Sunday, June 24, 2018

Author Susin Nielsen's writing workshop notes by Leanne Dyck

"at the writers' workshop"  ldyck

On a soggy Friday in June, seven writers met at the Mayne Island library to attend award-winning author Susin Nielsen's workshop on Creating An Authentic Protagonist. I found the workshop challenging, fun and inspiring. 

In the first of four writing exercises, Nielsen challenged us to write about an emotionally-charged event in our lives. We later shared these stories with the group and gained valuable feedback about our writing from Nielsen. Our feet wet, we moved on to explore how we would bring emotion to our characters. In our next writing exercise, we used a list of questions supplied by Nielsen to build a character--what does your character like, dislike and what are the most important relationships in her life. The questions also encouraged us to think of how we would show the heart of our character to our readers. For example, what items does your character carry? In the other two exercises, we were to put our characters in emotionally-charged situations.

During the Q & A that followed, Nielsen told us to pick our favourite book in the genre we're writing. Dissect and analysis the story. What works? What techniques did the author use?

Books Recommended...

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont
On Writing by Stephen King

Following the workshop, the library doors were thrown open and more people poured in. Nielsen entertained us with an author talk reviewing her career and read from her soon-to-be-published book. Nielsen began her career writing for TV shows as 
Degrassi Junior High and Robson Arms. Nielsen has won young reader choice awards--such as the Red Maple--for her middle grade novels.

Much thanks to Pam Withers for organizing and the Mayne Island Library for hosting this event.

"maple leaves"  ldyck

What's in store for July...

To celebrate Canada Day (July 1st), I've hunted through my bookshelves to find some old friends I need to tell you about. So first up for July, I'm writing a post recommending 10 must-read books written by Canadian authors.

Next, I offer a two-part spoof on the life of a writer living on a small island. (Huh, I wonder who inspired that?)--
Island Storyteller 

Then, as a former ECE (Early Childhood Educator), I comment on and review the thriller The Perfect Nanny by French author Leila Slimani.

Finally, I end the month by offering a short story about a walk in the woods--The Woods.

"huh, what's in there?" ldyck

Sharing my author journey...

This month I...

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Book Review: Independent People (an Icelandic classic) by Halldor Laxness

Knowing that my mom's people came from Iceland, a friend lent me her copy of...

"an Icelandic classic" ldyck

first published (in two volumes) in 1934-1935
first published in Great Britain in 1945
paperback published in 2001 
by The Harvill Press an imprint of Random House

Set in rural Iceland before, during, and after World War I, Independent People follows Bjartur of Summerhouses', a sheep farmer, struggle for independence.
Bjartur of Summerhouses:  ' "People who aren't independent aren't people. A man who isn't his own master is as bad as man without a dog." ' (p. 41)
Fell King:  ' "The love of freedom and independence has always been a characteristic of the Icelandic people. Iceland was originally colonised by freeborn chieftains who would rather live and die in isolation than serve a foreign king." ' (p. 79)
This epic tale transcends the written word. Told in the old way, at night, around a campfire, you carefully listen to the storyteller. The story demands your attention.
'Poetry...shows us the lot of man so truthfully and so sympathecially and with so much love for that which is good that we ourselves become better persons and understand life more fully than before, and hope and trust that good may always prevail in the life of man.' (p. 244)
Bjartur fails to achieve his goal of financial independence, but, in the final pages, he learns that there's something more important--being connected to family.

'If you look at novels from a couple of centuries back, they are full of description, because novel writing evolved from storytelling. Modern readers consider that sort of lengthy description an intrusion by the author and an impediment to the flow of the story.' 
Gordon Long, 6 Key Differences Between Storytelling and Writing

"writers at the workshop" ldyck

Next post:  Sunday, June 24 (approximately 5 PM PST)
On June 8, Author Susin Neilsen visited the Mayne Island library and she... Well, you'll read all about her writers' workshop and author talk next Sunday.

"Abby at one of her favourite places" ldyck

Sharing my author journey...

Sunday, June 10, 2018

CBC radio and me (short story) (2 of 2) by Leanne Dyck

Did you miss the first part of CBC radio and me? Would you like to read it again? Here's the link... CBC radio and me (1 of 2)

Continuing the story...

(click on the image to embolden) ldyck

I still have the acceptance letter. Along with acceptance, I was sent an invitation to the book launch. It would be in a swanky hotel and recorded live for radio. Attending required an overnighter in Vancouver. The bed was comfortable; the room quiet. But I barely slept. I was way too excited.

In the morning, my husband helped me navigate the streets and we arrived earlier than many. Under crystal chandeliers, the tables had been removed to make room for rows and rows of chairs. At the front of the room, two round tables held microphones and other recording stuff. CBC radio magic would happen in this room, in front of my eyes.

As a way of saying thanks, I'd brought a gift for radio personality and host of the book launch, Rick Cluff. But how would I get it to him? The thought of meeting him made me way too nervous.

I noticed a tall woman opening boxes and organizing stuff. 

"I'm an avid fan," I told her and handing her the parcel, added, "This is for Mr. Cluff. It's a toque I knit."

"I'll make sure he gets it," she told me as she pulled a copy of the cookbook out of a box. "And this is for you."

"Thank you,"

"My name is Shelia Peacock."

What? I'd just meant the co-creator of the cookbook and the show's producer. And I'd asked her to run an errand for me. Red-faced I returned to my husband.

"This is it. This is the cookbook. Isn't it beautiful?" I breathed in that new book smell. A bookmark shaped like a chef hat marked page 130. Mom's recipe sat beside my story. My words were in a book. It blew my mind.

More contributing authors arrived and we all buzzed with excitement at being in that room,  about having that book. 

"I'm on page 10," someone told me.

 "I'm on page 96," someone else said.

The entire room cheered when Mr. Cluff arrived. "Good morning," he said and we were on the air.

During the first break, a man with a microphone wound through the crowd and, to my surprise, came over to me. "I'd like to interview you."

I gulped. "Me?" I whispered. Me on CBC radio?

"Go for it," my husband encouraged. "But remember to speak loudly."

"Yes, speak loudly into the microphone," the man said, and before I knew it, "We're on the air."

He spoke into the microphone, "I'm standing here with..."

I leaned in and said, loudly, "Leanne Dyck."

I must have been too loud because he quickly pulled the microphone away. A moment of dead air. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Leanne. Do you have a recipe in the cookbook?"

I nodded. Then remembered that I was on the radio. "Yes. I submitted my mom's recipe for Vinaterta. Vinaterta is an Icelandic-Canadian prune cake." I was about to tell him that she made it every Christmas, that she was a talented cook, a skilled baker, that she... But I needed to wait for him to ask the questions. So I took a breathe and waited. 

"Your mother's recipe?"

"Yes." Short and sweat.

"When was the first time you made... You used the recipe?"

", that is to I never really used the recipe."

"Pardon me."

"I don't cook," I confessed, but quickly added, "But my mom was a good cook. Knowing my skills in the kitchen, or lack of any, she wrote the instructions so that it would be easy for me to follow. She made Vinaterta all the time. Every Christmas. That's how I know it's good."

"Oh, I see." He laughed.

Later, he interviewed Shelia Peacock and her co-creator Joan Cross and they put out the fire I'd lit.

"We carefully test cooked all the recipes," they assured the listeners.

Too soon, Mr. Cluff said, "Dark and early"--and I knew he was signing off. I waited until the path was clear, gathered all the courage I possessed and walked up to Rick Cluff. "I'm a big fan."

"Well, thank you." He had a genuine warmth that put me at ease. "Would you like a photo?"


"Of course," he said and made room for me at the CBC radio table.

My husband captured the moment...

'notice my stylish haircut--not. I'd just donated my hair to cancer survivors'

On my way back to my husband, a woman stopped me.

"I'm so pleased to meet you," she told me. "I wasn't planning on attending this book launch but after hearing you on the radio I knew I had to meet you."

Later, when my husband and I were alone, I told him about the woman and asked, "What do you think she meant? Why do you think she had to meet me?"

"I have no idea," he told me but grinned like he knew why.

Writing that short story didn't attract a publisher to my writing, but attending Flavours of Vancouver's book launch was an exciting step in my author journey.

photo by ldyck

Next post:  Sunday, June 17th
Iceland Independence Day
at approximately 5 PM PST

Knowing my Icelandic roots, a friend lent me her copy of Halldor Laxness' Independent People. And to celebrate Iceland Independence Day (June 17th) I will publish my book review.

"my dog, Abby"  ldyck

Sharing my author journey

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Short Story: CBC radio and me (1 of 2) by Leanne Dyck

This short story was written about an event that happened in 2005.

A radio with silver knobs and in a brown vinyl case sat on a shelf beside a potted plant in my parents' kitchen. It was permanently tuned to CBC radio. As a result, my parents raised a CBC radio devotee. And so it's not surprising that I heard the call. Something like...

"my radio" ldyck

"BC is a multi-ethnic province. Nowhere is this more evident than in Vancouver. In celebration, we, your broadcasting network, are writing a cookbook--Flavours of Vancouver. Please send us your family recipes along with a brief antidote."

But, as I've never felt at home in front of a stove, it was surprising that I heeded the call.

What can I say? I was called to represent Icelandic-Canadians. If only to honour my mom. My round-faced, fair-haired mother had been a talented cook, a skilled baker.

A tin box held index card recipes. I'd inherited the collection from Mom. And I knew among the cards I'd find Vinaterta--a seven-layer prune cake. My husband entered mid-search.

He used the same tone you'd use with a serial killer who was searching for a knife. "What are you doing?"

I told him about CBC's plan to write a cookbook--Flavours of Vancouver--and my plan to send them a recipe and a story.

And he said, "The title is Flavours of Vancouver and we live on Mayne Island. See the problem?"

I thought about it for a few minutes. "They'll notice my return address. I'll let them decide. And besides, they want me to write a story. A publisher will read my writing. It could be my big break." I clicked my pen and wrote...

When I was growing up, Christmas was a joyous time of family gatherings, traditions, good cheer and food. Delicious smells poured forth from Mom's kitchen. This was her opportunity to showcase mouth-watering talent. Two desserts were at the centre of these festivities:  English Pud to celebrate my dad's heritage, and my mom's recipe for Icelandic Vinaterta. Not surprisingly, Mom had been given the roots of her recipe from her mother, Grandma Olafson. Grandma's recipe loudly proclaimed its Icelandic heritage with its strong ethnic taste. Mom slightly toned down the recipe to make it more palatable for her husband. I, too, far preferred Mom's recipe. Years passed and I fell in love. Christmas was the test for my Mennonite boyfriend. How would he react to my large extended family? To Vinaterta? To my delight, he seemed at home in the company of my family. Next, he was served a piece of Vinaterta. The first bite was foreign to him. He turned the tastes around in his mouth. Would he finish his piece?

"It's okay if you don't finish it. It's a unique taste," my mom offered.

"Oh no, I like it." He finished it. "May I have another piece, please?"

Later that year we were married. Vinaterta was our wedding cake.

I put my story in an envelope along with Mom's recipe and affixed a stamp...

photo by bdyck

Part two of CBC radio and me

"Abby the beachcomber" ldyck

Sharing my author journey...