Tag Archives: Short Story

Anthology Review – Our Plan to Save the World

“I was thinkin’ ‘bout going into town on Saturday. Thinking of asking that fat girl from church to go to the pictures with me. Cindy was her name.” – Phyllis Humby*

The first time I heard “Delusional Date”, the ‘coming of age’ story by Lambton County writer Phyllis Humby, I cheered. Here was a master storyteller in the making. The snappy dialogue and nuances of her characters Rafe and Cindy–plus Humby’s unique narrative style–clung to me like gum on the bottom of my shoe! Seriously, no ‘sour grape’ taste or feeling intended but the simile suited what I perceived was a cocky bubble-blowing protagonist. I applauded the way this author refused to sugar-coat her male character’s politically incorrect words but exposed all the gritty dirt and sticky elements pertinent to the plot.

P11 - Phyllis Humby as 'Cindy' - Eden Mills Sept 15, 2013

Phyllis Humby reads “Delusional Date” on the Fringe Stage of the 2013 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival.

This award-winning story also impressed the judges from the 2013 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. They invited Humby to share her work with other emerging authors on the Fringe Stage. A video of her reading appears here.

Almost five years later, Humby continues to write and describe her stories as being “scheming, twisted, and spooky”. Her favourite storytelling medium is still the ‘novel’ of which she has written several manuscripts in a variety of genres from the ‘mainstream’ where a woman walks away from her home to move to Newfoundland to her memoir as a lingerie shopkeeper to her latest psychological thriller. She dabbled with short stories to market her name and upon submission several of them won awards and were published. Her ear for dialogue is impeccable. Her ability to hold the reader’s attention is strong.

Last year, she was asked to participate in an anthology project with four other writers: Canadians Nancy Kay Clark and Michael Joll and Americans Steve Nelson and Frank T. Sikora.

Our Plan to Save The World

Our Plan to Save the World (Lulu.com, 2018) is available in print and digital formats.

The result was Our Plan to Save the World (and other stories of false starts dead ends, detours, and determined people looking for their happy ending). The anthology (published this spring in print and digital formats) included 20 stories (4 tales each from the five contributors). Each story was slotted seamlessly in five themed sections: Set off on the search, Change the rules, Unravel the ties, Strive to connect, and Arrive at the place you need to be. Accepted submissions ranged from 2 ½ to 18 ¼ pages in length. “Delusional Date” became one of the showcased works. I cheered again!

When Phyllis (Humby) approached local writers to write a review of the book, I hesitated. First, we know each other on a first name basis so it would be a conflict of interest which I’m disclosing now. Second, what would I do if I didn’t like the published stories of the other contributors?

Out of admiration for Humby’s work, I took a chance.

Reading a new collection of short stories by an unfamiliar group of authors is like scratching a lottery ticket. Buyer beware but not with this powerfully-written anthology.

What a jackpot of storytelling to behold!

Michael Joll showcases Our Plan To Save The World

The book features the work of three Canadians and two Americans.

Don’t let the benevolent cover, the drawn-out title, and the absence of a more traditional trade publisher deter you from adding this book to your ‘must read’ list.

From a marketing point of view, the inside contents and section titles were beautifully designed and printed on crème paper. A larger print size would have made reading the collection more enjoyable. A more sinister cover and title would have better reflected the highly imaginative stories inside. Despite these suggestions, the strong content inside overshadowed any minor flaws. The 5-Star Review on Goodreads reflected my overall impression.

From first love heartaches to misguided spirituality, insanity to incest, suicide and other unexpected or unexplained deaths and more, the collection revealed dark and hard-hitting themes. Almost every story opened with a strong line that yanked me into a variety of unique settings and situations. For example, “Who the hell was St. Polycarpe?” (Clark p. 133); “I promised the doctor I’d stay off the booze.” (Humby, p.71); “Why does all the world love a rogue?” (Joll, p. 128); “If Mother knew I had picked up a hitchhiker, she would have thrown a good old Southern tantrum–” (Sikora, p. 125); and “Everything was fine until she turned crazy on me.” (Nelson, p. 82).

The strongest and most memorable characters were scarred physically and/or cerebrally: a 35-year old woman with a drinking problem, two teenaged runaways who stole a van, a 101-year old man reflecting on his love for his Rolls Royce, a student who walked on fire, Emma who was “the cruel, intriguing, and terribly lonely White Witch of Empathy”, a ‘mad’ sweetheart, a 14-year-old impregnated by a married man, a bat exterminator, and many more. Some characters were likeable. Others were detested for their stupidity or misguided actions but isn’t that what good storytelling is about? Each character felt authentic. Each life moved me.

I especially enjoyed the variety of genres: romance, historical fiction, literary fiction, speculative, science fiction, fantasy and more. Almost every story ended with not only a strong line but a surprise twist that lingered in my mind for days.

Michael Joll

Contributor Michael Joll

One of the most heart-wrenching stories in the collection was Joll’s “The Song of Solomon”, a tale of two sisters that began with the line: “All Faith wanted was to be slim and pretty like Alice, and to have at least one friend.” (Joll, p. 93) What transpired in this dysfunctional family will jolt the reader. To share it would spoil the ending!

To disclose any of the endings would ruin the book. The strength of the writing: the way it scanned and used different literary devices was impressive.

As a poet, I most enjoyed the metaphors and imagery in Joll’s story “In Singapore” where he wrote some beautiful lines. For example: “all of them small pebbles whose splash had left scarcely a ripple on his broader sea.” (Joll, p. 109).

Steve Nelson image 2

Contributor Steve Nelson

The sign of a good collection of stories by emerging authors can also hinge on its reputation with other publishers. Almost all of the works in this book were previously published in Canada and/or the United States. Credits include Ascent Aspirations’ The Crooked Edge of Another Day: An Anthology of the Bizarre, Bew Opsis Science Fiction Magazine, CommerLit.com, Lunch Ticket, Perfect Execution and Other Stories, Phantasmagoria, and Rathalla Review. Some have even won awards and honours including Steve Nelson’s “Night at the Store” nominated for a Pushcart Award.

The quality of the editing by Clark and Nelson plus the manner in which the stories were seamlessly tied together with invisible thread made this collection an equal contender with other professionally-written books.

Nancy Kay Clark

Contributor Nancy Kay Clark

I look forward to following the writing careers of these new-to-me contributors:

Nancy Kay Clark is best known as the Toronto-based writer/editor/entrepreneur behind CommuterLit, an online literary magazine she launched in 2010. Her middle-grade novel The Prince of Sudland will be published in 2018. More info here.

Michael Joll is a retired police officer and the current president of the Brampton Writers’ Guild. His first collection of short stories, Perfect Executive, was published in 2017. More info here.

Steve Nelson is a Chicago resident with a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His work has been published in The Rambler, Storyglossia, eye-rhythm, the Absinthe Literary Review, and elsewhere. More info here.

Frank T. Sikora is a graphic artist, writer, substitute teacher, and track coach from Wisconsin. His work has appeared on-line and in print in Canada and the United States. More info here.

Check out the blog The Write Break with Phyllis Humby for feature articles on each of the contributors as well as a run-down of the anthology’s process.

Frank Sikora

Contributor Frank T. Sikora

As contributor Sikora wrote in his preface: “My original goals were modest…I could just say I’m proud of the collection, but honestly, and thankfully, I can say it has exceeded my original vision.”

He concluded with “I believe we have produced an anthology of stories worth reading and preserving.”

Hear, hear! Bravo to all the contributors! A winning combination!

The anthology is being marketed in Canada and the United States.

Phyllis Humby Photo BW

Contributor Phyllis Humby

In Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, Phyllis Humby will be showcasing her work at a reading organized by Sharon Berg of Big Pond Rumours Press, Saturday, August 25 at the Sarnia Library, 124 Christina Street South. See poster below! More details will be announced later this summer. 

Check my Literary Event Listing for other upcoming Ontario Happenings.

*From the story “Delusional Date” in the anthology Our Plan to Save the World (and other stories of false starts, dead ends, detours, and determined people looking for their happy ending).(Lulu. Com, U.S.A. 2018), Page 119. Used with permission from the author . Copyright © 2018 by Lulu.com.

August 25, 2918 in Sarnia

Phyllis Humby will read from the anthology Our Plan to Save the World during Big Pond Rumours’ Saturday, August 25, 2018 event in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. (NOTE: POSTER UPDATED JULY 26, 2018)

Follow this blog for future reviews and features on Canadian writers.



In Sarnia – Next Bluewater Reading Series Event – May 9, 2015

Save the date….Bluewater Reading Series  May 9, 2015 event poster JPG FINAL VERSION for distribution.

Ahoy! Introducing Lorna Pominville, the Cruise Ship Nurse/Author

On board!

On board!

“He’s not breathing….”     Yes, I was a cruise ship nurse, the envy of all my friends at home who were doing the same old – same old. They envisioned me lying by the pool all day hobnobbing with the rich and famous, occasionally tossing a seasickness tablet to a passenger, visiting exotic ports of call and, of course, eating all that fabulous food. I tried to explain that it was a job. I had to work, often long hours and sometimes was unable to leave the ship for weeks. -Lorna Pominville*

Imagine…lost luggage…the scratchy itch…the scent of pescado…the taste of eel…the alarm of Alpha! Alpha! Alpha! As a cruise ship nurse, Lorna Pominville not only had a unique behind-the-scenes perspective of the tourism industry but she loved to inject humour into her storytelling.

Lorna Pominville launched her first collection of short stories February 2, 2012 at the former Honey and Locust Café and Book Store in Sarnia.

Lorna Pominville launched her first collection of short stories February 2, 2012 at the former Honey and Locust Café and Book Store in Sarnia.

Eventually, her world-wide adventures transformed into written travel articles for an on-line magazine and in 2011 she published a 276-page book titled ALPHA! ALPHA! ALPHA! Tales of a Cruise Ship Nurse. The collection included 30 humorous and insightful stories which still appeal to current armchair and experienced travelers.

Today, Pominville is retired from nursing, lives in Sarnia where she volunteers for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, attends writing groups and continues her writing.

Last week, I asked her to share her thoughts on her writing process as well as comment on her cruise ship stories. Below are her responses:

Describe your book in a short paragraph. Why did you write it?

ALPHA! ALPHA! ALPHA! Tales of a Cruise Ship Nurse includes 30 stories for readers to enjoy!

ALPHA! ALPHA! ALPHA! Tales of a Cruise Ship Nurse includes 30 stories for readers to enjoy!

While I was working on cruise ships there was always something new and interesting happening, both on board and shore side. I would describe these in letters to my friends and family, as well as when I was home on vacation. People started telling me that I should write a book because I had such great stories to tell. At first I thought, Yeah, right, but then the idea caught hold after I started writing travel articles for an old school friend who published an on-line magazine.

How does your work differ from others?

For one thing, the stories are all true. I’ve used real first names and have included a section of photos. I also wrote positive things about fellow crew. The positive incidents outnumbered the negative tenfold, hence the reason I stayed with the job for over ten years. The stories about the job are educational as well, giving the reader a realistic idea of what to expect in the role of cruise ship nurse. It’s not like Love Boat.

Why do you write the way you do? How does your writing process work?

I write short stories because I can’t seem to keep the story going long enough to become a novel – which I would love to be able to do. As a nurse, all our charting had to be concise and to the point so perhaps it’s a habit. Although I must confess, I am impatient and want to get the work done!

I have no particular process. I just write when I’m in the mood. I write non-fiction mostly because it is so much easier to write something you know about. It’s easy to flesh out or embellish it a bit but fiction, which I love by the way, takes a lot more work I find. Research needs to be done to make sure what you write is plausible, etc.

As a self-published writer, what do you feel are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

When you self-publish you can get your work out quickly. There are a lot of computer programs that allow authors to set up the format themselves for printing and then it’s just off to a printer. Even if you can’t do this yourself it is fairly simple to find someone who can help fairly inexpensively.

Author Lorna Pominville

Author Lorna Pominville

Many of the so-called “Vanity Presses” still get your work out fairly quickly. However, it usually costs a considerable amount of money for one of the packages they offer. None of the well-known publishing companies take unsolicited manuscripts and it is very difficult to find an agent to take you on as an unknown. It could take years to get your manuscript to the publisher and another couple before you hear anything back.  However, a reputable publishing company does give legitimacy to your writing and will often help with publicity and promotion which you have to do entirely by yourself when you self-publish.

What are you working on now?

At present I am writing children’s stories and a bit of poetry. I did a series of “talking animals” for toddlers and some others for a little older age group. I have submitted several to magazines and contests but no success in getting them published as yet. Unfortunately I am not an illustrator. The toddler stories lend themselves to be picture books but I don’t have the capability to do illustrations and a good one is expensive. I wouldn’t mind paying if I was assured that the books would be published. I have had several of my poems published in the Halcyon and Twisted Endings magazines but have really not done much else with them.

What medical advice or other advice would you give someone going on a cruise today?

Please, please keep you medications in your carry-on. Do NOT put them in your checked luggage. Also, leave them in their original packaging or have a detailed list with name of drug, strength, dosage and when and why you are to take it. Also carry a medical history and who to call in a medical emergency (include telephone number). Remember that the medical staff may come from a country where these medicines have a different name, colour, format, etc.

Thanks Lorna for the interview. Wishing you much success on your future projects.

Shore side!

Off shore!

Watch this blog for additional Profiles.

*from the book ALPHA! ALPHA! ALPHA! Tales of a Cruise Ship Nurse Joheromach Press, 2011) Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2011 Lorna Pominville.  Limited copies are still available for purchase at The Book Keeper, an indie bookstore in Sarnia, Ontario.


“It is Easy to Read Short Stories” or Is It?

Ask Toronto writer Carol Malyon and the narrator of one of her published stories.



Last Saturday during Sarnia’s Bluewater Readings Series, Malyon pulled an empty chair from the audience, sat down, got comfortable and joked about reading from her children’s picture book. She made the adults laugh and relax. As a novelist, poet, short story and children’s picture book writer Malyon has often shared her work on stage and with others. She knows how to hold an audience’s attention and she did.

“It is easy to read short stories,” she said reading the first line of “Pencils” a whimsical yet heart-wrenching story from her book Lovers & Other Strangers (The Porcupine’s Quill). “There are lots of them around. Some of them could be true; they could have happened already or be happening right now.”

In her story, the narrator touched on the act of strangers reading stories by others strangers. “You don’t know the author” she read.

          So how do writers feel about sharing their work?

Afterwards in a private dinner conversation, Malyon explained it isn’t easy for authors to find locations to read short fiction. “Poets are lucky. Most of the reading series and open mics in Toronto and other large centres tend to focus on poetry. Whenever, I have a chance to read my short stories, I grab it.”

Celebrating Out-of-Town and Local Talent

Celebrating Out-of-Town and Local Talent

Sarnia’s Bluewater Reading Series mixes both poetry and fiction as well as celebrates both local and out-of-town talent. Malyon was one of four writers spotlighted in May.

Another guest London poet Andreas Gripp launched his new poetry collection The Better Kiss and surprised the audience with a sneak peek at his ‘hot-off-the-press’ chapbook All Here Sail in a River of Light, a collaborative effort between Gripp and southern Ontario poet Katherine L. Gordon.

Quite the collection of books.

Quite the collection of books.

Sarnia writers Norma West Linder and James Deahl launched their first poetic collaboration Two Paths Through the Seasons. (Read a review here.) Linder also read a short story from her book No Common Thread.

          For additional biographical information, see below:

James Deahl has been part of the national poetry scene for over 40 years and was a co-founder of Mekler and Deahl, a publishing company that produced 50 books for established and emerging writers. Now a Sarnia resident, he is the author of 22 books including his most recent work North Point (Hidden Brook Press), Rooms The Wind Makes (Guernica Editions), and North of Belleville (Hidden Brook Press).

James Deahl

James Deahl

He also edited In A Springtime Instant: The Selected Poems of Milton Acorn 1950 -1986 (Mosaic Press) and Under the Mulberry Tree: Poems For & About Raymond Souster (Quattro Books). Two Paths Through The Seasons: Poems by Norma West Linder and James Deahl (Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, Israel) is his first collaboration with Linder.

In addition to literary activities, he has taught creative writing and Canadian literature at the high school, college, and university levels and for several years has been a full-time writer/editor/translator. 

Andreas Gripp

Andreas Gripp

Andreas Gripp is the author of 18 books of poetry, including The Better Kiss (Harmonia Press, 2014) and Selected Poems 2000-2012 (Harmonia Press, 2013). He lives in London, Ontario and works in a used bookstore. Vegetable gardening and nature walks are among his activities. Work by Andreas Gripp has recently appeared in What We Carry Home (Ascent Aspirations Anthology), Window Fishing: The night we caught Beatlemania, Under The Mulberry Tree: Poems For & About Raymond Souster, The Prairie Journal, and Quern: An Anthology of Contemporary Poets. He was shortlisted for the Acorn-Plantos Award for Peoples Poetry in 2010.

Norma West Linder is a prolific and award-winning Sarnia writer who taught Creative Writing and English at Lambton College for 24 years. A member of numerous national writing organizations and proficient in various genres, she is the author of five novels, 14  collections of poetry, a memoir of Manitoulin Island, a children’s book, a one-act play and a biography of Pauline McGibbon. Her poetry has been published in The Antigonish Review, Fiddlehead, White Wall Review, Room of One’s Own, Quills, Towards the Light, Prairie Journal, FreeFall Magazine, R & M Journal, Mobius, and other periodicals.

Norma West Linder

Norma West Linder

Her latest work includes Adder’s-tongues: A Choice of Norma West Linder’s Poems 1969 –2011 (Aeolus House) and No Common Thread: The Selected Short Fiction of Norma West Linder (Hidden Brook Press).

Two Paths Through The Seasons: Poems by Norma West Linder and James Deahl (Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, Israel) is her first collaboration with Deahl.

Carol Malyon has written novels, short story collections, poetry books, and a children’s picture book. In her fiction, Malyon writes of women and their relationships with lovers, mothers, and children. She is interested in the fundamental and irreconcilable discord between men and women: their differing views of the world, of themselves, of others; and their disparate modes of communication.

Carol Malyon

Carol Malyon

Malyon has been writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick, led fiction workshops at the Maritime Writers Workshop, and at Canadore College in North Bay, owned a book store (Beaches Book Shop), and worked in health research.

Her latest book, Griddle Talk, co-written by bill bissett, consists of 52 breakfast conversations at the Golden Griddle where they discuss “love and life and anything else you want.”

Carol Malyon lives in Toronto.

The Bluewater Reading Series is a new literary offering organized by Sarnia writers: James Deahl, Venero Fazio, Debbie Okun Hill, and Lynn Tait. This May reading was the second event in the 2014 season.