Sunday, April 15, 2018

How I Wrote My First Book

The following article was published in the West Coast Knitter's News in November 2006. The newsletter was edited by Paulette Lane.





How I Wrote a Knitting Book

Like all journeys, this one began with a single step. I was at a house party and innocently told a friend, "I'd like to start a writing group."

"Well," advised the friend, "you should talk to (name withheld to protect the innocent)." And a few short weeks later Mayne Island writers group was formed.

I immediately began to benefit from the group. The first lesson I learnt was in order for skills to be sharpened you have to practice them. So I made a commitment to write daily.

I had tried this strategy before and had failed miserably. Not wanting this same fate I decided to go public by way of a blog.

Daily writing is difficult. You begin to run out of ideas. When this happens you have to dig deep. You have to carve off the fat to reach the bone. What really matters to you begins to be exposed. You begin to write from your heart.

I began to write about my passion:  knitting. Each time I did this my readership grew. People were actually logging on to read my writing. Go figure? It amazed me. 

The idea started to percolate in my brain that I could write a book.

Still, the sheer volume of writing scared me. Even a short book is 100 pages. How could I write 100 pages?

Day after day I wrote. I kept the good bits and forgot about the bad.

I shared my best stuff not only with my blogging readership but with the talented writers of the writers' group. They gave me the feedback I needed in order to grow.

I soon began to realize that my goal of publishing a book was attainable.

Upon reviewing my writing I realized how very dear to me this story was. Visualizing a publisher molding and forming it made me churn.* No, the only answer for me at this time was self-publishing. I wanted to tell my story in my words in my way. 

I have always thoroughly enjoyed clicking my knitting needles to the sound of audiobooks. I knew there were many other knitters who felt the same. I was surprised to realize that, (to my knowledge) there wasn't an audiobook written by a knitter for the knitting community. An audiobook that celebrated knitting called out to be written. Was it possible?

Fortunately for me, the man I married had considerable computer skills. It is due to his patience, dedication, and talent that Novelty Yarn has such high-quality sound. 

The family I married into is jam-packed-full of talented musicians. The most talented is my brother-in-law Tim Dyck. He composed and performed the beautiful instrumentals which knit the readings together. 

Self-publishing is a misnomer. Many hands were involved in the creation of Novelty Yarn. From the members of the Mayne Island writer's group who carefully edited it to the island printer who designed the CD cover.

Recently, a friend, clutching the CD in her hands, said, "You should be very proud."

Know what? I am.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Don't be afraid to take that step.

*Later in my writing career, I learned that publishers, editors don't alter a writer's work to serve their own needs. Rather they make suggestions to improve the story.




Next post:  
The Lure of Yarn (short story)is from Novelty Yarn--my first book.
It's a tongue in cheek look at being addicted to knitting. 
Published on April 22nd at approximately 5 PM PT



'Abby beachcombing' ldyck


Sharing my author journey...

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Spring Cleaning (short story)

'Spring' ldyck

Mom didn't hide her disdain for our messy basement. "Oh, that man and his endless clutter."
So when Mom and Dad left for the day, I rolled-up my sleeves and descended the stairs. Rock walls and floor, I felt like a bear in a cave. In a corner, a room was framed in 4 x 4. Inside:  rows and rows, towers and towers of boxes. Dad's stuff.
My plan:  anything of value would stay; trash would go.
Many of the boxes were full of books--mostly Reader's Digests:  mildew copies, some dating back to the 1920s. I tore out interesting articles and trashed the rest.
When my parents returned I was thrilled to show them the progress I'd made.
Looking back, I'm amazed at Dad's reaction. He didn't scream or blame. He just looked at the remains of his collection with calm acceptance. 



photo ldyck

Next post: How I Wrote my First Book
This article was published in a knitting newsletter several years ago. On Sunday, April 15 at (approximately) 5 PM PT, I'll share it with you. Now, years later, I don't agree with everything I wrote but... I do bravely on.

'Abby supervising docking' ldyck

Sharing My Author Journey...

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Gloves in my Pocket (a poem for April fools)

photo ldyck

Gloves in my Pocket

I got gloves in my pocket
Yes, I have two of them
Gloves in my pocket, gloves in my pocket

I got gloves in my pocket
I know how to use them
Gloves in my pocket, gloves in my pocket

I got gloves in my pocket
They have holes in them
Gloves in my pocket, gloves in my pocket

I got gloves in my pocket
I need a new pair of them
Gloves in my pocket, gloves in my pocket

I got gloves in my pocket
Now several pairs of them

Gloves in my pocket
Gloves in my pocket
Gloves in my pocket




Next post:  Spring Cleaning (short story)
If you have a collection this short story will be especially meaningful for you.
Published on Sunday, April 8th at (approximately) 5 PM PT


Sharing my author journey...

What does a writer do without computer ink?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Other People's Memories (short story)

I never knew my patrial grandfather. He died 8 years before I was born. Over the years, I've heard stories about him--from family and other sources. Here's an example...


photo ldyck

Other People's Memories


One of my summer jobs during High School was a tour guide at the Eriksdale Museum. I enjoyed losing myself in other people's memories.

Maybe locals came in but I don't remember them. Tourists are the ones who stood out. They wanted to learn about us and the museum was their introduction. Most traveled from other parts of Manitoba or Canada or from the United States. A man came from England. I don't remember exactly where from, but I do remember that he used four place names in his address. And I remember a woman. I'll always remember her.

I said, "Hello, I'm Leanne Willetts."

And she said, "Willetts? Your grandfather was Mr. JH Willetts. He owned a Red and White store that sold groceries, dry goods and cattle feed.

"The depression was hard on farmers like my dad. He needed feed for our cows, but he didn't have any money. Those cows were the only things keeping the wolf from our door. So, he swallowed his pride and asked your grandfather to loan him the feed.

"Mr. Willetts was a businessman. He needed to make money--his family needed to eat. But you know what your grandfather did?" Her eyes were wet when she told me, "He gave my dad the feed--gave it to him."

Yes, I'll always remember her.

*Footnote:  When I worked as a tour guide, the museum was housed in the old Anglican church.


photo ldyck


More...


I love museums. Some of my favourites are...




the Vikings in Newfoundland




Toronto's Castle

I visited L'Anse aux Meadows and Casa Loma in the 1980s when I was a Katimavik volunteer.




in Winnipeg

I volunteered at the Manitoba Museum in the 1990s--before moving to BC.

in Hofsos, Iceland

While visiting relatives in Iceland, I toured The Icelandic Emigration Centre--and lived close by, heaven.

Castle in Victoria, BC

Even though Craigdarroch Castle is just a ferry ride away I don't manage to get there as much as I would like. 

photo ldyck

Next post:  A poem to celebrate April Fool's Day.
Published on Sunday, April 1st at 5 PM PT
(this is not an April Fool's joke)

"the tail end of the month" photo ldyck

Sharing my author journey...

This March I...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Book review: Precious Cargo (memoir) by Craig Davidson

Abled -- Disabled
I'm interested in the weight these words carry. And so is author Craig Davidson.
Early in his career Davidson accomplish the kind of success we authors dream of (with a short story collection) but then his next book (a novel) bombed. Unable to write, he searched for a means to feed himself. He was so desperate that he took a job as a school bus driver. But not just any school bus--the short bus. Davidson explains that in school bus driver circles driving that bus made him the poor cousin. He took the job and drove his special needs passengers to and from school five days a week, four hours a day. Driver, passengers:  they became more than simply friends. In Precious Cargo, Davidson recounts his year as a driver. He shares the laughter; he shares the tears. He explores what it means to be disabled in Canada. Driving a bus was just a job but it changed Davidson's life forever. 




Publisher:  Alfred A Knopf Canada
Published in 2016

Will this be the book all Canadians should read? Only time will tell. 
Click this link to learn more about Canada Reads 2018.

calendar from my grandfather's store
(accompanying smaller photo:  my grandfather in front of his store with a friend)

Next post:  Other People's Memories--a short story based on my days as a tour guide in rural Manitoba.


Sharing my author journey...

Last week, an earworm (The Monks' I've Got Drugs In My Pocket)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A pep talk from my dad

March was my dad's birth month. To celebrate his memory, I'm sharing a letter he sent several years ago. I've read and re-read this letter so many times over the years--when  I've needed that extra little bit of courage. 




Dear Leanne

There is an old saying--There is no fool like an old fool--to while I would add the line--"and the older the fool the bigger the fool and I am old--"71".

All this refers to the reception you received from me when you told me that you were going to try selling as a career.

I remember putting up all kinds of arguments against it. Finally, I have gotten around to thinking about it in a quieter manner and following is what I have come up with.

In the first place, I remember saying, "This is a poor time to change jobs--things are tough--we are in a recession" and so on.

The answer to that-- Well try as I might I just can't figure out what I would consider a good time to change-- you have heard all about the depression--but how many people picked that time to change or to start a new career--lots of them--And the ones that worked at it and gave it their best shot--they were the ones that were ready and when the depression ended--they rode the wave to the top--nothing worthwhile comes easily.

And then I told you that in my day if you had a job you hung onto it.

That's what I did! And I was a Postmaster for 32 years--nothing wrong with being a Postmaster for 32 years except it was in the same office and the same position. 

I lacked the nerve or self-confidence to change--to bid on a bigger office--because as I told myself "there would be a lotta hassle to change," and many other excuses, now I know that if you try something and it doesn't work out you learnt something and you are more knowledgeable and experienced than someone who didn't try.

Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all! says the wise saying by someone who had lived life.

The prize goes to the winner and the winner is the one who gives it the old college try--the winner is the one who takes a chance, the one who has self-confidence.

And then when you told me your intentions and I gave you all my arguments against them--I forgot, Leanne--that you can think as well as I--you know your situation better than I--you know what your goal is--How dare I tell you how to think and what is best--

And lastly--How could I doubt that you will do just fine -- You -- the girl who left home to join KATIMAVIK--who served her time--that was as much an experience as joining the army and one certainly learnt from that.

So after thinking all this out and mulling it over--I apologize for my negative attitude--for my hasty decision that you were wrong--I'm truly sorry and now I say to you.

GO FOR IT-- GIVE IT ALL YOU GOT you will win!

Here I will end my homily. I just hope I can always remember that you have a wealth of determination and are perfectly capable of paddling your own canoe.

All my love!
Dad

May all daughters. everywhere, receive such a letter.



Next post:  
Book review:  Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson (memoir)
A heartfelt look back at a man, a bus, and his special needs passengers.

ldyck

Sharing my author journey...
Isn't it funny how life works? It makes more sense when you look back on it. I spent a lot of time wishing that the 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The author-reader contract

I promised myself that I would never discuss a book's problems online. But I felt in this case I had to make an exception. I won't name the book, author or publisher. I'll simply refer to the author as you. Examining the book to determine what I felt was wrong has helped my writing and I hope it will help yours.

"on a clear day" ldyck


You, as the author, stated your intention on the back of the book. In short, you promised to entertain me. Bookstores and libraries are full of books. Congratulations on getting your book into my hands. I flipped open the book and I read... 
'My name is (name retained), I'm eleven years old, and this is a story about my brother.'


And I stopped reading... Where was the finesse? Where was the charm? Why didn't your editor or publisher encourage you to re-write the sentence to something that would grab my attention? 

Something like...
I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice--not because of his voice, or because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany. John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

This opening sentence not only introduces me to the topic of the book--Owen Meany--but also briefly underlines why he is so special--he caused a mother's death and lead the narrator to God. After reading that sentence, I have to read on. 

'A good hook will not only create interest, but also set the mood, tone, atmosphere, and create expectations for the reader.' Read the entire article

'Strong characters draw readers into your plot. This dynamic is called the bond.' James Scott Bell, Plot & Structure


'[M]ake the hook and text integral to each other...I'm not advocating bland hooks; the challenge is to have the provocative hook but at the same time not have the discrepancy.' Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages:  A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

More examples of good first lines and why they work.

And wow. After writing and re-reading this article, I, as a writer, feel the pressure to carefully craft my opening sentence, paragraph, chapter, book. Of course, we can't all write like John Irving--but we must be entertaining, we owe it to our readers.

Reading this article will help you write your hook 
Writing a Hook First Line 

My dad and me visiting BC

Next post:  Sunday, March 11 (at approximately 5:00 PM PST)
27 years I was considering a career change; 27 years ago my dad (AJ Willetts) sent me the letter I'm going to share with you. 


"Abby inspiring story" ldyck

Sharing my author journey...

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Have you made a warm fuzzy? (true story)

You do good for the sake of being good--not because it will earn you some kind of reward. Or do you act out of selfishness? And if you act without any thought to self-gain, do you still receive a reward?

Some would argue you that the mere act of giving is its own reward. That reward is intangible--rather than tangible--a warm fuzzy feeling. Never downplay the warm fuzzies. They give you a high better than any drug.



(an example of the knitting I did for babies)

ArtCraft on Salt Spring Island is a seasonal gallery--open during the summer months. They sell locally-made (on-island and from the surrounding smaller islands) art and craft, hence the name. Years ago, when I was a participating crafter, I sailed to them twice a year--to drop off and pick up. 

I was on a pickup run--sailing home with a small bag full of knitting. Among the items were several baby toques. Something made me stop reading my novel. Something made me notice them--a mother and her baby. They were so cute together. I carried the toques over to them. 

After a brief explanation, I opened the bag.

She dug through her purse and found her wallet. "How much--?" 

I shook my head. "No, it's a gift."

The look on her face... What a reward. 

She popped the hat on her child's head. Oh, so cute.

Another idea: "You probably have friends with babies."

"A few," she told me.

"Here, these are for them." I handed her the bag. And the warm fuzzies doubled. In fact, when I'm blue, that memory still picks me up.


(another example)

You tell me:  generosity or selfishness?



(before its seams were sown and ends were woven in--and it was sent away Iceland)

Next post:  Sunday, March 4th (approximately 5 PM PST)
What exactly do we writers owe our readers? What do we promise them they will discover in our books? In my short article, I discuss the author-reader contract with regard to the opening sentence, the hook.

Sharing my author journey...

(and caught in the act of working on a sweater for a baby)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Self Publishing? Ah, nope

"dreaming of spring on Mayne Island" ldyck

 Questions...


"Hey, Leanne, it's taken you so long to publish a new book have you ever thought of self-publishing?"

And...

"Hey, Leanne, have you published anything recently?"

And...


Answer...


I began my career as an indie author. I published fiction and non-fiction for adults. It was a fun experience that challenged and informed me. I'm glad I started that way. But I have no plans to return to this path to publication.

Why?

I like the idea of joining a team of professionals. 
(meaning, I don't want to assemble a team)

And

I don't like the idea of shelling out money in order to be published--especially when there's no guarantee I will earn it all back. 

A book could be a must-read but if no one knows about it it won't become a best-seller.

Successful self-publishing, in my opinion, relies on deep pockets and a big name. I have neither. And so I seek to team-up with a recognized and trusted name publisher.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not cautioning you against self-publishing. If it makes sense to you I say go for it. It doesn't make sense to me so I won't.

The downside you'll have to wait a long time to read my next book. (estimation:  about two years after I sign a contract). In the meantime, I hope you will continue to read this blog. Thank you for your interest and for supporting my author journey.


"dreaming of spring on Mayne Island" ldyck

Next post:  Sunday, February 20th (5PM PST)
I'll share a slice of life from my days as a knitwear designer. 

Sharing my author journey...


"Abby enjoying her human pillow" ldyck

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Wanderlust (short story) by Leanne Dyck

There are tons of story prompts on the Internet. I read one suggesting that inspiration be gleaned from a few verses from a song. I read this prompt and forgot about it. I was working on a number of writing projects. I didn't need to be prompted. But, apparently, my subconscious was inspired. Early one morning, I wrote this short story--inspired by two verses from Tom Paxton's 1964 classic:  Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound


from a collection of vintage postcards  ldyck


Wanderlust


His boyhood home hadn't changed--same blue Pontiac in the driveway, same welcome mat. It felt odd but he knocked anyway. His little sister--now a woman--opened the door.

"Well, look at you."

"You've been gone a long time," she said with unmistakable maturity.

"I had to read life's stories in the stars, in the sand." He couldn't be blamed for a poet's curiosity.

He told her of what he'd found--the Eiffel Tower, the London Bridge--as she made coffee and put icebox cookies on a plate.

"Where are mom and dad?"

"They always left the porch light on. They grew old waiting for you to come home." As gently as she could, she told him about standing under the oak tree, watching their coffins being lowered into the ground.

That woke him from his introspection. He felt the sand in the hourglass trickling away. It was time he did what was expected. He got a job, got married, bought a house, had kids. He tried, he really did. But one day, the wind in the trees sang a certain song. He couldn't resist the call of the road.




He found his wife in the kitchen and waited until she took the last batch of cookies out of the oven.

"Honey, I have something I have to tell you." I can't breathe. It's like I'm in a small box being squeezed to death. I'll send money; you won't do without. It's nothing you've done; it's who I am. But he looked at her face--those soft doe eyes. So full of love. So trusting.

The door banged open. The kids thundered into the house. 

She bolted from her chair, pointing at the door. "Outside. Take off those mud-caked shoes, outside." Returning to him, she asked, "Sorry, what did you want to tell me?"

But the moment was lost. His courage was gone. All he could say was, "I love you"--which was enough for her. Only he knew she would need more. And day after day, he tried. And day after day, he failed. In the end, he left it all in a note.

He sent her postcards from every place he visited hoping that in some small way it would make amends. See, I do think of you--he hoped the gesture proved. He always signed the cards with love.

Maybe one day, when you're away from home, you'll meet him. He'll probably tell you what he told me. "Have an adventure or maybe two. But go home--before you forget how to." Buy him a beer or two and he may even sing fragments of a barely remembered song, "Nail your shoes to the kitchen floor, lace 'em up and bar the door/Thank your stars for the roof that's over you."

This short story is dedicated to George.



Next Post:  Sunday, February 18 
at approximately 5:00 PM PST
Self-publishing? Ah, nope
I explain why I explain why I continue to travel down the path I'm taking



Sharing my author journey...


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Leanne's Knitting

Thank you for supporting this post.

If you remember this logo, I thank you

Recently, I typed 'Leanne's knitting' into Google and found an essay I'd penned on the upper half of page one.

What to read that article?

Here you go...

Mayne Island hums with the songs of artists and artisan inspired. Its beauty is a natural incubator for creating. The minute I set foot on its soil my creative soul sang and I knew I was home. For four years, I have been proud to call Mayne Island home. (I think this was written in 2003)

Over this time my knitting haven has floated from shore to shore. Both on the isle itself and also on BC ferry. Unless you are very shy, the ferry is a perfect haven. Long uninterrupted periods of clicking with inspiration as close as the nearest window.

We have moved three times during these four short years...and I have changed professions. Through it all I have been delighted with the quality of knitting havens. For the first two years, I clicked away as customers came and went from my craft supply store. When my store closed, my haven moved to a beautiful garden setting where squirrels, hummingbirds, and deer inspected my stitches. Recently, we staked our claim as islanders with the purchase of our home. (Yup, it was written in 2003)

(Scroll down to see the house we bought. It's not a mason. But it's been a fine home.)

My new home is littered with the tell-tale signs:  yarn, needles, knitting, knitting baskets, and paper and pen. As this is late fall, my knitting haven is located in the living room. With three cats blissfully sleeping and a wood stove glowing in the corner, I knit. You are invited to grab some needles, lovely yarn and join me by the fire.

Fifteen years later not much has changed. Here, let me re-write that last paragraph to show you how little...

My new home is littered with the tell-tale signs:  paper and pen and books. As this is late winter, my writing haven is located in the living room. With one dog blissfully sleeping and a wood stove glowing in the corner, I write. You are invited to grab a pen, a book, or wool and a pair of knitting needles and join me by the fire.

Ah, life... The more I change, the more I stay the same:  blissfully happy.

Here's the link that inspired this post


I took this photo about an hour ago

Next post:  Sunday, February 11th
Wanderlust
This short story was inspired by two verses from a Tom Paxton song.

"Abby listening" ldyck


Sharing my author journey...


What's the significance of this article to my writing life right now? Read on...

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Book Review: Wonder by RJ Palacio (middle grade novel)

People with craniofacial disorder can't hide their "otherness". And you can't help noticing them. How do you react? Do you look away? Do you stare? Does misunderstanding or fear provoke you to...? Author RJ Palacio empathized. This empathy prompted her to act. She wrote Wonder. Her book inspired the Choose Kind movement.


'Do all the good you can
By all the means you can
In all the ways you can
In all the places you can
At all the times you can
To all the people you can
As long as you ever can' -John Wesley's Rule



Publisher:  Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published in 2012

From kindergarten to grade four, August Pullman--a boy with craniofacial disorder--has been homeschooled. But in grade five, he enters public school.

How is he treated? Is he bullied for being different? Or does he find acceptance? 

Wonder is told by six diverse characters:  
Auggie
Summer, Jack (two of Auggie's classmates)
Via (Auggie's older sister)
Justin (Via's boyfriend)
Miranda (Via and Auggie's friend)

The first voice we hear is Auggie's:
'If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all... [T]he only reason I'm not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.'

More...


What book will all of Canada be reading this spring?

Canada Reads longlist 

The debate happens live on CBC radio from March 26 - 29.

I've chosen my horse. (And plan to review on this blog around the end of February) 

How about you?

"Abby cuddling" ldyck

Sharing my author journey... 


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (fantasy YA)

Can you guess the story from these clues?


dark forest
an enchanted sleep

Sleeping Beauty, right?
And also The Darkest Part of the Forest.

But in her book, author Holly Black re-writes stereotypical gender roles. 



Publisher:  Little, Brown Books
Published in 2015

Fairfold is a small tourist town whose main attraction is the fairie Folk--namely the horned boy in his glass coffin. But who helped him escape? And where is he now? These are the questions that protagonist Hazel and her brother set out to answer. 

In The Darkest Part of the Forest, author Holly Black explores what it feels like to be--and the prejudice that can arise from being-- labeled as 'other'.

Favourite quote...

'[T]he elf woman spoke in a voice like wind and rain and brittle leaves snapping underfoot.' (p. 9)

More...

I've also enjoyed reading Doll Bones a middle grade fantasy by Holly Black.

Visit Holly Black's website. She offers an information-rich 
 Writing Advice page

"Abby rocking it" ldyck

Sharing my author journey...


Sunday, January 14, 2018

My Writing Strategy for 2018

"Beyond the Fog" ldyck

I write in many different genres. To date, I've written...


37 picture books for children
1 YA novel
6 short story collections for adults (includes a composite  novel)

My goal is to break into traditional publishing. (I began my career as an indie author. And was also published by a small press.)

Picture books are reported to be hard to break into and this has held true for me. So in 2018, they will take a back seat to my other work. This doesn't mean I will stop writing them--never shut the door on inspiration. They simply won't be my focus.

You may know that I've been writing a middle grade novel (for children ages 9 to 12 years of age). This one of the first times I've attempted to write for this age group. (The second time was a short story that has potential to become something longer. Here's the link to read that story.) I will continue to work on this novel. Three short novels for adults round out my work for 2018.

This is my strategy for the new year. But my strategies like my plot lines are flexible--I remain open to inspiration and direction (provided by educated/experienced outside sources). 


"Hey, look over there" ldyck


Sharing my author journey...

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Writing: The Right Foot Forward

"Night sky" ldyck

Oh, 2018, I have big plans for you. I want you to be the year the right publisher chooses me.

But what if you aren't?

No, I can't think like that. There's no point. I can't control another's actions...chooses. I can only keep clicking my pen, keep tapping away on my keyboard. I can only continue to believe in my ability to keep dancing--write, revise, submit. Keep trusting. Keep believing.

You will be an amazing year.


"In Byron's arms" ldyck


More...

Click this link...

Do You Feel Insecure As A Writer?
This Is Why You Shouldn't Be

Helpful goal achieving advice for writers. Click the link...

The Year of the Writer by Allison K. Williams