Sunday, October 30, 2016

Do you read scary stories to children?

(witch = wise woman. Something I endeavor to be.)

Happy Halloween!

I recently wrote a scary picture book for children ages 6 to 9 years old and I brought it to my writing group for feedback. 

A fellow member asked, "Why would you want to scare children?"

This is my answer...

Yes to sharing scary stories with children...

We all want to believe that childhood is a time of endless bliss. That worries and fears are foreign to the mind of every child. But this desire may leave your child unequipped to deal with their fears--great and small.

Few times in life are you as vulnerable as you are in childhood. Where you go, what you do, who you meet are largely beyond your control. Your parents go to work and leave you in the care of an adult you just meet. You're outside playing and your neighbour's snarling dog confronts you. What do you do?

 'It's a spooky time to be a kid... let's give them some tools to cope with it.' -writes Greg Ruth  in his article Why Horror is Good for You and Even Better for Your Kid  

Sharing scary stories with your child allows the two of you to name her fears and  talk about effective ways to deal with them.

As Heather Shumaker writes in her article Why We Should Share Sad and Scary Stories with Kids'Books are a safe place for children to learn about the world and their own tough emotions.'

'Being frightened by a book, said [psychologist] Kenny, "helps forge resilience." ' -One third of parents avoid reading scary stories, study finds

(from my days caring for children in day care centres)

Years ago, as a University student, I participated in a heated discussion regarding Bruno Bettlehelm's The Uses of Enchantment.

"Why would you want to traumatize children?" I asked my classmates.

No to sharing scary stories with children...

Literature is a powerful tool that must be used wisely. We must always be conscious of the messages it is sending to children.

Some children are ready for scary stories. We are told that it gives the child an opportunity to work through their fears with the promise of a happy ending.

However, some children are not ready. Instead of helping them deal with real fears, it creates horrors of its own that the child's mind cannot escape.

'[W]hile scary stories are terrific, they shouldn't be forced on a child who doesn't want to read them.' -Scary Stories:  Are They Good for Your Child?

How can tell if your child is ready for scary stories...

Start with a mildly scary story such as The Monster at the end of this Book (this link takes you to a YouTube video reading of this book). Watch your child's reaction. If he shows signs of being afraid, check in with him by asking questions about the characters and the story.

Proceed with caution, at your child's pace.

I was a sensitive child easily frightened by books such as Sleeping Beauty and The Red Shoes, but as an adult, I enjoy reading horror novels. One of the scariest novels in my collection is...

On a remote island off the coast of Seattle, a man lies buried alive. Miles away, his captor--the elusive killer known only as Mephisto--listens through a transmitter to his victim's dying screams, waiting for him to reveal a secret only he knows. But learning the secret is only the beginning of Mephisto's maniacal game...
Tracking the madman are two detectives. In Canada, Superintendent Robert DeClercq, a man who has experienced horror up close. In America, Jenna Bond, a young detective who has never know true horror--until now.
Together they will uncover a trail of clues that will lead them to Mephisto, and into the bloody past in which he exists. Because the most terrifying secrets are buried, lying admidst the bones of the dead... 
Do you read horror? What's the scariest story in your collection?

Next post:  November 6th (published at approximately 5 pm)

Marketing 101
How exactly do you market yourself, your work, your book? What do you say to attract readers? Over the last six years, this blog has received 268,000 page views. What did I say to attract you to this blog?

Picture Book in Canada

Peanut Butter Press is a Canadian children's book publisher based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We have found our niche in creating quality picture books that children enjoy because of their interesting content and engaging illustrations.
And this in from the Children's Book Council... 

Sharing my Author Journey...

It's hard to believe that I worked this hard this month but...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Encouraging everyone to read Books

"I can't remember the last novel I read," he told me. "I can read but I don't."

Questions:  What do all these books have in common?
(Please scroll down to the very bottom of this post
--under the heading Sharing my Author Journey--for the answer.)

We have a problem that I'm hoping you can help me work towards solving...
'The percentage of American adults who read literature--any novels, short stories, poetry or plays--fell to at least a three-decade low last year, according to a new report from the National Endowment for the Arts.' -The long, steady decline of literary reading
'The Pew Research Centre reported...that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year.' -The Decline of the American Book Lover
'Work by the Pew Research Centre and other outfits have confirmed the testimony of teachers and parents and the evidence of one's eyes. Few late teen-agers are reading many books.'  -The New Yorker 
 '80% of American families buy percisely zero books per year, a proportion which no doubt is echoed elsewhere in the western world.'   Too Many Writers, Not Enough Readers
If you enjoy reading... If you love books... You and me--writer and writer, writer and reader, reader and reader--we are on the same team:  team reading.

Our team has a goal, a mission, a mandate--to spread the love of reading to everyone, everywhere.

Why is this issue so important to me?

Because I have known life without books. I was a reluctant reader; I have dyslexia. But thanks to dedicated teachers and caring parents, I won that fight and learned to read. And believe me, life with books is much, much richer.


Books open your eyes to new ideas.

Books answer questions.

Book make you think.

Books build bridges.

Books prove that you're not alone.

Books allow you to walk in someone else's shoes.

I could go on and on, but you get it. I know you do. We're on the same team.

How can we promote reading?

-give books as gifts

-read aloud to those who can't read or even to those who can

-discuss what you've read

-let them see you reading

-make books and magazines available to be read at your place of work or in your home

-talk about your favourite authors

-make your local bookstore your meet-up place

-don't judge. It doesn't matter if they are reading old classics, bestsellers, graphic novels or comics. All that matters is that they are reading.

-recommend a good book

-write reviews of your favourite books

-become a literacy advocate (World Literacy Canada) or the learning lab

-participate in pro reading events, such as Read Local BC

Can you add to this list? Please leave a comment.

all photos on this site were taken by Leanne Dyck--unless otherwise stated.

Next post...

For some October 31 marks the beginning of a new year. For others, Halloween is a time to indulge in all things spooky. 

The Walking Dead is rocking the boob tube (TV). Why? Why do we want to scare ourselves? 

Recently, I wrote a spooky story for children. 

A friend/author asked, "Why do you want to scare children?"

Years ago, as a University student, I participated in a heated discussion regarding Bruno Bettleheim's The Uses of Enchantment

"Why would you want to traumatize children?" I asked my classmates. 

Why read scary stories to children? On the eve of All Hallows' Eve (October 30th at approximately 5 pm), I will publish a post that explores both answers to this question.

Picture Books in Canada

'Tradewind Books has been publishing prize-winning picture books, novels and poetry for children of all ages for over 15 years... Tradewind Books is a small publishing house with offices in Vancouver, British Columbia.'

Sharing my author journey...

This week I received another rejection letter. Correct, it wasn't just 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Book Review: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

Back in September I reviewed Louise Penny's first Inspector Gamache novel and made plans to review her latest one. But wait Louise Penny writes faster then I can blog, it appears. A Great Reckoning is newly released but today I will review The Nature of the Beast.

Buy this book

(I bought my copy during The Nature of the Beast's book launch in Vancouver, BC)

Published by Minotaur Books 
an imprint of St. Martin's Publishing Group
Published in 2015
Book blurb:  Hardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village.
But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.
And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an odd crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.
And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.
Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Surete du Quebec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself has played a terrible part in what happens next.

I took notes as I read (I've chosen not to include spoilers.)... 

Chapter 1

I finish this chapter in a state of confusion. Who is he? Where is he? The story is hidden from me and I wonder why.

Chapter 2

This chapter starts with dialogue. Description is sparse. The reader is given little information about the setting. The story trickles like a tap turned low. The chapter is packed with characters--all coming at me, at once. Where do I look? Who do I listen to?
Reine-Marie 'saw...a pretty, but dull backwater. While [Armand] saw a shore. A place where the shipwrecked could finally rest.' (p. 89)
Chapter 3

Clara:  ' "It's as though I've never painted in my life. Oh, God, suppose I can't?" ' (p. 26)

How may artists have wondered, mumbled or uttered this sentence? I know I have.

Chapter 4

Reine-Marie:  ' "Do you think a work should be judged by its creator? Or should it stand on its own?" ' (p. 30)
Armand:  ' "The creator and the created are one." ' (p. 31)

Leanne:  Are the criminally insane the only one who twist reality and spread hatred through words? Should there be controls on who can create art, on who can write? And, if so, who judges? What guidelines do they use?

Chapter 5

How can Gamache condemn a play he hasn't even read?

Do you recall the book The Last Temptation of Christ? Some Christians strongly objected the author's humanizing Jesus Christ. A friend of mine did. And she planned to join the public protest. When I asked if she had read the book, she said, "No!"
I think it's dangerous to be so closed minded to art. Art is meant to provoke. 

Chapter 8

This is one of the richest chapters.

Beautiful language:  'The leaves overhead were changing, and with the bright sun on them it felt like they were walking under a massive stained-glass dome.' (p. 63)

Fine touches of humor:  'She looked like an escape from a Dr. Seuss book. On the lam from green eggs and ham.' (p. 64)

Thought provoking:  '[T]hey...knew that words were weapons too, and when fashioned into a story their power was almost limitless.' (p. 117)

Excellent brief character sketches of minor characters:  'The woman's hair was obviously dyed at home, and due for another treatment. And the man's hair was combed over, in an attempt to hide what could not be hidden.' (p. 111)

The transition of another character entering a scene is handled too lightly for me--forcing me to re-read that section. 'she led them inside just as Beauvoir arrived' (p. 112) How did he arrive? What was he wearing? More description would help to strengthen the transition.

Chapter 15

Armand:  ' "As a play? It's not bad at all. In fact, Annoinette was right. It's brilliant." ' (p. 129)

Chapter 24

Louise Penny isn't scared of the fractured sentence. In fact, she seems to embrace them. For example:  'She hide nothing. Not wrinkles, not flawed eyesight, not even the hole in her pantyhose.' (p. 210) An em-dash could transform the two sentences into one complete sentence. She hides nothing--not wrinkles, not flawed eyesight, not even the hole in her pantyhose.

Sometimes a character is called 'Evie', other times 'Evelyn'. There is no apparent reason for the change and it creates confusion. 

Final thought...

The reader certainly gets her money's worth--there are mysteries within mysteries within mysteries.


Louise Penny talks about 

Picture Books in Canada

The Acorn Press takes as its particular goal and mandate to help encourage the flourishing literary culture of Prince Edward Island by publishing "Books about Prince Edward Island by Prince Edward Islanders."  -from the website

Sharing my author journey...

With help from friends, I entered the Writers Retreat in Iceland contest to win full sponsorship.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What did I learn this year?

Photo by Leanne Dyck on Mayne Island

And now we're six. Happy blog anniversary! And thank you for supporting this blog as it grows. As most of you know, this is the place where I've been recording my author journey. And so by supporting this blog you are supporting me. Thank you so much for reading and sharing my posts.

Year five has been a biggie. It was a foundation year. A year that I can build on. Here's some of what I learned (...or should I write learnt?)

Short story collection

LinkedIn. I could praise it high and low, but that would fill an entire post. So I'll just tell you what happened to me recently... 

LinkedIn is kind of like a cocktail party. The more people you connected with ('Connecting' on LinkedIn is like 'following' someone on Twitter or Google+) the bigger your network grows. And, on LinkedIn, people actually read other people's bios. They must because...  My bio states that I write short story collections for adults, novels for young adults and picture books for children. And a literary journal copy editor and short story collection publishers connected with me. They added me to their network. That's huge because it means they noticed me. And so what I can do, when I send them a submission, is explain that I am a member of their LinkedIn network. I have an in.

Picture books

For my birthday, my husband gave me money to go book shopping. Yeehaw!! I bought Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic and Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul. Gilbert's book was like reading a pep talk on how to appreciate a creative life. Writing Picture Books taught, so much. So much, in fact, that it helped me make a self-editing picture books checklist.

Young Adult Novel

Multi-published author Pam Withers organized a--on Mayne Island--workshop lead by award-winning, multi-genre author Maggie de Vries. It was an information-rich day. For example, Maggie explained how important the first chapter is and provided tips on how to set characters in time and place. She gave me helpful feedback on my YA novel.

After the workshop, Maggie de Vries visited this blog and answered questions on being a multi-genre author

I hope you have an opportunity to attend a workshop lead by Maggie de Vries. I'm sure you'll find her to be informative, supportive and generous.

Year six is shaping up to be exciting and full of change. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Picture Books in Canada

[S]uccessfully publishes and promotes a dynamic, growing list of provocative, engaging and award-winning books on mountain history, adventure travel, outdoor culture, environmental consciousness, contemportary photography and children's books. -from the RMB web site

Sharing my author journey...

"Happy Thanksgiving!"

Thank you, dear reader

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sending manuscripts to publishers--a workshop by Jami Macarty

'Sure ways to avoid the slush pile' 

After reading that description of Jami Macarty's workshop--Get It Out:  A Writer's Guide to the Submissions of Literary Works for Publication--I knew I had to attend.

But really what could I learn? After all, I've been sending submissions to publishers on a steady basis since 2014 (a total of 242 to date). If anything this workshop would serve as a review of what I already knew.

But I'm so glad I did walk through that door. I gathered some very helpful information.

For example...

Before the workshop, if I had a question, after reading the submission guidelines, I'd keep them to myself. I mean I didn't want to bother the editor. She's too busy.

Now I realize it's far less of a bother to the editor if I ask the question and send the correct information.

Before this workshop, if I found a mistake in the submission I simply re-sent that page.

Now I know I have to send a letter of withdrawal and then send my revised submission.

Before this workshop, I down played my publishing history. Self-publishing? E-books? That's nothing, right?

Now I have new found pride in my writing.

Jami Macarty's workshop was interactive, information-rich, empowering and inspiring.

Photo by Leanne Dyck

Next post:  Sunday, October 9th (published around 5 pm PST) 
On October 10th this blog turns six. Thank you so much for helping me care for my baby. 
To celebrate, I've written an article titled What Did I Learn This Year
Like what?
Well, like the importance of LinkedIn (how it can help build your career).

Photo by Leanne Dyck

Picture books in Canada

'Pemmican Publications is a book publisher with a mandate to promote Metis authors, illustrators and stories. It is a not-for-profit company that operates as an arm's-length affiliate of the Manitoba Metis Federation. Pemmican publishes on average five to six new titles per year, with titles ranging from cultural studies and autobiographies to illustrated titles for children.' -from Pemmican's website

Photo by Leanne Dyck

Sharing my Author Journey...

Writers write. But what else do writers do?