Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

CHEESE! May 29, 2011

Cheesy Write gift basket from Sedo's Old Fashioned Butcher and Deli

Each year at the Shuswap Writers’ Festival they offer a story start for a Cheesy Write that must be deposited in the basket about 28 hours after the opening of registration. The winner is announced at the Storytelling event on Saturday evening. The writing is supposed to be ‘cheezy’ and the prize reflects this.

Tonight Kay Johnson announced, “I’m glad this year the winner of the Cheesy write is actually in attendance to receive the prize. Shawn, come on up!” Yeah!! I won last year, but I was late arriving and so the prize was given to someone else.

This year was a murder mystery start, and the selection had to provide clues and solve the murder. I had a notion of what I wanted to do with it, so I took lots of notes at the Friday night coffee house, and incorporated things we learned about the writers and their stories in my piece.

You know, I got compliments for this doggerel from a Governor General Literary Award winner.  Gotta love Writers’ Festivals!   😉  One wins $25,000; another wins a basket of cheese, but a win is a win.  lol  It’s nice that people got the jokes and had a giggle.

Here it is, for your confusion and/or amusement:

2011 Cheezy Mystery Write:

We hear there’s been a murder and we’re not sure yet whodunit
So let’s consider options and hope that there’ll be some fun yet!
John Pass might take the Higher Ground, so it’s a bit far fetched
To imagine a GG nominee could murder is quite a stretch!
And that eliminates Annabel because she made the GG short list
And also clears GG prize winner, amazing Wendy Phillips.

There’s some suspicious folks among the nudes at Burning Man
So Deanna’s worth some pondering, but first let’s get another scan
Wait! What is that object lying on the boardwalk over there?
Oh my! A tattered playing card of a lady who’s quite bare,
Across her chest’s an invitation to a “Come Naked” pot luck dinner
Taking place on Galiano*, among the family friendly sinners

The sleuths picked up the card and noticed tiny print-
The dead man is a lawyer. “Ah ha!” they shrieked, “A hint!”
Now who would kill a lawyer? They pondered by the lake
Nancy said, “Apparently almost everyone would like to plunge a stake
Into their heartless chests!” There is nothing there to beat
The rhythm like what throbs from Ken Firth’s drumming seat
“That’s it,” they called, “we’ve solved it! The lawyer’s heart was taken
To provide Ken’s powerful rhythm, unless we’re much mistaken!”

* this is actually an error-

The ‘family friendly nudes’ were in Desolation Sound with Grant Lawrence, not on Galiano Island…  Luckily I wasn’t penalized for errata!


Fishtailing February 15, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,Literature,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:06 am
Tags: , , , ,

Wendy Phillip’s YA novel Fishtailing is a collection of poems that tell a painful narrative about teen life. The inner turmoil expressed in the poetry paints the undercurrents that the adults either ignore, misunderstand, or are overwhelmed by. The needs are so great, and the students are so many, the adults’  insensitivity is understandable (survival instinct more than anything) but it’s frustrating as well. You want to shout, “Can’t you tell what’s going on here?”

Wendy is a graduate of the UBC MFA in Creative Writing, and I see their interdisciplinary approach echoed in the way poetry and story have combined in a way that is more profound than a strict narrative would have been.  The masterful way  each persona is crafted delineates a clear voice for each character as the woeful tale unfolds.

Wendy’s years working in high schools is very apparent. This feels real. These kids feel like the complexly burdened teens that stare across their desks at me.

It’s a book that offers a challenge to teachers of teens. The challenge may be too difficult for them to cope with though. Ignorance is bliss.


A poem by Wendy Phillips January 20, 2011

From Fishtailing by Wendy Phillips. This novel by UBC Creative Writing alumnus Wendy Philips is crafted in a series of poems in persona of several characters. There are students, teachers and administrators represented.


Teacher staples my motorcycle dream
to the display board
Tricia wanders over
reads it
I watch
She turns
raises an eyebrow
drifts to my table
Told you Farr would like it she says
Not bad.

I swallow a lump
Wanna ride sometime?
She lifts her chin
narrows her eyes
I look away from the glare
Yeah she says, today
walks away.

poems are good
for something.

I like this poem because it captures something that I see often.  Suddenly the communication options open when people master a new medium.  Finding new media opens up an audience they would not have reached otherwise.  I often set up a “Poet-tree” in my class.  It fills a wall.  A trunk and branches are on the wall.  Students can take green leaves and leave a poem on a wall.  It’s a non-credit thing, and some years it gets very little interest, but other years it is a hot-bed of creative communication.  Students from other classes will come in to read the poems, because hearts are bare on the wall, and voyeurs watch developments with avid interest.

A young man who has poetry in his arsenal has a powerful tool to capture the hearts of the ladies he admires!  If he can set his poetry to music, he has even more power.  The ladies will be virtually powerless from his charm!

Yes Kyle, poetry is good for something.  In Grace Awakening Ben takes full advantage of the fact!  😉


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