Friday, June 13, 2014

Smudges, Timmy's Coffee, and Writing

Here's a challenge for you this week:

Noteworthy Writing Prompt #14
"Write about a smudge on someones cheek."

I have not included a story to go along with this writing prompt...

I'll procrastinate writing if I've just read someone else's story connected with the same prompt that I have to write a story for. I feel like I'll never be able to write a story as good as that first one. Maybe you feel the same way?

Don't hold back, like me. Each of us has a unique voice, and my wish is to give us all a chance to share it. This blog is for us. Novice writers who have felt (and perhaps still feel), uncomfortable sharing stories. If we want to be story tellers we need to share them and this is a safe place for us to get started. 

Whatever mood you may be in. 

Don't be afraid of what type of story comes out. If you're sad, a sad story may appear, and that's okay. It may be your best story ever. Just imagine what kind of mood Shakespeare must have been in when he wrote Romeo and Juliet or any of his other tragedies. I bet it wasn't happy.

So, the first person to send me a story to (In the body of the email - no attachment please). Will not only have their story published first on our next blog but will also be sent a $5.00 Timmy's coffee card. 

Remember stories must be more than a paragraph, and no more than two pages long.  It can be any genre, poetry included.

Coffee lover's out there... Get writing!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rescue Operation

Noteworthy Writing Prompt #13
"Write about one broken arm off a pair of glasses."
This idea took me in many different directions, I'm afraid, and I had difficulty choosing just one route. I've been pretty sick the last 2 weeks as well and had trouble focusing on this prompt. I was also busy putting together a few stories for a lesson I had been asked to do for last Monday. Hence, my tardy  post. I apologize.
"Stop making excuses!" was Rene's reply. Well, I suppose I could have put something together in the five minutes I had between driving to Pony Club, Track, Steveston, SuperStore, Ikea, CR, and home where an array of other tasks were waiting for my attention these past two weeks... But if I had done that, the story wouldn't have been very good. I'm a perfectionist after all, and we need time to get things just right.
"Stop making excuses!" I hear him say again. Truth be told, He's right and I would like to write one story a week. That's my goal and I will try to stick with it. Good or bad... I will post it! Hope you enjoy this one.

Rescue Operation
By Anuschka de la Court

She shivered as her hands reached into the warm soapy water. Her body was icy cold, but her hands were now warm as she washed off the remnants of the spaghetti dinner she had just consumed with her husband. The sun was going down behind the mountains casting a bright orange shadow along the tops of the pine trees. Peace. Finally peace.
The last five years of her life had been chaotic. A whirlwind tour de force sweeping her in all different directions except the one she wanted to go in. Everyone needing something from her, her kids, her mother, her boss, her friends, and her husband, Kate was a people pleaser, doing everything for everyone else, except herself. She felt like she was going to explode. Yet somehow, she kept the war within contained. No one knew how deeply broken she felt. No one knew how depressed she was. Not even her husband. Or so she thought.
It was all her fault, she felt he instigated about a month ago.
“You’re not engaged anymore.” John blamed their lack of sex and marriage trouble on her and he was feeling frustrated, “You’re not fun anymore and I just don’t know how much more of this I can take.” Then he stormed out of the house in a dark cloud that screamed divorce. Pulling her further down into that dark pit where the shadows clung and suffocated any light that may have been hidden in the caverns of her soul. Nothing was safe from the darkness anymore. She was broken.
“I’m done.” She whispered to a closed, slammed door and her husbands back. “I don’t want to be here anymore.” She cried to God. 
That night, in her own shy way, she wrote what she felt deep down inside, on paper.

Deep into my heart
Blockage in my soul
Loneliness ripping me open
Defeating me
Where is the encouragement I need?
“I’m such a disappointment,” he says
Not by words but by body language
Unsaid disenchantment in his eyes
Unspoken words of love
Broken promises ‘to love and cherish till death do us part’
Yet death is here
Death of spirit
I do not live up to his expectations
He does not love me unconditionally
Frowning upon what’s undone
Rather than seeing what’s done well
Judgments weigh me down
I falter
I fall
Who will pick me up?
I keep hoping it’s him
My partner
My love
It’s not
Who will pick me up?
I cry in the shadows

John found it the next morning. It had fallen out of her flannel kitty pajama pant pocket in the bathroom the previous night. 
That’s why they were now washing dishes in Jasper National Park. The place where they went on their Honeymoon fourteen years ago, a hopeful attempt to rekindle the spark that many years of busy turmoil fanned out.
The state of depression was a dark place to be in and she doubted he would have the courage to stay. His body language towards her for the last year was screaming, “I got to get out of here!”
“Yet,” she hopefully thought,  “he’s here standing beside me, drying the dishes.”
As she scrubbed the pot she felt her wedding band slip off her finger. She tried to reach for it through the soapy water before it reached the open drain, but it slipped through her fingers.
“No!” she called out, “my wedding ring went down the drain.”
“At least it didn’t go down the toilet,” John smiled. Kate looked up at him and was taken aback. He was looking at her the way he used to. There was a spark and softness in his eyes that she hadn’t seen in a very long time.
“Let me have a look.” As Kate stepped back out of the way, she watched her husband take charge of the rescue operation. For that’s what it seemed to Kate. He was persistent in retrieving the ring and it took a few attempts. Finally, he broke off one of the arms to his reading glasses and used the end of it to pull up the ring that had lodged in a nest of spaghetti noodles just past the entrance to the drain. Then he cleaned it off.
“Here you are my lady.” He knelt down to one knee on the hard wooden floor in front of the washtub, “for better or for worse. I love you.” He said and placed the ring back on her finger.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Moving Forward

Noteworthy Writing Prompt #12
"Write about white feet at a pool ."

I have a feeling, when my husband thought up this prompt, he must have had a humorous story in mind. I did play around with a funny story about a construction worker who lived in steel toe boots all week then brought his kids to the pool on a weekend, but the details and idea's I had never took hold. The pieces didn't fit because there was another story to be told here and it wasn't a funny one. Sorry Rene.
Sometimes, it'll happen that way. The stories we think we're going to write about, end up being very different from the ideas we started with. Don't get stuck in your first idea and don't be afraid of the process. Just go with it. Move forward and see where it takes you. Above all else, enjoy the ride. You may learn something amazing during the process of it all. I did.

Moving Forward
By Anuschka delaCourt

His movements were slow and methodical. Each layer was unwrapped with care, and as if peeling an onion, tears formed pools along the corners of his slanted brown eyes. Gently he released the cotton fabric formed in strips encased around his most cherished gift. More precious than anything this world could offer.
Lately, he had been so focused on obtaining wealth for his family, that he was blinded to the old customs encircling his modern world.
“How could they have done this to you?” He whispered softly as tears fell onto the cotton fabric that had slid into the water beside the small pool at the rivers edge. No, this was not an onion being peeled. It was his baby girl, and he was unwrapping her broken bound feet on a bed of moss just outside his village. Instinct guided him to this safe place that he would run to as a child when life got chaotic. It was a place of peace, his sanctuary.
He had left for a business meeting in the city two months ago, wrapping up a final business deal with an export company. When he got back, those he called family, those he had trusted, mutilated his little Meili; his progeny.
“How could she be so stupid?” his chest tightened with anger at his mother. Her old idea's and traditions had frustrated him for decades. He was educated abroad, and although he respected his elders and most of the traditions handed down through the generations, the old Chinese custom of foot binding, he could not honour. He was glad when it was banned in 1912 when he was a teenager. However, throughout his youth he had trouble persuading his family to take on this change. Unfortunately, it was still prevalent, two decades later, among the women nearest and dearest to him. His mother never understood his views on the old tradition, yet he never thought she would go behind his back and disfigure his daughter.
“She will never find a good rich husband without small feet.” She would argue with him, before he left. She was holding on to a crumbling tradition, but he knew better, he had seen the changes in the city and these changes were good. These changes would help them move forward towards a better life.
“Why?” He longed for his partner. His wife. This never would have happened had she lived through childbirth. No, he was alone, fighting against an antiquated system that his family, the people he loved, still hung on to so strongly.
A shiver ran down his spine as he reached the last of the wrapping and he caught a glimpse of her toes bent unholy beneath her plaster white feet. Hope of healing faded and he cried unabashedly for his innocent daughter and the pain she must have suffered when they broke her toes.  
As the gentle sounds of birds singing and water splashing against the rocks engulfed them, he sat rocking his 3-year-old daughter in a moment of peace that protected them from the hostilities close by.
“There has to be a way to fix this.” With a renewed determination he got up, and lifted his daughter off the cool mossy ground. He would take her to the city, to a doctor who would fix her feet and he would find a way to stay there and educate his daughter. Change was good. This was the least he could do to stop the subjugation and move his family forwards to a better life.

To learn more on the history of Foot Binding:
- Painful Memories
- Foot Binding

Thanks to:
- Rene my husband and muse. The person who challenges me to be a better mother, wife, writer and human.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Character Descriptions, Action, and Running Out of Gas

Noteworthy Writing Prompt #11
"Write a story about a crumpled up gas receipt for $50.00".

I've been longing to breath some life into my characters. I don't want them all to sound the same, and I worry that they lack depth, not emotionally moving the readers to respond in compassion or hatred. So, I've been working on trying to improve my character descriptions. 
From what I've been reading this week, it's important to share a physical description with a form of action. For example, if your character has blue eyes, instead of saying, "she had blue eyes", you could say with action, "her blue eyed stare sent shivers down his back."

"An 'active' description gives the reader a motion picture to look at. An 'inactive' one gives only a still-life painting." 
Marc McCutcheon from the book "Building Believable Characters

So, try your hand at 'active' descriptions this week. I Look forward to hearing from you!

This slightly shy green eyed novice writer wishes you a joyful week of energetic descriptive writing (Okay, maybe that was a bit over the top).


Out of Gas
By Anuschka de la Court

Miriam was tired, hungry and cold. She had just worked a 14-hour shift in the Emergency and all she wanted right now was food and bed. She wasn’t sure if she would make it up the 10 steps to her bedroom.
“I should have shut these six hours ago.” She rubbed her burning sea green eyes, kicked off her shoes, and headed into the kitchen to make a sandwich. The sofa looked inviting as she passed it heading to the back of the house, and the food. Her stomach rumbled as she stumbled over her son’s size 10 sneakers left in the darkness of the hall way. She kicked them to the side, almost hitting the cat who was weaving figure eights through her legs trying to catch her attention.
“Ah.” Her thin boney shoulders slumped as she groaned not wanting to deal with the house duties just yet.
“That job will start tomorrow,” she thought about shutting her eyes for just a moment, ”I mean today… after sleep.” It was 4am and she knew she would only get about 5 hours of sleep that morning before she would put on her chef’s hat, cleaning hat, laundry hat, taxi driver hat and who knows what other ones her ‘day off’ would bring. She knew her so called ‘day offs’ were just as chaotic as the emergency room at the hospital, but at least she didn't have to deal with death at home, on her day off. 
It was hard getting used to watching life leave someone, young or old, it was the one thing about her job that she could never get used to. She wouldn’t allow herself to get hardened to the reality of death. It was there, and she would weep. This kept her human.
As she entered the kitchen and turned on the light she stepped on a rolled up paper ball and leaned down to pick it up. It looked like something her son might have made for the cat to play with. Every now and then he would wrap up catnip into a paper ball, but this time it wasn’t a cat’s toy, it was a gas receipt for fifty dollars.
“I just filled up the tank yesterday?” she knew her son needed the car, so she filled up the tank before he drove her to work yesterday.
“KELOWNA!” the receipt was from a city that was a six-hour drive away from where they lived and with yesterdays date, “What the… oh… he is going to get it!” The fire of anger and adrenaline rushed through her and she was fully awake now. Her 17-year-old son needed the car to drive a friend home, but he didn’t mention where.  He had given the impression that it was local drive, not half way across the province. She sat down on a stool beside the breakfast bar and sighed deeply.
“Kelowna.” She murmured and then thoughts came flooding in from the last holiday together, as a family, when they drove to Edmonton to visit relatives two years ago.
They stopped at Okanogan Mountain Provincial Park along the way and rented a boat for four days. The small 17-foot length zodiac fit the family of four plus the dog, camping gear, coolers, stove, and sleeping bags. It took them to Commando Bay. The ride was a little cramped, but those four days were amazing. One of the best holidays... filled with adventures, swimming, hiking, campfires and time together away from the demands of the city, mortgages, work and school. She needed a holiday like that right now, but it would never be like that again. An overwhelming sadness creeped in and her eyes burned with tears while a deep black hole of loneliness opened up and sent shooting pains of grief into her chest.
"No." she shook her head and fought back the darkness of mourning, the murkiness of depression. One of them was missing...dead... and they would never get that time back. It was why she threw herself into her work, so she wouldn’t have to miss him.
“Maybe that’s why he went there?” tears flowed freely down her cheeks, as her anger was replaced with understanding. She knew why her son went to Kelowna and peace replaced her fury. Peter had had a hard time with the exhausting demands of school and the unexpected death of his father; this past year had taken its toll on him.  He had needed to get away from swirls of chaos of life’s demands. It could have consumed him, had he not taken that moment to walk away from it, to recharge his soul’s battery. Heck! Wasn’t it something she needed to do?
“Smart kid.” She wiped the tears off on the sleeve of her nurses uniform. She knew what she needed to do, “I’ll call work tomorrow and ask for some time off.” She needed to take the kids on an adventure and make some new memories; it would have been what her husband would have wanted.

Thanks to:
- Rene my muse
- Marc McCutcheon and his Writer's Digest book 'Building Believable Characters'.
- For use of the crumpled paper image

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Fool

Noteworthy Writing Prompt # 8
"Write a story that involves the second hand of a clock."

Just a funny little story for you. 



A Fool and a Stick That Ticked
By Anuschka de la Court

“You will die today!” and I meant it, “whatever means it takes, be afraid, because today is your day to die.” That small red little stick circling annoyingly on the wall making it’s loathsome noise and keeping me from my cat nap, was going to make it’s last round, “if my name isn’t Pharaoh, queen of this domain!”
I sat upon the desk scanning the kitchen for a leap over point, which would make the least amount of damage to my majestic figure. I realized I needed to call in the troops, for the fall from the jump would most likely injure me and I needed to think about my future reign in this castle.
“Meow!” I called the dog, she came running, she was always eager to provide her services. Angel and I had an understanding. If she came when I called, I would not hurt her. Dogs are so easily lead, and so simple of mind it astounds me.
“Meow!” I called out for the fool, my subjects call Yoda. He has been nothing but an irritation since he came into my Kingdom at the age of 3 weeks old, he and his brother they called trouble, wreaked havoc in my domain until trouble left. Every now and then Yoda will still try to cause distress in my realm, but I can wrestle him down when he attempts that foolish behaviour.
“What do you want?” Yoda sauntered into the kitchen like he owned the place, full of disrespect for me, his Queen.
“I will fix that,” I muttered under my breath and I told him to jump onto the refrigerator and wait for further instruction.
Although, I could probably do this task on my own, what good is being Queen if you can’t delegate your subjects to do the risky work for you?
“You will jump from the fridge to the clock on the wall, releasing it’s grip from the nail and allowing it to fall onto the floor where Angel will pounce on it and destroy the infernal ticking noise so I, your queen, may get the beauty sleep she requires.” I sat up straight and looked from one subject to another, “On my mark… One… Two…”
“Forget this!” and with a smirk that half wit brother of trouble jumped off the fridge, flipped me the bird, and sauntered back into the living room.
“He will be hanged.” I glared at his retreating form then back at the dog. She smiled simply in my direction, and eagerly waited to do the task I commanded her to do. No, she would not walk away; she would sit there for hours and not ask any questions. Stupid dog.
I jumped off the desk and headed up the stairs where it was quiet. Where there was no need to break the second hand of a noisy clock, and I slept. I dreamt up a plan on how to eliminate the buffoon they call Yoda. The dog would help.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Perfection in Writing and the Perfect Potato Chip

Noteworthy Writing Prompt #9
"Write about a perfectly round potato chip with a tiny bite out of it."

Do you, like me, hang on to your stories? Do you not let anyone read it until you feel it's perfect? I have stories in the deep caverns of the computer that no other eye has seen. Filed away secretly under "taxes", because no one looks there. 
Is it because I don't trust people to be kind with their comments? Is it because I don't want people to think that I'm a second rate story teller? I don't have a university degree. I haven't been to many classes for writers, because I just can't afford it. Family first... writing second. Perhaps it's a combination of all these things and more that keeps me from sharing. Perfection being at the top of my list. 

Then I read this quote by Ernest Hemingway:

Ernest wasn't perfect. I'm not perfect, and that's okay. 

Don't wait for perfection to share your stories. Yes, edit them, as well as you can. Shine them up before you share, but then let them go and see where they'll take you.

Have fun and let go!

Here's my humble attempt at poetry:

Left Behind At Dawn
A Poem by Anuschka de la Court

It lay in the darkness of pre-dawn
The wetness of morning dew clung to its salty outer body
Crispness gone
In it’s place only soggy remains
Sad at it’s imperfections
Forlorn at it’s loss of use
At night, the life of the party
Only to be forgotten and left behind at dawn

A songbird’s melody brings hope
The sunrise, a kaleidoscope of colour brings comfort
A peck
Then a bite
Ah! It was of use again
Even in it’s soggy state
It was nourishment once more… Comfort food!

A perfectly round, Lays potato chip
Now, with a tiny bite out of it
At campsite fifty-nine

Thanks to:
- Ernest Quote 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Writing and Self-Confidence - I Was Green With Envy!

Noteworthy Writing Prompt # 7
Why do you procrastinate to write?

This writing prompt I gave to myself. It didn't come from my husband, it came from me. The truth is, I needed to take a good hard look at why I don't write. I hadn't written anything in 2 weeks, but I wanted to.

Why didn't I?

I don't know about you but, this feeling goes deep within, that is, the feeling or need to share stories. Not just any stories, though, ones with passion and purpose. Ones that show our humanness, our frailties, weaknesses, stupidity, wisdom, and strengths. Stories that are entertaining, yet also make people take a moment out of their busy schedules to contemplate or mull over what's been said. 

Stories that perhaps... change a life.

"I'm not good enough." Was the answer that came back each time I asked the question. That feeble, small, nervous, scared child inside of me. 
"She writes so much better than me," she whimpers inside of me, "I'll never be as good as her." She's my nemesis, and her lack of self confidence and fear paralyzes me. Sometimes, it takes days for me to find the hero inside and other times it take weeks. Self-confidence, or lack of it, is a big problem for some writers and it may be why you aren't writing. Fear holds us back, like a fence, keeping us from living in freedom.

Please don't give up. Take some time to think about why, and then write. Don't worry about what it looks like when it first comes out.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. - Anne Lamott

 Just write.

This story I reluctantly share with you, because it shows some of my dark struggles with writing. I only share it, so that others, perhaps going through the same thing, may see it and then choose to write anyways. This story is why I started Noteworthy Writing Prompts, so we could all have a safe place to explore and help encourage each other to write.

We all have a unique voice. This place is to find yours.

I Was Green With Envy
By Anuschka de la Court and Alora de la Court

“Wow!” That was her first reaction. She and her husband stared at each other in amazement. She clutched three pages of a grade ten writing assignment in her cold hands. The sound of the clock ticked away the seconds as husband and wife stared at each other in silence.
“This is really good!” The high standard of writing came from their 15 year old daughter, but it could have easily have come from someone like Margaret Atwood.
“The details in this story are amazing.” Her husband had tears in his eyes and she could tell by his voice that he was trying to hold back the emotions.
“We gave her this,” he continued, “the descriptions of the forest and mountains. That’s us and our family adventures she’s describing.” He was right. This came from her memory bank. But even so, very few writers could put their memories together in such a beautiful way. Then it dawned on her. Her 15-year-old daughter was a higher calibre of writer than she was.
“All these years of wanting to be a writer,” she moped later that evening as she sat shivering on the cold leather couch, “I’ve been aspiring to write an amazing story for so many years.” She sighed, “and my daughter’s Grade 10 English assignment was better than anything I’ve ever written in all my 40 years of attempted writing.”
“He was right,” she thought back to her grade 12 teacher who rolled his eyes at her written assignment and said in no kind terms, “You write like you talk. Don’t you dear.” As if to insinuate that she was an uneducated hillbilly just writing random thoughts down in no particular order or wisdom. Her shoulders slumped and after thirty years she felt the cold fingers of disappointment reach up and grab her.  The fingers of dispiritedness that kept her from writing all these years holding her back from what she thought she was meant to do. What she was created to do. Now, after 30 some odd years, she’s decided to pick it up again, BOOM! Her daughter out writes her and those old defeating self-pity thoughts of  long ago, hung in the air around her. She should be happy for her beautiful daughter, but in its place she found herself green with envy, an ugly kind of green that comes from sinful vane thoughts and attitudes.
“This is wrong.” She tried to shake off the darkened thoughts, but instead reached for her daughter’s perfectly detailed story and read it again.

Dark clouds hang from the sky. Smudges and smears of an array of greys fill them in as if coloured in with pencil by a toddler. Strong gusts of wind whip my hair across my face, stinging my cheeks. I can tell just by the scent carried through the wind that it’s about to rain.
“I’ll never get out of here,” I say to myself, “I’m lost.”
Tall mountains stand proud on either side of me, coated with a thick layer of trees and underbrush. I can feel the eyes of the forest on my back, watching my every move curiously and attentively. I think to myself, “How did a simple jog in the forest go so wrong?”
A shock jolts through me as a cold raindrop lands on my neck and glides painfully slow down my back. I break into a run, “Find shelter… I have to find shelter.” I jump over a fallen tree, struggling through thin, cold branches and leaves that seem to be reaching, pulling at me, weighing me down until I break, falling to my damp, cold, bug infested grave. My face is pressed into the dirt. I see my body behind me, twisted in a very unnatural position. I’m panting, out of breath. It’s as if I’m on the outside, glancing back at my tangle of limbs.
“Get up!” my brain screams. My body yells back, “I’m thirsty!” There’s a dull ache in my right ankle as well. I could just lay here, embraced by the cool grasp of the ferns and leaves, but my brain wins the argument as another raindrop hits my forehead. I pull myself to my feet, untangling myself and shaking off the dirt from my running clothes and sneakers. I glace up just in time to see the last of the suns rays sliding down the mountain on my left. It will be dark soon.
Learning my lesson, I start off in a speed walk rather then a panicked run. The clouds are catching up and I’m running out of daylight, but somehow, I almost feel at peace. I look up and a blue jay takes off from the top of a tree, leaving its branches swaying as if dancing to the rhythm and melody of the forest. It flies over my head and I catch a glimpse of golden sunrays dancing and flitting on his back, playing in the colours of his feathers.
“Beautiful!” My heartaches with sudden joy and for a second I forget I’m lost and probably miles away from home, and I just stand, amazed by the view that the blindfold of panic had hidden from me.
I look up once again to an image I would never be able to erase from my memory. The dark pencil smudges have been chased away by ribbons of pinks, purples, amber's and gold’s, swirling in the sky and wrapping around the tops of the trees. I realize I have sunk to my knees in amazement and I quickly pull myself up, feeling the chill of the two damp patches that run from my knees to the top of my spine. Suddenly, bright colours exploding from the sky disrupt my peace. Fireworks.
I find my way to an urban amusement park, guided by the eruptions and explosions and while I walk along the road to home, I look back with the image of the sunset in my mind, and the blue jay, only to be greeted by a dark night sky, the stars covered by a dark blanket of clouds, it was over.
I walked the rest of the way home in a daze with the memory of the forest in my heart.

She found herself clutching her daughter’s assignment against her heart. In the quiet loneliness of the evening, she was crying, not because she was jealous, that horrible feeling was only a fleeting moment in time, but because she was overflowing with love and pride that her baby did this. The green was gone; in its place was a beautiful rainbow of emotions.
“This was a gift,” she sniffed, “a gift that God gave to her.” She knew, that as a Mom and a teacher, she had to help harness this gift and guide her daughter to be what she was created to be.