Sunday, October 15, 2017

short story: Awakening by Leanne Dyck (1 of 2)

photo by LDyck

Short stories are a breeze to write. I can pop one of those off in an afternoon. But everyone knows real writers write novels.

One Saturday morning, I woke very early full of inspiration. Thankfully, I keep a notebook by my bed. I couldn't write fast enough. I thought it was just another short story, but it didn't take me long to realize that the plot was too detailed. I was writing a novel.

Day after day after day, I wrote before I went to bed and the minute I woke. I thought about the story when I was shopping, at work and in the shower. I focused on the same characters, the same plot, the same story question. My life wasn't mine, I was living to write that story. It was exhausting.

I don't know how but somehow I finished Murder Island--a murder mystery set on the rural island where I have a vacation home. My writing group congratulated me and recommended that I get at least three first readers.

"First readers are the first to read and give feedback on your novel," they explained.

I selected John, Ann, and Suzanna. John is in my writing group. He has had a short story published in a literary journal and even self-published a novel. Ann, I know from work. Every lunchtime her nose is in a book--usually a mystery. Suzanna and I have been friends since university. She teaches middle school Language Arts.

They all gave me their feedback. My manuscript came back riddled with it,

Ann's comments stopped in the middle of the manuscript. She explained that she hadn't read to the end because of what she called "the saggy middle".

"It was too predictable. All the clues pointed to the same person."

I wonder if John read my novel backward. He complained about the weak ending. He didn't like the fact that my main character--Julianna, an amateur detective--was unable to solve the case and hired a detective, Nick. Nick solves the case but isn't that what detectives do? Nick is a professional, doesn't it make sense he'd have more resources?

Suzanna used red ink to circle what looks like every second word. She said the narration had an inconsistent tone--ranging from informal to formal.

I showed up to writers' group with tread marks across my forehead. "What do I do first? How do I solve these problems? I can't re-write the whole thing, that would take days. I thought it would be fun to write a novel, but it's just a ton of work. And how do I know that it's not just a waste of time?"

My writing group advised me to work on something else for a while and come back to my novel when I was feeling stronger.

Put it away for a while--yeah, sure. The thing screamed at me from the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet. So, I pulled it out every couple of weeks and poured myself some wine. The wine didn't help. The feedback still stung. I stuffed the thing back into the drawer. Into the drawer, out of the drawer--this waltz continued for four months until I decided to look at it one last time. Nothing had changed I still had no idea how to fix my glaring errors.

I frowned at my collection of writing books.

"What a waste of money," I mumbled.

I thought of all the writing workshops I'd attended.

"What a joke. I'm not now and never will be a writer. I'm a fraud."

photo by LDyck

I put the wordy monster in the recycling bin and carried it to the curb. That felt so good that I went back inside and deleted all the computer files until not a scrap of my novel was left.

"Time for a new hobby." I picked up a pair of knitting needles and coiled yarn into stitches. I didn't know what I was knitting and didn't care. I turned on some relaxing music and poured myself a glass of wine. The chair was so comfortable...


Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever abandoned a writing project? Have you ever abandoned the writing life? For how long? Did you ever return--to writing, to a project? How?

the beautiful Abby sporting her new collar
photo by LDyck

Next post...

Does the protagonist remain a knitter? Are her words lost forever? Or...?
Find out next Sunday (October 22)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

After 7 years, why keep writing?

Seven years ago on October 10, high from finding a publisher, I decided to document my rising success as an author by starting this blog.

Ever since I've been giving it all I have. I've written 36 picture books, 5 short story collections, and one novel for young adults. I'm very proud of this work. It's the best of me.

And yet...

And yet, none of this work has found a publisher. And I still haven't earned the success I seek. I still haven't broken into the publishing industry.

Why keep trying?

At times, I have to admit, this has been a hard question to answer. At my lowest, I think maybe I can write but that I'm just not cut out to be a writer. Maybe I should just hide all my pens and do something else.

Why I keep writing?

Writing fulfills me. Stories excite me. I still have something to say. I still have a lot to learn.

I'm so close I can taste it. I know I am because publishers are making comments like...
'Your writing is immersive and inspirational.'
'we applaud you for taking what you have learned form your struggles and applying it to an art form that you are clearly passionate about'
 'Our...editors were highly interested in these stories, and the strong characterization work and suprising humour in them.'
And you. Week after week, you keep logging on to read my writing. For this, I only have two words--Thank You!

And I promise I'll keep writing until my dream becomes reality.

Looking back...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tips on Writing Blog Posts

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What did I learn this year?

Seeking positivity...

And this blog has a new mascot...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Canadian Literary Prizes: write and read

November will be an exciting month with both the winners of the G.G., the Writer's Trust, and the Giller being announced. Scroll down for more information.

"a spark of inspiration" 

photo by LDyck


Sharpen that pencil, click that pen, punch those keys and enter this bounty of short story contests...

CBC Short Story Prize

Deadline:  October 31, 2017

Malahat Review:  Open Season Award
Deadline:  November 1, 2017

Prairie Fire Press and McNally Robinson Booksellers:  Annual Writing Contests
Deadline:  November 30, 2017

The Fiddlehead:  Annual Literary Contest
Deadline:  December 1, 2017

Freefall:  Annual Prose & Poetry Contest
Deadline:  December 31, 2017

PRISM International:  Jacob Zilber Prize
Deadline:  January 15, 2018


Unhanged Arthur Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel
Sponsored by Dundurn Press
Deadline:  October 15, 2017

The Mayne Island library
One of the places you might be able to get one of these books
photo by LDyck


Reading prize-winning novel and short story collections is an excellent way to study the writing craft.

Governor General's Literary Award


(Alfred A. Knopf Canada/ Penguin Random House Canada)

Winner announced November 1

Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize

'For over 20 years the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize has recognized the best Canadian novel or short story collection.' --from the website

Bad Endings by Carleigh Baker
Anvil Press
short story collection

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron
Doubleday Canada

Brother by David Chariandy
McClelland & Stewart
'supremely moving and exquisitley crafted portrait of [Scarborough, Ontario]' -Mark Medley

American War by Omar El Akkad

McClelland & Stewart

This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

House of Anansi Press
short story collection

Winner revealed on November 14

Scotiabank Giller Prize 

 Scotiabank Giller

'In a statement, the jury categorized 2017 as "a year of outliers, of books that were eccentric, challenging or thrilling strange, books that took us to amusing or disturbing places. In fact, you could say that the exceptional was one of 2017's trends. It gave the impression of a world in transition:  searching inward as much as outward, wary but engaged." ' -Sue Carter


Minds of Winter by Ed O'Loughlin
House of Anansi

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill
Doubleday Canada

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
Knopf Canada

Transit by Rachel Cusk (HarperCollins)

l Am A Truck by Michelle Winters (Invisible Publishing)

November 20

Winner announced at a gala--aired on CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Next post:  Year 7:  Why keep writing?
A post that recaps the 7th year anniversary of this blog. Oh, yes, and tells you where I'm at as a writer.
Published on Sunday, October 8th (at approximately 5 PM)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Story Questions

Which would you rather carry--a notebook or a paperback? Do you want to be told a story or tell it?

Where do your stories come from? Do you write in response to other authors or do you dance to your own inspiration?

Why do you write--to connect, inform, entertain or...

How do you choose what story to write? Do you consider where your words will do the most good? Do you consider if the story is yours to tell? Do you share your family's stories with courage? What about cultural appropriation? Does every story that comes into your head deserve to be written? Do leave some stories for other authors to write? Or do you think distance gives you perceptive? Do you allow someone else's opinion to censor your creativity? Do you let the story choose you?

Some authors say they write the same story repeatedly throughout their career--only changing plot and character? Are they stuck or obsessed or driven or...?

Next post:  Canadian Literary Prizes
Autumn is the season for literary awards.
One of the cool things I did for this post is to make my own short list from the newly announced Scotiabank Gillar long list. Log on to see if you agree with my selections.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Research: no wasted words

photo by LDyck

To date, I've written 35 picture books for children (5 for babies 0 to 24 months, 23 for children 3 to 7 years of age, 7 for children 6 to 9 years of age), 4 short story collections for adults, and a novel for young adults. I'm currently looking for the right publisher for these projects.

My autumn writing projects include a short story collection and a middle grade novel.

As you can see, I've mainly been working on short projects. But I have written--and will continue to write--longer pieces.

When working on longer pieces, I begin by developing a plot outline. However, this plot is only meant as a guide. I allow inspiration to direct my writing. Of course, it's very difficult to plan for inspiration. So this means I may craft scenes and conduct research that won't be used for the novel.

Wasted words?


Scenes may become short stories. Research may become articles. The short stories may be woven into collections. The articles can be published on this blog to help promote the novel. Or I may choose to publish these short pieces in magazines.

Short stories may be submitted to these Canadian magazines...

The Fiddlehead



PRISM international

Prairie Fire

The New Quarterly

Malahat Review



Antigonish Review

You may be able to use your research to write an article for Writer's Digest

In the past, I've developed presentations from the research I've conducted. For example, my first novel--Maynely A Mystery--required me to conduct research on the history of Mayne Island. To promote sales, I gave author readings. One of the on-island short talks I presented was called Fact or Fiction. I read short passages from my book and asked my audience, "Is this passage based on history or inspired by imagination?"  I was very pleased with how interested the participants were and how fun the talk turned out to be.

Never think of writing as being a waste. Every word you write brings you closer to the story you are driven to write.

Next Post

Published on Sunday, September 24 (at approximately 5 PM)
A meditation on finding story from this writer's mind.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Book review: Nation by Terry Pratchett (YA novel)

Published on 2008
by Doubleday
an imprint of Random House Children's books
in Great Britain

In the quake of a tsunami, two teenagers are left to rebuild the Nation. Mau is an islander. 'Daphne', 'ghost girl', 'Ermintrude' an upper-class cast-away. The culture clashes are simultaneously entertaining and thought-provoking. Mau isn't nieve and Daphne isn't all-powerful. It's a coming together to share knowledge and develop skills for mutual benefit.

Favourite quotes...

An islander:  ' "Imo [god of creation] made them [trousermen] first, when He was learning but He did not leave them long enough in the sun. And you will learn that they are so proud they cover themselves in the sun. They really are very stupid, too." ' (p. 111)

The priest:  ' "[T]he difference between the trousermen and the Raiders is that sooner or later the cannibals go away!"
"That's a terrible thing to say!" said Daphne hotly. "We don't eat people."
"There are different ways to eat people, girl, and you are clever, oh yes, clever enough to know it. And sometimes the people don't realize it's happened until they hear the belch." ' (p. 256)

Daphne and her father talking about the island...
Father:  "It's a long way from anywhere important, though."
Daphne:  "No, Papa. This is the important place. It's everywhere else that is a long way away." (p. 364)

What to read next?

Was Nation influenced by Robinson Crusoe? The thought prompted me to find my copy of the classic. I began to read but it begins with backstory--an old way of beginning a yarn. It didn't hold my interest. And I worried about the effect it would have on my writing. Everything I read shapes my writing. I put the book down and picked up...

Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin

The connection to Nation:  a parrot. In the Nation, a parrot makes brief comic appearances. An African Grey named Aaron narrates Yiddish for Pirates. Aaron guides the reader through adventures on land and sea as he shares history lessons, Jewish culture, and love of literature.

Moishe 'recalled his father telling him that Jews were "the people of the book"--books were akin to blood, something that allowed them to live forever.' (p. 54)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Quilt Diva: a true short story

Eighteen years ago, when I moved to Mayne Island I had fun joining groups and meeting people. I was proud to clip a quilt guild member's pin to my shirt. 

Some families play music together. Mine crafted--embroidery, knitting, sewing, quilting. My Icelandic-Canadian grandma taught me to quilt when I was a teenager. Her first step was savaging fabric from old shirts, dresses, etc. No twenty dollar fat quarters for her. I joined the Mayne Island quilters determined to hand sew a quilt--I don't like machines. (It amazes me that my computer and I have developed a more or less amicable relationship.) Then I learned how much work would be involved in my plan. Then I dropped quilting in favour of knitting.

A day before the Mayne Island Fall Fair and parade, I went to lunch with a friend.

"I need your help," she told me. "The quilters need someone to carry the banner."

The quilters are a mighty force on Mayne Island--half of Mayne Island is members. It was hard for me to believe that they couldn't find anyone. But my friend seemed desperate.

I felt stuck. I wanted to help my friend, but I'm most comfortable behind the stage not on it. All I'd have to do is carry a banner, but didn't that mean passing myself off as someone I wasn't--a quilter. But my friend had always helped me. And so I marched in Mayne Island's 2017 Fall Fair.

Photo by Tom Hobley

And if you click this link you'll be able to watch the complete performance. Oh, yes, there's singing and dancing and... You've got to see it, to believe it.

As writers, we don't always know what saying 'yes' to inspiration will be--will we finish our first short story? Or our fifth novel? Find a publisher? An agent? But it may be empowering to realize that the opportunity to say 'yes' starts with us.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Star (short story) by Leanne Dyck

As some of you know I'm dyslexic. My elementary school teacher wrote a note on my report:  Though Leanne tries really hard, there's something wrong. I recommend that you take her for testing at the Children's Hospital. 

This short story is inspired by true events.

A Star

I slip the yellow pencil between my thumb and index finger and coil my hand into a tight fist.
"Print your name in the right-hand corner," the teacher says.
My right hand is...? No, this one.
I push the tip of the pencil into the paper, carve an 'L', then a 'Y', then an 'N' and then I run out of room. I turn the paper sideways and add an 'I' and a 'D'. 
That's wrong.
I set the pencil on the desk and pick up the eraser. I press down hard and swing my arm back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The marks are still there. I flip the paper over. This time I make the letters smaller but my name still doesn't fit. The eraser bites a hole in the paper.
"Now draw a line connecting the dots," the teacher says.
What dots?
My best friend--Little Miss Pretty Face--connects dot after dot after dot and draws a star. I look down at my paper--the gray smudges, the hole.  
"Please bring your papers to my desk," the teacher says.
No! I can't show My Teacher this. My stomach becomes a solid rock.
My friend looks from her work to mine. "I'll take our papers to the teacher." She covers my mistake with her star. 

Though this story, I hope to promote awareness and understanding of dyslexia.


Recommended books that promote awareness and understanding of dyslexia.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book review: The Break by Katherena Vermette

Some are told 'you are your brother's keeper', but in this day and age we are warned 'don't get involved'. So the question is if you saw someone in need what would you do?

In The Break, author Katherena Vermette addresses this question head-on. 

Young mother Stella sees what she thinks is an attack. She does something. She phones the cops. But she's Aboriginal; she's female. When the male cops come she feels like she's the one being investigated. 

Should she have kept out of it? Did she do enough? These questions haunt her throughout the book--and they've stayed with me after I finished reading The Break. 

Abuser. Victim. Vermette explores these loaded words.

Published by House of Anansi (2016)

If you're in a library or bookstore, find The Break on the shelf. I'll wait. Got the book. Great. Now flip it open to the title page. There you'll find...

Trigger Warning:  This book is about recovering and healing from violence. Contains scenes of sexual and physical violence, and depictions of vicarious trauma.

Read this warning but don't put the book back. 

The Break left me with a warm feeling. Vermette knows her craft. Her characters are developed with care and understanding. The story handled with sensitivity.


If you enjoy reading this book, you may also enjoy A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Red Tent. I did.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
published by Penguin Canada (2008)

Hosseini explores the treatment of women in Afghanistan. The brutality that is depicted is off-set by the fine string of hope that connects woman to woman--a fragile (yet unbreakable) bond of friendship.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
published by Picador USA (1997)

Dinah, the Bible barely mentions her, but in the pages of this book she speaks, sings, dances, breathes. We follow her from virgin to mother to crone--and even to her final breath. 

Favourite Quote...

'Innana is the centre of pleasure, the one who makes women and men turn to one another in the night. The great mother whom we call Innana is the queen of the ocean and the patron of the rain... The great mother...gave a gift to woman that is not known among men, and this the secret of blood... In the red tent...the gift of Innana courses through us cleansing the body of last month's death, preparing the body to receive new month's life, women give thanks--for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life somes from between our legs, and that life costs blood... You will become a woman surrounded by loving hands to carry you and to catch your first blood and to make sure it goes back to the dust that formed the fist man and the woman. The dust that was mixed with her moon blood.' (p. 158)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book review: Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

I always manage to find an intriguing read at the church fair and this year was no exception.

A Perfect Day for Bananafish was recommended in an online article I read recently. And it is included in this collection. In fact, it is the first story in this collection. This is my only complaint. Not that I didn't enjoy reading it, I did. Simply because it casts a certain hue on the rest of the stories.

It's plain to see, especially in stories such as Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut, J.D. Salinger ability to develop young adult characters. An ability that is utilized to great effect in his young adult best-seller The Catcher in The Rye

First published by Little, Brown in 1953 and again in 1965 (with subsequent printings by Modern Library in 1959, and Bantam in 1964 and 1981), some of the language and attitude is dated but the underlying messages in the stories are timeless.

Favourite Quote...

'The worst that being an artist could do to you would be that it would make you slightly unhappy constantly.' -from the short story De Daumier-Smith's Blue Pencil

If you enjoy reading this book, you may also enjoy Stone Mattress and The Path of Most Resistance. I did.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
published by McClelland & Stewart (2014)

In this nine story collection, the grand dame of Canadian literature writes for her age cohorts. I was delighted to discover that many of the stories were written about writing. In Alphinland, an aging author finds comfort from her lonely reality in the world she created. In Revenant, a senior poet dies but lives on in his world. In Dark Lady, the poet's female muse deals with his death. In The Dead Hand Loves You, an elder horror author confronts the toll his fame has taken on his relationship with three decades-old friendships. Torching the Duties is a horror story set in a manor house for the elderly. In Stone Mattress an elderly woman finally takes revenge on the man who sexually assaulted her. Lusus Naturne and The Freeze-Dried Groom don't feature senior protagonists. Both fit into the horror genre.

I closed the book with an increased respect and passion for short stories.

The Path of Most Resistance by Russell Wangersky
published by House of Anansi (2016)

The first story in this collection--Rage--is a work of genius. The ending draws from the story--everything points to it--and yet it surprised me. Having written all of that, if I had to choose, I'd say Farewell Tour was my favourite story in this collection.

On the whole, I'm impressed by Wangersky's mastery of description but puzzled by his sparse dialogue--both internal and external. It's like he's afraid to allow his characters to speak.

photo by LDyck

Sometimes endings are very hard to write...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Discovering Land (short story) by Leanne Dyck

On Friday, August 4 those of Icelandic descent met in Gimli, Manitoba for the Islendingadagurinn (Icelandic Festival of Manitoba). This year's theme was Discover Your Land. Sadly, I wasn't there. But I did celebrate by writing this short story...

Discovering Land

All Jacky wants is sleep, but her husband won't let her. He rolls in the bed like hair in curlers. It gets worse. Now John is calling out, "It's a lie. It's a lie. It's all lies."

She flicks on the lamp. "What's that, dear?"

"It's a lie. It's a lie. It's all--"

She nudges him awake. "What's the matter, John?"

"Huh. What? Huh."

"Tell me what's troubling you."


"Look, John, that might work with some but not me. I know it's something. Out with it, so I can get back to sleep."

"That space program. I've investigated. It's all a sham," he tells her.

"So they can't send a man to the moon."

He shakes his head.

"Oh, well. Night." She reaches for the lamp.

"No, you don't understand. I'm the president. When the bacon hits the pan I'll have to eat it."

That silences her. But her bottom lip doesn't tremble; her eyes don't fill with tears. "What you need is a camera crew, actors, bubble suits with motorcycle helmets. Oh, yes and a setting. Let me think." It only takes less than a minute. "Yes, of course, Iceland. It looks like the moon."

Photo by LDyck of Iceland (2007)


Keep reading for more photos of Iceland taken on my trip in 2007.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Interview with children's author Pam Withers

Pam Withers and I have been friends and writer group members for about three years. I've benefitted from her skill as an editor and been motivated by her endless encouragement. It's my pleasure to introduce Pam to you.

Pam Withers writes best-selling "extreme sports" adventure books --which are particularly popular with boys. They're riveting; so is their author as a speaker. What else would you expect of a former journalist and editor who was also an outdoor guide?

How/why did you start to write?

My parents were both avid readers. I have fond memories of my mother reading the classics to my five siblings and me. My grandma gave my family the Wizard of Oz collection (15 books).
When I was seven-years-old I told my grandma that I wanted to be a writer. 
She said, "That's nice, dear. What will you do to make a living?"
My father suggested I become a journalist. I was 40 years old before I became a fiction writer.

How did you become an author?

I was unemployed for a year and decided to write a novel to keep out of trouble. I wrote a lot in hockey rinks while I watched my son practice. I finished the book. It took 3 years to place after I received 9 rejections.  

A friend of a friend connected me with an agent. After reading Raging River, the agent decided to take me on as a client. The agent found my publisher -- Whitecap Books in North Vancouver. Raging River was published 19 years ago. 

I had an idea for the series before I started to write Raging River.

Reflect on your writing process

I imagine the climax and work backwards from there asking why questions:  why did the kayak go over the waterfall?

I don't start writing until the plot points are plotted out. Then I start imagining the characters.

Was your career in journalism an asset to your writing? How?

Yes, definitely. It taught me discipline, how to conduct research and how to gather information from experts.

What inspires you?

My twisted imagination.

Adventure authors FarleyMowat and Willard Price.

Why did you decide to write for pre-teen and teen boys?

I enjoy writing about adventure because I was involved in outdoor sports. I imagined that what I was writing would only be of interest to boys. I have later learned that girls enjoy reading my books, as well.

This is your 17th novel, any tips for continuing to write through back and arm pain, through good times and bad?

If your passion is writing you can't not write.

Most recently, I saw a magazine article regarding canyoneering and said, "That's going to be the topic of my next story."

The photographer/author of the article became one of the experts who helped me with the story--Tracker's Canyon.

When Tristan's dad disappears, Tristan puts his tracking skills to the test to find him -- but will Tristan's talents save him if it turns out to be a trap?
Thanks to his dad's coaching, sixteen-year-old Tristan is one of the best climbers and trackers in his community. He can read footprints and bushes like they're security-camera footage, and fearlessly descend rock faces and waterfalls. But when his father disappears, leaving his mother too grief-stricken to function, the young canyoneer's life goes into freefall.
Left in the hands of a well-meaning but incompetent uncle and a space-cadet housekeeper, Tristan's life is a struggle no matter how hard he works. Finding himself near the end of his rope at home, the teen decides to set off into Swallow Canyon to search for his father -- only to realize that someone seems to be out to get him. Now the question is who's stalking whom, and are Tristan's skills up to the dangerous game playing out iin the deep, shadowy ravine?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Book review: Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan (middle grade novel)

I've written short stories and novels. I've written picture books and a novel for young adults and books for adults. But I've never written a middle grade (children from 9 to 12 years of age) novel. Writing in this genre intrigues me and an idea is slowly taking shape. To encourage this idea to grow into a story, I'm seeking out new middle grade books.

Published by 
Dial Books for Young Readers:  Penguin Young Readers Group
Published in 2017

I was off-island in a mall when Short jumped off the shelf and into my hands. Standing there, I read the first page. The narrator's voice was unique and captivating. I thought maybe... I might...
"Ready to go, Leanne?"
My husband and I had planned to go to a movie.
I left the book on the shelf confident I'd be able to find it in my island library--it's especially well stocked with new titles.
Well I searched and I searched but Short just wasn't there. Thankfully I have a source that never fails me. : )

In brief:  Short is about a short girl in the big adult world of theater.

Story question:  How will protagonist revolve her negative feelings toward her short stature?

In Short, author Holly Goldberg Sloan explores
-what it personally feels like to be short
-how involvement in the arts can restore confidence in children who are struggling to find themselves
and celebrates L. Frank Baum work (especially the Munchkin)

Protagonist Julia Mark changes through the course of the story. In the beginning, she's annoyed by her short stature. Secondary character Olive--an adult little person--is confident to be herself in tall world. Befriending Olive allows Julia to grow in understanding as to who she is and who she values and why.

The last chapter sings. There are tears in my eyes as I finish reading the last page and close this heart-warming book.

What made me sit up and take note?

Although Julia Mark is 12 years old, this novel is mainly peopled with adult characters.

Favourite quote...

Olive:  ' "Discrimination is about bias... It happens when opinions have been formed in advance, and action is based on these prior ideas." ' (p. 178)

Shawn Barr (director):  ' "The world is filled with bias, and it's consumed with judgment and opinions that are hardened and even institutionalized. That's why we do theater. That's what it's about. We are asking people to take another look at themselves and at each other." ' (p. 179-180)

Next Post:  Interview with author Pam Withers
Published Sunday, July 30 at approximately 5 PM PT

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Shakespeare and Snorri

For a while now I've planned to do some research on famous authors for my blog. Recently I followed through on this plan and I'd like to present, for your reading pleasure, want I've found.

In a nutshell, I found conspiracy and greed.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in the English language'

born:  1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Occupation:  Playwright
wrote from  1590 to 1613
wrote 37 plays, 160 poems and Sonnets
Conspiracy:  but did he write them all by himself? Or did Marlow help him?
died:  1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
how:  it's a mystery, but there is some speculation that he drank himself to death

Century upon century later, his work still charms us...

Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival (BC)

Shakespeare in the Ruins (Manitoba)

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan)

Stratford Festival (Ontario)

(Illustration of Thor and his eight legged horse--a story by Snorri Sturluson)

Snorri Sturluson

His genius lay in his power to present all that he perceived critically as a historian with the immediacy of drama

born:  1179 in Dalasysla, Iceland
Occupation:  Historian, Poet, Politician (Chieftan)
wrote from 1223 to 1235
wrote the Prose Edda and Heimskringla

Using his considerable literary talent, Snorri gained favour with the Norwegian king. The Prose Edda repopularized figures from Norse mythology -- Thor (the god of war), Odin (all father) and Loki (the trickster). 

Through the Prose Edda, I hear Snorri say to the Norwegian king, "Remember this, your people and my people we're the same."

The Heimskringla is a history of the Norwegian kings from Odin to Magnus Erlongsson (1184).

Here, I hear Snorri say, "I know how powerful you are. Iceland knows how powerful you are. We don't want our independence. Why would we? It's just talk."

And thus Snorri feathered his own nest while selling out his country.

Did it work? Well...

died:  1241
how:  King Haakon ordered Snorri's assassination

Next post:  Book review:  Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Room by Emma Donoghue -- Target reader
Published:  Sunday, July 23 at approximately 5 PM PT

Read on to discover the dog part to this story...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Book review: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

13 chapters tell the hidden truths of women's lives. I'll guarantee that at least two of these chapters will hit so close to home that you'll wince. I started reading 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl in a bus shelter hit one scene, turned red in the face and wanted to hide. "No, don't tell them that. Not that." I was so convinced that the person sitting beside would read the words and know everything. This book isn't for the fate of heart.

Photo by LDyck

Published in 2016

I admire novelists who take a different path when writing their books. Awad is another example. She uses a variety of POVs--best friend, lover, etc. But it's more than that, some of the opening chapters made me wonder if I was reading a linked short story collection or a novel. Later chapters confirmed it was a novel.

First-time authors are warned:  Don't play loose and easy with the rules. Later when you're an established author have-at-her. But. Not. Now.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is Mona Awad's first novel.



The Vancouver Sun discusses 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Next post:  Shakespeare and Snorri
Sunday, July 16 
Published at approximately 5 PM PT

Saturday, July 1, 2017

In Support of Canadian Publishing

Happy 150, Canada!!

What can you do to keep that maple leaf waving?


-set your stories in Canadian places
sea to sea to sea
We have 10 beautiful provinces and 3 amazing territories. The world wants to hear about them. Let's tell our stories.
Your Canada:  Geography
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society

-use Canadian words like "skookum" and "toque"
-use Canadian terms like "give 'er"

-use Canadian spelling "tire" and "neighbourhood"
Canadian, British and American spelling

-what's it like to be disabled in Canada--a visual minority, an ethnic minority, a person of faith, gay, straight, an angry old white guy? Tell your story. Your fellow Canadians want to hear it.
Government of Canada
Country Guides:  Canada

-give your characters Canadian names
Canadian baby names that show off your national pride
Top 100 baby names in Canada for 2016


-buy books written/published in Canada
Association of Canadian Publishers

-support Canadian authors by attending author readings and visiting author websites
The Writers' Union of Canada:  Member Directory

-review Canadian books

Please continue reading my Canadian book reviews...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

Published by Orca Book Publishers
Published in 2014

A year after their dad's death, twins Justine and Perry travel from Australia to Canada.


This mystery hooks me. I read on...

Are You Seeing Me? is told from two points of view
Perry--high-functioning autistic--and his sole caretaker his sister Justine.  These POVs are augmented by excerpts from their dad's journal. The journal documents the twin's life and was a gift to Justine on her 18th birthday. 

Are You Seeing Me? underlines one of the major problems the world has with people with invisible disabilities--we 'look like everyone else, act like no one you've ever seen'. (p. 11)

And so Justine explains....
'Before people get confused or angry or frustrated or gooey or freaked out, I give them the standard spiel:  Perry has a brain condition that can cause him to feel anxious or upset in different places and circumstances. He has trouble with people--mixing with them and communicating with them--and it sometimes results in inappropriate behaviors. I appreciate your understanding and patience.' (p. 12)
This passage made me pause--I wondered how I'd explain my invisible disability to a stranger. What would I say, what do I say?
(Now there's a blog topic)

Other issues that this novel explores...
-It's not just we, the disabled--everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
-Autism isn't Perry's strength or weakness--it's simply part of who he is.
Justine:  ' "He's just like the rest of us--amazing in his own right, and no better or worse than anyone else." ' (p. 205)
-It's difficult to raise a child with a disability

Favourite quote...
'People treat disabled adults a lot different than kids.' (p. 198)


An article about Are You Seeing Me? by the author Darren Groth

Quill and Quire's review

Happy 150 Canada

Next post:  
In support of publishing in Canada
Published on Saturday, July 1st Canada Day
At approximately 5 PM PT