“I want each of you to tell us why you’re here.”

An awkward silence hangs over the round table in the church basement.

“Doesn’t anyone want to share why you signed up for this?” Ms. Maria asks.

To fix my soul? Iris thinks, looking down at her feet under her chair. She rotates her right sneaker. Her sole is definitely cracked.

The other five souls stare down at the blue box and paper Ms. Maria has given them. Minutes into the first art therapy for beginner’s class, Ms. Maria is already exasperated. “All right then, take out your crayons and let them wander.”

Iris hears wonder and wonders, about what? She’d like to tell Ms. Maria that everyone’s scared because of their cracked soles. Plus they were expecting more than just three crayons.

Ms. Maria soldiers on. “With these primary colours, you have everything you need. You can mix blue and yellow for green, make purple with red and blue!”

Iris hears blew, opens her box, removes a crayon and blows on it lightly. The woman next to her shifts in her seat. The man on her other side coughs nervously. They all watch Ms. Maria draw red lines on her piece of paper.

With her crayon, Iris draws three parallel lines across the page. Within each section she scrawls some loops in blue. They look like words with a secret message. Take part, make heart. The crayons’ waxy smell intoxicates.

At the end of the hour, Ms. Maria gives them homework, urging her students to spend their days (Iris hears daze) outdoors as much as possible. “Go out to see!” Iris hears sea and wonders who’s confused now. The town is landlocked, the closest body of water being a river that ribbons nearby. Ms. Maria says, “Remember, we’re here to share. For next time, we’ll all exhibit our art.” Or is it heart?

On her day off work, Iris goes out with the box of crayons and a sketchpad. In the park by the river, a floppy Lab is playing fetch with a kid on the field. It’s a blustery spring day, too early for flowers, the grass in between winter and summer. The river is an icy grey.

Iris sits on a boulder. The wind blows her hair all over the place. She takes the blue crayon and works on the river. Ripples and water are hard to do, she discovers. For the grassy riverbank, she draws one inch vertical lines, the old, withered blades in yellow and the new ones in green made of yellow and blue.

A gust sends her crayon box flying. She tries to catch it. The Lab beats her to it, chews the box before spitting it out. The blue box flies off in the wind.

Iris returns to her boulder, thinking bolder. She’s still got her three crayons. It’s what’s inside that counts, write?


Cora Siré is the author of a poetry collection, Signs of Subversive Innocents, and two novels, The Other Oscar and Behold Things Beautiful. She lives in Montréal, and can be found online at www.quena.ca




Up Next:


“Around us, everything is writing…”

you twisted into yourself
& it’s only tuesday afternoon
what are you going to do friday

we drowned in our tears last week
& you won’t stand straight
your back like
cracked into grief


Juliane Okot Bitek  is a poet and author of 100 Days (University of Alberta Press 2016) and Sublime: Lost Words (The Elephants 2018). Sublime: Lost Words is available through open access at: https://theelephants.net/ephemera/sublime-lost-words.

She is also the 2018 writer-in-residence at The Capilano Review.

For more on Juliane’s work, visit: https://julianeokotbitek.com




Up Next:

“She’d like to tell Ms. Maria that everyone’s scared because of their cracked soles. Plus they were expecting more than just three crayons.”





Hard to tell what this is, but if it`s an abandoned sleeping bag:

A romantic-minded young man curls overnight on the beach, bursting-hearted with grief for a woman who has advised that whatever his views, or his passions, or his desires, he is not, after all, the person for her, and so, good-bye. Sleepless and thunderstruck, he listens to waves and counts stars, now and then flailing in pity for his own anguish.

At dawn, much refreshed, he rises, stretches, pees into a sand dune, and starts back to town, to hell with sad souvenir sleeping bags.


Or, if this is a ruined air mattress:

Beware the undertow. Uh-oh.


Joan Barfoot`s  eleven novels include long-listings for the Man Booker and Dublin IMPAC prizes, a short-listing for the Scotiabank Giller, a movie adaptation, and the Amazon first novel and Marian Engel awards. A former newspaper journalist, she lives in London, Ontario. She can be found at www.joanbarfoot.ca



Up Next:

“it’s only tuesday afternoon/ what are you going to do friday”



Must remember: short list of documents
proves the rule of legal union
in this country and the old one.
It’s all over us. The rules apply on the tarmac
and the blotter, the Astroturf and the linoleum.
Magic is in the details. Romance is all a bank
can offer. I need two of everything.
It’s a massive mess, but the country and its coffers
will hold the salve. I put marriage in the garage
and drove tension out. Blank cheque of confirmation
underwritten by an action plan.



Alice Burdick lives in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. She co-owns Lexicon Books, an independent bookstore in Lunenburg She is the author of many chapbooks and four full-length poetry collections, Simple Master (Pedlar Press, 2002), Flutter (Mansfield Press, 2008), Holler (Mansfield Press, 2012), and most recently Book of Short Sentences (Mansfield Press, 2016). Deportment, a book of selected poems from the early 1990s to now, is forthcoming in autumn 2018 from Wilfrid Laurier University Press.



Up Next:

“Beware the undertow. Uh-oh.”


Alex and Jane inspired me to think about my own beautiful love stories.



Sarah Leavitt  is a writer, cartoonist and teacher. More at sarahleavitt.com.



Up Next:

“The rules apply on the tarmac and the blotter, the Astroturf and the linoleum.”




The train car full of yawns and music.
A boy talks of guns while chewing gum.
Pockets of strangers stuffed with detritus:
receipts, wrappers, flotsam of frantic days.

The teabag’s jacket like a condom wrapper.
Please take your trash with you upon Departing,
the sign says. Like that. With a capital letter.
Some words are loaded. Departing:

more somber than the flit of leaving.
I will depart, but I will always return.
When I first loved you I never wanted
you to go home. You brought me

hot tea with milk and sugar and right then
I asked you to marry me. You didn’t
take me seriously but I meant it, as truly
as a dog means each snouty-soft kiss.

After we first hugged I felt as though
every hour I aged a year.
The next night when I saw you,
your dark eyes like hallways,  I was no longer

a slim-limbed skittering girl —
but a 30-year-old woman. Desire weighed
on me, rounded me out. I whispered
into your ear, dirty hiccupped thoughts.

Now, the years are really disappeared.
An old matchbook, the cardboard days
nubs. The only question is when I arrive
how will you greet me —

gently, or with the force of your whole
tongue? Tell me what is in this suitcase.
Reach into every pocket of me. It’s your job
to locate the best of me, and throw away

the useless stuff.


Emily Schultz  is the co-founder of Joyland Magazine. Her new novel, Men Walking on Water, released with Knopf Canada in 2017. Her previous novel, The Blondes, released in the U.S. with St. Martin’s Press and Picador, in France with Editions Asphalte, and in Canada with Doubleday. It was named a Best Book of the Year by NPR and Kirkus. The Blondes is in development with AMC’s Shudder network for series. Her poetry book, Songs for the Dancing Chicken, was a finalist for the Ontario Trillium Award for Poetry. She now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.
She can be found at http://www.emilyschultz.com/




Up Next:


So.  The very best thing about being a fictional character is that everything you do has significance.  I see all of you non-fictional beings, busying yourselves with walking here and there and nursing your ailments and swiping your screens but none of it means anything. It doesn’t further the plot, it doesn’t make the setting crisper, it doesn’t add to the tension, it doesn’t help to build a metaphor cluster.  It’s just . . .  making a random sandwich.

For us, by contrast, all actions, all details, are intentional and important.

Let me give you an example.  See that sandwich on the bench?  It’s a ketchup sandwich.  And that ketchup sandwich is more than pulling its weight.

Let me introduce myself.   I’m the Neglected But Resilient Child.  You’ve met me before, in many guises. I may have brought you to tears.  In this particular story my hapless, overwhelmed single father has nothing to put in my school lunch sandwich but ketchup.  The ketchup sandwich is a potential source of bullying at school and, more importantly, if some adult sees it they might find out about my family situation and alert the authorities and that would be a disaster.  So, being a Resilient Child I take my lunch out to the park rather than brave the school cafeteria.

But where am I in this picture?  How come I haven’t eaten my sandwich?

So.  The worst thing about being a fictional character is the existence of editors.  Writers are fine.  We love writers.  We worship writers.  But editors?  In this case the editor thought that the Neglected But Resilient Child was a redundant character.  So out I went, doomed to hang around for another story that needs a NBRC.   However, the editor forgot to excise the sandwich!  So there it sits, an untethered detail, a sandwich that could have risen to the level of an endowed object or even the giddy heights of an objective correlative.  But no, it’s just a sandwich.  It’s not literature.  It’s just litter.



Sarah Ellis  is the award-winning author of over twenty books for children and young adults. In 2013 she was awarded the B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Award For Literary Excellence. Last year she was one of Canada’s nominees for the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Having retired as a children’s librarian and then retired from college teaching she is now writing and reading fulltime in the rain in Vancouver. Her latest book is Waiting for Sophie illustrated by Carmen Mok, published by Pajama Press. All her stories feature a resilient child because, really, what else is there to write about?

(For titles and biographical tidbits see www.sarahellis.ca)




Up Next:


“The only question is when I arrive
how will you greet me —”