Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sarren's Curse (short story) by Leanne Dyck 1 of 2

Did you decide to be a writer or did someone decide for you? Sarren doesn't describe herself as a writer and yet the stories keep coming. She wants them to stop--or does she?

(under a Mayne Island sky photo by Leanne Dyck)

Sarren O'Condellen pushed open the heavy glass doors. Sun poured through the glass ceiling and walls, bounced off the marble floor and into her eyes, temporarily blinding her. When her vision cleared, she looked around. The lobby was full. Business suits. Expensive shoes. Sarren wore jeans and sneakers. I look like I'm in a fog or... They probably think I'm stoned. She couldn't shake the notion they were judging her. But Sarren didn't speculate about them. They were an open book to her. Hopes, dreams, fears -- one look and she knew everything. That was why she'd come; why she couldn't leave. I have to get his help. That thought propelled Sarren to the elevator. She pressed the button and waited, shifting her weight from foot to foot -- adjusting the backpack straps that hung over her shoulders. A buzzer sounded, a door slid open and Sarren walked into the elevator car. She shed her heavy backpack and placed it beside her on the floor, leaned back and closed her eyes. I need to tell him... He needs to know... She rehearsed her speech as she had countless times before. She'd made the appointment immediately after listening to a local radio call-in show that had featured Doctor Zimmerman. Sarren had been impressed by his soothing, confident voice and his drug-free methods. He'll help me. And soon this curse will be lifted.

"This is the twenty-second floor," a disembodied voice announced.

Sarren jumped. The door slid open and she hurried out, momentarily forgetting her backpack. But she hopped back in, grabbed it and hopped out before the door closed. The corridor was well lit, which aided her search. Door after door, nameplate after nameplate until she found his office. She turned the doorknob and pushed the door open. The receptionist's desk was at the far end of the waiting room. Sarren kept her eyes trained on the clock that hung on the wall behind the desk as she passed Doctor Zimmerman's other clients.

"I have a one o'clock appointment," she told the receptionist.

The receptionist ran her pencil down a list of names. "Ms. O'Condellen?" 

Sarren nodded.

"Please have a seat. Doctor Zimmerman will see you shortly." The receptionist was pleasant but not unnervingly so.

Sarren found an empty chair beside a stack of magazines. She selected one and tried to read, but she couldn't help herself, she looked up. A man with oily hair just stared at the floor. Drug addict. Sex offender. A woman flipped through a magazine. She turned a page and scratched. Another page, she scratched her arm. Another page, she scratched her hand. Another, she scratched her nose. Neurotic. Paranoid. Sick. Crazy. Insane. Sarren returned the magazine she'd been trying to read back to the pile. I don't belong here. Not. Here.

"Ms. O'Condellen," the receptionist called. "Doctor Zimmerman will see you now."

But maybe he will help me. That hope kept her from flying out the door. And instead she allowed the receptionist to usher her into the office. Sarren left the hardwood waiting room and set two feet onto the deep pile carpeted office. Rescued?

The receptionist pulled the door closed, behind her.

"Sarren, I'm Doctor Zimmerman." He had a black handlebar mustache, black tie and black suit. A villain in a silent movie. Where is the rope he'd use to tie me to the trackWhere is the train that will crush me into pliable clay?  His words floated across the room but Sarren let them drift away from her. He swept a hand out, indicating a leather sofa. "Please have a seat."

Trapped? Sarren perched on the edge of a sofa cushion.

Doctor Zimmerman picked up the alarm clock, set the timer and placed it back down on the coffee table. He flipped pages in a leather notebook, clicked his steel gray pen and crossed his pencil thin, long legs. "Please begin."

Sarren tried to think but all she heard was the ticking clock. The click-clack of wheels on a track. "Well, I...I...I'm not sure. I--" The carefully prepared speech was gone.

"I'm listening." The doctor pushed a box of tissues closer to Sarren.

"I...I...hear voices. People are talking to me--telling me their stories:  happy, sad, haunting stories. I hear them mostly when I'm sleeping. You have to make them stop."

"Stories?" Doctor Zimmerman twisted an end of his mustache. 

"I haven't slept a wink, not a wink, in months. Please you have to help me."

"Tell me more about these stories." The doctor clicks his pen, once, twice, sets the tip on a page in the notebook. 

"I'm no English major. I'm a waitress. I'm sure as hell no writer. And still they keep waking me--night after night after night." Sarren unzipped the backpack and pulled out a stacks of paper.

The doctor uncrossed his grasshopper legs, twisted his mustache, rubbed his hands together and grabbed several manuscripts. "Stories," his tongue licked the word as it fell from his lips. 

"They burn a hole in my head. Force me out of bed, in the middle of the night. I write every word, thinking that I'll be free. But the next night another..."

He smiled when she told him she was desperate. Turned a page when she explained he was her last hope. He finished reading the last page and interrupted her entreaty with a question. "Are there more?" He cradled the manuscript in both hands, like it was manna for the gods. 

"I have boxes and boxes in my apartment."

"Excellent," he purred. The timer rang. "Sadly our time has now expired."

Crestfallen, Sarren reached for the stack of paper.

"Ah, no. I'll need this to assess your case, you understand." The doctor flipped open the manuscript. "Next Thursday. Same time. Bring those other boxes and any new manuscripts. I assure you I will help you." He said while he read. 

Sarren left.

(art at the Campbell Bay Music Festival on Mayne Island
photo by Leanne Dyck)

Next post: Sunday, July 3rd (approximately 5 PM) Sarren's Curse (short story) 2 of 2 

What happens when Sarren returns? Ah, my friend, for this you will have to read the next post. Thank you for your interest.

(photo by Leanne Dyck)
Picture Books in Canada

Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize
Submissions reopen
July 15 - December 1

(Bim, photo by Leanne Dyck)

Sharing my author journey...

How do you find happiness as a writer? This post asks
I've been dwelling on this question and I think I just may have "my"

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Author, Maggie De Vries' writing workshop on POV notes by Leanne Dyck

Usually, in order to attend a writers' workshop, I must hop on a ferry, but not last Friday. Friday, June 17th Maggie De Vries (Governor General Literary Award nominee and Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize (2015) winner) came to Mayne Island.

This was an interactive workshop. Throughout the afternoon, Maggie gave us time to ask questions, talk about our writing, and practice our emerging skills--this included working on revisions. I'm not a fan of this type of writing. I don't feel that I produce my best work under this type of pressure and with so many distractions. But Maggie created such a supportive atmosphere that I was the first to read my revision to the group. This speaks volumes about Maggie's abilities as an instructor.

Maggie began her talk by listing the different Points Of View (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.)
She gave some examples of strategies to convey story (i.e. world building)
She stressed the importance of writing in scenes. She advised us to ask, "From the passage I've just read, can I imagine what is taking place? Is it happening in real-time? Am I spending enough time in real-time?"

I took more notes...
-characters are only able to see the story through their eyes
-it's important to keep your character located in time and setting
-the reader experiences the story through the character
-keep detailed notes on your character. This will help maintain differences in their voices. (i.e. a phrase that that character often says)
-order of events is the writer's friend
-dialogue adds sound
-give information in a timely manner. You don't want readers to have to re-image what they're already read.

The workshop was over by six o'clock. After a supper break, Maggie returned to the library at seven o'clock to offer book readings to an engaged group of Mayne Island readers. Maggie has a diverse body of work--ranging from fiction to non-fiction and writing for adults, young adults, and children. She read from her memoir Missing Sarah (published in 2008 by Penguin Canada) which is about her sister Sarah--who is one of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Maggie's pride and love for her sister were apparent. The overriding message:  look beyond the situation--see the person, try to understand the person. Maggie closed by reading from Swimming with Seals--her soon-to-be-published (by Orca Publishing) picture book.

(Maggie de Vries (second person on your right, first row) amongst 
a group of Mayne Island--that's me to your extreme left, first row)

I know that my writing has benefited from the short time I spent with author, life coach, and mentor Maggie De Vries. Blessed is the writer who is able to spend a longer amount of time with her.

Maggie, thank you for traveling to Mayne Island. I hope you have enjoyed your time here--despite the rain. 

Thanks also goes to organizer author Pam Withers and to the Mayne Island library who provided the venue.

(back view of Mayne Island library)


Maggie De Vries author website

(photo by Leanne Dyck)

Next post:  Sunday, June 26 (published around 5 PM) Sarren's Curse a short story by Leanne Dyck
Sarren looks normal, but she isn't. She has a problem. She needs help. Will she find it?

Picture Books in Canada

(photo by Leanne Dyck)
Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers
CANSCAIP is a member-supported not-for-profit organization, and we've been around since 1979. Our Members and Friends include children's authors, illustrators and performers. We also welcome librarians, teachers, publishers, editors, parents and journalists. CANSCAIP membership, renewable annually, includes benefits like: newsletter about the children's book community, monthly meetings with expert speakers, packaging your imagination annual conference and a friendly and supportive community for beginning and experienced writers and artists.
For more information, please visit CANSCAIP's website (link) 

"Me and Bim and our friend Abby"
photo taken on Mayne Island by my friend Eleanor

Sharing my author journey...

Somewhere I heard, maybe from my mom, "If you sit with a problem long enough, the answer will come."

Implied but not said is keep calm and keep the faith.

This week that theory held true...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Book review: Burn by Paula Weston

After reading Shimmer (here's a link to that book review), I waited with eager anticipation for Burn--the fourth and final book in the series. And Paula Weston delivered--a kick-butt female protagonist, sizzling sexual tension, and action-packed battle scenes. Burn has everything that Shimmer offered and more.

The More...

Burn summarizes and provides a satisfying conclusion to the series as well as answers burning questions.

Burning questions did Rafa and Gabe's friendship become a romance?
I've seen Rafa shirtless a thousand times, wrestled with him half-naked on the training mats just as often. I've always known how fit he is, but I've never been distracted by his bare flesh before. (p. 31)
And what happened to spoil it. 
No spoilers here. Just one name--Mya. Enticing, yes?

The Ending...

What if you--like Nathaniel (Gabe's adopted father), like Gabe (kick-butt protagonist)--discovered the mission that gave your life purpose was a lie?

Enter Semyaza (Gabe's birth father).

In fact, Burn was just too good. I'm still hungry. Digging for truffles, I came across this quote...
He knows how much worse the next battle will be. (p. 407)
Doesn't that sound like there'll be more?

Paula Weston answers that question in the Acknowledgments...
I've loved writing this story and these characters--and they've certainly brought an amazing new dimension to my world.
For that, I will always be grateful.
I'm so glad I had an opportunity to read Paula Weston's work as I write my first YA novel--even though I'm not writing a fantasy. Weston has taught me the power of writing in the present tense and the secret of how to get inside a character's mind without using the rusty 'I thought'. 


(photo by Leanne Dyck)

Picture Books in Canada

(Children's Writers & Illustrators of British Columbia Society) 
is a lively group of published writers and illustrators for children. With close to 150 members across British Columbia, we exchange information about creating literary works for young people, we support one another and we help promote our books. Our volunteer, cooperative organization also communicates with other arts groups, schools and libraries in BC and Canada.
learn more:

(photo by Leanne Dyck, taken on Mayne Island, BC, Canada)

Next post:  Sunday, June 19 (published at approximately 5 p.m. PST) Next week  I will attend writing events sponsored by CWILL BC. I look forward to sharing what I learn with you.

(photo by Leanne Dyck)

Sharing my author journey...
In On Writing, Stephen King advises against filling a life with 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Criticism, Rejection--how I cope by Leanne Dyck

 (all photos taken by Leanne Dyck on Mayne Island, BC, Canada)
[L]earning how to endure your disappointments and frustration is part of the job of a creative person.
 -Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic:  Creative Living Beyond Fear)

So what's a disappointment for a writer?

How about having that "brilliant" manuscript torn apart by a writing group? 

Torn apart is rather harsh but that's how it feels. Every second word circled, lengthy comments down the margins--it doesn't look like priceless help.

"My baby!" I want to cry.

"You don't understand. I wrote it like that because..."

I want to leap in immediately and defend my work. But I've found that it's more helpful to keep my mouth closed and my ears open.

Would the purposed changes strengthen the story? If it would, I accept the challenge. 

I choose to approach the re-write like a game. 

What I wrote doesn't work. What will? What about this? 

And I don't wait for self-doubt to set in, I start working on the manuscript as soon as I can. 

So what's a frustration for a writer?

How about having that "brilliant" manuscript rejected by a publisher?

They rejected my story; they rejected me. My story sucks; I suck. Does that sound like your self-talk?

I can go on and on like that or...or...

Instead, I view the submitting process as a treasure hunt. The treasure:  a publisher for my story. I leave no stone unturned as I hunt. Every rejection letter I receive is one more publisher who has read my story. Every rejection letter received is proof that I Am a Writer. Every "no" brings me closer to a "yes".

If destiny didn't want me to be a writer, I figure then it shouldn't have made me one. But it did make me one, and I've decided to meet that destiny with as much good cheer and as little drama as I can--because how I choose to handle myself as a writer is entirely my own choice... My ultimate to always approach my work from a place of stubborn gladness.
 -Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic)


Writer Unboxed article:  Are we having fun yet?

Picture Books in Canada

One of my favourite picture book authors is Robert Munsch. 
I especially like Love You Forever and Paper Bag Princess.
Question:  (thus far) how many books has Robert Munsch written?
Scroll down for the answer...

Next post:  Sunday, June 12 (around 5 PM PST) I'm participating in Tundra Books' blog tour for Paula Weston's last book in her Rephaim series--Burn (YA fantasy).

Sharing my author journey...

And I try to view my writing with stubborn gladness, as well. But sometimes, sometimes...