Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tame Your Bully (short story for pink shirt day)

Update:  I was just emailed this helpful article on Workplace Bullying. Here's the link.

(selfie by Leanne Dyck)

I walk the schoolyard seeking my prey: the weak, the freak – those who, due to their appearance or behaviour, stand out as other.

Space Cadet is my favourite quarry. She seldom ventures into my kingdom; she knows what awaits her there. She enters the resource room to my chants of, “Retard! Retard!” Hidden away, in that room, her special teacher attempts to help her catch up.

Between classes, she aimlessly wanders the hall staring at her feet or with her nose in a book. She's a zombie who crashes into locker doors or is tripped and falls. In class, she never raises her hand. When called on, she supplies an erroneous answer in a muffled, vacant voice.

My minion and I take pleasure in her torture. It's an easy game. We stab her heart with cruel comments. Then we sit back and watch the blood flow. Day after day, we eat away her at spirit.

Sure there are others we toy with: Fatso and Fang-boy. But they quickly develop ways and means of defense – effectively ending our fun. Space Cadet remains our helpless victim.

The teachers don't care. They're blind to her pain. One even tapes a kick me sign on her back. He's the first to kick her but not the last. We laugh; she cries; he doesn't care.

“You have to learn to laugh at yourself,” he tells her in class.

***

What became of Space Cadet? Is she awash in some back alley somewhere her arms embroidered with needle marks? Is some slob keeping her in the style she grew accustom to, thanks me? Is he quick with the back of a hand or a kick?

We are in a large North American city. It could be L.A. or T.O.; I don't know. We are drawn into a large bookstore. Biscotti and espresso is served in their cafe; best sellers adorn their bookshelves. The place is packed. I mean, literally, wall-to-wall people. Now I see why. It's a book signing.

Who knew all these people could read?

Is Space Cadet, correction, Lyndi Wimpel one of those standing in line? Is she waiting to meet and greet the author?

I've searched everywhere and she's not among the eager readers.

A stack of books is loaded on a table. A woman in a business suit sits, quickly scribbling her name, as her fans gush. Two broad-shouldered well-dressed men stand slightly behind and on either side of her. Are they her henchmen? Her bodyguards? Her publishers? Her editors? 

I reach the front of the queue and buy a book. Cradled in my hands, it reveals a secret. I read the cover. “Tame Your Bully by Lyndi Wimpel.”

Well, look at that, I did contribute to society. I created a famous author.


Let's leave... 

"confront your bully"

(Photo by Byron Dyck)



More...
Next Monday:  What's your tweeter strategy?

Sharing my author journey...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cockroach by Rawi Hage


In Montreal's restless immigrant community, our unnamed narrator is living in despair. Forced to visit a therapist after a suicide attempt, he brings us back to his childhood in a war-torn country, forward into his current life in the smoky emigre cafes where everyone has a tale, and out into the frozen nighttime streets of Montreal, where he imagines himself to be a cockroach invading the lives of the privileged, but willfully blind, citizens who surround him. Cockroach is a carnivalesque, philosophical novel that weaves dark humour with an accusatory, satirical voice, spawning form the subsurface to challenge humanity and its downfall.

Even the paperback adds to the reading experience. It has a slimy feel.

As always, I took notes as I read...

The narrator has a compelling, captivating voice. His story weaves around and through me. I read on...

Defiance. Resilience. He has started with and continues with nothing and I have faith that he can overcome it all.

For me, exploring Canada through this unnamed, foreign narrator is a rare treat. He makes the familiar seem exotic.

My mind is full of so many questions...
How did he escape his war torn country and immigrate to Canada?
Will he remain here?
Why?
How?
What does he truly think of us, of Canadians?

I have known immigrants. They where polite, respectful. And now I wonder why they conducted themselves that way. I hope it was genuine. I hope it wasn't out of a need to survive.

The unnamed immigrant is told by a giant cockroach that he is part cockroach and part human. Part cockroach because he participants in the seedy side of life. Part human because he aspires to be more, to be 'worshipped by women' (p. 203)

The narrator believes that people remain safe only if he remains ineffectual, if he robs himself of all his power. This type of thinking is a product of poor self-esteem.

Rawi Hage, the author, chosen not to use any quotation marks.
Why?
Well, perhaps he wished to underline the fact that the narrator, being is unnamed and lost, has no voice. That no one really cares about him.

We think the ugly side of life is hidden in the lives of the desperately poor. This is only partially true. The wealthy, the powerful, they too hide an ugly side.
'Montreal, this happy romantic city, has an ugly side... One of the largest military-industrial complexes in North America is right here in this town.' (p. 281)

I think the final scene means that the unnamed narrator realizes that he has sunk too low. He has become a cockroach. And any chance he had at being human has been lost to him. What do you think it means?

More...

Youtube: 
book tailer
Rawi Hage reads from his book -- Cockroach

Shelf Monkey blog:
A review originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press

Gulf Islands Arts Council song writing challenge...

The Gulf Islands Arts Council has issued a challenge to all writers and musicians...


to compose a song about any part of this theme:  "To promote and celebrate the natural beauty and wildlife of the Active Pass Region of the Salish Sea, the unique communities within it and the art it inspires
They want you to record your song and send it to them (song@festivalactivepass) by February 28th. 


Sharing my author journey...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The poem my husband inspired



Six years ago a friend was planning a Valentine's concert. And she told me, "Leanne, I want you to participate. I want you to read something you've written."

Flattered, I wrote a short story that I thought would be suitable and shared it with my friend. 

She said, "Not good enough." Because friends can say that. "Not good enough. It's not romantic. I want you to write a romantic poem. It's Valentines."

"But I don't write romance," I told her.

"Aren't you married?"

"Happily."

"Well, what's the problem then?"

"But I'm not a poe--" The look she gave me convinced me not to finish that sentence. Instead I went home, clicked my pen and started to write. But everything I wrote was crap. I needed help. A search engine directed me to this page about Elizabeth Barrett Browning's How Do I Love Thee. I learnt that, inspired by her love for her husband, she wrote that poem and an entire book. Well, I figured, if her husband got a book my husband deserves at least a poem. Twenty minutes later I finished writing. I called my friend and read her my poem.

Silence.

"It's just the first draft," I explained. "I can improve it."

She used the same tone loan sharks and bank robbers use. "Don't you change a word," she told me.

This is what I read on stage at the Agricultural Society Hall, on Mayne Island, six years ago...




Devotion

She'd never been in love before
She feared it would never come
She feared she would spend her life alone -- heart withered and deformed
No eye would fill with the sight of her
No heart would beat for her alone

But then, but then he had found her
He -- the sight of him makes her yearn
He comes to her and her pulse races
His velvet voice stirs her blood
He draws her close and they are alone in the universe
The love for which she has sought
For which she feared would never come
Is born, breathes and engulfs them

Lessons learned:  
-It's good to stretch your writing muscles by trying your hand at a new genre -- even one that intimidates you.
-When stuck, look to a master for help.
-Seek inspiration from someone you love.


Sharing my author journey...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

And then: writing transitions


I know how to make transitions from one chapter to another. What I need to work on is making scene transitions within a chapter. I'm familiar with the '***' technique -- and I'm sure I've used it too much and too little.

Thankfully, I found the article Mastering Scene Transitions. Editor Beth Hill's advice includes...
Never change POV within a paragraph
Transitions can be short (two words. i.e. And then...)
They can be as long as a couple of paragraphs (But Ms. Hill cautions against anything longer.)
[N]arration is quite useful for transitions

And then How to Write Great Transition Scenes (written by Agent X) advises to eliminate the mundane and stick with the story. In order to do this it's important to figure out what is important to your story and why. For example, it is really necessary for your reader to know that your character got a haircut?
Advise:   '[s]tart just before the point you know something good is going to happen.'

Edan Lepucki writes 'Fluidity is what I long for, anyway, when I'm working; I want to feel like I'm "inside" of my own text, participating in its unfolding in a way that is intuitive, natural, and enjoyable. Being overly conscious of transitions gives me a distancing, jerky feeling that is the opposite of fluid.'
Ms. Lepucki goes on to examine how transitions are handled in books she's recently enjoyed.
Advise:  '[S]pace breaks can provide a useful exhale before you transition to a new time frame or narrative register.'
Don't use transitions to substitute for scenes that are too difficult to write.
'If you're ever stuck in a scene, I suggest opening a favorite book, and seeing how the writer handles the problem.'
Ms. Lepucki ends her article with, 'Transitions might be the problem, or they might just be the symptom of a problem.'

Meaning: you may be having trouble transiting from scene to scene because you're not "in" your story or you haven't "investigated" your story enough or you're trying to avoid writing the difficult scene.

These articles have helped me. I hope they helped you. Do you have anything to add? Please leave a comment.

Next Monday:  Devotion -- the poem my husband inspired, and the story behind it.


Sharing my author journey...