Friday, June 28, 2013

Please welcome Author Christy Farmer

Good morning, Leanne. Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog. I look forward to chatting with you and your readers, today.
(Thank you, Christy. I'm delighted that you could come for a visit. And I can't wait to read about your author journey.)

How/why did you start to write?

Like many writers, I’ve written in some form ever since I started school. At age 7, I kept a diary and wrote short stories and poetry at age 9.  I did this in secret, of course, and the habit continued well into high school.

Then, senior year happened.

My English teacher caught me writing during class one day and confiscated it. Talk about mortified! I wanted to slide underneath my desk. Thankfully, he read what I wrote in silence but did ask me to stay behind after class. I thought for sure I was doomed for a reprimand of some sort, or worse, a visit to the principal’s office.

Instead, he smiled at me. He said, “I just wanted to let you know this is really good. Have you ever considered becoming a writer?”

To this day, I’ve never forgotten that teacher. He remains my favorite.

How did you become an author?

My journey as a writer began with short story contests. I entered a local contest. I had so much fun writing my debut short story entitled; “I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER” that I kinda “forgot” about the contest. Several weeks later, I received a phone call that my story won an award!

The experience led to a reception. We soon found out Fannie Flagg (author of FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFÉ) would appear as our keynote speaker. She is one of my all-time favorite authors. She delighted the audience with her funny, heartwarming stories and made us laugh so much.

In the elegant lobby, they had a large display of a train depot with the winning stories displayed on them. It seemed so surreal to realize one of them belonged to me. Later, that evening, I had the pleasure of meeting her. She is one of the sweetest, nicest people you could ever hope to meet. I’ve never forgotten our conversation. I could not believe someone I admire so much, who wrote such memorable characters as Idgie Threadgoode encouraged me to write. It remains one of the most humbling and most cherished moments I’ve ever experienced as a writer.

Afterwards, Mr. Farmer said, “You’ve got to write a novel now!” However, as a young mother at the time, I decided to pursue writing once my youngest child started school. It became a decision I’ve never once regretted. I now write full-time.

What was your first published piece?

I wrote an article about my experiences of attending my first concert and meeting Rick Springfield.

Where was it published?

The article appeared in my school paper.

How long ago?

Let’s just say Corey Hart was the opening act. (Winks….)

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

Before writing, I once worked for a domestic violence shelter as a child and teen advocate. To this day, it remains among the most cherished and rewarding experiences of my life.

How did it help me as a writer? I love to keep windows open for characters either to make a difference within their own storyline or to inspire someone on some level.

What inspires you?

People: One of the occupational hazards of writers is we are natural observers. I love to observe facial expressions, mannerisms, and body language. My former piano teacher tried to break my “musical ear”, which, didn’t work. I love to listen to the pitch, tone, and dialects of people as they speak.

While observation is great for writers, it offers funny moments when you celebrate Thanksgiving with 40 family members. Ha. Ha. 

The South: The South deeply inspires me both as a person and as a writer. Southerners tend to be natural storytellers and living historians. We love to share our histories, which sometimes include historical events as backstory!

To date, the most popular topic on my blog is about Southern culture. I’m deeply flattered and proud to call the South home.

Music: I consider music the equivalent of air. I take music everywhere I go, and love to listen to it as I write.

Great Books: I’ve been a voracious reader since I began school.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

I am what you might call, a story first, writer. Margaret Mitchell once said, “An author’s work must stand on its own.” I’ve found I agree. Nothing will ever sell a story more than word of mouth by enthusiastic readers.

As a reader, I pay it forward with books I enjoy. Whether it is a written review on a retail website or an enthusiastic mention on social media, which is how I thank writers who entertain me. (The same goes for music.)

That said I love the interaction social media allows us.  Readers are the best and I love to interact with them. We have a great time getting to know each other. Ever since I started my blog, I reply to every comment.

Parting words

I’ve never forgotten what it feels like to be a young writer. The hunger to write, the thrill of developing characters, finding out what works, and realizing what doesn’t.

The number one tip I would offer upcoming writers is, never write for what is currently popular on store bookshelves. Instead, focus on writing the book(s) of your heart. If we write scenes that moves us, chances are it will touch readers as well. As a writer, there is nothing more rewarding than to hear your story deeply moved readers in some way.

That is why I write.

Christy Farmer is a contemporary romance writer. Her love of storytelling began in the small towns, on the front porch swings, and seated around the kitchen tables, she loved as a child. Her debut short story, I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER paid tribute to early childhood influences and won an award in the Tale for One City writing competition in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

She never waited for her muse to show up, she simply married him. When she is not writing, you will find her in a café down South, where she sips glasses of sweet tea and engages in tall tales at the liar’s table.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review Ru by Kim Thuy (historical fiction)

"Have you read Ru?" A friend inquired. "The library has a copy." And so began an exciting reading experience...

Ru is a uniquely constructed book. Author Kim Thuy's background as a boat person provides the clothesline upon which scenes are hung. Some of the scenes are three and a half pages; others are as short as a half a page--all contribute to the story. The cloth-pegs are a few words or a sentence which link one scene to the other. One scene concludes with the sentence 'As time went on, we no longer started our day with soup.' The next scene begins with, 'I went back to having soup for breakfast'.

I was charmed by the sheer beauty of Ms. Thuy's writing:  'I moved forward in the trace of their footsteps as in a waking dream where the scent of a newly blown poppy is no longer a perfume but a blossoming:  where the deep red of a maple leaf in autumn is no longer a colour but a grace; where a country is no longer a place but a lullaby.' (p. 140)

Other favourite quotes...

'He had stopped time by continuing to enjoy himself, to live until the end with the lightness of a young man.' (p. 59)

'No, I don't have the right to say that I was the same age as her: her age was measured in the number of stars she saw when she was being beaten and not in years, months, days.' (p. 83)

'Ru carries us along on an unforgettable journey from a palatial residence in Saigon to a crowded and muddy Malaysian refugee camp, and onward to a new beginning in Quebec. Moving seamlessly from past to present, from history to memory and back again, Ru is a book that celebrates life in all its wonder:  its moments of beauty and sensuality, brutality and sorrow, comfort and comedy.'

To learn more about this book

Kim Thuy on writing Ru and the Immigrant Experience (YouTube)

A Refugee's Multilayered Experience in 'Ru' (npr books)
Sharing my author journey...
This week I discovered some intriguing literary agents. So I polished  my query letter, pressed send and am waiting for magic to happen. 
: )
Next post:  Please welcome author Christy Farmer

Monday, June 24, 2013

Leanne Dyck in A Needle Pulling Thread

I wrote a brief 'spotlight' article for A Needle Pulling Thread (spring, 2008)...

Knitting was a gift given to me by my mom and grandma. Mom desired to have her daughter share in the pleasure of her craft. She also wished to further the development of a grandparent -- grandchild relationship. Bearing these things in mind she whispered in grandma's ear. "She's ready" and my knitting life commenced.

(The Norwegian Purl)

Many people have been puzzled by my stitches:  Why do I knit like that? What exactly am I doing? Those who know smile and inquire, "Who taught you to knit?" 

I smile back and say, "My Icelandic Canadian Grandma." 

Though both my mom and grandma have long since passed, I continue their knitting legacy.

Although mom was not my first knitting teacher, she did ensure that my knitting experiences remained fun and rewarding. It is this philosophy that inspires my designs. I seek to break all design components down to their simplest form so that all knitters regardless of their skill level can have a fun and rewarding knitting experience. Please log on to my web site and witness the unfolding of my knitwear design career.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Please welcome Author Janet Bettag

Leanne, thank you so much for inviting me to be interviewed for your blog. (It's my pleasure, Janet) I’m delighted to have this opportunity to connect with your readers.

       How/why did you start to write?

Sometimes I think my desire to write is congenital. I was about 9 years old when I took on writing a monthly newsletter for a youth group of which I was a member. In elementary school, I worked on a class newspaper. I think we only did one or two issues, but it was a start and I not only got to write, I also got to edit the work of other students. Talk about a power trip for a kid! Although I was a senior citizen before I focused on writing as a profession, it has been part of my life in some way or another since I was a child.

    How did you become an author?

I self-published my first book, NORMAL, for eReaders at the end of August 2012. The book was picked up by Monograph Publishing for the paperback edition, which was released in January 2013. NORMAL is a narrative nonfiction work that relates my experiences surviving and recovering from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. I wrote it primarily for other survivors and their caregivers as a means of providing support and encouragement. There is a discussion guide at the back of the book that is designed to prompt open communications among survivors in support group settings.
Something surprising happened when I started receiving feedback from early readers. It seems folks don’t think it’s just for people whose lives have been touched by brain trauma. The first person to review it on Goodreads said the book belongs on Oprah’s reading list. What an overwhelming compliment!  Java Davis of The Kindle Book Review said she felt like a better person for having read it. That’s pretty high praise. More recently, I heard from a young woman who is battling breast cancer who said the book gave her courage and strength and that she refers to it often for support. Wow. Just. Wow. How could an author ask for more validation than that?

       What was your first published piece?

Well, if you don’t count stuff from my school years, the first piece I had published with my own byline was a magazine article titled, “The BackStoppers.” The BackStoppers is an organization that provides support to the families left behind by police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel who are killed in the line of duty.

       Where was it published?

Odd as it may seem, “The BackStoppers” appeared in Woods & Irons Magazine, which was at the time the official voice of The Gateway PGA Foundation. The article was prompted by coverage of a benefit golf tournament and delved into the history of The BackStoppers and gave insight into the way the organization touches people’s lives beyond providing financial assistance. The piece was quite well received and I continued as a contributing writer with the magazine until it went out of publication. My standing assignment was to write stories that were only tangentially related to golf. From profiling the executive chef at an exclusive golf club to describing the operations of a studio that produces hand crafted knives and golf accessories – and stops between – I enjoyed writing general interest pieces that helped make the publication a well-rounded magazine.

   How long ago?

“The BackStoppers” was published in September 2010.  Unfortunately the magazine went out of production about six months later.

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

I’ve spent most of my professional life in various administrative and marketing support positions, doing everything from customer service and sales support to marketing research and media relations. I’ve worked for a manufacturer, a CPA firm, a distributor of office supplies and furniture, an architect, a marketing firm, and for the last 17 years of that life I served as the administrative assistant to Chief Michael T. Force of the Lake Saint Louis (MO) Police Department.
All of those experiences were assets to my writing in one form or another. It’s a wonderful thing to be born with a creative mind, but it is life experiences – including those obtained in other jobs – that provide the grist for the mill, to coin a cliché. Since my work exposed me to such a wide variety of people, circumstances, and environments I feel comfortable exploring a lot of topics.
The time I spent in marketing support positions has proven invaluable since an author’s work doesn’t end with writing, editing, and revising. Once you have a book, you have to do something with it. When you’re self-published it’s all on you. Even with the support of a publisher, authors these days have to do a lot of the marketing themselves. What good is a book if it isn’t in the hands of readers?

     What inspires you?

It depends on what I’m working on at the time. NORMAL was inspired primarily by my desire to let other brain aneurysm survivors know that they are not alone in their fight to recover. I also wanted to vividly describe what my experience felt like from the inside so that caregivers, medical professionals, and other readers would have a better understanding of what a person with a traumatized brain deals with physically, psychologically, and emotionally.
When it comes to the fiction I write, the inspiration comes from many different sources. Sometimes I observe a person whose outward appearance makes me wonder what his or her daily life is like. My imagination goes to work and before long I’ve created in my mind some scene wherein this stranger becomes a character. If an old, abandoned house catches my eye I can’t help but wonder what became of the people who used to live there and why the place was left to decay. As macabre as it may seem, I often find inspiration walking around in cemeteries, reading the names and dates on the tombstones. Every person who ever lived has a story. I suppose my curiosity inspires me to tell them, even if they are products of my fancy.

     Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques.

Probably the most important thing is to remember that it is really about developing relationships. Social media networking seems to be critical to the process these days. At first I was a tad intimidated by the concept. Then I realized that it isn’t so different from more traditional marketing activities. I started treating my social media endeavors like I would Chamber of Commerce events. I reach out to as many people as I can, but I put more effort into developing relationships with folks who share my interests, those who offer services I might need now or in the future, and the ones who seem to genuinely appreciate what I do. I don’t hesitate to introduce one of my contacts to another if I think the association would be mutually beneficial. While I realize that agents and publishers like to see big network numbers, I feel that the quality of the relationships I build is equally or more important.

       Parting words

Believe in serendipity and synchronicity and don’t be afraid to let them guide your actions. Everything happens for a reason, but what we do with the events in our lives is up to us.  When faced with adversity, we have a choice: remain a victim or become a warrior.

Follow Janet Bettag on Twitter, Facebook, and LilnkedIn.
To learn more about cerebral aneurysms, visit The Brain Aneurysm Foundation. Support their efforts by joining Team Normal Readers.

Book Blurb:

"In that nanosecond of enlightenment I knew that the human spirit survives the death of the physical body and I understood that my wandering soul needed to get back into its earthly habitat." - Janet Bettag, Normal

Normal is the true story of the author's survival and recovery from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. It poignantly and humorously addresses dealing with altered self-image, finding ways around barriers, and appreciating the play of serendipity and synchronicity in our lives. The book is a moving and sometimes hilarious account of her determination to reconnect with reality and construct an active, rewarding life in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Sharing skirmishes and victories, Janet Bettag conveys a message of hope, inspirationn, and support to her readers. In doing so, she reminds each of us that we have a choice to make when faced with adversity - remain a victim or become a warrior.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Writers, who owns your work? by Leanne Dyck

A friend asked me if she owned the short story she had contributed to an anthology or if it was now owned by the publisher? She hadn't been paid for her submission nor had she signed a contract?

Here is my reply...

Authors always retain ownership of their work. The only time they lose ownership is when they sign a contract. And this loss is temporary. The reason you agree to lose ownership is two-fold 1) so that a publishing house can publish your work. 2) so you can get paid.

As she did not sign a contract, she did not lose ownership of her story--even temporarily.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Icelandic Knitting Voyage by Leanne Dyck

This article was previously published in the August 2007 issue of Knit Together
Owner/Editor:  Cynthia MacDougall

My Icelandic Knitting Voyage by Leanne Dyck

My Icelandic-Canadian grandma taught me to knit--using the Norwegian purl. Knitting has been handed down in my family for generations.

It took 150 years for a member of my immediate family to return, but, in 2007, I did.

My ancestors left Iceland expecting never to return to their beloved island home. They were packed onto the ship like cattle and took very few possessions. I wonder if my great-grandma took her knitting needles? 

Knitting came to Iceland in the 16th century. Traditionally, both girls and boys were taught to knit.

(in front of the Textile Museum)

The Textile Museum in Blondous has a display of a woollen undershirts and fisherman's leggings. The leggings encased the pant leg from toe to upper thigh. At the Icelandic Emigration Centre at Hofsos, I saw traditional Icelandic mitts. Icelanders knew that the thumb was the first part of the mitt to wear out. So they knit an extra thumb. This way when the thumb did wear out all the fisherman had to do was turn the mitt around. That's a fine example of Icelandic ingenuity!

(beautiful Hofsos--the Emigration Centre in the foreground)

In the 1970s and 1980s, almost everyone in North America was wearing the Icelandic sweater. This sweater craze was started by a country with a population (at the time) of 204, 426. When I visited the National Museum, I learned that Icelander's had started knitting and wearing these sweaters in the 1940s. It took North Americans 40 years to catch up. 

(in front of the National Museum)

While in Hofsos, I spoke with Rosa Tryggadottir, who told me that grade school in Iceland only goes to the equivalent of our grade ten. Upon graduation, students can enroll in studies of their choice. Rosa enrolled in a school that offered needle-craft classes. Some of her friends studied knitwear design at a university level and, after graduation, they formed an association to sell their work--much like the Handknitting Association of Iceland 

(Icelandic sheep during fall round-up)

Iceland has a unique program for North Americans over the age of thirty, called Snorri* Plus Participants spend two weeks touring Iceland and accompanying their hosts as they engage in their occupation or hobby What an opportunity for a knitwear designer or knitter!

(Iceland from the air)

Iceland has a rich knitting tradition, with customs old and new. Learning about them is an intangible souvenir of my trip that I will have with me the rest of my life.

(*Snorri Thorfinnsson, born of Icelandic parents, is credited as being the first ethnic European to be born on North American soil (not including Greenland).)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Guest Post Author Deanna Lynn Sletten

How/why did you start to write?

I've always had the bug to write. I began writing my first "novel" when I was about ten years old which was influenced by the Nancy Drew Mystery series. Of course, that one was never finished and published, but it started my interest in writing. Years later, I was told by two of my college English professors that I should become a writer. I found this interesting since I was an Accounting major at the time. But their encouragement started me on the path to writing and I've continued in one form or another ever since.

How did you become an author?

I wrote my very first novel, Memories, many years ago but after multiple rejections from agents and publishers, I shoved it into the bottom drawer of my desk and gave up. Although, I didn't give up on writing completely. I continued writing non-fiction articles for years for various publications and then for websites. During this time, I also completed two more books, even though I had yet to publish any. About twelve years ago, I self-published two of the novels through a print-on-demand publisher, but not many sold. In those days, there was a stigma attached to self-published books, and no one wanted to try them. Then, in 2011, I discovered the world of self-publishing through Amazon and published my novels there – even the one that was sitting, dusty, in my desk drawer. Since then, I've published my fourth novel and I am currently working on my fifth.

What was your first published piece?

I published Widow, Virgin, Whore, a contemporary women's fiction novel in December 2011. It was the first novel I self-published through Amazon. After that, I published my middle-grade novel, Outlaw Heroes, and then in March 2012, I published Memories. In December 2012, I published Sara's Promise, a romance novel.  

What inspires you?

I never know what is going to inspire a story for a novel. It could be a song (a song inspired my next novel, Maggie's Turn), it could be a scene from a movie, or even just a conversation with a friend. I'll see or hear something and think, "What if…", and off I go. When I come up with an idea, I start to write it down so I don't forget it. I may even start writing the first few chapters. I've done this with several books, so I already have a few ideas all ready to go. I just need the time to finish them all.

What is your most recently published work?

I just published Sara's Promise in December and have been actively promoting it. Sara's Promise is a romance novel with a twist. It brings up the ideas of soul mates and love lasting even after your partner has left this earth. So far, everyone who has read or reviewed it has enjoyed it, which is very rewarding.

What are you currently working on?

I'm working on my fifth novel, Maggie's Turn, which I hope to have published this summer. Maggie is the perfect mother and wife, completely devoted to her family until one day she drives away, leaving behind an indifferent husband and two sulking teenaged children.  As Maggie goes off on a quest of self-exploration and enjoys adventures meeting new people and learning new things about herself, her husband, Andrew, begins some self-exploration of his own, slowly beginning to understand what drove Maggie away. Is it too late to resolve their differences and save their marriage or will Andrew lose Maggie for good? I think that many moms who are in the thick of raising kids and working will be able to relate to Maggie.

Sara's Promise Book Description:

Do you believe in soul mates?

William Grafton had the perfect life with his lovely wife, Sara, and two wonderful children. But one day his perfect forever was shattered when Sara died suddenly, leaving him alone to raise his children and wonder how he would ever get through life without his soul mate. Five years later, he finds himself looking into a familiar pair of blue-green eyes that remind him of Sara. The woman is the exact opposite of his late wife, yet he finds he is drawn to her. But after a few strange occurrences, he begins to wonder–are these just coincidences or has his Sara come back to him as she once promised in the form of this new woman? 

Annie Paxton doesn't believe in soul mates or fate. She had watched her father die of a broken heart after her mother passed away and has since cast away any fairy tale ideas of love. Then she meets the man who has been haunting her dreams and she begins to see love in a whole new light. But her dream man is still tied to his deceased wife, and Annie doesn't know if he will ever be able to break away from his past. As strange occurrences unfold, Annie wonders if William could ever truly love her for herself and not for the traits that remind him of Sara.

Were William and Annie brought together by fate, coincidence or by Sara keeping her promise?

Buy Sara's Promise on Amazon Kindle or Paperback 

 Author Bio:

Deanna Lynn Sletten writes women's fiction novels that go beyond the basic romance novel. Her stories dig deeply into the lives of the characters, giving the reader an in-depth look into their hearts and souls. Deanna has also written one middle-grade novel that takes you on the adventure of a lifetime.

Deanna started her writing career in the early 1990s writing articles for parenting publications and local newspapers. Over time she transitioned to writing for blogs and websites and was a contributing writer for the women's website, She Knows. In November 2011, she changed course and put all her energy into novel writing and hasn't looked back since.

Deanna is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the wooded trails around her northern Minnesota home with her beautiful Australian Shepherd or relaxing in the boat on the lake in the summer. 

Connect with Deanna:

Amazon Author Page

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Secrets of Successful blogging by Leanne Dyck

Tips collected over a lifetime--at least eleven (or is it sixteen?)years--spent blogging. Secrets shared with you...

Be genuine

Readers want to get to know you. That’s why they visit your blog. So welcome them in. But give careful thought as to what you will share about your life and what you wouldn’t. Where will you draw the line?

Add value

Offer your readers something of value--on this blog, I review books and share my short stories. 

Be supportive
To receive support, offer support. Find valuable online content and share it. Acknowledge and express thanks when your content is shared.

Be predictable

Are you old enough to remember, ‘Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel’?
Did you faithfully tune in?
The same thing can happen for your blog.
I publish a new short story OR book review every Sunday evening (between 4:40 and 5:00 PM PST)

Be positive

The biggest secret of my success is that I have fun blogging. Positivity attracts--negativity repels. Make your blog a fun place and others will find you there. 

Sharing My Author Journey...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Knitting--An Ancient Craft by Leanne Dyck

In 2004, I wrote Knitting-An Ancient Craft for my blog. I was thrilled to receive an emailed request from Judy Brown to include it in her soon-to-be-published book Knitting Notes:  A Journal of Knitting Memories (2006)

Knitting -- An Ancient Craft

There is some speculation that Stone Age men wore knitted garments. 

The oldest knitted garment on record was found in Egypt and dates back to the 6th Century. The small red socks were made in twisted stockinette stitch.

The first item found on Canadian soil was a knitted cap discovered at Red Bay, Labrador, formerly a 16th-century Basque whaling site.

West Coast Salish women have been knitting Cowichan sweaters and blankets since, approximately, 1860.  These sweaters and blankets have been presented as gifts to royalty and heads of state. They are knit with un-dyed wool and are water-resistant because the natural oils have been retained. 

Knitting was, at first, considered to be a humble craft in Europe. However, when Queen Elizabeth the First started wearing knitted silk stockings, the craft gained favour and was, henceforth, looked upon as being quite a fashionable hobby. The knitting terms garter and stockinette (stocking) stitch date back to this period. 

17th-century Knitting Guilds were not fun places to click and chat. To qualify for membership, the mainly male artisans had to make a lengthy commitment to learning the craft--the same amount of time it takes to become a doctor today. 

Every time we make a stitch, we contribute to the history of knitting. Teach two to knit, and you ensure that our craft will not fade into history.

Re-written on Thursday, August 26, 2021.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Guest Post: Knitting a novel by Holly Robinson

Holly Robinson has been writing feature articles, essays and advice columns on health, parenting and psychology topics for national magazines since 1995.  She has been a contributing editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and Parents magazines.  Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Family Circle, More, Parents, Parenting, Shape, and WorkingMother.  Her first book, The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter (Crown 2009) is now available in paperback.  Her second novel, Sleeping Tigers, was indie published and named a 2011 ForeWord Reviews fiction semifinalist and a 2012 Best Indie Books semifinalist by Kindle Book Review.  Her new novel, The Wishing Hill, will be published by New American Library/Penguin in July 2013.
            Ms. Robinson holds a B.A. in biology from Clark University and is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

 Knitting a Novel:  
Pull Out Your Stitches and Put in Your Time

            I am a new knitter, but an experienced novelist.  It's only lately, as I've jumped ship from indie publishing to one of the Big Six publishing houses, that I've begun to realize what my two favorite activities have in common.
            I majored in biology in college because I wanted to be a doctor.  My last semester of college, I had to fulfill an elective, so I signed up for Creative Writing.  I had been slogging through microbiology and organic chemistry classes, so I was looking for something easy to breeze through.  I couldn't have been more wrong:  from the moment I began writing that first short story, writing absorbed my attention like nothing else.  Seven hours could pass like seven minutes.  I had found my passion!

            Oddly, knitting had the same effect on me.  I've never been a crafty person.  (My Christmas gifts look like they were wrapped by an eight-year-old.)  But for whatever reason—the colors and textures of the yarn, the soothing sounds of needles clicking together—knitting became my passion for those times when I need an excuse to sit.  By now, I've graduated from scarves to sweaters, and I always have a project handy.

            To paraphrase Mark Twain, writing is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.  When I decided to go to graduate school to earn my MFA in creative writing, I met many other writers who were convinced they would one day own posh houses and live off their royalties.  The thing is, the writers who managed to publish books weren't necessarily the ones who were so confident, or even the writers with the most talent. 

            Instead, those who actually managed to publish their stories were the writers most committed to working and revising their writing.  They didn't bring the same story to workshops all semester long.  They brought many stories (or chapters) and reworked them over and over again.  For my part, I had vowed that I would write only for a year and, if I didn't get rich or famous, I would be sensible and become a doctor.  It took me many years to publish a story, and even longer to publish books—over two decades of not just creating new works, but revising them.

            Likewise, every sweater I've made, I've had to go back and pull it out, sometimes more than once.  “You're not really going to do it over again, are you?” my husband will ask.  “Nobody will even see that row!”

            Maybe not.  But I'll know it's there, so I pull out the sweater and start over, the same way I revise my imperfect sentences.

            Because we live in a world where money matters, believing in the creative life enough to actually live it can be difficult.  Most people perceive art—whether you're knitting a scarf or writing a story—as something nice to do in your spare time, maybe, but not as something “real” and worth doing.  It takes a lot of courage to follow your passion with enough conviction to put in the hours you need to succeed.

            Despite having sold a memoir to Random House in 2009, after two decades of writing fiction, I still hadn't sold a novel.  In frustration, I self-published my novel, Sleeping Tigers, in 2011.  Scarcely two weeks later, my agent sold my newest novel, The Wishing Hill, to New American Library, Penguin.  I was so astonished to hear the news that I had to lie down on the floor during that agent's phone call.

            In retrospect, though, it all makes sense.  I had to believe in myself enough to put in the hours necessary to master the craft of writing.  Yes, there are writers who publish early in their careers, but many more of us have to face rejections along the way and maintain that belief in ourselves.  It isn't easy.  That's why, just as I have a knitting group to help me master new stitches, my writing life has been made possible by being in a fiction group that has met monthly for the past ten years.  I wouldn't be where I am without them.

            Whether you're writing or knitting, follow your passion with purpose, and your life will be rich indeed.


By Holly Robinson

You don’t have to be miles away to be far apart.

What if everything you thought was true about your life was wrong? 

Years ago, Juliet Clark gave up her life in San Francisco to follow the man she loved to Mexico and  pursue her dream of being an artist. Now her marriage is over and she's alone, selling watercolors on the Puerto Vallarta boardwalk to tourists.

When her brother calls to ask her to come home and help care for their ailing mother, Juliet goes reluctantly.  She and her self-absorbed actress mother have always clashed.  Plus, no one back home knows about her divorce—or the fact that she’s pregnant and her ex-husband is not the father. 

Her plan is to get her mother back on her feet and return to Mexico fast, but nothing goes as Juliet planned.  Back in Massachusetts, she plunges through the ice while skating  and is saved by her mother's oddly reclusive neighbor, Claire—and finds herself caught up in a strange feud between the two older women.  Despite her ever-expanding waistline, she also finds herself falling hard for her mother's carpenter.  As Juliet resists an inappropriate romance and tries to uncover the roots of the animosity between her mother and Claire, she discovers that she’s not the only one keeping secrets that could change everyone's lives forever…

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to be an author (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Sometimes a chance encounter with a stranger can completely change your life. It has happened to me so many times that I've coined a phrase--'meeting an angel'. Here's an example...

How to be an author

The question of what I was going to do next career-wise had been dogging me for months. The years after my mother’s death had been ones of transition. My husband and I had moved from the urban mainland to a remote island. On the island, I opened a craft supply store only to close it two years later. My experiences in the store had led me to a new career—knitwear design. I sold hand knitting patterns through my website to knitters from around the world. I also sold my knitting through a gallery. And I even deigned for wool producers. But knitting 24/7, seven days a week had resulted in severe wrist pain. My doctor sent me to a specialist and, after testing, the specialist advised me to take a year-long break. And there went that career. Leaving me directionless. 
I climbed out of the truck and followed my husband past the rows of vehicles, up the stairs and to the passenger deck. We claimed one of the last available benches.
Thinking that writing about my dilemma would help, I pulled a pen and my journal out of my purse. I wrote about the weather, the ferry and what we where going to do on the mainland. Then I wrote:  maybe I could be a writer. I quickly added a series of buts—but I have dyslexia; but I don’t know how: but I don’t know any authors.
Me becoming an author sounded so silly in my head, but maybe if... 
“I want to be a writer,” I told my husband.
“What do you mean you want to be,” he said. “I find your writing all over the house. You are a writer. You do write.”
“No, I mean for a living. Be an author. But I have no idea how to do that. And me? An author? It’s too… It’s too si—“
The woman who was sitting on the bench in front of ours, turned around. “Pardon me.” She spoke with a slight English accent. “I don’t mean to eavesdrop. But I heard you say you wanted to be an author.”
I blushed but nodded.
“I’m an author.” She gave me her name and told me about her books. “And there’s only one way to be an author.”
I was hanging on her every word. I wanted so badly to know the secret. “How?”
She fixed me in a soft, friendly gaze. Smiled. And said. “It’s not as hard as you think, you know. To be an author, you need to write. So write.”

Angels will visit you too. All you have to do is be open to them. They'll find you. In fact, you may even get to be an angel in someone else's life.

Updated:  June 26, 2020 (11:41 am)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Vinaterta by Leanne Dyck

This creative non-fiction short story was first published (2005) in Flavours of Vancouver:  Dishes From Around the World.
Compiled by Sheila Peacock and Joan Cross for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation
Published by Douglas and McIntyre

Cookbook blurb:  If you could drop in on the kitchens of your Vancouver neighbours, these are the dishes you'd find burbling on the stove. And these are the stories that people share along with generous helping of their unique specialties.

CBC Radio invites you to explore Vancouver's international character with this globe-spanning collection of recipes contributed by every kind of Vancouverite, from those who have lived here for generations to those who have just arrived.

Don't be shy. These long-time favourites have been perfected over the years, then kitchen-tested as well. And while you're getting to know the neighbours, you'll be helping kids around the world. Proceeds from Flavours of Vancouver go to Save the Children Canada.

Buy this book

When I was growing up, Christmas was a joyous time of family gatherings, traditions, good cheer and food. Delicious smells poured forth from Mom's kitchen. This was her opportunity to showcase mouthwatering talent. Two desserts were at the centre of these festivities:  English Pud to celebrate my dad's heritage, and my mom's recipe for Icelandic Vinaterta. Not surprisingly, Mom had been given the roots of her recipe from her mom, Grandma Olafson. Grandma's recipe loudly proclaimed its Icelandic heritage with its strong ethnic taste. Mom slightly toned down the recipe to make it more palatable for her husband. I, too, far preferred Mom's recipe. Years passed and I fell in love. Christmas was the test for my Mennonite boyfriend. How would he react to my large extended family? To Vinaterta? To my delight, he seemed at home in the company of my family. Next, he was served a piece of Vinaterta. The first bite was foreign to him. He turned the tastes around in his mouth. Would he finish his piece?

"It's okay if you don't finish it. It's a unique taste," my mom offered.

"Oh, no, I like it." He finished it. "May I have another piece, please?"

Later that year we were married. Vinaterta was our wedding cake.


Learn more about the Icelandic-Canadian culture. Read the Icelandic Connection Magazine.
Next post:  Meeting an Angel (short story)