Stranger Than Fiction: Hail To The Bus Driver, Bus Driver Man.**Update!**

Thanks to construction, the traffic on the drive home last night was – well, to call it slow would be a understatment. As the bus idled on the far right lane of Hwy 7, a black car kept insisting its way through the very small sliver of space between the bus and the car in front of it. Perhaps it was a mistake; maybe the motorist misjudged their blind spot, which is a generous allowance given to the bumper-to-bumper situation. But even if it were possible, it wasn’t the case here: the driver knew what they were doing, and kept pushing their way into the teensy gap, quite aggressively so. Which was obviously a stupid enough move to begin with, regardless of the situation, but worse because traffic stopped and started without warning. It was not the time to change lanes.

But this individual was resolute. The car continued to force its way in front of the bus, ignoring the staccato honks of annoyance courtesy of the very angry bus driver’s fist.  Even when they got longer, louder, more forceful and frequent by the second, the car did not stop until it had completed its purpose.

Well, the bus driver was just. Not. Having. It. At a red light, he leapt out of his seat and onto the street. He banged his fist against the passenger side window of the black car and began screaming at the driver. I didn’t get to hear what he’d said, only the parting shot: “Asshole!” Then he got back in the bus to an audience of stunned passengers, some with open mouths, others who laughed; someone even applauded, albeit briefly. And then all of us gathered hands and started singing “Did I ever tell you you’re my hero…”

Okay, so we didn’t. But the feeling was there.

Update: Got the same bus driver today (Sept 30). A truck failed to yield, so when they reached a stoplight, the bus driver opened his window to yell a sarcastic comment to the offender. Did I mistake his awesomeness for road rage?


Contests, Contests, Contests!

The Toronto Short Story Contest and NaNoWriMo aren’t the only contests I’ve put off entering. Over the years, I’ve bought several editions of The Canadian Writer’s Market which contains valuable information for freelance fiction and non-fiction writers, including where your work can get published, such as magazines, literary journals, and newspapers; there’s also the names of book publishers and literary agents. And, as the title of this post indicates – contests! In the past I used to lean towards getting my work published in magazines, but recently I’ve been leaning towards entering contests. If entering means highlighted said contest in question, telling yourself you will enter, then sticking the book on your shelf to be a catch-all for dust. But now since I’ve made a commitment to writing regularly, and to entering the aforementioned contests, I don’t think it will hurt to enter a few more: casting wide net and all that business.

Since my genre, obviously, is fiction, the following are the contests I intend to  enter. They’re annual, so I’m only listing the ones that have fall/winter deadlines. Of course, once the season changes I will enter those.

Keep in mind: these contests are open to Canadian citizens only.

Lawrence House Short Story Contest

  • Deadline: Sept 30 (this one I will not be entering as it is a little late for me; but I’m posting it just in case anyone reading this would like to)
  • 1st Prize: $250; 2nd prize: $150; 3rd prize, $100
  • 2500 words or less
  • $20 entry fee

CBC Literary Awards

  • Deadline: November 1
  • 1st prize $6000; 2nd prize $4000
  • 3 categories including short fiction – 2000-2,5000 words
  • $20 entry fee

The Writer’s Union of Canada Awards and Competition

There are two applicable categories:

Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers

  • Deadline: Nov 3
  • $2,500 prize for 2,500 words of fiction or non-fiction
  • $25 entry fee

Postcard Story Competition

  • Deadline: Feb 14
  • $500 prize for short creative pieces including fiction
  • Up to 200 words
  • $5 entry fee

Freefall’s Fiction and Poetry Contest

  • Deadline: December 31
  • $1st place $300; 2nd prize $150; 3rd prize $75
  • Maximum length 3000 words for fiction
  • $20 entry fee: additional entries $5

PRISM International Annual Short Fiction Contest

  • Deadline: Jan 29
  • $2000 prize
  • original, unpublished short story up to 25 double spaced pages
  • $25 entry fee; $7 for each additional story.

Good luck to those who enter!

Stranger Than Fiction: Double Birdie

I’m adding a new segment to this blog: Stranger Than Fiction, in which I post little real-life tidbits almost too funny to be true. I was inspired to write this after an incident that occurred while my mother and I were out for a walk earlier today.

We were crossing the street on a green when a car that was making a left turn decided that he had the right of way. But before he could make it, my mother and I were already in front of him, causing him to have to reverse slightly.

When we looked back to glare at him, he shook his finger like a windshield wiper as though we had been naughty children. I responded with a finger of my own, then turned my attention back to my mom. “Sorry – I was flipping him off.”

She responded:  “So was I.”

We Have A Winner! **Updated ’cause I’m fickle**


In the span of, oh, at least five minutes, I have decided to make a slight alteration to the name of this blog…again. I happened because when I tried changing my Twitter user name to “Unblocked”, it had already been used. I tried using a couple more similar names but they had all been taken, including WritersUnblock. But not Writers_Unblock. So I chose that one. Then I thought, well, why not use that as the name of my blog? It’s a good use of what the TV Tropes site calls  “Exactly What It Says on the Tin.”

Whew. There you have it: Writer’s Unblock. I should totally christen this blog so I can’t change the name, the way people christen their boat, but it’s probably not a good idea to smash my laptop with a bottle of champagne. Okay, it wouldn’t be actual champagne, maybe a $5 bottle of Spumante or Baby Duck at best, but, you get the idea.


Toni Atwood is no more.

From now on, this blog will be called…Unblocked.

And I couldn’t have done it without a little help from Stacey at Word of Mouse Books, whose blog is the newest addition to my blogroll.

It was actually going to be “The Writer’s Block Project”, which was my very first idea before Toni Atwood, but I decided something a little more concise would be better. I was considering: Project Unblocked as an homage to Project Runway but it just didn’t have the same ring to it so I decided to stick with what I have.

Now I’m going to get back to writing!

The Wrath Of Don, Part 2: Cocky Motherf*****.

Read Part One Here!

If Chino was honest with himself, really honest, he would acknowledge that his outburst in the library wasn’t the first time he’d said a swear…at least out loud.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Blog By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

I’m the worst cliché of a writer ever: aside from the procrastination and penchant for wine, I’m not only referring to Shakespeare, but I’m butchering his words.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tip Off The Block: Outlines

From now on, the general advice from this book (not a spark word or exercise) will be called Tip Off The Block. It’s kind of cheesy, yes, but a tad clever too if I do say so myself.

This advice ponders whether an author should outline their writing pieces. Rekulak gives examples of authors who can’t write without one; while there are others who don’t need one at all, such as Aldous Huxley, writer of Brave New World, which surprises me because everything in that novel seemed so well-planned. But then again, I read it back in high school so maybe a second look might change my mind. Huxley explains his process thusly: “I know very dimly when I start what’s going to happen. I just have a very general idea, and then the thing develops as I write.”

That pretty much describes my process when I do these exercises. I usually use the first idea that pops in my head, then write non-stop, not knowing in what direction I’m going. For example, in my opening lines story, the woman who wanted a refund was supposed to be a brief scene and the rest was going to be about Stacey’s co-worker, but apparently the woman is more stubborn than I intended, because she wouldn’t go away. And the story involving the images on a roll of film was supposed to end with the narrator seeing the pictures of all those women; we weren’t supposed to hear from the dirty hipster after the first scene. But he stuck. Even in my latest story about viruses, “Miley Virus” just popped into my head. And you know what? I’m glad they went the  way they did, every one of them. It’s weird; while I’m the one writing, I sometimes feel that I don’t have control over where it’s going. But like I just said, that’s ok.

I used to always outline my stories, but would never finish those ones. I’d decided then that outlining was bad luck (as well as numbering my pages, back when I wrote with pen and paper) but now I think those were just excuses. That being said, it’s weird that I drew out those outlines because I had no respect for them. Even as a fifth grade I hated the plot graph: you know the one where it’s a straight line in the beginning, spikes to indicate the rising plot, and dips back down as the conflict is solved. For me that was much too formulaic and restricting  a structure. At any rate, I have decided that I work better without outlines. A general idea is good enough for me.

Rekulak advises:

If you’re suffering from writer’s block, try changing your approach. Make a detailed outline of the story – or plunge headfirst into the opening paragraph without any idea where’s you’re going. Either way, the change in routine may be surprisingly effective.

Okay. While writing that I just thought of how I can make this a writing exercise: I will make an outline for a story and write one, using the next exercise. Then I will write the same exercise without using an outline. So I will post both stories after I’m done with The Wrath of Don.