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.



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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



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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)



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“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…”


I could have been the solution to your problems.

I could have been so much more than promised.

WE could have been something.



Richard Van Camp  is a proud member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. He is the author of several books for both children and adults. His most recent novel, Whistle, is about mental health and asking for forgiveness. You can visit Richard on Facebook, Twitter or at his website:


(photo by Richard Van Camp)


Up Next:

vlassopoulos“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”


Just last week, my twelve-year old son asked what I wanted to be at his age. Honestly, I have no memory of wanting to be anything. Nursing, typing or teaching were the only options. Most houses in our neighbourhood had a stay-at-home mother on duty. And all the books I read back then had buxom women landing their Mister Right in a hundred pages.

Then I met Scarlett O’Hara. Not that I dared compare myself to her. I was tall and gawky. Too much arm and leg. My hair, mousy-blonde and straggly. My skin all patches of dry flakes and T-zones. Long bangs could hide half the blemishes and the others I attacked with Clearasil. But Scarlett told me to stand straight and proud. Could I do that? Dare I try? And she tossed her mane of dark hair and sashayed. I couldn’t put together a sashay to save my life. Meanwhile I continued praying my hair to shoulder length. I let Scarlett-on-the-page demonstrate sass and brashness with men, but opted out on boys myself, fearing I’d somehow manage to screw things up. Besides, happy endings weren’t written for girls like me. Were they?

Nonetheless, I began to wear a little makeup. Starting with that sheer pink Yardley City Slicker my mother bought me for my Grade 7 year-end party. Mom was a lipstick-before-you’re-out-the-door kind of woman. Seemed safe. But classmates played spin the bottle while I sat on the stone wall outside in the backyard wishing I was brave enough to join them cross-legged on the dingy carpet in Yvonne’s rec room.

As my skin slowly cleared, I laid on black mascara and pitch-black eyeliner. Too much? I rouged my cheeks and traded the demure silver studs for huge hoop-earrings. I backcombed my hair and pinned kiss-curls at my cheeks. The hairspray was toxic but it became my friend, transforming my fine hair into a virtual helmet. Perfect? Well, I could pretend.

Just as fake-it-til-you-make-it helped me feel more pulled together, the world of outward appearance began to relax. Or maybe I just learned to pretend better, wearing pantyhose instead of stockings and garters, middies instead of those dangerous mini-skirts, wearing my hair long and flowing instead of a spray-bombed nest. It gave me comfort swinging and swishing across my shoulders as I eased down the school hall clutching books to my chest. Was that a sashay? Before long I became more comfortable in my own body – in my own life. I smiled more once the braces came off.

I thought about law school and architecture. I sketched and wrote. Teaching never left my list, but I added so much more. I could be anything. Eventually my attention turned to boys and, although convinced no one would ever marry me, I was content not to be one of those moonie, dippety-do girls, trying out surnames in the margins of notebooks.

Maybe growing inside-out was better after all?


Barbara E. Hunt is the author of The Patternmaker’s Crumpled Plan (Piquant Press, 2011). Her work has been featured in literary journals, anthologies, magazines and newspapers across North America and on CBC Radio One. She has played a mentoring role in poetry for the Diaspora Dialogues in Toronto. Her work with Phanta Media, The Writers’ Community of Durham Region and the Ontario Writers’ Conference are her heart.



Up Next:

found-by-richard-van-camp“I could have been the solution to your problems.”