Friday, October 26, 2012

Guest Post: Author Arleen Pare (interview)

How/why did you start to write?

I started to write creatively after completing a graduate thesis in 1994.   I remember driving home from UBC after my oral defense, thinking it was too bad that I had finished the project because I had enjoyed the writing process, the business of chewing over ideas and arranging them.  And revising.  And then immediately the idea of writing a novel popped into my mind.  And I don’t have to include footnote, I thought.   So the next morning before I went to work, I began my novel.  Fifteen minutes in a coffee shop.   it was about four chapters long before I abandoned it.  In the meantime, I had joined a writing group, enrolled in a writing class and started to write poetry, which is my main love.

How did you become an author?

I kept taking writing classes.  I did a reading or two.  I made friends with other writers.   One day, after sending my new manuscript to several presses, one of them accepted it.  The process was more complex, and I began to think the manuscript would never get published, but one of the editorial board at my first published was willing to take a chance on an experimental book – mine.

What was your first published piece?

I took the SFU Writers’ Studio program with Betsy Warland in 2001/2.  It lasted a year and was organized to accommodate people with full-time jobs.  I learned so much.  At the end of the year, the students put together an anthology.  I think that was where I first published a number of poems.  The program is in its 12th year, and is very popular.   I think it’s really important to learn as much as possible about writing, retreats, workshops, classes, programs, degrees.   I’ve taken them all, and I still want to take more.

Where was it published?

How long ago?

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

I became a writer late in life.  I was forty-nine when I began writing the novel.  I called it Lake City.  I worked for over twenty years as a social worker and social work administrator in Vancouver mental health services.  I am a mother.  After I had children I went to McGill University and became a social worker.  I keep going back to school.   I love going to school.   I wrote my first published book about working in government bureaucracy.  It’s called Paper Trail (NeWest Press, 2007) and is written in mixed genre, much like Leaving Now.  People who work in bureaucracy have told me that Paper Trail speaks to their own situation.   It contains some poetry, some narrative, some fantasy, with Franz Kafka racing around the corridors of the office building.   It won the 2008 Victoria Butler Book Prize, and was short-listed for the Dorothy Livesay BC Book Award for Poetry.  Both are very prestigious BC prizes; I was enormously chuffed.

What inspires you?

Reading other poets, good and excellent poets can inspire me most.

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

I think networking is important.   Going to classes.  Getting to know different authors.  Using the new technologies, like blogging and face book.  I think these activities can help to market authors and their books.

Parting words

If you love to write, write what is difficult for you, what keeps you awake at night.   Make what you write the most beautiful piece of art you can.  Get other people to help edit your work.   Revise, revise, revise.  

Leaving Now (Arleen Pare's most recent book)

In Leaving Now Arleen Pare, winner of the 2008 Victoria Book Prize, weaves fable, prose and poetics to create a rich mosaic of conflicted motherhood. Set in the volatile 1970s and 80s when social norms and expectations were changing rapidly, Leaving Now is the emotionally candid story of a mother's anguish as she leaves her husband to love a woman. In this second book, Pare masterfully blends aspects of her personal journey with her own version of a well-loved fairy tale. Gudrun, the five-hundred-year-old mother of Hansel and Gretel, appears hazily in the narrator's kitchen--presumed dead, all but written out of her won tale, but very much alive. Gudrun spins a yarn of love, loss and leaving, offering comfort and wisdom to the conflicted young mother.

Raising children is not for the faint of heart, all parents know the anguish of parting from a child, even if for the briefest moment. Leaving Now is for mothers, fathers, son and daughters. It is for anyone who has ever lived in a family.

Arleen Pare's website

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book Review: Leaving Now by Arleen Pare

Update:  On Sunday, July 25 at 2 PM at Shavasana Art Gallery and Cafe on Mayne Island, BC, Arleen Pare will read from her most recent poetry collection First

Allow me to begin with a little bit of self-talk. "Leanne, this is an example of why it's important to leave room for a book to find you. Listen up." Okay, I feel better. Thanks. Now...

Background:  The night before finding Leaving Now I'd actually started reading... Well, the name of the book isn't important. By... Well, the name of the author isn't important either.... It's enough to say that I'd read another books by the author. Other books that I'd enjoyed. So, I began reading that book with hope in my heart. I'll enjoy this, I told myself. Half-way through the first chapter, I kept reminding myself, any time now I'll begin to enjoy this. 

The problem was the author. I could compare him to a bully. He was holding the story over my head. I could see it danging there in front of me. But when I reached out to grab it he pulled it away. 

Finally, I told him. "Fine. If you don't want me to have it, I don't need it." And I left the author with his story. 

But that left me with a new problem:  what do I read now? 

The problem was that I had too many books to choose from and none of them called to me. 

That evening I went to Arleen Pare's book reading. 

Leaving Now jumped right up, waved at me and said, "Yeah, I'll be happy to entertain you. Just bring me home."

So I did and Leaving Now didn't disappoint. In fact, it charmed me from page one, with turn of phrase such as 'An ordinary day--but with a suitcase in it." (p. 9)

The cover is a well executed work of art--weaving pink and blue. 
It speaks of times long past--1952. 

Please visit the book cover artist, Arleigh Wood

Arleen Pare's writing is emotionally deep with a poetic style. Reading her words inspired me to try my hand...

Satisfaction comes from developing your craft.
Ink on paper...capturing...emotion...writing deeply...capture the minute, the essence.

Satisfaction is achieved by sitting with your pen.
Exercise your brain...focus...execute...breathe life into word.
Build a your characters come to life...
Stand for something...make a point....

Don't worry who will care. You will.

Yes, Leaving Now captured me--right up and including the very last page.
'That's what happens in a fairy tale. That's the way the endings work. Perfectly. That's the law. I close the book.' (p. 162)

So, wanting more, but knowing the story was complete, I, indeed, closed the book.

Next post:
After all that, would you like to meet the author of Leaving Now? I knew you would. Arleen Pare will be here tomorrow. 
Can't wait?
Neither can I. : )
Work in progress
Word count:  64,638 words
Just two scenes left. I'm so close I can taste it--and it's so sweet. Then I let it rest for a few days (as many as I can stand). After a through editing and polish, it's submission time. If all goes well this progress should start in December or January. After the holidays or before... Huh? I've worried over this dilemma more than once.

This week I finished Room by Emma Donoghue. I thought I'd leave it at that. But as with so many books it seems I have something to say. So, please, watch for this review.
I will be attending two writer workshops this Saturday...
Write with Geist
Fall Workshop series
Getting It Into Print 
(Billeh Nickerson reveals the secrets of how to get published in literary journals.)
Art of the Sentence
(Stephen Osborne explains how to identify strong sentences and how to write them)
I've been fortunate to be published in some literary journals. But I want to do more. And my sentences are strong but they could be stronger. (couldn't everyone's?)

Oh, yes, and this coming Tuesday at 9 pm my favourite TV show returns.
Scotiabank Giller Prize (link)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Guest Post: knitwear designer Jill Wolcott

I am a hand knitwear designer.  Unlike most hand knit designers, I didn’t come to this because of my love of knitting.  In fact, I re-discovered hand knitting after I began to do machine knitting which I came to as a fashion designer! 

I learned to hand knit as a tagalong with my older sister’s Brownie troop to lessons at the local yarn shop in Olympia, Washington.  I was 6 years old and loathed everything about it.  We learned the English method and I would happily have abandoned my project if my mother hadn’t made me finish it.

My mother was a knitter and I always think of her sitting in a chair in the living room with her feet on an ottoman, the New Yorker on her knees and her knitting needles clicking.  She knit primarily stockinette (probably to aid with reading progress).  We were thrilled when she learned Seed Stitch and we got something other than rib trim on our cardigans.  She is what I call a flicker—she flicks her yarn with her right forefinger.  I leaned to Continental Knit in 1995.  I wrote a Continental knitting instructional book with my former business partner in 2006 for which I did 96 illustrations.

I knitted the odd piece in the years intervening being 6 and 1993 when I started submitting machine knit designs to magazines. I had turned to machine knitting after moving to a new city where there were no jobs for my design skills.  I figured people always needed sweaters!  When I began learning how to use the knitting machine I disliked almost everything being created by machine knitters.  I pulled out old Vogue Knitting magazines (I had always kept a subscription to that even though I didn’t really knit) and figured out how to accomplish things I liked using my hand knitting knowledge (and occasionally calling my mother) on the knitting machine.

In 1994 before leaving for a vacation I picked up yarn from the sale bin of a local yarn shop because I didn’t feel I could stand to be away from knitting for two weeks.  I really enjoyed the portability of hand knitting and had a great time designing and knitting a sweater.  That sweater was an intarsia patchwork of different stitch patterns in three colors, put together in a planned random pattern.  I was hooked on hand knitting.

I started to do hand knit design as well as machine knits.  I like almost every type of stitch pattern, although I am not inclined to do much stranded knitting.  I love vintage lace patterns, and often find myself dissecting patterns to find their hidden elements.  Mostly though I am pursuing an idea, so I find stitch patterns that suit the concept.

The first knitting pattern I wrote was for a coat for a friend’s toddler daughter.  I wrote a variation of that design for a pattern that I sold to Machine Knitting News.  I think my first hand knit pattern was for Knitters.  I had a terrible time learning how to write effective patterns.  What magazines publish didn’t really seem clear to me; I think I struggled for about five years before I realized that I just saw things differently.  I call myself “directionally dyslexic”.  I have a hard time with right and left, and right side and wrong side conversions.  I do shaping for both sides in my patterns, and am pretty meticulous about tracking right and wrong sides.  I don’t have to be as concerned about how much space I use.  I also do my charts to reflect the stitches on the side you are looking at because I can’t do the mental transition.  Really, I’m not as dumb as this makes me sound! 

I have my own pattern line which allows me to write in a style that is clearer to how my brain functions. I have about 50 patterns currently available on my website, and at least that many more available on Ravelry in an old format while waiting for transition to my new format.  I always have about two dozen projects in the works.  Unlike many hand knit designers, I don’t knit my samples.  I write the patterns from swatches and they are knit (almost always just once!) from my instructions.

Knitwear design is rewarding because I get to create both shape and fabric.  I never cease having more ideas than I could possibly pursue, and every day I love sitting down to knit swatches.  The challenge is that knitwear design is not valued within the hand knitting community and it is extremely difficult to make money at it. 

At heart I am a fashion designer.  I love and follow fashion,  and I try to translate what I see in fashion for people who knit.  I look at all types of garments and translate elements and shapes into my designs.  I want to design things that, for the most part, will be fashionable in three years if that’s how long you take to knit it.  I create contemporary fashion, not fast fashion.  I am inspired by yarn, and stitch patterns, but almost always it comes back to fashion and style for me.

My advice to knitters is to enjoy the process.  It be just about the knit product, you should allow yourself to experience the pleasure of all that yarn running through your fingers, how you feel about your accomplishments, learning new things, and seeing what transpires as you manipulate your yarn and needles.  In the end, if you had to knit the same ball of yarn over and over, it could still be a pleasure (well, for a while).  We get too focused on the price of the materials we are using and how long it takes and we forget how much we get out of it.  Not only do we create things, we entertain ourselves, sooth ourselves, and help us get through things we’d just rather not (kid’s sports, waiting rooms, family visits, you name it!).

The most important things I am working on right now are books. I am focusing on redoing the Continental knitting method book.  I am changing the voice and the focus.  I want to provide how-to-knit instruction, and also give guidance through many of the things needed to transition from scarves to creating garments or more complex projects.  After that I have about five books to write!

I am a solo business owner for the first time in over 10 years.  This has proved to be more enjoyable than I thought it would be, although it is also scary and unnerving sometimes.

To view more of Jill's lovely designs, please log on to

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Reviewing the Victoria Writers' Festival by Leanne Dyck

On Saturday, October 13th I attended an author reading/panel discussion. The Bendy Truth featured three creative non-fiction authors and was part of the two-day Victoria Writers Festival. 

The venue was the Young building (room 310) that is, ironically, one of the oldest buildings on the campus.

The panelists were (from left to right) Christin Geall, Madeline Sonik and Monique Gray Smith and the host was David Leach (on the far left standing against the wall).

The authors had a variety of reading styles. Two of the authors read from their books—the other read from printouts. One of the authors gave a rather lengthy introduction that included details about how she wrote her story. The other two introductions were much shorter. One of the stories was written like an essay. Another author blended a lot of dialogue into her story.

A discussion followed. Here’s what I gleamed…

How did you deal with the challenges of writing about people you know?

-It took me many attempts over a long period of time
-I left myself open to having my opinion changed—this was scary
-I changed names and put a disclaimer at the front of my book

Why do you weave culture and history into your story?

-It just happens—the more personnel the story is the bigger in scope it becomes
-Helps to strengthen the work

Why do you think there is such a growing interest in this genre?

-Reflection on the realistic period we are in.
-People are looking for truth
-Creative non-fiction has everything that fiction does with the added bonus that it actually happened
-This genre is about hope—people are looking for that
-People are craving relationship

What books inspire you?

How much should you try to hide the identity of the people you are writing about?

-You shouldn't be concerned about that. You need to own your truth.
-Put all thoughts of hiding out of your head because that’s the inner critic talking

How do you choose the name?

-Use a search engine that lists the top 100 names of the year the person was born

How do you write?

-I close my eyes and just write
-I use the software program:  Scrivener. I highly recommend it.

Other thoughts shared…

Writing is an effort to heal
Memoir isn’t written chronologically. The story is the key.

While I listened, captivated, to the readings and discussion, my husband was waiting for me here…

He wrote this…

Written while waiting for a writer

Here I sit
For an appointment missed.
My wife is late again
Though to be fair
‘Tis not her fault
A writer expels his air.
She hopes to learn
From one so bold.
A subject I could not care
So here I sit
And bide my time,
What words are worth the air?

(Even after living with him for many years, he still continues to surprise me. )

I found this on the stall wall in the woman's washroom...

My world sings with creativity--and I am alive. : )

Monday, October 15, 2012

Photos of Mayne Island taken by Leanne Dyck

Photos taken on a recent walk I took on Mayne Island with my husband...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Guest Post: author and knitwear designer Rohn Strong

How/why did you start to write?

I began writing when I was young, I think a writer writes, that is just what we do.

How did you become an author?

I just did, i wrote and wrote and wrote. Then once I began combining knitting and writing they fit together like a glove!

What was your first published piece?

It was on a place mat during Elementary school, I was so proud of that poem!

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

Everything, however working in a Grocery Store always proved to be a safe haven. Yes, it was a huge asset! It taught me to work hard for my dreams!

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

Market yourself like crazy and never underestimate the power of good branding!

Who taught you to knit?

I was first taught to knit by a Scandinavian woman at my LYS! (local yarn shop)

What knitting method do you us? Continental or English?

Both, I learned continental but prefer English.

What is your favourite stitch pattern?

Garter...yes I know pretty lame. However the beauty of garter is endless. I just love it.

When did you become a knitwear designer?

I'm not sure, I think I always have been. I've worked professionally in this business for two years but I am just now getting to the point where I feel okay to call myself a "Knitwear Designer"' I honestly think people throw the term 'designer' way too much. Designers are those who work tirelessly for their art. It's like a home baker calling themselves a Chef. There is a big difference!


I love knitting and crochet. I also think we are all called to a certain destiny. This happens to be mine.


WORK!! Lots of work! I average about 100 hours a week. I wake at seven and work until bedtime. That's the only way to make it in this business. You have to be willing to put in the time.

Tell me about your first pattern?

My first pattern was a three layered crochet cowl in maroon, blue, and silver. I designed it free form and wrote up the pattern but quickly threw it away.

Where was it published?

No where, thank God! I love the look but hated the pattern. However, A photo of it was recently published in InsideCrochet Magazine.

Are you a member of a knitwear design association? Why or why not?

No. I'm not sure why or why not. I think I eventually will be, however to be a success I don't think it is necessary.

Do you attend fibre festivals? Why or why not?

I do! I'll be attending more once the book is officially launched on October 20th and I'm pretty excited.

What inspires your designs?

Simplicity, color, and texture.

What is the most rewarding aspect about being a knitwear designer? What is the most challenging?

hmmmm...Well that feeling of accomplishment. Also I think it's rare in this modern day that we, as a society, are able to rely on work we actually create with our own two hands. I'm blessed to be able to do that.

The challenging part is definitely having a family, dating, having a pet, anything. When your trying to run a business, everything else seems to come secondary whether you want it to or not. Finding balance is nearly impossible.

Please share knitting/design advice.

Well there are three tips I like to give every designer:

1. Keep it simple. Quit clogging up designs. When you think you have just enough cables, take a few out.

2. Strive to be perfect. No matter what, a pursuit of perfection is the key to life.

3. Design specifically. Know who your designing for and do it. If he happens to be a man with a 32" not knit a 36" sweater. No one likes to look frumpy. Knit specifically.

What are you currently working on?

My next book! I am a Modern Shaker and with that I feel a need to talk of our History and the knitting fellow sisters and brothers have done for the past 200 years. Most on knitting pins 000 and smaller!

Book Blurb

The first fully detailed, full-color, knitting book chronicling the history of American knitting from the beginning of 1914 to 1945, The Heritage Collection: WWI and WWII conveys the social, military, and personal realities that knitting embodied at the hands of war time knitters. Included in this book are 20 updated and redesigned knitting projects from Kitchener’s Socks to the Victory Jumper. With historical photographs, posters, patterns, and personal memories, The Heritage Collection WWI and WWII encapsulates a deeply woven history of war time knitting.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thank you

(Google image)

I created this blog on October 10, 2010. Can you believe that it has been two years? Thanksgiving gives me an opportunity to show my appreciation. This year I'm thankful to you--my blog readers. You've taught me so much. Namely, that it's amazing how much we can accomplish when we work together. 

We can reach new heights...
Type 'the sweater curse blog' into Google. What pops up? What's the first thing you see? Yup, this blog. : )

We can improve my craft...
With time, effort and someone to write to my writing has improved so much. Thank you for visiting this blog. You keep me motivated. 

We've developed a community...
I've followed you from blog to blog. And I've learnt that the blogosphere is an exciting place full of interesting people. Scroll through my blog roll. I know you'll find something of interesting.

Thanks to you, I'm finding my wings. With your support, I can't wait to see how high I'll soar. 

Conceive. Believe. Achieve. Receive.

Happy Thanksgiving
Next post: Submitting:  to literary agents and book publishers progress report

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Guest Post: Author Laurie Buchanan on writing

Please welcome my online friend and fellow author Laurie Buchanan.  I've been following Laurie's blog for over a year and I'm delighted she's here...

When Leanne invited me to post about the current phase of my up-and-coming nonfiction book, “Discovering the Seven Selves: Your Key to Offloading Baggage and Increasing Joy - Now! I was tickled pink! Where to begin...

Earlier this year my literary agent took my manuscript to BookExpo America (BEA) in New York where it caught the interest of three different publishers. She is currently in the process of determining which of them is the best to represent my work.

In the meantime, as a nonfiction writer it’s my job to “prime the pump” and “set the stage” for a launch:

As a result of that exposure, I was invited by radio host Roi Solberg to be interviewed on “Authentic You Radio” for a 15-minute guest appearance.  

I’ve enlisted the help of MOO to do the print promotional pieces: business card-sized handouts, bookmarks, and postcards. Here’s a link: At MOO you have full control of the presentation (size, graphics, color, etc). 

So what am I doing in the meantime?

I’m working on my next book. A publisher wants to know you’re not a one-shot deal. An enthusiastic writer with another work in progress (or more) is precisely what they’re looking for.

Write on!

Blue Pencil Critique (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Inspired by...
Conquer Your Writing Weaknesses
I wrote...

Blue Pencil Critique

I eagerly signed up for my first blue pencil critique. We were instructed to email our short story to our critique partner a few weeks before the writing workshop. And I dreamed about an actual author reading my words.

The day of the writing workshop, I arrived early and was told to go to room 202-A. The room was empty--just me and mystery author Lou Allin. She'd been published, more than once. 

“Do you have two copies of your submission?” 

I handed her the pages and my excitement was gone--replaced by red face, hand trembling nerves. I sat down and waited for her to belt me in and flip the switch.

I'm not a writer. I don't know how to write. Why am I here? Why am I wasting her time?

I felt her eyes on my words and my stomach flipped.

“I know my writing needs a lot of help.” 

“Really? Actually, I thought it was--."

“I have dyslexia,” I blurted.

“Rather good.” She grinned. “Oh that explains the creative spelling.”

She placed the pages on the desk. “This is good. In fact, it’s one of the best submissions I’ve received.”

All I saw was a trail of red ink snaking down the page.

“It’s best to avoid… This piece could be a lot stronger if you… I think it would help if you…,” she said, dancing through the pages. Then she hit on something tender.

“Actually,” I began tentatively. “There was… That is to say…” I gulped. “May I do more than listen? I mean can I explain?”

Her eyes lifted from the paper and rested softly on my face. “Of course, Leanne." She smiled. "These are your words. You know the story better than I do. You know why you wrote it the way you did. Hold on to your vision. I’m only here to help.”