Writing Challenge: A celebrity encounter

We are in the middle of film festival fever in Toronto. The city is teeming with famous and not-so-famous visitors for the Toronto International Film Festival. One of the unique things about TIFF is that it’s not just an industry event – celebrity fans and movie lovers are a big part of the festival. And local fans will go to great lengths to meet their celebrity crush. This can include waiting anxiously at the red carpet, hanging out around celeb-worthy bars, restaurants and hotels, or launching intense social media campaigns.

We wanted to show Toronto a little love in this week’s writing challenge. (Can a London challenge and a New York challenge be far behind?)

The challenge: create a romantic encounter between a celebrity and fan during one of the world’s most popular international film festivals! Just a few rules:

  • Your celebrity can be based on a real person, but don’t use their real name
  • Set your scene in Toronto, but don’t use the word Toronto
  • Include 3 iconic Toronto places, people or things
  • No more than 5 paragraphs, please

There’s more than one challenge in this week’s challenge: Can you create a vivid picture of a place you’ve never been? And do it without naming the place? Employ romance tropes such as opposites attract or Cinderella stories in a new way? Use dialogue to create tension and illustrate character?

Post your scene in the comments below any time between now and Sunday, September 15, 2019, and we’ll announce our Top 3 Editor’s Choice Awards on Monday!

Update:

We had a lot of fun reading your Toronto stories and trying to spot the celebrities and Toronto landmarks. (Although we were surprised to see no mention of Drake, the Toronto Raptors, or raccoons!) Thank you to everyone who participated in our challenge this week!

As promised, direct from “The Six”, here are our Editor’s Choice Top 3 (in no order):

Clara: for the nod to one of our favourite stars, Matthew McConaughey 😉

Ann: for the change in POV

Patsy: a late entry, but we liked the twist ending!

And now if anyone’s looking for us, we’ll be in Kensington Market hunting down a churro! 🙂

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  1. “You’re quite a beauty.”

    Asha spoke to the luxurious super yacht, not to the glitterati on board. She liked talking to things that didn’t judge her. The internet had been alive all day with the buzz of the huge super yacht moored up in the harbour, but she’d been so busy working her ass off serving movie-themed cocktails that this was her first chance to come and check it out.

    The Quay still thronged with hard-core filmsters and the red and white lights on the tower beamed out their welcome to all visitors. She took a step closer to the yacht. The party of the year was in progress, judging by the wild laser show accompanying the throbbing beat of the freshest rock trio whose latest album had gone triple platinum last week.

    What must it be like to be a member of that elite circle? There were no security guards around that she could see. Who could it hurt if she took one cheeky peek at the main deck? She didn’t want to gatecrash, just look quietly like she used to look through the windows of department stores at Christmas time at toys her parents could never afford for her.

    ‘You’re quite a beauty yourself,’ Asha jumped out of her skin at the sound of the famous Texan drawl that had re-vitalised the Western genre against all the odds and sparked a female fan club as wide as the prairie. As her gaze connected with his wrinkled-at-the-corner cornflower-blue eyes, her heart skipped a beat then made up for it double-time. ‘Care to join me?’ He held out his hand to her and took a step towards her.

    As his hand touched hers, she left the beat of attraction pulse through her. Not an attraction for a far-off movie star but for a real man, a man with shadows under his eyes as though he didn’t sleep too well, and strong forearms, tanned dark from the sun as though he spent his life outside. He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it, sending a spark through to her toes. This was one night she was going to remember.

  2. Don’t stare. Act naturally. Stephanie sucked in a measured breath and exhaled slowly.
    Smoothing down a non-existent wrinkle on her figure hugging dress, she glanced around the kitchen. The staff knew the importance of celebrity patronage during the Film Festival. But this wasn’t just any celebrity, this was The Sexiest Man Alive – and not just according to her. The thrumming of her heart made the sheer fabric covering her décolletage quiver. He was here. Here in the restaurant during her shift. Breathe!

    Richard Ammonsson, a known foodie, was at the Harbourfront Grill. Could the press be far behind? This was a make or break moment. Well, she had to lead by example. Poise and grace, as her grandmother would have said. Instinctively putting a hand to check her chignon, Stephanie picked up the water carafe and balanced it on a tray then pushed through the swing door. Her slow measured steps lessened the click of her heels on the obsidian-like tile.

    Richard Ammonson – The Richard Ammonson – looked up and smiled. As his eyes caught hers, Stephanie felt her heel slide out, throwing her off balance and sending her careening across the floor to land in a heap at his feet. With the athletic grace he was famed for, Richard reached out and caught the vessel mid-air, but the icy contents maintained their trajectory and landed full in his face and chest.

    There was a collective gasp from the patrons and staff alike, followed by the distinctive click of phones and cameras. Stephanie glanced up. Way up. But as she began to form an apology, she saw Richard’s shoulders begin to shake, and his deep baritone had a distinct tremor as he simultaneously asked if she was okay, wiped the dripping water from his jaw, and reached down a hand to help her to her unsteady feet.

    “I am so sorry, Mr. Ammonsson. I really don’t know what to say.” Stephanie hoped that he attributed the flush that rushed to her cheeks to embarrassment and not the heat that coursed through her body at his touch.

    “Accidents happen Ms…?”

    “Lessiter. Stephanie Lessiter.” Her voice sounded breathy in her own ears. Get it together!

    “Ms. Lessiter, if the worst thing that ever happens to me is to have water thrown in my face, however inadvertently, then I’ll be a lucky man.”

    Surely that twinkle in his eyes was a smile meant for her alone.

    “Is there anything I can do to make it up?”

    “Perhaps a towel?”

    “Of course, sorry,” but one of the staff had already appeared with a tray of freshly folded napkins.

    After confirming she was okay, Richard Ammonsson excused himself. Moments later the café overflowed with celebrity fans and press eager for a story. Stephanie had no time to pause until the end of her shift. It was then she noticed a manila envelope with her name on it propped up on the little desk in the back of the kitchen. She recognized the Thompson Toronto logo, and her heart beat faster as she opened it and spilled the contents onto the desk. It contained two tickets to a showing of Richard Ammonsson’s latest film at the Winter Garden Theatre, two passes to the after party, the number of a limo driver, and a hand written note:

    Dear Ms. Lessiter,
    I am sure a little water in my face is nothing to what you have endured today. Please accept these tickets and allow me to treat you to a night at the TIFF. I hope to see you this evening,

    Sincerely,

    Richard Ammonsson.

  3. “Jack, this is Senya Carmichael. Senya is the videographer slash photographer I’ve contracted for you while you’re at the festival.” Winston Chesterfield, agent and general pain the butt said flashing his blinding smile. “Senya, Jack Travers.”
    The man lithely stepped off the forty-foot Beneteau sailboat and onto the concrete jetty. A slight frown creased his tanned brow as he studied her. The intensity of his gaze made her lips part and she moistened them. Senya broke the eye contact to set the gear bag containing her cameras down by her feet and straightened. Winston did bring her work so Senya formed her lips into a smile. Hopefully this job wouldn’t be like the debacle last year.
    Just keep things professional. She offered her right hand to the tall, dark stubble-chinned man standing across from her. By the long dark hair, ragged grey T-shirt, and torn walking shorts, one would never guess this man was Jack Travers. “Nice to meet you.” She kept her tone pleasant, uncertain as to what to expect from the action movie actor.
    He nodded. “And you,” was Jack’s simple reply.
    His tone wasn’t unfriendly, closer to neutral or guarded maybe. She didn’t know him well enough to figure out what the emotion was in his deep brown eyes. Senya’s eyebrows rose as they shook hands and she felt the calluses on his skin. Not what she was expecting, but then no one really knew Jack Travers, he kept his life private. She did know liked his firm handshake.
    “So,” Winston clasped his hands and rubber his palms together. “Let’s get started. I’d like to begin here, at on the boat. Photos and some video at Spadina Quay Marina, move on to Kensington Market where you said you need to buy provisions, Jack. Then lunch in Little Italy or maybe Chinatown?”
    What, no visit to the CN Tower? Senya kept this thought to herself.
    “Then later this evening at Jackman Hall for the premier of Fun with Funerals. I’d suggest–”
    “No,” Matt said, as subtle change washed over his tone and stance. His posture had become more closed. “No footage of the boat. I don’t want attention drawn to Christina Marie.”
    “Daddy?” Came from below deck.

  4. “Somewhere a handbag designer is crying.” A dimple deepened in the cheek of Hollywood’s favorite bad boy turned box office sensation as he chortled. “Just to recap, you step out into traffic to snap pictures of landmarks, desecrate designer purses with hockey swag, cheer for the NJ Devils and snort when you laugh. Does that about cover it?” He adjusted his non-prescription glasses and slid them into place. The thick-frames were meant to fake-out adoring fans, but his chiseled good looks were obvious to her.

    Janet harrumphed. “By my calculations, you’ve acted as a president, a patriot, a vampire and have come back from the dead twice. Yet, you still can’t ride a bike.” Sauntering past the Hockey Hall of Fame, she spied a familiar sky-high tower between buildings and smoothed the front pleats of her new dress. She’d only bought it to go to the symphony tonight, not to impress celebrities visiting for this week’s film festival. With a steadying breath, Janet licked her lips and savored the sweet and tangy lime flavor that lingered. “Thanks for sharing your Ping-Gai. If crispy, grilled chicken that delicious had been my lunch, I might not have been as generous.”

    “Queen Street’s a long way from New Jersey, but worth a seven-hour trip, if good food is what you’re after. Besides, it’s the least I could do.” His voice had been described as hoarse and throaty, but as it wafted to her ears over the city sounds, she recognized the rich baritone’s true quality: magic. His brows furrowed and, once again, he observed the bruise on her upper arm their minor pile-up had caused. “I really am sorry about that.” Of course, if Janet hadn’t stepped from the sidewalk into a bike lane, her purse straps never would have tangled with her secret crush’s bike handlebars as he’d pedaled past.

    “Well, I’m this way.” Janet reluctantly pointed towards Meridian Hall’s sleek exterior with two tickets in hand. He locked his bike to a tree guard. “My friend bailed last minute. I hope the box office can give it to someone tonight.”

    “Yes.” He plucked the ticket from her hand. Their fingertips touched. “I accept your invitation.” Wonder swirled in Janet’s stomach as he added, “If you let me treat you to a proper dinner afterwards, we could make a night of it.”

  5. Ann Allen

    He relaxed in the unfamiliar anonymity.
    He was downtown, at the foot of the famous CN tower, close enough to the Rogers Centre that he could throw a baseball and hit it. And not a single person was paying any attention.
    The big film festival was in town, with Hollywood celebrities littered around the city. Hockey and basketball seasons were starting soon, attracting all the sports attention the pundits and fans could handle.
    He’d thrown a no-hitter against the hometown Blue Jays last night, and no one cared, not now, not with the local team living in the baseball cellar for yet another year. In fact, his no-hitter would probably come with an asterisk against it, not really counting. But for the moment, he breathed in a bit of fall crispness, a bit of street food comingling, and a lot of blessed freedom.
    “So, you gonna do the Edgewalk?” a voice came from beside him.
    He stared up, where a group of red clad thrill seekers were perched on the outside edge of the tower. His pulse quickened, but he shook his head no. He wasn’t allowed that kind of risk. Insurance, contract, yada, yada, yada.
    “Ah, come on. You know you want to. You’re not scared, are you?”
    He turned in quick denial to catch a mischievous glance from a pair of laughing brown eyes. Then his glance wandered down, noted the curves inside an Edgewalk t-shirt. He caught her gaze again, with not a hint of recognition in it.
    That familiar urge to take a chance, risk it all, slid through his veins.
    “Lead the way.” He said.

  6. One more hop—just one more and Nadya could probably glimpse his mesmerizing hazel eyes from here and leave a happier woman than when she’d arrived. All the hours of waiting and of grueling standing and holding her phone in a death clutch with hundreds of other fans wouldn’t be wasted. Beside her she heard another woman scream at her friend, “He’s heading this way!” The distraction started a domino effect that ended with Nadya losing her balance on landing and tipping backwards with her heels.

    One heel flew off, arced over the throngs of fans, and landed on the red carpet to dozens upon dozens of flashes from cameras and phones. If this happened in the middle of Dundas Square it couldn’t be any less mortifying. Though she could see it playing on the Jumbotron over and over. Carlos Bustamante would interview her. She’d have fifteen minutes of fame, and a lifetime of trolls and Internet memes to live with.

    She looked up, losing her breath for a whole different reason. Leaning in across the metal guardrail separating the hordes of fans from their idols was the man she’d been dying to get a peek at. One clear photo of his short, corkscrew black curls and low fade hairstyle, light honey-kissed brown skin, expressive black brows, patrician nose and full, pouty lips. And those eyes, she reminded herself. Without fail his searing gaze sucked her in every time when she scrolled through and updated the fan blog she ran personally and dedicated to him. So, this moment couldn’t be any more delicious than Heirloom cheesecake on a stick.

    Then again it was proving to be. Because now he was actually staring at her. In the flesh. No screen dividing them. They weren’t just breathing the same air in the same vicinity. He was close enough to touch. And then he was offering to touch her, vaulting the railing easily and holding a hand to her. “Can’t be much fun down there.” Had her brain been functioning, Nadya would question grasping his hand in her clammy palm. Nervous sweat oozed from her pores. She’d be a puddle in a second. A gooey, fangirling puddle, but a puddle nevertheless. Struck by the strength in his bigger hand and the enticing spiced scent of his cologne, she blinked some of the fog clear when his mouth moved again.

    “Your shoe?” he said, a boyish grin curling up the corners of his wide, thick lips. Kissable, streaked through her mind. He swept down on a knee before her, releasing her hand and freeing himself to help her lost heel find its home on her foot again. Losing the seven-hundred-dollar Louboutin would have killed her. Beaming up at her, her celebrity fantasy man chuckled and the heat of his laughter pooled in her lower belly. “I knew it looked even better on you.” Scratch that. His smile would be the death of her. Though hopefully not too soon. She still needed that picture of him after all.

  7. Josephine slid the card in the door, hoping Ricky had truly seen the occupant leave. If she was caught, she knew she would be fired on the spot. Never would Josephine have suggested such a crazy scheme if it hadn’t been for the distressed look on her friend Maria’s face when she realized her grandmother’s earring was somewhere in the last room she cleaned. The room that Josephine was now slipping into. Moving around the room, trying not to touch anything, Josephine scanned everywhere for the earring. Nowhere in the area of the sofa, forcing her to look further in the room.

    Rounding the doorway into the bedroom, she paused briefly to scan the view from the windows. She never tired of the city view the rooms offered. It was one of the hotels highlights. From this particular room she could see the CN Tower rising above the city where she had always dreamed of someone sweeping her off her feet for a romantic meal at the revolving restaurant. Daydreaming of her idea of a perfect date was costing her precious time, snapping out of it she turned and caught a flash of glimmer on the floor, just under the edge of the bed. Crouching down to reach it, she breathed a sigh of relief that she had found it. Now, she could get out of here. The click of a key card running through the door sent her pulse racing. Clutching the earring, she glanced nervously around the room, trying to think of an explanation for why she was here. Instead, she ducked into the bathroom.

    Josephine could hear a muffled masculine voice saying something about grabbing a jacket as he was coming toward the bedroom. If she could just stay out of sight long enough for him to get whatever he came back for and leave, she would be safe. Hearing footsteps approaching, Josephine’s mouth grew suddenly dry as the doorway to the bathroom became filled with a six-foot tall real- life personification of someone she had only previously seen on screen. The shock on his face was turning to disbelief or anger, she couldn’t tell which, reflecting through deep blue eyes. She had to think of something quickly, but her pulse was racing and her knees were weak.

    “The shower head seems to be working fine, sir,” she blurted, trying to sound confident, even as she realized from the arch in his eyebrows that he wasn’t buying it.

    Rubbing his hand across a perfectly trimmed beard, he glanced her over before finally staring her square in the eye, “I need a date and you probably don’t want management knowing you were in a guest’s room. How about we both help each other? We’ll have dinner at Monticeto’s, then run over to the Lightbox, nothing more. Might be entertaining to try passing you off as a socialite or something. What time do you get off your shift?”

  8. Marissa Skyland

    The city lights twinkled down below. The view took her breath away. All the different lights shining keeping her mesmorized. The international film festival brought her to the city. She figured she would take advantage and enjoy what the city had to offer while she waited for the festivities to begin tomorrow. Earlier in the day she thought to stop by one of her favorite restaurants in chinatown but decided against it. Deciding to go to the Pacific Mall instead where she would kill two birds with one stone. Having lunch there gave her more time to find the dress she wore tonight.
    “There must be something really interesting out there. Your staring like you’re supergirl ready to laser that window.”
    She turned toward the voice. It was him. There standing right in front of her. He was so much better looking in person. A blond strand of hair fell over his forehead making him look even more sexier than she would ever have imagined. He was smiling at her. Flustered she realized she never responded. “I was enjoying the view of the city from here. You can see downtown beautifully from up here. I love coming by the space needle the viewa are spectacular. The people below on Front Street look like tiny ants.” She chucked feeling silly as well as embarassed as she noticed him trying to get by her to the door to her right. She was blocking his way. Feeling like a fool for thinking he chose her out of everyone in the room to speak with. No longer feeling flattered, she moved a side to let him pass.
    She turned to leave thinking how horribly stupid she was for reacting to him the way she did.
    She felt his hand on her arm. “Wait, are you leaving already? Won’t you join me for dinner? After all I agree the view up here is beautiful.” Her cheeks warmed as he stared into her eyes while he spoke. Perhaps she wasn’t stupid after all.

  9. Patsy Conway

    Mich took her best friend by the hand as they turned the corner and crossed the road near the far end of Kensington Market
    “We have to try these churros,” Mich said as they wandered in front of the glass windows of the bakery and the decadent smells of the deep fried dough doused in cinnamon and sugar engulfed them.
    “Oooh, chocolate filled,” Sarah said. “Or caramel? What will I choose?”
    “I’m getting the jam,” said Mich. “Though I’m still a bit full after that amazing peameal bacon sandwich.”
    “It was amazing,” Sarah agreed. “Totally worth the wait.”
    There were cafes on every block in this neighborhood with names that could have been copied and pasted from Mich’s social media page favorites list. Poetry. Film. Jazz. They were in town for the film festival, like everyone else, but this year was special. They submitted their screenplay on a whim and it had been accepted and suddenly here they were rubbing elbows with movie stars and A listers.
    Mich felt Sarah squeeze her hand as she whispered through clenched teeth. “Don’t look now, but that’s Kyle Branson. Right behind us.”
    Mich casually turned her head and confirmed that the star was inches behind her, staring at his phone. The Kyle Branson. Action Movie star. The one with his own on-demand series. Last year’s Sexiest Man Alive. On line for a churro.
    Kyle raised his eyes to meet hers and he smiled. So she took a chance.
    “I’m so sorry,” Mich said. “But do you mind? Could we get a photo?”
    Sarah nudged her in the ribs but Mich continued.
    “Pretty please?”
    Kyle looked to his left and right before acquiescing.
    “Sure,” he said. “People ask me all the time. I’m used to it.”
    “Great,” Mich said, “You must be pretty good then.” She handed him her phone and turned to face him, throwing her arms around Sarah and mugging for the camera.
    Kyle was surprised at first but played it cool and took the shots. He turned the camera for both a portrait and landscape mode.
    “I took a bunch,” he said. “Hope they came out good.”
    “Thanks,” Mich said, taking her phone back. She loved that she had played it so cool with her celebrity crush. And maybe, if she ever saw him again, she would be a woman he would remember.