Sunday, July 30, 2017

Guest Post: author Pam Withers

Pam Withers and I have been friends and writer group members for about three years. I've benefitted from her skill as an editor and been motivated by her endless encouragement. It's my pleasure to introduce Pam to you.

Pam Withers writes best-selling "extreme sports" adventure books --which are particularly popular with boys. They're riveting; so is their author as a speaker. What else would you expect of a former journalist and editor who was also an outdoor guide?

How/why did you start to write?

My parents were both avid readers. I have fond memories of my mother reading the classics to my five siblings and me. My grandma gave my family the Wizard of Oz collection (15 books).
When I was seven-years-old I told my grandma that I wanted to be a writer. 
She said, "That's nice, dear. What will you do to make a living?"
My father suggested I become a journalist. I was 40 years old before I became a fiction writer.

How did you become an author?

I was unemployed for a year and decided to write a novel to keep out of trouble. I wrote a lot in hockey rinks while I watched my son practice. I finished the book. It took 3 years to place after I received 9 rejections.  

A friend of a friend connected me with an agent. After reading Raging River, the agent decided to take me on as a client. The agent found my publisher -- Whitecap Books in North Vancouver. Raging River was published 19 years ago. 

I had an idea for the series before I started to write Raging River.

Reflect on your writing process

I imagine the climax and work backwards from there asking why questions:  why did the kayak go over the waterfall?

I don't start writing until the plot points are plotted out. Then I start imagining the characters.

Was your career in journalism an asset to your writing? How?

Yes, definitely. It taught me discipline, how to conduct research and how to gather information from experts.

What inspires you?

My twisted imagination.

Adventure authors FarleyMowat and Willard Price.

Why did you decide to write for pre-teen and teen boys?

I enjoy writing about adventure because I was involved in outdoor sports. I imagined that what I was writing would only be of interest to boys. I have later learned that girls enjoy reading my books, as well.

This is your 17th novel, any tips for continuing to write through back and arm pain, through good times and bad?

If your passion is writing you can't not write.

Most recently, I saw a magazine article regarding canyoneering and said, "That's going to be the topic of my next story."

The photographer/author of the article became one of the experts who helped me with the story--Tracker's Canyon.

When Tristan's dad disappears, Tristan puts his tracking skills to the test to find him -- but will Tristan's talents save him if it turns out to be a trap?
Thanks to his dad's coaching, sixteen-year-old Tristan is one of the best climbers and trackers in his community. He can read footprints and bushes like they're security-camera footage, and fearlessly descend rock faces and waterfalls. But when his father disappears, leaving his mother too grief-stricken to function, the young canyoneer's life goes into freefall.
Left in the hands of a well-meaning but incompetent uncle and a space-cadet housekeeper, Tristan's life is a struggle no matter how hard he works. Finding himself near the end of his rope at home, the teen decides to set off into Swallow Canyon to search for his father -- only to realize that someone seems to be out to get him. Now the question is who's stalking whom, and are Tristan's skills up to the dangerous game playing out iin the deep, shadowy ravine?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Book review: Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan (MG novel)

I've written short stories and novels. I've written picture books and a novel for young adults and books for adults. But I've never written a middle grade (children from 9 to 12 years of age) novel. Writing in this genre intrigues me and an idea is slowly taking shape. To encourage this idea to grow into a story, I'm seeking out new middle grade books.

Published by 
Dial Books for Young Readers:  Penguin Young Readers Group
Published in 2017

I was off-island in a mall when Short jumped off the shelf and into my hands. Standing there, I read the first page. The narrator's voice was unique and captivating. I thought maybe... I might...
"Ready to go, Leanne?"
My husband and I had planned to go to a movie.
I left the book on the shelf confident I'd be able to find it in my island library--it's especially well-stocked with new titles.
Well I searched and I searched but Short just wasn't there. Thankfully I have a source that never fails me. : )

In brief:  Short is about a short girl in the big adult world of theater.

Story question:  How will Julia Mark resolve her negative feelings toward her short stature?

In Short, author Holly Goldberg Sloan explores
-what it personally feels like to be short
-achondroplasia "dwarfism"
-how involvement in the arts can restore confidence in children who are struggling with self-esteem
and celebrates L. Frank Baum work (especially the Munchkin)

As the story begins Julia Mark is annoyed by her short stature. However, Olive--an adult little person--is confident to be herself in a tall world. Befriending Olive allows Julia to grow in understanding as to who she is and who she values and why.

The last chapter sings. There are tears in my eyes as I finish reading the last page and close this heart-warming book.

What made me sit up and take note?

Although Julia Mark is 12 years old, this novel is mainly peopled with adult characters.

Favourite quote...

Olive:  ' "Discrimination is about bias... It happens when opinions have been formed in advance, and action is based on these prior ideas." ' (p. 178)

Shawn Barr (director):  ' "The world is filled with bias, and it's consumed with judgment and opinions that are hardened and even institutionalized. That's why we do theater. That's what it's about. We are asking people to take another look at themselves and at each other." ' (p. 179-180)

Next Post:  Interview with author Pam Withers
Published Sunday, July 30 at approximately 5 PM PT

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Shakespeare and Snorri by Leanne Dyck

For a while now I've planned to do some research on famous authors for my blog. Recently I followed through on this plan and I'd like to present, for your reading pleasure, want I've found.

In a nutshell, I found conspiracy and greed.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in the English language'

born:  1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Occupation:  Playwright
wrote from  1590 to 1613
wrote 37 plays, 160 poems and Sonnets
Conspiracy:  but did he write them all by himself? Or did Marlow help him?
died:  1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
how:  it's a mystery, but there is some speculation that he drank himself to death

Century upon century later, his work still charms us...

Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival (BC)

Shakespeare in the Ruins (Manitoba)

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan)

Stratford Festival (Ontario)

(Illustration of Thor and his eight legged horse--a story by Snorri Sturluson)

Snorri Sturluson

His genius lay in his power to present all that he perceived critically as a historian with the immediacy of drama

born:  1179 in Dalasysla, Iceland
Occupation:  Historian, Poet, Politician (Chieftan)
wrote from 1223 to 1235
wrote the Prose Edda and Heimskringla

Using his considerable literary talent, Snorri gained favour with the Norwegian king. The Prose Edda repopularized figures from Norse mythology -- Thor (the god of war), Odin (all father) and Loki (the trickster). 

Through the Prose Edda, I hear Snorri say to the Norwegian king, "Remember this, your people and my people we're the same."

The Heimskringla is a history of the Norwegian kings from Odin to Magnus Erlongsson (1184).

Here, I hear Snorri say, "I know how powerful you are. Iceland knows how powerful you are. We don't want our independence. Why would we? It's just talk."

And thus Snorri feathered his own nest while selling out his country.

Did it work? Well...

died:  1241
how:  King Haakon ordered Snorri's assassination

Next post:  Book review:  Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Room by Emma Donoghue -- Target reader
Published:  Sunday, July 23 at approximately 5 PM PT

Read on to discover the dog part to this story...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Book review: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

13 chapters tell the hidden truths of women's lives. I'll guarantee that at least two of these chapters will hit so close to home that you'll wince. I started reading 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl in a bus shelter and one scene hit so hard that I turned red in the face and wanted to hide. "No, don't tell them that. Not that." I was so convinced that the person sitting beside me would read the words and know everything. This book isn't for the fate of heart.

Photo by LDyck

Published in 2016

I admire novelists who take a different path when writing their books. Awad is another example. She uses a variety of POVs--best friend, lover, etc. But it's more than that, some of the opening chapters made me wonder if I was reading a linked short story collection or a novel. Later chapters confirmed it was a novel.

First-time authors are warned:  Don't play loose and easy with the rules. Later when you're an established author have-at-her. But. Not. Now.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is Mona Awad's first novel.



The Vancouver Sun discusses 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Next post:  Shakespeare and Snorri
Sunday, July 16 
Published at approximately 5 PM PT

Saturday, July 1, 2017

In Support of Canadian Publishing (list) by Leanne Dyck

How readers and writers can keep Canada in books.

What can you do to keep that maple leaf waving?


-set your stories in Canadian places
sea to sea to sea
We have 10 beautiful provinces and 3 amazing territories. The world wants to hear about them. Let's tell our stories.
Your Canada:  Geography

-use Canadian words like "skookum" and "toque"
-use Canadian terms like "keep your stick on the ice"

-use Canadian spelling "tire" and "neighbourhood"
Canadian, British and American spelling

-what's it like to be disabled in Canada--a visual minority, an ethnic minority, a person of faith, gay, straight, an angry old white guy? Tell your story. Your fellow Canadians want to hear it.
Government of Canada
Country Guides:  Canada

-give your characters Canadian names
Canadian baby names that show off your national pride
Top 100 baby names in Canada for 2016


-buy books written/published in Canada

-support Canadian authors by attending author readings and visiting author websites
The Writers' Union of Canada:  Member Directory

-review Canadian books

To read all my reviews, please click this link. It will take you to my book reviews page.