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7th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2019 Non-Fiction Winners & Honourable Mentions

7th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2018 First Place Winner Non-Fiction

Jack Plane Š Bryant Ross My father was a woodworker, and he taught me his trade. He taught me that we never own our tools, but that we share our time with them. "Good tools" he'd say, "Will outlive you. Hell, the really good ones will outlive your children." My father held a Stanley Jack plane when he said that. It was dark blue with sweat and callus polished red handles. It shone, and it had belonged to his father. "Old tools carry the spirits of their owners with them" I was seven years old, and I stood with him in his workshop. It smelled of dry fir and linseed oil. The floor was never clean, no matter how much you swept it, there was always sawdust and shavings somewhere. He pushed the plane across the edge of a piece of pine. Back and forth, back and forth, his body rocking with it, thin, almost transparent shavings sprouted up, curling over the edge and settling on the floor. "Fhissssssh.... Fhissssssh... Fhissssssh " "If you listen close" he said "You can hear their ghosts talk to you" In his workshop, he would stand behind me, and show me how to place my hands, how to hold the tools. He'd teach me what he could, and he'd let me learn for myself all the things that can't be taught. As the years went on and I grew up, I bought a place of my own and built my own shop. I was a woodworker in my own right, and well skilled if I do say so myself.

As grown kids often do, as I learned more and more, I thought I needed him less and less. My old man though, I guess he knew better. He'd just show up whenever he felt like it, and for some reason, he usually felt like it when I had a problem I couldn't solve. When I was scratching my head and throwing down my pencil in frustration, I'd hear his old pickup crunching down the gravel driveway. When I couldn't cut the dovetail right, he'd wander in, hands in pockets and lean over my workbench, look at what I was doing, and, just like he did when I was seven, he'd reach his big callused hands out and take mine in them, and move the saw, or the hand holding it, just a millimeter or two, and suddenly the angle was right and it all worked. Other times though, he'd say in that slow drawl of his "I'm just lookin' around" and he'd wander through my shop sipping a cup of coffee and poking his nose into things, running his hand over a piece I was working on, checking on my work, curious, interested, and maybe a little lonely. I never really understood that at the time. When he was seventy-five I was working in the shop one summer day and he drove in like always. I was working on a hope chest for my daughter. He walked in, a smile on his old face like always, and poured himself a cup of coffee, like always. He wandered the dusty floor, just like his own, and drank his coffee silently, poking into things, picking things up, checking my work and nodding. For a long time he stood just over my shoulder, looking past me at the work I was doing. I could feel him there, a presence, warm, loving, and strong. When he finished his coffee he walked out to his truck, and came back with a cardboard box about a foot long. He put it on my workbench, saying "Well I'll be going now, see you later" I waved distractedly from the job I was doing "Yeah... see you later dad" I said, never really pausing or looking up. It wasn't till a day or two later that I noticed that box. When I saw it there I wondered what it was and picked it up. It was heavy, I opened it and inside was a bundle wrapped in old, oily newspaper. I took it out and unwrapped the

newsprint. There in my hands, blue and shiny, with callus and sweat polished red handles was my grandfather's Jack Plane. I held it in my hands then, feeling its warmth and smoothness, admiring the mirror-bright sheen of the iron's razor edge, the weight in my hands, balanced, comfortable, perfect. I laid it down on the shelf, wondering. A week and a half later my father was dead. When a parent dies there are a million things to do, an estate to settle, a mother to take care of, things need selling, things need signing, and it all falls on the son, it seems. I don't know how long it took before I finally set foot back in my workshop, but the dust on the tools wasn't all sawdust. It was time to get back to work, and a hope chest for my daughter lay in pieces on the bench, the tools where it I had left them when I got the news. I picked up the pieces, trying to remember my plans from before, from that other part of my life. Nothing seemed to work though, nothing made sense no matter how hard I tried. Eventually I stood back, threw down my pencil, and leaned on my bench. I just stared at the pieces of wood, frustrated. My daughter, seven years old came out then, and stood with me at the bench. I looked down at her there, her eyes exploring the workshop, up at the rafters where collected things hung, at the walls where the material for new projects leaned, and the bench where the tools lay. She put her hands in her pockets and wandered. "Looking around" I heard in my head. I walked over then, and took a piece of pine from the scrap bin. A foot and a half long, straight, white, clear and clean. I secured it in the vice. I reached up on the shelf, where I had put it, and brought down my father's, and grandfather's Stanley Jack plane.

"Here" I said to my daughter, hold it like this" I put my big hands over her little ones on the red handles, polished by generations of sweat and calluses, set it on the edge of the pine board, and pushed. Years of care and skill had sharpened that blade, it shone like chrome. There was just a hint of resistance as the blade sliced through the wood fibres. A shaving so thin it was transparent leapt up out of the throat of the plane. "Fhissssssh...." "That's the sound a plane makes when everything is good" I said to her, guiding her hands, pushing, pulling, smooth, rocking, holding the plane steady and true on the wood. "Fhissssssh.... Fhissssssh... Fhissssssh " The shavings tossed out, spilled over the top, flicked impatiently aside by her small hands. "Fhissssssh.... Fhissssssh... Fhissssssh " I let go, she didn't need my hands now, she rocked in time with the tool, fractions of an inch coming off the wood, shavings curling off and falling onto the floor. "Fhissssssh.... Fhissssssh... Fhissssssh " I saw a moving shadow in the corner of my eye, and somehow I knew it for what it was. I stepped back and leaned on my workbench, watching. He wandered the dusty floor, just like his own, and drank his coffee silently, poking into things, picking things up, checking her work and nodding. For a long time he stood just over her shoulder, looking past her at the work she was doing. I could feel him there, a presence, warm, loving, and strong.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ copyright Bryant Ross

7th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2018 Second Place Winner Non-Fiction

Crocs in Cottage Country © Alex Hamilton-Brown

Toronto can be like a sauna in August. That Monday morning in 2008 was no exception. The temperature was 33 celsius when I climbed the wooden stairs to my film production office in an old brownstone building on Toronto's East-side. I had just opened the window for some air when the phone rang. It was the thick guttural accent of Yuri Voronov, a Russian freelance cameraman with whom I had produced a couple of documentaries. Yuri’s camera-work was excellent, even if his English took a bit of getting used to. He had come from Moscow to Toronto in 2005 and we had become good friends. “Hi Yuri, you're back,” I said. “How did things go in Jamaica? ” “You know I shoot pilot film about crocodiles,” he replied. “Everything okay with filming, but now owners of croc farm have problem. They ship twelve crocodiles to Quebec zoo, but bloddy zoo cannot take them for two weeks. Now they are stuck at Toronto airport. They are in crates and suffer from heat. If we do not get them out of there, Mike, they will die.” I wasn’t sure who he meant by 'we.' Without really thinking it through, I suggested, “Maybe, the Humane Society could take them for a short while?” “I already try them.” replied Yuri, “It would make big trouble. They only handle domestic pets.Can you imagine small dogs and cats in same area with ten-foot

crocodile?” I had to admit the image was not a pretty picture. “The crocs have Red Robson traveling with them,” continued Yuri. “He take good care of crocs. He is expert.” There was a pause on the line. “Mike, you have barn on your cottage property, no?” Straight away, I realized where this was going “You're not thinking of billeting these crocs on my place up north are you?” “Why not?” replied Yuri. “Quebec Zoo pay all expenses. Red would be with them night and day.” In a moment, when my lack of judgment must have been bordering on derangement, I agreed to meet with Yuri and Red Robson at the airport. The croc wrangler was a tall powerful looking man with short-cropped orangecoloured hair. I guessed he would be in his early thirties. He had a cheerful smile and spoke with a deep Texas drawl. “These animals,” said Red, “are in a bad way. If y’all agree, I'll bring the crocs to y'or place at night in my unmarked truck. I'll need yo' boys to help me unload the crates.” Call me crazy if you will. In a moment of rash impulse, I said, “What the heck. Why not? Let's do it!” So it was agreed that we would leave that night. Red's vehicle arrived at my cottage just after 2:00 a.m. When I saw the white truck silhouetted against the black barn, I had an agonizing moment of doubt. Suppose one of the reptiles escaped into a nearby lake? I imagined the headline in the local Hastings Chronicle: MONSTER SIGHTED IN SILVER LAKE. TERRIFIES LOCALS. RCMP INVESTIGATING.”

I thought, If the village folk were to hear that there were

crocodiles on my property, this place would become a three-ring circus overnight.

But it was too late to have thoughts like that. By 3:30 a.m., most of the crates were unloaded into the cool barn; their muzzles safely bound with wire and burlap. But when Red came to unload the last crate, he let out a long, drawn-out whistle. A pregnant female had laid a clutch of eight eggs inside the crate. Red took the eggs into the cottage and wrapped them in a thick warm blanket. Shortly after that, we were all sound asleep in our bunk beds. Later that afternoon, Yuri and I returned to Toronto. It was two weeks before we got back to the cottage. “So, how have things gone, while we were away?” I asked Red. “Jis’ fine,” he replied. Then, tilting his head, as if to recall; “Oh, there was one thing. While you were gone, a young kid came prying around the barn, said his name was Ray. “That'd be Ray Delaire,” I said. Ray was a gangly sixteen-year-old from a neighboring chicken farm. He tended to be a nosey lad, almost to the point of harassment. “One day,” continued Red, “the kid was at the barn door, bendin’ his neck, tryin’ to adjust his eyes to the darkness. 'It's awful dark in there, he says. 'What’s that funny smell?' “He was still tryin’ to edge around me when I closed and padlocked the door. I figured I’d stop him in his tracks from snooping around again, so I says to him, 'A'm gonna level with you, son. A'm keepin’ a few bodies in there, but, hey, they'll be gone in a few days.' Then he looks at me with his mouth droppin’ open, and gives me this scared-lookin’ smile and skedaddles off real quick. That’s the last I saw of anyone until the cop arrived.” “What! the police have been here?” I gasped.

“Oh it’s okay,” said Red. “The officer was just followin’ up on some cockamamie story about there being dead bodies in a barn.” “What you tell him?” asked Yuri uneasily. “Well, I figured the best way was the straight way,” said Red. “So I says to him, look, officer, I've got rare and exotic animals in the barn. They're in transit to a Quebec Zoo. Then I shows him our animal farm brochure. He reads it, shakes my hand, an' says no worries man, 'an wishes me good luck.” Just then, I heard a high-pitched squawking sound coming from my bathroom. “Oh, that'll be the hatchlings,” said Red. And there, in my bathtub, were three lively little baby crocs skidding around in an inch of water Apparently, only three of the eight eggs had hatched. That afternoon, Red got a call on his cell phone to say the Quebec Zoo was ready to take the crocs. They have a saying in cottage country: All guests make us happy, some by coming, and some by going. Red was a great guy, but I must admit I was somewhat relieved to see his truck drive off down the highway. Keeping him company, on the passenger seat, were the three baby crocs, splashing and squawking in a basin all the way to their new home in Quebec. -

------------------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Alexander Hamilton-Brown

7th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2018 Third Place Winner Non-Fiction

Fire Dancing Š W. Ruth Kozak

I should have known that my plans were in the hands of fate, when I got food poisoning two days before my departure from Athens to attend a much anticipated performance of fire dancing in northern Greece. The pharmacist assured me that the box of capsules he prescribed would do the trick. Just to make sure, I bought a second box to take during the overnight train ride to Thessaloniki. The fire dancing takes place in the town of Langadas, a forty-kilometer journey. As I sat in a nearby park while I waited for the bus, a strange sensation came over me. I felt disoriented, dizzy and light-headed, strangely out-of-touch with reality. My senses seemed numb as if my mind and spirit had completely left my body. I began to panic. I imagined the horrified reaction of my family in Canada when they learned that my body was found on a park bench in a foreign country. Alone and anonymous, I scribbled down information about myself on a scrap of paper and put it in my pocket just in case. Three police officers appeared. I considered appealing to them for help. Instead, I took a deep breath, sipped some water, and told myself it was all in my imagination. It would be better to die in a hotel bed than on a park bench. So I got on the bus headed for Langadas. Langadas is a quiet farming community with tidy houses, rose arbors and vegetable gardens. I found my hotel, the Lido, bought a souvlaki to eat and went up to my room to sleep off the unsettling feeling I had. But even after I woke, the euphoric out-of-body sensations persisted. I went for a walk, breathing in the fresh pungent air of the countryside. I felt strange, disconnected from reality, and considered going to the local hospital. First I'd go back to the hotel, shower and change my travel-soiled clothes. While combing my hair, I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed my eyes were glazed, the pupils small as pinpoints. Then I realized that the strange euphoria I had felt all morning must have been caused by the diarrhea medicine!

A local pharmacist confirmed it. "You shouldn't have taken more than the one box dosage," he scolded. I had overdosed on opiates. I wasn't going to die. I was just stoned. The instruction on the package had been all Greek to me! That trauma taken care of, I set off to find the Anastenarides, the famous mystics who dance barefooted on hot coals and somehow miraculously never get burned. In Greece, the Orthodox Church considers fire dancing to be a pagan ritual, even though the initiates claim that their unswerving faith in God protects them from the fire. The fire dancing is performed every year on the Feast of Saints Constantine and Eleni in the Greek Macedonian towns of Seres and Langadas. Although the church has ceased to heap fire and brimstone on the fire dancers, the ceremony is still secretive. I roamed around the town asking several locals where I could see the fire dancing. My question was greeted with a stern look and stony silence. Why such mystery? I wondered. Near the outskirts of town, I located the small Church of the Saints, but there was only a wizened crone dressed in black solemnly tending the graves. No sign of fire dancers. A small midway had been set up on the roadside near the church with carnival rides, game booths and fast-food cars. Behind the midway the field was cordoned off with a picket fence and rows of wooden chairs had been set up. A group of gypsy women dressed in bright flowered skirts and colorful kerchiefs surrounded me. They smiled at me, their gold teeth gleaming. "Pou einai oi Anastenarides?" I asked. "Where are the fire dancers?" Once again my question was greeted with the typical lift of the shoulders, chin and eyebrows, which translates "I don't know." Back at the Hotel Lido, I struck up a conversation with Marc, a Belgian photojournalist. He had also spent a fruitless day searching for the fire dancers. He had learned, however, that the fenced-off part of the midway was where the fire dance would be performed. "It's held outside of town because of the church's edict," he explained. "The presence of the carnival and gypsies gives the fire dancing more of a circus atmosphere, which is acceptable to the town folk." Marc's detective work proved more fruitful than mine did. The next morning he located the konaki, the house of the Anastenarides where a calf had been sacrificed as part of the mystic rites.

"The house is not far from the church," he said. "The ritual dancing begins this afternoon followed by the fire dancing." I set off toward the pastures at the edge of town following the distant throbbing of drums to a low-roofed house with a long porch on which many people had gathered. I approached the house cautiously, not sure if I would be permitted to enter but I was welcomed into a large room where benches had been arranged around the walls for spectators. The sharp aroma of incense and bees wax permeated the air. At one end of the room was a table heaped with religious relics, ornate silver icons and varnished paintings of the Saints. As visitors entered, they lit slender bee's wax candles and genuflected before the icons. In front of the altar table, the barefooted Anastenarides, both men and women, whirled and swayed as they danced to the throbbing of a big single-sided drum, a wailing clarinet and the whining strings of a lyra. They circled the room in front of the table of religious relics. As they danced they clutched icons and waved red handkerchiefs decorated with silver and gold talismans to ward off evil and made strange groaning sounds, which give them their name. Anastenarides is derived from the Greek word anastenagmos, meaning "to groan." The mood in the room was one of reverence. As the haunting cadence of the music filled the room, a gray-haired elder carried around a clay smudge pot and drenched the participants and spectators with fragrant sage-scented smoke, similar to our North American aboriginal ceremonies. These mysterious rituals began during the invasion of the Tartars who swept through the Byzantine Empire burning and pillaging. In a Macedonian town, a church named for Saint Constantine had been set ablaze. Some parishioners went through the flames to rescue the priceless icons and were miraculously not burned. To the Anastenarides, the fire dance represents the triumph of good over evil. They believe it is their absolute faith in God and their ability to achieve a state of self-hypnosis, that allows them to dance on hot coals and remain unburned – a truly an out-of-body experience. Outside the konaki a large crowd had gathered. Suddenly there was a commotion. A contingent of local police had arrived. Were we to be arrested for participating in a pagan ritual? No, the police had come to escort the fire dancers to the carnival site. A long processional formed. The spectators followed the Anastenarides down the country lane, accompanied by the musicians. Suddenly, as we trooped through the pastures toward the carnival site, ominous black clouds obscured the sky. A violent eruption of thunder boomed and dangerous spikes of forked

lightening crackled earthward. A deluge of rain poured from the black heavens. Within minutes, the road was churned to mud and flooded with rivulets of water. As the drenching rain poured relentlessly down, the Anastenarides clutching their precious icons, ran for cover back to the konaki. I found shelter under the eaves of a farmhouse with Marc, the photojournalist. "No fire dancing tonight," Marc laughed. "Tin oh kahnomay," I replied with a typical Greek shrug. "What are we to do?" It was the hand of fate. I knew it! The next morning dawned bright and sunny. Once again I spent the afternoon watching the initiates dance. Just as it had the day before, a crowd gathered, the dancers performed their rituals, the musician played, and in the evening a processional formed to parade down the country lane. Then, at exactly the same moment, as the Anastenarides left their konaki, it began to storm. Once again it seemed that the fire dancer's mystic communion with the Saints had been squelched by an unseen power. "Somebody up there definitely doesn't want this to happen," I remarked to a bemused black-robed priest who watched from under the shelter of his umbrella. He shrugged, lifting his chin and eyes heavenward. "Ti krema!" he said. "What a pity!" There was a smug smile on his face. Disappointed, I made my way through the downpour back to my hotel. I'd have to wait for another time to see the fire dancers perform. The only out-of-body experience that year was the one I'd had on the park bench in Thessaloniki.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright W. Ruth Kozak

7th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2018 Honourable Mention Non-Fiction

First Lesson © Don Smith Trying not to display my basic insecurity, I stretched to my full stature in hopes of impressing the seated throng. My newly purchased necktie and stiff, collared shirt did little to assist me as I struggled to modulate my voice, searching for its deepest, most impressive level. Nervously beginning the presentation, I scanned the many faces in hopes of detecting even the slightest indicator of encouragement. Despite my initial unease, much to my relief, my first lesson was safely launched and underway, without incident. Here we go, I thought.

Much to my delight and amazement, the children listened intently, seemingly captivated by my continuous verbiage. Armed with a reminder “crib” sheet on the desk, I successfully proceeded through the various points that I planned to emphasize. The receptive facial expressions energized me as I proudly progressed towards my final summation under the watchful guidance of my sponsor teacher and University observer. Further bolstered by increasing confidence, I selected a few individuals to respond to relevant questions related to the subject area. To my delight, the brief answers gave a strong indication that the material had been absorbed to the point of understanding. My seeming success made me feel so triumphant that I imagined myself as a kind of maestro before a captivated orchestra. The music of success was delicious, convincing me that I really had chosen the right profession, after all. Perhaps I’m a natural born teacher, I speculated. And then…..

From the back of the classroom, I noticed a hand waving, trying to get my attention.

“Yes, what is it?”

“Sir, regarding your lesson, I was wondering whether the whole system refills automatically from the main line.”

Suddenly, my confidence began to drain away as I struggled with the very perceptive question, not fully convinced that I could come up with the correct answer. I tried desperately to mentally review the material from which I had prepared my lesson. Should I respond with what might be the right answer? I thought to myself. Or, should I seek help from my supervisors?

The few seconds seemed like hours as I wrestled with my decision. Meanwhile, the class waited patiently for my response. My supervisors also sat expressionless as they wrote comments in their personal notebooks. My creative imagination formulated many potentially destructive statements about my performance as beads of sweat gathered on my forehead.

“Excuse me, Mister Sutton, would you kindly respond to the question?” appealing to my sponsor teacher. “I’m not too sure if I know the correct answer,” I admitted, feeling completely deflated. What would the students think of me? Obviously, my teacher ratings would be very low after the incident, I conjectured. Too late now.

The sponsor teacher easily handled the query as I stood quietly, feeling somewhat dejected. As the period ended, I nervously awaited the follow-up conference with my observers, expecting the worst. After all, I had shown a significant loss of face in the presence of students and observers.

Sitting silently, like a chastised child, I dreaded hearing the anticipated assessment of my first performance as an educator . Maybe, I wasn’t meant to be a teacher after all. There’s still time to consider other job options, I considered painfully.

What a surprise! Rather than hearing a whole series of criticisms, my supervisors were not only very kind and supportive, but also, gave me a few strategies to deal with my dilemma. Much to my delight, they commended me for my basic lesson and even suggested that I showed some promise. As far as answering a

question to which I had no definite answer, they suggested that it was quite reasonable for an instructor not to know all the facts about a particular subject area. The children would understand. It would be more acceptable to commend the inquiring child for an excellent question and suggest to him that a good answer might require more research which could be done jointly. “Let’s look it up together.”

During my thirty-five year experience as a teacher and administrator, that early lesson in humility, forthrightness and honesty has guided me through my career. Humans are fallible after all. Also, as I matured in my chosen profession, I discovered that children as individuals often need individual instruction. While there continues to be a place for the standard lecture method in certain instances, one cannot measure teaching success on the basis of the apparent overall countenance of students or the seemingly informed responses of selected individuals.(Especially, when two other adults are overseeing the process.) Sadly, there is likely to be at least one unobtrusive, frustrated student who “slips through the cracks.” It is a good teacher’s duty and responsibility to make an effort to discover those persons before they are beyond the reach of effective assistance. Unfortunately, that is not always possible despite our sincere attempts to do so. We can only do our best.

I have also learned that teachers have a unique opportunity as effective role models who are able to demonstrate desirable behaviours that students may want to emulate. An educator whose regular interpersonal relations reflect honesty, humility, respect for others and a love of learning are often mirrored by their charges. From my perspective, that’s the way it should be.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Don Smith

7th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2018 Honourable Mention Non-Fiction

What A Dragonfly Taught Me © Susan Flanagan

Forty years ago, I was standing on my neighbour’s lawn on Bell’s Turn when a dragonfly helicoptered its way onto my shirt sleeve. Although exquisitely beautiful, the dragonfly terrified me. And when I couldn`t shake it off my arm, I screamed. That`s when a boy with a tough reputation came over. He gently pried the dragonfly off my sleeve and then proceeded to pull off its beautiful translucent wings leaving its colourful body useless. I will never forget the mixture of relief and guilt I felt that day. Relief because the monster insect had been removed; guilt because my scream was the reason for its demise. I learned two things that day. I realized I had no reason to be afraid of the tough boy (I had heard that he stole pillow cases of candy on Hallowe’en night), and I had no reason to be afraid of dragonflies. Someone – I don’t remember who – explained that dragonflies were the good insects, like spiders, who rid the world of bad insects, like mosquitoes, who suck our blood. I hadn’t thought about the dragonfly whose murder I inspired in a long time. That is, until last week when my son went on his first kindergarten field trip to the Fluvarium. The memory came floating to the surface when Bob who has been a Fluvarium interpreter for decades, gave the children a blue camping tarp and instructed them to make a makeshift pond. Bob poured a bucket of water into the pool releasing dragonfly babies at the same time. Next Bob gently picked up one baby and let it crawl up his arm. The baby was sort of creepy looking, wet and black with six jointed legs. Most people present were relieved it was on Bob’s arm and not theirs. Bob assured the children both he and the dragonfly nymph, who did not have a name, were fine. He put the nymph in a plastic cup of water and moved him underneath a Micro-Eye, a machine sort of like a microscope except you don’t look down through the top. It transferred an image of Mr. Dragonfly Nymph to a

screen so we could see his body close up. I have to say it was pretty cool to see his wings growing under his exoskeleton. Bob explained that when the baby is ready to become an adult, it climbs out of the water and the exoskeleton splits exposing the never-used wings. The dragonfly leaves its exoskeleton behind and flies away. It was pure science. I felt like we were on a Magic School Bus field trip with Miss Frizzle. That evening as I sat with my mother and siblings in Mary Queen of Peace Church I thought about the fact that just that morning I had been celebrating the beginning of life with my youngest child`s first ever field trip and now, here I was hours later remembering the end of my father`s life with a candlelight mass. Declan has asked me lots of questions about Heaven since his grandfather, Dee passed away. “Does Heaven scratch your back?” Declan’s round eyes peered up at me. “Oh yes, Heaven scratches your back.” “Does Heaven have all your favourite things?” “Oh yes,” I answered. “Heaven has ice cream and video games and spotted cats.” It wasn’t until months after that I realized Declan thought Heaven was a person. Once I explained that heaven is a place, he said: “When we go up to Heaven, we’ll be happy to see people who are dead, like Dee and Terry Fox, won’t we, Mommy.” “Yes, I said, we’ll be happy to see Dee and Terry Fox.” I was thinking of this as I sat in the pew drifting into my warm church meditative state. Truthfully, I thought I would rather stick pins in my eyes than be here. I had just returned from a trip in the wee hours of the morning and had to be on deck early for the field trip and now a mass to remember all the parishioners who had died in the past year. Good grief. My ears perked up however when Father Frank Puddister started his sermon. It was the classic rebirth story, although I swear, I’d never heard it before. My surprise lay in the coincidence of topic. Twice in one day I was brought back to

a summer`s day on Bell`s Turn when a dragonfly alighted on my arm and shortly thereafter lost his life. A young dragonfly is swimming around at the bottom of the pond, Fr. Puddister explained. He’s having great fun with his friends and family. The sun is shining through the surface and there’s lots to eat. Every now and then the young dragonfly notices that a neighbouring dragonfly or a member of his own family goes to the surface and disappears above. This worries the dragonfly as once these other guys break on through to the other side, he never sees them again. His family assures him they are OK, and he doesn’t need to worry – that on the other side, life is different but beautiful in its own way. Still, the dragonfly is not totally convinced and every now and then he goes up to the surface and nudges the top of the pond, but he can’t seem to cross over to see what has happened to his friends. Until one day, the young dragonfly, older now and more mature, heads to the top of the pond and this time breaks through the surface of the water. And without knowing how it happens, he sheds his exoskeleton and opens his wings and takes flight. He is suddenly able to breathe air and, above the surface, witnesses the most amazing things. He sees all the other dragonflies who have gone before him. They are basking in the sun, well fed and happy. He frolics with them in the grass, ecstatic to know that those who have gone ahead are not dead but very much alive and happy. I sat there stunned. In one day, an interpreter, a priest and a dragonfly had taught me more about the circle of life than a book ever could.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Susan Flanagan

7th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2018 Honourable Mention Non-Fiction

Priorities © Bryant Ross

When I look back to my formative years, it’s not really surprising that I became a Firefighter. My Granddaddy had a great influence on that decision, and he had never been a Firefighter, but Grandaddy loved excitement. He wasn’t an adrenaline junky, far from it. World War One had taken away any interest in danger, but he was intensely curious. If something exciting was going on, he wanted to be there. Grandaddy lived for the sirens. If a cop drove by with his siren wailing Granddaddy would jump in the car and follow. Same with an ambulance. He figured sure as hell there would be something worth seeing at the end of the trip, or they wouldn’t be making all that fuss. The best were the fire trucks. There was ALWAYS something exciting wherever they went. As a young kid, I couldn’t have asked for a better guy to be with. My Grandparents took care of me and my brother a few days of the week. Both my parents worked trying to make ends meet, and paying for babysitting just wasn’t in the budget. One winter day Gramma needed to go to town for a bit and took the car. My brother and I were playing upstairs. Everything was quiet. Suddenly Granddaddy called from the bottom of the stairs. “BOYS!!! get your coats on and come down here!!! We gotta go see the fire trucks!!!” Well, you couldn’t have asked for a better break from a boring winter afternoon. We didn’t waste a second, we grabbed up our coats and barreled down the stairs. Grandaddy was waiting at the bottom with his coat already on, he had a big grin on his face and yelled “Let’s go!! When we ran out the door we saw that the driveway was empty, Gramma had taken the car. We were deflated, but Granddaddy didn’t miss a beat.

“Don’t worry!! We’ll be able to see them from the end of the driveway!!” So all of use ran hell bent for leather down the driveway. Me, my brother, Granddaddy and both dogs all at a dead run. Seeing the firetrucks wasn’t as good as chasing them, but it was better than a cop car, and not quite as good as the circus. We stood at the end of the driveway and waited to at least see them roar past. We were there at the end of the driveway in the rain, and in the silence. It was cold, it was wet, and it wasn’t much fun. There were no firetrucks, there was only the twilight-lit lonely road in front of my Grandparents house. My brother and I looked up at our Granddaddy and said “Where are the firetrucks?” “They’re a-comin, trust me!” But all there was was silence. Then, sure enough… waaaaayyy off in the distance we could just barely start to hear the sirens. My brother said to Grandaddy “It’s cold, and we don’t even know if they’re coming this way or not, let’s go back in the house” “Naw… they’re a-comin this way, don’chew worry boy” “But it’s COLD and WET granddaddy, this is no fun. Let’s go back in the house! How do you even KNOW they’re coming this way?” “Because our house is on fire.” My brother and I spun around and there, a hundred feet or so behind us was my Grandfather’s house, flames were boiling out of the windows, black smoke was rising into the air like a pillar. A short while later, after we had watched the firefighters do their work, they were rolling up hoses when my grandmother drove back into the yard. She got out of the car, glanced at the smoking wreckage of her former home. Rather than looking shocked, she walked purposefully over to us, crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She fixed us all with her solid-steel stare. “How did THAT happen” she said in the same quiet, clipped, conversational tone she’d use for a broken lamp or a busted window. None of us were above

suspicion… all were equally guilty in Grandma’s eyes. The three of us, plus the two dogs immediately found the ground, the sky, and the horizon utterly fascinating. NO ONE could look straight back at Grandma’s solid-steel stare. Eventually Grandpa looked up, tried to gather as little dignity there was left to him. “Well” he said… “It’s partially YOUR fault” “WHAT???” she said in astonishment “Well… you made cooking look a LOT easier than it really is.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright Bryant Ross

Alexander Hamilton-Brown, Non-Fiction 2nd Place. Alan Hill accepting for Bryant Ross, NF 1st Place (Top Right)

Ruth Kozak, Non-Fiction 3rd Place.

2019 RCLAS Write On! Contest BIOS: Non-Fiction Winners & Honourable Mentions

Bryant Ross is the host of Vancouver Story Slam, Vancouver’s longest-running monthly storytelling event. Bryant was the Vancouver Story Slam champion in both 2009 and 2014, and has featured at numerous literary events including the Under the Volcano Festival of Art and Social Change, the Vancouver International Storytelling Festival, and the Main Street Car Free Day. He is a father, an artist, a thirty-five-year veteran of the Township of Langley Fire Department, and a damn fine baker of pies.

As a career filmmaker, Alex Hamilton-Brown has made historical docu-dramas for British Television, CBC-TV, the NFB and the Discovery Channel USA and Europe. His short stories have appeared in the Ottawa Citizen and in British and Canadian magazines. His award-winning poetry has been published in Canadian and American anthologies. He lives in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, and has just completed his first novel entitled, "Edward II, Maverick King - Prince of Passions."

W. Ruth Kozak is a historical fiction writer and travel journalist with a strong interest in history and archaeology. She is the author of Shadow of the Lion, a historical novel in a 2-volume print edition or in full as a Kindle ebook. She publishes regularly in print and on-line travel magazines and wrote an e-book guide of Athens for a US publisher. A frequent traveler she has lived several years in Greece and visits there regularly. She is president of the BC Association of Travel Writers and edits and publishes a travel e-zine TRAVEL THRU HISTORY

2019 RCLAS Write On! Contest BIOS: Non-Fiction Winners & Honourable Mentions

Born in Winnipeg, Don Smith came out west, married, raised a family of four, settled in Maple Ridge and after his wife’s passing 14 years ago he moved into New Westminster. As a retired educator, Don has followed two particular passions, both as a writer and a visual artist. In addition to his autobiography entitled Family Footsteps, Don has written four unpublished books of short essays including experiential topics and philosophical considerations. His most recent work involves a themed book of trees which contains a combination of 40 paintings, each of which includes a typed description of the subject, location and special features. Don recently finished a personal portrait of his deceased daughter, Sheryl. His art has been included in exhibitions and he has enjoyed recognition of some of his writing in magazines and contests.

Susan Flanagan has worked

as a freelance journalist in St. John’s, NL for more than 25 years. Her written works have appeared in Canadian Geographic, National Geographic (maps), The Hockey News, Doctors’ Review, Canadian Running, Newfoundland Quarterly, and many others. Her satirical novel Supermarket Baby just won the 2019 Percy Janes First Novel Award, and her previous unpublished novel, Forty-eight Degrees, received Honourable Mention in the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia’s 25th annual Atlantic Writing Competition. From 2002-04, Susan contributed a bi-weekly column, 48 Degrees, to The Newfoundland Herald, and a weekly column, The Kids are Alright, to The Telegram from 2011-15. She has worked for both CBC TV and NTV in Halifax and St. John’s as reporter, producer and researcher.


First Place: Bryant Ross – Jack Plane Second Place: Alexander Hamilton-Brown – Crocs in Cottage Country Third Place: W. Ruth Kozak – Fire Dancing 2019 Non-Fiction Honourable Mentions (in no particular order) Don Smith – First Lesson Susan Flanagan – What a dragonfly taught me Bryant Ross – Priorities First Place Jack Plane by Bryant Ross It was not difficult to choose this piece as the winner among the NF submissions. It is a perfectly executed story that takes you on a journey through generations all set in the small space of a woodworking shop. I could smell the wood shavings and hear the jack plane move. It is beautifully yet simply told tale of passing the torch from father to son to daughter. Not overly sentimental, but deeply heartfelt, Jack Plane will put a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes. It will make you glad for all the good things your parents gave you. Second Place Crocs in Cottage Country by Alexander HamiltonBrown It was not as easy to choose the second and third place winners. This was a close call. I enjoyed the tightly written Crocs in Cottage Country. I was impressed by the character development through dialogue. The story brings a Russian immigrant and a Texan croc wrangler to life in just 3 pages. It left me with a smile on my face. Well told.

Third Place Fire Dancing by W. Ruth Kozak As I mentioned, it was a difficult decision between 2nd and 3rd place. Fire Dancing is also a well told story, an amusing adventure travel tale that was both informative (about the Anastenarides dancers) and humourously entertaining. The story closes very well, tying in the experience of the accidental overdose with the out-ofbody experience of fire dancing. “Thank you for trusting me to judge the 2019 Write On! Contest nonfiction entries. I enjoyed the experience.� Regards, Jennifer Smith

Jennifer M. Smith is an offshore sailor and a writer. She writes essays and memoir in short stories. Her work has been published in print in The Globe and Mail and Canadian Stories, and on line on Feminine Collective, CommuterLit, Scottish Book Trust, Quick Brown Fox and 50-Word Stories. Her work won first prize for non-fiction in the 2018 Royal City Literary Arts Society Write On Contest. She currently lives a land-life in Burlington, Ontario. 2019 JUDGE

Watch for details of our 8th Annual Write on! Contest coming in early 2020.

Upcoming Events

Fall 2019 Info:

RCLAS presents “Tellers of Short Tales” Anvil Centre, 4th Floor Room 411A 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Free Thursday Nov 14 Feature Author: Bill Arnott Come to listen! Bring a friend! Bring a short story to share on Open Mic. ---------------------“Cat Musings Reading Series” Variety Open Mic Featuring Cynthia Sharp Host: Janene White Date: Wednesday Oct 16, 2019 Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Doors open at 6:30 Free Location: New West Artists Gallery 712C - 12th Street, New Westminster ---------------------Writing Workshop: “Writing About Trauma, Taboos, Secrets & Other Scary Stuff” Facilitator: Heather Conn Date: Saturday Oct 19, 2019 Time: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm Location: Anvil Centre, 4th Floor. Rm 413A Workshop Fees: RCLAS Members $15/Non-members $25 Payment available online Pre-register at ---------------------“Poetic Justice/Poetry New West” Host: Warren Dean Fulton Sunday Afternoons (except Holiday Weekends) Time: 2:00pm – 4:00pm, Free admission. Location: The Heritage Grill, 447 Columbia St, New Westminster Open Mic. Prizes, trivia, writing prompt, fun! ---------------------Writing Workshop: “Writing The Hero/ Heroine’s Journey” Facilitator: Carol Johnson Date: Saturday Nov 23, 2019 Time: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm Location: Anvil Centre, 4th Floor. Workshop Fees: RCLAS Members $15/Non-members $25 Pre-register at ---------------------Saturday NOV 2, 2019 1:30-3:30pm Angel Edwards Book Launch at Anvil Centre ---------------------“In Their Words: a Royal City Reading Series” Host Ruth Kozak with Three Feature Presenters Date: Thursday November 21, 2019 Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm, Free, Anvil Centre, 4th Floor

Watch for News! 2019 Cogswell Award Winners and Ceremony SAT NOV 30, 2pm at NWPL Our RCLAS monthly E-zines and MORE Find us on Facebook Instagram @royalcitylit

Maggie Girl by Jerena Tobiasen

Ian had visited his great uncle Sylvester many times as a young boy. His parents would make a day of it, driving their green Austin Ten along country lanes until Photo Credit: Amy Jo they reached the old man’s home. The drive seemed forever in those days. Later, he realized that it took less than an hour. Ian recalled his happy past with longing. His parents were young and spirited. The journeys to visit Uncle Sy were fun. They’d have sing-alongs in the car to pass the time. In the summer, they’d stop at a sea-side village on the way home for a dish of ice cream, which they would eat on a pebbly beach before wading into the chilly ocean up to their ankles. They seemed to laugh all the time on those journeys. Even odd Uncle Sy could not hamper their joy. As his twelfth birthday approached, Ian was asked how he would like to celebrate. Without hesitation, he exclaimed that the best day would be a visit to Uncle Sy. When asked whether he wouldn’t prefer to have a party or take in a film, Ian shook his head and thanked his parents. He would rather visit Uncle Sy. His parents tried to explain that Ian’s birthday was in October and that both the weather and the lanes could make the drive unpleasant. Ian didn’t care and helped his parents understand that a visit to Uncle Sy’s was the only celebration that would make him happy. “We haven’t been to visit Uncle Sy since spring,” Ian pleaded. “We missed the summer completely!” Ian’s parents conceded, reminding him that a sea-side stop would not be possible, given the time of year. His parents had been correct, of course. That October, the weather was particularly foul. As the family car jostled in the muddy ruts of the lanes, their heads bobbed constantly. Once, the car stuck fast in the mud and he and his father had to jump out and push while his mother took over the steering wheel and accelerated until the tires popped free of the muck. Afterwards, they laughed at the mud spatters on their faces and clothes and were glad that his mother had tossed in their Wellies at the last minute. Otherwise, their good shoes

would have been ruined. When they arrived at Uncle Sy’s house, his father hosed down their rubber boots outside the woodshed, while his mother found some towels and cleaned up the mud spatters. Uncle Sy had been in rare form for that day, telling them an assortment of colourful stories, most involving his neighbours, while they drank tea and ate birthday cake. To their surprise, right in the middle of the cake-eating, Uncle Sy walked over to the only window in his sitting room and opened it wide. Moments later, a great black bird with a white belly swooped into the window frame and perched on the ledge. In response to the arrival of the lone magpie, Ian and his parents quickly saluted to show their respect, lest the bird bring them ill-will. She squawked loudly as if to taunt them. Then she did something amazing: she flitted across the sitting room and landed on Uncle Sy’s outstretched fist, her long tail feathers reaching the floor. “This is Maggie,” Uncle Sy said. “She fell out of her nest – just over by the shed - when she was learning to fly. I was washing up and I heard such a great hullaballoo that I had to look into it. I imagine that a creature tried to get at her, and it likely ran when it heard my comin’.” He shook his head. “There was her poor mother all beaten up and dying. I had to wring her neck to put her out of her misery. Her father was no where’s to be seen, and the nest was empty. But, little Maggie here . . .” He stroked her breast. “Well, she was just fine, so I picked her up and brought her inside. She’s been with me ever since. Although, she does prefer the outdoors and only drops in for a visit if I leave a door or a window open. Unless she has something to say. Now that’s another story. She can be rather determined.” “Hello!” Maggie said, as if on cue, her loud voice stunning the guests. “Hello, my darling!” she said again, gently nudging Uncle Sy’s hand with her beak, and rubbing her head against his chest. Uncle Sy stroked her crown with his knuckle. “Hello, my darling,” he whispered in return. “Uncle,” Ian’s father said, “are you not concerned that she will bring you bad luck?” “Nah,” Uncle Sy said. “Those superstitions are all stuff and nonsense. She’s just a clever bird and means harm to no one.” Maggie fluttered her wings and hop-flew to the back of the chair on which Ian’s mother sat. She squawked, twisting her head left and right, her beady eyes focussed on the woman’s hat. Then she took the shimmering stone of the hat pin

in her beak and tugged. It was Ian’s mother’s turn to squawk as she raised her hand to hold her hat fast. “You’d best remove your hat,” Uncle Sy said, chuckling. “She wants your shiny hat pin.” Ian’s mother quickly removed the hat and stuck the pin inside. When Maggie realized she couldn’t have the stone, she bobbed up and down, squawked at Ian’s mother, and flew out the window. “You’re a braver man than me,” Ian’s father said. “I wouldn’t have a messenger of evil delivering omens to my home.” “Tsk-tsk,” Uncle Sy said. “She’s been a true friend to me this past while. I can talk to her.” He chuckled again. “Sometimes, she replies. She has a way of making her thoughts known.” Once Ian’s mother had cleared away the dishes, his father announced that they should be on their way. “The roads are a mess, and I don’t want to be stuck in the mud again.” He looked through the window at the imposing sky. “Thunder clouds are coming this way.” Maggie sat on the peak of the roof squawking and bobbing madly, as the family opened the doors of the car. Uncle Sy gazed up at her. “Maggie, girl, come down and say farewell to our guests.” He held out his fist and she swooped down, landing gently. She stagger-walked, up and down Uncle Sy’s arm, bobbing and squawking. “Odd,” Uncle Sy said. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say she was worried.” Ian’s father placed a foot in the car and began to lower himself to the seat. Maggie flew from Uncle Sy’s arm and circled him, flapping her wings. The man raised his arms in defence. She landed on his raised forearm and squawked several times then flew to Ian and perched on his shoulder, nuzzling his ear. “Very odd behaviour, Maggie girl,” Uncle Sy said, walking toward Ian and tussling his hair. “She likes you, son!” Ian raised his hand and hesitantly stroked her breast with his knuckle. Maggie rolled her beak along his cheek as if to kiss him, emitting a soft sound that sounded affectionate.

“She’s lovely,” Ian whispered, awestruck. “Ian!” his father snapped. “Get in the car before she jinxes our journey.” “She’s just a bird,” Uncle Sy said, offering his fist to Maggie. Maggie looked at Ian twisting her head left and right, then hopped onto the offered fist. Her black eyes seemed fixed on Ian as he climbed into the car. “Come back!” Maggie called; her voice lost in the revving of the Austin’s motor. “Come back!” When Ian’s father backed the vehicle out of the drive and into the lane, Maggie took flight and circled the car, cawing insistently. “She doesn’t want us to leave,” Ian said, turning to wave farewell to Uncle Sy through the back window. “Turn around and sit down,” Ian’s father snapped again. “The sooner we get away from that harbinger of bad news, the better.” Ian felt the car accelerate. He watched Maggie through the windows until she disappeared from view. “Must you drive so fast?” Ian’s mother asked. “I want to get home before the rain starts,” his father replied. “The way those clouds are roiling, the rain could be heavy.” “I don’t know that Maggie’s bad,” Ian’s mother said a few minutes later, as if she’d been contemplating the afternoon. “It seems to me that she didn’t want us to go. As if she was trying to tell us not to.” She shook her head, patting the hat pinned to her hair. “Perhaps, she was only after my hat pin after all!” In that moment, the car lurched forcing mother and son to brace themselves. “Dear, really, must you drive so fast?” Ian’s father didn’t answer. A few miles further along, menacing clouds consumed the remaining daylight. Half-penny sized plops of rain banged on the car and filled the ruts

with water. A loud clap of thunder startled them. Its lightning companion slashed the road ahead of them, illuminating a darting red deer. Ian’s father swerved, losing control when the tires of the speeding vehicle bounced out of the muddy ruts. The Austin catapulted into the forest that ran alongside the roadway. Ian watched through the front window screen as the airborne vehicle crashed through shrubbery, bouncing wildly until its left headlight collided with the thick trunk of an oak tree. In the next instant, Ian felt his body hurl into the side window and slide to the roof. He felt the car twice roll side-over-side and come to an abrupt halt. Through a window, he saw the Austin’s nose embedded in the silt of a fast-moving stream. In the stillness that followed, Ian felt for a throbbing pain above his right eye and saw blood on his hand when he pulled it away. He scrambled onto his knees. “Mother! Father!” he cried, but they didn’t answer. He shook their shoulders trying to stir them, but neither moved. He saw the glassy shimmer of water creeping into the nose of the car, rising quickly. “I must get help,” he muttered, panic settling into his bones. As his brain fought to find clarity, he thought he heard squawking – Maggie’s squawking. “Maggie!” he cried, lowering the back window. When he tried to crawl through the open window, the car shifted on the unstable bank, throwing him back into the seat. He grabbed the window frame and pulled himself up again, tumbling through the opening and into the oozing mud. Maggie squawked at him from her perch on an upturned tire, as if to encourage him. She flew toward him, circling. Then, she flew toward the road, and back to him. After repeating her pattern twice more, Ian realized that she wanted him to follow her. “You’re right, Maggie,” he said. “We must get help!” Ian staggered after Maggie, toward a dark house a few yards along the lane. A tall hedgerow encircled the property, casting ominous shadows in the yard. He pushed open a rusty gate, revealing a path that led to an unlit portico. “Hello!” Ian called banging on the door. “Hello! Please! I need help! There’s been an accident! My parents are hurt!” He continued to bang until light flickered through a window.

“Who is it?” a voice demanded. Ian shouted his plea for help again. The door creaked open, revealing a miniature wrinkled face haloed in snow-white hair. A gnarled hand beckoned him inside. “My husband is speaking with the police,” the elderly woman said. “Please come in.” Maggie squawked from a branch above Ian’s head. When he looked up, she twisted her head from side to side, as if to warn against entering the house. Her black eyes gleamed in the light from the doorway. “I can’t,” Ian replied, raising his hand to his injured temple. His head pounded. “I’m going back. I’m worried about my parents.” “As you wish, young man,” an elderly gentleman answered. “I’ve called the police. Help is on the way. What were you folks thinking driving in this foul weather?” “We were visiting my great uncle Sy,” Ian replied. “It’s my birthday and I wanted to spend it with him.” Ian’s eyes widened with realization, and tears sprang forth. “This is my fault! I insisted that we visit! If I had just gone to the films like they asked, this wouldn’t have happened.” Ian lost control and burst into sobs. “Now, now,” said the elderly woman, extending an arm as if to invite him inside. “It’s not your fault. These things happen. Come. I’ll make us some tea. You must be chilled.” From her perch on the tree, Maggie began bobbing and squawking again. “I’d better not,” Ian said, swiping at his tears. “I need to get back to the car.” Remembering his manners, he thanked them and asked whether they might know his uncle. “Yes, we do,” the woman said. “Shall we call him for you? Tell him what’s happened?” “Yes, please,” Ian replied. He scurried along the path, through the gate and down the lane. As he approached the point at which the car had left the road, bright lights came toward him. He waved them to a halt and explained to a policeman what had happened. He watched as two policemen and ambulance attendants

hastened down the embankment. Then, he stood in the lane hugging himself to still his shivers and waited. Maggie sat on a branch near his shoulder, watching. To Ian, it seemed a long time before one of the policemen returned to the lane. A minute later, the two shielded their eyes to the bright headlights of Uncle Sy’s rusty green lorry, rolling to a stop at the side of the lane. The old man jumped out and ran toward Ian. Maggie squawked a greeting. “What’s happened here?” Uncle Sy exclaimed. The policeman took command of the conversation, informing Ian and his uncle that Ian’s father was dead, and that the medic advised his mother may not survive her injuries. As Ian absorbed the shock of the news, his elder wrapped great arms around him, cocooning him in warmth and safety. Ian sobbed uncontrollably. Tears trickled down Uncle Sy’s cheeks. “Farewell!” Maggie squawked from a nearby perch. “Farewell!” she said again, lowering her head, as if in mourning. “They’re coming up now,” the policeman said, spying movement on the bank. “The boy shouldn’t be here.” “Come,” Uncle Sy said, turning Ian toward his truck. “No!” Ian shouted. “I can’t leave them!” “Son,” the officer said, “they’re in pretty rough shape. Go with your uncle. Tomorrow, he can bring you to the station.” “Home!” Maggie said, hoping on the perch. Uncle Sy helped Ian into the truck and headed back along the mud-slicked lane. Maggie flew ahead of the lorry, the white of her wings gleaming in the headlight rays. Ian snuggled into his uncle’s shoulder, weary with sorrow. “Look, son,” Uncle Sy said, his voice weighed with worry and sadness, “Maggie’s leading us home.”

------------------------------------------------------- Maggie Girl copyright Jerena Tobiasen

Are There Really Ghosts? by W. Ruth Kozak

Halloween is coming, the time of spooks, ghosts and goblins. It can be a scary time as well as one with lots of fun. The best Halloween are the spooky ones, though, when the spirits of the dead are present. I have always believed in the existence of ghosts or spirits. When I was little, my friends used to tease me, trying to get me to go inside spooky, empty buildings. Once a playmate showed me some berries on a brush and said they were ‘ghost eggs’. I believed her. When I was in my early teens, I recall being aroused from my sleep to find two men standing by my bed smiling down at me. One was tall, wearing an overcoat and fedora. The other was a short Asian man. They didn’t speak, just smiled, and then vanished. I’ve never forgotten that ghostly encounter and often wondered who they were and why they had come to visit me. Recently, I read an article about this kind of phenomena. It pointed out that these kinds of ghostly visitations are not meant to harm, but to assure the person that all is well, that they are protected. All through my life, I’ve experienced surreal events. During the early 70’s when I was sharing an old house with my two kids and several other people, there was another memorable ghostly sighting. It was a big old house out in Burquitlam. Often strange things would happen such as taps being turned on, strange noises, and other weird things. One night as we sat in the living room with a view of the kitchen area, a wad of rolled up paper suddenly flew out of the waste basket and landed in the middle of the kitchen floor. How did that happen when there was nobody in the kitchen!? One day not long afterwards, one of the girl tenants brought a boyfriend home. He said he used to live in that house and he asked if we had ‘met the ghost’. Turned out, when living there he and his friends had the same weird

experiences that we were experiencing. They decided to investigate and learned that once an elderly man had lived there. They called him “the ghost of the house”. They found a stash of empty liquor bottles in an upstairs attic room, and they also found a picture of him which they posted over the door lintel. So there really was a ghost in that house. It wasn’t just our imagination! Some years later, when I was living part time in a shepherd’s village in Greece in a old house built in the 1700’s I was asked by the village women if I was scared living there. Why? Because, they said, the house was haunted by the ghost of the old lady named Evangelitsa who used to live there. In fact, she had died in the bed with the iron bedstead that I slept in. When I said I wasn’t afraid, they said “She must look on you with a good eye”. The interesting connection was that Evangelitsa’s husband had been the village drunk and was killed by falling off a bridge. Strange, as my ex was also an alcoholic who died a rather tragic death. One day, a stray cat came into the house. It was a striped tabby. It walked around as if it owned the place but wouldn’t let me pick it up. I named her “Miss Kitty” and felt somehow she was the spirit of the old lady, Evangelitsa. One day during the summer Miss Kitty disappeared and later I found her in the olive grove behind some bushes nursing a batch of kittens. I let her be, and one day as I was sitting on the porch, she brought the kittens one by one and dropped them at my feet. I knew that they must have been a gift from Evangelitsa. So you see, ghosts do exist, and not all of them are scary! Enjoy your Halloween, and don’t be afraid of the spooks!

----------------------------- ARE THERE REALLY GHOSTS? copyright Ruth W. Kozak

Congratulations to our featured author John Mavin on the success of his short story collection entitled RAGE published by Thistledown Press. A big THANK YOU to John for a fabulous reading and a wonderful Q and A session. Thanks to our open mic readers! Watch for our next ToST coming up on Nov 14 featuring Bill Arnott. See you there! - Janet Kvammen, RCLAS Vice-President

Upcoming Events Fall 2019 Info: Please watch for event updates and news via our website and our social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @royalcitylit

RCLAS Writing Workshop: “Writing About Trauma, Taboos, Secrets & Other Scary Stuff” Facilitator: Heather Conn Date: Saturday Oct 19, 2019 Time: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm Location: Anvil Centre, 4th Floor. Rm 413A Close to New West Skytrain Station. Wheelchair Accessible. Workshop Fees: RCLAS Members $15/Non-members $25 Payment available online Pre-register at WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION: Incest, sexual assault, bullying, bulimia…Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, such personally revealing topics can prove terrifying for any writer, regardless of literary experience. If you’re revealing a family secret for the first time, how do you overcome fear of retribution or getting ostracized? How do you write past PTSD? What happens if one of your subjects threatens to sue? Beyond emotional and legal risks lie the many creative choices that such courageous writing requires. While feeling isolated and vulnerable, a writer must decide many issues e.g. Should I use first- or third-person? Are composite characters acceptable in nonfiction? What structure and time frame will best serve the story? In this #MeToo era, we need more original, compelling stories by resilient people who are working, or have worked, through victimization and can inspire others . Whether you are thinking about writing such a story or have spent years revising a manuscript that keeps you conflicted, this workshop will provide muchneeded encouragement, guidance, and support. Heather is skilled at quickly creating an atmosphere of trust and safety.

In her four-decade career, Heather has written nonfiction accounts of incest, sexual assaults, trauma, PTSD, flashbacks, and caregiving for her dying husband. She has coached writers dealing with issues from mental illness, rape, racism and institutionalization to transgender stigmas. Heather will provide both practical and inspirational tips, encouraging active discussion.

Workshop Objectives • to apply tailor-made solutions/suggestions for each participant’s writing project • to provide a general “toolkit of tips” to help participants complete an existing project and/or start a new controversial one • to give conflicted writers confidence, helping them overcome fears and doubts about tackling a loaded personal topic that could bring backlash from family members and/or society • to offer a safe, supportive, group atmosphere that breaks down a writer’s sense of isolation, provides peer support, and reinforces “You are not alone” • to introduce participants to how the marketplace/agents/publishers etc can respond to this type of story • to engage, inspire, and educate participants with personal anecdotes regarding the presenter’s own writing and publishing challenges and triumphs when writing about tough topics • to make participants aware of what basic legal issues are involved in tell-all books. BIO: Heather Conn has written articles for more than 50 publications, including The Globe and Mail,Vancouver Sun, and Canadian Encyclopedia. Her nonfiction features have appeared in diverse anthologies. She is the author of two history books and picture-book fiction and is currently revising her memoir. She has written first-person accounts on topics ranging from incest and sexual assault to caregiving for a dying spouse. Heather teaches creative writing for the City of Port Moody and screenwriting at Powell River Digital Film School. She has taught at multiple venues including Selkirk College and Capilano University (Sechelt). A freelance writer/editor and writing coach, she has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College in Baltimore, Md. Find out more at

“Cat Musings Reading Series” Variety Open Mic Host: Janene White. Featuring Cynthia Sharp Date: Wednesday Oct 16, 2019 Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm, Doors open at 6:30 Free admission Donations kindly accepted. Location: New West Artists Gallery (beside Renaissance Books) 712C - 12th Street, New Westminster Cynthia Sharp is the City of Richmond's Writer in Residence. She is a full member of The League of Canadian Poets and on the executive of the Federation of BC Writers. She’s featured at The Vancouver Writer's Festival, Word Vancouver, The SFU Reading Series, Words on Fire in Port Alberni and other literary events through North America. Her poetry has been recognized globally and used in classrooms in Canada, the U.S. and Scotland. You can find her works in journals such as CV2, Lantern Magazine and untethered, among others. In Partnership with Renaissance Books, New West Artists and Royal City Literary Arts Society.

Next Cat Musings WED NOVEMBER 20 Mark your calendars.

RCLAS presents “Tellers of Short Tales” Feature Author: Bill Arnott Date: Thursday Nov 14, 2019 Time: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Free admission. Location: Anvil Centre, 4th Floor Room 411A Close to Skytrain. Wheelchair accessible. Come to listen! Bring a friend! Bring a short story to share on Open Mic.

Description: A program of monthly readings designed to engage fans of the short story genre with emerging and published short story writers

Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Dromomania, Wonderful Magical Words and producer of Bill’s Artist Showcase. His Indie Folk CD is Studio 6. Bill’s work is published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe and Asia. His column Poetry Beat is published by the League of Canadian Poets and the Federation of BC Writers. Bill has a 2019 poetry prize and honourable mention from Pandora’s Collective and is a Finalist for the 2019 Whistler Independent Book Awards with Gone Viking: A Travel Saga.

RCLAS presents “In Their Words: a Royal City Reading Series” Date: Thursday, Nov 21, 2019 Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm, Free admission Location: Anvil Centre, 4th Floor Host: Ruth Kozak Three Feature Presenters Stephen Karr reads Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge Isabella Mori reads Kobayashi Issa (Japanese Haiku Poet) Janene White reads James Herriot (English Author) 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

Interested in being a reader at “In Their Words” in 2020? Email a note to Ruth Kozak at to find out more.

RCLAS Writing Workshop: “Writing The Hero/ Heroine’s Journey” Facilitator: Carol Johnson Date: Saturday Nov 23, 2019 Time: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm Location: Anvil Centre, 4th Floor. Workshop Fees: RCLAS Members $15/Non-members $25 Pre-register at

Workshop Description: In this workshop, we will explore material from Joseph Baker’s book, ‘The Writer’s Journey.’ We’ll discover the common elements in all compelling stories. We’ll apply those elements to our own writing. Our primary focus is character development – how and why does a protagonist choose to move out of her/his comfort zone? We’ll explore internal vs external motivations. We’ll talk about archetypes vs stereotypes, and use that knowledge to create well-rounded characters. After all, as writers we want our characters to be as real, tangible, and complex as the people around us. And as Baker says, “…the protagonist of every story is a hero.”

Bio: Carol Johnson is a late-in-life writer who first fell in love with words and stories during her childhood. In grade-school she created chap books which became ‘required’ reading for her family and friends. Now a grandmother, she is an enthusiastic creative writing graduate from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, BC. Carol has studied with Billeh Nickerson, Jen Currin, Aislinn Hunter, Cathy Stonehouse and Nicola Harwood. Carol lives in Langley, BC with her husband Paul. They both enjoy spending time with their growing families and travelling. She is currently working on a mixed genre manuscript of short-stories and poetry that inter-weave her father’s journey with that of his birth mother.



Poet Angel Edwards launches her new book SPIRITS DRESSED UP AS POEMS (Silver Bow Publishing 2019) including poetry readings by Candice James, Janet Kvammen, music by Enrico Renz and more. Date: Saturday November 2, 2019 Time: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm, Free admission. Location: Anvil Centre, 4th Floor Room 417 Close to Skytrain. Wheelchair accessible. Read Angel Edward’s recently published short story in the Oct/Nov 2019 issue of Our Canada magazine “A Haunting Wartime Romance”:

Listen to her music here:

6th ANNUAL FRED COGSWELL AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN POETRY Award Ceremony with Emcee Alan Hill 2019 Judge Fred Wah Date: Saturday November 30, 2019 Time: 2:00 pm Location: New Westminster Public Library

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....and a reminder to all poets and lovers of poetry

“Poetic Justice/Poetry New West” Sunday Afternoons (except Holiday Weekends) Time: 2:00pm – 4:00pm, Free admission. Location: The Heritage Grill, 447 Columbia St, New Westminster

Open Mic. Prizes, trivia, writing prompt, fun! Host: Warren Dean Fulton.


RCLAS Members Open Call for Submissions Submit Word documents WITH YOUR NAME and Title on file name Email Janet Kvammen, RCLAS Vice-President/E-zine

Nov 1 Deadline for the November 2019 ISSUE Dec1 Deadline for the December 2019 ISSUE CURRENTLY SEEKING POETRY AND FICTION/NON-FICTION with WINTER AND RIVER THEMES No theme required to submit. 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 New Westminster Public Library The Heritage Grill New West Artists Gallery on 12th

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before Mr E. A. Poe

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October 2019 Wordplay at work ISSN 2291- 4269 Contact: RCLAS Vice-President/ E-zine

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October 2019 RCLAS Wordplay at Work, Issue 67  

OCT 2019 RCLAS Wordplay at Work, Issue 67 ISSN 2291- 4269, 78 pages. Issue 67 includes our 2019 Cogswell Award Shortlist Announcement, Wr...

October 2019 RCLAS Wordplay at Work, Issue 67  

OCT 2019 RCLAS Wordplay at Work, Issue 67 ISSN 2291- 4269, 78 pages. Issue 67 includes our 2019 Cogswell Award Shortlist Announcement, Wr...

Profile for rclas