Reading

Manitoba writer Mitchell Toews will be among those doing readings of flash fiction & excerpts from longer work at ArtSpace May 25 Noon-2 PM on the fifth floor (up on the roof, weather permitting).

It’s part of the Doors Open event and he has volunteered on behalf of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild 425-100 Arthur Street, Wpg.

Each building tour, on the half-hour, will stop for a brief reading: Seven-minute excursions into the boreal, towards the dim light, to the bottom of the sky, and screwed to the sticking spot, all for free in the 119-year-old Gault Building, now home to ARTSPACE.

Readings may include selections from:

  • “I am Otter”
  • “Sweet Caporals at Dawn”
  • “A Plum of a Night” (for groups with lots of little kids)
  • “Operation Night Bandit” (for groups with lots of exhausted young moms)
  • “Pinching Zwichack”
  • “In the Dim Light Beyond the Fence” (for groups with more than one Blue Jays cap in evidence)
  • The opening sequence of  “The Fisherman’s Story”, Part Two in a trilogy.
  • “Wide Winter River”, an excerpt from the short story, “The Margin of the River”
“I try to write about everyday people and events, but to see the drama in these lives. Regardless of whether the story takes a turn towards humour, or sorrow, or action, or even fantasy, I often come at it from an underlying perspective of hope, often with a good dose of emotion and courage in the mix.”—Mitchell Toews
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Happy Mother’s Day Bio

Just sent this bio out. It’s of the long-form variety and I have shorter ones (much) that I use most often. I thought it was kinda fun and less inhibited than some I’ve tried in the past. You tell me?

Bio

After university in Victoria, B.C. and Winnipeg, MB, where Mitchell chose not to take his dad’s advice and follow his creative inclinations, he jumped into adult life. Married at 21, a couple of kids soon after, the couple opened a manufacturing company and commenced to work like hell. After 16 years of busted knuckles, lit & fig, Mitchell and Janice sold their company and he went to work for other hewers and makers of wood products in Canada. Mitch became “the creative guy” for a couple of large manufacturers, working on advertising and marketing communication. He added a degree in marcom to his education and worked in this stream of the creative economy until 2015 when he retired. (It was as soon as they dared!)

Now, Janice and he find themselves living a simple life in their 1950 lakeside cabin in Manitoba. Cold as blue steel in the winter and summers are kinda buggy but they have no real complaints—they left those behind—and they drink drunkenly of nature every day. The only blackfly in the boreal ointment is that they are half a continent removed from their grandkids. “That sucks but whatchergonnado?”

Mitchell’s daily beat, when not fixing or renovating the old girl—their cabin, that is—is to write short fiction and submit to lit mags in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. He has over fifty stories published, a short list of anthology contributions, and one Pushcart Prize nomination. Please see the author’s blog for the full catalogue. https://mitchellaneous.com/write-clicks/

In print, Mitch has made contributions to these available-to-purchase titles: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18450919.Mitchell_Toews Two more are underway but are not yet published.

Mitchell has also written:
✒️ a sci-fi-fantasy novella about an insidious mutant swarm of giant kakkerlaks and a group of stranded teenagers. It awaits the TLC that will allow it to seek self-actualization in the outside world of readers and reviewers.
✒️ A short story trilogy set on the Mexican Pacific coast for which he maintains a bothersome notion that someone could adapt it into a great screenplay; and,
✒️ a noir debut literary novel that is in its first full edit. He is about a year-and-a-half into it. Mitch has connected with a Brit editor to help get this WIP tale of Mennonite mayhem set in the wilds of Manitoba to the query stage.

Mitchell was recently accepted as a “New/Early Career Artist” by the Canada Council for the Arts and this allows him to apply for funding to help finance his second act. He is actively considering opportunities for grant application.

#

Last, FYI, here is an unsolicited list of the folks I’d most like to share a beer with, around the campfire here at Jessica Lake:

First, in recognition of Mother’s Day, my great-grandma Sarah Toews who, in 1917 (!) sued her Mennonite Church (run entirely by men) for shunning her. Next, novelist Phillip Roth who first made it “normal” to insert lots of Yiddish into his books and opened up a rich and fascinating way of incorporating culture and setting. I try to follow his lead. In my case, it’s Low German or *Plautdietsch*. One of my true author heroes, Miriam Toews, would also get an invite. She comes from the same little town as me and she, a bit like Roth did for the American Jewish community, opened things up in the conservative Mennonite community.

She comes from the same little town as me and she, a bit like Roth did for the American Jewish community, opened things up in the conservative Mennonite community. Both Ms. Toews and Mr. Roth enlarged the tolerance for dissent from within, especially when offered in a comical or satirical way, despite the serious subject matter.

Both Ms. Toews and Mr. Roth enlarged the tolerance for dissent from within, especially when offered in a comical or satirical way, despite the serious subject matter. She followed the lead of a renowned writer named Rudy Wiebe, who would also have a lawn chair at the fire. CNF novelist, journalist, speaker, socialist and all-around shit-disturber Chris Hedges would be asked to keep things lively—him with a Doctor of Divinity and a Pulitzer and all. Finally, Moonlight Graham, from W.P. Kinsella’s “Shoeless Joe”, because I love baseball and he seems like a pretty good guy.

P.S. – the Mother’s Day tag would come out under normal, non-Mother’s Day situations. 🙂

Cheers,
Mitchell Toews
Jessica Lake, Manitoba
https://www.facebook.com/mitch.toews
@mitchell_toews
https://www.pw.org/directory/writers/mitchell_toews

The Fifty Dollar Sewing Machine by Mitchell Toews

A 1934 rerun, in a way, kinda like a print version of Turner Classic Movies. “The Fifty Dollar Sewing Machine”. See it here, along with an entertaining recommendation from author Leila Allison, a frequent contributor to Literally Stories and many other lit mags:

http://bit.ly/Allison_FiftyDollar_LS_Rerun

literally stories

typewriterMy Grandma often told us about an adventure that she and Grandpa had in Winnipeg soon after my dad was born.

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And All I Got was this Lousy Poem

That’s right, I had a surprise heart attack, suddenly lying out on the wet gravel of a deserted road and all I got out of it (besides a couple of stents) was…

Well, we’ll see about that. Here’s the poem:

Woman with the Dog’s Eyes

By Mitchell Toews

Uppermost boughs sough with impatience as I stare
Grey fingers stretch up to the arc, branches of a birch gone bare
And these I frame in the quiet now, the tide wheel all but silent
Apocryphal offspring close by me, how? And dear, so dear
Brushwork details unfinished yet, I fear, I fear
Eyes wide I rise with canvas ready, my pigment not yet spent

 

allfornow friends,
Mitch
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Everyday Fun with U.S. Politics!

Here’s a fun game to play each day when the latest appalling thing shows up to spoil your perfect 7-minute eggs:

#Episode45

#Episode45 is my hashtag game for an imaginary TV series. It’s kinda like “As the World Turns” and “Breaking Bad” combined into a weekly show, featuring some of the daily participants in the CNN – Fox News buffoon-a-paloosa that airs each day on our real TVs.

I have been writing captions for select new atrocities, under the #Episode45 banner. It’s fun and easy. Each day, there’s a new DEPLORABOMBSHELL and you just take it and, wearing your best Dr. Suess/Charlie Chaplin/Seth Meyers absurdist’s garb, turn it into a TV Guide-style episode summary.

episode45

I’ve selected a gangland, ship-of-fools trope for the #Episode45 mob, led by their intrepid kingpin, “Fat Donnie”. New characters come and go every day, just like the real White House. I’ve substituted bocci for golf – a move designed to protect the innocent (don’t want to put anyone off their game) and I also try to not let it get too far beyond the pale.

Awww, shit — who am I kidding!? It’s WAY BEYOND the pale! But, in fairness, it’s not as crazy as the stuff that is going on in the real world.

That’s the beauty, you can’t overdo it.

Anyway, here are the summaries I’ve churned out so far. Feel free to join in and create your own #Episode45isms! In fact, you might want to branch out:

  • Slam the DEMS! #WhataboutthoseE-MAILS?
  • A UK-Vonnnegut-version? #BrexitofChampions?
  • Some Canadian content? #SayItAin’tTRUDEAU?

I’ll leave it with you. Here are my attempts, from oldest to newest:

Fat Donnie and his consig. Pauli the Perm wrap up a summit on neutral turf with rival gang boss, Bareback Vlad. Sean the Lip voices his loyalty to the merger along with ruthless fixer, Mikey “Pastor” Pence. (Repeat)

“The Enemy of My Friend” Fat Donnie considers turning over old adversaries to Bareback Vlad, the handoff to take place on Fifth Avenue. 

Mikey Plaid Jacket is chafed over Fat Donnie’s apparent disinterest. Meanwhile, Donnie and Bareback Vlad plan a second meet, this one at an old girlfriend’s crib: The Playboy Mansion.

“That’s Gonna be Special” Fat Donnie is secretly recorded Vogueing in a spandex catsuit. Cross-town rivals, The Persian Posse, assume Donnie is mocking them and threaten war. Confused, Donnie’s former coffee-boy, “Book’em” Page disavows his bucking video on YouTube. (I know, this one’s pretty weird.)

imwithstupid

 

“I know you are but what am I?” Mikey Plaid Jacket gets peeved at Fat Donnie and his new BFF, BugEye Rudi. Meanwhile, Silent Bob of Five-Oh is putting bigly heat on the gang and Donnie’s putter has turned stone cold.

 

“That’s a gimme!” This weekend, Fat Donnie & “Pastor” Mikey Pence enjoy a little bocci. Pastor Mikey’s job is to keep Donnie’s equipment squeaky clean—and his bocci balls too—and also to nod & gaze adoringly at the back of FD’s head as he plays.

Fat Donnie’s wife, Carmen, reveals her preferences in today’s romp, “I Like Big Butts”. Her favs? CNN, but, “recorded so I zap all dose old people ads.” She’s reading Tapper, listening to Maddow and is a big fan of Mexican soap operas, saying, “so much like REAL LIFE!”

one word

“One Word: Plastics” In this tense episode Fat Donnie moves his investments. “Look, whose gonna fly without that they’re strapped wit a ghost gun? Nobody, dat’s who. Opportunity? Yuge.” Cameo by John Wick.

“The Fall of Vane DeSeet” Sensing a legal dragnet closing fast around him and the gang, Fat Donnie sets up his son, Vane, to take the fall. “I love ya, Vane, boy, but sometimes it takes tough love.” Guest: Hope It Sticks Hicks

Tune into #Episode45 for more hi-jinx, tomf*ckery, and the endless blame, shame, and hard rain that’s a-gonna fall.

 

allfornow friends,
Mitch
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“Bladder leak underwear may cause rash, increased self-doubt and overwhelming recollections of past glories…”

“THIS is CNN,” booms the rich, familiar voice on the TV.

“LUKE! I am your faaaatha,” Janice replies, a mockingjay from the other room.

I must admit that since I began watching CNN with my morning coffee, there’s one trend that I find disturbing and uncomfortable.

No, it’s not journalists being called “enemies of the people”, it’s not “grab’em by the you-know-what,” and it’s not the protection of the environment being pulled away like Lucy does with Charlie Brown’s football. To be sure, those things and many more, with their inexorable spill into the Canadian lives of my kids and grandkids, bug me plenty.

But what makes me feel small and alone and a little bit vulnerable out here in the rock and lakes and boreal bush is the advertising on CNN.

“Huh?” you say.

It’s this way: as a former long-time advertiser, I can’t help but observe the demographic targeting on CNN.

And there’s the rub. I now find myself listening (covertly) to all the ads for pills and treatments, hair-teeth-heart-cancer, all the stuff from stair-climbers to (ahem) blue pills.

And by blue pills, I of course mean daily low-dose aspirin, in case there’s any confusion.

The darn thing is, I am now apparently the target market for this senior basket of goods. My turn to say, “Huh?” How-the-Metamucil did THAT happen?

Oh, well. As one of my favourite characters in my upcoming WIP novel would say, “It ain’t what it ain’t…”

So, next time you hear those dulcet James Earl Jones tones, think of me sprinkling Plavix on top of my tumeric flavoured Boost.

P.S. – if you have any design ideas for securing my walker on a windsurf board, send me a shop-drawing!


allfornow friends,

Mitch
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I’m One of Those

I received a forward from a friend who I enjoy a lot and also respect, not a little. He’s a person almost anybody could model their life after and enjoy many improvements in the process. That goes for me, that’s for certain!

Anyway, he’s of a more conservative bent than me, for the most part. Not altogether and not in the context of the current binary way of things. I believe we can disagree civilly.

The forward was about the dangers of large-scale immigration and why we should object to it in Canada. The message closed by encouraging recipients to: “Forward to everyone on your contact list!”

But… “everybody on my contact list” contains mostly people like me: those whose antecedents arrived here with no money, little or no English, next to no desire to learn English, demanding their own schools, refusing to join the army, getting free land for nothing while people who lived here for generations were forced to give up land for these newcomers.

The ladies wore weird headgear, the men’s closets were imbued in octopus ink, women were treated like indentured cooks-maids-baby incubators and every third adult male started his own church when he wasn’t debating buttons versus hooks and other matters of eternal salvation.

I come from a long line of ‘undesirable aliens’ — similar to the ones we Canadians are now supposed to “watch out for!”

I and my kind are lucky our predecessors were given a free, tax-payer-sponsored, gov-enforced sanctuary on the East Reserve, or all the gun-toting Canadian citizens back then might have chased the invading hordes of Mennos the heck back to Mother Russia to get ground up like foarmaworscht in history’s most violent wars.

The wide-eyed Molotschnian folk who arrived here were dependent in many ways on the kindness of strangers. They received that from Canadians — and Germans and Brits along the way, too! Now it’s our turn, even if we don’t like the looks of this incoming bunch. Some of them are religious fanatics. Oba!

By 2050, Canada will be 50%+ Asian and the U.S. will be a Hispanic majority, so really, squabbling now is just a waste of our znackzote-scented breath anyway.

My grandkids are French-Menno-Ukrainian-Metis and I’m proud of it and I suspect old Delegate Toews might be too if he was still around. He is one of those responsible for some of the details of the Mennonite diaspora, back in 1873.

charter

I respect opposing opinions because the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants us the ability to be 100% full of horse dung, a by-product that — when frozen — is good for road hockey but wears out its welcome in a warm room full of loud-talking Mennonite settlers’ offspring.

“Disagreement makes the world go ’round.”
— Chuck Toews (to me, my sisters, my daughters, and quite a few others)

 

allfornow friends,
Mitch
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Chapter 26

Mulholland and Hardbar

My WIP novel work continues and I have reached 64K words. That’s 64,000 first draft words. That number will likely turn into quite a few less after some slasher action by the grim reaper, formerly of Cambridge… now a regular at the White Hart, near Gunthorpe Street of Whitechapel. (My freelance editor James, who believes the only good adverb is a dead adverb. He likes his verbs naked.)

It is a pivotal chapter – where the book’s title characters meet! Here’s a chapter blurb:

Chapter 26 – Mulholland has a guest. Hardbar has injected himself into the world of Penrose Pond. They start out with an apropos sea-faring adventure, on April One. It’s Grandfa’s birthday, and also a wee tip-o-the-cap to the author’s real-life father-in-law – a dark-skinned gent named Henry (Heinrich) Kasper, born on April 1 and said to be descended from one of the three wise men.

The introduction of Mul and HB, featuring: Krüt, a parka Jesus, and a “beastly waat schneemachine!”

And a first-draft snippet:

With a glower, Hardbar dove headlong off the foot ramp of the snowmobile where he stood. He was powerful, and he cleared the water easily, his padded chest landing with a muffled, “whump!” on the ladder. A crescent of ice near his knees broke away and floated creekward. His lower legs were immersed, and he scrambled, cursing — his eyes wild — towards Mulholland.

“Back! Pull backwards!” he yelled as he scampered forward, banging his knees on the ladder rungs and scuttling forward, all ahead full.

Mulholland, kneeling behind the ladder, jerked hard to pull it towards him. It did not budge with the 150-pounds of Hardbar weighing it down. It was too heavy for Mulholland and his awkward position. He jerked again and again, but his knees and toes just slipped on the ice. As he tugged, the grey, deeply fissured wood dowel that was the bottom rung made a cracking noise. He stopped for fear of snapping it.

Hardbar was now more than halfway towards him. Another large half-moon had broken away behind him and a grinning semi-circle of dark swirling water reached as far as Hardbar’s feet. The snowmobile end of the ladder was submerged.

“STOP!” Mulholland commanded. Hardbar looked up at him, his face wet and granules of ice stuck in his beard. “We gotta slide the ladder along with us. It won’t move with you on it – I got no grip!”

“Okay, yeah!” Hardbar said, understanding the predicament immediately. He flopped off the ladder, lying alongside and hugging it one-armed and one-legged in a post-coital embrace. He untied the knotted arms of the parka. “Here,” he said, flipping the coat at Mulholland who was shimmying down along the other side of the ladder, bringing himself abreast of Hardbar. They each grasped a sleeve and the hooded parka lay atop the ladder spread-eagled.

“Like Jesus on da cross,” Hardbar commented, looking at the parka figure. Then, his accent faint, he said, “serious, can you swim? I really can’t.”

Tray bong, tray bong…

allfornow friends,
Mitch
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I Like Long Odds

This started out as a FaceBook reply but then outgrew its welcome.

In the “Fat Chance, Toews” department, I have hired a London editor; a young freelancer named James McKnight. He has a book out, a historical novel called “Letters from Erzurum”, and a degree from Cambridge. That’s likely good enough for this son of the prairie sod. I am not sure, but a sharp Seattle editor referred me to James and he and I have hit it off! So away we go.

James is helping me to edit all of my short stories, old & new, and pull them into a collection to pitch to publishers. Also, based on my editor’s encouragement, I am 29K-  words into a short novel. Irrevocably bound. This new story has some Menno bones but is not solely of that ilk. I toil on my novella almost every day and having a pro editor makes it much easier to keep track of a longer piece like this – most of my short stories are around 3.5K.

Why a UK editor? Of my 40 published works in lit mags, the biggest or best editor/reader response so far continues to come from the UK & Ireland and California, where perhaps 1973 rural Manitoba has a certain ALIEN appeal.

I yearn for Canadian uptake, but I still need to work for that. I remain optimistic, especially with James screening the goalie.

Characters based on the unforgettable Chuck Toews, my grandparents, Pete Vogt, Breezy, and petty crooks in the North End intermingle with various passing Schnooda-Rotz-näs folks. These fictional cast members are fresh and compelling, so I am told. I should have known – having grown up with them, and all.

James also puts me through prose-writing exercises and is a strict, relentless editor. (I am earning my “McFA”.) That’s valuable to me – a would-be author who spent most high school English classes building up an inventory of life experiences in the LaBroquerie bar and other institutions of ‘higher’ learning. NOT – I now sadly realize – availing myself of the teachings of Voth, BoPeep, Gunner and others fonts of literary know-how in the SCI/SRSS. The last 20-years writing ad copy for fenestration companies (bor-ringggg) further skewed and flattened the earth for me, literature-wise. Still, I was, “part of the creative economy,” I would remind myself.

Life is good. I am too young to retire (actuarially and optimistically) so it makes sense to have something hard to chip away at. Am I right? Damn rights I am!

I exercise, build stuff, fix the stuff I have built along with other broken, aged bits & pieces of the 1950 cottage we heat through the winter. I write several hours a day. For a break, I feed the birds and shout at the TV. I shout at Trump, who is like an uncharacteristically vile Pine Grosbeak who has somehow tricked the forest creatures into naming him king. I try to read a bit, too. Oh yeah, and Canucks games, when the lords of SportsNet deem it worthy to broadcast out to the wilds of Manitoba.

 

pine grosbeak
‘I am the King. Long live me. Very, very longly.’

 

Writing gives each day added shape and substance. If James can mould me into a better writer, I will benefit from the effort. If he pulls off a long shot and I am published, then I will greatly benefit. Either way, I’ve made a new friend and one with a younger, non-Canadian, non-Mennonitisch outlook and that’s a win even the King of the Pine Grosbeaks would envy.

allfornow, Mitch