Shaping the Spark

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Room vol 35.2: Shaping the Spark
Edited by 
Brigid MacAulay, Amy McCall

Creativity means something different for everyone, but there is always one thing in common. It starts with a spark—that little light that shines in the dark. As writers, artists, painters, creators, we take that spark and shape it into a thing of beauty. On our beautiful cover by Amy Alice Thompson, it’s as if the figure plucks creativity from the clouds. Our issue explores what it means to delve into the creative process and create a work of art.

This issue is also part of our special thirty-fifth anniversary volume. We started with a trip to Room’s archives, and brought back stacks of issues dating back to the magazine’s first years. It was a treat to pore through these issues and discover more about where we’ve come from and how we’ve grown. In our twenty-fifth anniversary issue, we featured fiction by Genni Gunn. We were thrilled when Gunn agreed to share a new piece of fiction with us, “Beached,” which closes our issue.

We open the issue with an interview with Madeleine Thien, who describes her own creative process and how her characters become the storytellers. 

Our issue on creativity presents our 2011 Writing Contest winners: Fiction judge Amber Dawn selected Rhonda Douglas’s “God Explains the Collapse of the Cod Fishery” for first place. In second place we have a tie: Solveig Mardon’s “Deep-Tail Dancer” and Julie Eill’s “There is Nothing Like that Here.” In the poetry category, judge Elizabeth Bachinsky chose Patricia Young’s “Morning Class” for first place and Crystal Sikma’s “Bell” for second place. Susan Juby, who judged our creative non-fiction entries, selected Jan Redford’s “God or Boys” for first place. “An Act of Grace” by Christine Barbetta took second place.

“... Rhonda Douglas is markedly aware of the narrative challenge she’s undertaken,” Amber Dawn says about “God Explains the Collapse of the Cod Fishery.” “The quirky tension between God’s macro (biological oceanography) and micro (the plight of [protagonist] Wilfred Green) dilemmas make [this] a surprising and utterly enjoyable read.”

“The poetic prose found consistently from beginning to end of ‘Deep-Tail Dancer’ is so captivating at times it threatens to swallow up its characters,” Dawn observes. “The gorgeous, eerie prose itself becomes a sort of allegorical representation of the estrangement and wonder felt by newcomers to Canada.” Dawn describes “There is Nothing Like that Here” as “a wonderful portrait of an intergenerational relationship between a Gen X mom and a millennial teen girl.”

“The voice and attention to imagery and detail here are sophisticated and assured,” Bachinsky writes of “Morning Class.” “An excellent poem by a talented writer.” And of “Bell,” she relates: “This poem, and its mysterious subject—that strange man and his bell!—were compelling to me.”
On “God or Boys” Juby comments, “The odd logic of the adolescent explorer and the secret yearnings of the not-so-grown up were rendered in a voice that was deceptively simple and completely captivating.” And of “An Act of Grace” she observes, “This story, so clearly and compassionately told, without histrionics or embellishments, was devastating to read. It gives the reader a glimpse into a work day as demanding, as difficult, and ultimately, as rewarding, as any a human could have.”

Congratulations to all our winners! Visit our website to read the honourable mention pieces and to find out about our 2012 contest. We are excited to welcome Cathleen With to judge fiction, Miranda Pearson for poetry, and Kathy Page as our creative non-fiction judge. Deadline extended to July 15.

Following the contest pieces, we have gathered an inspiring collection of beautiful poems, stories, and artwork about writing and the creative process. Poets Norita Dittberner-Jax, Heidi Greco, Sheila Stewart, C. W. Legros, Linda King, Karen Beggs, and Rebekah Rempel address the arc of creativity, from first inspirations and longings, to the struggle to find the words and the time to explore creativity. It’s that search for the spark—to borrow lines from Dittberner-Jax, that “brief appearance / of the truth / before night covers all” that we all await. “The Sculptor” by Sarah Ross is about an artist working through her own creative impulses, and Andrea Routley’s “Reflection Journal” is about a teen who figures out some surprising truths through writing.

Our art pages include two other dreamlike scenes by Amy Alice Thompson, two altered books by Rachael Ashe, a text-based collage by Manisha Anand, and an image of a young woman deep in creative concentration by Juno Doran. We hope you enjoy the collection!

About the Contributors 

Aside from two years in Australia, writer and editor Heidi Greco has lived in B.C. since 1970. Her poems, reviews, essays, and fiction have appeared in books, anthologies, and magazines, both print and online. Her most recent book, Shrinking Violets, is a novella published in 2011 by Toronto’s Quattro Books.

Sarah Ross does most of her formal wordsmithing in the field of Communications in Ottawa, where she is a member of the Bywords Selection Committee. She has only recently begun submitting creative writing for publication. To date, she has been published in Across the Creek, The Maynard, Guerilla Magazine, and scissors and spackle.

Sheila Stewart’s poetry collections include A Hat to Stop a Train (Wolsak and Wynn, 2003) and The Shape of a Throat (forthcoming, Signature Editions, 2012). She co-edited The Art of Poetic Inquiry (forthcoming, Backalong Books, 2012). She placed second in gritLIT 2010. She uses poetry in her doctoral work at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.

Amy Alice Thompson works and plays in Ottawa as an artist, illustrator, and designer. Her work often explores themes of memory and childhood while exuding a sense of surreal whimsy. She has exhibited across Canada, the U.S., and Europe. She is represented by the Diane Farris Gallery in Vancouver, Art Interiors in Toronto, and the Ottawa Art Gallery’s ART Rental and Sales. More of her work can be viewed at

In this issue

Kimberley Alcock
Manisha Anand
Rachael Ashe
Elizabeth Bachinsky
Christine Barbetta
Karen Beggs
Amber Dawn
Norita Dittberner-Jax
Juno Doran
Rhonda Douglas
Julie Eill
Candace Fertile
Heidi Greco
Genni Gunn
Susan Juby
Linda King
C. W. Legros
Solveig Mardon
Charlotte North
Helen Polychronakos
Jan Redford
Rebekah Rempel
Sarah Ross
Andrea Routley
Crystal Sikma
Sheila Stewart
Amy Alice Thompson
Patricia Young

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