The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Laughing At Children's Love

by Pasha Malla

“At least I have never made the mistake of laughing at children’s love. It has a terrible inevitability of separation because there can be no satisfaction.”
– Graham Greene, “The Innocents”

“The Innocents” is a story of Graham Greene’s about a very young boy who loves a very young girl. She has her piano lessons at the same place he does, and every week he lives for seeing her... or something. Mostly, I forget. I read the story ages ago; all I have to go on now are a few bits I liked and wrote down at the time. The details escape me.

From my notes, I know that the narrator says, “I remembered the small girl as well as one remembers anyone without a photograph to refer to... I remembered all the games of blind-man’s bluff at birthday parties when I vainly hoped to catch her, so that I might have the excuse to touch and hold her, but I never caught her; she always kept out of my way.”

When I was in second grade, I loved a small girl named Becky. I say, “loved,” because love, I believe, is the emotion I felt. I have never understood the people who say that children’s love is misguided, confused, or somehow invalid. To these people, apparently, a few more years of existence have afforded adults an intrinsic understanding of love: they can define it in absolute terms and just as easily identify its false incarnations.

I remember once, in the second grade, lining up for the bus to go somewhere, a field trip to some farm or museum, and hoping desperately that I would by some miracle end up in the seat next to Becky. What I felt in the moments leading up to boarding the bus was wrenching. I stood near the back of the line. Becky was near the front. There were maybe twenty of our classmates between us. Mrs. Anderson stood at the bus doors with her clipboard, checking kids off her list, giving them their seat assignment according to a trouble-mitigating plan, and letting them board the bus, one at a time.

Becky was small. She was small, and I remember her as beautiful. Now, at twenty-nine, I would try not to consider a six year-old child “beautiful,” because it would be creepy. I might call them “cute” or “tow-headed,” whatever that means. “Beautiful” innately construes desire – if not sexual desire, then at least that feeling of needing deeply to be with someone, of longing if not lust. Even now, I think of six year-old Becky and she remains in my memory: beautiful.

I remember, also, being afraid of Becky. I was torn between wanting to be with – or just near – her, and also to run away. She made a storm rage up in my belly; she was electrifying. In class, she sat behind me and to the left – close enough to reach back and touch, if I dared. I would glance fleetingly over my shoulder at her from time to time. If she caught me, something prickly and hot would fizz its way up from my hands to my face, and I would spend the rest of the class staring at the blackboard.

When it was Becky’s turn to get on the bus, I watched her climb the stairs, hoping she would look back at me. She didn’t. Mrs. Anderson ticked her off the list and Becky made her way down the aisle to a window seat. I stood staring at her framed in the window as the line trudged forward and my classmates were accounted for and told where to sit.

By now the bus was maybe half-full, and still the seat beside Becky was empty, but each kid ahead of me represented another chance of not being with her. A boy named Michael, whom I had once seen eat his own boogers at the pencil sharpener, was next up. If he were placed beside Becky, I would lose all faith in humanity. The world might as well cease to exist. Michael took his instructions from Mrs. Anderson and climbed aboard. He moved past Becky and sat at the back of the bus, alone.

Another child boarded, then another. I was getting close. Still the seat beside Becky remained unfilled. That funny electric feeling was zipping around my gut. Then, it was my turn.

The stars must have aligned, I guess.

I don’t think, sitting down, that I would have spoken to her. What I do know is that the bus started up, jostling us together, and suddenly my thigh was touching hers. Amazingly, she didn’t move away. She gazed out the window at the trees and lawns passing by. Her leg was warm against mine, and we rode like that all the way to wherever we were going, and after we were done whatever it was we were doing there, we rode back like that, too. When we got back to school, we went our separate ways. The leg-touch had been enough; we had consummated our love through two layers of denim, and I was sated, and I could get on with my life, and so I did.

Recently, I was cramped into the backseat on a long car-ride with a beautiful woman. We were squished together; our thighs touched for most the ride. It was nice, and a week later, we had sex. Obviously, the thigh-touch had not been enough; we were adults, so it was necessary that we take things to the next, expected level. Within another week, things had fizzled out. Instead of something valid and wonderful in itself, we read the moment in the car as a beginning. There was no “inevitability of separation”; we could easily get drunk one night and come together. And so we did.

There is one more bit from Graham Greene’s story I have written down: “I loved her with an intensity I have never felt since, I believe, for anyone.” He’s still talking about the small girl, but it’s with an adult’s objectivity. Even then, he still loves her – or at least values the love he had for her as a kid as completely legitimate, and very real.

I like this. I like also to think of myself at seven years old, heart pounding madly away, face flushed, head heavy and lolling about as the bus lurched across town and back, and Becky beside me with her leg pressed against mine, looking out the window, and me not speaking but wishing and wishing and wishing for that moment, that feeling of hope and of pure, perfect love, never to end.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Love Bite

by Andrew Tibbetts

Roses are red,

violets are blue,
I have nothing to say about love
That rhymes,

or fits inside some pre-ordained, rigid, sentimental, Petite-bourgeoisie metrical scheme.
So, bite me.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Cinephile's Confession

by Tamara Lee

I’m a film buff. Not just a movie nut, but one of those annoying movie-lovers who would name Guy Maddin, Werner Herzog, and Jacques Tati as a few of her favourite filmmakers. Who is more moved by film noir and French New Wave cinema than blockbusters or bible stories. Who doesn’t just have a membership at a repertory cinema (and actually knows what that is), but who has volunteered for one for over 10 years. Yes, I’m one of those.

Call me a film snob, il ne me fait rien.

But my screenwriter self has a sentimental side that no Roberto Benigni retrospective could wholly satisfy. Within me, The Romantic and The Comedian are tussling about the bed sheets trying to make a good Romantic Comedy. One that won’t embarrass me, or my fiction-writer self.

That fiction-writer self, meanwhile, has often touched upon the stuff of love and sex. (If hesitantly, since writing about sex in fiction is a dangerous venture, lest you end up winning the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction award.)

So why is writing about love and sex in literature doable, if hard, but writing about love and sex in film is, well, ahem, pardon me, erm, harder? Thankfully Rom-Coms are not about the sex. In fact, the best Rom-Coms are really about the not getting any.

And “best” is definitely relative when dealing with the genre that gave us one too many Meg Ryan movies. As a friend recently put it, when I listed off some of my favourite romantic comedies: “Well, yeah, those are good movies. I guess when I like them, I immediately think of them as a different genre.”

It’s true. We pooh-pooh the Rom-Com because this oft-insipid genre has outlived its welcome in our cynical post-millennium world. Not that we’ve become a loveless society. It’s just that we’re more savvy about love’s ridiculousness. And by ridiculous, I don’t mean that heavy-handed, “but-I-saw-you-kissing-her” bull-honkey.

Depicting sweet innocence is not enough. Nor are lame attempts at Shakespeare-redux, or trying to recapture a previous year’s hit scene. We want more, but we just don’t seem to realize that wanting more means accepting less. And by less, I don’t mean less clothing.

The golden age of Rom-Coms—the ‘40s and ‘50s—seems more progressive than anything we see today, especially when you consider gems like Some Like it Hot and 1971's Harold and Maude were in many ways even dangerous. Originality in genre is no easy feat. That’s why when we see such a gem it’s a real sparkly. In these films, there's some actual insight into human relationships, something racy about the characters we’ve not seen before.

So why do the Rom-Coms of old seem less dated, while most after 1980, generally, feel uncomfortably old-fashioned? Perhaps DeLoreans and shoulder pads provided a metaphor for what was to come: some things should just never happen.

Nevertheless, the Rom-Com persists, and the bulk of what’s out there is disappointing. Thus, my experiment to see if I can, in fact, write one worth sitting all the way through. As Rom-Com writer/teacher Billy Mernit suggests, Rom-Coms with the most staying power don’t follow strict formula, they throw in a bit of history, satire, suspense.

And that’s just what I’ve come to realize when I look at my list. Not a one is straight-ahead Rom-Com. I'm sure I've forgotten some, and some of you may disagree with what I've put here. By all means, feel free to suggest your favourites to me.

Love 'em or leave 'em, without further ado, here’s my list of 15 thoroughly watchable Romantic Comedies:

My Man Godfrey
Bringing Up Baby
His Girl Friday
The Philadelphia Story
Adam’s Rib

Some Like it Hot
Harold and Maude
What’s Up, Doc?
Annie Hall

Truly, Madly, Deeply
Benny & Joon
Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (Amelie)
Lost in Translation

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What is Love?

A protestor, a pig and a flood have something to say.

by Lisa Ling

Love is overrated. Western romantic love, that is. This year, Valentines Day, Chinese New Year, and a disastrous flood occurred within days of each other. Together, they illustrate how Indonesians celebrate that ubiquitous thing called ‘love’.

On February 14th, even on the ‘other’ side of the world, I expected to see young couples pronouncing their undying commitment to each other, clasping red roses and heart shaped balloons, dreamily feeding each other chocolates with be my valentine scrolled across the top. Instead, I was shocked and bemused by what appeared on the front page of the Jakarta Post.

Anti-valentines day protestors. Yes, young Muslim women, covered from head to toe, carrying signs reading Valentine Days = Kapitalisme taking to the streets to protest a holiday celebrating…love, of all things. What exactly are they protesting? Public displays of affection? A western-created institution? An un-Islamic holiday? All of the above? Are there not more important things to protest than red roses and chocolate hearts? Nevertheless, these women marched the streets, rejecting what they viewed as a western holiday that conflicts with their faith. Think of the conviction it takes to protest publicly. More than the personal cringing and silent rebellion I feel at the thought of celebrating love en mass, as per Hallmark’s suggestion. These women protested based on their beliefs and were unafraid to display them. That conviction, in all its conflicted, ironic, non-sensical glory, is love. Love of ones’ beliefs.

Chinese New Year arrived a few days later. Who would have thought a pig and a dragon could tell us something about love? In Plaza Senayan, under a sky of red and gold umbrellas and paper lanterns, I stood in awe watching barongsai (liondance) jump to and fro, pouncing on the angpao (red packet) at the culmination of the performance. But it wasn’t the lion dancers I stood in awe of. It was the crowd. Native Indonesians, Chinese Indonesians, foreigners watched in fascination, soaking in the cultural spectacle. Hard to imagine that only ten years ago Chinese Indonesians were banned from celebrating their culture in public, speaking Chinese and holding Chinese names. Only ten years ago, racial tensions were so high that rioters burned Chinatown, killed thousands of Chinese and destroyed their businesses. Now, with those bans lifted, those same people stand side by side celebrating Chinese New Year together.

But where are the pigs? Ushering in the Year of the Golden Pig, I notice a suspicious absence of pig decorations adorning the mall. In fact, you can’t find the fat little golden creatures anywhere! Suddenly I get it. Muslims revile pigs. They are considered filthy creatures not worthy even of eating, and the Chinese (who adore barbequed pork) are sensitive to this fact. Not wanting to offend, in a country where almost 90% of the population is Muslim, they display dragons instead. Dragons symbolize power and wealth, harmony and health. Almost as good as a pig for bringing in the new year. When one group extends their hand to embrace another culture, and the other group responds in mutual consideration, that’s love.

The third event in this love triangle is the flood. Jakarta suffered the worst flood in years on February 1, and on Valentines Day, the clean-up continued. Over a quarter million people rendered homeless in less than 24 hours. Soldiers helped locals sweep mud and debris from their homes, companies donated wares to help return normalcy to daily life, citizens gathered food and supplies for flood victims, hospitals accepted the influx of disease-ridden children who treated the flood waters as swimming pools. I was simultaneously horrified and amazed as I saw photos of kids jumping off overpasses into pools of flood water on streets below. Don’t they know this water is mixed with sewage, and other filth? Don’t they care?

One thing is clear. They care about each other. Despite the disaster, or perhaps because of it, the Indonesian people’s essential nature came shining through – resourcefulness, community embrace, and playfulness even in the face of extreme hardship. These people who have next to nothing have the most of all. Love.

Love of one’s beliefs, love for each other, love for one’s culture and its peaceful coexistence with another. Who would have thought a protestor, a pig and a flood would have so much in common, especially on Valentines Day?

The first and last picture are from The Jakarta Post.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


by Ruth Taylor

Claudia, seventeen, lies on her back on a narrow bed in a dark room. Her eyes are closed but she is awake. Beside her is her cousin Andrea. Around them, on other beds, cots and reed mats spread across cement floors in this room and the next, an assortment of cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents are sleeping. Or appear to be.

On the other side of the cinder-block walls, out in the black street, there is music. A group of young men, boys really, are singing a love song to Claudia. They have no instruments, but they harmonize well. During the day, these same boys nod in unison to the heavy beat of Alux Nahual blasting from cheap tape decks. They mouth Latin rap to the videos they see on TV. But tonight they sing about moonlight on a window that is closed.

The boys have not announced that the song is for Claudia, but she knows it is. And though she cannot be sure, she decides the singers include the young man she met earlier this evening when she was out with Andrea. The one with the pretty eyes who looked away whenever she tried to meet his gaze. The one who made her laugh when he missed the stack of cans he was aiming his beanbags at.

Remembering it, Claudia stifles a laugh. He hadn’t even come close.

Like many of the young men outside and perhaps half the people in San Antonio Huista tonight, Claudia has come here for the Fiestas de Guadalupe, the town’s patron. They have come because they or other family members were born here, and tomorrow most of them, including Claudia, will be going home.

Tonight the troubadours will visit other houses in the sleeping town. At some, the girls will try to talk to or at least get a look at their would-be suitors before their parents order them back to bed. At one house, the girl’s father himself will crack the door open and request a song. Claudia is allowed to come and go as she pleases. The adults in her family set few boundaries and respect even fewer. She endures their questions, their opinions and advice, dozens of fingers hoping to unravel the knot of her emotions.

The night air is fragrant with the scent of pine needles, sawdust and petals trampled underfoot by the day’s processions.

Claudia smiles in the dark. She decides not to go to the window, but to feign sleep and listen.

Guest blogger Ruth Taylor worked for a decade as a journalist in Guatemala before returning to Canada three years ago. Now she lives in London, Ontario, with her partner and three kids and wonders everyday whether the decision to move north was the right one. Her fiction has appeared in Kiss Machine and online at The Danforth Review.

Inset photo courtesy of Servicio de Información Muncipal, Guatemala. Top photo provided by Ruth Taylor.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Can you hear the drums, Fernando?

By Anne Chudobiak

"Missing in Action
(since May 10, from the South End)

-Grey, with short hair
-one-year old
-very nice

Also answers to:

We miss him a lot. He's a good kitty. Bring him back to us, please.

Emilie or Daniel (902) ***-****"

According to this Nova Scotian lost-and-found website, Fernando went missing from Halifax’s South End last spring. So why are these French-language posters turning up in my Montreal neighbourhood this February? Might Fernando really have strayed more than a thousand kilometres away from home? It seems unlikely for a cat with an eye condition. All I can say is, Fernando or whatever name you go by now, someone out there loves you very much.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Truth and Fiction

By H. E. Eigler
As soon as I was given the chance to post during the CWC month of love, I began to debate whether I would write a fiction piece or a non-fiction piece. I couldn’t decide so you are getting one of each.

Love – a fiction
By H.E.Eigler

The car stereo is broken. Driving home from work is so monotonous. Everyday the journey is the same, except today. Today there is a green truck in my rear view mirror. In the truck sits a man. He is old. He is steering the truck with his elbow as he twists the arm of his sunglasses over and over in his ear. It must be itchy.

I’m disgusted so I pry my eyes from the nasty scene and look ahead at a red Jeep.

I can see this occupant is also a man.

He has his arm on the windowsill. There is a cast on it to the elbow. Poor guy.
I can see his face in the side mirror. He has great hair; just long enough to show a few curls forming.

I love him.

His jawbone has a smattering of stubble. I wonder what it would be like to kiss him. Would the stubble be rough or soft? Would his skin smell of soap or the repercussions of his workday?

Soon, I’m sure he will put on his signal and pull over into a gas station or parking lot.

He is looking at me in his mirror. I can tell he is pleased with what he sees. He is smiling. My rear view still shows Mr. Grossness who is tailgating me now. I tap the brakes.

My exit is approaching but Red Jeep doesn’t turn so neither do I. We must be going to his place where he is going to cook me dinner while I browse through his music collection. I wish my car stereo were working.

He is using the arm with the cast to steer now. What is that in his other hand?

A cell phone. What a bastard.

He is talking to another woman; I can tell by the smile on his face. He is laughing.
The side mirror on the red Jeep reflects a smirk directed right at me.

How could I not have known? I’m such a fool for trusting him. How could I let myself fall in love with somebody who drives around with a broken taillight anyway?

My God, what was I thinking? And now I’ve missed my turn off because he mislead me. I think I’m lost. Even Mr. Grossness has stopped riding my tail. I feel so disorientated. Maybe I have a map somewhere.

I push aside some empty fast food bags and find the map. When I look up again, Red Jeep is gone. I miss him so much. And I blame myself for how our relationship ended. I acted so horribly. I completely understand why he cheated and why he left me. It was because I smothered him, suffocated him. I followed too close.

Love – a truth
By H.E.Eigler

I don’t know if you will look like your father or me. I don’t know if you will be a boy or a girl. We’ve never met, but you are now and will forever be a part of me. It won’t be long until I can name you, until I can hold you and feed you. I am anxious to see what colour your eyes will be.

And your father, he is overjoyed. He has been waiting for you for a long time now. Your father and I have been in love for many years and after so much time has passed, we both knew that our feelings were too vast to share only amongst ourselves. Love? Well, you will never be without that. Love means we will be there unconditionally. It means we will have your best interests close to our hearts. It means you can be who you want to be and have somewhere to call home, because soon you will be out in the world.

Everyday I feel more and more connected to you. Each kick you deliver grows the bond we are forming. I had no idea that all my thoughts would consist of you; that all I would want is to hold you. Maybe someday when you are grown, with a tiny life bonding itself to yours, you will finally understand all that I am trying to explain. You will know an expanse of love like you never thought possible.

Rest easy now; you will need your energy for the big journey. See you soon little one.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Time Out With Old Friends

by Jennifer McDougall

This Family Day long weekend, my oldest and dearest friend Tracy invited us to join her family for skiing in southern BC. The ten of us would stay together at a friend’s cabin. It was strangely comforting driving out for a weekend in a place we didn’t know, with friends we rarely see. As kids, Tracy and I shared a birthday week and a postal code and damn near everything else, but as adults with busy families, opportunities for visiting seem to have disappeared.

We telephone, we email, we attend all the typical milestone celebrations: a husband’s 40th birthday party, a grandparent’s funeral, a sister’s baby shower, a child’s baptism, wedding anniversaries, and retirement parties. The infrequency of our visits had me mildly worried that the weekend might bring on a few bumps.

The spacious cabin was more than we needed even with six kids and two husbands between Tracy and me. It had been built decades ago by the owners and the interior wooden plank walls were decorated with memories of ski trips over the years: blown up photos of large friendly groups, including Tracy's parents, toasting après ski, and mounted jigsaw puzzles completed by those same friends.

A guilty twinge rose in me at the sight of these happy people celebrating their friendships. I worried that there’ll be nothing left of my friendship with Tracy if it continues to occupy a low priority. She is someone I love, someone very important to me and I already regret that our time together often gets shoved to one side.

Together we cared for our children this weekend, completely trusting one another: feeding them, guiding them down the ski hill, putting them to bed. We were two sides of the same mother reading each other’s minds as we used to: her, the determined, purposeful hard worker; me, the slightly calmer, carefree chatterbox.

She let me go on and on about my kids, listened with genuine interest as I described my elaborate dreams which float beyond her practically designed comfort zone. I kept her company in the kitchen where she is most at home. Her, busily chopping and stirring and tidying; me, offering to help, but only halfheartedly because both of us know she’s the better cook and that she’d really rather do it herself. The many times she’s yanked an awkwardly positioned wooden spoon from my hand make me smile today. In the kitchen she’s always been the authority, even as teenagers I‘d pop by her parents’ place when I smelled Tracy’s Saturday morning pancakes on the pan.

It wasn’t long before we fell into our comfortable routines of friendship that were built in from the beginning, long before we knew how to manipulate or control them. The ways in which we would forever relate to each other were forged at age seven.

Yesterday, our final day at the cabin, I followed Tracy out to the deck where she could smoke before driving the three hours home. Together we relaxed in surprisingly warm weather, away from the noise of the kids, just the two of us beneath treed snowy mountains next to a lovely log cabin.

She told me about the last time they came out here. “The kids set up a store with these rocks.” She gestured to a row of stones each at least the size of my fist lining the top edge of the deck railing. “They banged them against each other until they split.”

I lifted two pieces of a grey oval set beside one another as she spoke.

“There were some that broke in two and meshed back together perfectly. The kids called them friendship rocks.”

I pulled the mates apart again and saw that there was nothing visible missing, nothing lost in the time they had been separated. The two fit back together like nothing had ever come between them, like nothing could.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Back in the Day

By Craig Terlson

Billy and Suzy sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… well, you know the rest.

I’ve been thinking of juvenile taunts lately. Why? Because I am not all that mature – so neener, neener. A lot of these, or the best ones, seemed to revolve around love or some grade school form of it. What is it that is so fascinating about bugging a fellow classmate about sitting next to a girl in the lunchroom – well, I should clarify, it wasn’t just the guys. Girls were not innocent in this area. I believe the above was often a skipping rhyme, and sure there were boys that skipped (but we bugged the hell out of them). This one came from the girl’s side of the lunchroom:

Shame, shame, double-shame now I know your boyfriend’s name.

It came complete with hand gestures – I even remember three girls standing up together and performing this taunt like some elementary school Pointer Sisters.

My kids are older now, so I don’t know if these taunts still make the rounds on the playground, or perhaps there are some new ones for this techno-age.

I am rubber you are glue, you love her like PS2

I guess what I am wondering is where all those good love taunts go when you get older. In these PC times we can’t really rib our buddies with a good old shame, shame, now I know your girlfriend’s name, um, I mean, your wife, and I guess you know it too… so, well, nevermind. And, uh, sorry about the shame thing, I know that is very bad for your self-esteem.

Wait… I do know of one that could still work. You know when you said you really liked something, like a book or a movie or even a sweater and some big kid would go, “Hey, if you like it so much… why don’t you marry it?!”

So, yeah, you know that girl with the long brown hair that I was always hanging around with? Yeah, the one I REALLY liked.
“Well, why don’t you --”
I did. So there.
And we’re still childish after all these years.

Craig Terlson shouts about fiction at

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Who Needs Shakespeare?

Bright are the stars that shine

But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

Dark is the sky.

It is the east and Juliet is the sun,

I know this love of mine

Will never die.

Arise, fair sun and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief,

That thou her maid art far more fair than she.

And I love her.

Goodnight, my love,

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow

Pleasant dreams and sleep tight, my love;

That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

May tomorrow be sunny and bright,

And bring you closer to me.

Ooh, ooh, ooh,

I feel my temperature rising.

Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;

Help me, I’m flaming,

Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;

I must be a hundred and nine.

Being vex’d, a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears;

My brain is flaming,

What is it else? A madness most discreet,

I don’t know which way to go.

A choking gall and a preserving sweet.

I’m just a hunk, a hunk of burning love.

Bye bye love,

O, here will I set up my everlasting rest,

Bye bye happiness,

And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars

From this world-wearied flesh.

Hello loneliness.

I think I’m gonna cry.

Eyes, look your last!

Bye bye love,

Bye bye sweet caress,

Arms, take your last embrace!

Hello emptiness,

Thus with a kiss I die.

I feel like I could die.

And I Love Her by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, recorded by the Beatles. Good Night My Love by George Motola and John Marascalco, recorded by the McGuire Sisters. Burning Love by Dennis Linde, recorded by Elvis Presley. Bye Bye Love by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, recorded by the Everly Brothers. Italicized lines from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Canadian Sex Symbol

Canadian Sex Symbol

A review of Men in Trees


Patricia Parkinson

(It's our month of love and this show is all about love, oh, and that other thing, oh yeah, sex!)

TV. It’s not something that interests me. This is due in part, to scheduling, the fact that the season that used to, in the old days, go from September till school got out, now ends in…March? And even then, with reruns and hiatuses for this and hiatuses for that, the new episodes run so sporadically, it’s difficult to maintain interest. Yet every September I continue to I check the TV Guide for the announcements of the returning shows, hinting at storylines left as cliffhangers in last seasons finales and introductions of the new arrivals. Checking is a habit from my much younger self when I mourned the loss of Mary Tyler Moore and celebrated the renewal of such shows as Knots Landing, how I hate to admit that, however, this fall, the new and not predicted to be successful, “Men in Trees,” was the show that caught my interest.

Staring an ensemble cast lead by Anne Heche, who is one of the reasons I made a mental note to watch it - out of curiosity more than anything, after all Anne Heche played twins Marley and Marnie in Another World (a teenage habit) this, combined with the fact that Heche’s personal life hasn’t exactly been a secret, intrigued me. But my main interest in her work stems from the knowledge of her recent Broadway success in both “Proof,”one of the longest running non musical plays in recent Broadway history, and her performance in “Twentieth Century” which earned her a Tony nomination. The woman’s got range.

In “Men in Trees,” Heche plays the part of Marin Frist, a relationship coach/writer who, during a speaking gig in of all places, Alaska, discovered her fiancee has cheated on her. Marin decided to take a break from the big city and concentrate on her novel, about, well, men! and stay "temporarily" in the fictional village of Elmo, Alaska. Elmo. Brilliant name. The scenery in this show is also a star. Did I neglect to say it's filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia? Marin brings with her best friends, some from New York who pay surprise visits, and new friends, the quirky cast that offer their own strong storylines and neurosis. Heche is real, open, gives me that, "I'm comfortable in my own skin," sort of feeling that I admire. Sometimes she’s a bit too Anne Heche, you know what I mean? But hey, she’s flawed. I can relate. In Men in Trees, Anne Heche, I believe, is playing herself. Bottom line? I'd love to go for coffee with her and can’t see any other actor playing this role. She nails it.

And now to the main reason my curiosity in the show was piqued.

Meet James Tupper from Halifax, Nova Scotia - the breakout star and the newest sex symbol to hit network television since, well, that other guy.

James Tupper plays the part of Jack Slattery. Marin’s on again, off again, forever smouldering, love interest. He’s square jawed and handsome and handy and another “h” word that he makes me feel too. Jack can build a fire and has a job saving the environment and is the only man I'm aware of to whom the words, "I just want to hold you all night," mean just that. Jack recently held Marin naked on top of him for an entire night, all in the name of hypothermia! Jack Slattery is a “good man” and perhaps I’m being cynical, but good men don’t come around that often. His portrayal is so believable that I'm led to believe Tupper too, is playing himself. This is my fantasy. In a recent interview when asked what he thought about his newfound sex symbol status, Tupper replied, he may have even blushed - a good man and a humble actor - James Tupper is the real deal - “A sex symbol, eh? (he did say that) Well, my dad can’t understand it, I don't quite get it myself, but Dad did ask me to send ten autographed pictures.” You gotta love this guy.

Originally billed as a “Northern Exposure” wanna be, which in my opinion, couldn’t be farther from the truth, Men in Trees, which is created by a headwriter and an executive producer from Sex in the City, bears the network censorship laws of its thumbprint. Anne Heche is a writer, (her character was recently published in The New Yorker) blonde, nice body, bisexual in real life, which is far more intruiging than being married to the star of The Producers, great wardrobe, and I mean great, forget about Manolo Blahnik, which I’m sure are all ultra chic in Manhatten but so not in Elmo. Marin Frist wears funky boots and jackets and sweaters and as we all know winter is the best season for fashion. In Elmo, Marin meets Jack, Mr. Big in hiking boots and a Mac jacket. But, Mr. Jack with eyes like my husband, who's been a sex symbol long before James Tupper came along, had best be watching his P's and Q's, as there's a new man in town with great abs and a bad boy attitude. In Elmo, men, the odder the hotter, are everywhere!

But the real reason for the success of this show, why I’ll celebrate if it’s renewed this coming season, is the chemistry between Heche and Tupper. Their storyline at present, has them off, there's nothing like longing and the forbidden to get thing heated up. This combined with rumors that Heche’s husband has sited a relationship between the two actors as grounds for divorce, make this pairing worth watching. The plot thickens.

Like Sex in the City, Men in Trees has the voice over of the main character at the end of each episode. Marin either resolving an issue, or finding her way around a new one, with questions or answers or affirmations that yes, we are flawed, we just need a little guidance.

Move over PatrickWhatsyourhead, the Canadian has a better time slot.

Check out the other Canadian talent on Men in Trees. Seems we're everywhere these days. I'm liking it.




A sidebar in the event a writer from ABC happens to read this. One weakness in the storyline: It’s hard as a viewer to buy into Jack hooking up with Lynn again. Sorry, but it just doesn't wash with me. Jack's a "good man," but he suffers no fools, is a no bullshit sorta guy with a whole lotta sex appeal. Will Marin and Jack reunite? I hope so, for at least one night! and hey, wouldn't it stir things up if Marin got pregnant? Wouldn't it though?


Friday, February 16, 2007

First Crush

by Melissa Bell

I wasn’t yet five. I know this because I wasn’t in school yet (these were pre-j/k days). He was older, although I wasn’t sure how much older – at least a couple of years though. And he had a girlfriend. But she was a mermaid and I knew she’d be toast on dry land.

His name was one of the first things I can remember actually writing, taking pains to spell it correctly as I copied it letter by letter from the listing in the TV Guide. Yes, I used crayon and a green sheet of newsprint-quality paper from my Doodle-pad ™, and yes, I’d mis-gauged my spacing and squished the last few letters right up against the right-hand edge of the page. But when I finished I felt triumphant. I had done it. I had produced magic. I had written his name.


He was so the coolest. He rode a white dolphin and used a boomerang to defeat bad guys. And handsome! Big brown eyes. Shock of dark hair that hung over his brow at a rakish angle. Snazzy orange wetsuit. Rawr!

I didn’t know he wasn’t real. I didn’t know his voice was actually that of a female. I didn’t know a lot of things. I was four. But I knew I liked Marine Boy. I knew I liked him a lot.

We were planning a drive down to Massachusetts that summer to spend some time by the sea. I figured I’d run into him and we’d be friends.

When I wasn’t thinking about Marine Boy, or colouring, or trying to dress up the cat, I spent a lot of time looking at comic books – they were easy for my father to pick up at Sid Bartle’s gas station on his way home from the airport when everything else in town was closed. One afternoon, while leafing through the back pages of an issue of Little Lotta, I came across exactly what was required to visit my true love: a submarine.

I wasted no time showing the ad to my father.

But I was not going to be getting that submarine anytime soon.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s not meant for the ocean, Missy.”

What the hell? Did he not even look at the picture? Not meant for the ocean? Was he crazy? It had a periscope and everything! It was big enough for two kids. The picture was very clear about that. And boy, did I envy those kids in that picture. They had access to Marine Boy in his undersea world and I did not? It just wasn’t fair.

I must have driven my parents a little nuts with my Marine Boy obsession. But they seemed to have inside knowledge as to when he was and was not on the television (while I could sort of read the TV Guide, I also could not sort of read the TV Guide – learning to tell time was still a couple of years away), so it was only natural that I would pepper them with Marine Boy-related questions ad nauseum.

“How old is Marine Boy?”


“Does Marine Boy like eggs?”

“Oh. Him. Yeah. He loves them. Drink your milk.”

“What time does Marine Boy have to go to bed?”

“8 o'clock. Same as you.”

“Does Marine Boy have a toboggan?”


One day, I guess I pushed my father a bit over the edge. Now before you think my father is a mean-spirited, cranky-pants, impatient child-hater, I can assure you he is not, nor has he ever been. But I could be a stubborn little pest on occasion, and I suppose he had long tired of the endless string of Marine Boy inquiries.

So he picked up the phone and dialed Marine Boy and invited him over for lunch.

I was four. An only child. I was still too young for school. I was rather inexperienced in the ways of kidding around or good-natured teasing. And I certainly didn’t know anything about sarcasm. So while dad went off to Winnipeg or Thunder Bay or Montreal or wherever he had to fly to that day, I sat in my room looking out the front window waiting for Marine Boy to show up for a baloney sandwich with mustard.

I waited. And I waited and I waited and I waited. Needless to say, Marine Boy was a no-show that afternoon.

Sad, huh? Heart-shattering? Well, not really. I was disappointed, yes, but I got over it shockingly quick-like. I concluded that Marine Boy wasn’t reliable for whatever reason (the demands of boomerang-ing bad guys beneath the waves, maybe he couldn’t get a ride, etc.), and by bedtime I’d moved on. I had a bit of chat with my mother, however, during Pajama Hour, and if I recall correctly she had some choice words for my father when he called home later that evening. I wasn’t sure what she seemed all angry about. It was Marine Boy she should have been mad at.

A fickle-hearted pre-schooler, I was in love again with someone else in a few weeks. A boy named Will. Will Robinson. Sure, he lived in outer space. Well, actually he was lost there. But I was certain I could find him and his whole family and bring them all home. And he'd love me forever.

All I needed to do was convince my father to buy me one of these.

(Thanks muchly to the very kind folks at for permitting the use of the image of Marine Boy above.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Truth About Cuddlers

by Antonios Maltezos

We’re horrible monsters. We love cuddling with our wives, but we don’t let them know it. And we never can, either, because everyone knows a real man doesn’t cuddle. He stretches his arm out across his wife’s pillow, and she snuggles in under his armpit, barely breathing, until he starts twitching, saying things like, oomph, you’re cutting off my circulation, babe.

Horrible, horrible, creatures, we are.

And crafty, but only after it’s too late and our backs are to the wall.

“Where’s my box of candies?”

You try getting mad, at first, raising your voice, seeing if that works, but she doesn’t cower, and you soon realize you have to tone it down, or shut up completely, look at your feet, wait, and then check if it’s okay to pucker up. No? You have to beat yourself about the head, then, because you can’t do anything right. “Why am I such a screw-up?” You look down again, for the last time this day, hopefully, or for however long it will take for the dark clouds to pass and she calls you an idiot, which would be some good news, finally, because you play the idiot well.

We’re terrible, even if we’re all cuddlers at heart. Besides, the way we cuddle involves getting a good grip on your wife’s bum cheek, or copping a feel off her breast, as if by mistake. You were only adjusting, getting comfy, almost cuddling. You feel like a weasel, but so what. It’s only natural. You shouldn’t have to ask, or say s’cuse me if it was by accident.

But they do treat us poorly. It isn’t always us. Sometimes, a man just wants his wife in the room when he’s watching TV. It makes him feel good knowing someone will be watching him watching TV, taking mental snapshots of him living, proof of his existence, his witness -- the wife. This is a picture of your dead father watching TV on that day. Except, they seldom take pictures. Instead, they talk about things not-at-all related to the programming.

And she’ll never let you win an argument, and you’ll always believe she’s angry, so you’ll pretend when in bed, that you didn’t know her boob was there. You’ll say s’cuse me this time, because it should have been obvious your angry wife didn’t want your b.o. on her side of the bed. She won’t scold, but she won’t acknowledge you, either, not until you say you want to almost cuddle and grab a good handful of the closest bum cheek.

Terrible, I know.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Fourteen on the Fourteenth

The Canadian Writers Collective celebrates Valentine's Day with six fourteen-word flashes.


Fresh leather. American cigarettes.

He was a bad boy, but he smelled so good.

— Mel Bell

Been There, Done That

In trash: one photo album, white gown and veil.

Down toilet: one gold band.

— Tricia Dower


From the heat of damask and down,

one foot barely touches the cool floor.

— Tamara Lee


Steamy mirror afterwards.

You wait your turn with one hand around my tea cup.

— J.A. McDougall


Kissing. Pulling closer from the small of her back.

His hand spans her clavicle.

— Patricia Parkinson

Self-Portrait, South Pennine Moors, c. 1982

The epicentre of love is not the beloved.

— Andrew Tibbetts

Take a stab at your own fourteen-word micro-fiction on the theme of love, and share it with us in the comments section, below. You can include the title in the word count as Andrew has done, or not, like the rest of us. The comment we love the most this month gets a prize!

Photo taken by Tricia on the Big Island of Hawaii, 2003. Hope you're still going strong, Rob and Patty.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sweet-Tarts and Secret Sauce

by Tamara Lee

When we were kids, there were a few things you could count on, on Valentine’s Day: a valentine from your teacher and a box of cheap chocolates in a heart-shaped cardboard box from your mother. The rest was just sugary coating.

Jimmy (or Jenny) Parker was not going to ask you to be his (or hers), and Tiffany Marcus, who collected her valentines like Jimmy collected hockey cards, would make a fan of her loot and waft all that love back and forth in front your face. And Buddy Comox, even that lug got as many valentines as you. It was a miserable day. Especially if you were pathetic at art, and the tissue finger-flowers lining your asymmetrical paper heart looked more like a science project gone awry. You were almost relieved when Buddy snatched it off your desk and turned it into a paper airplane.

Leapfrog a dozen years and it doesn’t get better. Life does, sure, but that day will forever be full of high expectations and low morale. You decide you hate that that kind of thing anyway.

Until you realise that it’s not romance you hate, it’s the day they tell you to love romance that turns you curmudgeonly.

Eventually, after taking your lumps in life and love, it occurs to you that romance is about minutiae, nestled between the well-placed pairing of words in a sonnet.

It feeds off the shared excitement over a great line in a song, and the mutual appreciation of a piece of art. It peppers an in-joke with that secret sauce. It’s in those moments that risk ruin if you try to explain it, or try to analyze its significance.

Romance is not necessarily about grand gestures and expensive dinners. It’s about waking up next to your bed partner, holding hands. And never mentioning how much it thrills you—that would only undo its beauty.

Negotiating to get a reservation for that trendy restaurant, fantasising about getting that $800 child-mined diamond necklace, or chattering to your friends about what you and your boyfriend did for V-Day all fly in the face of what romance really is: a private, inexplicable ‘it’ between two people.

Tiffany will probably marry Jimmy, and spend the rest of her life with him trying to recapture that old love. Buddy Comox will find love in the personals and surprise even himself.

And you, dear reader, you will write stories or poems about unrequited love, whirlwind romances, failed marriages, golden wedding anniversaries, and any number of variations of the theme. Because if there’s one thing your valentine-limited childhood gave you, it’s a certain perspective. No one sees romance like a closet romantic.

The closet romantic discovers romance is about two lovers sharing a singular moment amidst the madness to prove something. Two lovers quiet and still, because they have nothing to prove.

In this commodified world we live, that kind of true currency is rare, and its value continues to go underappreciated.

So whether it happens on the 14th, this year, or this decade: may you all get your fair share of that good ‘it’, the most valuable of currency.

Peace and love, babies.

Monday, February 12, 2007

When Like Sandra Dee Was The Way To Be

by Tricia Dower

March 10, 1960

Dear Diary,

The class trip was a blast! Kenny is so hysterical! I’ve always sort of liked him, but I never thought we’d ever get together. It was fate, I guess. I had quite a bit of manoeuvring to do when we got back to school, though: after sitting on the bus with Ken all the way to Toronto, who is waiting for me but Will? It’s funny, but I had almost forgotten about him when we were away. Anyway, there he was standing there, and all I could say was, “Oh hi! Uh...where’s my father? Uh...wait here just a minute ‘til I get my suitcase.” Then I ran over to Kenny, who was holding my suitcase, kissed him good-bye, grabbed Will by the arm and ran before either of them could see the other. Whew, was that close!

March 18

I was supposed to go to the dance tonight with Will, but I didn’t wait for him to pick me up. I’ve been avoiding him for days, not even waiting for him after history, hoping he’d take the hint. Anyway, he came to the dance by himself and just stood at the door staring at me. It was awful because Kenny was with me, and I didn’t know what to do. Finally I told Kenny that I had to go talk to Will, I really owed it to him. And I did (talk to him, I mean), and we ended the whole thing — thank goodness! It’s really better for both of us, anyway, since he’s a year behind me. There’s just no future for us.

March 28

I had a fabulous — the most wonderful — time I’ve ever had in my life this weekend with Kenny. He’s so great, there are no words to describe him. He came running into the house Saturday night and said, “C’mon, c’mon, let’s get going,” and didn’t say hello to anybody. He hopped in the car without opening the door for me, so I had to stand there yelling, “Kenny!” He said, “But I had to get the car started, Doll. I don’t have much gas.” He was only kidding. He does things like that all the time. What a nut! Daddy was hysterical with laughing. He said, “Well, that boy certainly has life!”

April 1

Tonight was the modern dance show. Kenny told me I looked real cute on the stage — he’s so wonderful. My father says that every woman should marry a man who thinks she is the most beautiful woman in the world, and I’m sure Kenny feels that way about me, even though I’m not (the most beautiful woman in the world, I mean). He drove me home and we had the greatest talk about religion. He’s Catholic, but he said he wouldn’t mind marrying somebody who isn’t. He’s going to take me to church with him soon, and I just love Catholic masses, so it’ll be nice to go.

April 25

Mom nagged me tonight about my going to church with Kenny, but I told her that since he’s an altar boy (the world's oldest, maybe), I thought I should show an interest. I didn’t tell her about the fight we had over last week’s sermon. I think maybe it’s better if Kenny and I don’t talk about religion anymore. We should just stick to what church we’ll send our children to.

April 30

Kenny and I spent all day in the park today. The ice is melting on the river, the ground is soggy, and I feel wonderful. I just love the spring because you feel like loving everybody and everybody seems to like you. It’s sort of like putting away all your old sad ideas and starting over with happy ones. We sat on one of those green benches and talked for absolutely hours! He told me he loved me today (I told him a long time ago), but he still hasn’t given me his class ring, so I don’t know whether or not to believe him. We did talk about what we’re going to name our kids, though, and he said he wants them to go to Catholic school. Can you imagine! It was such a nice day I figured it would be better not to argue right then, so I changed the subject and just asked him a couple of questions about Mass and stuff.

May 6

Kenny and I broke up tonight. I’m so confused and upset. My heart feels so heavy, I can’t even do my Spanish, so I guess I’ll go cry myself to sleep. I’ll never ever fall in love with anyone again. It’s just not worth it. I’ve had my share of life’s joys and I’ll have to live with this heartbreak as best I can.

May 17

Guess what! Dennis Michael Patrick Slattery is the most wonderful boy in the world. He sends me the cutest notes in fifth period study hall, and a lot of them are in Spanish, ‘cause he’s mucho smart, too. It’s funny, but I never noticed him in study hall before. It’s really something that we suddenly got together. I guess it was meant to be.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Room to Rent

By Russell Bittner

Roses are red, violets are blue;
I’ll love you to the power of two.

Jane liked this. After a number of false starts, this simple mathematical formulation of the question worked best for her. She was now in exponential mode, and felt an exponential need to celebrate and elaborate upon the sentiment of love – all just a few days before the feast of St. Valentine, thus hardly by coincidence.

My vacant room has space for you as a second verse to this couplet didn’t quite strike the right note. In fact, it sounded to her ear just a bit too desperate. It suggested need – and too much concern with filling undesirable spaces – in the way that a blue or white blinking Vacancy in front of an off-the-beaten-track highway motel might strike her as too obvious, too desperate, too solicitous of an unknown, uncertified and uncertifiable public.

Jane considered non-commercially: in the year 2004, the so-called public was quite thoroughly uncertifiable. Scary, this – given the state of security, the perverse need for security in the same year, 2004. But perhaps a market opportunity.

She owned the space – that fact was not in dispute. She owned the furniture – also indisputable. Filling a void, though not really a void at all, was not her point. ‘Complementing’ the existing space and ‘finding an affinity with the furnishings’ were much closer to the tone she wanted to set. And tone, after all, was what this was all about.

But it was also about flow – the ebb and flow of space for two. Creating the void, then filling it up again, was merely kid’s work.

Jane crouched down beside the bathtub, let the faucet run for a few seconds, then shut it off and watched as the tub swallowed and burped. The drain sucked down the last little stream of water until only a few hardened, glistening, surface-tensioned drops remained behind. Again. And again. And once again.

No, creating and then filling the void were decidedly not the challenge.

Once the mood of ebb and flow had finally begun to wane, Jane went back to her writing table. Prior to the bathtub exercise, she’d been creating Valentine’s Day ditties. These were mere warm-up exercises, really, to the more serious task at hand – the composition of an eye-catching ad to catch her complement.

Rosen sind rot; Violetten, blau.
Wir sind nun getrennt; aus ists mit Helau!

Jane liked to play with languages. They were the only real toy she owned. God knows, she’d worked hard enough to acquire them. And yes, she supposed she had a knack. But she also had a mirror with which she’d long since struck a bargain: she wouldn’t lie to it if it didn’t lie to her. And so she’d accepted her talents as a linguist.

Les roses sont rouges, les violettes, bleues.
Relève ta violette, mignonne, et je te donne la queue.

French was her favorite for off-color. She didn’t think of her compositions in French as pornographic or even as erotic. No, French was something for women boasting, coasting with the requisite accoutrements – and Jane, lacking same, lived all of her eroticism in her head. Sometimes, she even imagined herself in the role of the man – at least in French. She didn’t quite know why.

In any case, a certain facility with languages – if not exactly with the speakers of those languages – allowed her to fantasize, yet keep her thoughts suspended at a safe, foreign-sounding remove.

Las rosas son tintas; las violetas de color azul-cerulio.
Subete, mi amor,en mi rastrillo, que te tome por el culo.

Crossing the Pyrenees fired the Iberian within her flattened, tired breast. Her thoughts invariably turned darker, more punishing – and with a Janusian nod towards pain and pleasure. She wallowed in her image of Spain and Portugal, imagining herself in dungeons, surrounded by hooded, torch-bearing tormentors and walls of ice-blue tenterhooks. In Iberia, she too often felt at home.

Le rose sono rosse; le violette blu.
Parlami di amore, poi mostramene nei tuoi dessous.

Her Italians were romantic and silly. Sweet, romantic and silly. But above all, silly. They were absolutely incapable of love or sex without one too silly full-stop of a giggle.

And so she giggled, and then moved on – to passion. Serious, painful, brain-draining passion. She was abruptly in a soul-wrenching mood, and so moved on – to Russia.

Розы – красные, фиалки – синие;
если вы мою душу заморозить хотите
пламенем облейте меня.

So Russian of the Russians. No predicates – for economy. And yet, three verses required where the Western world can barely manage the sight of two. She didn’t begrudge the extra verse. The Russian soul was an expansive one. Time was not money. Time was for expanding upon matters of the soul.

Jane had all but exhausted her linguistic bag of tricks. She’d been west, south and east. There remained only north – as close to the North Pole as she could, linguistically speaking, climb. And so, to St. Valentine in Sweden:

Rosarna är röd.violettarna är blå;
Har du tid för mig? Annars, vill jag gå.

The Swedish left her cold, like the herring. However, it was quite short and to the point – particularly on the tail-end of a long-winded Russian that left her huffing and puffing.

Jane laid down her pen. It was now time to travel to the Coney Island of her mind. She’d warmed up, exercised, done her necessary calisthenics. Now was the time for truth in action. Her space, her need for a complement, called for action. Not too blatant – though not to needy, not to desperate.

If your place upon that pillow is as vacant as my own,
if the rhythm of a sweetheart’s snore could fall on you like snow,
Then put your hand upon my bell and …

The bell rang. Who, Jane thought, at this odd hour?
She went to the front door, peeked through the Judas window, put on the security chain, then cracked the door open.


“Scuse me, ma’am.”

“Yes? What is it?”

“I understand you have a room. That you may be looking for a tenant. I don’t presume to know the truth of it. I’m merely here to explore an opportunity.”

Jane quickly inspected her arrival up and down through the limited Judas crack of a window. Then, after a second stretched seemingly out into an hour: “Come in, then, if you must.”

He came in. He wasn’t pretty, but he was young – and had the eyes of youth, unjaded.

“Your interest?” she asked.

“My interest, ma’am, is in a room. My interest is in accommodation. Not in putting you out, but in complementing.”

Jane stood silent, arched an eyebrow, and considered ‘complementing.’ He’d found the word.

“I’m fresh from Mobile, ma’am. From Mobile, Alabama. These parts are foreign to me. I came by way of an instinct to your door. If in error, I apologize. If in insult, I shall retreat – my heritage and my habit.”

“Wait,” Jane said. “What do you seek?” She felt herself sucked into dialogue with this stranger in this stranger’s peculiar language. She felt the joy of a whole new linguistic expedition. “And you can pay?” She also felt the prick of pragmatism.

“Yes. And have here the coin to prove it,” he said as he reached into the pocket of a jacket that had seen much better days – though most likely better days on another’s body.

“It won’t be necessary,” Jane said, stopping his search with an outstretched hand that rested briefly upon his. “You will do.” Splendidly, she thought to herself. “Come in. Drop your bag and hang your hat. Then kindly sit and take some tea. Humbly, as it be mine.”

“Ma’am. Thine? Mine? Go soft. I mean to be your Valentine."

Russell lives in Brooklyn, New York. His poems have been published on paper by: The American Dissident; The Blind Man’s Rainbow; The Lyric; The Barbaric Yawp; The International Journal of Erotica; Wicked Hollow; The Taj Mahal Review; and Æsthetica. One additional piece will appear in early 2007 in N.O.L.A. Spleen.

On-line, his poetry can be found at: Quintessence; ken*again; SpillwayReview; Erotica Readers and Writers; EdificeWrecked; GirlsWithInsurance; ThievesJargon; SalomeMagazine; LauraHird; MadHattersReview; 3a.m.; Dogmatika; Mindfire; ALongStoryShort; OpiumMagazine; SouthernHum; JustusRoux; DifferentVoices; VoidMagazine; PWReview; Zygote in my Coffee; ALittlePoetry; PlumBiscuit (a journal of the New York Writers Guild) and TheCentrifugalEye. His calendar of poems titled "Musing Under the Influence” will be published, one poem per month, from January through December of 2007 at

On paper, he currently has stories with the Edgar Literary Magazine; The International Journal of Erotica; Beyond Centauri; and SwillMagazine. An additional story will be published by St. Martin’s Press in May of 2007 in an anthology titled 15 Stories That Ought To Be Movies. In the world, his prose can be found at: DeadMule; writeThis; GirlsWithInsurance; SkiveMagazine; Bluefood; ThievesJargon; Quintessence; MannequinEnvy; UndergroundVoices; Pindeldyboz; Hackwriters; 10,000 Monkeys; DeadDrunkDublin; ALongStoryShort; SouthernHum; SuffolkPunch; VoidMagazine; VerbSap; Per Contra; and the uncom.mon The story in Per Contra was nominated in November, 2006 for a Pushcart Prize.

Russell completed his first novel, Trompe-l’oeil, in September of 2004. The first chapter will appear in Snow Monkey in the first quarter of 2007. He completed a second, much shorter novel-memoir, Girl from Baku, in June of 2005, the first six chapters of which currently reside at The entire memoir is also being serialized at (September, 2006 through February, 2007). Both, in the meantime, are going through agents faster than a greyhound goes through giblets.

He can most easily be reached at

Saturday, February 10, 2007

We'll Call Her Sarah

By Ellen Meister

I recently had a conversation about love with a very dear friend who's pregnant with her first child. We discussed how some women fall in love with their babies before they're even born, while for me, it didn't happen that way. With each of my three children, there was a discrete moment within those first hours of life when it hit me with such powerful force that everything changed in an instant.

So when Patricia Parkinson of the Canadian Writers Collective asked me if I'd like to post a blog entry about love--any kind of love--this was very much on my mind. I asked if could use an excerpt from my novel, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, which describes that specific moment. Patricia, a mother herself, gave me an enthusiastic approval.

So here now is that excerpt, dedicated to my dear friend and her baby ...

From "Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA"
by Ellen Meister

"It's a girl!" the doctor said as she pulled Sarah's slithery pink body from Lisa. She suctioned the baby's nose and mouth and held her up for Lisa and Adam to see. "Your daughter!"

A gulp of wind hit Lisa's throat. She looked at the living, breathing, wailing creature and was slapped with a reality as new to her as oxygen to the baby's lungs. She was stunned. Not by the baby's gender, but its very existence. There she was, facing the very moment she had spent so many months preparing for, and yet she felt as surprised as if she had opened her eyes to discover the world in color for the first time.

She inhaled with a deep shudder. "We have a baby," she said to Adam. "A baby!" She saw tears on Adam's face and realized she was crying, too.

"We have a baby!" Adam echoed, and laughed. "Our little girl. Are we calling her Sarah?"

"Sarah Elizabeth," Lisa pronounced.

"Sarah," Adam said, looking at the baby. "You're Sarah."

That night, after her visitors left and Adam had gone home, Lisa complained to a kind nurse named Maureen about her discomfort. She gave Lisa a fresh icepack to put on her episiotomy, and asked the new mother if she wanted her to take the baby to the nursery for a few hours.

"So you can get some sleep," Maureen said.

Lisa bit her lip. "I don't know. I'm breastfeeding."

"It's okay. I'll bring her back in a few hours."

Lisa nodded. She was as tired as she'd ever felt and was glad to be relieved of the responsibility for a few hours. As she listened to the sound of her baby's bassinet being wheeled toward the nursery, Lisa fell into a thick sleep.

There began a dream. Adam telling her about some new software he had created. A wonderful, glorious, revolutionary product. He was excited to show it to her in action, and led her toward a building where a company was using it to multiply profits beyond imagining. But on the way there she lost sight of him. She came upon a factory and went inside to see if Adam was there. She found him and the dream changed. The thing that he wanted to show her now was a beautiful melody coming from the walls of the baby's room. Or was it the baby singing? As she followed him toward the song, the dream was interrupted by a woman's voice.

"Mrs. Slotnick? Do you want to nurse your baby now?"

Lisa didn't want to open her eyes. She wanted to drift back into the dream and find the source of the beautiful melody. She let her eyelids flutter open so that she could tell the woman to go away and let her sleep.

"I need more sleep," she planned to say, but stopped. At the sight of her infant something deep in the animal region of her brain produced a tidal force of maternal longing that drowned her intention. "I need ... my baby," she said, reaching for the tiny package. And as she cradled her daughter in her arms, she took a deep inhale off the top of the newborn's head and discovered the savage, feral power of motherhood. Lisa fell in love.


Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins, Inc.

Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA is available in bookstores and from online retailers in the U.S. and Canada. To learn more, visit

Friday, February 09, 2007

Workshop Dynamics in the Home

By Anne Chudobiak

"All done," I say from my seat at the computer.

"Your personal essay?” says my husband. “I’m busy right now. Could you print it out and I’ll have a look later? Maybe on the weekend.”

“You don’t have to,” I say as I log off. “I already have a couple of readers lined up.”

"You don’t want me to read it?" he asks.

“I don’t want you to get upset again,” I say.

“Tell me,” he says.

“It’s not you, per se. It’s us. I portray our relationship as very childish. Kind of competitive. And I compare you to a woman. With flab.”

“You really don’t want me to read it?”

“Let me see if I can’t make it more tender. Better illustrate the love between us. Maybe I could add a scene."

"Tender isn't very funny," he says.

"No, not really.”

"Childish and competitive is a lot better."

"Yeah," I say. "Hey, you know, maybe you could go ahead and read it. If you want.”

"You wouldn't mind?"

"Nah. Not so much."


Coup de coeur/pick of the week: Montreal writer Neil Smith’s Bang Crunch. This book is attracting a lot of attention for a short-story collection. Some of the buzz has to do with the publisher: Knopf Canada. The company’s New Face of Fiction program is best known for having launched Yann Martel. Before you give in to writerly jealousy (“A debut hardcover?”), you should know that the book is deserving, and the author, equally so. To see him read is to wish him every success. Watch out, David Adams Richards! There’s a new Nice Guy in CanLit.

Public service announcement: If you plan to attend a literary event, please take your camera. That way you can share your photos with the Quill and Quire flickr pool, an interesting project that could use a little help. As it stands, there are too many pictures of books and not enough of authors. (And check out the blog, where you can watch the 3-Day Novel trailer. You won’t be disappointed. Was that the former MuchMusic VJ Kim Clarke Champniss?)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Shall I Compare Thee?

by Denis Taillefer

When invited to guest blog on the topic of luuv, my first thought was, 'Hey, thanks,' followed by, 'On what? I don't know what to say!' Love is such an obscure word, isn't it? Throughout history philosophers have debated the subject and prophets spoken of its wondrous hold. From Plato to Gibran, The Beatles to the B52s. My earliest recollection of exquisite words that praised love, was Shakespeare's 18th sonnet:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

When in eternal lines to time thou owest;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Aaah. When writing this lovely sonnet, Shakespeare was no doubt in the early stages of a relationship, smitten and overcome with passion and sexual desire. We've all been there, haven't we?

Proof that the great thinkers and poets of the past have failed in defining love is in the current usage of the word:

I love my new car!

or: Let us make love, my darling. And how much for a preferred customer, my lovely?

or: I'd absolutely love a smoke right about now.

But on this, the month of luuv, we are no doubt speaking of Shakespeare's love, the kind he shows in his poem for a young girl, or perhaps a boy. So why am I so cynical on the subject? Is it my own inability to define the word? Maybe.

Or is my problem the romantic idea that for each of us there is someone who is ours, our true love, and that one day we may be united if the stars are aligned just so? Given a myriad of circumstances and opportunities, each of us could surely have been smitten by a whole cast of candidates, n'est-ce pas? And does this notion cheapen love? I don't think so, but it does remind me that the capacity for 'loving' more than one person is certainly within us. (pipe in Lennon's Imagine, here…)

And less you accuse me of being an idealist, or a polygamist, or an egghead for using the word less, and egghead, I say to you don't forget irreverent, and luuv curmudgeon, as this is my version of Shakespeare's sonnet, say, twenty years into his affair, on a not so blissful day:

Shall I compare thee to a moonlit sky?
Thou art more brightly and immeasurable.
And speaking of immeasurable,
Thou maketh a better door than a window,
For thine astral delight is eclipsing the television.

I must say I do recognize the passion and exuberance associated with love. But it's so fleeting, and maybe my problem is that I'm a little jealous, and would like to bathe in it more often. Perhaps the entries that I'll read here, on this, the month of luuv, will help rekindle those feelings. And if you should bump into Cupid, tell him not to be such a stranger, will you?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Flash of Love

by Steve Gajadhar

I whipped this little ditty up awhile back and then never bothered to find it a home. I can think of no better resting place than here in the CWC as part of our ruminations on love. Enjoy.


“We should go on a trip,” Helen says.


“Anywhere, anywhere but here, you’ve never been back home, let’s go see Jamaica.”

“I’ve seen it.”

“I never have.”

“Take your sister.”

Helen watches Ned flick through the channels on the television. “I want to take you.”

“Take Greg.”

Helen sighs. Soon it will be dark. She will turn on the lights, sit in her chair--legs slightly apart because she walks all day at her job and her legs have grown red and chafed from years of rubbing together--and lean towards the big window that unfolds their evenings to the neighbourhood so she can watch the other windows blink to life while Ned sleeps on the couch.

“I want to go with you.”

“I don’t want to go back.”

“Greg really wants you to go.”

“When I retire. We’ll go then.”

“So next year then.”

“Next year.”

“We’ll all go? As a family?”

Ned nods, and continues scanning through the channels. “There’s nothing on.”

“Have you watched your soaps?”


“Well, pass me the TV thing, it’s by your hand.”

Ned passes her the TV thing. Helen searches through its pages, looking out the bottom of her glasses. Helen is nearsighted. She doesn’t need the bifocals she wears but has convinced herself she does. She tells people she can no longer see the letters at the bottom of the chart, even when the doctor flips the lenses in front of her eyes and says, “here and here,” flick, “now and now,” flick, “a or b?” and she picks B, and the doctor says, “you’re fine, Helen, no change in five years and you’ll be the same in twenty the way your eyes are holding up.” But Helen buys new glasses anyways.

“What’s on?”

Helen can’t read the TV thing through her bifocals. “Seinfeld is coming on.”

“Seinfeld is always coming on. Any golf?”

“Channel twelve.”

Ned changes the channel. He will fall asleep soon. It’s eight, the time when they get quiet.

“Do you want a sandwich or something?”


“It sounds like the Miller’s are at it again.” Helen putters into the kitchen and peeks out one of the windows. “Yep, he’s drunk again. He’s been in the jail you know, Ned.” She tugs at her nightgown. “Do you want a tart?”


Helen pulls a Tupperware container out of the fridge freezer, pops the top and picks out one of the big tarts. She carries it over to Ned. “It’s frozen.” She stands there for a moment, in front of the TV, until Ned cranes his head to try and see around her. She does a little dance and chuckles, “Now there’s something on.”

Ned smiles. He waits for her to move before he nibbles on his tart.

“It’s frozen.”

“I can heat it up.”

“That’s okay.”

“I should call Greg.”

“It’s late there.”

“Oh I always forget the time difference. He’ll be worried though, I always call Tuesdays.” Helen gets up to peek out the kitchen window again. The Millers are outside on the lawn. “They’re outside, Ned.”

Ned turns up the TV.

“Turn it down, Ned. I can’t hear what they’re saying.”

“Don’t be so nosy.” Ned shifts to lie on his side.

Dark now, and Helen sits, leans forward in her chair--legs slightly apart--and watches the windows light up one by one by one, watches their contents unfold into the world.

Ned watches her. The way her upper lip twitches when she holds herself still. The way her hand strays down and tugs her nightgown away from her stomach. The way she rocks. She puts the cordless phone down and gets up. On her way to the bathroom she stops and rests her hand on Ned’s head. Ned smiles and brings his hand up to pat hers.

Ned’s sleepy. Supper was at five because supper is always at five. He watches his soaps from five thirty to six. He tapes two hours of soaps but fast-forwards through most of it, because things don’t change much on the soaps. After the soaps he sleeps. At nine they go to bed and watch Coronation Street and Antiques Road Show, and there is something about how the television only lights their faces and leaves the rest of the room in shadow that makes Ned afraid.

They hold each other tightly in bed.