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September 2021 Muse

September 2021

“A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. Only then can he accept wonders.” — John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

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

Virtual Sharing Meeting online

Next date September 7, 2021

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

Next Board Meeting: September 14, 2021

Newsletter Submission Deadline: September 24, 2021

Monthly online Creative Writing Workshops

Held last Saturday of every month at 12:30 to 2:30 pm

Go to the website to register - click the RSVP and the link will be emailed to you prior to the workshop.

Poets in the Park

Poets in the park meets the third Wednesday of every month on-line.

Reply to the link on the WFSC website

Next scheduled meeting Sept 22, 2021

Children's Writing Workshop

Next Meeting Sept 9, 2021

Reply to the link on our Website

This Month's Submissions

Death at the Abandoned Theme Park by Mandy Eve-Barnett

It started out as a harmless dare between friends - it ended up as so much more.

Marcus, Josh, Daniel and Billy had exhausted, in their minds at least, their summer vacation activities. Many hours were spent at the skate park, the local swimming pool, exploring local bike trails and tubing down the river. Even the gaming had begun to lose its allure. They wanted excitement, something new.

Sitting on the river bank, smoking a packet of stolen cigarettes, courtesy of Billy, the four friends watched the flow of water, dotted with canoes, river tubers and the occasional swimmer, some human, some canine.

“Another month of summer vacation and we’re already bored. What the hell?”

“Yeah, you’re right, Marcus, we do the same stuff every year. But what choice is there in this old town, it’s always the same old shit.”

Daniel blew out two smoke rings. After congratulatory whoops from his friends, he said.

“What we need is something new, exciting, and forbidden.”

All three heads turned his way. He could feel their anticipation.

“Well, spit it out then!”

Daniel gave Marcus a playful punch on the arm before continuing.

“We break into the theme park in Hadstead.”

There was a moment of silence as thoughts shot through the youthful minds. There were numerous parental warnings and town rumours of the dangers of the abandoned theme park, its occasional inhabitants, both human and animal. Marcus and Billy exclaimed together. “Fuck yeah.” Josh inhaled as if to say something, but the excited looks on his friend’s faces stopped his thought. “Yeah, okay, count me in too.”

Grouping into a huddle, Daniel relayed his plan to get into the old park. They would meet at dusk the following night.

Armed with bolt croppers, again curtsey of Billy and his father’s well stocked garage, the four friends gathered at the opposite side of the theme park’s entrance and any passing traffic. Billy cut the wire fence and they all held their breath waiting for some sort of alarm to sound. There was silence. Josh and Marcus pulled the wire mesh aside, while Daniel and Billy pushed through. Then they held it open for the other two. Inside the park, the low light gave the derelict rides and equipment a sinister look. Shapes stuck out at odd angles, large struts and roofs hung over the ground plunging them into darkness as they walked along the dirt path. A strong breeze blew at their backs, hitting loose panels and making eerie whistling and creaking sounds as it passed by. Josh held back a little, unsure if he should just run and put up with the inevitable teasing. He’d heard all the stories of the strange occurrences and accidents that predetermined the theme parks closure. Since then the tales had become more and more fantastical but always terrifying. A dog found cut in half, a toddler found dirty and bleeding in a bumper car and the sighting of a ghost.

He watched his friends pick up sticks and thump on the old equipment making the old metal clang and clank. They were laughing and jeering, egging each other on, oblivious of his reluctance. He picked up a stick and banged it on a stall front counter, which instantly disintegrated freeing a barrage of insects. He jumped out of the way as the creatures scattered in every direction. His skin crawled as he stamped on as many as he could. “Disgusting things.”

“Hey, slow poke get over here.”

Josh looked up to see Marcus straddling a Ferris wheel support, while Billy and Daniel climbed above him.

“No way, it’s rusty as hell; any one of those supports could break at any minute. I’m going to keep my feet on the ground.”

“Chicken, you’re a bloody chicken.”

“Yeah, whatever!”

As he watched the other three climb higher and higher, Josh got the feeling he wasn’t the only one watching. Someone or something else was close by. Hidden but sensed. Careful not to turn his head too sharply, he looked round, up and down as if inspecting the other rides. There were too many shadows, too little light, to make out any definite shapes, whether human or not. A shuffling to his right was enough to make him run, swinging the stick in front of him in pure panic. His scream didn’t leave his throat until he was through the wire fence and along the back path. “Get out, get out now! It’s coming.”

Billy, Marcus and Daniel heard a shout and Billy jeered back.

“The little coward, he’s frightened of his own shadow that one. Come on let’s see how high we can get.”

They ignored the creaking, the slight shifting of the metal frame and continued upwards. Marcus pointed to a horizontal spoke and a seat within reach of it.

“Come this way, we can rock that bugger, it’ll be fun.”

Shuffling on their butts along the spoke, they reached the seat and squeezed into it. With the safety bar latched they began to rock back and forth, squealing with excitement.

“Best idea you’ve had, Daniel. Look at us go!”

A shadow moved to the operator’s box, a lever moved down unaided and the brakes loosened. The Ferris wheel jolted once. Josh heard the sound of explosive crushing metal from the main road, where he was doubled over gasping for breath.

Heart of a Wounded Poet

My mother used to say I looked a lot like my Aunt Penny, but I couldn’t see the resemblance. Now at middle-age when I look at old family photos, I see something familiar in her eyes, something more compelling than our physical similarities. In both of us, I sense a need to express the truth and beauty in the everyday aspects of life. My mother must have recognized a shared ability to enjoy lyrics and rhythm.

As I considered the books and school teachers of my youth as possible candidates for Mentor of My Youth, my Aunt Penny came to mind because she and my grade ten English teacher both reflected my love of poetry back to me. She was my mother’s older sister, a scholar who dared to debate and argue even when forthrightness in women was frowned upon. She could quote her favorite authors from memory: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Donne, Shakespeare, and Longfellow.

She was also a star athlete stopped in her tracks by rheumatic fever. This physical setback was hard for her. She felt angry and cheated somehow; sure that no one understood the magnitude of what had been taken from her.

When I was 19 years old, she gave me a signed copy of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. I was smitten by the lovely words. Back then, I was a fan of Simon and Garfunkel, but did not understand their contributions as the art of poetry or even see them as wordsmiths or minstrels. My Aunt Penny was not from New York City nor was she a hippie, but she would have recognized poetry when she heard it.

My aunt was a private person who wrestled with her illness. She grieved her lost health with drink and prescription drugs. She smoked despite a heart physically and emotionally broken. As a teenager, I didn’t know she sought solace in Gibran’s pages.

That book is still on my bookshelf. When I am troubled by life transitions, Gibran’s words are the first place I go because his deeply spiritual writing has inspired my parenting, partnerships, joy, pain, giving and receiving, and my writing.

The legacies of extended family members are sometimes difficult for me to appreciate. But in this case, despite the geographic distance between us, I felt closer to her than to other relatives. We were joined at the heart. I was an absent niece, a child she didn’t really know. Yet she recognized my yearning for the beauty of poetry, and encouraged me to express myself and to write my own. She saw the dreamer, the idealist and the seeker in me.

The inscription on the front page of my book is more than just her signature. It is a bequest from a soul mate. Both she and my mother knew we were related not only by blood but by our passion for written words.

By Kathie Sutherland


Hello my old friend,

it has been quite a while,

since you and I walked together,

down this long, lonely mile.

You’re not exciting and new,

as an unfamiliar touch,

more a well-worn glove,

soft and supple and such.

I wrap you around my cold shoulders

And say “How yah been?”

A light in your eyes I see spark,

And births a wildfire… and so you begin.

I listen to your litany of long forgotten fears,

Patting your hand to show I’m still here.

We wander the empty road,

comfortable and known,

until it’s time to part ways once more,

so we stand together, all alone.

Goodbye constant companion,

My one true friend,

Until a memory, a date or scent brings you back my way,

I’ll go on, until the end.

Carla Howatt

Wild Strawberry

Written by Lana O’Neill

I wander ‘round my uncle’s farm

Behind the house, beyond the barn

In search of what my dad would speak

A tiny fruit that left him weak

I bend my knees and crane my neck

A patch of green, my fingers check

A thorough hunt and patience wins

The pea-sized prize below my shins

If red could blush, the hue would pale

In contrast to this nature’s grail

I pluck an orb, firm and ripe

To taste the wild, to test dad’s hype

My tongue cries out, my lips smack tight

From juices sweet and texture light

My fingers grasp in frenzied greed

To sate the taste, I can’t un-need

Until a knowing gaze prevails

Upon my empty plastic pail

My father, laughs with lips stained red

“Dessert is apple pie instead!”

'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.

When Robins Appear by Densie Webb

Review by Mandy Eve-Barnett

A remarkable tale of a mother and daughter dealing with love and loss, joy and pain. Their relationship ebbs and flows, as we 'see' each of their inner thoughts and turmoil. A story that brings real life into sharp focus. I enjoyed it immensely.

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

A beautifully told story centering around a particular house during two different time periods. Barbara has expertly woven the two storylines and the inhabitants lives together. The core of the novel centers on the real life of a intriguing woman, Mary Treat. Someone history should take notice of and celebrate. THE OUTSIDER (2018) by Stephen King Review by Lana O’Neill Stephen King has written over 60 novels since 1967 and I am reluctant to admit that this is the first one I’ve read (except for his non-fiction bestseller, On Writing, which I’ve enjoyed twice). My only excuse would be that I’ve watched several of the movies adapted from his books and all of them left me with plenty of heebie jeebies and no desire to taunt my imagination any further. That said, reading The Outsider was an absolute treat. From the horrific beginning to the shocking end, King’s telling of the supernatural is paced as a page turner without resorting to short chapters cut off in mid-reveal. His experienced hand effectively colors the small town of Flint City, Oklahoma and its residents so that both are as real as you and I, while juxtaposing them against the unreal and leaving the reader to wonder, if something could actually be lying in wait under the bed. Classic Stephen King!

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT (1983) by Walter Tevis Review by Lana O’Neill

As an eight-year-old, my biggest worry was catching the right bus from school (especially in the winter) and my biggest hope was getting a singing stint on Kiddies on Camera with my best friend, Michelle. By the time Walter Tevis’ protagonist, Beth Harmon, was eight she was alone, living a flat-lined existence in an orphanage. Her biggest worry and hope were one and the same- ensuring she got her daily allotment of little green pills (‘vitamins’ to the orphans, tranquilizers to you and me). The Queen’s Gambit is a story of an unremarkable girl. who found the game of chess amid the unpromising circumstances life threw at her. This cerebral game is written into the story like a secondary character and readers may become lost in the terminology, if not, the strategies. For my part, watching the Netflix television series of the same name beforehand, went a long way towards my understanding of the game and thus my enjoyment of the plot. The book, though, provides a window to Beth’s thoughts, thus the key to understanding her journey inside a world she mastered to become more than remarkable.

Saying Goodbye is Easy by Kathie Sutherland Review by Mandy Eve-Barnett A compelling, complex, and enlightening narrative, full of truths, struggles, and internal emotions. Every reader will find a connection with the struggles, highs, and lows of the narrator. A courageous, heartfelt, and revealing story, told in short stories and reflections. This book will change your outlook on your life and your life's path.

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:

We also have two poetry anthologies that will be launched at Words in the Park. The Great Escape 2020 and When Life Changes 2021.

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 2020 - 2021 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 Guy Chambers Director Poets in the Park Co-ordinator Amanda O'Driscoll Director Instagram Coordinator Library Liaison Email: Website: (

Copyright © *2021

Writers Foundation of Strathcona County All rights reserved.


Our mailing address is:

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

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