• "Oh, if I could only put things into words as I see them! Mr. Carpenter says, 'Strive, strive -- keep on. Words are your medium -- make them your slaves -- until they will say for you what you want them to say.' That is true, and I do try, but it seems to me there is something beyond words -- any words -- all words -- something that always escapes you when you try to grasp it -- yet leaves something in your hand which you wouldn't have had if you hadn't reached for it. ... I have written myself out for tonight, and am going to bed."
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    This is my place to "write myself out" -- sharing both my day-by-day thoughts and my artistic output. Thank you for visiting! - Carmen Pauls Orthner
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Halloweens past

Filed under Layouts • Written by Carmen @ October 29, 2011

As promised, here are a few more Halloween projects.

First up — “Halloween Runaways”. This one is actually the most traditionally coloured of the lot, which makes a bit ironic that its purpose is in part to help explain why we don’t like Halloween all that much!

As I’ve mentioned, Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday — and a big part of the reason is that some of the behavior we’ve encountered as candy give-outers, from surly teenagers with no costume who just want hand-outs (no “thank you” or even “trick or treat” sometimes!) to being egged — after spending the evening handing out a lot of expensive candy and then helping the neighbourhood Crime Watch group do street cleaning. In 2000, we moved a block and suddenly the number of trick-or-treaters doubled or even tripled, because Studer Street is considered a “good hand-outs” street I guess. So, for several years, my husband and I scheduled our medical appointments in the nearest city, Prince Albert, for Oct. 31, drove down, and enjoyed an elegant meal out, and one year, got a private showing (because no one else bought tickets!) of “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”, and stayed in a hotel for the night. The journaling notes I took are still somewhere in my papers (the journaling will eventually go behind the skeletal couple), but I did print a bit of free verse on some big ric-rac (by taping it onto the paper I’d printed the journaling on, and then running it through the printer again), and I added some photos of us and our road snacks, and the decorations we saw in P.A.

The journaling (what there is, for now) reads: “On Studer Street the seekers roam / Sponge Bob, Spidey, Captain Jack / Dragging sacks from house to house / So why that one locked and dark? / None but ghosts hear a doorbell gong…”

In 2004, I worked as a research assistant for Maggie Siggins, a Governor General’s Award-winning non-fiction writer, while she was putting together material for a book about a northern Saskatchewan First Nations (North American Indian, for my U.S. readers) community called Pelican Narrows. Maggie and her husband Gerry have a cabin at Jan Lake, a resort area that’s about a 45-minute drive (over gravel) from Pelican Narrows, and she used the cabin as her “home base” while working on the book. (It was eventually titled Bitter Embrace: White Society’s Assault on the Woodland Cree.) Pelican Narrows is officially a “dry” reserve (ie. no alcohol allowed), which means the bar in Jan Lake is very popular. My work with Maggie happened to be in late October, which meant I was in Jan Lake on Halloween that year — and this layout records what happened.

The layout design was inspired by an art inspiration challenge organized by Shelby Valadez, who kindly sent me this piece: (I was pleased to discover in searching for this image that I have quite a wealth of additional abstract art pieces, both ones that Shelby sent me and ones that I found on my own, stored on my computer for future use. Might just have to challenge myself that way again….) The strips of newspaper I used under the title are from some of my own newspaper articles about northern issues.

The journaling reads: “You’d think we’d have known better…. There we were on Halloween night in the bar at Jan Lake’s Miniquay Lodge, a 45-minute drive over washboard gravel and through northern forest and rock from the only nearby community: Pelican Narrows. Surrounding us were dozens of First Nations people from Pelican, ready to party with bottles of beer, grinning jack-o’-lanterns and a promised concert by local musicians (including Archie the one-armed guitarist). They: kids from the trapline, raised hunting moose and netting walleye. We: a celebrated non-fiction writer from the big city, currently living in a cabin while researching for her latest book, and a small-town newspaper reporter engaged as the author’s research assistant. So what would a visitor to the bar that night have seen? A bunch of people wearing jeans and t-shirts and happily getting drunk, one “old man” in a trenchcoat (the bar manager, who can trace his Metis ancestry back to the fur trade), one ghoul (the bouncer, who quickly apprehended my fishing pole lest it be used by someone as a weapon), and one face-painted knight in armour (a direct descendant of Chief Peter Ballantyne, the band’s namesake). Oh, and a couple of reporters dressed as a trapper (complete with toy moose) and a fisher ‘man’. There’s one cardinal rule on the annual night of dress-up: on Halloween, no one is who he or she looks to be. And despite our garb – and Maggie’s months of research for her book on Pelican Narrows, and all those articles I’ve written in the last seven years – we remain… NOT QUITE NORTHERN.”

And finally, a layout in comic strip style! My husband was very sweet and not only wore his clown costume and makeup all day at work, but let me take photos of him. I had a lot of fun with the sequins and silliness, trying to suggest both the circus and a kids’ book with my design. (Click on either photo to make it larger.)

The journaling reads: “1. Here is Clown. Clown yawns and stretches. It will be a long, long day. 2. Here is Clown in his Clown Car, on his way to work. See how sad he is. His little blue Clown Car is very, very empty, because all the other Clowns have called in sick today. 3. Here is Clown in a meeting with his boss, Dad Clown. Dad Clown has lots of advice for the young Clown on how to make people laugh when they are sad. He is a good teacher. 4. Clown has learned his lessons well! Dad Clown NEVER laughs in photos! He is a very serious, respectable man. Hurray for Clown! 5. Lunchtime for hungry Clown. He is very talented — look at him cooking pasta and reading a book at the SAME time. Wow! 6. Mmm… what a yummy hamburger. Thanks Clown! 7. Here is Clown on the telephone with Computer Supplier. Computer Supplier doesn’t know it’s Clown on the other end of the line. Hee hee. Shhh, don’t tell! 8. It’s time to go home, but Clown’s day is not over yet. Clown has lots of work to do — soon there will be Ghosties and Goblins at the door! Clown will be so busy answering the doorbell and handing out candy. Careful, Clown, don’t give away too much or there won’t be any left. Oh, wait, it’s not Clown who’s using up all the candy — it’s Wife! She keeps eating the candy! And then she gives away too much and Clown has to give out microwave popcorn instead and finally turn out the lights. 9. Aww… look at that. Clown is tired. No wonder — Clown has had a long, long day. Good night Clown!”

(Note: “Dad Clown” actually is Bryan’s dad Nelson, a retired school principal who was also Bryan’s boss at the time at the information technology company they both worked for. And he is notorious for not smiling for photos! Bryan also likes to multi-task — he is forever doing household tasks with a book in hand, including cooking, which he does most of in our house. And yes, I am Wife, and our candy shortage that night was entirely my fault. ;) )

Thanks for walking down this dark and spooky memory lane with me. ;)


  1. What a fun idea you have had to share old and new pages with a common thread! It is like looking through your Halloween album :) Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Nathalie — October 29, 2011 @ 9:25 pm
  2. Those are great Halloween layouts! I really love the added purple in the top one. I think I would be a little disgusted with the holiday too if we had a bunch of teens doing that around here. They’re still pretty well behaved here from what I’ve seen and I don’t think I’ve seen one asking for candy w/o a costume. Hope this Halloween is a lot more fun for you.

    Comment by Ange — October 30, 2011 @ 9:50 am

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