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Writing Samples

On this page you will find several short examples of my writing. There are items I've prepared for clients, including a couple of personal histories. A few things I've done for fun are also here. All of these are just snippets of the complete texts.

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I hope these samples give you a sense of what I can do for you. Please call or email to discuss your writing or editing project. No job is too small.

This is the introductory paragraph of a 4,700 word fictional short story based on my work with Nortel in Bogotá, Colombia in the mid-1990s. It was recently published in an anthology of works by members of the Ottawa Independent Writers.

Adriana

Introduction to Bogotá
Peter Carnwinick shifted uneasily in the hard wooden chair; Adriana was coming around the end of the conference table, quickly pulling out the adjacent straight-backed chair to his. As her familiar scent closed around him, she quietly slipped down beside him. Her blouse opened a bit more than usual. Peter was motionless. Could this be happening at a serious business meeting? Was she going to seduce him, right here, in front of the others? She leaned close to him and whispered, somewhat breathlessly, in his ear, " I wanted to sit close to you to make it easier to do the translation." That made sense, he thought. Funny; in the past she had sat across from him.

This is the beginning of a memoir submitted to CBC Radio in Ottawa, which won first prize in a story contest. A version of it was broadcast on "First Person Singular".

Snapdragons and Shaving Cream

For just about my entire life, the humble snapdragon has been part of me. It was my mother's favourite garden plant. Hardy and colourful, easy to grow with a fascinating ability to open when carefully squeezed, in many ways they personified my mother.

I was about four years old, when my parents were planting the traditional three dozen snapdragons in the side garden. More accurately, mother was planting; father was doing whatever he was told. "Gerald, dig that hole a little deeper," came the authoritative horticultural voice, "and not so far back." "Yes, dear," was the usual reply. I was exempted from these chores, and instead ran around the side yard, chasing a ball, maybe a dream. That day, I was dreaming about when I would be big enough to triumphantly climb the majestic catalpa tree that graced the front of the house.

Perhaps overly absorbed in tree-climbing thoughts, as I pursued the ball, I tripped over the raised sidewalk of the apartment building next door, and smashed my head right through a reinforced glass basement window. I emerged from the shattered window, screaming as loud as my little lungs allowed, with shards of glass stuck at crazy angles out of the top of my head.

This was an event made for my mother, who I think was never really happy unless she was firmly in charge. While there was a hospital just around the corner, hospitals were places you went for a real emergency. Mother dropped her trowel, ignored the misplaced hole, and leapt into action. "Gerald, run and get your shaving cream, shaving brush and razor. Take the blade out, and meet me in the kitchen - hurry!" she commanded. Dad obeyed, running for the first and only time I ever saw him do so.

Here is a sample of an advertorial I prepared for a body shop that was changing its name and wished to inform clients it was the same, only better. It was a half-page ad in the Ottawa Citizen.

allard's collision centres joins the Fix Auto network
It's Different But Still The Same

Yvon Allard, the affable President of one of Ottawa's landmark companies, is on a roll. Taking a visitor through the sprawling Edgewater Street body shop in Kanata, Yvon carefully inspects the paint job done on a replacement hood for a 2001 Alero. It might be stretching a bit to say that Yvon caresses the paint, but he is looking for any possible flaws that might lead to a customer complaint. "Looks good, feels good," he says, and gives the painter the thumbs up sign. And this is the underside of the hood, which probably no one will ever notice!

Yvon demonstrates the paint scanner, a computerized device that allows the painters to precisely match the naturally faded colour on many older cars. "We've still got all those paint chips, just in case," Yvon says, pointing to a rack of dusty chips in the corner, "but we rely on the latest technologies whenever we can."

This is the beginning of a one-page bio of a photographer, for use in her photo exhibit.

Art from the Heart International Landscape Photography

Standing on China's Great Wall, Susie King carefully readies her Pentax K1000 SLR camera. If you're not familiar with this workhorse model, you might be surprised to learn that this camera dates from the 1970s, and is completely manual - no auto focus, no automatic exposure setting, just a very good camera she bought while in college. It still has a large army of dedicated users.

Susie studies the spectacular vista to her north, where the Wall twists across the mountains and eventually disappears into the mist. She takes about a dozen shots. If she is very lucky, one will be worth keeping.

Susie is a purist in her photography - no filters, no alterations, very little tinkering with the developing and printing. Susie shoots exactly what she sees, and is never happier than when she can share these views with others. "I like to capture the moment of what I see," she explains, "and it's almost always spontaneous."

I enjoy writing short pieces about my experiences, and turning them into works that bring smiles. Here's the beginning of a story about putting a new roof on a pool shed.

The Shed

It sat there with its shingles curling like a huge flock of eagle talons, taunting me to repair it. After some 30 years, weather had extracted a terrible toll; not one shingle lay flat, many had shed their top layer, the eaves were full of shingle dust, and the tour buses no longer came down our street. It was of course the whispered talk of all the neighbours, who avoided our backyard as if it were full of rampaging pit bulls. And this was no paltry little lean-to; this was a substantial structure with change rooms, pool equipment, garden supplies, and countless legions of cute little field mice. And then, in a moment of utter senility, I uttered the fateful words, "Yup, we need a new roof on the shed, and I am going to do it myself. I will learn roofing and I will save a lot of money."

Here's a small bit from the content of a website I recently did for a caterer in Gatineau.

CATERING

Whatever you can imagine in gastronomy, we can create in your home or place of business. From an elegant dinner for two that you will remember for years to come, to a more formal business luncheon, Oh! petits plats français can deliver. We will prepare food that perfectly fits your theme, or create something special as a surprise. But there will be no surprise in the quality.

We can deal with any food allergies, creating lactose free, gluten free meals, or whatever else your guests should avoid. While we are most partial to fine French cooking, we can also easily accommodate international styles. Go ahead, give us a challenge!

This is the opening of my first personal history, written in 2003. The full story was about 16,000 words. The book cover is nearby.

"THESE I BELIEVE TO BE TRUE"
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LILIAN LAUSHWAY
Written By Bill Horne, on behalf of her family

believeIt's a cloudy Saturday evening on July 12, 1996, at Frank Clair Stadium in Ottawa's Lansdowne Park. Lilian Laushway, Rough Riders fan extraordinaire, is sitting in Section F, Row 12, Seat 6, as she has for every Ottawa Rough Riders football game since 1946. Yes, you read correctly, that's 1946: 50 years of season tickets. It's not looking good for Ottawa; at the end of the third quarter, they're down 31 to 12. "Go Riders go", she yells. The weather is hot, but Lilian's boys are hotter; they explode in the fourth quarter, scoring three touchdowns and two converts. The Ottawa quarterback, David Archer, throws a 46-yard pass at 9:19 of the final quarter, and all 13,489 fans go wild. Lilian is revelling in the final score: Rough Riders 32, BC 31. Lilian herself has also racked up an impressive score: 17 trips to the greatest show in Canadian football, the Grey Cup extravaganza, wherever it took place in Canada, between 1966 and 1988. And did I mention that Lilian is an amazing 84 years young as she savours the home team victory?

This is one incredible lady, now entering her 90th year, with the mental alertness of many people half her age. Shift forward a few years to January 2003, when Lilian and her niece June Miller are ensconced at the Agave Grill, a trendy new restaurant in Ottawa's west side. Chosen by Lilian's cousin Julia, to complement Lilian's love of all things Spanish, the Agave arguably makes the best margaritas in the city, and Lillian is there to check it out. Holding the enormous glass vessel with both hands, she methodically samples the tequila, triple sec and limejuice. "Perfect," she says.

I acted as Communications Manager for a sports organizing company in 2003; this was part of a piece announcing a race event.

Somersault Promotions is pleased to announce its "Canadian Half" Triathlon and Duathlon on Saturday, August 30, at the Rideau Canoe Club on Mooney's Bay. Featuring triathlon distances equivalent to a half Ironman competition, this is Eastern Ontario's premiere long distance event and will attract many top triathletes and duathletes. The swim is in Mooney's Bay, and the bike and run segments of the race take place along the Canal (Colonel By). There are also shorter versions for those not ready for the rigors of the Half, and for novices to the sport. These events, and the associated 8km Rideau Canal run, are all part of the Ottawa Sports Festival. Action gets underway at 8:30 a.m., and continues through the day until about 4 p.m. Over 800 athletes will take part.

This is the start of another personal history, about 18,000 words, prepared in 2004.

"Third Best in the World Isn't Bad"
The Life and Times of Lois Merrill Fraser

Introduction
It's 7:30 on Saturday evening, November 19,1938, in a comfortable home in Winnipeg. Upstairs, in a bedroom shared with her sister Laura, 15 year old Lois Merrill Sparling is nervously waiting for "it" to play out. Her father, Fred (better known to all as Fritz), is a successful 62-year-old lawyer, and he is holding court in the living room downstairs. Lois's mother, Gratia, is busy in the kitchen, with the final cleanup of dinner dishes. Lois, a Grade 10 student at nearby Calvin High School, reflects on having done her usual domestic duties earlier in the day, by preparing dinner for the family, crowned with her already neigbourhood-famous chocolate cake.

Now it's party time, and Lois and companion are soon heading off to one of her friend's homes. They'll be dancing, chatting and eating, as was the norm for most parties of the day. That's assuming that he survives "it", of course. Lois's date, John Doe (so named because there were so many of them in those days) and Fritz are eyeing each other from two elegant chairs. John Doe is inwardly cringing, and desperately wondering why such a nice young man would ever have asked this pretty Latin scholar and athlete out to a party, if he had known he'd face the Sparling Inquisition. Fritz is boring in fast, having already dispensed with the pleasantries of what most 15-year-old boys could handle. Here it comes: "So, John, what are the most important things you should know?," Fritz asks, legal eyes bearing in on him. John crumbles, his mind frantically trying to come up with anything other than "yes, sir" or "no, sir." What was this man looking for?

This was the beginning of a letter I recently prepared for an accountant who wanted to inform his clients of some changes in his firm.

January 4, 2005

Dear Friends:

From my modest beginnings more than 14 years ago, I am now taking another major step in expanding services for my clients.

I am excited to announce that we have now become Abrams & Associates, and it is more than just a name change. My colleague, Karen Fisher, CGA, who has been with me since 1998, has now become an associate with the firm. Also, we have recently engaged additional staff to handle routine bookkeeping as well as other tasks, allowing Karen and I to devote more time to professional accounting services for you. Along with Freida Shaw, our administrative assistant, we are now organized to provide even greater assistance.

In addition to being a full-service accounting firm, working with more than 200 clients, we now offer additional services. We will provide you with business planning, cash flow analyses, personal financial planning and estate planning. In other words, if it has numbers, we probably do it.