Friday, September 19, 2014

Sustainers of the Earth, by Jamal Ali

Aghadreena, leader of the Queendom of Earthly Bliss and her disciples,
clad in different shades of green, gathered in a meadow
under the canopy of cloudy skies. They held hands in a circular formation.
Together they repeated, “Mother Earth, Mother Earth,
how great you’ve been to us, how thankful we are to thee.
Grant us all your love, so that we can sustain you.”

Imprisoned by Willoughby, the conqueror, Aghadreena and her disciples
wore the clothes of “heretics and sisters of evil.”
The wrath of the conqueror brought forth overwhelming grief:
wars of destruction, financial ruin and hunger. Willoughby’s unfettered power
corrupted the domain of the sacred mother. In the vast ocean of space,
Island Earth felt lonely and helpless. The spirit of yearning for the Queendom
days of peace, happiness and prosperity refused to depart from the realm
of the sacred mother.

A group of men, The Poets of Nirvana, demanded to Willoughby the release of
Aghadreena and her disciples. Willoughby, a lover of poetry, thought deeply
about the group quoting the words of John F. Kennedy, “When power leads
man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” Haunted by the awesome power
of these words, the conqueror embarked on a journey of soul-searching. Mother Earth was basking in the sunlight of hope.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Remembering Lynn Fraser

In Loving Memory of Lynn Fraser

I am so saddened by the news of Lynn's passing. I didn't know her well or for long, yet she left a lasting impression on me. I took my first AWCS class with her last fall. She had a gentle, optimistic way about her and always laughed at my silly jokes. I felt she saw something in me worth nurturing and so she was my first mentor since choosing to pursue writing. I will miss her. She will be an inspiration to me for years to come.

--Sue McLarty 


I met Lynn ten years ago when I served on the board at AWCS. That particular year, we were looking for a treasurer to shepherd us into a new era of electronic accounting. For many of us on the board, the task seemed complex and frustrating. But, with a wide smile and without a moment's hesitation, Lynn agreed to take on the job. She told us not to worry: the project was really quite straightforward and we could count on her to take it in hand. In a matter of weeks, she converted the ledger books with confidence, ease and humility. From that moment, I learned that whenever Lynn was involved, anything seemed possible.

At AWCS, people come and go, but Lynn became part of the landscape. Treasurer, office manager, FreeFall editor, writer. Her deep and steady commitment to the place was remarkable. I always looked forward to catching up with Lynn at literary events and basking in her joyous take on life, even when the hills seemed so very steep. I will remember Lynn Fraser as a generous, capable, loyal person. I will never forget her smile.

--Shaun Hunter


Lynn and I took Introductory Short Story together many years ago which is where we met.  She was always an honest and forthcoming, encouraging person with everyone around her.  She wrote lovely stories and put real thought into her characters.

Her voice will ring through often, especially at those times when we need encouragement for our own writing.

I'd like to convey to her family my personal condolences for their loss. It has truly been an honour to have known her in the time we've had.

--Diana Bliss


It must have been mid-2004. I was sitting in a workshop or class—I can’t remember which because I took so darned many in those early years with AWCS—where Lynn was also a student. I remember her being very involved in the class and had a lot to say. She wanted to learn and absorb everything she possibly could.

Lynn was passionate. About everything she did.

Lynn had already been on the board of directors for awhile as acting Treasurer. It was nearing the end of the AWCS fiscal year and the board was looking for new members to fill vacant board positions. Near the end of the class, or workshop, Lynn began to plug the AWCS and what a wonderful organization it was and if they couldn’t fill the vacant positions, the organization would cease to exist. The shear idea of this brought Lynn to tears.

That love and dedication for the AWCS is what got me on the board.

In fact, much of what I do now directly relates back to that moment. Lynn is the reason that I am here and continue to be here. I only hope I can be half the person she was.

Our relationship didn’t remain within the walls of AWCS.  Lynn and I became friends. Sharing our writing with each other, drinking and playing pool in her basement, a Thanksgiving dinner shared with her family. I even sat with her husband Neil through a session of his dialysis several years ago. Lynn and Neil were second parents to me, and I could not imagine my life without them being a part of it.

In 2007, as my wedding approached, I went to Lynn and together we created my dress. Not without exhausting other options first though. She trucked me over to her daughter’s house to first try on Sherry’s dress and she was willing to make all the alterations necessary. But it wasn’t what I wanted. It was a beautiful dress, but a little too extravagant for what I envisioned.

We scoured fabric shops for the right material, for the right pattern. Of course Lynn did all the hard work. But our visions meshed. A simple dress for a simple outdoor, country BBQ style wedding.

I am grateful for everything Lynn has done for me and taught me on a professional and personal level. A part of her will forever hang in my closet, never far from my heart.

--Robin van Eck


It will be hard for me to think of the Alexandra Writers Centre
without Lynn Fraser. I met her many years ago when she was treasurer
of the AWCS board and I was president. I could always count on Lynn
to do a great job and initiate and carry through projects. Since
those days, her passion for writing and the group led her to
contribute in so many ways. I've enjoyed her humour and down-to-earth
sincerity. The AWCS and I will miss Lynn. My thoughts are with her loved ones.

--Susan Calder


I respected Lynn and felt she was talented and a true star in the writing community.

--Jill Allen

In Memory of Lynn Fraser

Lynn Fraser (1953-2014)

It’s with great sadness that AWCS announces the passing of AWCS member and instructor Lynn Fraser on March 15, 2014.

Lynn was a strong, passionate voice on the AWCS board of directors for many years. She then became our office administrator and brought that same passion to everything she did. As an instructor, Lynn’s love of words shone through and she inspired many.

In 2006, along with Micheline Maylor, Lynn helped grow and develop FreeFall Magazine by creating the FreeFall Literary Society of Calgary. Since then she has worked tirelessly as the Managing Editor of the great magazine.

We are all better people for having known this great woman. May her stories and passion continue to inspire for years to come.

She will be missed but never forgotten.

We would like to invite anyone who has a memory of Lynn to please send it to so that we may create a tribute to her on our blog.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 6pm at Genesis Centre of Community Wellness, 7555 Falconridge Blvd. NE, Calgary. Everyone is welcome.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In Memorium - Leslie Carmichael

The Aisles of Blest 
By Leslie Carmichael
(Originally published by SF Online, Winter 2007)

She paused, drinking in the sights and sounds of the battleground. She was ready but for one thing: a mount.

A line of steeds awaited her choice, light winking seductively off their burnished bodies. She reached eagerly for the silver harness of the first, then chanced to glance down at its wheels. She drew in a breath. Misaligned.

Dismayed, she looked more closely at the rest. Most were subtly or overtly flawed. Dirty, dented, disfigured. Tawdry beasts, all.

She was about to capitulate and choose one of the marred creatures, when she spotted a solitary, perfect mustang in the dimness of an alcove. The beast’s very stillness drew her. She stalked it carefully, then grasped its metal bar. A gasp shook her. This was the one! It quivered under her touch.

She glanced at the battleground and bared her teeth, anticipating the ideal moment. Finally, it came.

Blood singing, she sailed into the fray. Together, woman and beast plunged into the maelstrom, moving almost as a single being, they alone harmonizing in the midst of so many discordant partnerships.

With a manic grin, she faced down her opponents, her marvelous steed echoing her movements as if it were an extension of her own body. The most delicate touch sent it gliding through the crush, into spaces seemingly impossibly small.

They flew past “Jams and Jellies”, through “Canned Goods” and “Plasticware”, the steel creature moving with joyous speed under her guiding hands. Aisle after aisle surrendered to her marauder’s instinct. She plucked prey from hiding places too high or deep for other mortals.

Then they turned a corner to confront . . . disaster.


She narrowed her eyes. The steed trembled under her hand, poised in pregnant silence. She feinted; then stooped, hawk-like, and snatched the cowering, solitary article from its dark cave, out from under her opponent’s very grasp. Triumphant, she smiled graciously at the other woman, who was left to face the harsh reality of the hated “rain-check”.

She could feel her beast's approval--as it was worthy of her, so she had proved she was worthy of it. Impatient, it urged her forward, eager for more battles.

They were curbed only twice after that. An avalanche in “Produce” impeded them but briefly, and her steed skittered away nervously from a much larger beast in the narrow confines of the Deli. She soothed it with a firm hand and quiet words.

All too soon, it seemed, they approached the final test--freedom's passage--the check-out. The battle was almost over. She was exhilarated. Yet a trickle of sadness arose in her chest.

They, woman and beast together, had accomplished their mission like a true-mated team. Now she would have to leave her faithful steed behind.

She only hoped she would be able to find her soul’s partner again when, as she knew she must, she returned. In its absence, the Hunt would surely be a lesser thing.

She frowned. Others might not be so appreciative of her steed’s sublime form. Would it still be in the same gleaming shape, when she next they met? Or would it have suffered the fate of so many others? Dented? Wheels off true? Or--most horridly-- broken? Its impetuous nature fettered by domesticity?

She pictured it instead in magnificent splendor in the wild.

“Look ” passersby would cry. “There it is!” And they would watch in awe, as it stood proudly among the hills, tall grass grazing its belly, the sun gilding its gleaming sides.

But that would be a lonely existence. Anything might happen. 'Twas better thus, truly. At least here it could be tended, cosseted.

She gave it a surreptitious pat, then reluctantly sent it back to its stable, where it nestled tiredly with the other beasts. Its thoroughbred beauty looked out of place with the rest of the spavined herd.

She realized, then, as her distracted gaze took in the rest of the beasts, that what she had taken for flaws in each of them were not defects.

They were battle scars. Honorable and worthy of respect.

Her beast would, she acknowledged, eventually come to bear them as well. She silently apologized to its stablemates, vowing to never again scorn the honest veterans. Chastened, she bowed her head, saluting them.

Giving her exhausted steed one last, tear-laden glance, she exited the store, her newly-won plunder dragging at her arms.

Farewell, my friend and faithful steed, she thought as she drove out of the parking lot into the setting sun.

Oh, fare thee well.


Leslie Carmichael has been inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, has watched the world turn purple during a solar eclipse, and has been an honoured guest at a Canadian-Scottish-Taiwanese wedding. She has swum in the Red Sea, picked amethysts off the ground in Thunder Bay, watched a space shuttle land and cooked a medieval dinner for 200 people. She has worn a corset, a suit of armour and a Klingon outfit (but not all at the same time!). Leslie liked to work on miniature dolls and dollhouses when she was not writing. She could crochet three-dimensional objects without a pattern, but found knitting way too complicated. She also sang soprano in a choir and loved music.

Leslie lived in Calgary with her husband, three children and two demanding cats.

Leslie was a member of numerous writing groups and organizations, including the Alexandra Writers Centre Society.

Leslie passed away January 9, 2014 after her year and half battle with colon cancer.

She will be missed but never forgotten.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Story Is a State of Mind w/ Sarah Selecky

AWCS is pleased to welcome, Giller Prize Finalist, Sarah Selecky for this special one-day only workshop for writers.
Story Is a State of Mind
April 26, 2014
10am to 4pm (lunch provided)
Inglewood Community Centre, 1740, 24th St SE, Calgary

AWCS Members: $130 | Non-Members: $160

Register Online

Story Is a State of Mind teaches contemplative writing in a way that is practical, radical and transformative, and allows writers to develop the capacity for deep concentration. To write in this way means to quiet the mind in the midst of the distraction that fills everyday life. In this one-day workshop, participants will learn how to find this state of calm centeredness, and experience how it is an aid to exploration of story. The writing done in this workshop will be practical and generative, and it will help writers develop a compassionate approach to their writing practice. Writers should come prepared to experience moments of insight and a renewed commitment to their relationship to writing.

About Sarah Selecky

Sarah Selecky is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States and grew up in Southern Indiana and Northern Ontario. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and her writing has appeared in the top Canadian magazines and quarterlies such as The Walrus, The New Quarterly, and The Journey Prize Anthology, among many others. This Cake Is for the Party is her first book, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book, and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award. She is also the creator of the groundbreaking online writing program, Story Is a State of Mind. She divides her time between Toronto and the rest of the world. You can find Sarah at and on Twitter @sarahselecky.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Reflections of a Summer in Bingen

The retired schoolteacher struggled with his journal entry about his missing Ella.
Old age, loneliness, despair, anger gnawed at him. He crumpled the page he had
been writing on and tossed his pen down the stairway in frustration. July 2009 – the
midst of a blackout in Shreveport. The flickering light of emergency candles on the
large wooden table did not soften the octogenarian’s grief over the sudden loss of his
dearly departed wife of 50 years. Dwight shouted, “I need you Ella. I need you.
Come and join me honey. I cannot live without you.” The flashlight that he
retrieved from the mahogany cupboard illuminated memories of the summer of
1975: Bingen on the river Rhine, the blonde-haired Fraulein Helga. He smiled as he
recalled that first meeting with the beautiful blue-eyed Rhineland maiden. His
reminiscences about the secret affair with Helga soothed his misery and loneliness,
while guilt deluged him at the thoughts of leaving Ella behind in Baton Rogue. He
wept in a stuttering voice, “El-, El-, Ella, how, how, how could I’ve, I’ve done, done
this to you. For-, for-, forgive me, me, for cheating on you.” Afterwards, Dwight
wondered, what became of Helga?

Jamal Ali