Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book review: The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue (middle grade)

Following her popular novels Room (a story told by a 5-year old narrator) and The Wonder (the plot revolves around an 11-year old), Emma Donoghue has written a middle grade (for children ages 9 to 12 years of age) novel.

The chapters are rather long and the novel is jammed-packed with characters but...
The narrator's voice is strong and unique. The plot well-planned. The ending satisfying.

Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Date published:  2017

The Bobbsey Twins series revolved around two sets of twins (aged 6 to 12 years old). The books were written from 1904 to 1979 and the stories reflect on the time as filtered through family life. The Lotterys Plus One is The Bobbsey Twins for the 21st century. The marginalized (those in the minority) have become the majority. The story comes complete with an angry old white guy.

Two couples--two guys and two women--have a baby, Sic. And, after finding a winning lottery ticket, they don't stop with one. They fill a large house with a ton of children. Sumac (9 years old) the middle child, is the protagonist. Some middle children feel overlooked but not Sumac. She is key to the smooth running of the household--as are all the children. The family is happy and well-adjusted. Enter the angry old white guy.

Message:  The Lotterys Plus One stresses the importance of family--how ever you define it.
'who cares so long as the threads get tied.' (p. 303)
The Next Chapter's interview with Emma Donoghue.

"New Summer cut" Thanks Pooch Parlour photo by LDyck

Next Post:  Sunday, June 4 (published at approximately 5 PM PT)
I comment about a topic near and dear to my heart--dyslexia.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What Genre? (poem) by Leanne Dyck

This poem was inspired by one of my favourite children's picture books...It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Green Shaw and by...

"Dancing around the May pole" photo by LDyck (05/20/17)

What Genre?

I thought you were a mystery,
but no one was murdered
so, I guess, you're not a mystery

I thought you were a romance,
but no one is in love
so, I guess, you're not a romance

I thought you were a short story,
but you're too long
so, I guess, you're not a short story

I thought you might be YA or NA,
but your characters are much too old
so, I guess, you're not YA or NA

I thought you were science fiction or fantasy,
but you don't have any futuristic machines or unicorns
so, I guess, you're not science fiction or fantasy

Please, oh please, dear manuscript, tell me what you are
Oh, tell me what you are?

The Who sings...  Who are you 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Book review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Set in Ireland during the 1850s, shortly after the potato famine, The Wonder is historical fiction, a mystery, a love story, and provides social commentary on what it was like to grow up female and poor in Ireland during the 1800s.

Buy The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Publishing date:  2017
Publisher:  Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.
author website 

When word spreads that an 11-year-old girl (Anna O'Donnell) is living on one spoonful of water a day (and mana from heaven) two nurses are sent to bear witness. Sister Michael is an Irish Roman Catholic nun from the order of the Sisters of Mercy (called the walking nuns because they walk out into the world to give service to the sick, the poor and the uneducated). She provides an interesting foil to the protagonist Elizabeth "Lib" Wright--an English protestant.
Foil:  'a character who contrasts with another character--usually the protagonist--in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character.' -Wikipedia
Lib served in the Crimean War under the founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale. And, I think it is fair to say, is prejudice against the Irish--at least at the beginning of the novel. This adds tension to several scenes. 

What drew me to this book?

1. The Wonder was nominated for a Scotiabank Giller Prize (2016)

2. After reading Room (a story narrated by a five-year-old boy), I became a devoted fan of Emma Donoghue

The connection between Rumpelstiltskin and The Wonder

In Rumpelstiltskin, the boast is that a girl can spin straw into gold.

In The Wonder, the claim is that a girl can live on water (mana from heaven) alone.

In Rumpelstiltskin, a girl attempts to guess Rumpelstiltskin's name.

In The Wonder, a girl attempts to guess her nurse's name.

If the idea of fairy tales influencing modern novels intrigues you here's a link to other novels that you may enjoy reading. 

Happy Mother's Day

A mother's work is endless
Joys are far too few
One joy is to see you happy
So smile, darn you
-signed your mother

Next post:  A Writer's Dilemma (a poem about the writing life that was inspired by the children's picture book It Looked Like Split Milk and the rock band The Who's song Who Are You?)
Published:  Sunday, May 21 at approximately 5 PM PT

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Solo Writing Retreat by Laurie Buchanan

Laurie Buchanan (Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth) recently went on a solo writing retreat and I was excited to ask her about it. Every Tuesday I visit Laurie's popular blog Tuesdays with Laurie. I'm thrilled that she is visiting us here today. Please welcome her.

What gave you the idea to go on a solo writer's retreat?

I write best when I have no distractions—none whatsoever. 

Have you, would you, will you go on a writing retreat with other writers? Are there any that interest you?

I would love to be accepted for a writer’s residency at Hedgebrook ( on Whidbey Island, Washington.

What other writers (living or dead) would you like to go on a retreat with? Why?

I would love to be at a writing retreat where Mary Oliver (one of my favorite, still-living poets) was writing. Why? Because I know she’d stay in her cabin (like I would stay in mine) and we’d only meet for meals at the main lodge.

What do you see as the main difference between going solo and going as a member of a group? 

My idea of "solo" is no distractions—being completely by myself. I have no interest in group writing situations; it wouldn’t work with my writing style. 

How did you pick your retreat's location? 

When my in-laws called to say they were going to Australia for three months (Jan-Mar), I told them I’d love to house-sit for them. It was a win-win situation.

What were you retreat's main goals? 

To write The Business of Being: Soul Purpose In and Out of the Workplace

Why do you think these goals couldn't have been achieved without going on this retreat? 

I would have eventually finished writing The Business of Being, but it would have taken double or triple the time to do it. I was hoping for a 2018 publication date. When I sent the Preface and Introduction to my publisher, not only did they say YES, it’s slated for a June/July 2018 publication date.

I understand one of your goals was to work on your next book, please tell us a little about it. 

In a nutshell, The Business of Being spotlights the intersection of workplace and spirituality; it’s designed to help readers thrive in business and life.

What was the best thing about going on this retreat? 

1. Solitude

2. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. Darby, Montana is located between the Bitterroot and the Sapphire Mountain ranges, and I was within walking distance of the Bitterroot River. Without fail, I saw wildlife every day.

What was the worst thing? 

It was the worst winter Darby had had in record-breaking years, so there was tons of snow and ice on the roof. When the snow started melting, there was a place in the ceiling that started leaking. Yikes! I went next door to the neighbor man to see if he had any suggestions. Nope—a portion of his ceiling had caved in. I called my husband (Boise, ID), and he made an emergency trip to Darby and saved the day!

What did you have to overcome? 

Driving 17 miles each way on treacherous roads to get groceries once a week.    

What do you wish you had planned for? 

I wish I’d taken a second power cord for my Mac. I don’t think there’s an Apple store in the entire state of Montana. The closest one is in Boise, Idaho (where I’m from). I don’t know what happened to my cable, but I woke up to “crimp” marks. My husband overnighted a cable to me—a rather expensive, but necessary, undertaking.

Please share a memory of your retreat. 

It’s against the law (at least in Darby, Montana) to feed deer, so I waited until twilight each night and then snuck out under cover of dark and fed the deer organic apples, blueberries, and carrots that I cut into bite-size pieces. I did my research first—making sure that those three foods aren’t harmful in any way to the deer. 

Do you view this retreat as successful—why or why not? 

I accomplished what I set out to do so I feel the retreat was successful.

What advice would you give writers who are planning a solo retreat? 

Stay on task and use your time to write, Write, WRITE! In the evening I refueled by reading. I read over a dozen books in the twelve weeks I was there. 

Would you go on another solo writing retreat—why or why not? 

In a heartbeat! I already told my in-laws that if they go anywhere, for any length of time, to please call me and I’ll housesit.

Are you planning to go on another solo writing retreat? Where will/would you go this time? 

I’m applying for a writer’s residency at Hedgebrook. We’ll see how that turns out…

Sending you tons of positive energy, Laurie. I hope you get in.


Board Certified with the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, Laurie Buchanan is a holistic health practitioner, transformational life coach, speaker, and author. Her areas of interest include energy medicine, inner alchemy, and spiritual awareness.

Embracing the belief that “Life is an expression of the choices we make,” she’s a teacher and student of purposeful living.

With tremendous respect for the earth’s natural resources, Laurie’s goal is to leave the slightest footprint on the planet, while at the same time making a lasting impression on its inhabitants—one that’s positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing.

Laurie’s previous book, Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth was a 2016 Idaho Author Award winner for inspiration; a 2016 Foreword Indies Book of the Year finalist; and a 2016 Body, Mind, Spirit Book Awards finalist.