Ink and Paper Tall Ship

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Creative Writing Portfolio: Emily Knight

The sixth and final post in this series! I hope that you enjoyed reading my work over the past few weeks. I had a lot of fun writing all of it.

This last piece is the first chapter from my first real attempt at writing a full novel. The story stole my heart seven years ago, and I’m still in love with it. I’ve posted about this story many times before, so if you want more Emily feel free to troll my archives to your heart’s content. 😛

Note: The pictures are not my own. I used them as writing prompts/inspiration for the many times I got writers’ block while writing this novel. Since I got them several years ago, I no longer remember the sources.


Chapter 1:

I tensed, every muscle coiled tight like a spring. The focused energy of the twenty girls lined up beside me pumped me full of adrenaline as I stood poised at the start line, waiting for the crack of the gun to start the race. It was the perfect day for it; cool and sunny, the robin’s-egg sky sprinkled with cotton candy clouds, a light wind rustling the leaves and bending the long grass like ocean waves.

The gun sounded and my body sprang into action. I picked a pace and fell into the familiar rhythm, arms and legs pumping as I left the grassy field and pounded into the woods. The dusty track wound its way through the trees and past a river, looping up around a hill before swinging back down to the field to finish.

There were four girls ahead of me when at last the finish line came into sight. I picked up my pace, feet fast and light on the grass. My muscles burned with exhaustion, but this final sprint was what I was made for. I passed two of the girls ahead of me, my pony tail whipping the back of my neck. The girl in second heard me coming up behind and glanced back at me over her shoulder – a fatal mistake. She tripped over the uneven ground and stumbled. I passed her in the second it took her to regain balance.

I locked my eyes on the finish line and put everything I had into the final sprint. The girl in first was fast – very fast – but I only had to be a small bit faster. The gap between us closed. We were neck-and-neck, ten metres from the finish. With one final leap, I hurled myself over the line, half a second before her. A cheer rose from the crowd of parents and coaches watching the race, and I whipped around, stupidly searching for my mom. But she wasn’t there. She never was.

Ever since my dad had passed away six years ago, my mom had worked a long string of part-time jobs to support us. She was probably still at the coffee shop, and wouldn’t get home until six or seven pm. I ignored the glares of the girls I’d beat as I walked across the grass to my bag and water bottle.

I tried not to think of what mom’s reaction would be if she found out I’d won another race. She had encouraged me to take up running as a constructive outlet, and I had quickly fallen in love with it. Within two years, I was placing in long distance races. I was fast. Almost too fast. I started getting attention from competing track coaches and even some universities, and my mom started to worry.

Don’t get me wrong, my mom is the best mom in the world, and she was thrilled the first time I won a race. But then I started winning nearly every race I ran, and she started pressuring me to drop it. But I couldn’t.

I loved the thrill of a race, the fierce competition, the feeling of pushing my body to its limits and then a little farther. When I ran, I felt alive. From the moment I crossed the start line to the moment I crossed the finish, I let myself live in a different universe. One where my father was alive, and mom didn’t have to work all the time, and I didn’t live under constant threat from them. Winning was simply the icing on my cake of forgetfulness.

I slung my backpack over my back and took a swig from my water bottle. My stomach growled with hunger as I walked away from the racecourse before the winners were announced. I waited until I turned onto the main drag to pull a protein bar from my bag. I didn’t notice the poster I’d stopped beside until I had sunk my teeth into the gooey goodness of the bar.

ARMED AND DANGEROUS was printed in bold black letters above a grainy picture of a wild-eyed teenaged girl. She was holding a fireball like a shot-put, arms frozen mid-swing, mouth wide in a scream, blonde ponytail whipping in her face. ‘Last seen on McDermot Ave on 05/24 at 0100 hours. Known Afflicted in league with the SuperHuman Society. IF SEEN, DO NOT ENGAGE. PHONE 911 IMMEDIATELY.’

Suddenly, I wasn’t hungry anymore. The girl looked to be about my age, and even as I walked away, chewing my protein bar robotically, I couldn’t get her picture out of my head. The way her face was contorted as she screamed – or was it a battle cry? The fire alive in her eyes. My route home was plastered with similar posters. Some were photos of known Afflicted, but most were public safety announcements detailing signs and symptoms, reminding us why the Afflicted were dangerous, and adverts for so-called prenatal screening tests.

The latter made my insides boil with anger. There was no such thing as an accurate prenatal test. Nobody knew what caused some children to develop freak powers, and symptoms only showed up between the ages of five and ten. But parents were desperate to ensure they wouldn’t end up with an Afflicted for a child. One of my best friends had shown positive in a test, but, as her mom had always liked to boast, had been ‘perfectly normal in every way.’ Former friend, I reminded myself. I hadn’t seen or heard from her since moving away six years ago, and we’d moved around so much since then, I hadn’t really made any new friends.

Clouds rolled in overhead and the wind picked up as I left suburbia and headed into the maze of cookie-cutter apartment buildings I called home. Litter and dead leaves scuttled around my feet as I crossed the street, my hand fishing in my pocket for my key as I walked. I closed my fist on my keychain and took a calming breath as I pulled open the doors to the building’s lobby.

The elevators were out of order, so I had to take the stairs – seven flights – to the top floor. I let myself into our apartment and collapsed immediately on the couch without pausing to take off my shoes. I was so tired from the race and the long walk home that I felt I could lie on the couch and sleep until morning. Ten minutes later however, I was so hungry I got up again and headed for the kitchen to make supper.

I found a post-it note on the fridge from my mom saying that she’d picked up a closing shift at the coffee shop and wouldn’t be home until late. I pulled open the fridge door and browsed the half-empty shelves for something edible. Last night’s chicken potato casserole and a bag of pre-made salad fit the bill. A minute later I pulled the casserole from the microwave and sat down to eat, my homework spread out on the table beside me.

It took me most of the evening to finish my homework, and while I was thoroughly exhausted by the time I went to bed, I couldn’t get to sleep right away. Mom hadn’t come home yet. I knew she’d be back late, but couldn’t help worrying. What if I waited and waited and she never came home, just like Dad? At around midnight I heard the front door unlock and the comforting sound of mom dropping her purse by the front door, and then the jingle of hangers as she hung her jacket in the hall closet. I let the tension leech out of my body as I rolled over and fell asleep.

It felt like only a few minutes later when my alarm rang at seven am. I pressed snooze and was on the way back to dreamland when a delicious, sugary smell tickled my nose and enticed me into the kitchen. Mom, wrapped in her worn blue bathrobe, was just pulling a pan of steaming hot cinnamon buns from the oven.

“Good morning, Emily,” she said, putting down the tray so she could give me a hug.

“What’s the occasion?” I asked as she wrapped her thin arms around me. Mom rarely had time to bake, and cinnamon buns were a special treat.

“The sun is shining and God is good,” she answered with a smile. I laughed, but inside I felt a twinge of worry. Mom looked more tired than usual; she had dark circles around her eyes, and her wispy brown hair was escaping from her hastily tied ponytail. I kept telling her I was more than willing to get a part time job so she wouldn’t have to work so much, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

“Isn’t it raining outside?”

“Set the table, Mr. Holmes,” Mom replied, eyes twinkling with her joke. I put out cups and forks as mom dished the cinnamon buns onto two plates. She said grace and passed me one.

I sighed with pleasure as I sank my teeth into the fluffy hot pastry. “Delicious, Mom,” I said. She smiled and took a bite from her own bun.

“How was the race yesterday?” she asked after a minute. My stomach twisted, and I picked at my bun, unable to look at her.

“Good.” I glanced up, and mom raised an eyebrow. “Really good.”

“Did you win?” she asked, her voice stern.

“Yes,” I mumbled. Mom sighed. “I’m sorry,” I added quickly.

“I just don’t want you to get hurt,” she said. “How many times do I have to warn you? Anything unnatural and they’ll-”

“What? They’ll what? Haul me away to some secret lab like the other Afflicted freaks?”

Mom leapt up from the table. Her nostrils flared white as I braced myself for a lecture. But all she said was “You’re going to be late for school. Hurry up, I’ll drive you.”

I shoved the last bite of warm cinnamon goo into my mouth and rushed off to get dressed, already burning with remorse for my outburst. I shouldn’t have shouted at my mom, shouldn’t have called the Afflicted ‘freaks’, shouldn’t have won that race. It just wasn’t fair. I wrenched open my dresser so hard the drawer fell out and landed painfully on my foot. Resisting the urge to swear loudly, I threw on my school uniform, brushed my teeth, grabbed my backpack, and was walking out the front door in record speed.


Soon we were pulling out of the apartment’s parking lot. Mom flicked on the windshield wipers, and I leaned back in my seat, listening to the staccato sound of rain drumming on the roof and the swoosh of the tires as we drove through the warehouse district to school.

“I’m sorry for shouting.” I said as we pulled into a long line of cars at a red light.

“I forgive you, Em,” Mom said, smiling at me. “I know it’s hard, but things will get better eventually.”

“I’m always messing up,” I blurted. “I try, I really do, but I can’t keep my head down and pretend I’m invisible all the time. I’m tired, and afraid, and tired of being afraid. What if…” I trailed off, unable to voice my deepest fear. What if I was one of them? One of the Afflicted. What if the government came and dragged me away for experimentation? What if the SuperHuman Society found out about us? I knew that every Afflicted had shown symptoms between the ages of five and ten, and since I was nearly five years above the age limit I could not possibly be one, but still. My father had been one. Did that increase my chances, too?

Mom put her hand on my knee and I looked at her. My beautiful, hard-working, wonderful mother, who had given up everything to protect me when Dad had died and we’d found ourselves alone and hunted by both the government and the SuperHuman Society. She was wearing the small, sad smile she always wore when she thought of Dad.

“We’ll just have to trust that God will take care of us,” she said.

“How can you say that, after-”

“Emily,” she cut me off sharply. I’d hit a sore spot.

“Sorry,” I said, sinking lower into my seat. Why couldn’t I ever keep my mouth shut?

“He loves you. You know that, right?” Mom said, correctly guessing I was beating myself up over my second outburst that day. When I didn’t respond, she sighed and turned to face me. “There is absolutely nothing you can or can not do to make Jesus love you any more or less than He already does. Nothing you can do to make me love you less, either.” She squeezed my knee, and I smiled back at her, my smile turning into terror as my vision zeroed in on the black truck barreling towards us.

“MOM!” I screamed, a second too late.

The world was a mess of blood and glass and metal, Mom in the middle of it.  She wasn’t moving, wasn’t breathing, and I screamed for her again, even as my breakfast turned to lead in my stomach.

“No, no, no, God please no.” I sobbed as I reached for her, thinking to pull her from the wreckage. It was no use. She was hopelessly trapped. I grabbed her hand, felt her wrist. No pulse.

A siren’s wailing wrenched me back to my senses. I need to get out of here, I thought. But where to go? Not back to the apartment, not to the police. The answer hit me like a second collision. Mom had told me once of a last resort. The last resort.

“I love you.” I whispered. Then I leapt from the car and sprinted away, ducking up a side street just as three black government trucks rounded the corner and circled the wreaked car. A close call, but I wasn’t the fastest long-distance runner in the province for nothing.

The world blurred at the edges, like I was looking at it through an unfocused lens. I stuck to the side streets as I ran back into the warehouse district. Somehow, on shaking legs and sobbing for breath, I arrived at the back door of a three-story brick building. I rang the doorbell twice, then pounded on the door three times and rang again, the sound echoing around inside. It felt like I stood there for hours, though really it was only a minute before someone answered. My shocked brain hardly processed the gun aimed at my face. Before they could ask any questions, I passed out cold on the doorstep.


Creative Writing Portfolio: The Star

This is the fifth piece in my creative writing portfolio. It’s actually a bedtime story that the main character in a since-abandoned novel tells her little sister to get her to go to sleep. Enjoy!

Once upon a time, there was a star. Not a big star, or an important star, or even a particularly bright star. She was just a little, young star, shining all alone in the dark reaches of a far-off galaxy. It was very lonely there – one small speck of light among millions.

‘I am not important or special,’ thought the star. ‘I don’t shine brightly, giving light to people like the sun, or guide people through the night like the North Star. People don’t search the skies to find me like the stars in the big dipper, and I have no other stars as friends. Cassiopeia’s stars are inseparable, and everyone knows that the stars in Orion’s Belt are thick as thieves, but I have no one! No one needs me or wants me, and there is no purpose to my shining.’ The little star felt so sad and lonely that she decided to leave her place in the wide, wide universe and search for friendship and meaning among the creatures on Earth.

So the star built a ladder. A long, long ladder, which stretched all the way from her little corner of the universe down to the Earth. As she climbed down the ladder, she passed many other stars, but they were all too busy and concerned with themselves to take much notice of her as she passed. Nobody asked where she had come from, or where she was going, or what she was going to do when she got there.

A very, very long time later (for the universe is quite large), the little star stepped off the ladder and onto the Earth. She had climbed right down into a forest, and as she looked about in wonder at the trees, she thought to herself that surely in such a big forest there would be a place for a lonely star.

So the star began to walk through the forest, greeting the animals she passed, asking if there was room in the forest for a star to live and work and be happy. But all the animals only paused long enough to tell her that the forest had no room for a star before scurrying off again.

Feeling discouraged, the star left the forest and climbed to the top of a mountain. There she met an ancient mountain goat, and she asked him if there was, perhaps, enough room on the mountain for him to share with a star.

‘A star! Live on this mountain?’ The old goat laughed. ‘Why, all the snow would melt in the heat! It would be a complete disaster…’ and the goat trotted off, still laughing at the star.

Lonelier than ever, the little star climbed back down the mountain and into a big city.

‘Surely there must be someone here who will want me,’ thought the star. ‘After all, it’s the humans who are so fascinated with stars.’ But the humans, it seemed, were much too busy going about in their cars and busses and trains to take any notice of her.

Devastated, the little star sat down on the curb and began to cry. Big, hot, bitter tears. When she had cried herself dry, the star lifted her head and looked around. She was sitting in front of a very tall apartment building, and it was night. The top of the building seemed to scrape the stars. Deciding that nobody on Earth cared for or needed her, the little star decided to head back home.

It was a long and tiring climb to the top of the building, and when she arrived, breathless, she found a young girl sitting there, hugging a small teddy bear and crying her eyes out. The star ran over and knelt down beside her.

‘What is the matter, little girl?’ asked the star. ‘Why are you so sad?’

The girl explained through her tears that she felt lonely. Nobody wanted to be her friend, and she felt she didn’t fit into the world.

‘But that’s exactly how I feel!’ The star exclaimed, shocked to hear that someone else felt just as rejected as she. It gave her an idea. ‘Why don’t we be friends?’ she asked.

The girl stopped crying and looked at the star, puzzled.

‘But you’re a star,’ she said. ‘You can’t stay here on Earth, and I don’t see how we can be friends if you have to go away.’ The star thought this over for a long time.

‘No, I can’t stay on Earth,’ the star agreed at last. ‘But we can be friends – we’ll see each other every night when I shine outside your window.’ And the star showed the girl the small dark spot that was her home in the universe. The girl grinned.

‘I’ve never been friends with a star before,’ she said. They both laughed. Then they wished each other goodnight, and the star leapt up, into the sky, back to the dark reaches of the far-off galaxy where she lived. Only, it didn’t seem so dark or far-off anymore. The star knew that every night, the young girl on Earth looked up at the sky and thought of her before she fell asleep, content in knowing that her star was shining brightly for her in the deep, dark sky. And now that she had someone to shine for, the little star shone the brightest of them all.

Creative Writing Portfolio: Sunset (Tonight)

This is the fourth piece in my creative writing portfolio. I wrote the original draft back in high school. I used to do my homework in the den in the afternoons when my mom taught piano, and since it had a west-facing window, I got to watch a lot a beautiful sunsets. This was the result of a bit of procrastination and melancholy.


If there were words

Or a song I could sing

To say just how beautiful you are


I would say them all

Sing them all

Just for you


Ruby skies

Fade to blue

I see now

As the light fades

That all along it was you


There is a fire

In the sky

Clouds of flame dance

Purple and rose

If I could bend time

To make the evening linger

I’d keep this sky



The day’s last colour

Has turned to ink

A swift blush of rose

On the eye of my memory

Is all that remains

To tell of the sky

You painted for me


Silhouetted trees

Have dropped their leaves

I see now

After the leaves fall

That all along it was you


Above the clouds

The stars still shine

The sun has set

But a new day dawns

For someone somewhere


Creative Writing Portfolio: The Impossible Probability

This is the third piece in my creative writing portfolio. This is a short story that I wrote last summer while at the lake, oddly enough. Hope you enjoy!

He sat across from me on the bus every morning, his slender shoulders bent over his phone, earbuds in, hat pulled low, ignoring the world around him. We got off at the same stop; the one right outside the university pool. We might have even had a class together, back in first year, before I had to take the bus. Back when my then-boyfriend had grudgingly driven me to class on his way to work each day.

I don’t know what drew me to Bus Boy – judging from my previous selection of boyfriends he really wasn’t my type. In the past I’d always gone for ‘bad’ boys; the ones whose muscles turn heads at parties, who swear too loudly, and drink too much. The ones who for some reason capture your eyes and there’s this long breathless moment where you’re the only girl in the room. Those boys never last long. Just long enough that when suddenly the eyes he’s catching aren’t yours it rips through your heart like a fishhook.

But Bus Boy was different. He was quiet and probably shy. He cared about school enough to read his textbooks on the bus. He slouched like he was trying to take up as little space as possible, though he was by no means short – he towered head and shoulders above me as we got off the bus together. He always wore the most beat-up pair of green converse hi-tops I’d ever seen, no matter the weather.

Maybe it was those shoes, or his height, or the simple fact that I was lonely and bored and still getting over my most recent breakup, but one cold November morning, I did something I’d never done before. I smiled at him. A complete stranger, and I wasn’t even drunk. He didn’t see – he was busy with his phone and his backpack and had his eyes on the floor. Not that I’d expected anything from it, really. At the time I wasn’t even sure why I’d done it. But I had, and I found myself sighing internally as I looked away and stared at the icy pavement blurring past, unable to stop thinking about how odd it was that two people could do the same thing together day after day and not even know each other’s names. Unable to stop picturing how sad he looked, slouched in his seat with his headphones cranked to block out the world.

Over the next week, he became my new project. My goal was simple: to get him to smile back at me. Not because I liked him or anything; just because I hoped it would make his day a little brighter. The second day I smiled at him, he didn’t notice me again, and I had to stop myself from glaring frustratedly at him. I didn’t want to look creepy. This pattern continued until Friday when he nearly missed the bus. As he shoved his ticket into the ticket box, panting from chasing down the driver, he forgot, in his fluster, to stare at the floor. I flashed him a smile in the split second he looked my way. Was that the ghost of a smile he gave me in return as he lurched into his seat?

The next Monday I found myself at my bus stop earlier than usual, stamping my feet against the cold and wishing the bus would show up already. Maybe today I’d get a real smile out of Bus Boy. Maybe in another week he’d talk to me. Maybe in a month we’d be friends. My last ex had stolen most of my friends along with my heart, and my housemates weren’t much for talking lately. At least, not to me. They were mad because when my ex moved out after our break-up we all had to cover his part of the rent until we could find someone to replace him.

I settled in to my usual seat on the bus, gingerly sipping on too-hot coffee from my travel mug as the bus squealed forward. Two minutes later we pulled up to Bus Boy’s stop, and he slouched on. Paid his fare. Stumbled towards his seat.

His eyes weren’t glued to the floor like usual. He glanced up at me as he took his seat, and I sent him a smile. He smiled back, definitely shy, and bent quickly over his phone. I tried to look inconspicuous, keeping my eyes on my own phone or out the window, but I couldn’t help but notice out of the corner of my eye that he kept glancing up at me. As we got off outside the pool I held the door for him. He nodded his thanks and we went our separate ways.

He slouched towards the library as I scurried for the English department. I had just barely remembered that I needed to hand in my essay before class started or it would be late. I’d meant to proofread it on the bus but Bus Boy had driven all thoughts of it out of my head.

Not that handing it in on time would do much. I was once again on academic probation after nearly flunking out last year, and despite resolving to try harder in school while I was working my butt off at two almost-full-time jobs last summer to pay tuition, I was once again swamped with overdue work. It piled up on me like an insurmountable mountain, sometimes pressing on my chest until I couldn’t breathe.

The day ground on as usual, class after class, hour after hour, until it felt like my brain was going to ooze out my ears if I had to sit through another lecture. Then I had a four-hour shift at the Starbucks in the Student Centre, and when that was over I forced myself to slog through three chapters of readings before I dragged myself on to the bus and headed home. It was dark out, and starting to snow.

By the time the bus rolled up to my stop, the snow was coming down thick and fast. My feet were half-way to ice-cubes and my breath steamed like cigarette smoke as I trudged up the rickety steps to my flat.

Nobody was in, which was fine by me. I boiled the kettle and made myself a supper of instant oatmeal and black tea, which I carried back to my bedroom and ate curled up in my comforter. Trying to drown out the noise in my head with a cop show on Netflix. Trying to ignore the pangs of hunger my small supper hadn’t satisfied and the tickling in the back of my throat that signalled I was getting a cold.

I’d never meant to spend my food budget getting black-out drunk the first weekend of the month. But money or no, I’d had to pay my part of the rent. Since that weekend I’d subsisted on instant oatmeal, KD, and the free coffee I got each shift at work, and I was getting pretty tired of all three.

I don’t know why I couldn’t stop myself from spending all my money on beer. Same reason I always chose such awful boyfriends, I guess. And probably the same reason I was failing my courses and I couldn’t sleep at night, too.

Perhaps that was why I wanted to get Bus Boy to smile. I wanted to do something right, for once. Because all I ever seemed to do was mess myself up.

On Tuesday I slept straight through to lunch and nearly missed my shift at work. Though to be honest I was more disappointed with myself for missing the bus than for missing class. My head pounded and my throat ached all through work. I got so motion sick on the bus ride home that I nearly threw up. Then when I got home I did throw up. Up and up till my stomach was empty and all I could do was crouch over the toilet and dry heave.

My housemate Mitch came in from work and started blaring rap music in his bedroom. The bass throbbed dizzily in my head. Laurena came in a while later, talking to someone I didn’t know. His deep voice rumbled lower than Mitch’s bass, and Laurena tittered like a prepubescent teen. A minute later she barged in to the bathroom and didn’t even pause for breath as she babbled for a whole minute about how she’d found someone who might take over Brad’s old room, hinting heavily that it should have been on me to find someone to fill in the gap since it was my fault Brad left. Even though she knew I didn’t like talking about my ex. Even though she could plainly see I was sick.

“Kit, Connor. Connor, Kit.” She added, by way of introduction. I hate being called Kit, I thought as I wiped a chunk of sweaty hair out of my eyes and squinted up at Connor. He had a wild beard half-way down his broad chest, and dreads down past his shoulders. He hadn’t bothered to take off his muck-covered boots at the door. I gave a weak thumbs up to Laurena and turned back to the toilet.

“Is she alright?” I heard him rumble as Laurena moved on to show him the kitchen.

“Probably had too much to drink.” Laurena laughed carelessly. The rest of their conversation was drowned out by Mitch turning up the volume on his already-blaring speakers. As soon as Connor’s tour was over and the door had slammed shut behind him, I crawled out of the bathroom and dragged myself off to bed.

Wednesday I woke up just long enough to call in sick to work, and Thursday I spent at home in a panic over how much class I had missed – right in the middle of Midterms, too. I had five essays to write by the end of term in four weeks and a Psychology midterm on Monday. And of course I hadn’t started preparing for any of them.

I felt like death when I woke up on Friday, but I decided that I needed to get to class and attempt to catch up or I would be screwed for finals. When I stood up to go to the bathroom, however, the world spun suddenly around me and the floor lurched up and smacked me hard in the face. Moments or minutes later, I realized someone was shaking my shoulder.

“Kit! Kit, are you OK? Can you hear me?”

I moaned and the shaking stopped. “Laurena?” I asked blearily.

“What happened?” A little crease appeared between her bushy black eyebrows. She spent hours every week plucking them, but somehow they were always too bushy anyways.

“Blacked out,” I said, trying to sit up. She helped me back on to my bed, frown deepening as she looked at me. I rubbed my head where it had hit the floor.

“I’m not surprised. You’ve been pretty sick,” she said. “When’s the last time you ate?”

I had to think about that. “Tuesday?”

She snorted and told me to stay in bed while she made me some breakfast. I tried to protest that I was going to miss the bus, but she pretended not to hear as she skated off to the kitchen.

Five minutes later she returned with a thick slice of peanut butter toast, a peeled and sectioned orange and an Advil with a tall glass of water.

“So is Connor going to move in?” I asked around a mouthful of hot toast. It was probably the tastiest thing I’d eaten all month.

“I think so,” she said. “Still needs approval from the Landlord, but I think so.”

I nodded. Muddy boots aside, he hadn’t seemed all that bad. At the very least I wouldn’t have to budget my food so tightly, because he’d pick up the extra rent we all couldn’t afford. Laurena flashed me a rare, genuine smile and left me to my breakfast, calling out for me to text her if I got sick again.

I called in sick and spent all of Friday and Saturday studying for my Psych midterm and struggling through readings for my History and English essays. I worked the long shift on Sunday, and managed to drag myself out of bed in time to catch the bus on Monday.

Bus Boy caught my eye as he got on, and he smiled at me. I grinned shyly back, hugging my backpack a little tighter as my heart leapt in my chest.

Maybe tomorrow I’d work up the nerve to say hi to him. Maybe on Friday when I got my paycheque I wouldn’t spend it all getting drunk. Maybe Laurena didn’t hate me as much as she let on. Maybe Connor would move in and we wouldn’t have to scramble for rent. And maybe, just maybe, if I beat the odds and broke past that impossible probability of failure, this December I’d study hard enough to pass my courses and get off of academic probation.

The future was unknowable, but as I clutched my backpack that cold morning, with Bus Boy’s smile warm in my memory, I felt that things just might not end up so terrible after all.

Beautiful People July 2017

Beautiful people is a bog link-up hosted by Cait and Sky. Basically it’s a bunch of questions posted every month for writers to answer about their characters. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to getting back into the habit of participating in them each month.

If you’ve been following this blog, you will already know my latest project, Peganina. I’m planning on working on this book for Camp NaNoWriMo (more about that soon!), so I thought this would be the perfect time to interview Peg. (And just for timeline and spoilers purposes, I’m asking this to Peg right before the events at the start of the novel.)

Now on to the questions!

1. What’s your favourite place you’ve ever visited?

I’ve never actually left the city limits, but my favourite place to go in the city is the breakwater, especially early in the morning. I love the quiet sound of the waves on the rocks and the way the sun hits the trees in the big gardens across the harbour. It’s a magical place, and I don’t have time go out there very often, which makes it even more special.

2. What’s one mistake you made that you learned from?

I undercharged someone at the shop once, only made them pay for half of what they actually bought. It meant that we were short on money that week, and I’ve found hunger to be a pretty good teacher.

3. What was your favourite subject in school? Or favourite thing to learn about?

Girls don’t go to school unless her family is very rich or she is nobility. I only learned to read and write out of necessity after my mother died because my father stopped doing much of anything. My older brother taught me, and we ran the shop together until he left. I don’t think I have a favourite thing to learn about. To me, it’s a survival skill, not for fun.

4. What’s your favourite flower/growing thing?

I don’t know what they’re called, but there are these beautiful trailing purple flowers that my neighbour somehow manages to grow. In the evenings on really hot days their scent almost covers up the smells of the rest of the city.

5. Have you ever made someone cry? What happened?

I can’t remember making anyone cry, though I probably did when I was small.

6. Would you consider yourself a reliable or unreliable narrator?

What’s that supposed to mean? Of course I’m reliable!

(Author note: Peg is actually a reliable narrator, for the most part)

7. What do you dream about at night?

I haven’t remembered my dreams for several years, but I do remember that for a few years after the plague I had horrible nightmares about it.

8. You’ve gone out for a “special meal.” What do you eat?

Fried fish cooked in a sun-dried tomato and garlic sauce, fresh olive and caper bread that can be dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and for dessert a fluffy pastry filled with ricotta cheese. I had this meal once, the night before my brother left for the army. The dessert was absolutely heavenly.

9. What’s at least one thing you want to do before you die?

I’m not sure. Making a bucket list isn’t really something I think about a lot. I’m more focused on just trying to make it day to day right now. I guess before I die I’d like to do something that means a lot to someone else – to do something meaningful, make a real difference, you know?

10. Do you have any distinguishing or unique talents?

Being able to read and write is pretty distinguishing for a girl in my part of the city. Also, running a business and a household. On a different note, I’m pretty good at climbing things – trees, cliffs, buildings. Haven’t found a use for that particular talent, though.


And that is all the questions for this month! I hope you enjoyed getting to know a bit more about Peg. Tell me what you thought below in the comments!

Creative Writing Portfolio: Waterfowl Park 2017

This is the second piece in the portfolio I created for the Creative Writing Seminar I am taking next year. I wrote this poem one bright afternoon right before exams began, while taking a study break in the local waterfowl park.


I drink in air.

Cool, clear,

A drop of light to soften the grey of my mind.

This day has left me empty,

The weight of its nothingness

Dragging on my shoulders.


I forgot the sky

And the sound of birds.

It was a long stretch.

An absence of letters.


Spring comes soft and slow –

So slow one must trust

The deepening dawn

Like a bird flying north.


There is yet life stirring under frost.

There is some way to feel again.

Perhaps not in words,

But in the absence of letters

Incidents and Accidents May 2017

Since I’m back home for the summer and trying to blog regularly again, I thought it was high time to bring back the monthly wrap-ups! So here, dear readers is what I got up to in May!

Life Things

May started off with a really awesome retreat run by Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship. It’s called MarkEast, and IVCF groups from all over the Maritimes gathered at a camp in New Brunswick to do a week-long intensive study of the gospel Mark. I was in Mark1, which is for newbies to MarkEast, and we covered the first half of Mark. I learned so much about Jesus, the Bible, and myself over the week, and had some really great moments with God and with my IVCF friends. If you ever get a chance to do a Mark camp (they are run in the spring all over the country, and all over the world) I would highly recommend it!

I also moved into my new house which I will be renting for the coming school year with four other friends. It is so perfect and I’m so excited to live there! Plus, I feel like a Real Adult renting my own place and paying bills and buying groceries and all that. 😛

Then I flew back to where I grew up. This summer I have a really awesome job at the local university as a research assistant in the psychology department. I’m working on developing a system for classifying different types of child directed speech, and so far I have been loving it. My colleagues and supervisor are super nice and helpful, and I get to work at my own pace on my own schedule. I’ve read a lot of really interesting articles about language development in children. And mostly I listen to naturalistic recordings of caregivers interacting with babies, which is super cute. I also get to babysit some of the kids whose younger siblings have come in to the lab to participate in the perceptual studies that some other students are running. Overall, it is an awesome job, and I am loving every minute of it!

I also am biking to work almost every day, which takes 50mins to an hour one way, and have joined an ultimate frisbee team that plays once a week. It’s been great getting so much exercise, I think it really does help with my mental health. 🙂

Bookish Things

I have read so many Discworld books since the end of the semester! I might have a bit of a problem…

Thud! by Terry Pratchett

Sam Vimes, now a reformed alcoholic, father, husband, and kick-butt commander of the Ank-Morpok city watch, (oh and also a duke) has to stop a war between the Dwarves and the Trolls. He is sarcastic and brilliant, and the world is so fun to read! I love Pratchett’s writing style and how he sometimes breaks the fourth wall.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett

Moist Von Lipwig is perhaps the best con-artist in the city. And he’s in charge of running the Royal Bank? Hilarity ensues. Honestly I love Moist so much! He is always getting himself into trouble, and it is such a fun ride watching him run his mouth and get himself back out of trouble again. Definitely read the first book in the Moist arc, Going Postal, first though.


Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

This happens chronologically before Thud! but I read it after, which honestly did not take away any of my enjoyment of the book. There are so many hilarious and ridiculous things that happen, but also some sad and heavier stuff, too. It was nice to see the characters I love taking things seriously and having some emotional depth. Absolutely brilliant book!

Film Things

I also watched a lot of TV and movies:D

Star Trek the Next Generation

I’ve been watching an episode of Star Trek a few nights a week with my dad. It’s really fun to see some of the original material, since I’d only seen the remake movies. Sometimes the acting and effects aren’t the best, but I still really enjoy the show.

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2

This. Movie. Was. Amazing! Watch it now! (unless you haven’t seen the first one, in which case, go watch it, and then watch this one. They are both so good!)


Mission Impossible 1 and 3

I stumbled across these on Netflix when I was home alone the other evening, and they were really fun! I especially liked the first one, with all the “high-tech” 90’s technology. Floppy discs! Ooooh!

Writing Things

I have not gotten back into a good writing groove yet, but I still have lots of summer left to write. I did a lot of world-building for my current WIP, Peganina, and even drew a fancy map of the world!

IMG_6999 copy

I hope to get a bit more writing done in June, so we shall see what happens with that.

Let’s Chat!

How was your month of May? Did you read any good books or watch any good movies or shows? Tell me below in the comments!

Creative Writing Portfolio: Peganina

This is the first piece in the portfolio I created for the Creative Writing Seminar I am taking next year. Peganina is still in the works as a novel, this is just the first chapter. Hope you enjoy!

Note: The pictures are something I used as inspiration for when I got stuck writing. I don’t remember where I got them, though. They are not my own.



Peganina only wants to survive. After escaping from a husband twice her age, she finds herself alone in a dangerous world full of monsters, bandits, and thieves. While on the run from her husband, she gets captured by slave traders and meets a fellow soon-to-be slave, Flick. He orchestrates an escape from the slavers, and the unlikely pair find themselves banding together to survive. Through shipwreck, murder attempts, and intrigue, Peg and Flick learn to trust each other. An outlaw whose only goal is to bring down the gangs and headhunters that dog her every move, Peg must learn what true strength is – before things boil over into a full-blown war.

Chapter 1:

The noon sun was merciless, beating down on the dusty streets of Agnitum until the entire city was fit to boil. Peganina had moved her work mending nets inside her father’s shop to hide from the sun’s glare, but even indoors the heat was nearly unbearable. And the stench from the harbour! Sour fish mixed with the refuse from the city’s plumbing – a pungent concoction that sat thick in the air, unmoved by the half-hearted breeze. She hadn’t seen a summer this hot since the plague nearly ten years ago.

Peg tried not to worry about another plague sweeping through, claiming lives already weakened by heat and hunger. Not that she had much family left to worry about. The last plague had taken her mother, two sisters, and younger brother. The army had taken her older brother, and as for her father, he didn’t do much these days but drink.

Though the business was technically owned by her father, Peg was the family breadwinner. Net making. Net mending. Keeping track of the ledgers. By this point, they were all tasks she could do in her sleep. Keeping in clients’ good graces, however, was a little more difficult. Especially these past few months. Her father’s drinking had led him to gambling, and men from the Razors, one of the most powerful gangs in Agnitum, had started lurking around the shop.

A shout from outside made Peg jump, and she jabbed her hand accidentally with the mending dowel. The next moment it was clutched in her fist like a weapon as she slowly lowered the net she had been working on to the floor, head cocked for any more sounds from outside, eyes darting from the open door to the back window.

There was a minute of relative quiet – just the usual clamour of the market one street over, the creaking of ships in the docks, and underneath it all the distant crash of the ocean on the breakwater. Peg relaxed, chiding herself for being so paranoid, and picked up her net again, absently sucking a little blood from the finger she had pricked with her dowel. The next moment there was a sound like breaking glass, and her father fell through the doorway.

“Father!” she cried, leaping up. There was blood all down his shirt and on his face. He pushed her away when she reached for him, and he fell to the floor, his head cracking loudly on the dirty stone. “Father, what happened?” she bent down to help him, years of hurt and care pressing in on her chest. He wouldn’t meet her eyes, just kept trying to push her away.

Four very large men stepped into the shop just then, and Peg instinctively reached for her dowel. But it was on the floor across the room where she’d dropped it when running to help her father.

“What do you want?” she barked, standing protectively over her father and hoping that she wasn’t visibly shaking with fear.

“We’re collecting on this scumbag’s debt,” the largest of the four said. He spit on the doorpost and stepped further into the shop. All four men had the distinctive tattoos of the Razors. They had come at last.

“How much does he owe?” Fear pounded in Peg’s ears as she did a quick mental tally of all the money her father had. Just enough to get them through to the end of the month, assuming she could keep him from drinking it all away. And her emergency fund. She always kept three coppers stitched into her hem – just enough to buy one more loaf of bread.

“Money is a man’s business, girl. But I will tell you he’s in deeper than he can pay.”

Peg backed into the wall, and the men didn’t stop advancing. She made a quick dart for her dowel, but strong arms grabbed her and pulled her back. She screamed and tried to kick the man holding her, but he just kept pulling her towards the door.

“We can pay, we can pay, please!” They were laughing at her struggle, and as she was pulled out the door she saw her father, battered and bloody, push himself to a sitting position. She betrayed herself, screaming for him. Screaming at him to help her as she was dragged outside.

She was shoved into a solid wall of muscle. A man with greying hair and military tattoos. “Hush now, wife,” he said, “I’m going to take very good care of you.”

He pinned her to his side with one arm, waving a paper in front of her face. A marriage certificate. Peg fought him tooth and nail, throwing everything she could at him, trying to remember what her mother had told her to do if she ever got attacked. But it was no use. The man was twice her height and a trained soldier. He had her pinned to the ground with her arm twisted painfully behind her back in two seconds. He smacked her head and her face hit gravel, splitting her forehead open.

“None of that now, eh?” her new husband growled in her ear. “We don’t want to cause a scene.”

Blood from her forehead dripped into her eyes and down her face as she was pulled back up. Her husband kept a firm grip on her as he tossed a bag of coins to one of the Razors.

“Debt paid, Lucas,” the Razor said, kicking her father one more time. Then he motioned to his fellows and they trouped away, back toward the harbour and the heart of Razor territory. Peg was pulled in the opposite direction, towards a waiting wagon. She caught one last look at her father as she was unceremoniously shoved inside. The hateful shell of a man, willing to sell his only daughter to pay for his mistakes. Then the wagon pulled away and she lost sight of the only home she had ever known.

Florence_header_-_city_landscapePeg knew there was no point in trying to run away. Not at the moment, anyways. Her new husband’s servant sat at the back of the wagon, hand resting on the pommel of his sword, and her husband sat up front with the driver, also armed, hemming her in. She silently wiped away a few tears that had leaked out, and then felt the damage on her forehead. There was a chunk of gravel stuck in the cut. She grit her teeth against the sharp stinging pain as she carefully picked it out and then pressed the heel of her hand against it.

The servant was watching her. She glared back, pushing the anger and shame of being married off like livestock that can be bought and sold deep into her heart, right beside that special spot she held for her father. He would be dead within a month without her. Starve to death, probably, unless the Razors killed him first. She wished that she didn’t care.

The wagon jerked across a rutted intersection, and she involuntarily gasped in pain as her hand shifted on her head. There was a tearing noise from the back of the wagon, and a moment later the armed servant tapped her on the shoulder, holding out a scrap of rough cloth torn from the hem of his shirt.

“Thanks,” Peg said. She pressed the cloth to her bleeding forehead. The servant smiled at her, and she took a chance. “Where are you taking me?” she asked.

“My master Mako has a farm out in the northern part of the island -“

“Quiet back there!” Mako barked. The servant visibly jumped and shuffled back to his seat in the wagon’s rear. The rest of the trip to the city gates was passed in silence.

The road was hot, and travel was unfamiliar to Peg. She had never been outside the city gates before, and the wide rolling hills seemed empty without buildings crawling up their sides and crowding their tops. Their wagon joined a small caravan travelling out of the city, and Peg spent two miserable days finding out just what kind of man her husband was.

Mako claimed he was an old friend of Peg’s father, and about the same age, too – almost forty. He had served a long time in the army, mostly on the Northern front, keeping the Giants at bay. The army had repaid him for his service with a large plot of land on the northern coast of Acies Island, and now that he was finished cutting down Giants, he wanted to settle down and start a family, and for that he had needed a wife. He had heard that his old friend Lukas was in trouble with the Razors, and that Lukas had a marriageable daughter whose dowry could pay off his debts. Mako said that Peg should be grateful to him for what he had done – that he’d done Peg a great favour by marrying her.

She put on a smile to spare her forehead any more trauma, but just under that smile Peg hated him. She hated everything about him, from the constant sour odour that surrounded him like a cloud, to the way he would recline easily by the fire and expect her to hand feed him his dinner with no regard for how hungry or tired she might be. The thought of being near him for the rest of her life made her want to throw up. She knew she needed to find some way to escape, to run away, and with every passing mile her urgency increased. All she needed was a golden opportunity.

Such an opportunity came on the third night of travel, though not in the way she had hoped. The caravan had halted for the night on a lonely stretch of road between two low hills. Father in the distance, about two miles away, the rolling farmland gave way to steeper, more forested slopes. Supper had been cooked and eaten, the diForest-At-Nightshes washed, watchfires set, and the last dregs of light were fading from the sky as Peg prepared Mako’s bed in the wagon. There was a sudden cry from farther up the line, the scream of a horse, and then the distinctive ring of a sword being drawn. Peg froze, heart pounding.

“Bandits!” someone shouted. Panic spread as black-masked figures emerged from the darkness, blades glinting in the fire light. Peg saw Mako leap from his place by the fire, bellowing as he drew his sword before she ducked down and hugged the floor of the wagon, wriggling towards where she had stowed the cooking supplies, reaching for the knife. Someone vaulted into the wagon, nearly landing on top of her. She screamed as he hauled her up by her hair. Mako roared and leapt for her, but was cut off by three of the bandits.

“Stop!” shouted the bandit nearly tearing out her hair. Peg felt the cold sting of a blade on her throat and held very still. Mako took a half a step back.

“Release my wife!”

Peg’s captor laughed. “Your wife! This young flower? You could be her father.” He let go of Peg’s hair and wrapped an arm around her ribs, squeezing her against his side. His sharp hipbone dug into her stomach, and her face was squashed into his armpit. It was not a good smell.

“Release her!” Mako bellowed, brandishing his sword. He opened his mouth to shout something else, but it was drowned out by an earthshaking roar. Everyone froze, heads slowly turning to the darkness beyond the caravan as another roar broke through the night. The bandit holding her loosened his grip and Peg dove away from him, over the edge of the wagon. She landed hard on the ground, and through the wheels of the wagon she saw emerge into the firelight the largest animal she had ever seen.

It was like a lion, but twice the size, with a black serpentine tail, and what looked like the horns of a goat protruding from its tangled mane. When it opened its mouth to roar again, its maw glowed white-hot like a blacksmith’s furnace. A stunned silence lasted only a moment before the cry went up “Chimera!” and every armed man, caravaner and bandit alike, turned their blades on the beast.

Peg only paused a heartbeat before making her choice. She crept back into the wagon, grabbed the knife she had tried to reach only minutes before, shoved a hunk of travel biscuit and a water-skin down the front of her dress, and then slipped off into the darkness. She only looked back once, and she regretted it. Half the caravan was on fire, the Chimera was still up and roaring, and several figures were splayed on the ground. She tried to block out the screaming as she sprinted up the road as fast as her legs could take her, making for the forest.

It took nearly an hour to reach the eaves of the forest. She collapsed against a thick tree that stood hunched at the bottom of a hollow a few meters off the road. It was very dark under the trees, and she didn’t fancy getting lost and eaten by some creature. Once she had caught her breath, she took stock of her situation.

She was very thirsty, had nothing on her but a kitchen knife, water, and a bit of biscuit, and was a three day journey away from the city where she had spent her entire life. Even if she survived her immediate predicament and made it back to civilization, what would she do? She had no one, and she had nowhere to go. The question circled like a vulture in her head while she drank her water-skin dry and hunkered down for a long, sleepless night.

Series Launch: Creative Writing Portfolio

You may recall from this post that I wanted to get a portfolio ready to apply for a Creative Writing Seminar at university for the coming school year. My plans for getting that portfolio ready were scuppered by stress, and by the time reading week rolled around I had accepted that I wouldn’t be ready in time for the submission date (which at that point was vaguely defined as the end of April/ early May).

Finals happened, and my writing plans took a back back seat. Then I moved out of residence and into my own house (ack I have a house!!!), which was a crazy fun time but also a little stressful. Then came course registrations. The times of some of my courses changed, which messed up my whole schedule, and suddenly I had space for one more course each semester, and my Friday afternoons were free, and the Creative Writing seminar was on Friday afternoons, so in a rush of excitement that maybe I could be in the seminar next year, I went to the website to find out about applying. I was devastated to find that the due date had passed. I’d missed it by about two weeks.

I nearly cried, having got my hopes up to get them dashed like that. But I emailed the professor in charge of the applications and explained that I had missed the deadline but was very interested in the course, and asked if I could apply late. She emailed back that same day and said that if I had a portfolio ready to submit, I could still submit it.

I gave myself until the next day to get my portfolio ready – six or more pieces of my “best work” and a cover letter explaining why I wanted to take the seminar. Suffice to say that that evening was spent editing and editing and editing some more. It was hard work, but I also felt really happy while doing it.

I submitted the portfolio the next morning, and then several agonizing days later (actually it was like two days, but it felt like forever) I got an email back saying I had been accepted to the course!

I am so excited about it! When I found out I got in, I did a little happy dance and my roommate laughed at me. 😛

Putting together the portfolio means that I now have several pieces of writing that are reasonably well-polished. And getting in to the course means that I need to build my confidence in sharing my writing with others, since that is pretty much what the seminar is.

Soooo… for the next several weeks, on alternate Sundays, I’ll be sharing a piece from my portfolio with you guys. You have all been so supportive of me and my writing endeavours, and blogging has been very influential in my writerly life, so thank you all for making my literary adventures amazing thus far!

I hope you enjoy reading my work 😀

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