Sunday, September 24, 2017

Story Questions by Leanne Dyck

What, where, why,  how, who... Stories to explore the nature of writing.

photo by ldyck

What would you rather carry--a notebook or a paperback? Do you want to be told a story or tell it?

Where do your stories come from? Do you write in response to other authors or do you dance to your own inspiration?

Why do you write--to connect, inform, entertain, or...

photo by ldyck

How do you choose what story to write? Do you consider where your words will do the most good? Do you consider if the story is yours to tell? Do you share your family's stories with courage? What about cultural appropriation? Does every story that comes into your head deserve to be written? Do you leave some stories for other authors to write? Or do you think distance gives you perceptive? Do you allow someone else's opinion to censor your creativity? Do you let the story choose you?

photo by ldyck

Some authors say they write the same story repeatedly throughout their career--only changing plot and character? Are they stuck or obsessed or committed or...?

Next post:  Canadian Literary Prizes
Autumn is the season for literary awards.
One of the cool things I did for this post is to make my own short list from the newly announced Scotiabank Gillar long list. Log on to see if you agree with my selections.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wasted Words? by Leanne Dyck

photo by LDyck

To date, I've written 35 picture books for children (5 for babies 0 to 24 months, 23 for children 3 to 7 years of age, 7 for children 6 to 9 years of age), 4 short story collections for adults, and a novel for young adults. I'm currently looking for the right publisher for these projects.

My autumn writing projects include a short story collection and a middle grade novel.

As you can see, I've mainly been working on short projects. But I have written--and will continue to write--longer pieces.

When working on longer pieces, I begin by developing a plot outline. However, this plot is only meant as a guide. I allow inspiration to direct my writing. Of course, it's very difficult to plan for inspiration. So this means I may craft scenes and conduct research that won't be used for the novel.

Wasted words?


Scenes may become short stories. Research may become articles. The short stories may be woven into collections. The articles can be published on this blog to help promote the novel. Or I may choose to publish these short pieces in magazines.

Short stories may be submitted to these Canadian magazines...

The Fiddlehead



PRISM international

Prairie Fire

The New Quarterly

Malahat Review


Geist (currently closed to submissions)

Antigonish Review

You may be able to use your research to write an article for Writer's Digest

In the past, I've developed presentations from the research I've conducted. For example, my first novel--Maynely A Mystery--required me to conduct research on the history of Mayne Island. To promote sales, I gave author readings. One of the on-island short talks I presented was called Fact or Fiction. I read short passages from my book and asked my audience, "Is this passage based on history or inspired by imagination?"  I was very pleased with how interested the participants were and how fun the talk turned out to be.

Never think of writing as being a waste. Every word you write brings you closer to the story you are driven to write.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Book review: Nation by Terry Pratchett (YA novel)

Published on 2008
by Doubleday
an imprint of Random House Children's books
in Great Britain

In the quake of a tsunami, two teenagers are left to rebuild the Nation. Mau is an islander. 'Daphne', 'ghost girl', 'Ermintrude' an upper-class cast-away. The culture clashes are simultaneously entertaining and thought-provoking. Mau isn't nieve and Daphne isn't all-powerful. It's a coming together to share knowledge and develop skills for mutual benefit.

Favourite quotes...

An islander:  ' "Imo [god of creation] made them [trousermen] first, when He was learning but He did not leave them long enough in the sun. And you will learn that they are so proud they cover themselves in the sun. They really are very stupid, too." ' (p. 111)

The priest:  ' "[T]he difference between the trousermen and the Raiders is that sooner or later the cannibals go away!"
"That's a terrible thing to say!" said Daphne hotly. "We don't eat people."
"There are different ways to eat people, girl, and you are clever, oh yes, clever enough to know it. And sometimes the people don't realize it's happened until they hear the belch." ' (p. 256)

Daphne and her father talking about the island...
Father:  "It's a long way from anywhere important, though."
Daphne:  "No, Papa. This is the important place. It's everywhere else that is a long way away." (p. 364)

What to read next?

Was Nation influenced by Robinson Crusoe? The thought prompted me to find my copy of the classic. I began to read but it begins with backstory--an old way of beginning a yarn. It didn't hold my interest. And I worried about the effect it would have on my writing. Everything I read shapes my writing. I put the book down and picked up...

Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin

The connection to Nation:  a parrot. In the Nation, a parrot makes brief comic appearances. An African Grey named Aaron narrates Yiddish for Pirates. Aaron guides the reader through adventures on land and sea as he shares history lessons, Jewish culture, and love of literature.

Moishe 'recalled his father telling him that Jews were "the people of the book"--books were akin to blood, something that allowed them to live forever.' (p. 54)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Quilt Diva (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Eighteen years ago, when I moved to Mayne Island I had fun joining groups and meeting people. I was proud to clip a quilt guild member's pin to my shirt. Some families play music together. Mine crafted--embroidery, knitting, sewing, quilting. My Icelandic-Canadian grandma taught me to quilt when I was a teenager. Her first step was savaging fabric from old shirts, dresses, etc. No twenty dollar fat quarters for her. I joined the Mayne Island quilters determined to hand sew a quilt--I don't like machines. (It amazes me that my computer and I have developed a more or less amicable relationship.) Then I learned how much work would be involved in my plan. Then I went back to my old friend knitting.

A day before the Mayne Island Fall Fair and parade, I went to lunch with a friend.

"I need your help," she told me. "The quilters need someone to carry the banner."

The quilters are a mighty force on Mayne Island--half of Mayne Island has a membership. It was hard for me to believe that they couldn't find anyone. But my friend seemed desperate.

I felt stuck. I wanted to help my friend, but I'm most comfortable behind the stage not on it. All I'd have to do is carry a banner, but didn't that mean passing myself off as someone I wasn't--a quilter. But my friend had always helped me. And so I marched in Mayne Island's 2017 Fall Fair.

Photo by Tom Hobley

And if you click this link you'll be able to watch the complete performance. Oh, yes, there's singing and dancing and... You've got to see it, to believe it.

As writers, we don't always know what saying 'yes' to inspiration will lead to--will we finish our first short story? Or our fifth novel? Find a publisher? An agent? But it may be empowering to realize that the opportunity to say 'yes' starts with us.