Showing posts from November, 2013

Dinner at the Saturnines

“I received a message from a Mister Stamford, informing me that Menac’s to go to his school.” Count Saturnine took a long slurp of his soup. It stuck to his upper lip and dribbled down his chin. Barnaby Featherspoon stared at him before reaching over with his napkin to dab it clean. “For heavens’ sake,” the Count batted Featherspoon’s hand away. Menac sniggered. His mother slapped him across the back of his head. “Who is this Stamford?” she asked. “Damned if I know.” “Damned anyway, I expect.” “What was that, my dear?” “Nothing, my husband.” “Turns out he’s on the Grand Council. Upshot is, Menac’s going there.” “I want to stay here,” Menac said. “Speak when you are spoken to,” his mother snapped. “The boy can speak, wife. Don’t smother him like you always do. Ignore her, Menac. She’s like all women, stupid and vain.” “The only reason you aren’t the most stupid, vain person in this room is because that thing is sat next to you,” the Countess hissed, jabbing her knife at Barnaby. Mr Featherspoon…

3 - 2- 1

And so we've arrived at the final countdown. The last few days of November are waiting.

How's it gone? Here in New England it is the evening of the 26th. The supermarkets are crammed with turkeys, and every conversation focuses on how far people intend to travel for Thanksgiving. My mind rests upon how this month has gone for everyone. Did you make the progress that you hoped for? Did you conjure the words, or edit the words, or polish the words to the extent that you planned at the start of the month?

And the thing I wonder about most, as we visit this little cafe that sits in the cloud, is how our target-setting and aspirations have affected our writing practice.

I will be the first to confess that I have struggled. Those first few days when I found time to write for an hour and work on my opening chapter were soon lost: I was preparing for my GRE examination, drafting my applications for university admission, chasing down pieces of paper which evidenced the marks and level…

The Space Between the Words

The Space Between the Words

Now you have gone into that space Beyond language
You have gone into the pauses in our conversation The time beyond time and time within time
You are in those moments when we sit in the audience Waiting for the curtain to rise
And the end when the curtain has closed And the actors have taken their bows
You are within the pauses of the bird’s song When we strain to hear the next note
In the water between the fish In the traveller’s silence within a foreign language
You are in the air that fills the sky In the moments after the sunset
You are between night and day Spirit next to soul
You are in the space between the words The moment before the artist picks up her brush
By Vicky Letterman

One Moon, One Star

There is just one star in the sky when she pulls herself out of the water. Glancing up, the moon hides against blue-black infinity, shows itself, then hides again. Bursts of cloud weave, dance, disguising chunks of the moon’s white surface nibbled into scalloped edges. The green and white sea flexes it’s power, playful, deadly, siren-dangerous, as always. The tide begins to turn. She must be careful. The sea can take you back if it wants to. She can’t go yet. Not yet. The salt tastes delicious around her mouth. She scents the silt and seaweed remembering green, purple and darkest blue from her water world. Warm wind washes over and around her and welcomes her at last to the land. She is exhausted but cannot rest; her time here is measured by the tide. There should be enough, just. Yes, there should be enough. This is not her first time. She turns her back to the sea and the single star, shining softly down on her, and makes her way, slowly, up the sand. Now the crashing water starts to…

Lullaby for a Winter Evening

Lie down and let me tell you about snow about geometry and silence two parts cold to one part marvel let me tell you of the twofold mystery of its nature how a single flake dissolves at once how two flakes linger when they gather whitely on the ground
Lie down and give your face to snow drifting down like petals in a spring orchard taste it on your tongue a fleeting kiss of ice
Lie down and listen to the wind wind through the apple trees twisting the bare twigs into complex runes against a curtained sky spelling out a recipe for snow
Sally Zakariya

In Sickness and In Health

His feet repulse her. It’s her own fault. She threw a pair of socks at him telling him to put them on and keep them on. He just took it to heart. The socks, one folded into the other, were odd. One yellow. One black. He’d not taken them off. Not for days.
       He’s lying on his side now, away from her. She reaches out to his back. It’s freezing. She squeezes her eyes, waiting to hear him not breathing. Ten, nine, eight. How long should she wait. Seven, six. The bedside clock quietly matches the seconds. It’s years since the alarm went off but the ticking is soothing. Breaks the silence. He used to rise before her. Brought the tea. Left the house at eight.
      He snorts - a mix of breath and snore. He moves his foot back, brushing her calf. She stares at the ceiling, moving her legs to the edge of the bed. Stretching one foot from under the quilt she wriggles her toes. Long wisps of grey hair spread out on the pillow. He needs a haircut. And his bloody feet. Toenails. The heating’s c…

Falling off the bandwagon

Cafe Aphra's Alternative NaNoWriMo has been getting some great feedback from a steadily increasing number of writers. People have been telling us how they've been more committed to their writing through setting their own targets. These conversations are less about how many words we've written and more about our reflections upon our writing practice - how and where and why we write. We've been celebrating and sharing our writing and our reflections upon writing via this blog, the Cafe Aphra facebook page, through emails and face-to-face conversations.

And this all makes me feel more guilty about the fact that I have fallen off the bandwagon. It's not just that I've slipped. One minute I was there, sitting among the trombones and the music boxes and all the other bits and bobs which would be part of any halfway decent bandwagon, and the next minute I'm all alone watching everyone else share the bandwagon's journey over the horizon.

There are many excuses…

Danzas Nocturnas

You like dark corners, forbidden places
Just the things I say ‘no’ to.
A rebel spirit stirs your
Contrary and unstilled blood,
A memory of ancestors that can still
Be glimpsed in your wilder moments.

You are a faux agent provocateur, sir
Running with the pack when it suits you
Posturing before the rest of the neighbourhood’s
Petty brutes and hoodlums.

You seek me out in the middle of the night
Pushing through the bathroom door and pausing
To pour yourself onto my lap, an ecstasy of purring
As I sit and pee and stroke your head.

When you wake with a comic expression
Of sleepy slant-eyed resentment
And yawn enormously with a foul little belch
I am amazed by the extending length
Of your elastic yoga-stretched body.

Little sausage, fly-hunter
Tip-toe dancing bull fighter,
You pounce on the prey of your imaginings
Then wrap your tail in a circle and sit in it
Picturesque as a Chinese vase
By the fireplace.

by Sara Roberts

Flash yourself unstuck

Do you need to kickstart your writing this month? Has your November challenge so far been less than prolific? Don't worry.... several of us here at Cafe Aphra & Friends are in the same position. 

Today I successfully avoided working on my novel by starting on my next assignment in the online flash fiction writing course I am doing, courtesy of Fish Publishing (which I would warmly recommend). One of the tasks in today's section on dialogue was the following:

A husband has crashed his wife’s car and has to tell her but is avoiding coming out with it directly. The wife didn’t insure the car and at some point has to come clean about that too. Build a dialogue that has no lines of summary, no attribution, no description of tone, no characterizing of voice or words; just two voices. 

Because you have no attribution - no he said or she said - you must portray those silences and pauses through punctuation. With only their exchanges you must deliver who they are, what sort of …


I suppose what first intrigued me about Elena was her long jet-black hair. Despite her advancing years, she looked like a Disney princess. I imagined she had an army of little animal helpers who did the washing up at home while she sang sweet songs and brushed her tresses. On more than one occasion, I found myself lingering a little longer than was decent on her siren features. I must rein that in, I thought. Mustn't make it obvious. Other blokes in the office had warned me. Geoff Breen had had a nasty run-in with her. He'd fantasised about her long enough before making his move, but she'd cut him dead. He was so screwed up about it. "I don't know whether I want to shag her or punch her," he'd told me. "Maybe both, I don't know. She's a right cow. Probably lesbian." We'd laughed. The problem is that Geoff doesn't understand women, not like I do. You have to be a bit smart, you know, sensitive. Now I was seeing Elena for the fir…

Day 6: Linda Dawn

I set a goal to write 5 minutes in Nov.  My plan was to write when I got up in the morning before getting on with the day. As you may well know that is easier said than done. Not discounting needing to pee, as I get older it seems to take longer and longer to get settled into the day.  This morning, for instance, I was going to write about the vivid dream I was in on awakening, instead find myself telling you how and where I write.
I write at my computer desk which is in the bedroom of my small walk-up co-op apartment in down town Toronto. I live across the street from the University of Toronto Bookstore in the heart of Canada's largest University. As well, I am close to 7 major hospitals, between 2 men's shelters and near the Centre for Addiction Research and Mental Health.  There is a streetcar stop outside, a subway 3 scant blocks away at Queen's Park, the seat of Ontario's provincial government. 
Outside my windows is a well kept courtyard in which I have a small per…

Day 5: Bonfires, buses, and bungled beginnings

Well done all - we're 5 days in, nearly 18% completed, and finding our daily writing rhythms. I've loved the various posts we've received. Sara's had a slightly delayed start, but the motivation and enthusiasm for her writing leaps off out of her emails, and I know that she'll be busy working today. Jan's hunting for her pen (!) - use a pencil, Jan, and, if that's disappeared too, just sing out those words until they're written in your soul. We have also been joined by some new writers who'll be hanging out with us in Cafe Aphra for our November journey. Welcome.

Today my mind is upon how much little control we have over the direction of our writing. I've never been a great one for planning, but I thought I was sitting down to write a first chapter set in England. Instead, the novel has situated itself in America. Rather than the blue double-decker bus I used to ride to school, Jenna (or possible Jo) rides a bright yellow American Thomas; rather…

Life Colours

Decades decay Only remnants remain Rust resists Orange rots to brown.
Still, babies are born When the sun shines yellow Or under shades of midnight blue As lovers jostle everything but touch aside for an indigo moment.
Grass and children grow tall Life colours expand to red White divides, becomes A faint rainbow that explodes Inverts to grey..
Charcoal edges the space when children leave Friends and painters die (or you do) Then decades decay And remnants remain Orange to brown, again.
I remember, rich fuschia pink I wonder why I did not like pink.
Quiller Irvine.

November 1st: the beginning

And so November begins.... A range of writers, a range of writing targets, and a huge sense of anticipation. 
Linda Dawn will be free-writing for five minutes a day through November. Linda Dawn, we would love to know where this writing takes you - poetry? memoir? fiction? reflections on your day? I imagine you at your desk today, picking up your pen and watching the words spiral across the page. Did you write this morning or will you find the space in the evening, after night has fallen across your city? 
Sara, Heather, and another member of our cafe have each committed to working on their ongoing writing projects for at least an hour a day. They're driving hard - thirty hours across the month. A whole load of writing! I'm fortunate enough to know both Sara's and Heather's writing - it's beautiful, thought-provoking stuff with powerful characters and a strong sense of place. Heather has the most accessible witch I have ever met and I almost wept with laughter at o…