Sunday, May 21, 2017

What Genre? (poem)

This poem was inspired by one of my favourite children's picture books...It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Green Shaw and by...

"Dancing around the May pole" photo by LDyck (05/20/17)

What Genre?

I thought you were a mystery,
but no one was murdered
so, I guess, you're not a mystery

I thought you were a romance,
but no one is in love
so, I guess, you're not a romance

I thought you were a short story,
but you're too long
so, I guess, you're not a short story

I thought you might be YA or NA,
but your characters are much too old
so, I guess, you're not YA or NA

I thought you were science fiction or fantasy,
but you don't have any futuristic machines or unicorns
so, I guess, you're not science fiction or fantasy

Please, oh please, dear manuscript, tell me what you are
Oh, tell me what you are?

The Who songs:  Who are you by The Who

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Book review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Set in Ireland during the 1850s, shortly after the potato famine, The Wonder is historical fiction, a mystery, a love story, and provides social commentary on what it was like to grow up female and poor in Ireland during that 1800s.

Buy The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Publishing date:  2017
Publisher:  Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.
author website 

When word spreads that an 11-year-old girl (Anna O'Donnell) is living on one spoonful of water a day (and mana from heaven) two nurses are sent to bear witness. Sister Michael is an Irish Roman Catholic nun from the order of the Sisters of Mercy (called the walking nuns because they walk out into the world to give service to the sick, the poor and the ignorant). She provides an interesting foil to the protagonist Elizabeth "Lib" Wright--an English protestant.
Foil:  'a character who contrasts with another character--usually the protagonist--in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character.' -Wikipedia
Lib served in the Crimean War under the founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale. And, I think it is fair to say, is prejudice against the Irish--at least at the beginning of the novel. This adds tension to several scenes. 

What drew me to this book?

1. The Wonder was nominated for a Scotiabank Giller Prize (2016)

2. After reading Room (a story narrated by a five-year-old boy), I became a devoted fan of Emma Donoghue

The connection between Rumpelstiltskin and The Wonder

In Rumpelstiltskin, the boast is that a girl can spin straw into gold.

In The Wonder, the claim is that a girl can live on water (mana from heaven) alone.

In Rumpelstiltskin, a girl attempts to guess Rumpelstiltskin's name.

In The Wonder, a girl attempts to guess her nurse's name.

If the idea of fairy tales influencing modern novels intrigues you here's a link to other novels that you may enjoy reading. 

Happy Mother's Day

A mother's work is endless
Joys are far too few
One joy is to see you happy
So smile, darn you
-signed your mother

Next post:  A Writer's Dilemma (a poem about the writing life that was inspired by the children's picture book It Looked Like Split Milk and the rock band The Who's song Who Are You?)
Published:  Sunday, May 21 at approximately 5 PM PT

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Guest Laurie Buchanan (from the blog Tuesdays with Laurie)

Laurie Buchanan (Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth) recently went on a solo writing retreat and I was excited to ask her about it. Every Tuesday I visit Laurie's popular blog Tuesdays with Laurie. I'm thrilled that she is visiting us here today. Please welcome her.

What gave you the idea to go on a solo writer's retreat?

I write best when I have no distractions—none whatsoever. 

Have you, would you, will you go on a writing retreat with other writers? Are there any that interest you?

I would love to be accepted for a writer’s residency at Hedgebrook ( on Whidbey Island, Washington.

What other writers (living or dead) would you like to go on a retreat with? Why?

I would love to be at a writing retreat where Mary Oliver (one of my favorite, still-living poets) was writing. Why? Because I know she’d stay in her cabin (like I would stay in mine) and we’d only meet for meals at the main lodge.

What do you see as the main difference between going solo and going as a member of a group? 

My idea of "solo" is no distractions—being completely by myself. I have no interest in group writing situations; it wouldn’t work with my writing style. 

How did you pick your retreat's location? 

When my in-laws called to say they were going to Australia for three months (Jan-Mar), I told them I’d love to house-sit for them. It was a win-win situation.

What were you retreat's main goals? 

To write The Business of Being: Soul Purpose In and Out of the Workplace

Why do you think these goals couldn't have been achieved without going on this retreat? 

I would have eventually finished writing The Business of Being, but it would have taken double or triple the time to do it. I was hoping for a 2018 publication date. When I sent the Preface and Introduction to my publisher, not only did they say YES, it’s slated for a June/July 2018 publication date.

I understand one of your goals was to work on your next book, please tell us a little about it. 

In a nutshell, The Business of Being spotlights the intersection of workplace and spirituality; it’s designed to help readers thrive in business and life.

What was the best thing about going on this retreat? 

1. Solitude

2. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. Darby, Montana is located between the Bitterroot and the Sapphire Mountain ranges, and I was within walking distance of the Bitterroot River. Without fail, I saw wildlife every day.

What was the worst thing? 

It was the worst winter Darby had had in record-breaking years, so there was tons of snow and ice on the roof. When the snow started melting, there was a place in the ceiling that started leaking. Yikes! I went next door to the neighbor man to see if he had any suggestions. Nope—a portion of his ceiling had caved in. I called my husband (Boise, ID), and he made an emergency trip to Darby and saved the day!

What did you have to overcome? 

Driving 17 miles each way on treacherous roads to get groceries once a week.    

What do you wish you had planned for? 

I wish I’d taken a second power cord for my Mac. I don’t think there’s an Apple store in the entire state of Montana. The closest one is in Boise, Idaho (where I’m from). I don’t know what happened to my cable, but I woke up to “crimp” marks. My husband overnighted a cable to me—a rather expensive, but necessary, undertaking.

Please share a memory of your retreat. 

It’s against the law (at least in Darby, Montana) to feed deer, so I waited until twilight each night and then snuck out under cover of dark and fed the deer organic apples, blueberries, and carrots that I cut into bite-size pieces. I did my research first—making sure that those three foods aren’t harmful in any way to the deer. 

Do you view this retreat as successful—why or why not? 

I accomplished what I set out to do so I feel the retreat was successful.

What advice would you give writers who are planning a solo retreat? 

Stay on task and use your time to write, Write, WRITE! In the evening I refueled by reading. I read over a dozen books in the twelve weeks I was there. 

Would you go on another solo writing retreat—why or why not? 

In a heartbeat! I already told my in-laws that if they go anywhere, for any length of time, to please call me and I’ll housesit.

Are you planning to go on another solo writing retreat? Where will/would you go this time? 

I’m applying for a writer’s residency at Hedgebrook. We’ll see how that turns out…

Sending you tons of positive energy, Laurie. I hope you get in.


Board Certified with the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, Laurie Buchanan is a holistic health practitioner, transformational life coach, speaker, and author. Her areas of interest include energy medicine, inner alchemy, and spiritual awareness.

Embracing the belief that “Life is an expression of the choices we make,” she’s a teacher and student of purposeful living.

With tremendous respect for the earth’s natural resources, Laurie’s goal is to leave the slightest footprint on the planet, while at the same time making a lasting impression on its inhabitants—one that’s positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing.

Laurie’s previous book, Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth was a 2016 Idaho Author Award winner for inspiration; a 2016 Foreword Indies Book of the Year finalist; and a 2016 Body, Mind, Spirit Book Awards finalist.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Author readings on Mayne Island

I'm pleased to report that Mayne Island's literati is alive and well. In fact, we had a ball last Saturday when local authors entertained a small but devoted audience. There was something for every reader from children's literature to romance to mysteries to...

Inspired by her granddaughter, Livia Wolfs, Dorothy Peters wrote the delightfully altruistic picture book Tomorrow, When I'm Bigger. Dorothy also read from her memoir for adults:  Daughters of the House of Jacobof Jacob:  A Memoir of Migration.

 Prolific author D.R. Graham talked about her many titles and captivated us by reading from a manuscript she's currently working on. It's set on Mayne Island. I want to write more about it...but I won't.

Fans of Amber Harvey's Mary Magdalene Summer series (Magda's Mayne Island Mystery, Mayne Island Aliens, Mayne Island Skeletons, Magda's Mysterious Stranger) will be pleased to note that Amber is working on the next book in the series. She read from the opening chapters.


There was more 

Arlene Pare

her latest book:  He Leaves His Face in the Funeral Car 
(a book of poetry)

Grant Buday

Jack Schofield

but... Well, I have to admit it was all a little too much for this hermit. Inspired,  I had to leave early to return to my writer's cave.

Here's some of what I said before I left...

I'd like to thank the library for this opportunity to share my writing. What have I been doing since the last Festival Active Pass on Mayne Island in 2015?

My writing life is like watching a duck swim -- on the surface, very little is happening.

On the surface... 

In 'My Life with Letters' (included in the anthology From the Heart), I wrote about being an author with dyslexia. Dyslexia is an inherited condition that affects the say my brain processes written and spoken language.

From the Heart was published in 2015. Proceeds benefitted BC youth seeking higher education.

On the surface...

In 'Christmas with Family' (included in the anthology In the Moment) I wrote about how my desire to be with family for Christmas resulted in my husband and me getting stuck in the snow on Salt Spring Island. 

In the Moment was published in 2016. Proceeds were donated to Children's Wish.

To order, From the Heart and  In the Moment, please email publisher Gary Doi (

If you look into the water, at a duck's feet, you'll notice that they are paddling like mad. 

Hidden in my writer's cave, I've been writing picture books for children, a novel for young adults, and short stories for adults.

What led me to write picture books?

In the 1980s and 90s...

-I took a children's literature course at the University of Winnipeg

-as an Early Childhood Educator, I read scores of picture books to groups of children

-I owned a children's bookseller business

All of these experiences fuel my writing...

(A friend took photos of me. If you log on to this blog later this week you'll be able to see them.)

Bim has a new cozy bed thanks to Loving Care Pet Products

Next Post:  Sunday, May 7 at (approximately) 5 PM PT
Laurie Buchanan is back. This time I interview her about her recent solo writer's retreat. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Guest - Dr. Sigal Haber – A Canadian Children Books Author

Sigal Haber is a mother of three children with an extensive experience in education and teaching. 
Her love for literature and kids led her to the quest of writing for children.
As a University Prof. Sigal has taught and studied entrepreneurship for many years and had been involved with young entrepreneurs’ educational programs. Creativity and innovativeness, considered the core values of entrepreneurial behavior, are rooted in her thinking and writing. 
In her books she brings her life experience and knowledge in a creative and humours way to create a great reading experience for young readers.

How/why did you start to write?

Reflecting back I realize that I have been writing my entire life; whether for friends and family occasions, family trip diaries, for school purposes and even eulogies. I always found a way to connect the event to some moral in either a funny or serious ways. It has always been a part of me, one which I failed to recognize for a long time even when people around me encouraged me to. Once I started my academic career, I channelled this gift to a more professional aspect in my academic writing

How did you become an author who writes children's books?

I realize it may sound a bit like a cliché but I feel that writing found me and I became a recognized author at the right time of my life.

After a long academic writing career, I felt like I needed a transition in my writing style. I wanted to be able to adjust ideas and life experiences and write about them differently – So I turned it to writing for children. One thing that helped me with that was my own children. As a mother to young toddlers I used to read aloud for them all the time, so much that I have some books and songs memorized to this day. Naturally, the first reader of my work was my youngest son Jonathan, who was 9 years old at the time I started writing for children. He loves comic books and has a childish spirit. I must admit that initially I wrote for my own family, but once I have started to get encouragements from my surroundings, I decided to start the journey of publishing and have become a published author. So far, the responds I am receiving from my readers are incredible.

What was your first published piece?

My first published story was a picture book for children “Chuck The Rooster Loses His Voice”. It was published on Kindle / Amazon on June 2016. 

After many years as a U. Prof., teaching and researching entrepreneurship and management I asked myself how to introduce the concept of entrepreneurship to young children. I wanted to create a way for teachers and parents to discuss with their children what it takes to be a leader and take initiative in a community.
And no less than that I wanted to do it in a fun and humorous way. So I wrote this rhyming and funny story about what happens in a farmyard when the Rooster who supposed to wake everyone in the morning became ill. Obviously, life starts to go wrong. In an attempt to deal with the situation, the animals try to find a replacement from amongst themselves, to fill the Rooster's place. So they initiate and organize a singing contest. You’ll have to read it to find out will someone be found to take Chuck's place? How will the Rooster react to the idea? And will there be another "Farm Idol"?

The story highlights how situations seemingly problematic (i.e.: ill and not functioning rooster) can be seen as an opportunity for development of social ideas within a community (i.e.: a singing contest). It shows how leadership and self-confidence can help in promoting an idea regardless the difficulties involved. Furthermore, it shows that even if an initiative is not being completely realized, there are still ways to leverage the knowledge and experience gained during the process in order to improve it or to start a new one in the future. The book is directed to ages 5 and up.

A few months ago I published my second picture book for children on Kindle/ Amazon: “The Bear Barr Wants to Play the Guitar”. It is a cute story about a bear who wants to play the guitar but finds it difficult than he initially thought. The story shows how parents and friends can be supportive and help a child to achieve his goals. Also it illustrates the importance of perseverance for achieving life goals. For ages 3 and up.

Both titles are available on Amazon.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

Before embarking on my writing career I was a U. Prof. studied SME in tourism industry, women entrepreneurs and family businesses. For years I have been active volunteer mainly worked with social and young entrepreneurs, gifted musicians and in my children’s schools. I think that the fact that I always kept writing and at the same time was involved in the community and engaged socially with people, enabled me to develop a creative way of looking at things and write about them.

What inspires you?

I love poetry. I love the way poets use and “play” with words to express feelings and thoughts. Writing is like a puzzle for me. It deals with putting the right words to express your idea and affect the reader emotionally and inspire him. It is a challenge. And I like it!

Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques

As a self-published author I use the social media channels. We are fortunate to live in an era where authors can reach to reader in various ways. Technology plays a huge roll in it.

Tell us more about yourself by answering the following questions:

What is your favorite word? 


What is your least favorite word?


Your favorite pet?


What turns you on emotionally? 

My children’s laughs

What turns you off?


What do you in your spear time?

I love playing sports especially bike riding. Biked 600 KM of the Trans Canada Trail and looking forward to the next 600…

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

A Singer and piano player

What profession would you not like to do?


If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

You did good! How about another round?

Chuck the Rooster Loses His Voice 
Its theme was inspired by my long career as a U Prof and researcher in the field of Entrepreneurship and management. I wanted to be able to discuss with children what does it mean to take initiative in a community and how important it is to help each other in a way that is adjusted to their own world of imagination. 
This is a rhyming story to be read also aloud for your children and adult can enjoy it too (Writing it I recalled myself reading particular stories to my daughter especially those that I could speak with her about their themes, language and keep reading it over and over again.)

Ages : 5 and up 

The Bear Barr Wants To Play The Guitar

Just published on Amazon 

This story is about perseverance and pursuing your personal goals even you encounter difficulties. 

For ages 3 and up. 

Dr. Sigal Haber's Amazon page where you can find more information and reviews

Author links...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Her Words (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Wise creatives remain open to inspiration; they welcome it. One way to invite it is to have new experiences. For example, a couple of evenings ago I read Byron did at an open mic night on Mayne Island. Early (too early) the following morning inspiration called. So I grabbed my pen. This is what I wrote...

Her Words

Open mic poetry night was the last Friday of every month. She went Friday after Friday until she found the nerve to share what she wrote. The lights were low; the bar crowded. She pushed her way to the microphone. She read her words slowly the way she'd reversed. It was all mostly a blur. But what a feeling; what a rush. Afterwards, he found her table, bought her a drink, and told her, "Wow, you're talented."

So she joined him in the cab. Later she wished it all had been a blur.

Happy Easter!

Next post:  Guest Post:  Please welcome children's author Sigal Haber
Published on Sunday, April 23rd at approximately 5 PM PT

As part of the Literary Festival Active Pass celebrations, I will be giving an author reading at 
11 pm
at Mayne Island library

I plan to arrive at the library before 9 am and leave at 4 pm. I don't want to miss a second of this special day.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Wind by Robert Louis Stevenson reviewed by Leanne Willetts

Robert Louis Stevenson writes with old fashioned charm. He takes delight in the simple and ordinary. This poem, in particular, views the wind through a child's eyes.

He wonders as to the nature of the wind:  'Are you a beast of field and tree,/or just a stronger child than me?'

The poem has a way of pulling you back to childhood when you had time to sit and wonder.

The poem draws upon all your senses. You feel the wind push at your face. You hear it's windy song. You see it merrily dance with the kites, birds, and grass.

The poem too talks about the sadness of not being able to find the unapproachable. The mystery always seems to be around the next corner:  'I saw the different things you did,/ But always you yourself you hid./ I felt you push, I heard you call,/I could not see yourself at all-'

I wrote this review on September 15, 1987, for a children's literature class I took at the University of Winnipeg.

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky,
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass--
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all--
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song

Next post:  Sunday, April 16 (5 PM PT) 
Her Words (short story)

(click on image to embolden)

"I have a story to tell"

Leanne Dyck's Author Reading
Sunday, April 23rd 11 am
Mayne Island library
Festival Active Pass

"Looking forward to seeing you there."

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Byron did: in praise of poetry

Byron did. So did Shelley and Yeats and Burns and Cohen and Atwood and Browning and...

'Let me count the ways' wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning

But my ways refuse to be counted. My brain can't think like that. My pen won't write like that.

Lord Byron wrote:  'She walks in beauty, like the night' -- and women swooned.

Poetry is like French. It sounds pretty coming out of someone else's mouth. It pours out of someone else's pen. But not mine.

Metaphors as yummy as pettifor and language that would be swarmed by bees make poetry challenging to understand. Most of it sails passed my ears and over my head.

 A Coat by W. B. Yeats

I made my song a coat
covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat
But the fools caught it
Wore it in the world's eyes
As though they'd wrought it
Song, let them take it
For there's more
In walking naked

We have poetry in our souls, they say. But I've checked. Mine has gone. If it was ever there.

Margaret Atwood wrote:  'We turned out the lights in the cellar and played Murder in the Dark.' Then she wrote, 'I heard that this game was once played at a summer cottage by six normal people and a poet, and the poet really tried to kill someone.'

I used to claim that my amazing dyslexic brain was to blame.

"People with dyslexia can't work with syllables," I'd say.

But then I read that Yeats had dyslexia.

Robert Burns wrote:  'My love is like a red, red rose.'

Maybe poetry is like a garden. Maybe it has to be seeded and carefully tended. Rhythm, rhyme, meter -- maybe if I studied... Maybe... But who has that kind of time?

It might be trite,
but it's also right --
I'm not a poet
And I know it.

Happy Poetry Month!!

"I have a story to tell"

Leanne Dyck's author reading
Sunday, April 23 11 a.m. to noon
Mayne Island library
Festival Active Pass

"Looking forward to seeing you there."

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Are you an ant or a caterpillar or a bird? (short story) by Leanne Dyck

(photo by LDyck)

One fine day in early spring an ant meet a caterpillar. 

"When are you planning to spin your cocoon?" The ant asked.

"I'm not," the caterpillar told him.

The ant just stared at him. "Pardon me?"

The caterpillar spoke louder. "I'm not!"

"I heard you. I just don't understand you. Why would you continue crawling in the dirt when you can fly up there in the beautiful blue sky, among the fluffy white clouds?"

"I like it down here in the cool black soil," the caterpillar said.

A bird perched on a branch overhead flew down to the caterpillar. "Ever since I broke out of my egg there's nothing I'd rather do than fly. Caterpillar, you have a right to be apprehensive. Change is scary, but don't let that fear limit you. Listen to your friend, the ant. Embrace your destiny," she sweetly sung to him. "Close your eyes."

The caterpillar closed them.

"Imagine the sun shining on your beautiful wings. Imagine the wind carrying you. All that can be yours if you only believe in yourself--in your potential."

The caterpillar felt the sun on his face, the wind on his wings. He spun his cocoon; he rested; his wings grew and then he flew.

Next post:  Sunday, April 2nd (at approximately 5 PM PT)
This post celebrates poetry month.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

book review: Note to Self by Laurie Buchanan

Have you ever felt a little off and wished you could talk to someone wise? I know, who hasn't--right?

Note to Self not only helps you puzzle through what may be wrong but also gives you solutions on what to do about it -- including visiting your doctor. The large solutions require lifestyle changes. The small ones include incorporating certain colours into your environment. 

(Only suggestion for improvement:  colour photos of the colours suggestions)

This book demands to be read slowly. You need time to digest it. I received Note to Self in November, as a birthday gift. I tore open the wrapping and cracked open the book and am still reading it--and I plan to never stop. It's a book that can address different aspects of your life--or different selves--as the need arises. 
Note to Self is divided into seven selves:  Self-Preservation, Self-Gratificaiton, Self-Definition, Self-Acceptance, Self-Expression, Self-Reflection, and Self-Knowledge. As Sheila Glazov wrote in the foreword:  'The whole essence of Laurie Buchanan's book is timely and timeless....This book helps readers understand how they can easily unpack the emotional baggage they persistently pack and cautiously carry on their journey through life.'

Note to Self by Laurie Buchanan is a must-read -- as good for you as kale, but reads like chocolate -- smooth, rich and fun. It's sure to leave a good taste in your mouth. 

Visit Laurie's Buchanan popular blog: Tuesdays with Laurie.

("Spring in Paris on Mayne Island, photo by LDyck)

Next Post:  Sunday, March 26th (at approximately 5 PM)
Are you an ant or a caterpillar?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

How to get an unsolicited manuscript read

 Some authors are fortunate to have the assistance of a literary agent. But I'd wager that the majority of us don't. So we are left to navigate the publishing industry labyrinth by ourselves.

rock art by my husband, photo by me

Since I started keeping careful records, in 2014, I've sent 400 submissions to publishing houses. Over the years, I learned some valuable lessons. One of the most important was how to properly address a cover letter. 

Dear Sir or Madam
To Whom It May Concern

This is the equivalent of standing on the street corner, waving your arms in the air and shouting, "Hey, you!"
Someone may hear you. But the chance that she will be the right person are slim.

Dear Publisher
Dear Editor

Visit the publishing house website and carefully study the submission guidelines. (Some submission guidelines give you all the information you require. Others don't.)

Small publishing houses may tell you to send your submission to the publisher. All publishing houses have at least one editor. So there is a chance that your submission will get to a publisher or an editor. But there's no guarantee that it will get to the right publisher or editor. Moreover, addressing your submission in this manner shows that you didn't do your homework and that you may not even know who the right publisher or editor is.

How do you find the name of the right publisher or editor?

Roll up your sleeves and click those computer keys. You want to find not only the contact's job title but also her name
'If [the publishing house] has multiple editors, approach an assitant editor, associate editor, or senior editor (Generally avoid managing editors, who oversee the daily operations but often don't read unsolicited manuscripts)' -How to stay out of the slush pile

Other reference sources...

-books in your genre -- read the acknowledgment section. Sometimes authors will thank their editors. 

-join genre associations or genre specific writing groups -- members may be able to supply you with the name and job title

Dear Kathlene Witherspoon, Assistant Editor

"Bim" photo by ldyck
Next Post:  March 19 at approximately 5 PM PT 
Book review:  Note to Self by Laurie Buchanan (self-help) 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Guest post: Linda Marshall, children's author

First, thank you very much for inviting me to participate in your blog. What a joy the universe of children’s literature is! I’m so enjoying this new career. I didn’t start out as a writer. In fact, I started out as an Anthropologist with a strong interest in children’s development across cultures and in folklore. Prior to going to college, I’d spent several summers working with developmentally delayed children. That work inspired many questions, one of which was questioning how various cultures handle children who are different from the norm. In college, I studied cultural anthropology and early childhood education. Then, spurred by the nascent women’s movement, I began teaching in - and advocating for more - childcare centers. It was then that I discovered the joy of picture books. Wow! What an eye-opening. That’s when I met Swimmy, who helped all his friends work together to chase away the big, bad fish. And I met Max, whose mother still loved him - and kept his dinner warm - while he was angry and chasing wild things. And I met Frederick who, like me, wanted to gather sunbeams.

I continued teaching small children. Then, with children of my own, I began teaching parenting education. Writing came late - very late! I’d pursued (but didn’t quite finish) a Ph.D. in Anthropology. I opened (and closed) a bookstore. I raised (to completion, if the job can ever be considered complete) four children. I also had a flock of sheep, chickens, rabbits, cats, and dogs. 

My writing grew from all of my experiences…and from the world around. I’m curious about almost everything…and I like to explore. I also love words. My article below, which first appeared in last summer's SCBWI Bulletin, describes my love of picture books…and how they can be used. 

 (Please click on image  to embolden)

I can be reached via my website: or 

Twitter (which I rarely use) @L_E_Marshall

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Book comparisons: why make them?

photo by LDyck

Why prepare a list (one to three) of published books that are similar to your manuscript? Why do a book comp?

-it's an abbreviated way to present your book to an editor or an agent.

-it shows editors or agents that you have your finger on the pulse of the genre you're writing -- that you're current, that you know what's hot, that you've done your homework.

-it show that there is a potential readership for your manuscript

-it helps the publisher see where your book might fit in their catalogue

-it helps the editor or agent pitch your manuscript

-it helps you locate the right publisher -- they published that book they may be interested in publishing mine.

-finding and reading that other book might inspire you to write a new story

-it verifies that your manuscript is fresh and original

-it keeps you motivated. You get to see, feel, smell a book that is similar to what yours might look like.

Where do you find these potential comps?

-your bookshelves

-your local library

-your favourite bookstore

-publishers' catalogs

-Quill and Quire magazine

-Publishers Weekly


-Other reviewers who read your genre

Heather Ann Burnell (Submissions 101 - Finding Comparable Books) writes:  Use 'titles that are recent [within 10 years] and are in the same category or genre, have the same target audience, and are not so obscure that that the person reading your query has never heard of it' or so popular that you're seen as arrogant or lazy.

Next post:  Sunday, March 5th (approximately 5 PM PT) 
Guest post by author Linda Marshall

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Book review: Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

USA Today reports a resurgence of interest in George Orwell's work -- namely 1984. I'd like to call attention to another of Orwell's books:  Animal Farm -- which I believe is equally relevant. 

logline:  Spearheaded by pigs, farm animals rise up against their mistreatment and establish their own government.

If you enjoy (or have enjoyed) reading Animal Farm you'll also enjoy Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis -- published by Coach House.
logline:  Two Greek gods -- Hermes and Apollo -- gift fifteen dogs with human intelligence.

In Fifteen Dogs, Alexis studies society:  its development, what it means to live on the fringe (as an outcast, as an immigrant), and the purpose of art (to reflect, to provoke).

Writing Fifteen Dogs won Andre Alexis the 2015 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the 2015 ScotiaBank Giller Prize

In his Quill and Quire magazine article (The Key to Success), Nick Patch reports that -- as of November 2016 -- Fifteen Dogs had sold 110,000 print copies and 20,000 ebooks. Also in the article, Alexis is quoted as saying:  Fifteen Dogs ' "touched a lot of people and I'm happy." '

Fifteen Dogs is my Canada Reads pick -- the book all Canadians should read.

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) radio program Canada Reads runs from March 27 to 30.