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February Muse

February 2023

November Writers Muse

Published by the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood that we lived as fully, as the days we think we left behind without living at all: the days we spent with a favourite book.”

Proust: on contemplating why we read.

Editor's Note:

The Strathcona Writers Muse is a forum for members of the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County to publish their works.

Important Dates

Writers Circle Virtual Sharing Meeting online

Next date Feb 7, 2023 7 pm

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

Next Board Meeting: Feb 14, 2023

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 15, 2023

Children's Creative Writing Workshop

Second Monday of each month

Next Meeting Feb 9, 2023

Reply to the link on our Website

This Month's Submissions

The History of the Nearly Bird

by Mandy Eve-Barnett

Professor Claude Rune stood straight backed behind the podium awaiting the last of his university students to sir in the auditorium. When the last pupil sat down, he tapped his pen on the wooden stand. Accustomed to the professor’s strictness for complete silence and focus the room’s inhabitants became silent.

“Good morning students. Today’s lecture is somewhat special in its topic. As our last lecture prior to the summer break, I am going to relay a personal experience. One that propelled me into my current position. He watched the curious glances around the room. It was unusual for him to deviate from the syllabus, but he wanted to keep them on their toes, so to speak, as well as ignite interest.

Clasping his hands behind his back, he began to pace the stage, left to right and back again. His mind took him back in time and place to the exploratory visit to darkest Asia. As a young man of twenty-seven, his mentor, Professor Archibald Grant, had seen his attention to detail and research abilities and requested him as his assistant on the trip. Claude was honored to be picked, knowing if they did under cover the artifact, they would make history. The Nearly Bird was thought by western intellect to be a folk tale, but to Asian culture it was a symbol of a mystical visitation.

The trek through thick jungle and up the side of a mountain was tortuous and exhausting. Claude was astonished at his ‘old’ professor’s ability to transverse the changing terrain. A feat a man half his age, such as Claude himself, would find taxing. A local tribesman guided them and stopped abruptly mid trail. He pointed, laid down his considerable backpack, bowed and sat down.

Claude’s puzzlement was met with a nod from his professor to the guide and himself.

“We will continue alone from here. Our local man will not proceed any further – it is a locally known curse. He who enters will be forever changed.”

Claude scoffed and immediately regretted his reaction as the professor gave him a focused stare.

“Never dismiss ancient lore, Claude; western civilization’s notion of authority is very much misplaced. Come we will continue to the cave; it is not far.”

“I can’t see a cave, Sir.”

“You will, my boy, you will.”

The trek was encumbered with thick foliage, so they swung machetes to make a path. Soon a rocky outcrop rose in a sheer wall before them, several feet up a dark shadowed cave entrance, partly obscured by a rock fall was seen.

Professor Grant exclaimed. “Our destination and with luck our mission’s discovery.”

With renewed energy both men climbed the boulders and debris then entered the cave. Their magnum torches lit the interior to reveal etched images on the rock face surrounding a rectangular altar. Perched above it was a magnificent statue of a large predatory bird, its wings outstretched as if poised to fly.

“Behold the Nearly Bird, Claude, a legend no longer. It is even more impressive than I imagined.”

“Sir, I admit I was doubtful of our success but did not foresee such an incredible artifact.”

“We must catalogue every detail. Take as many photographs as possible from every angle. I will gather samples and transcribe the writings.”

The men set to task with several battery operated lights as dusk fell, then the daylight jungle noises ceased, and the calls of night predators rang out. Intent on their work neither man noticed shadows gathering. The deep baritone voice echoed, startling the explorers.

“One may leave, one must stay.”

Archibald Grant and Claude Rune froze eyes wide. Before Claude could react, his professor volunteered.

“I will stay.”

Claude shook his head, advancing toward the altar, but Archibald grabbed his arm and shook his head.

“I knew all along, I would not return home, my boy. I hid this particular part of the legend from you. My journey in this realm ends here, but yours is just beginning.”

Whining Works By Karen Probert

And so it began again - the whining by Juliana.

"Jules", Margot chimed in, "Take a deep breath through your nose and out in a puff through your mouth."

Juliana looked up at Margot then closed her lips and her eyes while she breathed in deeply. Her plump tummy expanded. When she pursed her lips she puffed out expelled air.

"Do it again", stated Margot. When Juliana complied she said, "And one more time, Jules, then relax."

Juliana did it three more breaths this way. She tried never to follow directions precisely. She always hoped for a reaction from whoever had set the protocol. Being described as an assertive child allowed her to get away with many discrepancies to the rules set by others.

Juliana went back to drawing in her notebook. She'd been using colored pencils which kept breaking while she pushed hard to get the deepest colors. Frustrating her efforts also was the cat. Margot called the cat Mervin but Juliana refused to say that name. The cat was mottled brown with golden eyes which didn't seem at all like a Mervin to Juliana. Maybe Florence but then it would need to be a female cat. To Juliana it was, at least for the time being, just The Cat. Whining about the cat never changed anything so she didn't bother. The pencil crayons were a different issue altogether. Juliana wanted new, more expensive ones, with some rarer colors and even metallic colours. She'd seen those all in the art store. They would improve her art she was convinced but no one seemed to take note to her comments that day. She knew her eleventh birthday was coming soon. Her plan was to make sure everyone knew she was fed up with her old tools and wanted better ones. Reminders were important. She was hoping Margot would buy them for her or at least tell her father so he would.

Margot hadn't been around long, only four months or so. Before she came Juliana's had her father's full attention when he was home. With Margot there that had changed as father gave Margot lots of attention which meant less for Juliana. Juliana liked Margot. But she had adored her funny, artistic mother. She knew that part of her life was over. She knew that right away when the paramedics had covered her mother's face with a blanket while cutting the car to get Juliana out and into an ambulance. Mummy was gone. Margot would never be her Mummy but she was mostly okay.

"Jules, come for lunch. The soup's hot."

"In a minute. I'm just finishing this picture." Juliana knew she should go right away but that would be too accommodating so she stalled by noisily putting the pencil crayons back in the box before picking up everything to take it to her shelf of art supplies. The soup would be hot enough when she got into the kitchen after washing her hands. After lunch Juliana went to the park to play while Margot sat on a sunny bench to read a book. On their way home they stopped to pick up some groceries for dinner. There was no school today and none of Juliana's friends were at the park or along the street,

Margot asked at the bakery, "What kind of cake do you want for your birthday party? Chocolate, lemon or a strawberry shortcake with whipped cream maybe? I can order it now to pick up on the day."

Juliana knew she wanted the white cake with lemon pudding in the middle and raspberries on top of the lemon icing - it was her mother's favorite. "I haven't decided yet Margot. I'll think about it, okay?" she said in a whimpering voice.

"Of course, Jules. Just let me know a week in advance so the bakery has time to make it."

With a smirk Juliana slowly chose a cream puff for her treat. Margot paid for it and had two butter tarts added to the box. "Your Daddy likes these so we'll save all this for dessert tonight."

Juliana's bottom lip slipped into a pout. The bakery clerk gave her a chocolate donut hole while saying, "Something sweet for on your way home." so Juliana thanked her and smiled at her.

Two weeks later after whining and mentioning as often as possible about art supplies it was time for Juliana to open her parcels from family. Grandma gave her a tunic top and leggings both in soft blue and just the right size. Margot gave her two books - one on drawing horses and Black Beauty to read. Daddy said," I think your parcel got lost, Juliana. Maybe I left it in my car." He had a big smile.

Margot stood up, "I'll go get the cake while you look in your car, Ted."

Daddy came in from the car with a huge package wrapped in heavy brown paper. Juliana's face looked perplexed. It wasn't anything she was expecting. "Okay Jules, take the paper off. It isn't pretty paper but I think you'll like what's inside."

Falling asleep that night Juliana decided to stop whining, to accept Margot's ideas more often and to love her Daddy forever and ever. He'd bought her an easel - a real artist's easel. And a box with one hundred and forty-four colored pencils. Daddy said that's called a gross - how strange! And a low flat box with all the metallic colored pencils was in there too. Juliana had hugged him tightly. She felt a bit teary but didn't cry as Margot carried in the lemon-filled cake with raspberries on top and eleven sparklers sending out shiny lights across the table. It had been the best birthday ever. Maybe eleven year ones should figure out a way get their way without whining.


Written by Lana O’Neill

I can’t imagine fleeing

My home

And all that I know

Which is safe

I can’t imagine breathing

The fetid stench after mortar fire

Upon a children’s hospital

Occupied fallen


I can’t imagine seeking

Refuge beyond the rubble

On legs stained with blood


Not mine

I can’t imagine crying

Tears laced with DNA dust

Falling unbidden



I can’t imagine surrendering

A warm yellow sun

Naked in a blue sky

For the cold shroud of concrete

Enshrining hope

I can’t imagine usurping

Fear with strength

The shield denying death

By an ego riddled

Vacuous fist

I can’t imagine inspiring

A community of billions

Protecting every hanging thread

Weaving defiance

I can’t imagine standing

Up to the covetous neighbor

Who would see me kneel

Choosing ‘Ni’ over ‘Da’

I just can’t

'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.

Reborn by Jenna Greene

Review by Mandy Eve-Barnett

The author initially immerses you into a world of hardship and lost hope, a cruel society dependent on facial marks. Then a chance is given and we follow their journey and struggle and forging hope for something better.

A wonderful story, where the reader is invested in the characters plight.

Highly recommended.

Bastard Sorceress by Verna McKinnon

Review by Mandy Eve-Barnett

What a wonderful magical world Verna McKinnon has created. Full of surprising twists and turns, magic and characters you love.

A superb story - highly recommended.

The Messy Lives of Book People by Phaedra Patrick

Review by Mandy Eve-Barnett

This is one of those novels that grips you from the first chapter. It is a joy for readers and writers alike as you follow Liv on her journey from cleaner to ghost writer. Getting inside a writer's mind is as difficult for a reader as it is for one writer to another. A spellbinding story, I absolutely loved.

SCARS & STARS (2022) by Jesse Thistle

Review by Lana O’Neill

Jesse Thistle wrote a book of poetry. This, his second publication, is an extension of the small sample included in first book and national bestseller, FROM THE ASHES (see January 2023 Writer’s Muse review). The autobiographical collection is divided into five parts, each representing an honest glimpse of his fall into the ashes and the slow, painful rise up and out. Reading his first book goes a long way towards understanding the meaning behind his poems. But this is not necessary because his writing is strong and his message is clear. The poetic form is therapy for Thistle and is noted in his dedication. So much so, that the reader can feel the healing gleaned by his sharing of deeply personal moments. And if his gift for molding those moments into intimate reflections of his personal struggle creates a strong connection with the reader, it is this same gift he is offering to those who need it most.

THE INK BLACK HEART (2022) by Robert Galbraith

Review by Lana O’Neill

The newest mystery in the Cormoran Strike series by JK Rowl…er, Robert Galbraith weighs in at a healthy two pounds and over 1000 pages. With these numbers, the readers (and my arms) get a heavy dose of characters and their development. All the more to wonder who dunnit! The London area story is an intense cocktail of gaming chatrooms, Anime and an art commune spiked with pseudonyms, social commentary and fascists. The mixture becomes toxic over social media and inevitably bubbles over on the grounds of Highgate Cemetery, where the dead drink in a gruesome murder. The Ink Black Heart is well plotted, clever and thoroughly absorbing. Despite some late-night page turning and the resulting sleepy days, I’m happy to report that my arms are a wee bit more toned.

Villa Serena by Domenica De Rosa

Review by Mandy Eve-Barnett

A wonderful tale of reality versus dreams. Italy is a country of mystery, tradition & misconceptions. I loved following Emily’s journey from outsider to acceptance. Life is never as it seems and this book goes into one family’s world. Highly recommended.

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:

A Creative Mind: Poetry Anthology III

The WFSC challenged its members to write a poem-a-day for 30 days and the poetry shared in this anthology are part of the results. Participants were allowed to submit up to five selections with others chosen at random to fill the book as needed. We think you’ll enjoy reading the as much as we did. We have selections from 14 poets offering 81 selections ranging in styles, voice, and direction, but all focused on the title / theme of the day

“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 2023 - 2024 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 Amanda O'Driscoll Director Instagram Coordinator Library Liaison

Copyright © *2023

Writers Foundation of Strathcona County All rights reserved.


Our mailing address is:

PO Box 57083 | Sherwood Park, Alberta | T8A 5L7

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