Posts Tagged ‘writing prompt’

Wordless Wednesday photo: 67

Need a writing prompt? Each week on Wordless Wednesday, bloggers around the world post a photo they’ve taken that tells a story. If my photo brings to mind a memory or inspires your creative writing, I hope you’ll share a comment below.


©2014 Allyson Latta

©2014 Allyson Latta



Scroll through more of my photos here.

And drop in on the following writer friends for their takes on Wordlessness:

Allison Howard (PhotoAlly)

Barbara Rose Lambert

Carin Makuz (Matilda Magtree)

Cheryl Andrews

Elizabeth Yeoman (Wunderkamera)


Recent posts on writing

Contest deadline February 28, 2014: Writing Contest!! Writing Inspired by Art: enter your prose or poetry in the OWC Story Starters competition (100 words max per entry)

Make the Judges Care: How to up your odds in a writing contest, by Anne Mahon

Vanishing Letters of War: What We Stand to Lose, an essay by Allison Howard

Will Come the Words (series): Ann Vanderhoof’s (floating) creative space in the Caribbean, and Barbara Lambert’s in the Okanagan Valley of B.C.

“Poetry resembles the graceful nature of dance; it is like a moving thought,” interview with poetry prize winner Natalia Darie

Travelling to Write: Reflections aboard a Cargo Ship, an essay by Sandra Shaw Homer

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Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday Photo: 52

Each week on Wordless Wednesday, bloggers around the world post a photo they’ve taken that tells a story. If my photo below brings to mind a memory or otherwise inspires you to do some writing, I hope you’ll share a comment.


©2013 Allyson Latta


Scroll through more of my photos here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

A Seven Treasures post by Janis McCallen

The Seven Treasures series is back by popular demand, with this guest post by Janis McCallen.

As a young girl, JANIS MCCALLEN began writing about her life in small diaries — the kind with a little brass lock and key. At eleven she wrote her first novel on a Royal portable typewriter set up on a card table in the basement. In her teens, she wrote angst-filled poetry, and she has continued to write ever since.

Currently Janis writes poetry, short fiction, and memoir. Both her poetry and prose have been published. During the warmer months, she can be found in her writing studio tucked at the back of her garden. She is the Membership Coordinator for the Writers’ Community of York Region and a member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. Together with Elaine Jackson, Janis co-facilitates day-long Writing from the Centre yoga and writing retreats. Every other week, she pens a writing-related blog post on the Writing from the Centre website.


My sister and I waited several months after my mother’s death before we could bring ourselves to sort through her cedar chest. There we found it, wrapped in brown paper: her wedding dress. It is cream-coloured satin, gathered at the bodice, with a full skirt and a long row of satin-covered buttons down the back. The Second World War had delayed my parents’ marriage and the ceremony took place in October 1946.

Sixty-one years later, on a sunny June day in 2007, I wore that dress when I married my longtime partner, Tom, in our garden. With a few minor alterations, it fit perfectly. Although my mom had passed away the previous year, as I walked down the garden path and under the honeysuckle arbour, I felt she was with me in spirit. She probably smiled to see her gown in the spotlight one more time.


As a child I loved kindergarten — especially the art-making part. I recall the satisfying squishiness of the clay that my pudgy fingers teased into shapes. And I remember the smooth satiny feel of paint as I spread it with my fingers over waxy paper and watched patterns emerge. A painted wooden robin is one of the few pieces of my early artwork that survived. It’s made from wood scraps I glued together, fastened to a spool, then painted. It reminds me that my five-year-old Inner Artist is still alive, and that I need to let her out to play more often.


My husband surprised me with a gift of this hand-painted porcelain brooch when we attended the Augusta Heritage Festival’s music camp in Elkins, West Virginia, over fifteen years ago. A guitar, banjo, and mountain dulcimer adorn its luminescent surface. For many years during our summer vacations, we attended such gatherings in the U.S., where we studied and played Southern Appalachian music.

Music is still a part of our lives. And the sounds that surrounded us during those heartfelt weeks come back to me whenever I wear this brooch. I hear guitar, banjo, mountain dulcimer, autoharp, fiddle, and stand-up bass along with the haunting sounds of southern singing. I also hear the teary farewells that were shared at the end of each meaningful camp experience.


3. Photo of my GrandparentsThis photograph of my grandparents was taken in the backyard of their home in downtown Toronto in 1911. My grandfather, with his impish Yorkshire grin, looks so proud of his family: his wife Elizabeth and their children, Greta and baby Norman. Six more children would follow, including my mother in 1917.

I wish I could step into the photograph and talk with my grandmother about the unusual circumstances of her early life. In the late 1880s, she and her older brother were placed in an orphanage in Leeds, after their mother died and their father couldn’t keep them. They were sent to Canada, along with about 100,000 other “home children,” through the British Child Immigration Scheme. My grandmother was placed on a farm outside Stouffville, Ontario. I “found” her in a copy of the 1891 census in that town’s library. Her age: 10; her occupation: domestic servant.

So far I have been able to piece together only fragments, but I’m now embarking on more research so that I can write my grandmother’s story.


6. Hand-painted Buddha DSC02269AOur image of the Buddha — just 12 centimetres square — was painted for my husband and me by a young Tibetan monk named Tseten Dorji, who lived in Kathmandu, Nepal. We began sponsoring him in the late 1990s and our monthly contributions both supported his religious and art education in a local monastery and assisted his parents. His family had seven children and lived on what Tseten’s mother could earn selling religious trinkets at a local market. His father was ill and unable to work.

We corresponded with the family over a four-year period, and have a scrapbook filled with letters and artwork we received. Through them we learned about daily life, religious life, school, holidays and celebrations, local plants and animals, and the political instability within Nepal, including the regular violent actions of rebels. After Tseten’s father’s health improved, our support was no longer needed, and eventually we lost touch. When I look at this framed picture Tseten painted for us I wonder what he is doing now, and if he is still in the monastery creating beautiful art.


A delicate strand of cultured pearls is stored in its original blue velvet Birks jewellery box. My mother’s best friend, my “Aunt” Gloria, began putting pearls away for me at Birks when I was born. On my sixteenth birthday she presented me with this box wrapped in silver paper. I can still feel the coolness of her fingers and the happy chill that ran up my spine as she placed the pearls around my neck and fastened the silver clasp. I ran to the dresser mirror in my parents’ bedroom to admire them. I felt so grown up.

My aunt was like a whirlwind. She never sat still during her visits, smoked Sportsman cigarettes and left bright red lipstick rings on the butts. And she laughed a lot, throwing her head back and freeing what sounded like musical chimes interspersed with bursts of air. When my aunt was around, my generally sensible mother turned into a teenager. Her voice became high-pitched and her face flushed. Sadly, my aunt developed dementia later in life, and my mom watched her best friend of over seventy years slowly fade beyond her reach. I think of my aunt, so full of life, every time I wear those pearls.


7. My Hiking Knapsack DSC02299AI bought this royal blue knapsack twenty-five years ago as I prepared for a two-week hiking trip in England, and it has accompanied me on countless other trails since that time. Some of its badges are now frayed, and in a few places it’s been lovingly re-stitched.

If the knapsack could talk, it might prefer not to recall exhausting climbs, sudden downpours, heatstroke, sweat, blackflies, and mosquitoes. But I think it would happily share memories of wandering on the rolling moorlands of Yorkshire, amongst black-faced sheep with wild locks. It would surely recall being on a rocky outcrop in Algonquin Park and spotting a moose grazing in a calm pool below. And it would certainly remember standing beneath the ancient red and white pines, two to three hundred years old, in Temagami. My knapsack will gather new stories when my husband and I return to Algonquin Park to hike this September.

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Seven Treasures, part 20: guest post by Hyacinthe Miller

A lifelong writer, HYACINTHE MILLER is editing drafts of her non-fiction book (Police Officer: Journeys from Recruit to Chief), two novels, and an anthology of erotic short stories. She is president of the Writers’ Community of York Region and a member of Sisters in Crime and Toronto Romance Writers. She maintains a blog, Write in Plain Sight, and is developing another site called The Police Professional.

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GrandmotherI’ve always been enamoured of snapshots, those frozen fleeting seconds of our lives that outlast memory.

The date printed on the pinked margin reads February 1938. Grandmother’s thick wavy hair is pinned back under a fancy hat. The camera registers her dark oval face, her unblinking gaze under a solemn brow, the fox-head stole draped around her shoulders. Her fingers grip a wooden plinth, as if to press it into the floor.

“My mother was a dainty woman,” Mom would whisper, prying the lid from a dusty storage box and easing grandmother’s shoes from a bed of crinkly tissue. Tiny (size 4), low-heeled and shiny black and soft as frosting, with a comforting, worn scent, those boots were a talisman. Wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron, she’d turn away to look at something I couldn’t see. I’d trace the sweep of leather buttons, the cobbler’s stitched signature on the instep. There was no question of me putting them on — at age ten I was almost as tall as my mother, with feet far too big. Eleven months after the portrait was taken, grandmother sat in a dentist’s chair to have a tooth extracted and didn’t awaken from the ether. At age 19 the orphaned guardian of three younger siblings, my stoic, graceful mother would wear the weight of that death all of her life.


MomgardenThe photo of my mother at 22 hangs on the wall of my sewing room, in an antique frame we unearthed in her garage after she died suddenly in 1998. In it she is shy, slender, hopeful — I was that way too, once. She’s affianced of my father, a dreamy lad deployed as a sapper with the British Corps of Engineers in the pestilential trenches of Second World War Egypt. We’re not sure how they met, or when. My brothers and I speculate, injecting romance or intrigue into an invented history. In that unruly garden behind the family walk-up in Montreal, Mom looks more incandescent than sunlight. In fading convent-school cursive, she wrote on the reverse, Greeting to My Beloved, Christmas 1942. He returned two years later, not the man she’d thought she knew, but a wary, tight-lipped husk, besotted by an Englishwoman who’d reclaim him twelve years later, leaving my mother bereft again, this time with three small children of her own. Mom mourned/adored him till she died. I learned the persistence of love.


My daddy, whom I would love even when he no longer knew me, stands at parade rest in a postcard photograph, cap rakishly askew over his right ear, dark khaki uniform sharply pressed, boots spit-shined, cloth service belt wrapped tight around his narrow waist. Birthed in a village somewhere in Cuba and lacking proper documentation, he’d lied about his age to enlist in the army. The sweet-faced poet-photographer-machinist-farmer looks to be on the threshold of tears. He inscribed the photo, From Ronnie to dear Eunice, with his love. Underneath what looks like a hastily sketched bird is a blotch of red, whether wax or a scrap from an album I don’t know. But it resembles a misshapen heart. When I first found the picture among my mother’s things, those words, his love, struck me as odd phrasing, but recalling the lives they’d lived — briefly together and decades apart — I knew that he’d lost whatever self he had, after he sailed on that troop ship and puked his way to war. He’d shaken hands with the Shadow.


BabyshoesIn a yellowing cellophane bag tucked on the top shelf of my closet, I’ve kept the pair of impossibly tiny pink booties that were mine. They seem more fitting for a doll than a full-term infant. I was born fourteen days short of my parents’ first anniversary. Babies were smaller in those lean days after the Armistice. I recall stories of how poor they were. How important the family connections. The sweater Mom knitted fits my outstretched hand. Decorated with scalloped edges, eyelet rows, and yellow ducks, the fine wool sweater’s much washed, the stitches barely felted, no longer pristine white but aged to ivory.


Jess and I have been best friends since February 1961, when she blew into Sister John Francis’s class at Denis Morris High School, nudging the trajectory of my future. Drum corps and cheerleading, smoking Export ‘A’s pilfered from her dad, and . . . boys. At age 16, we are so innocent in our matching white jackets. Not for nothing in 1992 are we wearing dark sweaters, reflecting, perhaps, the lessons shaping our lives. In the photo I’ve grown into the same cautious eyes that were my dad’s. Unlike him, though, I’ve saved my self.


SupernanaThe Superman sweater, knit when my son was in grade seven and before heroes fell from favour, later kept my mother comfy too. Graduated to a new outfit, he dropped by for a scheduled break from patrolling the 400 series highways, proud to show Nana his police cruiser. Years later, he would wear his dress uniform to her funeral. Captured forever in this photo, their innocent connection still warms.





And when I thought that my options for bliss had frayed to a thread and that my fate, like that of all the women in my family, was to grow old alone, I met him at IKEA, my Swedish Viking. His first gift was a signet ring with stylized initials reading LH in one direction, HM in the other. Our lives have intertwined, like the letters. What serendipity.

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Seven Treasures, part 19: guest post by Natalie Shahinian

Artist and writer NATALIE SHAHINIAN is happiest in her pyjamas, snacking on peanut butter licked from the end of a spoon. When the spread is on sale, Natalie stocks up, solely in the event of an emergency. She has been quoted as saying, “I don’t want to imagine a world without peanut butter. That would be an awful way to live.”

(Read about Seven Treasures and find links to more guest posts here.)


1. Marbles

It may have been her parents’ farm, but it was B’s kingdom. An only child, B was audacious among adults, and immune to any punishment if she was caught. With acres of farmed fields stretching some distance, it was impossible to know all of B’s offences.

She putted large, spongy soccer balls of overgrown cucumbers at cars in the full parking lot. She terrorized the Italians, stealing mature blossoms from the zucchini patch. She pulled open a curtain of tall rushes and shot out on her dirt bike, delighted with the panic she stirred up among customers.

Through an unspoken agreement only parents understand, it was decided I was to befriend B and set a good example. I was stumped, for a while. Then I prepared for my next visit.

That day, when B saw the purple whisky pouch rattling in my hands, she bolted for the farm’s ready-picked shop, returning with an identical bag that rattled like mine. All that visit we traded Oilies and Pearls, lost in a tilled kingdom of our own. Until the big marble in the sky began to swirl orange, pinks, and gold upon our faces. Goodbye, goodbye.

2. Pencil Crayons

It happened the year my sister returned home from studying abroad. I came up to her knees. She came up to my soul.

You have to be careful with these. They’re special. Not like any of the ones you’ve used before. Her hands were holding something inside her unzipped suitcase. I stood up.

She took out the tin tray of pencil crayons, Caran d’Arche. The lid was so ornate and beautiful; I couldn’t believe the real gift was what was inside.

Colours arranged in perfect pointed tips. Just the sight inspired me, and still does.

3. Metropolitan Button

If I faced west on the entrance steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I could see the Front Desk in the Great Hall where I spent most of my internship. If I faced east, I could see Fifth Avenue, the M1 bus, doubles of dog breeds on long leather leashes, and a heap of apartment buildings. I could see the museum I kept rediscovering that is New York City.

During my first week of orientation, I picked up tips rarely circulated beyond the Museum doors. The green salad at the Restaurant is a hit or miss. The elevator outside of Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas is usually empty. The best fashion to be seen, outside of the Fashion and Costume Institute, is at the Roof Garden Café on a Friday, after five o’clock.

Granted, none of the insight shared qualified me as a native New Yorker. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t let myself identify with city’s inhabitants when a stranger would turn to me and ask for directions, or a tourist would want my opinion about a particular place or restaurant; the closest grocer, the best independent-designer shopping district, the specialty bookstores. The server at the bakery, who started put my order together before I walked through the door.

Deep down however, I knew, I had more in common with the city’s visitors regardless of what I had learned or had been told. It was in the way people not from there looked at everything in the city like it was under a piece of glass. The John Lennon Memorial in Central Park, the pretzel vendor on the street corner, the graffiti in the laneway. For me, the small, especially, would stand out: the sparkling granite of the sidewalk, the misprinted admission button for the Museum. Art was everywhere, not just within the galleries. And, still in love, I couldn’t help but look, and look, and look.

4. Shark Tooth

Lying on its side, the outline of the shark tooth I found while collecting shells at the beach looks like an irregular “D,” her first initial, and I remember.

The sunburn isn’t a big deal, D. Honest. It’s, like, nothing.

D calls my bluff with a palm-full of cold aloe gel on my reddened spine. THWACK! I never had a chance.

I howl, and then nearly choke on my own laughter, and she rolls off the bed in a fit so silly she can’t even glance at me. She’s crumpled on the floor, laughing and holding her tummy. I exaggerate my agony, laughing too now, filling the space around her.

5. Nest

Nothing about the day was remarkable. Not the weather, not the time, not the route. And if it hadn’t been for the fallen nest, lying on the edge of someone’s front lawn, I would have forgotten about my companion since, Mother Nature.

Look how the dry grasses are woven! Isn’t it amazing? A bird did this! With its tiny beak, it made a home. A HOME! With the neckline of my T-shirt, I wiped the tears from my eyes. Behind me, I felt Her smile.

At home, I presented to my mother what she had missed. Multiple sclerosis had put an end to our leisurely walks together. Relying on both of us for support, Mom peered over the nest, absorbing its craftsmanship with wonder. That’s when Mother Nature began to ease her hold, certain I could take the weight of Mom on my own, acknowledging my thankfulness, growing smaller and larger with every whisper. I know . . . I know.

6. Wacky Packages

To spend time with my cousins, I had to take an oath to belong to their exclusive fraternity. Thou shalt watch the cartoons of their choosing. Though shalt learn to pedal fast if thou wantest to ride bike alongside. Thou shalt wrestle and expect to get hurt. Furthermore, thou shalt not cry, nor tattle, nor be a sissy baby if thou shouldest get hurt.

I took the punches, and the plots of destruction, all the way to the convenience store, where the three of us would buy coveted Wacky Packages. It was a fair price to pay for acquiring a pack containing trading cards and stickers spoofing household brands. And with two brothers to trade and laugh with, I rarely had any doubles . . . or doubts about the time spent with them either.

7. Ceramic Mug

At the end of summer, L, your skin would be caramel brown. Your ponytail would be a brighter blonde. (Buttercup!) And you’d be taller. Much taller since the last time I’d seen you, before you left for camp.

What was this place that served peanut butter on hot dogs? Had beds so high you had to climb a ladder to reach them? I pleaded with my parents. Can I go?

Unlike L’s, my camp was in the city, at a local public school. A yellow bus dropped me off in the mornings, and in the afternoons took me back to the ketchup and mustard waiting for me at the kitchen table and the bed I could crawl into on my own. My days, however, were the notes in the margins of a story about to unfold.

I painted. I danced. I wrote stories. I put on a show. I made new friends, broke someone’s heart, and so, for a while, got used to sitting on the bus, alone.

And I knew it was right. All of it. It reached to the brim of my ceramic cup, the one I made in Pottery, and then began to flow over.

It tasted exactly like you looked in August, L.



Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Seven Treasures, part 15: guest post by Catherine Graham

CATHERINE GRAHAM is the author of four critically acclaimed poetry collections: The Watch, and the poetry trilogy Pupa, The Red Element, and Winterkill. Her work has appeared in The Malahat Review, Descant Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, The New Quarterly, Joyland, Literary Review of Canada, and The Fiddlehead. She holds a master’s degree in creative writing from Lancaster University (U.K.) and in addition to mentoring privately she teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies and the Haliburton School of the Arts. Catherine was judge for the 2012 Aspiring Canadian Poets Contest and will mentor the winners. Her next collection will appear in fall 2013 with Wolsak & Wynn. Visit

Seven Treasures from my life:

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Thursday, October 4th, 2012