Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Life with Letters (short story) by Leanne Dyck (2 of 2)

(image supplied by Gary Dio)

My Life with Letters is the true story of the first time I read my writing to a group of authors.

A link to part one.

To recap the story thus far, I just received an acceptance letter from a literary journal--not only will they be publishing my story but they want me to read it to a group of authors. The trouble is I have dyslexia. Memories of reading in class still haunt me. (My classmates thought me reading was a laugh riot.) I just told my husband that I can't read...

"What's your reading about?" my husband asked.

"Being dyslexic."

"And you're worried that they'll learn you're dyslexic?"

"Yes." Brief pause. "That doesn't make sense, does it?"

"Hmm, not." He held me in his strong arms. "The audience will have read your story and they'll all be pulling for you."

I held onto his words. They carried me into the audience of contributing authors and eager readers. Short story after short story, all was well until the master of ceremonies said, "And, now, I'm pleased to welcome Leanne Dyck to the stage."

Her introduction was met by supportive applause. My husband squeezed my hand. I pushed my way out of the audience, onto the stage and my face cracked into a nervous smile. There are too many people here. There are too many authors. And I know what they'll think:  If she can't read, how can she be a writer? And they're right, I found my husband in the audience. He believes in me. For him... For me... I have to do this; I can do this. I fumbled with the zipper, opened my purse, pulled out my cue cards and began to read.

Dyslexia is an inherited condition that affects the way the brain processes written and spoken language. People with dyslexia are of average or above average intelligence.

Having dyslexia is kind of like this...

We have always had a special relationship. When we meet you wooed me with your clever tricks. You were never the same way twice. Sometimes your 'b' looked like a 'd'. Sometimes your 'p' looked like a 'q'. I was surprised to hear that you didn't entertain everyone in this manner.

Later our relationship grew and I learnt that you could be collected into a group. I was informed that this group was read as a word.

Ah, how your words danced before my eyes. Sometimes 'w-a-s' danced. How it waltzed; how it jigged; how it jived. Watch it now as it twists into 's-a-w'. Amazing! Thrilling! Yet you only danced for me.

Your behaviour does make our relationship challenging.

Words dance before my eyes--unclaimed. Sometimes I am forced to guess at your intent. You are always a puzzle, a surprise. You intrigue me; you entertain; you embarrass me.

Do you remember the time I was reading to a group of children? I thought we were having a merry old time until one of the children stopped me. It seems you had fooled me yet again but you hadn't fooled the child. Never mind, it was long ago, and I have forgiven you.

It doesn't matter to me that your relationship with others is easier and more harmonious.

My passion for you grows stronger every day.

They listened as I read and clapped when I finished. I stepped off the stage into a shower of praise. "You should be an actress," they told me. "You did a very good job."

Two women approached me. "I'm Samantha Robin," One of the women said. "And this is..." I recognized the name. I knew she was a prolific author. Resisting the impulse to hug her, I said, "I love reading your books."

"Thank you." She smiled. "I wanted to meet you and encouraged you to keep writing, especially about your experiences with dyslexia. Someone I'm very close to has dyslexia. I showed him your story and he was... Well..." Her voice choked."He took courage. I know others will, as well."

Her words found my heart. Right then, right there, I made a silent vow. I will write more about being dyslexic. I have to.

"Ready to go?" My husband asked.

I nodded.

When we were alone in our truck, I asked him, "Did you hear all the positive comments?"

"Some, and I heard them clapping."

"I really like reading my writing and I want to do it again, really soon."

"You're amazing," he told me. And we kissed.

(photo by Terrill Welsh)

Picture Books Canada

in B.C. ...

Bolen Books Children's Book Prize
'The $5,000 prize will be presented 
on Wednesday, October 12, 2016, at a gala event in Victoria'
Submission must be received by May 25, 2016

in Ontario...

 The Blue Spruce Award
'Children vote to determine the winning book after they have read all of the titles.' -from the London Public Library website
Click this link to find this year's winning titles.

Forest Festival of Trees
'Canada's largest literary event for young readers'
-from the Forest Festival of Trees website link 
Friday, May 27
Sault Ste. Marie
Essar Centre
(269 Queen Street East)

This festival is held in Toronto and London, Ontario in early May. Of special interest to me is the author workshops. 

Next post:  Sunday, May 22 (around 5 pm PST) 
The bad news:  Ah, boy, do I know stress. 
The good news:  Over the years, I've amassed strategies to effectively manage stress. And I'll start this information with you in my next post.

"I keep walking the path. Thanks to a little help from my friends."
Photo of Abby by Leanne Dyck

Sharing My Author Journey...

The temperature has cooled; the skies are outcaste; Spring has re-staked its claim over this small island. And, thanks to a friend, I've once again released that...

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Life with Letters (short story) by Leanne Dyck (1 of 2)

My Life with Letters is the true story of the first time I read my writing to a group of authors. It was first published in the anthology From the Heart:  Real Life Stories of Hope & Inspiration compiled by Gary Doi. Twenty-seven international authors donated their stories to raise money to support students who wish to continue their dream of higher education.

My Life with Letters

It was an ordinary day until I read an email from a literary journal. That's when my head exploded. After re-assembling all the pieces, I told my husband, "My submission is going to be published."

"It is?"

I waved at the computer screen.

"It is." He sounded more amazed than impressed, but I choose to ignore that.

"They're asking the contributing authors to read their work at the issue launch. We have to go," I told him.

Weeks passed; the day arrived. Everything was great until I remembered...

A fragile eight-year-old girl cowers in her desk, willing flesh, bone and tissue to dissolve into the steel of the seat. Please don't call on me. Please don't call on me. I'm shivering.

"Leanne, read the next passage," the teacher says.

A spotlight shines directly into my eyes. Everyone stares at me with laser eyes that burn.

Brody, the fat kid that sits in the back of the classroom, glares at me. "No, not her. She can't read." His voice is distant and muffled, but I hear him.

He continues to taunt me, but his voice is drowned out by a huge ocean wave that hit rocks--laughter. My classmates think me reading is a laugh riot. I try to ignore them. I push my glasses up onto my nose, breath out slowly and try to find sense in the swirl of words that confront me. The letters leap, spin and twist--refusing to be captured. I wrestle with the first word, attempting to claim it. I remember what my special teacher Mrs. McIntosh, told me. That letter is a 's'. It makes the sound of a snake. I smile contentedly. I've begun. Next letter. I look at it. That's a 'p'. But when I look again the 't' has hopped over the 'p' and now it is first. 'P', 'T', they dance back and forth. Panic grips me. This is taking way too long. A clock ticks loudly. The sweet aroma of the teacher's perfume engulfs my nostrils. Outside a bird calls. My senses are assaulted. I can't shut anything out. I can't focus. I just want this to end. Please, please, I don't want to be here any more, I pray.


The class giggles; I want to dissolve into my desk.

"Sound it out, Leanne." Frustration, annoyance fills the teacher's voice.

I'm not a bad girl, I long to tell her. I want to be good. I want to do well. I want to make you happy. I'm trying. Really, honestly, I am but...but...

I look at the page. The words are gone, replaced by tiny black marks on a white page.

"Stop," I blurt out.

"We're going to be here all day," Broody sneers.


My inner voice screams, You're dumb. You can't learn. You can't do anything. Everyone laughs at you. You are STU-PID!

I am mustering up all my resources to continue my battle when the teacher cuts my progress short.

"Kim, please continue."

The book rests in Kim's palms like a hymnal. She reads the words; they flow together like a song. The teacher smiles.

I am a big awkward moose. Kim is a meadowlark. She sings sweetly and others listen. They don't laugh at her. She soars with words. I stumble and fall. She belongs, I don't. She's normal. I am a freak.

"What's the matter?" My husband's words release me from memories' tight grip.

"I can't read. I'll trip over my tongue. I'll say the wrong word. Then they'll know. They'll all know I'm dyslexic."

Do I read my story? Do I ask someone else to read it for me? Who? If my story is read, what then?


An inspiring Youtube video to encourage you to live your dream link

About Picture Books in Canada...

Shortlist for the 40th anniversary
Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz
Children's Books Awards

Sharing my author journey...
As you may remember, I'm rewriting a novel. And this week things weren't going well. My writing seemed 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Why did I read (Doctor Sleep by) Stephen King?

There are many reasons why I read...

-for entertainment
-to find out what all the fussy is about (i.e. this book is in the news, everyone's talking about it--why?)
-to support emerging authors
-to learn how to write from a master of the craft (but beware, sometimes seasons authors can get away with things newbies can't)
-to stay current in my chosen genres  (what do today's books look like?)
-for inspiration

The number one reason I read Stephen King is...
for inspiration. For some reason, reading him makes my pen fly. And I don't even write in the same genre he does. It's an added bonus that he's also entertaining.

Stephen King returns to the character and territory of one of his most popular travels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance and the very special twelve-year old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called the True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless--mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, the True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the steam that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel, where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father's legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant shining power provides the crucial find comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes "Doctor Sleep".
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan's own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra's soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shing and satisfy anyone new to this icon in the king canon. 

Why I enjoyed Doctor Sleep...

Reaching with an arm that seemed too long, too stretching, too boneless, he turned the knob and opened the door. (p. 5)
When King writes  Nothing could go wrong. (p. 352)  you know it's about to. 

King gets inside his characters and shows you who they are...
It was his eyes; it was in the way his mouth turned down at the corners; mostly it was the way he held the bottle, hating it and loving it and needing it all at the same time. (p. 65)

King's turn of phrase...
You're the feature attraction in my home theater and always will be. (p. 311)
King's descriptive language...
Her jaw unhinged all the way to her chest, and the bottom of her head became a dark hole in which a single tooth jutted. (p. 415)
King's big ideas...
Death was no less a miracle than birth (p. 421)
(all photos taken by Leanne Dyck on Mayne Island--unless otherwise stated)

Happening in Canada 
May 7th to 14th
in libraries, schools, community centres 
and bookstores across Canada
twenty-nine of Canada's most celebrated authors, illustrators 
and storytellers 
provide 28,000 children with 400 live book readings and activities 
Click this link to learn more

And calling all Picture Book devotees--share the love...
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Books has launched a social media campaign asking readers to share their favorite illustrated books, suing the hashtag #GetBehindPictureBooks
Click this link (Tundra Books) and (Children's Book Council) for more information.

 Next post:  (Sunday, May 16 part one and Sunday, May 23 part two -- published at approximately 5 pm PST)  It's not just alcoholics that carry destructive old tapes in their heads. Most of us do--I know I do. And it takes a lot of effort to re-record them. For example... Well you really need to read my true story My Life In Letters. I'll share it over the next two posts. I hope you'll read it.

Sharing my author journey....

 Happy Mother's Day!

The sun, the heat... It feels like Summer has already arrived on Mayne Island. Inspired I set to work...

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Picture Book: self-editing checklist by Leanne Dyck

(all photos have been taken by Leanne Dyck on Mayne Island--unless otherwise stated)

Like a sponge, I've been soaking up a lot of information about writing picture books. All this learning has not gone to waste. It has helped me develop the following check-list.

-Check spelling, punctuation, and grammar

To help me with this, I have...

The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White

Handbook for Writers by Jane Flick and Celia Millward

-Did you begin by introducing the setting, main character, and story problem?
'Enduring picture books must be about something bigger than a mere incident. The story problem must explore some large theme or issue. It must have a kernel of truth about life and our world.' (p. 23 Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul)

-Is the story compelling?

Please click the link to read this helpful article:  21 tips for creating compelling short stories

-Are there conflicts that the main character must overcome? How many?

Please click the link to read this helpful article:  How to create tension in a story in 8 ways

-Does the text leave room for the illustrator?
'The illustrator's pictures are the narrative of our words. That's why we don't need to write long descriptions. The picture will show what the character looks like. They will show the setting. Trust the creativity of the artist.' (p. 157 - 158 Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul)

-Do the characters speak appropriately? 

Hmm, speak appropriately? You might think this is about censorship--but, nope.

Keep in mind that people rarely talk in grammatically correct sentences. 

Remember the age of your protagonist. Ask yourself if someone that age talks the way your character does. If not, is there a reason? If there isn't a reason, re-write the dialogue.

Read your dialogue out loud. Does it flow?

-Does the ending solve the story problem and tie up the loose ends?


Please click the link to read these helpful articles...

Try this Picture Book editing checklist

Top 10 Tips for Picture Book Success

How to Revise a Picture Book 

Next post:  (May 8 approximately 5 pm PST):  Book review of Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
I read a lot of King--I'll explain why

Sharing my Author Journey...
June is usually a very productive month of me. I wondered why and then I figured it out...