagel. Write on! Contest...