Creative Writing 101

With every up and down that comes my way in life, the most familiar way to process things in my mind is to write. I would be kidding myself if I said that my writing is structured and sensible–in fact, it is quite the opposite. This being said, I was both excited and slightly nervous to tackle a creative writing class. Yes, reading is required in the class but the beauty of a creative writing class is that it merely guides you and refrains from telling you what to write about (ahhh, bliss…). I am currently reading “A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction” and though the title is rather dull, author Jack Hodgins’ way of sharing the art of writing is incredibly inspiring and helpful.

Not knowing what to expect from the class, I tackled my first assignment which is based on a “Sketch”. My sketch is broad, but what I can tell you is that my focus is on a “place”–a fictional one of course–that I hoped would provide a reader with a vivid sense of uncomfortableness (is that a word?) and sense of well, place. My short story could undoubtedly be more detailed and while I do wish that I could have written more (a maximum word count prevented this), I came to the realization that it is both extremely rewarding and extremely challenging to pack so much content and detail into a mere 500 words. I hope to share my accomplishments, struggles, frustrations and random thoughts in hopes to clear my mind (and in hopes to help any fellow writers) in between assignments. Enjoy my very dark short story.

Bliss amidst Bedlam

I do not remember much from my childhood but I vividly recall Debbie’s house—my babysitter’s house that I later called “The Dungeon”—as being the filthiest, most horrific place in the world. From the second my eyes traced over the medley of garbage that was collaged over the lilac colored shag carpet I knew that my days at Debbie’s house would be anything but grand. From cigarette butts, to hairballs, to bits and pieces of macaroni that occasionally jabbed into my toes during a game of hide and go seek with her cat, I never imagined that there could be a lonelier, more nauseating place on earth.

I’m sure my mother wouldn’t have left me under the “care” of Debbie had she known about all of the treasures buried deep within the unvacuumed carpet, but money, like love in my family, was hard to come by and a place with a shingled roof and a pot-smoking babysitter sure beat staying at home with a belligerent dad.

Pot-smoking aside, Debbie’s house always managed to make me feel relatively safe.  When I didn’t, I would timidly tiptoe across the patches of uplifting linoleum in the kitchen, peek into the living room to make sure that no one was watching and then would run at what I figured to be lightning speed down the stairs to a room that felt like home. I still don’t know exactly what this room was ever used for, but the musky sweet smell and the peeling floral wallpaper was incredibly inviting. It was as if these flowers would greet me and the smells would anesthetize my delicate mind. That room consoled me more than any human being ever could, and I’m certain that if the interweaving branches amongst the collage of roses and dahlias on the wallpaper could have outstretched their tendrils, they would have caressed me and swept away the hair from my face; they would have told me I were beautiful.

I often sat for hours in that room until the blood curdling sound of Debbie’s shriek would assassinate my pulsating imagination. It was as if Debbie had pulled my lifeline, as if she had taken away the only thing in my life that ever really mattered. It was over. I can recall the adrenaline rush that I would feel every time she would call my name and the subsequent feeling of hot blood that scrambled my brains.

I would flip the reality switch back to “on” in my mind and would run as fast up the uninviting stairs as my legs would carry me only to find Debbie’s hollow eyes staring down at me from the top. Those eyes were vortexes of death, and I am certain that if I had had any trace of happiness left in me, her eyes effortlessly sucked it up.

Grandma once told me that people throw rocks at things that shine. The rocks disappeared in the rose room.

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Hiking Yamnuska

Mount Yamnuska, which is more formally known as Mount John Laurie, was an amazing experience and is arguably one of the most interesting hikes in Alberta (at least that I have done!). Though many hiking books and websites classify this hike as “easy,” I would most definitely classify this hike as moderate-difficult. I’m sure that hiking with a newly trained mountaineerer who basically ran up all 7349 feet of the mountain made this hike more of a challenge than it actually was, but the fast-paced adventure was certainly worth the trip.

(Photo taken from the top of Door Jamb (Yamnuska’s neighbour))

The hike begins right at the parking lot, and once you start heading up, you better get used to the incline as there are few points on the mountain that allow you to rest! This being said, the relatively flat areas to stop offer beautiful lookouts and words truly cannot describe how it feels to be at the top of a mountain like this. Wow, do we Albertans ever take this for granted.

It took us ~2.5 hours to reach the top of Yamnuska with a few short snack/water breaks but we managed to make it down the mountain in closer to 1.5h. Why the difference in time? Well, there is basically no way to hike down the mountain unless you slide down the scree. Scree you ask? Yes–Basically, scree is an accumulation of broken rock fragments. That being said, if you don’t run down the mountain, you tumble down the mountain. After nearly crying before having to run down the what seemed to be slope of certain death, I managed to make it down with lots of encouragement and had an absolute blast gliding down the mountain. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Perhaps Rhonda Scheurer can describe the “scree indulgence” better than I can:

“To run scree, you point yourself downward, and begin “running”, leaning back slightly, digging in your heels, and letting your weight and the rocks under your feet work together as a team to form shelves or soft temporary stairs under you. It is a most thrilling and unusual feeling, and you can gain momentum to where you feel like you’d be completely out of control if it were not for the magical rocks of the slope cushioning and supporting each step.”

Above photo: Compliments of alexofcanada.blogspot.ca

This scree excursion was truly unlike anything I have ever done, and while the sharp drop off the side of the mountain may be intimidating, the run down the scree is incredibly fun–as long as you wear gaiters to prevent the rocks from filling your shoes!

Happy Hiking!

Here, try this glass half full

When we go through a rainy season, we become tired of the damp weather. Our shoes get soaked as we run through the rain. Our cars and our homes become soggy if we accidentally leave a window open. Our hair doesn’t react well to the humidity. You get the picture. Too much rain is no fun. When there’s an overabundance of it, we forget how truly life-sustaining it is. When you think that you have too much of a certain resource in your life, whether that be a loving someone who is crowding you or a position at work that is demanding, consider how  a “drought” would affect you, and then you’ll truly appreciate how lucky you are.