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February 2022 Muse

February 2022

“Read, read, read. Read everything  —  trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.” — William Faulkner

Editor's Note:

The Strathcona Writers Muse is a forum for members of the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County to provide an opportunity for members to publish their works. Anything published in our letter is eligible to receive a publishing credit. We accept poems and short stories of 1000 words or less normally but longer pieces can be accommodated if they can be published in parts. We are always in need of new items for each month so don't hesitate if you have something we can put into our publication.

Send submissions to care of Henry Martell, editor.

Important Dates

Writers Circle Virtual Sharing Meeting online

Next date February 1, 2022

RSVP on the website and the link will be emailed to you prior to the meeting.

Next Board Meeting: February 8, 2022

Newsletter Submission Deadline: February 25, 2022

Poets in the Park

Poets in the park meets the third Wednesday of every month online.

Reply to the link on the WFSC website

Next scheduled meeting Feb 16, 2022

Children's Creative Writing Workshop

Second Thursday of each month

Next Meeting February 10, 2022

Reply to the link on our Website

This Month's Submissions

Writing Exercise: Use these words in a poem or short prose piece. puddle, tree, letter, steps, trail, ache.

I am sharing my response here, but thought it interesting that the word puddle was the stimulus for me. A word association - puddle, rain, April showers. Hence this story.

April stamped her boot covered feet in the puddle. Murky brown water splashed in every direction bouncing off the stony trail and bordering grass. Little did her mother know when she named April that the name would be accepted by her adoptive parents.

The sealed letter with her birth mother's arrived that morning, making April's chest ache with longing and apprehension. As she stepped further into the park, she spied her tree. A special place, she would hide, when she felt uncomfortable or needed space from her step-siblings. Climbing to the thick horizontal branch, she made herself comfortable and took a deep breath.

Now was the moment, she would know her mother - well her birth mother anyway. She had so many questions. The envelope tore open and she pulled out several sheets of lined paper. The writing was cursive, but not difficult to read. This was the connection she had asked for - revealing words, memories and requests for forgiveness filled the lines. Tears ran down April's cheeks. This letter changed her life.

Mandy Eve-Barnett

Prairie Grassland

Kathie Sutherland

This summer, along the highway between Morinville and Athabasca, I decided to write about old buildings. I jotted notes about grey weathered wood and rusty hinges on broken doors. swayback barns, and moss yellowed shingles on collapsed roofs of dilapidated cabins. I noted how tight-fitting tongue and groove planks fall and return to the earth. I speculated about the folks who once lived and spent their lives fighting bitter winter cold, or reveling in the perfume of wet soil in the spring. I wondered how their lives passed and if their precious photographs, china teapots and handmade quilts were appreciated when bequeathed to their sons and daughters.

I imagined living on the outskirts of Colinton or Rochester, or in the villages of Vimy or Nestow. As a child, I yearned to know how it felt to come from a small Alberta place. My childhood was not rooted in prairie farming history, but in military tradition and the myths of a family I didn’t know.

Along the highway west of Athabasca is the Field of Dreams Antique Store. As we passed on our way to the lake, I insisted we stop to wander among the old combines and rusty tractors. In the golden light of the sunset, I daydreamed about bronze-tanned farmers with wrinkled eyes drifting in from hay fields, hot and dusty, calling out for a wife to bring a cold drink of water and bacon sandwich on homemade bread. I could see them coming home to a two storey hand-built house with dormer windows or a widow’s walk looking out on a sea of grain. Surely one of them trudged into a single room shack, mud chinked to keep out the cold winter wind, and onto a dirt floor in the lean-to kitchen. A good wife could keep the mice out of the flour sacks in her pantry and the swallows out of the chimney.

Along that same highway, I saw granaries and carriage sheds defying gravity, leaning on each other for support as if a single puff of wind would collapse the wood into a pile of rough boards. Surprisingly, they survive year after year, despite fallen roofs, doors that hang askew, and the empty window casings. They are, however, apt housing for coyotes and bats. The abandoned water pumps and broken outhouses that decorate the landscape, along with chicken coops and pigpens, are now overgrown with raspberry canes, and the garden spaces gone wild with weeds.

I could almost see a lonely pioneer lady with her skirts tucked into the waistband of her knickers planting daffodil bulbs and geranium roots mail-ordered from back east. She may have tried to imitate an English garden in an attempt to bring to mind her mother’s grey head bent over the dahlias and roses she used to grow beside the step. I like to think it was there in a little patch of black dirt that she found solace from the moan of the dry wind. For a few minutes she might have found respite from her hollering youngsters, the hot stove for baking bread, the smokehouse for drying rabbit meat, and the unending washing and mending of threadbare shirts and patched woolen pants. And if she had become sick at heart, she might have given up and walked blindly toward the half-full dugout holding her youngest baby in her arms meaning to drown her loneliness. She might have been accompanied only by the wind and her feelings of insignificance in the wide sky and the wider land. She might have been expected to maintain her cheerful outlook despite the disaster of a grass fire that took a hard won crop of wheat and found she could not bear another year or another disappointment.

As I was growing up as a military child, my family was nomadic. I remember uniform housing, not character homes that became part of the land. I remember summer holidays on the road from New Brunswick to Manitoba, not hot days catching grasshoppers by the dry creek bed. I remember flags snapping on parade grounds, not the billowing of laundry drying in the prairie wind. I remember fathers who wore identical pressed uniforms and shiny boots, and not sweat stained Levis and working men’s shoes.

When I was a child, I loved maps. They placed me geographically. Grounded me in each place. I could point to Parson’s Pond and Kouchibouguac, to Madawaska and Rainy River, to Wawanesa and Ravenscrag, to Cereal and Consort, and to Blue River and Clayquot Sound. On the map of my life, I traced my fingers along atlas lines snaking like the blue veins beneath skin. I kept coming back to the west.

In middle age, I am exploring the dusty backroads of Alberta. I found a Field of Dreams. It seems quite natural to be drifting in at dusk to visit the prairie land where my mother’s family began and where I, quite naturally find myself returning to this landscape to find roots in the prairie grassland.

The Wave

by Karen Probert

Beverley had seen the huge wave coming so stayed back from the edge of the beach. As the almost navy blue hump of it swept forward others noticed. Some yelled. One father grabbed both his small children around their thin chests and raced towards shore. Several young men turned outward to swim up its flank in hopes of catching the curl to surf into the beach. Most swimmers just headed towards the beach in a panic.

Beverley had never seen a swell so deep. It rose like a bubble of thick soup does in a pot as if it were going to burst into the boiling cauldron. The smoothness of it was stunning, one colour, deepest blue, and smooth like a satin comforter. No cracks, no rivulets of stray water dribbling down its flanks. The shallow water from the beach was drawn up into the front of it leaving the last few swimmers standing in ankle deep sand. A few fish flopped on the empty space. As the alarm from the resort sounded almost all the bathers had climbed up onto dry sand. Resort workers were hustling them up above the retaining wall onto the pool deck.

By the time Beverley saw the Asian woman it was too late to act. In a long beach dress which swirled around her ankles the woman was walking along the edge of the wet sand. Her wide-brimmed straw hat was safely tied under her chin with a pink and yellow scarf. She seemed to either not have seen the approaching wave nor heard the shouts of the lifeguards and swimmers. She was poking the sand with a thin stick every few steps.

About thirty yards down the beach the huge wave began to crest. Flashing white foam curled over the top which created a cave. A couple of the surfers hooted as they began their downward slide on the smooth surface. The chance of a lifetime it may have seemed to them but to the onlookers it was terrifying. Everyone was watching them, except Beverley. She was focused on the Asian woman who had crouched down as she seemed to spot something in the sand. She began digging with her hands and then pulled something glinting into the sunlight out of the hole she'd made. As she turned to swish the object in the shallow water Beverley could see it was a pair of glasses. At that moment the woman looked up at the wave bearing down on her. It's top curl was thundering onto the wet sand from one end while the surfers passed the woman about twenty feet out from her as they finished their ride, racing up the beach on their boards. The woman turned while picking up her skirt and setting it over her arm. She ran along the hard wet sand parallel to the curling end of the wave.

A lifeguard had finally noticed the lone woman so was running towards her in the deep hot sand. As the immense wave broke and rolled up the beach the surge met the Asian woman's feet. She planted them with her side facing the wave and leaned in towards the resort. As the water rose up her body with terrific force she raised her arms above her head. Beverley could see the glasses in her right hand. The forward edge of the wave hit the retaining wall throwing water high into the air before starting to recede. The lifeguard was up to his waist in the water but still standing as the retreating water tried to pull him into the sea. He released a safety ring so it would float on top of the water as close to the Asian woman as possible. As it neared her she reached out with her left hand and was able to hold on as the lifeguard held the rope tense to support her. The wave pulled her sodden dress tight against her tiny frame until the water finally released her. Wet sand was mounded almost to her knees. Several resort staff went to help her extricate her feet from the sand while smaller waves lapped along the beach as usual.

At dinner the rogue wave was all the talk at every table and in many languages. Beverley saw the Asian woman enter the main door alone and look around for a single table. There were none. Beverley waved at her and said, "Will you come to share my table? I'm on my own too."

The woman smiled. "Thank you. Yes." was softly spoken. As the waiter handed them menus the woman said "I Lettice. Good I found glasses in sand today. Pretty blind lady without." And she laughed.

Road Trip Thoughts

by Mandy Eve-Barnett

Road trips are a joy, incorporating

New places explored

Frequent wildlife encounters

Cherished memories to share

Increased expectation and excitement

A checklist of essentials made

Local sights and attractions investigated

Reservations confirmed and paid

Double checked suitcase contents

Cooler bag filled with bottled water

Snacks bought to dispense

Extra footwear, jackets, and sunglasses

Early morning start, packing the trunk

A double-check before we drive away

Puppies walked, fed, then harnessed in

Breakfast our first stop along the way

Routes taken – off highway & gravel

Multiple stops for photo opportunities

This is the only way to travel

Wildlife and scenery abound

Arrival at our lodgings, truck unpacked

Dogs walked, fed, then settled

Organizing of our spaces, preferences known

Comfortable companionship not meddled

Evening meal eaten, then to relax

Tomorrow’s adventure discussed

Reading and writing commence

Time is not rushed

An easy morning routine

New adventures and sights shown

Snacks gathered and packed

Our destination known

'If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write' - Stephen King

What Are You Reading?

The Muse wants to know what other writers are reading! Are you doing research for a story? Are you reading a great book that you want to tell others about? E-mail the editor and let us know about your book.

MARIE ANTOINETTE-THE JOURNEY (2001) by Antonia Fraser Review by Lana O’Neill

Antonia Fraser’s 20-year-old work about France’s most famous Queen is extensive and detailed.Hints of sympathy resonate against the misogyny and hostility Marie Antoinette experienced right up to the moment she was guillotined. My knowledge of this Austrian-born wife of King Louis XVI has been limited to a famous but unfortunate cake quote and a fortunate 2002 visit to Versailles, a perfunctory glance at her bedchamber,and a walk through the Tuileries and Place de la Concorde where the most tragic events of her life took place. The age of this book is young compared to over 260 years of resources surrounding a woman who lived between 1755 and 1793. Needless to say, Antonia Fraser’s deep dive into the letters and archival material of this larger-than-life woman was made easier to enjoy through her conversational style, relegation of opinions to questions and adherence to her references.Fraser’s non-fiction writing chops speak volumes about the quality of her work and now, having finished my first, I will search out another. But not before a small breather with some fiction sorbet. Or would cake be appropriate?

THE BURNING LAND (2009) by Bernard Cornwell

Review by Lana O’Neill

The fifth book in Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom series continues with the adventures of his warlord hero, Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Cornwell’s telling of how England came to be with Alfred the Great on the throne and Uhtred as the instrument of this king’s will is as entertaining as it is educational.

Violent clashes between Vikings and Anglo-Saxons during the late ninth century abound and many are based on real events of the time. Religion figures prominently too as Christianity is marching alongside Alfred in the ultimate quest to supplant Odin, Thor, Loki and company in favor of Jesus Christ. We hear the story, first person, from Uhtred as an older man recollecting his glory days. His ability to hurl insults is fun reading as is his self-described prowess with his weapons, Serpent-Breath and Wasp-Sting.

Cornwell’s series consists of 13 books and it was only in 2020 that he released the final installment, Warlord. For those that enjoy a visual depiction, four seasons of The Last Kingdom is available on Netflix with the fifth season in production.

The Golem & the Jinni by Helene Wecker.

Review by Mandy Eve-Barnett

Absolutely loved this story. Ancient worlds, magical beings, glimpses into a creatures mind, secrets and interconnections galore. Beautifully constructed world building and plotting. I was drawn into the characters and their world easily and waited with bated breath at times for what was to come. I will certainly be buying the next book!

Publications available from our foundation. Anyone can purchase these works through our website at


We are excited to announce new publications through the Foundation.

The winner's of the children's creative writing contest in 2020 and 2021 have been compiled into a book. It will be at a special price until September 30th. Link:

“Creative Writing Workshop Facilitators Kelsey Hoople and Mike Deregowski challenge you to participate in national poetry month.” As part of Poetry Month for April 2020, the challenge was to write to the overall theme - The Great Escape. A different title posted each day provided inspiration for writing a poem a day for thirty days. It was a challenge worth taking up as many of the participants could no longer meet in person due to COVID-19 measures, but they could support one another online! This collection of poetry includes submissions from qualifying WFSC members for 2020. Challenge yourself! Enjoy!

“Creative Writing Workshop Facilitators Kelsey Hoople and Mike Deregowski challenge you to participate in national poetry month.” As part of Poetry Month for April 2021, the challenge was to write to the overall theme - When Life Changes. A different title posted each day provided inspiration for writing a poem a day for thirty days. Amidst the COVID-19 challenge, getting creative was an outlet for our writing group, which enjoyed connecting online and being inspired. This collection of poetry includes submissions from qualifying WFSC members for 2021. Challenge yourself! Enjoy!

Available for purchase:

DWP WFSC's publication prior to the Writing Prompts book shares stories of Canadian writers.

We write from the heart about people who are important and things dear to us.

We write with a spirit that leads us to explore and explain.

We write. We are passionate.

We are Canadian.

Postcards from Canada proudly features the words of members from the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County in celebration of being Canadian – during this 150th year of Confederation. Share with us as we take you on a journey across Canada with our words, our images, our verse, our prose… Postcards from Canada - Wish you were here! Get your copy for $14.95 through the following:

Amazon POD:

Available for purchase:

Writers Foundation of Strathcona County 2021 - 2022 Board Members and contact information:

Joe McKnight President Bethany Horne Vice President Never Been Better - Editor Linda Pedley Treasurer Web Site Administration 780-445-0991 Mandy Barnett Secretary Writing Circle Host/ Writing Prompts/ Newsletter Editor Karen Probert Past President 780-464-6632 Beth Rowe Director Your Lifetime of Stories Coordinator 780-718-7253 Henry Martell Director Newsletter Coordinator Pamela J. Winter Director Poets in the Park Co-ordinator Amanda O'Driscoll Director Instagram Coordinator Library Liaison

Copyright © *2022

Writers Foundation of Strathcona County All rights reserved.


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