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.

Eyes Wide Closed

Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, dream? Because the most beautful things in life are not seen but felt only by the heart.

Father’s Day “Hole in One” Golf Cake

Every year I struggle with buying a gift for my dad. He has all the tools and golf clubs that a man could ask for and there are only so many hoodies one person should own. Sorry Dad, no hoodie this Father’s Day!

This year, I have decided to make my dad a very interesting cake. After a little inspiration from Pinterest, lots of green icing and chocolate cake baking, I managed to create a gift for my dad that I know he will love–a golf cake. After coming across this idea via Liz Hill on Pinterest, I knew I just had to make this cake for my dad who loves everything about the game of golf.

Though this cake was incredibly time-consuming, I would recreate it in a heartbeat. I  had so much fun making this cake and have discovered the best chocolate cake recipe that I have ever tried–the Cooking Nook’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake recipe. As scared as I initially was by the “mayonnaise” portion of the recipe, I managed to get over my fear of baking with mayonnaise after reading that sour cream and mayonnaise make some of the world’s best cakes. Okay, I thought, ill give it a try. I still cannot believe how amazing this chocolate cake is and am happy and proud to say that it is one of the tastiest recipes that I have ever made:)

This was by far the most fun I have ever had with a cake and can’t wait for another opportunity to make another special one:)

Best Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe

2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/3 cups water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour 2 – 9″ round cake pans.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well and set aside.

Beat together eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl for 3 minutes, using the high speed of an electric mixer. Mixture should be smooth and creamy. Reduce speed to low and beat in mayonnaise until blended.

Add flour mixture in batches, alternating with water, in 4 equal additions (1/4 of the flour, then 1/4 of the water etc). Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake is clean when removed. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and allow to cool completely before frosting with your favorite frosting. Serves 10 to 12.

Once the cakes are baked and cooled (I cooked them for ~38-40 minutes as I did not use a round pan), level the tops of the cakes off with a bread knife so you can use the bottom as your even surface.

Frost the cake with white icing. Use a cup of your choice to cut out a hole in the cake. Only press about half way down into the cake and remove the portion in the cup.

I followed a simple cream cheese icing recipe and added a few drops of green food colouring. Using an icing gun, I used a star tip to create ‘grass’.

After icing the cake, place a golf ball in the hole and you are set!

Happy Father’s Day!

 

Quote-a-holic

There are some beautiful, inspirational quotes out there but this is definitely one of my favourites. Perhaps I am biased because The Great Gatsby is still one of my favourite novels. Or maybe Fitzgerald is simply brilliant and well spoken. Yes, that’s it.

 

A Complicated Kindness

It was a pick that just kind of happened when my professor said “here, read it”. It had a picture of chicken on the front and the only thing that enthralled me were the uneven pages on the inside—great, I thought.

I am happy to say that I have rid myself of my uncertain attitude towards A Complicated Kindness and quite enjoyed the novel. Being the first book in almost a year that I have read for enjoyment and not for a class, I found myself sitting like a bump on a log, fully engrossed in the book when I normally anticipate the closing of a chapter.

Although the book’s ending is rather sad, the book as a whole (which isn’t about chickens at all) is refreshingly funny and Miriam Toews’s writing style is unlike any other. It is quirky, honest, non-clique, and the spurts of beautiful language amongst sarcasm, profanity and thinking aloud allow a reader to feel for the main character and her troubled self. It could be the quirkiness of the book that i loved so much or simply Toews’s writing style but  i do know that i will be reading another book by Toews in hopes to fall in love with another one of a kind story.

Next on my reading list? Anna Karenina by Tolstoy and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Wilde