He waited at the bus stop for a while, trying to read a copy of the free arts weekly he’d shoved in with his groceries, but the wind kept yanking at the pages, rattling them until he staggered back into the doorway of an out-of-business costume shop to get out of the wind. He put the bags at his feet, knowing that he was no longer really at the bus stop, that if the bus came he stood a lesser chance of it stopping for him back here, but it was a cold day and he was tired.

The cover story was an article about a band he hadn’t heard of, called the Simpletons. They were local too, started out playing together at some high school on the Danforth, branched out to east end bars, signed to Arts & Crafts. It made his throat hurt, dry and burning like an approaching cold. He didn’t resent their success—god knows, anyone who could escape the Value-Village-sweater life was a good omen for the rest. But the fact that he’d never heard the Simpletons, not at a fest or a showcase, hadn’t run across an EP or had a friend mention them, that felt like a bad omen. Like he wasn’t in the main circles anymore, like the acts who had new sounds were playing at bars he hadn’t even heard of. And who could he even ask about what bars, what neighbourhoods? It felt like everyone he had in his phone had gotten a job in marketing or teaching something, was spending Saturday nights trying to fix leaky taps and taking toddlers to the emergency room because they’d eaten an egg of Silly Putty.

A stronger gust of wind yanked the paper out of his hands—maybe he wasn’t trying that hard to hold on to it. The pages separated, most skittered east in the direction the bus would eventually take him, some flying up above his head until he lost track. When he glanced at the ground, he saw the page he had been reading, the baleful pride in the photo of the Simpletons, but he didn’t bother to pick it up. He saw the blue lights of the bus flash in the distance, and bent to gather his sacks of waffles and salad dressing.



Rebecca Rosenblum  is the author two short-story collections, Once and The Big Dream (Biblioasis, 2008 and 2011), the chapbook Road Trips (Frog Hollow Press, 2010) and the novel So Much Love, forthcoming in March 2017 from McClelland and Stewart. She lives, works, and writes in Toronto.



Up Next:

olding-hers“let’s be honest here—who walks past a prison for pleasure”




King Jack ruled with iron fist,
kept mortals in his kingdom
from living frivolous lives,
made them account for each coin,
every smile.

Not a benign monarch
who cared for his children,
not a father to his family.
No, King Jack ruled
his kingdom with iron fist,
with whip and weapon.

When clouds gathered
at the horizon,
slowly at first,
piling up and over each other,
dark, threatening –
King Jack ignored the threatening storm.

The people whispered,
They met
in secret,
in wishful whispers.

When the storm broke loose
in all its fury
wind and floods swept King Jack
and his army away,
washed shackles off
his people.

Relieved of the ruthless King
the kingdom breathed a sigh
of relief.
A burden lifted,
a ruler crumpled, faded
because no harshness, no violence,
no threat, no dominance
can foster love.

Long live the Queen.


Margriet Ruurs  is the author of 35 books for children. Her newest title is Stepping Stones, A Refugee Family’s Journey (

She speak at schools around the world. When she is not traveling she runs Between The Covers, a book-lovers’ B & B on Salt Spring Island, BC (



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rosenblum“He didn’t resent their success—god knows, anyone who could escape the Value-Village-sweater life was a good omen for the rest.”



Growing up, I believed in
the power
of the think-through.

If I could think it through, to the worst, and still
face it, the thing that plagued me, it would recede
and wither, wisp its way into fantasy,
an oft-banished foe.

But Donald Trump is President and Leonard Cohen is dead.

Yesterday I saw a kid’s glove mushed into the golden
leaves and muck of the sidewalk. Fuzzy, striped pink – magic
minis; they grow from tiny to ginormous
like the Grinch’s too-small heart – expanding
to host legions.

So I think it through.

She was playing, or being dragged by a harried
mother. It slipped from her grasp, tumbled
from her pocket. Forgotten. There will be a scramble
next time they leave the house, a patting down of
pockets, an inventory of jacket sleeves and dark corners
behind bins.

But Donald Trump is President and Leonard Cohen is dead.

So I think it through.

The glove is grimy. A flattened cigarette butt
rests next to its ring finger. The word sordid
comes to mind. So: the child was snatched
by a Stranger or a Known Someone, is unsafe,
sobbing, her glove cast off in the struggle.

Lost, lost, lost.

Tell me, where’s the crack that lets the light in?

Because somewhere a little girl is twirling
like a cat after her own tail, spin-searching
for a gone glove.


Heather Birrell’s  most recent story collection, Mad Hope, was one of the Globe and Mail’s top 23 Canadian fiction titles of 2012. The Toronto Review of Books called the collection ‘completely enthralling, and profoundly grounded in an empathy for the traumas and moments of relief of simply being human.’ Winner of the Journey Prize for short fiction and the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction, her work has appeared in many North American journals and anthologies. She makes her home in Toronto with her family.



Thanks to the writers and readers who know good trash when they see it.

And thank you all for supporting literacy.

If the donating mood takes you, don’t fight it—the literacy elves at Frontier College will be ever so grateful for any crumbs you can spare. See direct link above. Or here.


Happy Hols!


The Litter I See Project will return in the new year.





Posted: December 6, 2016 in tim wynne-jones
Tags: , , , ,


So it comes down to this:

  • CIVE 327 Hydrology and Open Channel Flow


  • ENGL 102 Isolation and Alienation


I mean I’m going to be a civil engineer, right? Like my father. I just have to live with that. They’re paying my way – the whole ticket — “because a degree ought to lead to real employment in the real world and the real world will always need civil engineers.” Got it, Dad. Really.

Then again, I do need that Arts credit which I’ve been avoiding, because… Well, I don’t know. Because:

  • The Arts building is all the way across campus
  • There are all those books you have to read
  • The kids in the class will totally know — will smell — that I’m not one of them

Is that why?

And it’s not like I couldn’t just “bird” it out and take the Harry Potter course, like a lot of my classmates. I read those books already and you can buy term papers real cheap. Get it out of the way. Get on with my real life.

Okay, decision time. Let’s approach this rationally the way a good engineer would. Let’s be practical because, after all, the world is a hands-on place where everyone acts reasonably towards the common good and what’s useful and sensible and no-nonsense is the rule and will ultimately win the day and make the world a saner and more productive place.

So, what’s on offer?

Choice (1.): “Introduction to the water cycle, flood frequency analysis, design storms. Analysis of hydrographs and rainfall-runoff response mechanisms in urban and natural systems. Mass continuity and water budgets at the watershed scale. Impact of land use change on hydrologic response. Quantification of open channel flow; subcritical and supercritical flow regimes. Dynamic forces on submerged structures and low/scour beneath bridges.”


Choice (2.): “The study of a variety of works centering on the theme of individuals in crisis, the stress being on people at variance with their inner selves, other persons, or their world. The course will discuss the process in which wisdom and maturity are gained as the ultimate products of suffering.”

I’m just going to write down the date, right here. Commit it to memory. Take a deep, shaky breath and face the music. This may be where it all begins to come undone.


Tim Wynne-Jones  has written thirty-four books for young and old. He has won two Governor General’s Awards and been short listed six times, most recently for The Emperor of Any Place. He’s won two Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, two Arthur Ellis Awards, presented by the Crime Writers of Canada, as well as an “Edgar” from the Mystery Writers of America. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. Tim was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012.



Up Next:

birrell“…Donald Trump is President and Leonard Cohen is dead.”

free verse

Posted: November 29, 2016 in sheree fitch
Tags: , , , ,



Once I met a poet
who spoke freely :

Free the lions from their cages 
Free the lines from these pages  

Some people’ll step all over you 
if you give yourself away for free  
but if you charge what you’re really worth 
they couldn’t afford the fee 

Free the lions from their cages 
Free the lines from these pages  

I see the Treadmarks on your face 

The poet set up a poetry toll booth
discovered some people pay for Truth
but this took a toll on THE POET

Free the lions from the cages 
Free the lines from these pages   

I see the Treadmarks on your heart



What’s more 
than the sound 

your true fierce

Roar with me 

The poet kept roaring free verse freely
invited anyone passing through
who was free enough
to listen

Free the lions from the cages 
Free the lines from these pages   



roar with me 

And the ones who were most free
roared with laughter

Free the lions from the cages 
Free the lines from these pages   


Sheree Fitch  considers herself more rhymester and storyteller than poet but plays with words every day. She writes for all ages and her award winning kids books are on a second generation of readers. She can be found at



Up Next:

wynne-jones“Let’s be practical because, after all, the world is a hands-on place where everyone acts reasonably towards the common good…”





Maureen comes down the hall, picking her way through shoes that lay scattered by the front door. Look at it: Leaves and dirt, and dog hair and his goddamn work thermos. The rubber tip of her left crutch got wet in the bathroom. It squeaks against the laminate as she goes. Not supposed to put any weight on that cast boot of hers. Armpits are killing her. A hopping tripod. She thumps to the entrance of the living room, and looks in at Eddie who’s looking at hockey on TV. The coffee table is littered with takeout boxes, crusty with congealed sauce and shriveled noodles.

She looks from Eddie’s profile to the television. The sound is off. Her mouth twitches. “Are you ever going to—”

His eyes stay on the screen. “What, baby?”

“—do something?

He exhales slowly. “I just got home from work.”

“I know. I’ve been here all day— all day, all crippled! I would appreciate it if you could just — Forget it.” She readies herself to retreat.

Eddie puffs his cheeks and peels his eyes from the television just as she sets her crutches back one at time. “Mo!” he calls just as her left crutch lands in a black sandal that buckles and slides. The same black sandal. The same pitiless slide.

Maureen drops her cast boot for balance then pulls it back, crying out as she slams down to the floor.

Eddie scrambles off the couch. He’s on his knees beside her, a hand on each of her arms.

“Leave me alone,” she says. “Your shoes and thermos….and goddamn shoes.” She fires the black sandal at the wall. It lands on the floor with a mild clack.

Eddie looks at the shoe. “Same ones you had on when you—”

“I know that.”

He takes her arms. “Come on, lemme help you up.”

“Bugger off.”

He lets go.

With her good foot, Maureen kicks the nearest crutch out of her way. Then, sliding on her butt, she pushes herself backward toward the front door. She turns the handle and flings the door open to the autumn darkness.

Eddie exhales. “Where you goin’, Mo?”

Crisp air cuts the stale of the hallway, and the two of them listen to the hiss of dead leaves as they shimmy in the breeze. Maureen snatches the sandal, drags herself onto the threshold and hurls it as far as she can toward the road.

Eddie scoots over and sticks his nose out the door. He nods. “Not bad.”  Reaching behind him, he hands her a knee-high patent leather boot. “Five bucks, if you can hit the mailbox.”


Billie Livingston  is the award-winning author of four novels, a collection of short stories and a poetry collection. One Good Hustle, a Globe and Mail Best Book selection, was Longlisted for the 2012 Giller Prize. Her story Sitting on the Edge of Marlene has been adapted to a feature film. The Crooked Heart of Mercy is Livingston’s most recent novel.

(Photo: *Shoes*, by Allison Howard)



Up Next:


“Free the lions from their cages 
Free the lines from these pages”





You remember it like a watercolour or clouds,
cotton candy or sea foam:
washed out, gentle, sweet.

You ate strawberries and sliced grapes,
Sometimes you were given a cracker that you didn’t eat,
just held.
And when you were bored with it, you simply let it fall.

You remember hushed tones, and climbing.
And laughing, and sometimes crying,
But arms when you needed them.

One day you will be on an airplane
and as the pilot flies you through a mass of clouds,
the plane will shake and you will be surprised
to learn that the feeling of a cloud is not the same
as your memory of how you imagined a cloud.
Not like cotton candy or sea foam.

Maybe the reality is more interesting
but you’re grateful for your memory,
washed out, gentle, sweet.



Teri Vlassopoulos  is the author of the short story collection, Bats or Swallows (2010), and a novel, Escape Plans (2015), both with Invisible Publishing. Her fiction has appeared in Room Magazine, Joyland, Little Fiction, and various other North American journals. She is the cookbook columnist for Bookslut, and has had non-fiction published at The Toast, The Millions and the Rumpus. She can be found at or @terki. She lives in Toronto.



Up Next:

livingston“The rubber tip of her left crutch got wet in the bathroom. It squeaks against the laminate…”