For the next few weeks, we are sharing writing that happened during AWA’s yearly marathon fundraiser, Write Around the World.

We offer this in appreciation for the workshop leaders and writers who joined together to raise money for AWA. What a vibrant celebration of the community we make when we share our words with one another!

Thanks to you, we are able to launch a new initiative for veterans and their families and to, as always, offer scholarships to make our training and affiliate programs more accessible. We are grateful to all who shared their voices throughout the month of May and who gifted us their writing to be shared here.

If you’re inspired and would like to be part of the fundraiser, please donate!

From Susan Whelehan’s Write Around the World group in Toronto, Ontario


When I think about my childhood home
my mom is hanging the laundry in the back,
my dad is mowing the lawn in the front,
my brothers are battling with their green
plastic army men in the dirt hole beside the garage.
my baby sister is sleeping in the buggy on the porch
and my dog is licking me and wants her belly rubbed.
All my stuff is there. Look in the garage—
my pogo stick, my hula hoop,
and my bike with coloured streamers
hanging from the rubber grips on the handlebars.
Look in my room—
my Nancy Drews 1-5, my jacks, my bug jar
and my box of crayons with the sharpener built right in.
I know. Can you believe it?
Look in the record holder in the stereo cabinet—
“Let’s All Sing with the Chipmunks”. I loved Alvin.
Look on the mantle and see my First Communion photo.
I’m angelic in my white dress, white veil, white ankle socks
and white patent leather shoes. Boys couldn’t see
the reflection of my white underpants in those. Thank God.
Look in the medicine chest in the bathroom—
St. Joseph’s Aspirin for Children, Johnson’s Baby Shampoo,
Colgate Toothpaste, and the Vaseline Petroleum Jelly I used
to shine my shoes on Saturday nights for church.
And look down the street—
all those tidy, green lawns
and tidy, shingled houses
and tidy, happy housewives
working in their gardens, each one with her tools in a peach basket,
pedal-pushers, a sun hat, and two breasts.
Everyone we knew had two breasts. Seriously. It’s hard to believe.
Funny what we took for granted.
My mom was the first to lose one at 43.
5 years late, the other.
1 year after that, her life.

Today, if you flew over that street, or your own
with a machine that detected families touched—
no, scorched by breast cancer
houses would be lighting up like fireflies on a hot August night.
We just take it for granted.

—Susan Whelehan


The air was now full of pollen. Dragonflies laid eggs on the underleaves of ferns. Magnolia petals and pinecones, spiny and scaled, dropped to the ground and, rotten, fed earth. They stretched their bodies in the sun. This heat, so sharp and full of edges, turning as the sun turned, blinding, and then red, and then cold and dark. Before, it had been all softness, all salt, and warm and cold were wavering and kind. Here there were grubs, and nits to dig out of each other’s crevices. Here there were lumbering, hungry things, but not so many as home.

            No sharks, she said to him. No razor jawed fish.

            No fish, he said. Yes.

They had both feared it, the first sunrise. How the air thinned as the hard light rose. They had both gulped and gasped. They moved towards home, got to the shore, eased into the water for a while. Only the shallows, they agreed.

            If he had moved deeper, if he had tried the sweetness of dark water, he found that the gills no longer opened enough, that the water was no longer full of breath. Only darkness, only refusal. The water, no longer their mother. If he knew they couldn’t go home, he didn’t tell her. Not then.

            In those first days, when the air came dirty and cold into their throats, they told each other things about the water. These sounds, that needed ears. Before, they’d always been able to feel each other’s sentences rippling down their smooth bodies, pulsing off rock and weed. Here, now, they could no longer listen with their whole skins. They were still not used to the scratch and whisper of their own sounds on land.

            Fishflesh, he said. Urchin eggs.

            Mmm, she said, trying the hum in her mouth. Horseshoe crabs. We can still get those, you know, she said. We don’t have to go all the way back in.

            It won’t taste the same, he said. She knew that. The food was dry without the salt wetness that sauced every mouthful. Anyway, he said, digging a reason, unable to make himself say, We can’t. Anyway, there are still sharks. This is safer.

            And they twisted under the bare sun, the naked, foodless air, and wanted home.

—Amber Meadow Adams

My Rememberer Is Broke

For Aunt Eva

For a short time you are a stranger.
I know I’ve seen you before but I just can’t place you.
What is your name? Where did I meet you?
I see you and then the vision fades.
I’m watching.
Watching you watching me.
I catch you gazing at me but I have no words to stop you.
Then I remember, you are important to me.
I know you are somebody I’m supposed to love.
I think that is the word.
The vision fades and you become the door, opening and closing.
The door of another world where I used to be.
I know you’re somebody, somebody important.
Who are you again? Tell me your name. I’ve seen you before.
There is the door, opening and closing and you come and go.
Were you important to me? Where did you go?
Where did I go?
What are we supposed to say?
I can’t find the words. My memory has holes in it.
What’s your name again? Where do I know you from?
I know I’m supposed to know you but my memory is stuck.
It’s like there are drawers where I keep my memories but
sometimes the drawers don’t open up,
or the only open part way.
Do you know who I am?
Have you come to take me home?
I see you again and then the vision fades.
You become the door, opening and closing to freedom – then not.
I live here.
These are my shoes, this is my home.
The door opens and then closes but I don’t move.
Who are you again?
I know I should remember but my rememberer is broke.
You are a stranger and I try to know who I am.
I go for walks but I need to have…

Oh, I was saying my memory has holes in it.
I know I should know you but you are a stranger to me now.
You become the door opening and closing to who I am.

—Barbara-Helen Hill


I’d only been at my new school in a new city a little while when I went to stay the weekend at the family cabin of Valerie Humnicky. I wasn’t really friends with Valerie but as I had yet to make any real friends, I couldn’t find a way to say no. Like the houses of most friends when you’re 10, it smelled funny: different cooking smells, detergent smells, pet smells, Dad smells, living room carpet where you watch TV smells. You watch TV at the cabin because it rains hard the whole Saturday long. I didn’t see any board games. No decks of cards or old paperbacks – not even a Reader’s Digest.  Mrs. Humnicky was also our Girl Scout leader, and she decided that a fun indoor activity would be to continue to embroider the tea towels that we’d started at last week’s meeting. I couldn’t believe my rotten luck. At Girl Scouts I’d gotten soon-to-be friend Mary Jo to do mine because I had no desire and less talent when it came to sewing. Now here was Mrs. Humnicky pulling a towel out of a carpetbag and presenting me with it – certainly mine because my name was on an index card attached to it with a paper clip. So began my bad stomachache. Frowning and gripping my belly I asked to use the bathroom. After some minutes, a knock. I said I was OK but needed to lie down. In the weird smelling living room I stretched out on the brown velour sofa. Valerie’s brother Fred was sitting in a creaky rocking chair watching the Yankees game. My favourite team. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep. I couldn’t very well ask him to turn up the volume.  Mrs. H. tiptoed in and put her hand on my forehead. It was a long way to dinner. It was a long, long way to Monday morning when Mr. Humnicky would be driving me to the city on his way to work. By dinnertime I was refusing to eat even though I was starving. When I sniffed back tears all through the meal, Mr. H asked if I was going to upchuck. When I said maybe he said well then we better get you home. Valerie looked kind of disgusted. When I walked into my own kitchen my mother also looked disappointed. I snuck an orange and some saltines into my bedroom and settled in with my new best friend, Anne Shirley.

—Casey Rock

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