Category Archives: Personal Stories

Week 7 – Summer Short & Sweet Challenge – A Birthday Present


Fall is in the air. Adios, hot and hazy summer days. But I’m thankful for photos to remind me of sweet memories spent with my hubby’s family. A perfect lead into Susanna Leonard Hill’s, Summer Short & Sweet Challenge.

Badge created by Loni at

I’m in the home stretch. One more week before I say adios, Susanna. Sorry, still no sweets to munch on while you read Susanna’s rules.

“We’re taking a field trip! It can be anywhere you want – and anything that fits into what you’re already doing – no special outings necessary. Going out with your kids to the beach, the zoo, a museum, the playground, the library? Going shopping at the grocery store? Washing the car? You don’t even need to leave the house – the kitchen or the back porch will be just fine!

Your challenge today is to describe a setting – any setting that tickles your fancy. In 50-100 words (more or less if you like, that’s just a ball park) make us feel like we’re there. Take a careful look at your surroundings – whatever they are. What does it look like? sound like? smell like? feel like? taste like?

BUT – here’s the trick. You can’t use the actual word of the place! So if you’re describing the kitchen, you can’t use the word kitchen. We have to be able to guess!

For an extra challenge, describe it from a kid’s perspective – try to look at it through the eyes of the average five -year-old, the typical picture book age target. Places can look a lot different to a five-year-old than they do to an adult. Different features stand out, and kids’ react to things differently.

Although we don’t devote a lot of words to setting in picture books because that part of the job is done by the illustrator, it is helpful to you as a writer to envision your setting clearly. Certain select details will be necessary, depending on your story, and this is good practice in focusing on the details that really matter. If you write for older readers, setting description is very important to make your reader feel like they’re there – but you can’t ramble on indefinitely. MG and even YA readers are not going to have a lot of patience for long-winded descriptions. So this is a chance to practice picking out the part you really need to say.”

I hope you enjoy my entry.

Krystal peeked around the corner. A warm breeze flapped plastic tacked to two corners on the wooden window frame. She giggled at Poppa’s fake owl perched on the ledge.

A beam of sunlight poked through a hole in the plastic and shone down on yellow metal plastered with decals.

Krystal’s mouth formed a perfect ‘O’. “Poppa, is that really for me?” She slapped her cheeks.

Poppa beamed. “Yes, Krystal. You’re old enough.”

“I know. I’m five-years-old.”

Poppa cranked the key. Grey smoke billowed from the exhaust.

Krystal coughed and clamped her hands to her ears.

Poppa patted her back. “Hop on.”

Krystal grunted, swinging her left leg over the hard, black leather seat. She planted her running shoes on the sideboards and wiggled her backside. Her sweaty palms tingled, gripping rigid rubber.

She stared out at the open field. “Hurry, Poppa.”

Poppa strolled to her side and pointed out some very important instructions.

Krystal nodded, licking dust off parched lips. She hunched forward. Her tummy somersaulted, coaxing the noisy machine toward the overhead towering frame.

“Well?” Poppa asked. “What are you waiting for?”

The engine roared.

Her body jiggling, she bounced over hilly mounds. “Whee!” 

Poppa yelled, “Slow—” But his voice got lost in the wind.

She flew past giant sunflowers that smiled and waved.

Krystal threw back her head and belted out at the top of her lungs, “Happy Birthday to me!”

(225 words) Okay, I can’t stick to the word count.

Five-year-old Krystal driving her ATV

Krystal didn’t fly past sunflowers, but she did chug around the yard with Poppa gripping a rope to cut the engine should she dare takeoff.

And one last item. I’m sending love your way, my son. Happy 18th Birthday. I love you.

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Week 4 – Summer, Short & Sweets – West of Wimple Willow Way


Phew! Week 4. I`m half-way to the finish line when I realize I’m supposed to say something about sweets. I’m on a continual diet. Sorry, no sweets for me.

Badge created by Loni Edwards

Here is Susanna Leonard Hill’s challenge:

Take it away, Susanna.

“Pick a letter – any letter! – the first letter of your name, a letter you like the shape of, a letter you like the sound of – any letter!

Got one?

Now, pick a name that starts with that letter.  This will be your character.

Now, write us 50 – 100 words (more if you like, but 50 – 100 will do of a story about this character. But here’s the challenge: you have to use as many words as possible that start with the letter you chose!  Nouns, verbs, adjectives, people, places, descriptions, actions, and things – see how many words that start with your letter that you can work into your story. It does not have to be a complete story (although it can be if you want), just get started and see where it goes. You might be surprised at the directions you go trying to use words that begin with your letter!”

One wild and windy Wednesday

Wayward Wally whale wavered

Winding up in warm waters

West of Wimple Willow Way


One wild and windy Wednesday

Wee Wanda wobbled to the wharf

With her whirl-a-wig a whirling

West of Wimple Willow Way


One wild and windy Wednesday

Wiry Willy waltzed toward the waif

Whittling weird Walnut wood 

West of Wimple Willow Way


One wild and windy Wednesday

A wicked weasel Willy was

Wielding his Walnut weapon

West of Wimple Willow Way


One wild and windy Wednesday

Wanda winced when Willy wanted

Her whirl-a-wig a whirling

West of Wimple Willow Way


One wild and windy Wednesday

Wattlebird’s warbled witty warnings

Wally whale whacked the water

West of Wimple Willow Way


One wild and windy Wednesday

Whoosh! Whitecaps wiped out Willy

“Waa!” he whined and wailed

West of Wimple Willow Way


One wild and windy Wednesday

Willy waded waterlogged through weeds

While Wally whale winked at Wanda

West of Wimple Willow Way


One wild and windy Wednesday

Wee Wanda waved and wondered

Would wayward Wally Whale windup

West of Wimple Willow Way?

(180 Words)

Oops, over by 80 words. Coming up with words beginning with the letter “W” proved challenging.

This story needs work, but an idea to fluff up this story popped into my brain.

I would’ve preferred to include different lettered words and use more dialogue.

An example might be: “Down at Wimple Willow Bay.”

If you have ideas that would help me expand on this story, I`d love to hear from you.

Have you ever seen a whale? Can you relate to Wee Wanda? Did Wiry Willy receive his just desserts?

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Are You Ready For Week 2’s Summer Short & Sweets?


Welcome back to the 2nd installment of Summer Short & Sweets.

Before I reveal what I’ve written, I need to clarify that I wasn’t late last week. Susanna Leonard Hill said as long as the entry is posted on her blog before next week’s round is announced we’re good to go. What a relief. I’m now three days late, but that’s only if you go by last week’s rules.

Badge created by the incomparable Loni Edwards

If you’re up to participating, here are Susanna’s rules and regulations for Week 2. No, Susanna isn’t a drill sergeant. But if you don’t follow the rules you’re cheating.

Today’s Short & Sweet will work best if you don’t peek. I’m not sure quite how to accomplish that on a blog post, so let’s go on the honor system – no scrolling down yet!

First, pick a number from 1-10. Got it? Write it down.

Now pick a number from 1-10 again and write that down.

Now do it again.

And now, one last time.

It’s okay if you pick the same number more than once.” 

You should have 4 numbers between 1 and 10 written down. For example, I chose 7, 3, 5, and 1.

Susanna continues:

“Use your first number to select from this list:


  1. A pirate who likes to sing
  2. A little girl who doesn’t want to practice her violin
  3. A zookeeper with a lost animal
  4. A 5 year old girl with a rainbow umbrella
  5. A homeless child
  6. A boy whose father is a Navy SEAL
  7. A monster who is afraid of thunderstorms
  8. A disobedient robot
  9. A sailor who is far from home
  10. A six year old boy who can’t ride his two-wheeler

Use your second number to select from this list:


  1. a museum
  2. a national park
  3. a playground
  4. a big city
  5. a birthday party
  6. the porch of an old farmhouse
  7. an enchanted forest
  8. a fancy restaurant
  9. the moon
  10. Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Shop

Use your third number to select from this list:


  1. first day of school
  2. the Fourth of July
  3. during a thunderstorm
  4. in early autumn
  5. sitting down to breakfast
  6. bath time
  7. the first warm day of spring
  8. during church
  9. a winter evening
  10. after a fight

And use your last number to select from this list:


  1. something embarrassing has just happened
  2. someone feels like giving up
  3. someone has to keep a secret
  4. an important decision has to be made
  5. someone has lost something
  6. someone has found something
  7. someone’s pride has been injured
  8. something is where it shouldn’t be
  9. someone has been chosen for something
  10. something has made someone mad

You should now have a randomly selected character, setting, time, and situation/challenge – everything you need to prompt a story!

List the 4 you got and write 50-100 words of whatever story they suggest to you! Don’t agonize! Don’t over-think! We’re all among friends. Just write! All we’re doing here is priming the pump. If all you can squeeze out are 50 rusty words, that’s fine! You wrote 50 words in the middle of your hectic, busy day! But maybe, just maybe, 25-50 more will trickle out a little less rusty, and maybe after you’ve written your 50-100 here you’ll find you’ve got a gush of clear water rushing forth and a whole new story will well up and land on your list of accomplishments for today!

Oh, and if you find it’s too hard to include all 4, it’s okay to just use 1, 2, or 3 of the prompts you picked – the exercise is just to get ideas and words flowing.”

To recap, I chose numbers 7, 3, 5 and 1. So I’ve written my story based on:

Character #7 – A monster who is afraid of thunderstorms

Setting #3 – a playground

Time #5 – sitting down to breakfast

Situation/Challenge #1 – something embarrassing has just happened

Drum roll, please.

Morley scanned the playground. Deserted. His shoulders slumped.

A sonic shock wave cracked and a lightning bolt lit up the sky the way fireworks exploded on July 1st.

Morley’s fur stood at attention like toy soldiers. Rain pelted his body. He pounded the gravel. Cowering beneath the plank that led to the slide, the wood creaked. I should run home. His paws turned to lead.

He fished a peanut butter and jelly clump out of his shirt pocket. Maybe mom’s breakfast will help. He’d scooped his toast off the kitchen table and lumbered out the door. He didn’t have time to sit down for breakfast. He hoped his girlfriend might be at the playground.

He stuffed the gooey morsel into his mouth and chewed. Thunder rumbled. He shivered. A tear leaked and dribbled down his cheek. Samantha didn’t even know she was his girlfriend and mom’s breakfast didn’t calm him one bit.

The plank rattled again.

“W-who’s there?” asked Morley.

“Boo!” Fuzzy, purple braids tied with silk ribbons dangled over the side.

He gulped. “Samantha?” Heat flushed his cheeks. Certain he was redder than his raspberry jelly, he pinched his arm. Why did I let my voice crack louder than thunder?

“Yup. It’s me. Climb up so we can dance in the rain.”

She’s asking me to dance? Morley wasn’t about to let a thunderstorm ruin his chance at happiness. His chest puffed out. He gripped the plank and swung his legs up. Leaping to his musty feet, the board bounced. Samantha teetered like the see-saw. He grabbed her warm paw. She giggled.

“Ready to dance?” he asked. She offered a nod. He twirled her faster than the merry-go-around.

“S-slow down,” said Samantha, gasping for air.

Morley chuckled. The rain tapered off.

Samantha flipped her soppy braids, smacking Morley’s face. “Oops. Morley, look.” Her glossy, pink fingernail pointed at the sky.

A rainbow bowed.

Morley’s heart jumped for joy. Thunderstorms didn’t terrify him anymore. Because…at last, Samantha was his girlfriend.

“He who has hope, has everything.”

Arabic proverb

Okay, okay. So this week, I’m over by 230 words. But hey, I had fun.

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Evacuation Alert for the City of Gold! What Five Items Would You Take?


Timmins Daily Press

As I write this post, a fire-breathing dragon is wreaking havoc in the northern mining and lumber community where I was born and raised—Timmins, Ontario, a.k.a. the City of Gold. This is just one of many fires that has laid claim to over 45,000 hectares of forest. That’s akin to half the size of the City of Toronto!

On Monday morning, Terrol MacFarlane notified me of the horrific situation that is still unfolding. She said, “People are throwing their hands in the air and spouting off that all they can do now is pray.” Mortified, she screamed, “What?!!” Then she paused. “Let’s band together. Don’t tell God how big the problem is. Instead, tell Him how big your God is.”

Terrol also pleaded, “Pray for rain! The Noah type of rain!”

I scurried to my laptop and clicked on the You-Tube video she had just sent. My jaw dropped. I felt like I was hunkered down in a movie theatre watching a Stephen King horror flick. The nine minute video broadcast a spine chilling event that began Sunday, May 20th at 10:30 p.m.

The local press reported, “A forest fire broke out in a bush area of Timmins near the bottom of Rae Hill this evening, prompting city officials to evacuate areas east and west of the fire zone.”

As the video rolled, I shuddered. A massive plume billowed thousands of feet in the air, blotting out the early morning sun. Fanned by high winds, the fire crowned, and then tore through the treetops, spewing ash into the atmosphere. The dragon, brandishing a forked tongue, mocked the majestic landscape that lay directly in its path.

By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, timber dry trees crackled, snapped, and popped like Rice Krispies. A few minutes later, the blazing orange ball scorched the southern edge of the highway. Stunned motorists watched helplessly as the beast swept across four lanes of traffic, sparking fires on the north side. I blinked. All that remained were hot embers and charred vegetation.

The local press went on to say, “Local firefighters scrambled to try to get control, without success.”

As of 8:00 p.m., Thursday, May 24th, the roaring beast continues to ravage the northern frontier.

My prayers for safety and rain go out to the residents evacuated from their homes and cottages, and to the brave firefighters risking their lives for the City of Gold.

To view the video taken by Shawn Winsor, click on this link.

To view the firefighter tribute created by Madeleine Chester, click on this link.

Thank you Terrol for keeping me in the loop and for posing this question, “What would you take with you if you had to evacuate your home?”

Poetry or Prose Contest – Happy Birthday! You’re One


Susanna Leonard Hill, a published children’s author, is running a contest. The rules stipulate that entrants write a children’s story about a very creative and/or unique birthday celebration in 300 words or less in either poetry or prose. The entry must be posted on their blog between Saturday, May 19th, and Tuesday, May 22, 2012.

So I’m taking the plunge and entering Happy Birthday! You’re One. This poem is one that I’ve written for my baby’s first year record book. I’ve also included the illustration that inspired this poem and that appears in the book. The artwork made its debut in my previously published calendar.

Happy Birthday! You’re One


I shoved invitations through a thin little slot,

The envelopes slid down the chute, mailing the lot.

I poked, emailed, and sent out oodles of tweets,

So family and friends could have a bash in the street.


I yanked open the oven, pulled out steamy, hot buns,

Then swirled icing on a sponge cake no one would shun.

I dressed you in bright colors of green and red,

And plunked a cone hat on top of your soft, downy head.


The guests arrived bearing gifts of all kinds,

You squealed with delight, ‘cuz you sure didn’t mind.

We whacked the piñatas, spilling candies galore.

Then you licked a lolly and plopped to the floor.


 I flipped hotdogs and burgers on our new barbecue,

Then I blew out your candle before you turned two.

Your eyelids did droop, though horns they did toot,

Time to dole out bags packed with loads of fun loot.


The sun disappeared out of our sight for the night.

 I kissed your cheek and tucked you in tight.

“Happy Birthday,” I hummed, “my sweet, little pet,

Today you turned one, a birthday I’ll never forget.”


Happy Birthday! You’re One

The finalists’ poetry or prose will be posted on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog for you to vote on starting Monday, May 28th, and will stay up throughout Tuesday.

And here’s my blurb that I’ll submit to an agent. Don’t hold your breathe. It’s a lengthy process that will test my endurance.

OUR STORY—YOU & ME is sprinkled with quaint quotes and brimming with quirky rhymes that mirror my whimsical works of art. This unique diaper bag-sized keepsake book will appeal to mommies and expectant mommies who want to capture the milestones of their baby’s first year.

The book is unique in that it elevates a record book to an early-reader storybook a mom can read to her child. In the years to follow, they’ll giggle together, pouring over candid photos like a toothless grin, wobbly first steps, the ultrasound, and other special mementos. There’s a bonus envelope to preserve a lock of hair, a hospital bracelet, and immunization records.

Have an awesome long weekend!

  This poem and artwork is the property of the author. Please do not re-print or re-post.