Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why I keep writing by Leanne Dyck

The following was inspired by Alex Cavanaugh's article (link). 
Especially, '[T]hat time won't come if we think it's the end and we give up.'
and Vaughn Roycroft's article (link). 
Especially, 'One truth I have found to be unfailing is that I am inspired and heartened by my fellow writers.'

photo by Leanne Dyck

An author friend recently told me that she'd given up submitting to publishers because she'd realized having her work published was an unattainable goal. She said, "It's like a one in a million chance. Why bother?"

That made me consider my own chances. Where they, slim to none and slim has just left town? If she couldn't make it, what made me think that I could? 

I'm no more talented than she is, I told myself. And the way she spoke, it sounded like she was a lot smarter.

The writing game felt like a big joke. I felt like a big joke. 

After all, I've been working hard for almost five years. I've sent out over 100 submissions. If something was going to happen it would have happened by now. 

The universe is trying to tell me to give up,  I told myself. Maybe I should listen.

I wallowed in self-pity for a while. I thought about jumping off this ride...


Why didn't I?


I realized, writing is like breathing. Even if that big hand doesn't drop out of the sky and pick me up, I am still going to write. I have to.

Other people have faith that I will succeeded. Some people are even counting on my success. 

They can't all be wrong, I told myself. I can't let them down.

And so, I have to continue.

Writing fulfills me, like nothing else can. 

When I dream of my favourite place, I think of myself at my computer keyboard or on my balcony reading (and studying) a good book.

I. Am. A. Writer.

And so I move forward.

Instead of dwelling on rejection I will focus on the journey. 

That publisher read my writing and it wasn't for them. Where can I send my writing to next? What new publishing house can I find? 

There is a thrill to combing through the Internet in search of a publisher. It's amazing what you can learn; what interesting people you can meet.

Other authors may obtain success before me.

When that happens I will celebrate their success. We are all in the same game. We live in abundance. There is more than enough for everyone.

When that happens I will learn from their journey. How did they obtain success? What lessons can I learn from them?

Write. Submit. Revise. 

There's nothing better.

The Rainbow Connection as sung by muppet, Kermit the Frog

Next Monday: Book review:  Sing A Worried Song by Canadian mystery author William Deverell

Sharing my author journey...

Be careful what you say to an author because you may just inspire them.
For example...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sharing Stories with Children by Leanne Dyck

During my last writing group meeting, I shared a picture book manuscript. I was delight to receive most of the feedback. But... But... One comment stopped me in my tracks. 

"Have you shared this story with children?" They asked me.

"Hmm, no," I said.

"Well, you should."

"How? It's a picture book. It needs pictures. And I don't draw," I told them.

They had an answer for that too. "You could clip pictures out of magazines."

Or I could gather pictures from the Internet, I told myself.

I knew collecting pictures for my book wasn't the problem. Interacting with a group of children was. It had been too many years since I'd done that. I'd burnt out of my career as an Early Childhood Educator several years ago--right after my mom died.

I have many happy memories of reading books to children. It has always been one of my favourite activities. I miss it. But fear has kept me away.

What if I no longer know how to interact with children? What if I trip and fall over words because of my dyslexia? What if...
I dwelled on these 'What ifs...' until one (early) morning. That morning I took myself in hand. "Are you going to continue to be blocked by your fear or are you going to trust yourself and take a leap?" I asked myself.

I gulped and answered, "I'm going to take a leap."

And so I contacted my local library. "Are you still looking for people to read to the children?" I asked them.

"Ah, no, not really," they told me, "In fact, we just printed the poster."

I read the long list of names. I was disappointed but proud that I'd tried to take a leap. It wasn't me who'd failed to overcome my fear. I'd tried. They just had enough readers. I was about to walk away with my head held high, but they stopped me. "But, we should have a few extra people in case something comes up." They took my contact information.

"But they won't contact me," I told myself. Once again I was caught in a net of disappointment (that I won't be able to read to a group of children) and hope (that I won't have to read to a group of children).

Well, they did contact me. A blend of apprehension and excitement carried me from my home to the library. I waited for the children to arrive. And they did arrive. 

The first thing I did was share that story I'd written. We enjoyed adding sound effects and acting out parts of the story.  Then the children plucked books from the shelves and handed them to me.  The last book they gave me was Up, Up, Up, Down by Robert Munsch (click this link to Robert Munsch's web site

In true Munsch style, he wrote the book so the children could quickly become engaged with the reading. We all loved repeating "Up, up, up, up, down." And we enjoyed the illustrator's (Michael Martchenko) silly sense of humour.

In the end, I was so thankful I'd taken that leap. I was delighted to see a group of children so entertained by books. And all those wonderful old feelings I got from reading to children, they all came rushing back. I road those feelings for a few days--such joy.

Over many years of reading books to children, here some of my favourite books (in no particular order--meaning:  if I could list them all first, I would)...

The Monster At the End of This Book by Jon Stone 

This book really brings out my inner actor. 

It Looked Like Split Milk by Charles Green Shaw 

I really like telling (as oppose to reading) It Looked Like Split Milk. My favourite way of telling it is to cut out a variety of shapes, put them in a box and have each child choose one. They reach in without looking at the shapes. Then we all guess at what the shape is.

Anything by Robert Munsch 
Okay, too vague
Here are some; I'm sure there are more

The Paper Bag Princess
Murmel, Murmel, Murmel
Mud Puddle
Love You Forever 

'For the Love of Books' part one and part two
(an article I wrote in the 1990s on how to read to children)

'Why I Write for Children' by Darlene Foster

I have more to say about reading to children and on Monday, October 5th I look forward to sharing an article I wrote on this subject. 


The deadline for Room's poetry and fiction contest has been extended to midnight of August 1st. Here's the link for more information.

Next Monday:  How to Live A Dream

Sharing my author journey...

If things are too good to be true then they just might be.

Recently, I was connected through LinkedIn by a literary agent. I 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Writers, do you kill your darlings?

The way "darlings" was defined for me was...
Imagine yourself editing your manuscript, your gaze is sweeping across the page from phrase to phrase. But then ... But then you find a phrase so brilliant that is shines so brightly that it overwhelms the page. That's a 'darling'.

Do you need to kill it?

Sometimes darlings can be mistaken for a clever turn of phrase. It takes skill to properly distinguish between them. What helps me is asking myself, does this piece of writing add a key ingredient to my manuscript? If the answer is yes then it is a clever turn of phrase. If no, then it is a darling. Rather than killing it, you can simply remove it from the manuscript and store it in a file folder or computer document. Who knows, one day it may fit nicely -- as a clever turn of phrase -- in a future manuscript.

More ...

Sometimes "darlings" can be longer than a phrase. Erin Bowman has written an article about characters and entire "darling" scenes and her difficulties with killing them.

"Kill your darlings" is popular advice in writing circles. But which author was the first to offer this advice? Some say William Faulkner. Others say Stephen King. Still others say (fill in the blank with the name of your favourite gifted author). Forrest Wickman penned a clever article on the origins of the phrase.

Marcie Colleen wrote a helpful article on how-to kill your darlings.

R J Blain cautions writers to think carefully before the kill. A helpful checklist is included in this article. In conclusion, R J writes:  'But I do not believe that cutting for the sake of cutting, or because some internet quote told you to, is really an answer.'

I usually find my darlings at the beginning of my manuscript, when I'm attempting to get a feel for what I'm trying to write --
when I'm trying to find a way in. And it's interesting to note, a darling doesn't always have to sparkle like diamonds -- sometimes they are dull like cheap rhinestones. But they never serve the story.

Gabriela Pereira concludes her article on this subject with:  'We must believe that the best is still in us, that if we sacrifice those darlings, it opens up room on the page for something better. Killing our darlings is an act of faith.'

Sharing my author journey...
Some of the best support (in terms of growing my author career) has come from other authors. One of the first authors to help me was Celia Leaman. Sunday, July 19th is a special day for Celia. She will be launching...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Book Review Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

A friend says, “I just finished reading Gone Girl. Have you read it? You have to read it. I know you'll like it.”

I've known this friend for many years and she knows me well. And so I buy a copy.

I don't read the back cover blurb. I just flip the book open and begin to read and immediately I'm thrown into a mystery. The narrator has little rhyme to his life? He usually wakes on a whim. Yet, today he has woken precisely at 6 AM.

Why? What kind of a career can afford him that type of leeway?

Then I read page 5: 'I used to be a writer.'

The narrator is a once-upon-writer, his wife (Amy) is a writer and so are is in-laws. In fact, Amy's parents have created a children's series inspired by their daughter. No, more then inspired by. The fictional Amy seems to be a new and improved version of the real Amy.

As Amy writes: 'I can't fail to notice that whenever I screw something up, Amy does it right.' (P. 36)

My friend knows of my passion to become a writer. I pause to wonder if this overabundance of writers is the reason my friend thought I would enjoy this book.

But it's more then that...

Gone Girl is about a relationship. The couple is young and attractive. The ingredients for a romance and yet it is a thriller.

'Isn't that what every marriage is, anyway? Just a lengthy game of he-said, she-said?' (p. 544)

I love stories that throw you for a loop like that. You wiggle your way into the comfortable pages. Everything is so familiar. You feel so at home. And then wham bam you're sent reeling. Stephen King writes this type of story very well and so does Gillian Flynn.

I admire other aspect of Ms. Flynn's writing as well...
In chapter one the narrator wishes that he could be in his wife's head. Then in chapter two he is. He's reading her diary, in fact. How much more in her head can he get?

Ms. Flynn continues to play with her main characters in this manner. For example, Amy disappears in one chapter and Nick reappears in the next.

What is the overriding theme...?

A promising happy-ever-after marriage breaks down set against the US economy. An economy that was so promising but that is slowly sliding into bankruptcy—people are losing their jobs, grandiose malls echo from abandonment.

Everything is disappearing in this book: Amy, Nick's future, Nick's dad, Amy's parents' money...

Favourite quote...

'She chirps the last bit as if that were all to say about a book: It's good or it's bad. I like it or I didn't. No discussion of the writing, the themes, the nuances, the structure, Just good or bad. Like a hot dog.' (p. 377)

Back cover blurb:  On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and plans are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears. As the police begin to investigate, the town golden boy parades a series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer?


Next Monday...

Writers, do you kill your darlings?

Author journey...
I cared for children in a Day Care setting for approximately fourteen years...