Category Archives: Arts & Culture

The Five-Minute Journal Entry

By Lynda Monk

Journaling and writing are powerful ways to get in touch with the stories and experiences in our lives.

“Each of the stories we tell and hear is like a small flicker of light – when we have enough of them, we will set the world on fire.  But I don’t think we can do it without story.  It doesn’t matter what community is in question or what the conflict appears to be on the surface, resolution and change will require people to own, share, and rumble with stories.”  – Brene Brown

Sometimes connecting with our own story and creative self-expression can get put on the back burner, slip away quietly without us even noticing.  One of the number one obstacles to journaling or writing for themselves that I hear my clients talk about is that they do not have enough time to write. Do you have this challenge too? Do you find it hard to carve out the time for your journaling (or personal writing practice)? Do you find it challenging to take time for yourself and your story?  If so, you are not alone!

Continue reading The Five-Minute Journal Entry

5 writing prompts and 10 steps toward book editing & book completion

By Albert Flynn DeSilver, who will be presenting Writing As a Path to Awakening in Vancouver on Oct 1-2, 2016

Writing in general, let alone a book, is a huge commitment. . .it takes inspiration, dedication, practice, and devotion. Below are a few ways to begin generating ideas and continuing along the journey.


1. Write about a time you made a scene in public, or at the very least over the phone, where you raised your voice, screamed, called someone names, or otherwise behaved inappropriately or obnoxiously in public.

2. Write about a time you were under or over dressed for the occasion. Describe the costume, the scene and situation, be as specific as possible. Continue reading 5 writing prompts and 10 steps toward book editing & book completion

Writing Through the Fire

By Mirabai Starr, who will be presenting Writing Your Story of Loss & Transformation in Vancouver on Nov 4-6, 2016.

At the end of October 2001, on the day my first book came out – a translation of Dark Night of the Soul by the sixteenth century mystic, John of the Cross – my fourteen-year-old daughter Jenny was killed in a car crash. Although I had been on a dedicated spiritual path nearly all my life, nothing could have prepared me for the descent into the transformational fire of grief.

Spiritual practices were for ordinary times. This was cataclysmic, and nothing less than radical truth would satisfy my anguished soul.

All the tricks I had learned on the path – which I had innocently thought of as methods – failed me. Meditation, chanting, reading sacred scriptures – they were not only inadequate for addressing my brokenness but they struck me as wholly inappropriate. Spiritual practices were for ordinary times. This was cataclysmic, and nothing less than radical truth would satisfy my anguished soul. The most radical truth I could identify was that there are no answers for the Great Mystery. All I could do as loss swept through the landscape of my heart was to sit in the fire of unknowing and allow it to burn.
And write. Write through the pain, write through the mystery, write through every one of the so-called stages of grief: denial (my child can’t really be dead); anger (it must be somebody’s fault); bargaining (if only); depression (I surrender to my sorrow); and acceptance (this is what happened, and now I must integrate it into the tapestry of my life). Continue reading Writing Through the Fire


By Jan Zwicky

What is it we are trying
to achieve? That we will learn
before we die to make
our leaving orderly? Imagine

turning down the heat
and walking out, not even
locking up, imagine
coming back weeks later. Ah,

the list of failures: unpaid bills,
the missing jewellery, plant leaves
browning on the window sills.

And the dust. What of the dust?

From The Long Walk, just released by Oskana Poetry and Poetics, University of Regina Press, 2016

Join Jan for Poetry and Contemplation at Hollyhock on Oct 2-7, 2017!

Register Now!


Jan Jan ZwickyZwicky has led poetry workshops and taught in writing and philosophy programs across Canada. She has published nine volumes of poetry, including Songs for Relinquishing the Earth, which won Canada’s Governor General’s Award, and Forge, shortlisted for the Griffin prize. In 2015, Brick Books released an updated and revised edition of Wittgenstein Elegies.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Carry Me,’ by Peter Behrens

The narrator in Peter Behrens’s 2011 novel “The O’Briens” speaks of “a restless instinct in the family, an appetite for geography and change.” The German couple at the center of his new novel, “Carry Me,” share a similar, near-mystical pull toward the American landscape they read about in their youth. “In my most daring ­fantasies,” Billy writes decades later of the woman he loved, “she and I were riding across boundless open country together, Texas or New Mexico, under wide blue sky.” This yearning sounds through the novel’s pages like a refrain, and it will deliver Billy Lange and Karin ­Weinbrenner, though not wholly intact, from the terror of Kristallnacht to the untamed promise of the American West.

PeterBehrensOf Irish-German extract, Billy’s an outsider wherever he finds himself. He knows suspicion and discrimination as a boy in Ireland and England, where his German father was interned during World War I. Now in Frankfurt in 1938, Billy works for the export sales department at the chemical firm IG Farben. He is an observant and deferential narrator for the most part, and in love with Karin, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish industrialist for whom his father has worked for decades. Karin’s distant and oblique presence haunts him; she is perhaps lesbian and, Behrens hints, quite possibly in love with a popular female scriptwriter in Berlin.

When Billy gets Karin pregnant, the prospect of bringing “one more ­German” and “some sort of Jew” into the world weighs on them. “We were jumpy from doubts, fears, dreams of America, the prospect of ourselves as parents.” Structured around the autumn of 1938 as they organize passage to America, the narrative wanders back in time to excavate lengthy tracts of family history that hobble the novel’s pacing a bit. (Archival documents loaded between sections, said to be housed in “Special Collections, McGill Library, McGill University,” seem especially adrift, uncommented on as they are by a narrator who is in a position these many years later to offer analysis and context.) But the weeks leading into Kristallnacht tighten the focus, and it’s here that Billy becomes a fully engaged protagonist. Karin’s father, trapped in a coma after being set upon by a gang of thugs, is the last obstacle between the lovers and their dream of the American West. Only a terrible act of mercy will guarantee their freedom.

Behrens captures his narrator’s naïveté and the casual anti-Semitism of the times with great skill and intelligence. Billy remembers that in the years before the full catastrophe of the age pronounced itself, “we were mostly concerned with ourselves, each of us with sex, love, loneliness probably foremost in our minds.” Contrasts expose striking truths. When he witnesses a Hitler rally in Heidelberg on the same day he loses his virginity to a prostitute, his mind is not focused on momentous historical pronouncements. He’s a kid who’s just scored, after all. “After the first 10 minutes or so I gave up trying to listen. I tuned Herr Hitler out, watched bats fluttering around the rafters, scanned the crowd for my companions and daydreamed exciting sex with Lilly.” As he stares into the eyes of history he sees, instead of portent and impending chaos, little more than his own yearnings, which seems to me as true an observation about human nature as there is.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 2.24.22 PMJoin Peter Behrens for Memory & Myth: Transforming Personal History October 14 – 19, 2016.