SALE: get any issue for the preorder price



We want to get our pretty product into the hands of as many people as we can — that's why we're offering you a chance to catch up. Right now you can order a copy of any issue you've missed out on for the pre-order price. No shipping. No taxes. It's our gift to you. Sure, your yard is begging for attention and your windows need washing but doesn't curling up with a glossy magazine full of great content by great Canadians sound like more fun??!

We think so too!

Place your order by the end of day on April 30 and we'll get it to you by the middle of May.



Choose Your Issue

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Now Available: Blank Spaces Notebooks

http://blankspaces.alannarusnak.com/p/notebooks.html

We put out small teasers about these cute little notebooks but now they're ready to be set loose upon the world, collecting ideas, capturing inspiration, soaking up the ink of a thousand thoughts...

blank spaces notebook collection

Not only will these 6x9 notebooks provide you with 100 pages upon which to spill your incredible ideas, they also include the complete Blank Spaces annual calendar to help you keep track of free submission periods and pre-order deadlines AS WELL AS our full submission guidelines.

They are currently available in four different colours BUT we'd be more than happy to make one in any colour your heart desires (for a small, additional fee).


Want one in every colour? See below to learn how you can save up to 30%





There are a few options for purchasing:

  1. Buy directly through Blank Spaces
  2. Purchase through Amazon (potentially saving on shipping)
  3. Meet us at an event and purchase directly

TO PURCHASE THROUGH BLANK SPACES:


Select Your Notebook
Colour Request (custom order)
 
You can expect delivery 4-6 weeks following purchase.
Shipping is an additional $3 and will be applied at checkout.
 
 
Interested in multiple copies? Contact us to receive a discount. 
(2 copies = 5% off; 4 copies = 10% off; 6 copies = 20% off; 10+ copies = 30% off)
 
When selecting Custom Colour, please find your colour of choice on this Colour Chart and include the HEX # in your request. Alternatively, use words like dark, light, rich, pale.

blank spaces notebook collection
TO PURCHASE THROUGH AMAZON (save on shipping if your order is large enough)

Issue number THREE is out in the World!

From the Editor
as featured on page five of the March 2017 issue

Blank Spaces Issue 3 March 2017
Three's not a crowd, it's a family!

My daughter came home from school a few months ago singing Humble and Kind. It’s a beautiful song written by folk singer-songwriter Lori McKenna, and made famous by Tim McGraw.

When those dreams you’re dreaming come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind

What a brilliant motto by which to approach my role here at Blank Spaces. The progress we’ve made, the friendships we’ve forged, the established writers we’ve celebrated, and the initiates we’ve championed—wow! I have so much to be proud of.

But so do you—every one of you beautiful people who have contributed, purchased, and shared this little vision of mine. None of this could happen without you. You are the heartbeat of this project, and I thank you with every pump of the Blank Spaces pulse.

You have taught me much about humility and kindness: from funny, self-deprecating submission emails; to gushing gratitude when accepted; to gracious conceding when edits are requested; to emails expressing thanks for an article that particularly spoke to you. What a privilege it has been to be touched by the happiness Blank Spaces has brought to your journeys.

There is a reciprocal synergy to our relationship with contributors and readers. Often, in response to a submission, I will welcome the artist into ‘the tribe’. Because that’s what we are. A tribe. A family. A joint collection of creative souls, seeking to share a little piece of ourselves with the world.

The path to publication is riddled with cracks, potholes, even craters. Sometimes it feels like an impossible mountain to climb. Our mission is not to reject, but to smooth the road along the way into our pages. We’re the construction worker in a reflective vest, tapping tar into the holes with the back of a shovel. We are here to fill the gaps. Perhaps it’s your turn to join the family, to become part of the narrative that’s filling the cracks. Stop sitting on your talent—there’s a place for you here!


        Alanna Rusnak—Editor in Chief



To purchase the March issue, click the link below:


Blank Spaces - March 2017
44 pages, published 2/21/2017
Volume 1, Issue 3 of Blank Spaces is a celebration of Canadian talent, featuring the work of artists—writers, painters, photographers, poets, etc.

Cities in Books

As found in Volume 1, Issue 3

Cities in Books - a waste of words: on learning they are not by Tsara Shelton

The descriptions of cities in books used to seem like a waste of words to me.

While I skipped school, riding buses and subways around Toronto—uptown, downtown, outskirts of town—voraciously reading book after book, I would approach these descriptions with snobby annoyance. Tell me what they’re thinking, who these characters are! Tell me why they think what they think! Tell me what they’re going to do and why! I don’t care about the city, I care about who they want to include in their lives and the description of themselves.

As I tied my school uniform’s burgundy sweater around my waist, feeling it tickle the back of my bare thighs—exposed despite the school rules about the length of our skirts—I’d change the tape in my Walkman from Metallica to The Pogues and step off the subway. Smiling at strangers and delighting in the smell and wind of Toronto underground, I would promise myself that one day I’d write equally moving novels as the ones I collected insatiably. But I would use less wasted words. 

Describing cities and sunsets was for painters and poets, not novelists.


PURCHASE THE MARCH 2017 ISSUE AND READ THE REST OF THE STORY

Blank Spaces - March 2017
44 pages, published 2/21/2017
Volume 1, Issue 3 of Blank Spaces is a celebration of Canadian talent, featuring the work of artists—writers, painters, photographers, poets, etc.




Tsara Shelton is an avid writer of musings, a sipper of coffee, a reluctant performer, and an unapologetic story addict. As the mother of four mostly grown boys, she loves discovering and sharing her own beliefs so that she can comfortably expect her sons to do the same. Her book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, wants badly to gets its own place and stop talking about Tsara, but it’s just not looking likely.

Connect with Tsara on her website www.tsarashelton.com or on Twitter @TsaraShelton

In the Library with Norma Jeane, June 1, 2002

As found in Volume 1, Issue 3
 
In the Library with Norma Jeane, June 1, 2002 by J. J. Steinfeld


Once a week, on Saturday, Josh went to the library in downtown Halifax. It was a ritual of his, which included pausing before the statue of Winston Churchill in front of the library, and telling the immortal statesman that he was going to write a great play.

On an earlier Saturday he had told Churchill that maybe he would make him a character, have his statue able to speak. Oscar Wilde had a speaking statue in The Happy Prince, Josh informed the statue of Churchill.

The Happy Prince, such a magical story, and he had recently seen a play based on that marvellous story he had first read as a boy. He recalled coming home after school that day and telling his mother all about the story, and pointing out that it had a reference to “old Jews” and saying that his grandparents were “old Jews,” weren’t they? The Happy Prince had most profound conversations with a little bird, a swallow, he had told his mother, and his mother patted his head and complimented him on his use of the word profound.

“I will have a huge bird, not a little swallow, land on your magnificent presence, Winston, and you two can discuss world affairs,” Josh continued that afternoon. Oscar had stayed in Halifax, not far from where this library is now. In fact, as Josh confessed to the statue, he had a brief affair with a woman in that very hotel. He turned to see if anyone was watching him standing in front of the statue, having a Saturday afternoon tête-à-tête with the immortal statesman. 

PURCHASE THE MARCH 2017 ISSUE AND READ THE REST OF THIS STORY


Blank Spaces - March 2017
44 pages, published 2/21/2017
Volume 1, Issue 3 of Blank Spaces is a celebration of Canadian talent, featuring the work of artists—writers, painters, photographers, poets, etc.


 
J. J. Steinfeld Fiction writer, poet, and playwright J.J. Steinfeld lives on Prince Edward Island, where he is patiently waiting for Godot’s arrival and a phone call from Kafka. While waiting, he has published seventeen books, including Should the Word Hell Be Capitalized? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Anton Chekhov Was Never in Charlottetown (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Misshapenness (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), Identity Dreams and Memory Sounds (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), Madhouses in Heaven, Castles in Hell (Stories, Ekstasis Editions), and An Unauthorized Biography of Being (110 Short Fictions Hovering Between the Absurd and the Existential, Ekstasis Editions).

A Beautiful Dissonance: Bach and the Art of Conflict Resolution

As found in Volume 1, Issue 3
 
A Beautiful Dissonance: Bach and the Art of Conflict Resolution by Janet Youngdahl

Bach solves everything. Resolves anything. Even the thorniest, most convoluted Bach melody filled with angular motif and dissonant harsh sonority is taken through a brilliant creative process, a process that holds the potential to solve difficult issues in music and beyond.

Once again, I find myself weeping when listening to one of Bach’s profound fugues, this time at an organ concert given at a small church in Alsace by the young organist Olivier Wyrwas.  Why do the fugues move me so much, what do I hear in them that pushes me into a realm capable of reconciling deep sadness and intense joy? Why are Bach’s fugues so painfully effective at eliciting a feeling of extreme hope and possibility in the face of difficulty?

Bach left us conversations in musical form. His scores are realistic navigational charts, comprehensive maps for forging respectful and meaningful dialog leading to resolved destination. Bach articulates problems in the human condition, supplying audible cues that create enriched landscape where musical gesture provides both geography and momentary weather events. He moves past simple solutions and suggests a procedure for the intimate understanding of conflicting points of view. In particular, his fugues can be mined as being functional examples of what we need to do to work together; they offer a process for working out solutions and resolutions to ancient and desperate disputes that require serious attention.

PURCHASE THE MARCH 2017 ISSUE AND READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE

Blank Spaces - March 2017
44 pages, published 2/21/2017
Volume 1, Issue 3 of Blank Spaces is a celebration of Canadian talent, featuring the work of artists—writers, painters, photographers, poets, etc.




 Janet Youngdahl has published essays in Writer’s Digest, Malahat Review, and the Friends Journal. She is a voice professor at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, and appears on more than a dozen recordings on the RCA, Deutsch Harmonia Mundi, BMG, Phillips and BIS labels, including the Grammy nominated Chants de l’extase. She has recently attended artist residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts and the American Academy in Rome.

Nutella and Chesterfields

As found in Volume 1, Issue 3
 
Nutella and Chesterfields by Jennifer Ellis

A few weeks after we arrived in Toronto, my dad got a job as a driver for a hardware company and my sister Becky started grade ten at Winston Churchill Collegiate. I didn’t know what a Collegiate was but I guessed it meant high school.

I wasn’t allowed to go to school. Not yet, anyway. We were waiting for my school authorization to come through. Becky was born in Toronto. Almost three years later, my parents—then living in L.A.—had me.

After my mom died I was the only one in our family who was a native U.S. citizen. I proudly hung the American flag Grandpa gave me on my bedroom door, and I would stare at the stars and stripes, wishing it to be a magic portal like in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Only instead of Narnia I would go to the AMC 10 theatres at the Golden Mall in Burbank and get in line to see Back to the Future III.   I’d decide that I would get Twizzlers and use one to replace the straw in my soda cup, like Becky’s friend Hilary did when we went to go see Pet Cemetery—the movie that has since haunted my dreams. (Grab a box of Depends and Google Zelda Pet Cemetery and you will see why.)

So, even though I may have resembled Lucy from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, clearly I wasn’t in a C.S Lewis novel. I was stuck in this real-life trap. And I was gifted the benefit of hanging out with my grandpa until Becky returned home from school.

Thrillsville!


PURCHASE THIS ISSUE AND READ THE REST OF THE STORY

 
Blank Spaces - March 2017
44 pages, published 2/21/2017
Volume 1, Issue 3 of Blank Spaces is a celebration of Canadian talent, featuring the work of artists—writers, painters, photographers, poets, etc.


Jennifer Ellis was born and raised in Los Angeles, California until the age of twelve when she moved to Toronto with her family. Jennifer studied radio and print journalism and is currently working on her first book. She is an 80s pop culture fanatic, loves to travel and write about her experiences, especially when she finds the perfect apple fritter. She currently lives in Burlington, Ontario with her partner Mike and slightly insane, yet loveable cat, Friday.


Get a little more of Jennifer’s story by reading the story of her arrival in Canada
 

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.

  • THE ACTUAL BOOTH FEE: $175.00
  • A HOTEL FOR FOUR: $200.00
  • FUEL: $40.00
  • DOWNTOWN PARKING: $30.00
  • 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 Gold Medal Winner

garth pettersen winner of flash fiction contestWe are so pleased to announce the winner of our second contest!

Congratulations to Garth Pettersen from The Fraser Valley in British Columbia on his winning story, 'Smoke and Pathos'. Using the provided image of a man sitting in the dark, Garth constructed a powerful tale that impressed our judges.

As a reward, Smoke and Pathos will be published in our March issue.


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

"...relatable tensions." 

"I liked how the story gradually drew in elements of the writing prompt."

"...an ending I didn't see coming!" 



THE PHOTO PROMPT

SNEAK PEAK:

SMOKE AND PATHOS
The light of his laptop caught the rising cigarette smoke from his exhalation. The wisps shone white and ethereal against the blackness before they vanished into the night. The computer screen illuminated him, as if he were an actor and the device a lone footlight celebrating his solo performance of despondency and pathos. Isn't that what he was doing here? Playing out the part of a young man wallowing in self-pity? Or was it self-loathing? Was it both?

To catch the rest of this story, order your copy of the March 2017 issue


Garth Petterson is a Canadian writer living in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, BC. He has a Bachelor's Degree in History and a background in Education (History, English, Theatre). Garth taught Writing and English at Western Canada College once upon a time and has written children's stories, a YA novel, adult short stories, and an historical novel. His short stories have appeared in journals such as The Spadina Literary Review, The Opening Line Literary 'Zine, and Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, and in anthologies published by Main Street Rag, Zimbell House, Centum Press, and Horrified Press. 

Read his blogs on writing at gatherpettersen.com or follow him on twitter @garpet011


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

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, www.ideallyspeaking.ca 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

Aunt Miriam Rocks

by Diane Lowman

“Are we there yet?” we asked a hundred times. Could this scene be any more cliché? My parents sat in the front seat of our black, stick shift, VW Bug, circa 1969. I in the back, and my sister Suzanne wedged into the well behind the rear seat and…the engine. We were on our way from our apartment in Howard Beach, Queens to our small Upper Greenwood Lake, NJ cottage. We’d visited many times when my mom’s Aunt Miriam and Uncle Eddie owned it, but my parents had just bought it from them because he was ailing and they’d moved to be closer to their children.

aunt miriam rocks, diane lowman

As city kids, our exposure to outdoor colour was largely limited to the black asphalt of the playground outside our brick red high-rise, ringed by muddy white and pasty pink concrete. ‘The country’—as we called it—was Eden.

Going to ‘the country’ for the weekend meant lounging languidly by the mushy muck-bottomed lake, exploring the woods for flora and fauna, and savoring Hebrew National hot dogs that my father grilled outside.

Anxious to arrive, the nearly two-hour drive in Friday evening traffic tortured me, 9, and my sister, 6. We were whiny, kvetchy, and hungry. “Are we there yet?”

“Not yet. You just asked three minutes ago. Now stop. We’ll get there when we get there,” my father would say, no doubt frazzled from the workweek, the drive, and the cacophony behind him.

But my mom, hoping to pacify both him, and us, took a different approach.

“Girls. We used to drive up here all the time with Grandma and Grandpa, all the way from Union City. It was a long drive, too, and we couldn’t wait to get up here–like you. Here’s what Grandma Sally told me: When we get close to ‘the country’, you will start to see two very special things—these big greyish-purplish rocks that look like they’ve been splattered with white paint. And bright orange flowers that look like starbursts, with very long stems. We call the rocks ‘Aunt Miriam Rocks’,  because when you see them, you know we are close to Aunt Miriam and Uncle Eddie’s house. And the flowers are called ‘Tiger Lilies’. At night, they close up to sleep, and open again when they wake up in the morning. So keep very quiet, keep your eyes on the side of the road, and let me know when you see Aunt Miriam Rocks and Tiger Lilies.”

We were mesmerized. These landmarks took on mythical qualities. We believed they were put there—like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs—to lead us to the lake. We shut up and looked out, scouring the passing roadside, eager to be the first to spot them.

We’d point and shriek with glee when we did, and sure enough, we’d arrive shortly after they appeared.

I haven’t seen an ‘Aunt Miriam Rock’ anywhere since. I wish I knew what they were. But every summer, in late June and early July, the tiger lilies sprout along the roadsides where I live. They close up to sleep, and open up when they wake up in the morning. And when I see them, I know I’m close to my mom, wherever she is, and I’m close to home.



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.

Clippings

by Diane Lowman

Although my mother acquiesced to text and Facebook, she was very much of the rotary phone and pen and paper generation. Long after she finished with the hands-on raising and nurturing phase of parenthood, she showed us she understood, supported, thought about, and loved us by snail-mailing missives to myself and my sister, and then to our children.

memories after the loss of a parent

She’d send me carefully cut out clippings about Shakespeare or yoga, along with coupons for coffee yogurt. She might send Suzanne articles on preschool art projects and dog food discounts. Always with a note, in her distinctive hand: Thought you’d like this, my honey. Love ya, Me Mom.

Sometimes she’d stuff so many into an envelope that they’d flurry out onto the floor like confetti. Usually, these messages in a paper bottle made me feel hugged from afar. At least I knew someone in Florida was thinking about me. Every now and then, if I were overwhelmed with kids and life, I’d roll my eyes and think: Who has time for this? How I rue those moments and miss the mailings now that she’s gone. Always, though, I thought, this is so her!

Now, I clip and deliver. Articles on architecture for Suzanne. Birding bulletins for Julie. Education ephemera for Jessica. Dylan details for Dustin. Film and photography facts for Devon. And shiny red apples of The New Yorker cartoons on authorship for my writing instructor.

“That’s so like mom!” my sister says, and smiles.

“That’s so like grandma!” the boys say, sometimes rolling their eyes.

“My mother did that all the time,” says my teacher. Everyone in the workshop chimes in with remembrances of things sent by their own mothers.

“Yes, my mom did this all the time, too.” I say. “It’s so like her.”

I feel proud to have, unwittingly, taken on this mantle of clipper and sender of ephemera to those I love. I smile to think that in this little way, I’m so like her.




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.

Get the December Issue for only $13

One of our goals is to make Blank Spaces fully Canadian—meaning that not only is our print content submitted by Canadians, but that our printing company is also located in Canada. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a Canadian company that can come close to the rate we're getting with our current printer. And, because we're not made of money, we have to go with the best rate—even though it hurts our red and white Canadian feelings.

We recently thought we'd had a breakthrough. A Canadian company! Prices actually lower than our current printer!

Well friends, we learned the hard way that .ca does not necessarily mean Canadian.

After paying shipping and duty fees, we saved $0 and received a product that was not quite what we've come to identify as our brand. Sure, it looks nearly identical—the only real difference is a slight increase in trim size and a slight grainy quality to any black and white photographs that were included—but honestly, we're just annoyed that this company slapped a Canadian flag on their website and tricked us into trusting them.


Thankfully we only ordered five copies in our test-print run and now we're looking to unload them to anyone who hasn't yet received our December issue and who doesn't mind a slightly larger size. All the content is identical and we still stand by it as a great representation of Canadian talent; but, because it's not quite perfect, we're accepting a loss and letting them go for $13 (shipping included).

Purchase through the button below - you can even add the upcoming March issue to the same order if you like.


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First Day

by Jennifer Ellis

I didn’t want to go. My sister and I were sitting on the couch, silent and sullen. I surveyed the aftermath from our Last-Night-in-California-Party as my dad packed his carry-on with our passports.

“Don’t forget to bring your jackets with you on the plane,” he cautioned my sister and I. “It might be cold when we land in Toronto.” I furrowed my brow and sunk deeper into the sofa, hoping that it would swallow me whole.

american immigrates to canada
I hadn’t been on a plane since the summer of 1987. My sister and I went to Ft. Lauderdale to visit my grandparents; my mother’s parents. My mom was still alive. She was deteriorating from Multiple Sclerosis, and my dad was struggling to keep it together. They all thought it would be a good idea to ship us to Florida while he figured out how to make ends meet and take care of my mom’s medical bills. No one ever imagined that she would be dead just before Christmas 1989. On the way to the airport to leave for Florida, I’d puked all over my new tennis shoes, and all over the back seat of Grandpa Arties rental car. Almost three years later, I could still taste the bitter taste of fear and bile, as we drove away from 510 Winchester Ave. on the way to LAX.

I somehow made it on to the plane without a repeat performance of the 1987 throw-up disaster. I looked out the window for virtually the whole flight. Until we crossed the border and started to descend. I turned to my dad in a panic.

“Daddy, where are the mountains?” I questioned.

“There aren’t any mountains in Toronto, Jen,” my dad gently explained. “Canada has beautiful mountains in B.C., But no mountains in Ontario.”

I turned back to the window and stared down at the foreign flat landscape. And I wondered how I could live without the familiar view and protection of the Verdugo hills.

We landed late afternoon. The line for customs stretched all the way back to the end of the room, and my patience from staring at the sterile orange tiled floor was running out. There was no escaping this room until the stone-faced guy sitting behind the partition studied your face and your passport and asked when your last bowel movement was. Then and only and then you were allowed to officially ‘enter Canada.’

Once we reached the terminal (from what felt like escaping the Iran hostage crisis) I asked my dad for some change to get a drink from the vending machine. It cost a dollar ten for a can of Coke that was about the size of a juice box. What a rip off! How dare these Canadians deny my oversized American thirst?! I went into the duty-free to inspect the magazine rack. I picked up the latest Teen Beat. Finally, something familiar. As I admired the latest shot of New Kids on the Block from their Magic Summer tour splashed on the cover, I noticed something under the title: “Canada’s #1 Teen Magazine.” I was officially in the Twilight Zone; and there was no hope of escape. No matter how much my surroundings seemed familiar, it was clear I was no longer in Glendale. I wasn’t even in the United States, for Gods’ sake. I was in Canada. This weird place with small and expensive cans of Coke.

My Auntie Penny greeted my sister and my dad and I with a big smile and even bigger hugs.

“Oh my goodness, it’s so great to see you Jen!” Auntie Penny gushed.

 “Hi,” I said nervously as she squeezed me hello.

I had never met her, and wasn’t sure about getting hugs from people I didn’t know. I couldn’t help but feel a familiar warmth from her greeting, and that somewhat eased my new immigrant anxiety.

We got into a taxi and headed to Scarborough to Grandpa's house. Our new home. The sky was covered in clusters of grey and white clouds as we headed down the freeway. Auntie Penny called it a highway. Highways were what you drove on heading into the dessert, I thought. I wanted to correct her and tell her that we were on a freeway. I decided to keep my mouth shut when I noticed that this freeway contrasted the chaos of L.A traffic, as we moved down the road without stopping even once. This was definitely not a freeway.

As we turned onto my grandpa's street I noticed that the trees had stared to turn colour. Grandpa George lived on a nice suburban street with big houses. No apartment complexes. The houses all had well-manicured, green lawns with perennials in the front gardens. I’d only seen something like that on Who’s the Boss?

As I got out of the car I was assaulted by an unfamiliar wind that seemed to permeate my sweater. I quickly followed Auntie Penny inside and dropped my luggage in the foyer. I was stunned. Grandpa’s house had stairs. I remember I’d always wanted to live in a house with a staircase. I always thought it would make me feel rich. I was trying not to show how impressed I was, but I couldn’t wait to brag about my new staircase to my friend Monica. Then a sinking feeling washed over me. Monica was thousands of miles away. Telling her wouldn’t be the same as showing her. I distracted myself from the reality of my new life by imagining that Tony and Angela lived around the corner.

Grandpa received us with warm greetings and his captivating British accent. He looked like the typical grandpa: bald on the top, white hair on the sides of his head, often donning a driver’s cap and sporting grandpa sweaters. I think he had come to California twice to visit. He bought me a Pound Puppy-which I loved. He had lost his dear Olive, my grandmother, the same year I had lost my mother. It was a hard time for our family. Grandpa wasn’t in good health. He seemed fine, but he had a pace-maker placed in his chest recently and was suffering from heart disease. I wanted to tell him I knew how he felt; that I’m sure I looked fine, but my heart was hurting too.

That night, as my dad was setting the table for dinner, I opened the fridge to look for the milk. At the bottom of the fridge were bags filled with a white milky substance. I was totally grossed out. I was convinced it was some kind of IV medication bag for grandpa. There's no way that was the milk.

“Daddy, I can’t find the milk!” I shouted.

“I told you it’s on the bottom shelf,” he said.

I closed the fridge and stormed into dining room as he was setting the table.

“Daddy,” I huffed. “All I see is bags of white stuff.”

“Yeah that’s the milk. It’s in the bags,” he said casually, as he laid out Grandma Olives’ china.

My universe imploded.

“What is wrong this place?!” I fumed. “How the hell am I going to drink milk from a bag?”

“You’ll get used to it,” he chuckled.

I felt like the Powers That Be were trying to trick me into believing I was still in the United States. People drove in cars, wore blue jeans, spoke English. First with the mini Coke cans and now my milk in bags? What if I got kidnapped? No milk cartons on kitchen tables so people could see my missing chubby twelve-year-old face, while eating their cornflakes.

That night while trying to fall asleep I felt like I had actually been kidnapped. I was in an unfamiliar bedroom, lying in a different bed, with a different blanket. I lay there feeling completely helpless. I turned my head into my first ever down-filled pillow, and cried.

And cried some more.

I wished I could cry enough tears to wash me away back to California, where I was sure I belonged.


Jennifer Ellis was born and raised in Los Angeles, California until the age of twelve when she moved to Toronto with her family. Jennifer studied radio and print journalism and is currently working on her first book. She is an 80’s pop culture fanatic, loves to travel and write about her experiences especially when she finds the perfect apple fritter. She currently lives in Burlington, Ontario with her partner Mike and slightly insane, yet loveable cat Friday.


Want to know more about what it's like for an American immigrant to Canada? Watch for another slice of Jennifer's life in our March 2017 issue - available for pre-order HERE.

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.

Submission Hightlights 2016 Edition

You already know this, but our number one plea to submitters is "MAKE US FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU!" and so, you won't be surprised to learn that our favourite submission letters did just that: they showcased personality, spoke to us like we're real live human beings (we really are!), and yes...they made us fall in love. Maybe not fully head-over-heels every time, but crushes are fun too!

submission examples for blank spaces magazine

Because if we like YOU, we're probably going to like your story. That's just the way it goes. Of course, there have been some brilliant submission emails that did not spawn acceptance and publication, but you can bet we still celebrated the 'who' of it all!

The following (in no particular order) are our 2016 highlights — those little slices of personality that hooked us and made us hungry for more...



"I have attached my little memoir snippet, even though you say it must be pasted in the text. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to do that. I am not very computer savvy, partly because I am retired and didn’t grow up with these things. And partly because I don’t have a manual."
 

"I discovered your site...and was instantly enticed. Your attitude is one I share: insane, crazy, awesome dreams and ideas are always worth chasing..." 


"Here is the latest, edited version of the poem.  I still hate the word 'twas, but can't seem to find a way around it. I love what you are doing with the magazine...I'm excited to see it. For some reason this wants to underline everything and I can't figure out how to get it to stop."


"The below brilliant piece of literature could be a blog post, or magazine article under the category of Shameless, or Story Matters (if you think it fits), or a fire starter...Also, the title sucks, and I know it.  Perhaps a better one will come to me in a dream..."


"I’ve always wanted to hone the creative side I have lurking inside. I’m a huge reader and am drawn to many styles. I tend toward the ‘quirky,’ and shorter fiction. Admittedly, I sometimes feel like the eunuch in a harem: I’ve seen it done, I know how it’s done, but I can’t do it. I’m hoping for feedback that could establish whether I could develop the necessary creative cajones."
 


"I discovered Blank Spaces this morning and, as a Canadian living in small town Texas, I felt comforted with feelings of home. Thank you!...There are many things I want to be when I grow up, and a contributor to Canadian Literature is high on that list! 


"Well, here I am putting myself out there in the face of possible rejection, with hopes of the holy grail all writers chase: publication.... I am proudly self deprecating. Tina Fey is my idol. And if you hate Tina Fey, she totally sucks. Please love me?"



So there you have it. As you can see, we're pretty easy to get along with...even if you have technical difficulties! 

OFFICIAL SUBMISSION TIP: make us smile with your creative cajones!

For our full submission guidelines, click HERE

If you'd prefer to download a FREE PDF version of the guidelines, click HERE.