Jingle All The Way

by Diane Lowman

“They’re called jingle shells.” My mother held her palm open to show me the iridescent yellow coin-sized round ridged shells. “I’ve been collecting them—they’re all over the beach down here. I’m filling jars and making paperweights with them.” So like my mother, known by her preschool “kids” as Miss Barbara.

 After she died, the glass jarful gave me and my sister pause as we cleaned out her Florida apartment. Another exclamation point in our long sentence of grief.

“Leave them,” I said. “We sold the place furnished. They are part of the décor.”

I wanted to add, “this sucks,” but that would have been stating the obvious.

I don’t pick the jingle shells up on my own beach walks in Connecticut, although I see them everywhere, like she’s traveled up the east coast to say hello. I collect beach glass. But one day recently I was at the beach with my former husband, his wife Samira, and their son. Samira’s cousin and his family were in visiting from Santa Barbara. I asked their 7-year old daughter Sierra if she’d like to take a shore walk with me. She was smart and witty, and, although I have two sons, they rarely take this stroll with me anymore. I was overjoyed that she wanted to join me.

I was scavenging for sea glass, trying to explain it to her, when she picked up something.

“What’s this?” she asked. “We don’t have these in California.”

“Ah, those,” I said. “Those are very special. They’re called jingle shells. You know, like jingle bells, but shells.”

She turned it over in her little hand, while the waves tickled our feet and the breeze tousled our hair. She ran her fingers over the ridges, looked up at me, and smiled. “They’re special?”

“Yes. My mother used to collect them and make special art projects with them. Pink, yellow, peach, white…Maybe you’d like to do that with them?”

She mulled this quietly for a moment, still looking at the shell, before she decided decisively and smiles at me. “Yes. That’s a good idea.”

“Good. Then let’s find some more.  Do you know the word for the way they shine?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“Iridescent,” I say.

She brought a baggieful back to the blanket.

“Wow! We walked a long way,” she said to her mother as she revealed her treasure. “Mom, these are ear-ri-deh-sent jingle shells.”

Her mother smiled.

The next day I walked the beach again, alone this time, and collected jingle shells along with the beach glass. I dropped another bagful off for her before she headed back home.

Samira recently sent me a text “from Sierra,” with a photograph of a fist-sized stone covered with jingle shells. I could not help tearing up, thinking how pleased Miss Barbara would be to see the tradition continue.

Diane Lowman is a single mother of two young adult men, living in Norwalk, Connecticut. In addition to writing about life, she teaches yoga, provides nutritional counseling, and tutors Spanish. She looks forward to writing the next chapter.

You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, and her websites [My Life On The Post Road, Lotus Haiku, and The Shakespeare Diaries]

Are you interested in being a guest blogger on Blank Spaces? We are open to submissions that fit into any of our regular categories. See the blog submission guidelines in our sidebar.

Our September Gold Medal Winner

We are so pleased to announce the winner of our first contest!

Congratulations to Geraldine Mac Donald from Kingston, Ontario on her winning story, 'The Clubhouse Blues'. Using the provided image of a woman and a dog sitting at a counter, Geraldine constructed an engaging 'Film Noir' styled tale that impressed our judges. As a reward, The Clubhouse Blues was published in our December issue.

When we contacted Geraldine with the good news, she responded by saying, "Wow! You must know how incredibly pleased this makes me. Thank you for such a fun photo prompt challenge. It's the first time I've ever done anything like this, so winning is such a thrill. Amazing. Please thank your judges for their comments. I was totally going for that gansta' noir vibe so I am happy they felt it in the story."

What the judges had to say about Geraldine's story:

"...story flowed smoothly."

"Great use of language to take the reader into the era depicted in the photo prompt."

"...a classic 'Film Noir' approach. I loved the old school gangster vibe...The voice and tone used were right on point."

The photo prompt:


I was down at P.J.’s the night that Frankie opened. He’s got some good pipes that fella. The way he croons is golden.
So there I was just minding my own business, like enjoyin’ the music, when I hear a sob.
The smoke had already cleared so I could get a better look at the dame sittin’ beside me. She was a classy broad. You can always tell when the paint on the lips matches the fingernails. She was the kinda dame who’d look good on the arm of a fella like me, I thought, so I took the chance while I had it.
“What’s a nice gal like you doin’ in a dump like this?” I asked, givin’ her as much Cagney as I dared...

If you want to read the rest of the story, CLICK HERE to order your copy of the December issue.

Geraldine Mac Donald is a graduate of Queen's University, a former registered nurse, a medical/scientific translator; a writer, published author, and mother of four. One favourite memory of childhood was when she discovered that town libraries were public and anyone could get a card! It was a life-changing day. Her first novel for young adults has recently been released to rave reviews. Her second novel will be released in 2016. Besides translating medical stuff she writes fiction and creative non-fiction. Geraldine lives, works, and plays with her family in Kingston, Ontario. 

Are you interested in entering one of our contests? Just click HERE and learn what we're running right now!

Happy Second Issue Release Day!

happy release day

From the Editor
as shown on page 5 of Blank Spaces Volume 1, Issue 2 - December, 2016 

Cheers to the Second Issue!
The short existence of Blank Spaces has been a whirlwind of discovery, excitement, and fear. From my initial announcement (which was only in May!) to this moment now when I find myself writing a blurb for the second issue, life has been filled to the brim with a blurry ‘is this even real?’ kind of feeling.

I wish I had adequate words to express the moment I actually held the first copy of Blank Spaces in my hands. I was recovering from a dream I’d had in which my shipment arrived printed on tissue paper and bound with staples. It terrified me. I felt the pressure of all those trusting contributors and all the beautiful people who pre-ordered sight-unseen—what could be more devastating than crushing my own dreams as well as theirs with a less-than beautiful product?

When it finally arrived, live and in colour and not in my dream, I was so overcome with relief that my hands shook as I flipped through the pages. It was just so pretty!

I envision a long and lovely future for this magazine but that’s only because of the positive response it’s been rousing. Nothing thrills me more than receiving letters from readers and contributors, thanking me for the opportunities provided by Blank Spaces. There are a lot of literary arts magazines out there, but it’s my hope that Blank Spaces sets itself apart as a publication built on the values of encouragement and empowerment.

There’s room for everyone at our table. Consider pulling up a chair!

        Alanna Rusnak—Editor in Chief

To purchase the December issue, click the link below:

Blank Spaces - December 2016
Blank Spaces Magazine: Blank Spaces - December 2016
Volume 1, Issue 2 of Blank Spaces is a celebration of Canadian talent, featuring the work of artists—writers, painters, photographers, poets, etc.

I Understood Heaven Because His Voice Was Like Thunder

Volume 1, Issue 2 - December 2016

I Understood Heaven Because His Voice Was Like Thunder and Grade School Bathrooms Have Incredible Acoustics by Alanna Rusnak

We had three types of clothing: school clothes (clean, buttoned, presentable), play clothes (stained, torn, patched), and church clothes (all the pretty dresses). Church clothes were the most sacred because looking adorable was the way we fooled the little old ladies into thinking we were wonderful children.

"Such lovely, well behaved girls you have, Carolyn." We would smile sweetly and sway with demure charm, making our dressed swish against our knees as they patted our heads and congratulated our mother. We knew her humble thanks his her true response of "you should see them at home in their grass-stained overalls, digging for worms and wielding sticks like swords!"...

Alanna Rusnak is an author, editor, and publisher, and is still connected to the very same church where she's now employed as their online manager and graphic designer specialist (she made those titles up herself!—her actual job title is Creative Communications). With three publications under her belt and one on the way, Alanna dreams of a life where writing is her only career obligation.


Blank Spaces - December 2016
48 pages, published 11/22/2016
Volume 1, Issue 2 of Blank Spaces is a celebration of Canadian talent, featuring the work of artists—writers, painters, photographers, poets, etc.

Do Your Planet Proud

Volume 1, Issue 2 - December 2016

Do You Planet Proud by Amos Shelley

The hatch swung open and I drifted into the white capsule marked Landing Pad. My time had come. Two years of preparation and hour months sitting in a private shuttle built for me. My mission was almost complete.

'Pod pressurization commencing,' the computer said. 'Please hold.'

From the portal window the earth hung like a marble in the black...

Amos Shelley is a Children, Youth and Families Pastor in Hanover, Ontario. He and his wife, Faith, have two children and a big dog named Bhear. He likes to draw pictures in his spare time and he tells stories for a living.

(Amos is also featured as our cover artist in this issue!)


Blank Spaces - December 2016
48 pages, published 11/22/2016
Volume 1, Issue 2 of Blank Spaces is a celebration of Canadian talent, featuring the work of artists—writers, painters, photographers, poets, etc.

Lessons I Continue To Learn As A Debut Novelist

Volume 1, Issue 2 - December 2016

Lessons I Continue To Learn As A Debut Novelist by Ann Y. K. Choi

I'm flying over Thunder Bay. The sun is blinding but the woman sitting by the window doesn't want to draw the cover down. My debut novel, Kay's Lucky Coin Variety, has been out just five months and I'm on my way to the Vancouver Writers Festival.

I need to sleep. The event that I'll be attending later runs from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. which is 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Toronto time. I'm trying to manage my anxieties much like a new mother might her baby on a plane. How I ended up on panels with superstar authors like Emma Donoghue, Peter Robinson, and André Alexis is beyond me...

Ann Y.K. Choi, Canadian author
Originally from South Korea, Ann Y.K. Choi immigrated to Canada in 1975. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers and the Creative Writing Certificate Program at the University of Toronto. Most recently, she completed an MFA in Creative Writing at National University in San Diego, California. CBC Books and The Globe and Mail have named Ann a "2016 Writer to Watch". Her debut novel, Kay's Lucky Coin Variety, was a finalist for the 2016 Toronto Book Awards.


Blank Spaces - December 2016
48 pages, published 11/22/2016
Volume 1, Issue 2 of Blank Spaces is a celebration of Canadian talent, featuring the work of artists—writers, painters, photographers, poets, etc.

A Better Life This Time

Volume 1, Issue 2 - December 2016

A Better Life This Time by Sue Corke

The Kathouse was a cheap hostel set in a natural landscape on the hippie trail in Katmandu, Nepal. Jamie and I were about as middle-class-post-sixties as you could get, but we had a vision of ourselves as free of materialism and worldly obligations. We were playing at being hippies. We were quasi hippies. We were English kids headed to Aussie; the only country that would take us, Canada having politely demurred. And we had family in India—or at least Jamie did—who would give us hospitality and a base for our wider travels. We were using the money my father had given us on our wedding day to put down on a house. We didn't believe in mortgaging our lives away—or at least Jamie didn't.

Many things happened while we were in Katmandu. I kept a daily journal, written in that peaceful garden...

Sue Corke is a retired public servant who has wanted to write since she was twelve, and now, finally has the time. Her favourite subject for her stories is her strange old life. In the past three months she has written over thirty-five memoir snippets, but will need to change the names if ever they are to be published! Some of them should never be shared with anyone! Primarily Sue is writing for herself, and if it amuses others, that is a lovely thing! She came to Canada in 1972, met a good man, and has Canadian children and grandchildren.


Blank Spaces - December 2016
48 pages, published 11/22/2016
Volume 1, Issue 2 of Blank Spaces is a celebration of Canadian talent, featuring the work of artists—writers, painters, photographers, poets, etc.