May 2018

Over the years I’ve developed a fondness for photos of random things, photos that beg you to ask the question “why?” Lucky for us, the question “why” makes great inspiration for flash fiction. Each week, I send a photo to a growing list of players, and they riff on it with a piece of flash fiction. Here are this week’s contributions (be sure you click through to read the ones hosted elsewhere, too!)

Stories by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

by Christine Hennebury

Leaving the bus in the field was supposed to be lesson to us, but, for years, we all walked to the high school without complaint, rain or shine.

Back then, while the rest of the world was getting more and more connected, everyone showing up in each other’s pockets all the time, our town had slammed the gates shut.

Not literally, of course, people could still come and go as they pleased, but no one in town had access to the internet. No one had smart phones. The Council had decided that those things weren’t good for the town, especially for the children, so they passed a by-law against them.

If Lorne hadn’t needed to see a specialist in the City, we might never have known about the talks. He brought a poster back for us all to see, a free event with speakers from all over the world. Big thinkers, big ideas.

Once we saw it, we knew we had to go.

I don’t remember whose idea it was to steal the schoolbus to drive us all to the City, but I know that Jenny drove. She knew how it all worked because her Dad drove the bus every morning before heading to his shop.

There were only 14 people in our high school, we didn’t even fill up a whole row in the auditorium. We drank in each speaker’s words like we had spent our lives in a desert. We chattered excitedly the whole way home. We were going to do things, we were going to make changes.

Jenny got us safely there and most of the way back but about 10 minutes outside of town, we saw Sheriff Rolfman’s car parked across the highway. Since she didn’t think she was going to be able to stop in time, Jenny veered off into the field. The momentum carried us pretty far, and the bus got firmly stuck, but none of us were hurt.

We were all grounded for weeks but that just gave us more time to think.

Leaving the bus in the field was supposed to be an extra punishment, something to drive the lesson further home, but, for us, it was a sign of our triumph and we reveled in it.


Click through to read:
by Lynn Jatania


Click through to read:
The Magic School Bus
by Gal Podjarny


by Mimi Golding

We were parked out in the middle of the field. It was a lark.

We sat there for hours, sitting in the very back, where all the bad kids sat, where you get the highest heights when the bus wheels fell into those deep pot holes and then climbed out again.

The hours passed. Talking to him was so, utterly, ordinary. His speech was like listening to a water fall.

The dew fell on the bus as night time enveloped us.

We told each other our stories well into darkness and stars.

Feel free to write your own piece of flash fiction and add it in the comments, or post it on your own site and link back to it in the comments. If you’d like to join in, leave a comment and I’ll add you to the list of players. There’s no obligation – drop in and out when you can. You can read previous stories here:

The workshop: A photo-story collaboration
The gate: A photo-story collaboration
Perspective: A photo-story collaboration
Patience: A photo-story collaboration
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration

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Help me, sophisticated travels of the blogosphere! With two months left in the year-long adventure of planning our trip to London and Paris this summer, we’ve arrived at the time for some tough decisions. Today’s debate: carry-on versus checked luggage.

I’m an inveterate over-packer. Nearly two decades of motherhood has made a good boy scout out of me; I like to be prepared. I’m also reasonably organized, and a pro at the jigsaw puzzle of fitting all the pieces we need into our mid-size car and rooftop luggage rack for a road trip. Airline travel, though, is a whole different ball of packing tape.

On the one hand, I can see the merit of packing for carry-on only. It’s quicker, more streamlined, and nobody wants to lug a giant suitcase through the Tube, onto the EuroStar or through the RER in Paris. With carry-on bags, we don’t have to worry about bags going off on a different adventure (although with a non-stop outbound flight, I’m reasonably confident this is not much of a concern.) We could probably fit everything we need into five carry-on bags plus the personal bag you’re allowed to have on the flight. And the boys are getting to an age where managing their own bag is probably an important life skill.


My first problem is that we don’t actually HAVE five carry-on bags. I think we have one, maybe two. The boys can use their school backpacks for their personal stuff, but I’d still need to beg, borrow or steal at least a couple more carry-on bags.

Second, I think while five carry-on bags are manageable in a plane, it seems like it would be awkward everywhere else, like in taxis and on subways and whatnot. The more bags we have, the more chance for error. Two big bags are much easier to keep track of than five little ones, even when each boy has been exhorted to manage his own bags. Yes, I realize I’m micromanaging. It’s what I do.

Third, am I ready to deal with the restrictions of carry-on luggage? We don’t travel a lot, so I don’t have travel-size anything. I almost lost my 20 year old pocket knife in Mexico when I accidentally forgot it was in my purse and had to pay an extra fee to turn my purse into checked luggage or forfeit it. It just seems more – complicated.

Fourth, don’t laugh at me, is that I’m bringing at least one camera body, at least two lenses, and a MacBook – and that’s just me. Hell, that’s one carry-on right there!

We’re not overly nomadic, staying in one place in London for a week and then moving to Paris for a second week. And, we have laundry available at both places, so we can pack on the light side and probably fit everyone’s stuff into one or two larger checked bags, which I picture as being vaguely easier to wrangle than five carry-on bags.

Who knew this would be harder than planning for a month of travel for one with nothing but a backpack, nearly 20 years ago?

Thoughts or advice for a newbie overseas travellers in a large family?


We have three players this week in our ongoing photo-story game. Each week, I toss out a photo to a group of players, and whomever has the time and/or inclination sends back a story inspired by the photo.

I find it interesting that these stories have varying vibes of darkness and melancholy, despite the bright sunshine streaming in the window. Is this a melancholy photo to you?

by Christine Hennebury

I have the feeling that I’m done here.

I’m not finished, it’s not complete, but I am done.

Sometimes you have to recognize that you aren’t the one who will finish it. You can do your part, take it so far, and then you leave the tools for someone else.

I thought about putting everything away, leaving it all very tidy, but that seemed a bit too cold, too distant. I wanted to leave somewhere for them to start.

Even if they are just tidying up. By touching the tools, the wood, the bits and pieces of a project in progress, they can feel their way toward the next step.

I wish I could see them learn but that’s not how this works.

We do what we can and then we leave enough for them to find their way, just as we found ours.

It’s not complete but, but somehow, it is whole.


Click through to read:
The Workshop
by Gal Podjarny


by Mimi Golding

She put the tools down, looking over her progress that she had made.

Time for that Gin and Tonic, she thought, as she picked up the glass of liquid pain relief. Care was needed to craft the intricate design. Thoughts kept drifting, “Would it be good enough?”

“Bah!”, she thought to herself. That self-criticism was Walter talking again. Walter, her so-called black dog of depression that followed her everywhere. Her loyal companion, always shadowing her actions, nipping at her self-confidence.

“Walter, I don’t have time for you today” she said, as she finished off her beverage, turned towards her work and picked up her tools. “Time to crank up the jam!”

Feel free to write your own piece of flash fiction and add it in the comments, or post it on your own site and link back to it in the comments. If you’d like to join our little cabal, leave a comment and I’ll add you to the list of players. There’s no obligation – drop in and out when you can. You can read previous stories here:

The gate: A photo-story collaboration
Perspective: A photo-story collaboration
Patience: A photo-story collaboration
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration

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Well this is wickedly fun! If you’ve been following along, for the past month or two, Christine Hennebury and I have been playing a little collaborative photo-story game. I send her a random photo, and she riffs on it with a piece of flash fiction. Last time, we invited others to join us and LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED! We have a veritable treasure trove of flash fiction pieces. Some are here and some are hosted on the writer’s own sites – make sure you see all six of them!

Ready? Here we go!

Photo of a gate and concrete steps by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

by Christine Hennebury

“The story is that her whole family just vanished one day. She was reading in the living room, the sounds of the house just kind of floating around her. Next thing, total silence.”

“Seriously? Total silence?”

“Yep. Like a tomb.”

“What happened to them?”

“No one knows. And she had the house taken apart, brick by brick, trying to find out where they had gone. Never found a thing.”

“So, why’d she leave the gate there like that?”

“It’s a open door, so they always can get back home.”


“Yeah, I know.”


Click through to read:
by Lynn Jatania


by Mimi Golding

I used to live here, not so long ago…before we were evacuated.

They filed into the field of remains, looking in awe, exasperation, sadness and curiosity, but mostly nerves. Would they find it before the light faded? This was their last chance before the dam would be opened and all would be lost again … under all that water.


Click through to read:
Stairway to Heaven
by Gal Podjarny


by Julie

Every now and then the wind would catch the metal gate. And even though I’d heard that clang at least a dozen times while I laid stiff in bed, it still made me jump. I wanted to escape to sleep. But my mind was thinking thoughts that I could never even whisper out loud … what if I woke up and she was dead?

But it never failed; I would wake to the sound of the kettle boiling and then the clink of a china cup onto its saucer. Slipping out of bed, I was warm to about mid-calf. That’s where my Nana’s nightgown reached. Her slippers were so tiny that I couldn’t even stuff my 9-year-old feet in them.


It’s all tiny. So very tiny.

Yes, yes, I nodded.

And musty.

Yes, I agreed.

And isn’t it quaint … these old fashioned tea cups and saucers?

I led her outside of the house and down the front path. She took one last look around and handed me her business card. Sharon, real estate agent.

She turned quickly and walked away, pausing only briefly to check her cell phone.

The gate clanged.


And it makes me wonder
by Kev Needham

It was a fall holiday.

Nothing was open, and I had nothing to do.

I went for a walk.

The leaves were like gold upon the ground, birds were singing, and the odor of woodsmoke ringed heavy amongst the trees.

I ran into a lady who said I was familiar and, while certain we had met, she couldn’t place me.

We talked.

About double meanings, the wonder the world throws in front of us daily, and how the West was broken.

She was looking for something, but couldn’t find the word that described it.

We walked.

Along the brook back to the tree that was my plot.

Taking the fork from the path through the field to a place long forgotten.

The “For Sale by Owner” sign, while faded, still bore my name.

“This is it” she said.

I asked her if she was sure.

She was.

I sold.

I hope she gets to heaven.


So good, right? It’s so fun to see where everyone goes with their interpretation. And did you catch that two of the posts make completely random reference to Led Zepplin songs in the title? Feel free to give the writers a little love in the comment box.

Feeling inspired? Christine wrote this tip sheet on creating flash fiction. (In addition to playing along here, she’s writing a piece of flash fiction every single day for the month of May!)

Feel free to write your own piece of flash fiction and add it in the comments, or post it on your own site and link back to it in the comments. If you want to get on our email list, let me know in the comments and I’ll add you. No commitment required!

You can read previous stories here:
Perspective: A photo-story collaboration
Patience: A photo-story collaboration
Anticipation: A photo-story collaboration
The Plan: A photo-story collaboration


Dawna and I have worked together on and off for more than a decade. While I’ve bumped about here, there and everywhere, she’s worked in the same building most of that time. So when she accepted an offer for a new job recently, she asked if I would be interested in a little lunch-hour photo shoot to commemorate her time spent in the lovely Connaught Building in downtown Ottawa. How fun is that?

You know what’s really fun? She was the most wonderful subject. Not only is she seriously adorable and open to just about anything (perhaps it’s for the best that we were denied access some of the rather important places we tried to use as a backdrop on the inside of the building) but she inspired this blog post about five things that make photographers happy.

1. Fantastic locations

Some locations are just naturally gorgeous, and a gorgeous setting helps complement a gorgeous subject. The Connaught Building has lots of beautiful warm brickwork, interesting angles, massive wooden doors and interesting details.

Dawna at Connaught

2. Clients who bring their own ideas and listen to yours

This session was a lot of fun because Dawna had some ideas of her own, but because I worked in that building for years, I had my own ideas too. She shared a few, I had a few, and together they worked out great.

Dawna at Connaught-3

3. A lovely lack of self-consciousness

It was lunch hour on a work day with lots of people around, and Dawna didn’t flinch as I dragged her around the building and said, “Stand here, jump up there, what do you think about climbing on that?” I totally get that it’s the most uncomfortable thing in the world to have the lens staring at you in the first place, let alone with passersby around. Dawna handled it like a pro!

Dawna at Connaught-2

4. Outfits that coincidentally but perfectly complement the setting

I am in love with how her purple jacket pops against the warm tones in the brickwork and those massive doors.

Dawna at Connaught-4

5. A sense of humour

Really, this one should be first. Humour is my primary method of dealing with just about every situation in life, and it’s pure bliss when I can riff off someone else’s sense of humour, too. Photo shoots can be FUN – no, really! I particularly love this shot because this look is pure Dawna.

Dawna at Connaught-5

A sweet friend, a beautiful setting, a hint (okay, quite a bit more than a hint) of sass, and my camera — yup, that just about covers my definition of a perfect day out! Thanks Dawna! Next time we’ll book ahead for that boardroom. 🙂