Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book review: The Break by Katherena Vermette

Some are told 'you are your brother's keeper', but in this day and age we are warned 'don't get involved'. So the question is if you saw someone in need what would you do?

In The Break, author Katherena Vermette addresses this question head-on. 

Young mother Stella sees what she thinks is an attack. She does something. She phones the cops. But she's Aboriginal; she's female. When the male cops come she feels like she's the one being investigated. 

Should she have kept out of it? Did she do enough? These questions haunt her throughout the book--and they've stayed with me after I finished reading The Break. 

Abuser. Victim. Vermette explores these loaded words.

Published by House of Anansi (2016)

If you're in a library or bookstore, find The Break on the shelf. I'll wait. Got the book. Great. Now flip it open to the title page. There you'll find...

Trigger Warning:  This book is about recovering and healing from violence. Contains scenes of sexual and physical violence, and depictions of vicarious trauma.

Read this warning but don't put the book back. 

The Break left me with a warm feeling. Vermette knows her craft. Her characters are developed with care and understanding. The story handled with sensitivity.


If you enjoy reading this book, you may also enjoy A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Red Tent. I did.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
published by Penguin Canada (2008)

Hosseini explores the treatment of women in Afghanistan. The brutality that is depicted is off-set by the fine string of hope that connects woman to woman--a fragile (yet unbreakable) bond of friendship.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
published by Picador USA (1997)

Dinah, the Bible barely mentions her, but in the pages of this book she speaks, sings, dances, breathes. We follow her from virgin to mother to crone--and even to her final breath. 

Favourite Quote...

'Innana is the centre of pleasure, the one who makes women and men turn to one another in the night. The great mother whom we call Innana is the queen of the ocean and the patron of the rain... The great mother...gave a gift to woman that is not known among men, and this the secret of blood... In the red tent...the gift of Innana courses through us cleansing the body of last month's death, preparing the body to receive new month's life, women give thanks--for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life somes from between our legs, and that life costs blood... You will become a woman surrounded by loving hands to carry you and to catch your first blood and to make sure it goes back to the dust that formed the fist man and the woman. The dust that was mixed with her moon blood.' (p. 158)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book review: Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

I always manage to find an intriguing read at the church fair and this year was no exception.

A Perfect Day for Bananafish was recommended in an online article I read recently. And it is included in this collection. In fact, it is the first story in this collection. This is my only complaint. Not that I didn't enjoy reading it, I did. Simply because it casts a certain hue on the rest of the stories.

It's plain to see, especially in stories such as Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut, J.D. Salinger ability to develop young adult characters. An ability that is utilized to great effect in his young adult best-seller The Catcher in The Rye

First published by Little, Brown in 1953 and again in 1965 (with subsequent printings by Modern Library in 1959, and Bantam in 1964 and 1981), some of the language and attitude is dated but the underlying messages in the stories are timeless.

Favourite Quote...

'The worst that being an artist could do to you would be that it would make you slightly unhappy constantly.' -from the short story De Daumier-Smith's Blue Pencil

If you enjoy reading this book, you may also enjoy Stone Mattress and The Path of Most Resistance. I did.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
published by McClelland & Stewart (2014)

In this nine story collection, the grand dame of Canadian literature writes for her age cohorts. I was delighted to discover that many of the stories were written about writing. In Alphinland, an aging author finds comfort from her lonely reality in the world she created. In Revenant, a senior poet dies but lives on in his world. In Dark Lady, the poet's female muse deals with his death. In The Dead Hand Loves You, an elder horror author confronts the toll his fame has taken on his relationship with three decades-old friendships. Torching the Duties is a horror story set in a manor house for the elderly. In Stone Mattress an elderly woman finally takes revenge on the man who sexually assaulted her. Lusus Naturne and The Freeze-Dried Groom don't feature senior protagonists. Both fit into the horror genre.

I closed the book with an increased respect and passion for short stories.

The Path of Most Resistance by Russell Wangersky
published by House of Anansi (2016)

The first story in this collection--Rage--is a work of genius. The ending draws from the story--everything points to it--and yet it surprised me. Having written all of that, if I had to choose, I'd say Farewell Tour was my favourite story in this collection.

On the whole, I'm impressed by Wangersky's mastery of description but puzzled by his sparse dialogue--both internal and external. It's like he's afraid to allow his characters to speak.

photo by LDyck

Sometimes endings are very hard to write...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Discovering Land (short story) by Leanne Dyck

On Friday, August 4 those of Icelandic descent met in Gimli, Manitoba for the Islendingadagurinn (Icelandic Festival of Manitoba). This year's theme was Discover Your Land. Sadly, I wasn't there. But I did celebrate by writing this short story...

Discovering Land

All Jacky wants is sleep, but her husband won't let her. He rolls in the bed like hair in curlers. It gets worse. Now John is calling out, "It's a lie. It's a lie. It's all lies."

She flicks on the lamp. "What's that, dear?"

"It's a lie. It's a lie. It's all--"

She nudges him awake. "What's the matter, John?"

"Huh. What? Huh."

"Tell me what's troubling you."


"Look, John, that might work with some but not me. I know it's something. Out with it, so I can get back to sleep."

"That space program. I've investigated. It's all a sham," he tells her.

"So they can't send a man to the moon."

He shakes his head.

"Oh, well. Night." She reaches for the lamp.

"No, you don't understand. I'm the president. When the bacon hits the pan I'll have to eat it."

That silences her. But her bottom lip doesn't tremble; her eyes don't fill with tears. "What you need is a camera crew, actors, bubble suits with motorcycle helmets. Oh, yes and a setting. Let me think." It only takes less than a minute. "Yes, of course, Iceland. It looks like the moon."

Photo by LDyck of Iceland (2007)


Keep reading for more photos of Iceland taken on my trip in 2007.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Interview with children's 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 (middle grade 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 protagonist revolve her negative feelings toward her short stature?

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

Protagonist Julia Mark changes through the course of the story. In the beginning, she's annoyed by her short stature. Secondary character Olive--an adult little person--is confident to be herself in 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

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 hit one scene, 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 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

Happy 150, Canada!!

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
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society

-use Canadian words like "skookum" and "toque"
-use Canadian terms like "give 'er"

-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
Association of Canadian Publishers

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

-review Canadian books

Please continue reading my Canadian book reviews...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

Published by Orca Book Publishers
Published in 2014

A year after their dad's death, twins Justine and Perry travel from Australia to Canada.


This mystery hooks me. I read on...

Are You Seeing Me? is told from two points of view
Perry--high-functioning autistic--and his sole caretaker his sister Justine.  These POVs are augmented by excerpts from their dad's journal. The journal documents the twin's life and was a gift to Justine on her 18th birthday. 

Are You Seeing Me? underlines one of the major problems the world has with people with invisible disabilities--we 'look like everyone else, act like no one you've ever seen'. (p. 11)

And so Justine explains....
'Before people get confused or angry or frustrated or gooey or freaked out, I give them the standard spiel:  Perry has a brain condition that can cause him to feel anxious or upset in different places and circumstances. He has trouble with people--mixing with them and communicating with them--and it sometimes results in inappropriate behaviors. I appreciate your understanding and patience.' (p. 12)
This passage made me pause--I wondered how I'd explain my invisible disability to a stranger. What would I say, what do I say?
(Now there's a blog topic)

Other issues that this novel explores...
-It's not just we, the disabled--everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
-Autism isn't Perry's strength or weakness--it's simply part of who he is.
Justine:  ' "He's just like the rest of us--amazing in his own right, and no better or worse than anyone else." ' (p. 205)
-It's difficult to raise a child with a disability

Favourite quote...
'People treat disabled adults a lot different than kids.' (p. 198)


An article about Are You Seeing Me? by the author Darren Groth

Quill and Quire's review

Happy 150 Canada

Next post:  
In support of publishing in Canada
Published on Saturday, July 1st Canada Day
At approximately 5 PM PT

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Writing advice to my younger self

Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 1992

The Artist's Way:  A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron is a twelve-week program that will inspire and inform your creative journey. It inspired me to write...

Dear younger Leanne,
You know those stories that you’re working on. Well, you might think that you can just throw them out—unfinished. You may think that because they belong to you, you can do whatever you want with them. Well, you’re wrong. You can’t. You can’t because they belong to me—older Leanne—not you. So, instead of tossing them away, you better file them away for safekeeping. You better or else…
Oh, yeah, and another thing. You might think that by writing all those stories you’re just having fun. WRONG! You’re doing important work. However, you’re only doing half the job. You also need to get someone who can spell and knows grammar to edit them. Ask Mom she’ll help you. Then you need to submit them to literary journals or short stories contests. 
Oh, yeah, and don’t just do it once and think you’re done. Don’t just say, “Oh, well, I submitted it. I didn’t win. I don’t have to do that again.” Don’t think, I tried, failed and now I’m done. The only way you failed is by being done. Simply by continuing to submit your stories you’re proving that you are a winner. If you don’t continue working until the job is done, well then you’ll leave all that work for me. And trust me, I won’t be pleased.
Oh, yeah, and the most important thing. You may not think you’re smart, but I do. I know how talented you are. And you’re doing a grave disservice by not sharing your talent. So do it. Do it now!

If you've enjoyed reading The Artist's Way, you may also like...

Big Magic:  Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert is a book of essays in celebration of the creative life. 

Published by Riverhead Books:  
an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC in 2015

Note to Self:  A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth by Laurie Buchanan is a personal exploration to guide you in developing a healthier you. 

Published by She Writes Press:
a division of SparkPoint Studio, LLC in 2016

Next post:  Book review:  Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth
Published on Sunday, June 25 at approximately 5 PM PT.
If you enjoyed reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, you enjoy Are You Seeing Me?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

My mother-in-law recommended I read this book. She's an avid reader and knows a good book when she finds it.

Originally published in hardcover in Great Britain by Jonathan Cape, Ltd, London, in 2005, and subsequently in hardcover in the United States by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, in 2005.
Mark Haddon's website 

A quick read that brings the reader inside the mind of a person with autism--fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone.

It is also a...


A dog is found dead. Who killed him and why? Christopher Boone sets out to answer these questions and
unearths even more mysteries.

Funny Book

This is a funny book even though Christopher explains that he can't tell jokes.

Craft Book

Christopher Boone is attempting to write a mystery inspired by the dog he finds dead. His teacher, Siobban, helps him by giving him helpful tips.
'Siobban said that when you are writing a book you have to include some descriptions of things.. She also said that I should describe people in the story mentioning one or two details about them so that people could make a picture of them in their head.' (p. 67)

Big Idea Book

For example...
Christopher doesn't believe in Heaven. He believes that our bodies are broken down and become one with all of earth. 

A book that explores commonly held misconceptions...

For example, if a person has a mental disability we think they are intellectually challenged. But Christopher is alive with boundless curiosity and seemingly endless knowledge.

 'Chillaxing on a Summer day' photo by LDyck
Next post:  Writing Workshop review published  on Sunday, June 18 (at approximately 5 PM PT)
'One cute mug' photo by LDyck

More about this dog mystery on July 2nd. Look for the post titled 'Shakespeare and Snorri'.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

About dyslexia

I read this at an open mic night on Mayne Island -- and I wanted to share it with you...

"The Wise One"  photo by LDyck

Dyslexia is an inherited condition that affects the way the brain processes written and spoken language.  People with dyslexia are of average or above average intelligence. Having dyslexia is kind of like this...

A Love Letter

We have always had a special relationship. When we meet you wooed me with your clever tricks.You were never the same way twice. Sometimes your 'b' looked like a 'd'. Sometimes your 'p' looked like a 'q'. I was surprised that you didn't entertain everyone in this manner.
Our relationship grew and I learnt that you could be collected into a group. I was informed that this group was read as a word.
Ah, how your words danced before my eyes. Sometimes 'w-a-s' danced. How it waltzed; how it jigged; how it jived. Watch it now as it twists into 's-a-w.' Amazing! Thrilling! Yet you only danced for me.
Your behaviour does make our relationship challenging. Words dance before my eyes. Sometimes I am forced to guess at your intent. You are always a puzzle, a surprise. You intrigue me; you entertain me; you embarrass me.
Do you remember the time I was reading you to a group of children? I thought we were having a merry old time until one of the children stopped me. It seems you had fooled me yet again, but you hadn't fooled the child. Never mind, it was long ago, and I have forgiven you.
It doesn't matter to me that your relationship with others is easier and more harmonious. My passion for you grows stronger every day.

People with dyslexia are round pegs in a square peg world. Lack of support leaves many of us with health and employment problems -- some of us wind up on the street or in jail. Potential lost; lives wasted. But it doesn't have to be this way. Something must be done. All of us deserve an opportunity to write our own success story.Increasing society's understanding of dyslexia is a good starting point. 

How can you help?

I need you to know that I am capable -- even when I show my inability.

I need you to have faith that I will be able to pick myself up when I fall.

I need you to let me show you what I'm capable of -- before you help me.

I need you to shout at the top of your lungs, "Yes, you can! If not now -- someday; 
if not without me --with me."

I need you to believe in me, even when -- especially when -- I don't.

That's where I stepped away from the microphone...but I shouldn't have. I should have said...'
And some of us are writing our success stories, right now.

Successful Real Estate Agent, Barbara Corcoran swims with the fish in the TV program Shark Tank

And there are others...

in business:  Virgin chairman Richard Branson

in literature:  Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Philip Schultz (YouTube video)

And there are more famous dyslexics (YouTube video)

A disability is only a disability if you let it be.

"an early Summer day on Mayne Island" photo by LDyck

Next post:  Sunday, June 11 (at approximately 5 PM PT)
Book review:  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

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)

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 that 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 ignorant). 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

Guest Laurie Buchanan (from the blog Tuesdays with Laurie)

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.