West coast flash fiction

January 30, 2016

I love flash fiction (very short stories that you can read in one quick gulp). Here is my attempt at one, inspired by summer camp memories and a First Nations legend of the west coast forest:


D’Sonoqua

I scrunch deeper into the salal, loosening the sweet scent of ripening berries, letting the thick leaves close around me. The twitter of birds stops suddenly, and I freeze as footsteps pound down the forest path. No one sees me. From further up the trail, girls’ voices drift through the trees.

“I see you, Cara!” Olivia, the girl who is IT, calls shrilly.

“Home free!” another voice shouts.

Then silence. It’s as if the sounds have been smothered by the thick moss that covers everything.

Something snuffles on the other side of the salal. A wild animal? No, it is probably that girl from cabin 6 who breaths through her mouth. I keep as still as possible, holding my breath.

“I see you, Madison!” Olivia’s voice is a thin thread, tangled and lost among the big trees, the ancient ferns and the absorbing moss.

The snuffling beyond the salal moves on.

Then Madison’s theatrical scream pierces the forest. It’s the same scream she used to end the lame scary story she told in the cabin last night. As if the scream was enough to make it scary. No murderer with a bloody chainsaw. No crazy knife-wielding hitch-hiker. Just some Wild Woman of the Woods who catches children who wander into the forest. Not much of a story, but the other girls in the cabin hang on Madison’s every word.

I listen for another shout from Olivia, or Madison’s triumphant laugh. Ha Ha, I scared you. But there is nothing.

I consider emerging from my hiding spot and running for Home. But I don’t move.

The forest is silent. Even the birds remain quiet. Waiting.

D'Sonoqua-crop2

 *  *  *

For more flash fiction, check out author kc dyer‘s Festive Flash Fiction Advent Calendar posted in December, which includes flash fiction by kc and other authors. Here are the links to the flash fiction I shared there:

Fight or Flight

The Small Green Snake

Yarn bombing

Seismic Lab

December 30, 2015

 

Yesterday’s 4.9 earthquake, felt by people in the area of Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island down to Seattle, prompted me to share this story, which was first published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? (2014). Unfortunately, Dylan, the dog in the story, is no longer with us, and our new dog does not have the same talent (the photo below is Dylan looking heroic, about the time the story took place).

Dylan_heroic

Our dog Dylan was a lousy watchdog. He was a large Lab mix and had the potential to be intimidating. But instead of barking when strangers came to the door, he’d greet them with an eager wag of his tail.

One night, my husband Craig left Dylan in our van parked by the ice arena where Craig was playing hockey. Dylan was happy hanging out in the van (he always jumped in as soon as we opened a door, never wanting to be left behind). And Craig figured the presence of a big dog would be a better deterrent to would-be thieves than a car alarm. When Craig came out of the arena near midnight, he was surprised to see Dylan running loose around the parking lot. It took Craig a moment to register that the van was gone. Not only had Dylan not deterred the car thieves, he must have happily jumped out of the van to greet them when they forced open a door (which was just as well, because we’d rather have lost the van than Dylan).

Despite Dylan’s failing as a guard dog, we soon learned that he had the ability to raise an alarm of a different kind.

From the time we first adopted Dylan from a local animal shelter, he slept in a crate in our bedroom. When Dylan wasn’t yet house-trained, we locked him in the crate at night. Later, we kept the door open and Dylan would head into the crate on his own as soon as Craig and I began preparing for bed. The crate became a place of sanctuary and security for Dylan. When anyone mentioned the word “bath,” Dylan instantly hid in his crate. It was, therefore, out of character one night when Dylan refused to go into his crate. We pushed and coaxed, but he would not get inside. Instead, he slept on the floor at the foot of our bed. The next night was the same.

Coincidentally, shortly before this episode, I had been doing some research into the behaviour exhibited by animals before earthquakes. I had read that birds often stop singing moments before a quake hits and that dogs and cats have been known to avoid enclosed spaces (even to the point of running away from home) over a period of three days before an earthquake. On the third night that Dylan refused to go into his crate, I pointed out to my husband that Dylan might be displaying pre-earthquake behaviour.

“That would mean we should get an earthquake tomorrow,” Craig said, half intrigued, half laughing. We both went to sleep without giving it much further thought.

The next morning around 11:00 a.m., an earthquake hit. I was in the community centre swimming pool with my daughter at the time, and we didn’t feel it. But the rest of the city did. It was a small quake, with no damage reported, but it did give people a bit of a scare. As one woman interviewed on the local news said, “It was like standing on Jell-O.”

That night, Dylan returned to his normal pattern of happily bedding down in his crate, and Craig and I went to bed with a new feeling of security. Dylan might be a lousy watchdog when it came to burglars and car thieves, but when the next earthquake hits, we’ll be ready.

~Jacqueline Pearce

Fall is cherry blossom time?

December 1, 2015

 

While spring is the traditional time for celebrating cherry blossoms, fall is when we hear the results of the annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational contest. This year, I was excited to learn that one of my haiku (inspired by the Vancouver Canucks hockey team making the Stanley Cup playoffs) was selected as the top winner in the “Vancouver” category. And, seeming in honour of the occasion, these rather confused cherry blossoms were blooming in November when I visited Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden.

confused cherry blossom3

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational Top Winners, 2015

Vancouver

Stanley Cup playoffs
the last cherry blossoms
still hanging on
                      Jacqueline Pearce
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

British Columbia

cherry blossoms
come and go
my seventy years
                      Dan Curtis
                      Victoria, British Columbia

Canada

Alzheimer’s ward
cherry blossoms
in the fog
                      Marco Fraticelli
                      Pointe-Claire, Quebec

United States

cherry blossoms
no room in the selfie
for me
                      Joe McKeon
                      Strongsville, Ohio

International

cherry blossoms
falling
in love again
                      Brendon Kent
                      Southampton, England

Youth

cherry blossoms—
grandma tells me about
her first date
                      Cucu Georgiana, age 12
                      Botosani, Romania

Click here for commentary on winning poems

Fall is also a time when local cherry trees are filled with beauty of a different colour.

fall cherry trees

Fall is in the air

September 2, 2015

Technically, it’s still summer, but with many people heading back to school and the long summer drought finally ending here on the BC coast, it feels like fall has arrived. The long string of dry hot days has also turned many leaves prematurely brown.

For years after I finished high school and university, I used to get itchy feet this time of year and feel that excited flutter in my chest that comes with the anticipation of seeing old friends again, the potential of meeting new ones, and (in university years) wondering what exciting vistas new classes might be about to open for me. In more recent years, this feeling seems to have morphed into a yearning to travel in the fall ─to explore new places and admire fall colours in different locations.

 

autumn wind─
I have the sudden urge
to buy school supplies

 

park

Winter haibun

February 17, 2015

Jean-Pierre Antonio and I have been friends since elementary school, when we shared the grade five classroom art corner and snuck off with class-mates to explore the nearby creek during lunch hours. Jean-Pierre has lived in Japan for the past 25 years. I’ve enjoyed hearing about his experiences, have visited him there, and we’ve done some collaboration featuring Jean-Pierre’s photographs (taken in Japan) and my haiku written in response to the photographs (here’s a post on our 2010 exhibit at Sawa restaurant-gallery in Vancouver). Recently, I found myself responding to one of Jean-Pierre’s emails with a poem that seems to be part haiku, part tanka. Together, the two pieces form a kind of haibun (a writing form combining prose & haiku). Perhaps this will be a new trend in our collaboration.

illustration from The Lion, the Witch & the WardrobeIn the Depth of Winter

The clouds rolled down from the mountain today, bringing drizzle just this side of snow, and drawing the heat out of my body as I rushed home after work. I thought of the scene in the movie version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe ──the one in which Lucy meets the fawn, Mr. Tumnus, by the lamp post. It’s snowing, and she is wearing just a light skirt, blouse and sweater, and she is very cold. He invites her for tea, and they go to his cave-home. Inside, there’s a fireplace with a warm fire already lit, and he brings out the pot of steaming tea, along with sugar, milk and toast. That’s what I want today ─a warm fire to put the heat back into my bones, the orange tinted light to drive away the grey outside, and a soothing pot of hot tea.

tea buns
by candle light─
in the depth of winter
the sheltered ember
of spring

The Siege is on!

October 20, 2014

My new book is out! The teenage characters in Siege dodge ghosts and smugglers during a War of 1812 re-enactment summer camp at Old Fort Erie, Ontario. For several months in the real War of 1812 (which actually ended in 1815), Fort Erie was occupied by US soldiers. One of the biggest and deadliest battles of the war occurred there in August 2014. (Siege is a short easy-to-read novel in the Orca Currents series for ages 10-14). (Review)

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Accordion Book Directions (with bonus cat)

September 12, 2014

workshop -finished book

Last spring I did some accordion book-making with kids as part of a writing workshop I taught at the Kamloops Young Authors Conference. We talked about how each story is a “hero’s journey” (with a quest and obstacles to overcome along the journey), then we created accordion book plot diagrams (with participants plotting out their own hero’s journeys). The books are also meant to look old and mysterious ─part treasure map and part talisman. The kids’ books turned out great!

workshop in progress

Before the workshop, I set out my supplies to photograph the directions for making a simple accordion book. Of course, the first picture was photo-bombed by my cat (aptly named Curious, she always has to check out everything).

Curious


Accordion book supplies:

– two rectangle pieces of cardboard for book covers (cardboard from cereal boxes works well). (For the “Hero’s Journey” book project, I cut the cardboard 2 1/2 inches x 3 1/2 inches).

– two rectangle pieces of decorative paper for book covers (the pieces should be larger than the cardboard by about 1/4 inch or so all around). (For the “Hero’s Journey” book project, I cut the cover paper to 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches and used kraft packing paper, which I “aged” by crumpling up the paper, then smoothing it out and adding brown ink & tea bag staining).

– a strip of paper that will be accordion folded to make the book “pages.” When folded, the pages should be slightly smaller than the book covers (for the “Hero’s Journey project, I cut the paper strip 3 x 16 inches, which fit nicely inside the book covers when accordion folded into 2 x 3 sections –also, three of these strips could be cut from a 11 x 17 sheet of paper).

– ribbon or raffia string (my first thought was to use the natural coloured raffia for an antique look, but my cat tried to eat it, so I switched to fabric ribbon). The ribbon should be long enough to wrap around the finished book and tie (I used a 16 inch piece for the “Hero’s Journey” book).

– scissors, glue

– optional: tea bag & brown ink stamp pad for “aging” the covers and inside pages, small pieces of decorative paper to glue inside the covers (we used antique map images for this project), craft jewels & collage items for decorating the covers

Directions (the following photos are from a different accordion book project, using Japanese paper):

1. Once your two pieces of cardboard and two cover papers are cut, place your first piece of cardboard on top of the back of a piece of cover paper (ie on top the side you don’t want showing). Centre it, so that there is an equal overlap of paper around the cardboard.

step 2



step 3

2. Cut the corners off the cover paper at the corners of the cardboard.













3. Fold the edges of the cover paper, so that they wrap tightly over the sides of the cardboard. Glue. (Do this with both covers).

step 4













4. Glue ribbon to centre of inside back cover (with equal amount of ribbon on either side).







step 5

5. Fold long strip of paper in accordion fashion, so that it divides into equal rectangles sized slightly smaller than the covers. Glue end rectangle “page” of accordion folded strip onto centre of back cover (over the ribbon). Glue the first rectangle page over the inside of the remaining cover, so that when the accordion folds are folded together, the covers come together.

finished book




6. wrap the ribbon around the front of the book and tie a bow.

 

 

 

Siege of Fort Erie – 1814 – 2014

August 7, 2014

Fort Erie gateTwo hundred years ago, in July 1814, American troops attacked Fort Erie (in what was then British Upper Canada). The British surrendered with only a few shots fired (the fort’s commander was later court-martialled for giving up too easily). The British withdrew from the fort, but made plans to get the fort back. In early August, they set up camp outside the fort, just out of reach of the fort’s guns.

After dark, on August 15, 1814, about 2,400 British soldiers, Canadian militia and First Nations allies attacked. Under the cover of darkness and the heavy gun smoke that hung over the surrounding field, the British stormed the walls of the fort and captured the northeast bastion. Within the fort, the Americans turned a cannon around and fired at the British on top the bastion. The British turned one of the captured cannons and fired back. As this close-range cannon battle raged, a spark found its way to the powder magazine under the bastion. The explosion killed 400 men (mostly British and Canadians) and turned the tide of the battle in favour of the Americans.

The British retreated from the fort (with almost the entire column that had attacked the bastion, wiped out), but continued their siege for days. By the time the siege ended on September 17, 3,500 men were killed, wounded, or missing. It was the most devastating and prolonged battle of the war.

Today, Old Fort Erie is a museum, which I visited last fall to research the setting of my new novel Siege (for readers approx. ages 10-14), which will be out October 1. This coming weekend (August 9-10, 2014) hundreds of re-enactors from both Canada and the U.S. will be gathering at the fort to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the siege. It promises to be the largest War of 1812 re-enactment in Canada. Unfortunately, I won’t be at the re-enactment, but I’ll be imagining the characters of my novel on top the fort’s walls in the middle of the musket and cannon smoke.

Siege_postcard_08-05-14

Blog Hop stop

June 2, 2014

hopscotchI’ve been “tagged” by author friend Laura Langston to join in a game of blog hop. The rules of the game: answer four questions about your writing and writing process, and tag three more people. Laura writes picture books, young adult novels and adult novels. To see her post on the blog hop, click here.

Here I go with the questions:

1)    What am I working on?

I’ve just finished the final edits for a new novel called Siege (for ages 10-14), which will be out this fall with Orca Books. It’s about a teenage boy who reluctantly attends a War of 1812 re-enactment summer camp and discovers some modern-day criminal activity around the Niagara River and Old Fort Erie.  As part of my research for the story, I watched the re-enactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights on its 200-year anniversary and also visited Old Fort Erie. I have a picture book story about the War of 1812 in the works as well.

I’m also working on two short non-fiction stories about dogs which will appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?, scheduled for release in August.

Re-enactor staff at Fort Erie answered my many questions while I poked around the fort

Re-enactor staff at Fort Erie answered my many questions while I poked around the fort

2)    How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My newest book, Siege, mixes history in with the present day, which is a bit unusual. I don’t think I’ve come across any other stories about people re-enacting historical events. It was fun to write, partly because the main character doesn’t want to be where he is, and I enjoyed writing about his reactions to things like his musket misfiring, the old fort’s ghost stories, and trying to navigate the Niagara River in an old-fashioned row boat.

FloodWarning_coverI’ve also written more straight-forward contemporary fiction and historical fiction. Flood Warning, for example, is a chapter book (for ages 6-8) that takes place during the Fraser River flood of 1948. There aren’t a lot of chapter books that tell historical stories (especially BC and Canadian history), which makes my story (and the others I’d like to write) somewhat unique.

3)    Why do I write what I do?

I write for kids because it’s  something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a kid (about the time my dad made the hopscotch in our backyard, which appears at the top of this post). I fell in love with books such as The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis and the Emily of New Moon series by Lucy Maud Montgomery when I was in grade six and have continued to love books for children (both reading them and writing them). I also sometimes write poetry and nonfiction for adults, but writing for kids is my main compulsion.

As for what I write about: I like to explore the world around me and notice things that maybe nobody else is paying attention to. I’m always fascinated by history, nature, and unique bits and pieces that I stumble across. When something surprises or intrigues me, I immediately start imagining it as part of a story (I always keep a notebook handy).  I write about things that interest me and hope someone else will be interested, too.

4)    How does my writing process work?

Usually when I’m working on a new story, I do quite a bit of research first (which I always enjoy, especially when it involves visiting interesting new places or trying out some new activity). Sometimes I find it difficult to actually sit down and begin the writing, though, and I might procrastinate by doing more research, or even by doing some different types of writing (like nonfiction articles or blog posts). But, once I dig into a story,  it starts to flow, and I get caught up in the world of the story.

I do most of my writing from my home office. If I need a break, or get stuck on some aspect of the story, I go for a walk, and usually the problem or the next scene works itself out in my mind as I walk. Rather than doing several drafts of a story, I edit as I go, which means sometimes I can rework the same  chapter or scene for days before moving on, and by the time I get to the end of the first draft of the story, it’s fairly polished. But, of course, there’s always more editing to be done.

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sunset from my office window

For the next stop on the blog hop, I’ve tagged Cindy Henrichs and Daniela Elza (I tried to tag a third person, but everyone else got away), and they’ll be blogging on June 16.

Cynthia Heinrichs is the author of two books: Mermaids, a picture book about the diving women of South Korea, and Under the Mound, a novel for young adults set in 12th-century Scotland. Cynthia is also a regular contributor to British Columbia Magazine. She lives in Vancouver, BC, where she writes and tutors college students in academic writing. To learn more about Cynthia, please visit her website here (and check out her blog on June 16).

Daniela Elza had been published nationally and internationally in over 80 publications. Her poetry books are milk tooth bane bone (Leaf Press, 2013), the weight of dew (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2012) and the book of It (2011).  Daniela earned her doctorate in Philosophy of Education from Simon Fraser University and was the 2014 Writer-In-Residence at the University of the Fraser Valley. Check out her website here (her blog hop post will be up June 16).

Note: If the next blog hop posts aren’t up by June 16, please check again in a few days.

Thanks for playing!

 

Getting ready for Chinese New Year

January 22, 2014

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Garden -cropI didn’t expect to see much in Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in the middle of January, but when I visited last Saturday, I found it blooming with red lanterns and bustling with preparations for Chinese New Year. I was also surprised to see winter jasmine in flower and many trees full of early buds.

The Chinese  lunar New Year (which begins on January 31 this year) is a time for sweeping away the old (dust, clutter, debts, worries) and welcoming in the new (renewing hope for health, happiness, and good fortune). Staff and volunteers at the garden were busy cleaning, tidying, tying up loose-ends, and decorating in preparation for the upcoming Year of the Horse Temple Fair, Feb 2 (2014). Red lanterns are hung around the garden to bring good luck (red is considered the most auspicious colour because of its association with fire, the sun, energy, light, and life-blood, which demons fear, so it also keeps demons away), and they welcome back the light of spring.

A few images and haiku from my visit:

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New Year’s lanterns─
the courtyard mosaics
swept clear

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preparing for
the New Year─
peony buds

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still pond─
finding the courage
to say goodbye

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