“Other Lives” (Story Dice Sundays)

20160320_110940Amy wandered through the halls of her house. Each room was a memory waiting to be unlocked by her mind. Her bedroom. The closet where she’d hide when playing hide and seek. The sun room where she’d find quiet and solace. The kitchen where the maid always readied the day’s meals. Absent from her memories were her parents—in fact, they were absent for most of her life.

The world seemed much simpler then: just grow up, finish school, become an astronaut. Nothing to mention of bills, boyfriends, drugs, counsellors, medication, funerals… Continue reading ““Other Lives” (Story Dice Sundays)”

“Beneath The Bark” (Story Dice Sundays)

A beetle, lightning bolt and a tree

When I was a boy, I was once in the forest that was nestled on my grandpa’s farm. I remember it being cold, despite the summer weather. My mind was swimming with worry and anxiety. I was far away from home, for starters—grandpa lived in Ontario, long away from my home in Alberta. I was also traveling without my parents, and having just survived a horrid week of summer camp, my attachment issues were only growing. I was also scared of a lot of things at that time: storms, aliens, vampires, asteroids, the end of the world, etc. and being on my own, all these fears were just magnified. On the outside, though, I tried to keep it all together. Continue reading ““Beneath The Bark” (Story Dice Sundays)”

“Lilith” (Story Dice Sundays)

A magnet, an alien, a house, a keyhole, a tree and a bridge.

Lillith woke up. The first thing she noticed was the gentle breeze flowing over her. The shade of a tree. The tickling itch of the grass beneath her. Slowly she sat up and looked around.

A rolling countryside was spread out before her. Picket fences snaked along the sides of hills, while in the small valley below rows of cherry trees stood in military-like order in an orchard.

I wish this were real. She thought solemnly.

I wish I were real.
Continue reading ““Lilith” (Story Dice Sundays)”

“The Whisper in the Bricks” (Story Dice Sundays)

Story Dice: A castle, tent, skyscraper, lightning bolt, bridge and speech bubble.

Listen closely. Can you hear it? The whisper in the bricks.

Look around you: the skyscrapers, the houses, our modern castles. How far we’ve come from caves and tents. The hands of man built these.

Every one of them has a story they want to tell you. In the living and going and working we can’t hear them. But they’re storytellers, these bricks. They’re waiting for you to listen. To tell you of the blood and sweat in them. Of the daily heartbreak and celebration that goes on inside them. Of where they came from—from humble dirt and dust, eventually moulded into their magnificent shapes. Of where they’re going.

Through ages and millennia, these bricks have been speaking to us. Some still stand today, their faces eroded with time, their hearts emptied, but still willing to testify to the lives of times long past. The great castles. The towering churches. The halls of flowing arches and marble built by the lightning strike of creative inspiration (or madness). Pyramids and gardens and coliseums. The Moorish and Tang and Gothic and Renaissance. A world of bricks. A world of whispers. Each one waiting for us to cross that bridge between us and the sublime mysteries of who we were—who we are.

Continue reading ““The Whisper in the Bricks” (Story Dice Sundays)”

To All My English Teachers

 

A pen resting on a blank piece of paper

I remember every English teacher I ever had—even back in the Elementary school days when it was called “Language Arts”.

It shouldn’t be surprising that English was my favourite subject. But in addition, I was also blessed with a good run of English teachers throughout my academic life (with one exception in Grade 8). I can say with confidence that the teachers who were the most influential, and most responsible for shaping my mind and inspiring my imagination were my English teachers.

Continue reading “To All My English Teachers”

Graduates with Distinction

A group of graduates

After four long years of ink, sweat and tears I graduated from MacEwan’s Professional Writing (PROW). With graduating came a sense of finality, that this chapter in my life is officially closed now.

I cannot write enough about PROW. As a program, it was unique. Because it was an applied degree, many of our classes were project-based. Sometimes they involved actual organizations too, such as when we had to partner with a non-profit organization (my group got Kids Kottage) or when we had to present our re-branding of K-Days to actual Northlands representatives.

But what made PROW truly unique was the people. The PROWlers.

First thing to know is that we were very few. Maybe no more than forty students—less so when we were told that PROW was being cancelled and a shiny new Bachelor of Communication program would take its place. Some of us jumped ship. It was an honour writing, reading and learning with many of my peers—my friends. I remember in our first year many of us were isolated in our own private bubbles. I don’t think there was a single one of us who had a definite idea of what they were actually doing here. I was one of them. I took the program because I loved to write; I had no idea of what kind of job I would have at the end of it. Yet we carried on, learning more about ourselves and each other throughout the years. By the time we were finished, I was part of a network of some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.

The common joke between us was that the first thing people say when you tell them you are in Professional Writing is “Oh, like journalism, right?” No. It’s not like journalism. PROW was really about communication. It was about learning how to send a message through a variety of media. In addition to creative writing, non-fiction, short story, poetry, and various other writing styles, we also learned Photoshop, web design, internet writing, business communication, leadership skills, public speaking, screenwriting, rhetoric, magazine writing, media relations and a plethora of other skills. And some journalism was thrown in there too.

The PROWlers cover
The PROWlers cover

In a short time, many of us have accomplished amazing feats. Collectively, we published a book: The PROWlers: A Professional Writing Anthology, a fitting swan song to a program dedicated to the written word. Some have become editors at magazines like Avenue or technical writers for various companies. Some have gone the freelance route. Some write for businesses, non-profits or for government. Some have started their own businesses. Another has completed her own web series. One of us has even started her own publishing company. Pretty much all of us are working on our own books (and one of us has even published his book of poetry—the first PROWler to publish a solo book).

As I sat with my fellow graduates, I felt as though this would be the last time we were all together. We all crossed the stage and received our well-earned degrees, then gathered for a group picture and then dispersed. Four years brought together for a single moment, frozen in time, and then scattered abroad.

The original title for this entry was “Graduates with extinction”. I thought it was clever, because it rhymed with “distinction” and was fitting since our program is being laid to rest. But this is not meant to be a eulogy. Rather, we leave PROW behind, and move forward with the tools we learned to make a change in the world.

And so to all the PROWlers reading this, I say thank you.

Thank you for your words, for your friendship and for your support. Thank you for accepting me for who I am—a Canadian Muslim convert with a knack for LEGO and videogames, and a tendency to over-analyze everything. Through your acceptance and your friendship, I gained confidence in my writing and in myself.

To me you are all distinct. As writers your skills are broad and diverse. As colleagues you are diligent and creative. As friends you are supportive and always willing to lend a hand or a pen. Together, we were bottled lightning. We were PROWlers.

Some of us may never meet in person again—and I hope I am wrong in this. But even still, know that each and every one of you have touched my life and my heart. We are all part of each others’ lives now. Whatever path your life takes, keep a pen in your hand, humor in your heart and imagination in your mind.

Write on, friends, write on.

“Words, whether written on a page or spoken out loud, are not mere symbols. They have a spirit and a life to them. They are not just a series of letters, but a means by which one person can touch the heart and mind of another.” –Dr. Salman Al-Oadah