Sunday, August 25, 2019

Book Review: The Princess Dolls by Ellen Schwartz (historical fiction)

Update:  The Princess Dolls by Ellen Schwartz has won 

What would you do if you felt a friend was being treated unjustly?

I received my copy from the author

Illustrations by Mariko Ando
Published by Tradewind Books
Published in 2018

Set in Canada in 1942, The Princess Dolls is a middle-grade (for readers 8 to 10 years old) novel that explores the challenging topics of prejudice and activism.

Esther, a Jewish-Canadian girl, and Michiko, a Japanese-Canadian girl, are best friends and avid fans of princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. When their differences stand in the way of their friendship they turn to their mutual interest to heal their relationship.

I thoroughly enjoyed the feel-good ending. 


My interview with author Ellen Schwartz

Ellen Schwartz CWILL BC member

On this blog in September...

September. Ah, September... The transition from Summer to Fall has always been difficult for me--especially when the Summer has been lovely. This Summer was lovely. Thankfully, I have my writing and good books. They help.

Story Stories...

September 1 and 8

Who helped shaped your life?
This two-part short story is about my afi (Icelandic-Canadian grandpa) and amma (grandma)

September 22
My First Writers' Group

During my first couple of years on Mayne Island, I formed a writing group. This short story is about my experiences with this group.

Book reviews:  

September 15
Bunny by Mona Awad

I love weird and twisted books. I loved Bunny.

September 29
The Pearl by John Steinbeck

I first read this book in junior high (middle school) and recently re-read it. Did my impressions of this book change? How? This is a then and now review.

Before taking this picture, I encouraged Abby to look at me. She refused. That's why I call this picture... 'Abby posing' by ldyck

Sharing my author journey...

What's harder to write than the synopsis?

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Invisible Woman (short story) by Leanne Dyck

The case of the mysteriously disappearing woman...

on Vancouver Island photo by ldyck

The Invisible Woman

The first time it happened I was out walking with your father. Both of us had put on a few extra pounds and we wanted to be proactive. We passed a guy I knew well. I'd grown-up beside him. We'd gone to school together.

"Hi, Archie," he called to your father. He usually had some kind of smart remark for me. This time nothing.

I called out, "Hey, Walter."

It was like he didn't even see me. People are odd is what I thought. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I'd unknowingly upset him. Or maybe pretending he didn't see me was his latest tease. I tried not to let it bother me.

Later, at the grocery store, I noticed a new acquaintance. I wanted to say hello but couldn't remember her name. So I waited for her to acknowledge me. Nothing. I wrote it off to being preoccupied. Maybe she had invited people over and her brain was full planning the meal.

At the checkout, we saw Louise. She and I like to talk. It annoys your impatient father, but we don't care. I wait for him to shoot the breeze at the hardware store. This is my turn. But she looked right through me.

"Cash or credit?" she asked your father.

Feeling insulted, I let your father deal with her and we left.

This morning, at breakfast, you asked your father, "Hey, dad where's Mom?"--with a serious tone.

I'd just poured your juice. I'd just filled your plate with scrambled eggs and toast.

"Huh? I don't know." I know when Archie is teasing. He wasn't. 

That's when I knew something must be up. I ran to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror expecting to see my reflection--crow's feet around my eyes, laugh lines around my mouth, a few stray hairs above my upper lip and under my chin. But... It wasn't that I didn't recognize myself. It was that there was nothing to identify. All I saw was the shower curtain. I'd become invisible. 


The mysterious case of the disappearing woman...

Next Sunday evening...

Book Review:  The Princess Dolls
written by Ellen Schwartz
illustrated by Mariko Ando 

Set in 1942, two girls--one Jewish-Canadian and the other Japanese-Canadian--bond over their mutual admiration for Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Book Review: The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood (historical fiction)

In 1934, during the Great Depression, the birth of the Dionne quintuplets charmed Canadians and the world. The sisters were a tremendous help to Ontario's flagging economy--to the tune of half a billion dollars. Tourists lined up to visit the sisters and purchased whatever they endorsed. And yet in 2018 one of the remaining sisters struggled to make ends meet on a fixed income.

What happened?

One of the driving forces behind writing this novel for author Shelley Wood was to help us remember the Dionne sisters.

I purchased my copy from Amazon

Published by HarperCollins
Published in 2019

Emma Trimpany, a seventeen-year-old rural (Northern Ontario) French-Canadian girl, helps to deliver the quintuplets and continues to care for them--as their nurse--for five years. Told in journal entries, newspaper clippings, and letters, The Quintland Sisters spans the years 1934 to 1939. Emma takes us behind the facade of the quints seemingly happy childhood into the drama and we learn what it meant to be a young woman in the 1930s, what it meant to live in the shadow of fame. 

Shelley Wood gives a portion of the proceeds derived from this novel to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

Adding mystery and romance helped keep me riveted from page one to the final page. 

Favourite quote:
'it is in doing the hardest things that we find ourselves the happiest, and that when we're happy, the harder things come easy.' (p. 433)

'The Quintland Sisters went on sale March 5, 2019 and was an instant bestseller on the Globe & Mail and Toronto Star Canadian bestseller list, holding the #1 spot for its first five weeks in print.' -Shelley Wood
After reading The Quintland Sisters, you may also enjoy reading
The Birth House.

Next Sunday evening...

The Invisible Woman

Has someone you knew disappeared? Have you? Maybe it's time it stopped.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Guest Post: Author Ellen Schwartz

This summer I had an opportunity to meet and share my writing with Ellen Schwartz. She helped me to greatly improve my writing. I'm so pleased to be able to introduce Ellen to you...

How/why did you start to write?

I was a special education teacher and then I taught primary grades. My husband and I were living in the Kootenays, and we became passionate about environmental protection and energy conservation. I thought that kids would rather learn about those issues through a story than through a lesson, so I wrote an educational story about energy conservation and renewable energy, called Adventure in Entropia. I sold it to the provincial government, and it was distributed throughout BC. I wrote another educational story, which I sold to the National Film Board. I was hooked and decided to try to write a "regular" story.

How did you become an author?

My first book was based on a true story that involved a friend of mine and her bike, which she called Dusty. I sent it out and it was rejected six times. The seventh publisher, Solstice Books, accepted it. I can still remember holding the first published copy of Dusty, turning the pages and going, "I wrote this!"

Reflect on your writing process

Most story ideas come to me through a character. I see someone interesting on the street or a character pops into my imagination, and I think. Who is this? What is his or her background? What problem is he or she facing? I may live with the character for a long time before a story idea emerges. I make notes about the characters, the problem, the setting. I don't outline, but I do brainstorm possible scenes, which I may or may not use. Once the opening scene is pretty clear in my mind, and I can hear my characters talking, I start writing. I generally write the story chronologically.

I write longhand. When I type the story on the computer, I revise, and that becomes draft two. I do three or four substantive drafts--meaning that I dig deep into the story, adding characters, taking out characters, moving scenes, etc.--and probably 20 "polishing" drafts before I send the manuscript out.

What did you do before writing full-time? Does it feed your writing, how?

After teaching school for four years, I danced professionally for a year and had two children. My husband and I started a communications consulting company, Polestar Communications, and that is how I have earned my living for the last 35 years. We write and edit reports, articles, speeches, educational curriculum, etc. Working as a corporate writer has taken time away from my "real" writing, but on the other hand it has been good training to be a working writer. I write every day, edit other people's work, do interviews, and deal with deadlines. All in all, I think it has served my writing. But I'm happy to be pretty much retired now and able to devote more time to writing my books.

What inspires you to write?

I feel compelled to write. I think it is my love of stories. I have always loved to read, and I get nourishment from books. Story ideas pop into my head and I want to share them. Although I have published 18 books, I feel that each book is a challenge and a learning experience. I try to do a better job each time.

Do you belong to any writing organizations/associations? What do you do for it/them and what does it/they do for you? Would you encourage new authors to join? Why?

I am a member of CWILL-BC (Children's Writers and Illustrators of BC), CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers), Children's Literature Roundtable, The Writers Union of Canada, and the Canadian Children's Book Centre. For CWILL, I organize an annual panel of children's authors and illustrators that gives members of the public a chance to ask questions about getting started in the career. I would definitely encourage new authors to join. The children's book community in Canada is small in number but very collegial and supportive, and it's great to have communities of fellow writers across the country.

Advice for those seeking to write full-time and for new authors...

Two words. Read. Write. Read everything--picture books, chapter books, YA fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels. Write. Keep at it. Don't get discouraged. It's hard to break in, but publishers are always looking for new voices. Also, find a writer's group that will offer honest, constructive criticism.