Hi Everyone, and WELCOME to The Writing Fairy website. I'm Dorothea Helms, freelance writer, poet, book author, fiction dabbler, writing instructor, keynote speaker, humorist, wife, mother and slave to my English Bulldog, Margaret. My website is undergoing a facelift, boob lift, liposuction, weight loss program ... wait a minute - those are things I need personally. Sheesh. But my website IS in transition after being neglected for a LONG time. My goal is to inspire writers; my method humour (or humor in the U.S.). Enjoy!

Coaxing closet writers to emerge and make their magic known!

Archive for 'Articles'

OK everyone – ta da! We have our winners of the first-ever Writing Fairy Humour-Writing Contest!

Congratulations to the winners whose writing rose to the top. We had nearly 200 entries, and there were 10 judges in total at the various judging levels. The writing had to have some sort of magic to make it all the way.

In fact, choosing the winners was difficult, as we had so many fabulous submissions. Thank you to all who entered. A special thanks to my husband, Rich, who did a spectacular job administering all the technical stuff that made this contest possible. HEDEMAN!

And thanks to all the judges who helped to narrow down the choices. Keep an eye on this website for the announcement of the 2007 contest. And keep laughing!

The Writing Fairy

Award Name Title Address
First Place Jason MacRae Slave to the Box Cambridge, Ontario
Second Place Heather Tucker Freudian Slippers Ajax, Ontario
Third Place Carol Burnside Skip the Loo My Darling Calgary, Alberta
Honourable Mention Lois Gordon Character Flaw & Kissing Toads Sunderland, Ontario
Finalist Brian Mullen Timing is Everything Allison Park, Pennsylvania USA
Finalist Candace Allan Dryer Lint and Belly Buttons Calgary, Alberta
Finalist Joanne Carnegie Animal Farce Verdun, Quebec
Finalist Mark Kearney Adopt a Highway London, Ontario
Finalist E. Mitchell Fairy Ghostbuster Palatine, Illinois USA

First Place – Slave to the Box

Jason MacRae

I am a married man, thirty-two years old. On the surface, my life seems ordinary. But still waters run deep, and if one probes my murky depths, eventually they will discover my terrible secret: I have become a slave, a sex slave. One might ask: a sex slave to whom? Not to whom, I would counter, but to what? The answer: to a small, white plastic box. How, you’ll ask, does a small plastic box take control of an able-bodied man so completely that he would describe himself as being powerlessly owned by it? Allow me to explain.

Except during playoff hockey, the males of most species are motivated by two primal forces: the need for food, and the desire for congenial conjunction. The open-24-hours-a-day A&P two kilometers from my house fulfills my hunting instincts. That other primal drive is not so easily satisfied; I must rely on the kindness and the mood of my chosen mate, who happens to be a female. I cannot speculate on what that gender’s most primal drives might be, other than to suspect that they are more pragmatic than mine, except perhaps during sales at Ikea.

One day, three years after we were married, my mate came to me with a page that she had downloaded from eBay. On it was a picture of an innocuous white plastic box integrating an LCD display and a slot into which a white plastic stick, that looked to be of dental origin, could be inserted. This box, she explained, was a fertility monitor, and it would now be in command of the timing of our most intimate moments. In return, we wouldn’t have to play guessing games about when the best time for those moments were; the box would dispense with chance and serendipity. She also suggested our modus operandi in this department up to now – being: avoid success – had been abandoned; we were now trying to hit the target.

I had always assumed that plotting the most efficient schedule for procreation would involve a calendar and a bulging fist full of darts, but apparently technology had come to our rescue. Nevertheless, a bedside electronic box whose sexual commands could not be denied sounded like a good idea.

The first hint of the tyrannical nature of fealty to the box came at 6 a.m. the day after the box arrived. My wife runs a business from home, and while she has been known to work late, pre-dawn awakenings are practically unheard of. So why was her alarm bleating incessantly? Did the bell toll for me? Optimistically, I slung one arm into her territory and cast about, but there was no comfort for me under the cooling comforter. The box demanded a stick at the same time every day, and 6 a.m. was the only hour the stick ritual was guaranteed never to be preempted. The box demanded sticks on the weekends, too.

In return for religiously meeting its demands, the box told us to go forth… and cool our heels. This was something I hadn’t considered when I agreed to let the cursed thing into our boudoir; that it could also tell you very accurately when not to bother with conjugal activities. The fantastic box says no, and no again, and again, no. Would rain never come to the barren dessert that had become our bed?

And then the box said yes. Hurray for the box! The rains cometh, and life returns in all its glory. After that, the box said yes again; I was still happy to do its bidding. However, the next day, a friend from another city called to notify me that several other friends were gathering there, and would I like to join them? Well, the box said yes – which meant, of course, no. There was no way I could justify taking my precious genetic legacy out of town during this, the very peak of our fertility. But how would I explain the omnipotent power of the domineering box to the guys? My friends, I knew, would only snicker in my absence, make merry, and say humiliating things like “his wife wouldn’t let him come.”

Not that the weekend was a total loss. The box wasn’t the only one saying yes and yes again. But whereas I knew the status of its batteries, I was beginning to doubt mine; I was merely a man, trying to keep pace with a relentless machine, and also with a white plastic box. But all things must end, and eventually, the yeses turned to no’s, and the 6 a.m. stick rituals turned into the 6 a.m. diaper rituals, and the plastic box was put away. But its tyranny is not dead, only sleeping.

Freudian Slippers

Heather Tucker

The test results were in. It didn’t look good. Apparently I’d scored 612 on the Holmes-Rae Life Event Stress Scale.
“Mom, you need help, seriously. A score over 300 means you’re headed for a meltdown.”

“You sure that’s my score?”

She rechecked. “Oops, I made a mistake. Holy crap, you actually scored 732!”

“Okeedookee then.” I slid my mug across the table. “Top up my coffee with a little Irish Cream, will ya sweetie?”

“Maybe you should think about seeing someone. You have been a little¡K um¡K sort of¡K well¡K on the edge lately.”

I studied the sympathetic, Mom, you’ve lost it, look on her beautiful face. I wondered when I’d changed from her super-hero to the poor women slipping over the edge. Perhaps she was right. There was no denying that it had been a very tumultuous year, or two, or fifty¡K

Two years ago, on an icy winter day, Gordon bought the farm. It was a terrible shock. When the snow finally melted, we discovered that we owned 300 acres of the sandiest soil on the planet. Not even a blessed potato would take root in it. Neither would our children. Empty nests are difficult for mothers. All my dear children had flown, and not to sensible locations like Hamilton or Guelph. No, they’d headed off to the remotest corners of the earth, and the words: Don’t worry, It won’t cost much, and Can you store my stuff? still rang in my ears.

I inhaled my coffee, “Maybe it is time to seek professional help.”

Abby nodded. “It’s kinda fun.”

“What? Therapy? How do you know?”

“It’s a requirement for my master’s. Everyone goes through analysis.”

My life flashed before my eyes, and I saw Abby sharing it all with her shrink. It’s always the mother’s fault. Oh God, had she told about the naked plumber? Disclosed what I did to her turtle? Or¡K Lord, please not the Han Solo poster on the bedroom ceiling. There were so many ways I’d traumatized this child.

Sitting in Dr. Olivia Kendal’s waiting room I feared I’d made a mistake. Enya played softly in the background, Chai tea spiced the air. I perused her glossy brochure: I’m OK, You’re Not OK, So Let’s Talk. Her twenty-something frame emerged wearing the same ruffled skirt and peasant blouse I’d worn in the sixties. She pointed to my feet, and then to the ‘No Shoes’ sign on the wall. “There are slippers in the basket.”

“Are they Freudian?” I said, trying to break the tension and calm my nerves.

She looked puzzled. “Ah, no. They’re fleece.”

I followed her to the inner sanctum and sank into a big, velvet chair. A large print of Starry Night hung on the wall. “Interesting choice of art.”

“Why’s that?”

“Van Gogh for a therapist’s office.”


“Never mind.” I scoped out the exits.

“So Ms. Taylor, tell me why you’ve come today?”

I searched for the right way to begin, for something profound, but not too revealing. “Well Doctor, I was pondering what Plato said about the unexamined life not being worth living, and it got me thinking that my lived life was worth examining.” I was amazed by my cleverness. I waited for applause and affirmation.

She seized the pencil tucked behind her ear and wrote furiously. I was certain I heard ‘delusions of grandeur’ being scratched across the page.

This was not going well. I should’ve just said, “People think I’m nuts. I need help.” I noticed a squat table in the corner, filled with sand and toys: shovels, dump trucks, action figures, farm animals¡K Ah, common ground, we could relate on the topic of children. “I see that you’re a child therapist as well?”

“No, I just treat adults.”

“Oh.” I looked at the sandbox.

“That’s part of my treatment model. Helps one dig down, get in touch with deep issues.” She judged over her glasses. “We won’t go there for months.”

I sat in silence. She asked, “What goes through your mind right now?”

I resisted revealing, an extra large Tim’s, double cream, and an apple-cinnamon cruller. I just said, “Sex.”

The session was enlightening. Apparently I’m depressed, repressed, angry, and in deep denial. I’m in need of months, perhaps years, of intensive therapy at $120 per hour. I drove home, longing for the asylum of my 300 acre sandbox. Abby and several friends were playing volleyball. They somehow always knew when there was lasagna in the freezer. The ball landed by my foot. “Nice shoes Mom.” I looked down at the fuzzy pink slippers and recounted the stops I’d made since my appointment: bank, supermarket, pharmacy¡KI may have been a woman teetering on the Freudian-brink, but at least I was wearing comfortable slippers.

Skip the Loo My Darling

Carol Burnside

In the beginning, public washrooms had manual flush toilets… and it was good.
And the Lord rested knowing that women had dominance over public toilets–that there were toilet tanks aplenty upon which to rest purses and parcels–and that all toilets had handles to be depressed and jiggled as each woman saw fit.

Then suddenly, without warning, the age of enlightenment ended, and a time of great darkness descended upon the public washroom. It was during this period, under much secrecy and without consulting so much as a single female, that manual flush toilets began disappearing from public washrooms across the land, to be replaced with automatic flushing beasts of burden.

And women everywhere were pissed off.

Okay, hold on, maybe I’m being a little overdramatic here, but I was pissed off, or rather, I am pissed off; and who wouldn’t be? I mean, at the very least I resent the implication that a toilet can best decide when it should and should not flush.

At any rate, these toilets never flush when they should.

This may sound harsh, but I’m convinced that I’ve got a better chance of seeing a blind, three legged ant dance the cha-cha on my kitchen counter than I do of ever having one of these toilets flush when I want it to.

Personally, I suspect that the problem with these toilets is that a good many of them suffer from premature evacuation.

I’m quite certain that the powers that be would rather we weren’t aware of such things; but we’ve all experienced it–self flushing toilets that flush the instant you step inside their cubicle, catching you in wide-eyed disbelief and causing you to wonder if the toilet you’re about to utilize hasn’t just used up its per person flush allotment.

Exasperating as that can be, what is even more bothersome is that oftentimes these toilets will let go with a flush just as you’re positioning your backside upon their seat.

Is there anything quite as shocking as an unexpected sitz bath?

And to think that I used to believe that finding dribble on a toilet seat was the most disgusting washroom experience I could have.

How naive of me.

In light of this, it may come as no surprise to know that as much as possible, I avoid using public washrooms. Last week, however, out of sheer cross-your-legs necessity, I reluctantly decided to use the washroom at Roxbury Mall.

I must admit, when the toilet didn’t greet me with a flush as I entered the stall, I was relieved. So far so good, I thought.

Then, as I oh-so-carefully sat upon the seat and the toilet didn’t flush, I shouted “Alleluia, Praise the Lord!” When I finished my business and was ready to leave the stall and the toilet REFUSED to flush, I said… well, what was said then is not important.

What is important is that I discovered that no amount of spastic hand waving in front of a toilet sensor will convince a toilet to flush if it chooses otherwise.

In other words, their code cannot be cracked.

I also learned that when confronted with toilets such as these, sometimes a gal has to resign herself to wait patiently inside the washroom stall until the toilet decides to flush; much like some damn recess bell signaling that class is over and you are free to leave… and remember there’ll be no running in the halls!

Imagine, all this angst because someone thought that a toilet could best determine when to flush itself.

Funny isn’t it? Somewhere along the way we’ve won the right to vote, but lost the right to flush.

Well that’s okay. I’m an eternal optimist, and as such I’m betting that automatic flush toilets are nothing more than an annoying fad that soon will go the way of soap-on-a-rope…down the drain.

I don’t know about anyone else, but until then, as far as it is humanly possible, I’ll skip the loo my darling.

Shelf Life

This essay tied for first place in the 3rd Annual Writing Contest by the Haliburton Highlands Writers’ and Editors’ Network and the Agnes Jamieson Gallery in June, 2005

As a person who values logic, it bothers me that I already own more books than I can read before I die even if I live to be 100, and that I continue to buy them. I have books all over my house. Shelves of them. Stacks of them. Baskets of them. Drawers of them. Piles of them. Paperbacks, hardcovers, chapbooks, joke books, tiny books, huge books, reference books, novels, how-to’s, new books, old books, textbooks, antique books. Books with pretty covers, books with ripped covers, books with no covers. I have so many coffee table books that I’d have to buy six more coffee tables if I wanted to display them.

Continue reading…

The Gift of Words

The following essay, which was featured in The Globe and Mail Facts & Arguments on January 7, 2003, won the Perioridal Writers Association of Canada’s 2005 Barbara Novak Award For Excellence in Humour and/or Personal Essay Writing.

Validation can be as liberating for the teacher as for the student.
He called at one of the lowest points in my life.

After eight weeks, I was still in a cast from my broken leg, still in a rented wheelchair, crashing into trim and baseboards. Hemorrhoids had reared their ugly little heads, and I could feel a bladder infection coming on. My chronic cough was worse than ever. It was 2½ weeks before Christmas 2000, and I had 30 people arriving that weekend for my husband’s 50th birthday bash. Writing assignments were piling up, as clients called needing last-minute jobs completed before the holidays. I wasn’t done shopping, hadn’t started baking and was considering not decorating the house at all. And there on the other end of the phone line was a creative writing student I hadn’t seen or heard from in more than a year—asking if I’d type in a handwritten entry for a short story contest so he could submit it by the end of the month. My first reaction was to say “No”— and I did. “Can’t you find a friend to type it in?” I asked. As he explained how reluctant he was to let anyone else see the story, my battle-weary brain cells snapped into temporary formation, and connected a face with the name and voice.

Ah, yes, the young man with the soft eyes; eyes that betrayed a hard life. The young man who wrote his assignments by hand because he couldn’t afford a computer. The young man who stammered when he read his work aloud. The young man who apologized for … well, everything. The young man with the poor grammar and spelling skills. The young man I considered one of the most gifted writers I’d ever encountered. And (as he reminded me) the young man to whom I had made a solemn promise: “You did say that if I ever decided to enter a writing contest, you’d type the story for me.”

I had meant it the previous year when I reassured him: “You can learn grammar and spelling, but your ability as a storyteller is a gift. Work on the mechanics and let the stories flow.” In fact, I envied him. It’s an awesome moment in a teacher’s life when she realizes she is guiding someone who is more talented than she. It’s also thrilling. I daydream about writing the kind of fiction that streams from this man’s imagination; yet there he was in mid-December saying, “If you think the story’s garbage, tell me. Change anything you want.” As he handed over the black folder containing that cherished segment of his soul, I sensed his excitement — and his fear. He’d been criticized before, his pop fiction-loving friends telling him his work needed more “action.” Understanding my responsibility to him, I promised to be honest.

Several days before Christmas, I decided to read his story through once before typing. I cried — not just for the compelling content, but for the exposition. I wept at the sensitive, poignant lead he had created, and for how he had varied his sentence structure throughout. I melted inside when I read his startling metaphors, and I reveled in his sensuous word choices that allowed me as the reader to hear, see, feel, smell and even taste each scene.

He had put into practice just about everything we had covered in that 10-week college course. The characters spoke with distinct voices that weren’t his. The surprise ending was prefaced by seeds of foreshadowing he had sown with his unique brilliance. The symbolism he wove transported the story to a depth that no amount of “action” could mine.

I corrected a few misspelled words and rearranged a handful of commas as I typed, but I left the writing intact. When he came to pick up his story, I shared my opinion: “This is too good for a contest; it’s worthy of a literary journal.” But we agreed that the contest was a start. “You put a lot of work into this,” I said, “and it shows.”

“I looked over all my assignments from your course, especially the corrections you made, and used all your advice,” he offered, not realizing the impact those words had on me. In a humble gesture to dismiss my compliment, he waived his right arm and said, “I rewrote the story so many times, I’m sick of it.”

Ah, the mark of a true writer — AND an unexpected boost to my often flagging confidence as a writing instructor. Most artists realize that a writer’s life is plagued by self-doubt. “What gives me the right?” asks the fledgling author who has no choice but to assemble words into unique literary packets. But the writer MUST write, just as the painter is compelled to orchestrate pigment and shape, and the musician fulfills passion by tinting the air with emotion-charged waves.

Teaching writing is lonely, too. What gives ME the right to presume I can shape the abilities and imaginations of other writers, many far more skilled than I? My computer-less friend answered that question for me. He handed me a box of truffles to thank me for the typing favour, but his real gift to me was validation. He had listened to me. Trusted me. Acted on my advice — and the result was breathtaking. He trotted off with three copies of his submission: one for the contest, one for his files and one for his mother. Chocolates and a copy for his mom—you gotta love a guy like that, don’t you?

His words represented one of the most wonderful gifts I’ve ever received. The next time someone reaches out to me for a favour, hemorrhoids or not, I won’t be so quick to say no.

The following essay, which aired on CBC Radio’s “First Person Singular” in September, 2003, explains best how Dorothea feels about The Writing FairyTM mission.

Every now and then my husband says something profound. Last time it happened was in 1992 – the year I celebrated my 41st birthday. I was grumbling about the fact that I was halfway through my life if I was lucky, and that I’d always wanted to be a writer, and wasn’t it too bad that I hadn’t pursued a writing career, blah, blah, blah.

With that irritating male logic look in his eyes, my significant other stopped my whining with, “So, be a writer.”

Continue reading…