Toopoabeide

TOOPOABEIDE*, or “working together” is the Plautdietsch word for collaborate. And, thanks to the generosity and skill of one of my hometown heroes, that is what I am able to do in an upcoming story.

I clearly remember sitting cross-legged on the floor in John Henry Friesen’s Steinbach sign-painting shop in the sixties, watching with unflagging attention as he lettered signs and trucks. I attended, usually along with my dad, while “John Henry” built, sculpted, painted or otherwise, “hucked stuff together”. He is a wonderful artist, a creative wonder-worker, and a local institution.

John and I have connected on the internet a few times and not long ago I showed him a draft of a story that I wanted to send out for consideration by literary magazines. A while later he came back with the drawing shown above. In the meantime, my story was accepted by the Canadian publication Pulp Literature and — with JHF’s permission — I sent them a copy of his fanciful artwork. 

Editor Jennifer Landels replied in the affirmative and John’s art will grace the title page of my short story, “Away Game”. I am pleased as I am sure John is too. (“Cool.”) I can only imagine my late father, who has an inspirational role in both the story and the art, is happy about our prose-ink collaboration. Dad was a great fan of John’s and, if my story is at all accurate, still is.

I’ll post the publication details as soon as they are available.

~~~

* Tawp-oawr-bide

 

allfornow friends,
Mitch
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Across the Pond and Beyond

literally stories logo

I am honoured to be in the Literally Stories mix once again. My short story, “So Are They All” appears in this week’s collection of original short fiction – a short story curation that LS has been providing for the past 138 consecutive weeks.

This is my sixth acceptance in this United Kingdom based literary journal. The stories they have chosen (they have rejected five) have in common a Canadian setting and characters that represent various segments of life in Canada, across a number of eras.

main-qimg-c52a555c991ccfdda8925bab3a6d30a1 UK and Ireland sm

Several other UK literary journals* have also published my stories. The UK and Ireland are apparently in my sweet spot and damned if I know why!

I asked my Irish born – now Canadian Permanent Resident – son-in-law what he thought might be the attraction. While he had no conclusive theory, he supposed that the details, set in places and times in Canada that are not mainstream, offer a kind of “comfortable alien” nature. I accept that because the stories Tom tells about his childhood in Nobber are a source of fascination to me, in that same way.

Whatever the chemistry of the long distance relationship between the stories and the readers, I feel privileged to be part of the Literally Stories lineup.

*Fiction on the Web (4 stories published) – Charlie Fish, Editor; Storgy (1 story) – Tomek Dzido and Anthony Self, Editors; Fictive Dream (“The Seven Songs”, to be published on Nov 26) Laura Black, Editor; LingoBites, a part of Alsina Publishing (1 story, with a three-part serial in the edit suite and coming soon) – Lisa Dittmar, Editor (Although–full disclosure–Ms. D is a product of Cascadia, and like all of the editors I have encountered, she is foremost a citizen of the world.)

I hope to add more! (I write every day. Even when it hurts.)

P.S. – of the 35 titles of mine that have achieved virtual orbit online and in print, (“So far, damn it!” the author says through gritted teeth, a clinging scrap of spinach ruining the dramatic effect) quite a few have found Canadian and American platforms, and one Indian publication too.  I love all of my prose offspring equally; so too their adoptive homes.

allfornow – Mitch

Striking a Prose

An unfortunate tourist(er) from “The Beefeater and the Donnybrook”, running May 19 on Fiction on the Web

Two Short Stories are Going Live on Friday!

Unrelated except that they are both original, previously unpublished stories of mine, these two yarns appear on two different literary websites. They are QUITE different; which is like saying that the current American President is quite unconventional.

That’s the beauty, right? Pathos, irony, absurdity and sorrow; alternating or simultaneous. What is more tragic — or more joyful — than a simple life?

Friday, May 19! Storgy.com: “The Log Boom”; tragedy across three generations in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, and Fiction on the Web: “The Beefeater and the Donnybrook”; humour on the gritty streets of London.

“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; make it hot by striking.”

(WB Yeats)

With thanks to the editors @morestorgy and @fishcharlie!

allfornow – Mitch

Winter Eve at Walker Creek Park

A NEW SHORT STORY appears today (Feb 17) on CommuterLit. “Winter Eve at Walker Creek Park” will be my 20th overall to be published online and in print, and the seventh to be accepted by Toronto’s CommuterLit e-zine. It is “Friday’s Flash Fiction” and is indeed a flash fiction; about three sips of coffee long.

The story is set in St. Catharines where loved ones, dearly missed, reside.

See CommuterLit for LINKS to my other tales:  In June 2016 editor Nancy Kay Clark chose “The Red River Valley Trilogy“: “Encountered on the Shore”, “A Vile Insinuation”, and “Without Reason”. The linked stories concern, respectively: the aftermath of a violent encounter on a city street; a young American leaving the ball fields of North Dakota for the killing fields of Vietnam; and a devout Mennonite man grappling with cancer and faith.

“Gather By the River” ran the week of Dec 5. It appeared in two parts on consecutive days. “Zero to Sixty”, the lead segment, introduces the chief character and his circumstances; sparking some poignant memories of Hartplatz, his childhood home. In the second piece, “The Margin of the River”, the protagonist returns to the scene of the previous day’s incident with troubling results.

On January 30, 2017 “The Rothmans Job” a wintery, noir-comedy-caper story set in downtown Winnipeg ran on CommuterLit.com.

The Preacher and His Wife

January 23, 2017

“The Preacher and His Wife” is a comical look at the comings and goings of Mennonite life in a small town in the sixties. It is as pure as the view from inside the cocoon can be — but it’s just one cocoon.

The story goes live TODAY (January 23) on Fiction on the Web

Please find below a few short excerpts and also a couple of links to two other “Mennosphere” stories of mine that are in the FOTW archives.

On FICTION ON THE WEB JANUARY 23
“All family congresses were held in the tiny house and we sat packed as tight as two-yolks in a shell. Chair legs intersected like a village of miniature wigwams, and above that, our arms and forearms were in constant contact; sometimes linked. Our Zehen freundschaft heads – complete with high, overhanging brows – bobbed as one as we laughed or bowed in prayer or swiveled to see the facial expressions of the storyteller of the moment. The incoming newlywed uncles and aunts who found themselves part of this household became used to the close quarters. They soon grew adept at stepping over overlapping legs and socked feet as they picked a path through from the kitchen to the living room, doling out fresh coffee and buns with jam while a dozen conversations hummed and budgies squawked in their cages.”

[SNIP]

“One fall day, when winter parkas were in order, Sarah ran into our house to announce that, ‘Grandma can’t find her engagement ring and she is pretty sure that the Preacher’s wife has it.’
‘What?’ my mother said, stopping in mid-paw as she dug through a box of warm clothes to outfit us for winter. Grandma’s ring was her lone extravagant luxury and unlike other items of some beauty in her possession – furniture and rugs for example – this ring had no redeeming practical use. It symbolized love and fidelity and was purely a thing of pleasure. Grandma loved her ring, which had set a much younger Grandpa back almost a whole season of timber cutting in the Redekopp forests south of town.
‘That’s impossible,’ Mother said, with no opportunity for rebuttal, standing up straight with her hands on her aproned hips.”

[SNIP]

http://www.fictionontheweb.co.uk/2016/07/nothing-to-lose-by-mitchell-toews.html

http://www.fictionontheweb.co.uk/2016/10/heavy-artillery-by-mitchell-toews.html

You may also enjoy, “Our German Relative”. a Christmassy tale from Russia found on Red Fez, or other tales from the fictional prairie darp of “Hartplatz”, on Literally Stories or CommuterLit.

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2016
Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017

Three Vignettes

H

Here’s a few excerpts from a new story of mine.

P.S. – The artwork is mine too – a watercolour view of Caye Caulker from the Peach on the Beach looking towards the Split.

920 words

Three Vignettes

By Mitchell Toews

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017

One

Albert Thibodeau’s sister Suzanne was sick. His parents were ashen-faced and silent, going about the farm and household business by rote. Albert did homework in her room, his scribblers spread out on the flat, quilted blanket.

Suzanne lay unmoving. When Albert came in the room she would stir, her eyes opening and a thin smile on her lips. Her gums were too red. He would read her jokes from his Archie and Jughead Digest.

[SNIP]

Two

…”One dog, with peppers,” said Bob, busying himself with a bag of buns.

“And MUSH!” said Albert Thibodeau. “Gotta meet sis today and hear about how great she is doing.”

“Tell her I love her.”

“No dice. You are below that woman’s pay grade. You are a smelly dog, selling smelly dogs to other smelly dogs.”

“I love you too, Thibodeau,” said Bob, handing him a foil-wrapped hot dog. Albert tooled down the opposing ramp, skidding into a turn at the bottom in the March slush and then pumping hard twice to get to a picnic table on the courthouse lawn.

“Hey, drivers and registration please!”

[SNIP]

Three

Suzanne lay in the chaise. She was shaded by a wicker palapas and palms. Several green and brown coconuts lay in the sand around her. She gazed out past the reef – “beyond the swash,” like they said here – to where the water was a darker blue.

An easel stood near the lounge chair and a watercolour was underway.

“Carolina blue, cerulean blue, cobalt blue,” she said, from under the brow of a sun hat.

“Labatt’s Blue,” said Albert…

[SNIP]

13:05 1.8.17: Wish me luck in placing this flash fiction with an ezine or lit journal! I’ll post if and when it runs; if it becomes a cherished, “We are pleased to inform you…” 

allfornow – mitch

waiting for class to end, redoux

FOUND: In the back pages of my copy of “waiting for godot”, circa 1974, University of Victoria.

godot

I may not have been the pointiest spike in the railroad, but I doodled well.

But, shouldn’t the likes have stopped when they met in the middle? Maybe they collided and then rebounded back out? Or maybe they just went hurtling by each other; having just missed, like trains on parallel tracks?

Like trains attract like trains.

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I suppose, having sped by one another, they would have slowed until they reached apogee and, inch by inch they would each creep backwards; ultimately accelerating until they sped by in the reverse harmonic. Over and over.

Friction, steadily exhausting the propellant energy of attraction, would ultimately slow them to the point where they stopped and rested beside one another.

The like trains would lie together, trembling with unfulfilled attraction, aching to rest as one on the same track at the exact same instant.

Is that good or bad or some of both? Or neither – it just is? 

allfornow – Mitch 

A Maniac’s Lament

Stardate 94613.57

A FEW DAYS AGO, I GOT ALL REVVED UP and tweeted what I had accomplished recently:

ExPLoDing! 10 stories 10 days, a poem(!), flashes, editing in my sleep, writing in my dreams…subbing like drunk typewriter monkey   

I know a lot of writers have problems with inspiration and right now, that’s not my problem and so I gushed a little. Like the Hulk is a little green. But, hell’s bells, as my dad (and Brian Johnson) used to say, who reads my tweets anyhow?

My cousin Doug does. He’s a great guy and a gifted writer. He tweeted back that I was, “a maniac!” By this, I am sure he meant that he agreed with me.

Anyway (there’s my fav segue blog word again)…anyway, I titled this post, “A Maniac’s Lament,” and here’s why:

Having written plenty lately, I was inclined to submit my new stories to journals. (That’s not the lament — that’s the narrative lead-in to the lament. I will put the laments proper in bold font so that they are easy to spot.)

Lament Alpha: Editing. All those outpourings, from snow-melt, to trickle, to creek, to river, to estuary create a daunting volume of raw, unedited materials. I cringe, thinking about all those “ly” words to send to the phantom zone, not to mention the onerous task of shrug/sigh/smile removal. Also: the re-structuring, sentences that is, of. Plus the need to heed all that, “let it simmer,” advice that I really should take (courtesy of one of my two smart sisters).

I’ll put that in the “exhaustive but good problem” pile and carry on.

Lament Beta: Once I am through the editing and am ready to submit I reach the second hurdle – loyalty. Am I true to the journals of my recent literary past or do I court new ones? I want to repay my supporters for their kindness — and recognize their exemplary discernment — but I also want to boldly go where no crusty old bugger has gone before.

star-trek-sm

In what I hope is my best judgement, a blend of old and new seems wise.

Lament Gamma: The third lament does not have anything to do with grammar. Too bad, ‘cuz that would have had been kinda cute. In fact, Gamma is the lamentation of abundance.

Let me ‘splain you… Duotrope lists over SIX THOUSAND distinct literary journals, e-zines, reviews, etc. Having passed Alpha and Beta and therefore being open to submitting some of my freshly created, exploding, maniacal work to new galaxies and such, I am faced with the infamous “Paradox of Choice” (Schwartz).

I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
I’d love to turn you on.

Songwriters: LENNON, JOHN / MCCARTNEY, PAUL

ANYWAY… unequivocal smart people have often declared — on twitter, LinkedIn, Posterior Analytics, etc. — to make lists stop at THREE, so that’s what I’ll do.

If YOU have a good way to sort through the multitude and successfully identify story-topic-genre-publication-audience concordance, I am all afti.

allfornow – Mitch

P.S. – If you are not already aware, poet Trish Hopkinson does a great job of unearthing calls and journals that are open to submissions. See her twitter feed and also check out Calls for Submissions (Poetry, Fiction, Art) on Facebook.

The Beefeater and the Donnybrook

 

Update: 4.11.17 – Hi, from a sunny day in April, beside the lake,

Janice and I have been travelling and have both been down with a cold lately. My blog activity has been limited, though I have been able to keep up with daily writing. Today I heard from editor and literary paragon, Charlie Fish, that another of my stories has been accepted for his award-winning site, Fiction on the Web.

Feedspot has named FotW a TOP 20 short story site on the internet!

Short-story_20_transparent_216pxHere’s what Charlie says about FICTION on the WEB: “It is a labour of love. Every single story on here is hand-picked and carefully edited by me. I don’t have a staff, and I don’t make any money. I do this because I want to give authors a chance to get their work out there, and I love sharing great stories with the world.

FICTION on the WEB has been online since 1996, which makes it the oldest short stories website on the Internet.”

Here are a few snippets from my latest story:

The Beefeater and the Donnybrook

By Mitchell Toews

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017

MICAH JAMES WAS shorter than average and had an interesting kind of face. His eyes were recessed and penetrating and his complexion had the weathered texture and ruddy colour of a mountain climber or a big game hunter. He was neither. Micah James was a quiet, middle-aged family man – an engineer working for the City of Halifax in Canada.

The Jameses were leaving together soon on a long-awaited trip to London. His wife, Marion, had planned the trip from the packing process through tipping and all conceivable forms of disaster planning.

[SNIP]

“Ok, I’m on it! Walk will do me good.” Micah said, giving Marion an assuring glance and summoning up some energy for the trip. It was fine – the kind of little blip he had been secretly hoping for.

[SNIP]

Twisting in his crouch, Micah was eyeball to kneecap with a pair of creased black pants, gold piping on the sides. His eyes followed the stripes up to a white satin tunic and topping that, a dapper red fez. Then the voice again, but softer, “Are you alright, mate?”

[SNIP]

He waited in line at the reception desk, listening to an instrumental version of a Bob Dylan song. It was piping out of a speaker in the tile ceiling above him and he laid his head back to peer at it. Thinking of his own rapid descent into hell, he picked detritus from his oily beard; bits of styrofoam and other rancid urban spod. His thinning hair hung in limp disarray and the belt of the raincoat had come loose and was dragging on the ground behind him like an obedient, filthy snake.

[SNIP]

See it on FotW on May 19: an ever-worsening yarn that plays out on the streets of central London. 

Other stories that have appeared on Fiction on the Web:

Nothing to Lose

July 8, 2016. A baker and former hockey player reminisces on his colourful history as he delivers buns in the dusty Manitoba sun.

Heavy Artillery

Oct. 30, 2016. The story of young Matty and his characterful neighbour encountering a travelling salesman in the sleepy Manitoba town of Hartplatz.

The Preacher and His Wife

 Jan. 23, 2017. In Hartplatz, rural Canada, a neighbourhood scandal brews when young Sarah reports that her grandmother’s engagement ring has gone missing.