Help get the Blank Spaces Crew to WORD ON THE STREET

Last fall we crammed into a little red Chevy Sonic and took the long highway to the city to check out Word on the Street 2016. The day was gorgeous, the atmosphere was electric, and we wandered the booths saying over and over to one another: we have to be here next year!

At the time we had just released the first issue. I carried it around with me that day, tucked in my bag, ready to pull out the moment someone showed even a glimmer of interest. It was hard to be confident — we were like first-time mothers who weren't sure how to burp a baby — but we were hopeful. We were starry-eyed kids, determined to be the exception, determined to beat the odds and persevere.

And we have. By the time the next festival comes along we will be a whole year old. We will have five issues to brag about!

What we don't have is money. Because we care more about sharing Canadian stories and art than making a bundle we have exactly negative 500 bundles...which means anything beyond the actual magazine gets paid for out-of-pocket.

We're not complaining. Remember, this is a heart project, meaning we have and will continue to invest our own money into the continuance of this vision. But there is a limit. And there is also value in humility and asking for help. AND, when you invest in us, it affirms our vision and gives us energy to keep this machine running.

blank spaces at word on the street 2016Here's the hard truth: Festivals cost money

We estimate needing about $545.00 to make it all happen...and that's not even including things like inventory or printing banners for the booth.

  • A HOTEL FOR FOUR: $200.00
  • FUEL: $40.00
  • FOOD: $100.00 (we have intentions to brown bag our lunch, but we'd love to end our day with a nice dinner together)

Why is a festival valuable?

  • Thousands of people attend - that gets our magazine in front of a lot of eyes with great potential for expanded readership
  • Networking opportunities with some of the biggest names in Canadian literature
  • A great team-building experience for our crew

Every little bit helps! If you believe in the vision of Blank Spaces and want to help us get the word out, this is the perfect opportunity and we would be wildly grateful for your generosity!

blank spaces team


Alanna Rusnak is an author, a blogger, and a seeker of the extraordinary. Living with her husband, three children, and an overweight cat (who's kind of an idiot), on a small patch of untamable land in Southwestern Ontario. Trying to do it all with some measure of grace.
(She is also the founder and Editor-In-Chief of this pretty little magazine!) [author website, twitter, facebook, instagram]

Our December Silver Medal Winner

crys wiltshire contest winner 

Crys Wiltshire first discovered her love of writing at age 6, when she had her first short story published in the school's yearbook in grade 1. It has been the one constant passion of her life ever since. She joined the school paper when she was 12 and went on to be an intern for her town's weekly paper and the editor of the school paper for the majority of high school.

She pursued marketing and advertising and has built a great career there for the past 12 years. However, as much as Crys can enjoy corporate writing, press releases, blog posts and how-to guides can start to wear on a writer's soul. She started her blog, as a way to get back to the free writing she loves to do, covering any topics and stories she feels like. You can also find her on tumblr (@CrysWiltshire), where she focuses more on creative work with fiction and poetry. She is currently finishing her debut novel and is excited to start on other projects currently living in her head.

The photo prompt:

The unedited story:
Chain-Smoking into the Night Air
by Crys Wiltshire

If it weren’t for the bright camping light in front of him and the smoke dancing around his head, the night would engulf his body completely. I half hoped it would, but I’m not ready to be an orphan yet. I stare into the black of the sky and his shadow for another moment before turning away from the kitchen window. On nights like this, when the clouds hold the moon and stars hostage, our little cabin feels even more empty.

Jake is still asleep on the couch. He passed out with a book still in his hand, not long after dinner. The poor kid is bored out of his mind, and I can’t say I blame him. I still haven’t figured out why we’re here. It has been nearly three weeks since Dad packed us up and brought us to the middle of Absolutely Nowhere, Ontario. This tiny two-room cabin has a thin coat of dust on everything, with a smell to match and no running water except the water tap outside. The one single bedroom has a creaky double bed and a set of bunk beds Jake and I use. I should be thankful we at least have electricity and a kitchenette to cook real food, but the outhouse got old quick.

I keep trying to make the best of it, romanticizing this time away as an adventure. Like living my own version of Walden. I brought a hefty stack of books to keep me company, but truthfully, I just miss my friends. Jake misses his too, almost as much as he misses the TV. This is not how either of us expected to start our summer vacation. If Dad is aiming to teach us some great life lesson, I think he’s failing. It might help if he spoke to us at all, but he’s become even more muted and stoic since Mom died. All of our conversations feel one-sided since Dad seems only to speak in 3-5 word sentences.

“Time to get up.”

“Just have cereal.”

“Leave your sister alone.”

“Come eat.”

“I’ll be outside.”

“Lights out.”

Watching Jake sleep for a moment, I think about the support he needs now. He’ll be twelve next month. It’s been hard enough trying to play the role of one parent. I don’t feel like covering for both. I grab a blanket off the back of the couch and toss it onto him. His eyes flutter, and he glances up at me.

“Thanks, Steph.” he mumbles, rolling over and dozing off again.

“Don’t mention it,” I reply quietly to nobody.

I walk back over to the kitchen area again and resume my spot at the window. Dad hasn’t moved from his position on the walkway. He is still smoking away, staring into nothing. He’s been out there every single night since we arrived. Some nights, he stays out until long after Jake and I have gone to bed. I want to scream. I want to smash the glass and hurl something at him. I want to snap him out of whatever the hell this is.

I am trying so hard to be strong. I am trying so hard to fill Mom’s shoes and help guide our little family through this. That was her ask of me, as I had sat on her hospital bed just two days before she left us.

“Be my strong girl, Stefy. Take care of your little brother and your father. They are going to need you, and you will need them. Try to be kind and patient with one another. Promise me.”

“I’ll try, Mama. I promise.”

I am trying, dammit, but he is not holding up his end of the bargain. My mother’s ask of my father was that he quit smoking and spend more time with us. I stare at him now, chain-smoking into the night air, ignoring us, and for one fleeting, horrible moment, I wish God had taken him instead of her. Guilt pours from my broken heart and flows with the hot tears running down my face. I’ve tried to be patient these past two months, but I feel more and more angry at the man I see in front of me. How can he keep filling his body with poison? How can he have so little regard for his own health, after what we have just been through? Doesn’t he know how much we need him? How much I need him?

I sob quietly and think about how much I miss her. I long for the way her humming filled the dead spaces, and her smile lit up every room. I crave her corny jokes and how they used to ignite Dad’s throaty laugh. I ache for the soft, loving way she used to look at Jake and I and the passionate look she reserved for Dad. I know he misses her too, maybe even more than I do. I wipe my cheeks and try to replace guilt and anger with understanding. I stare at the back of my father as he stares into the pitch black of night, and I wonder if we are both searching for her in the darkness in front of us.

Connect with Crys on Twitter  Facebook  Pinterest  Google+  Instagram 

Learn how you can participate in one of our Write-Prompt Flash Fiction Contests HERE

Our December Bronze Medal Winner


Vivian Medeiros lives in Oakville, Ontario with her husband and two children, whom she
uses as her sounding board. She always had a love of writing but a busy life kept her from pursuing it. She now enjoys taking writing courses and workshops and enters the occasional contest. During the summer months, she can be found on an island in Greece, spending time with her family.

When we contacted Vivian to reveal her placing in the contest finals she revealed that she'd entered on a whim. Well Vivian, we're so glad you did!

The photo prompt:

The unedited story:

Calm Before the Storm
by Vivian Medeiros

The smoke escapes his lips and snakes up into the sky. He immediately takes another drag from the cigarette and holds it in his lungs for a few seconds before exhaling. A hazy cloud soon floats in the air, swirling as it rises to meet the darkness above.

He could hear the snap and crackle of the fire behind him. Sitting cross-legged on the wooden walkway, eyes closed, head leaned to the side, he lets the raw emotion consume him.

As he does each time, he re-lives everything in his mind: The satisfaction of finding the perfect house. The nervous anticipation, waiting for the right time to enter and put his plan into action. And the euphoria when the magnificent flames rise up from the building.

The scenario unfolds behind closed lids. He watches himself enter the house and scan the room. The fire has to start at just the right spot to be effective. He notices the den and his heart starts to race. It's perfect. The walls are filled with books, paper is scattered on the large wooden desk, and most important of all are the many large windows that border the room.

He sets the gas can down and gets to work. He haphazardly knocks books off the shelves until he has created a large enough pile. He then opens the windows. The ventilation will help to accelerate the fire and he smiles as he imagines flames encompassing the house.

Satisfied with his work, he opens the gas can, vapours escaping to gently caress his nose. He inhales deeply, the fumes awakening each sensitive follicle as they travel through his nasal passage. He loves this part: the smell, taste and feel just before all hell breaks loose. The quiet before the storm.

He knows he needs to move, but takes a few more seconds to savour the moment. Taking one last breath, he slowly pulls himself back to present and sets everything in motion. He plans every fire, right down to the last detail, and never deviates from it.

This is it. He swings the container. Gas flows from the nozzle, the clear liquid creating an arc and dispersing when it hits the floor, large drops bouncing and bursting in the air. Once the room is sufficiently saturated, he creates a line of gas, moving backwards toward the front door. 

He lights the match and with a flick of his wrist tosses it onto to the gasoline. With a whoosh, the fire ignites the fuel and quickly snakes along the floor, fiery tentacles reaching into every crevice as it travels through the room. Embers scatter into the air like miniature red bulbs, and slowly float to the ground where they leave tiny black imprints. It's not long before the house is engulfed and he reluctantly turns and walks into the night.

His heart thunders and blood pulses through his veins at alarming speeds as he heads towards the boardwalk at the end of the property. He glances back to see crimson flames reach out from the blown up windows to wrap the house in their fiery embrace. He marvels at the crimson glow that lights up the sky. The fire is so intense, he can feel the heat on his face. 

Sitting cross-legged, he takes one last drag from his cigarette. The hazy cloud now shifts with the wind to meet the thick black smoke behind him.

Learn how you can participate in one of our Write-Prompt Flash Fiction Contests HERE