Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Author Interview – Danielle Metcalfe-Chenai

August 20, 2019
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AuthorInterview

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What inspired your latest book?

Alis the Aviator was initially inspired by my son. Andre was two years old and a very wiggly, spirited kid who loved airplanes – but couldn’t sit through long books. I’d just published my second popular aviation history for adults, and had so many fun facts swirling around in my head. I sat on the back porch of my house one day when he was napping and most of the first draft poured out onto the page in the bouncy, rhyming style I love from growing up with Dr. Seuss.

How did you come up with the title?

Alis is based on the real-life Dr. Alis Kennedy, likely the first Indigenous woman in Canada to get her private and commercial pilot’s licenses. I found out about Dr. Alis after I’d completed the ABCs of the book, and then was able to layer in her inspirational story in the bio. Dr. Alis has flown planes, but also is a veteran with a doctorate in psychology, who now dedicates her life to amazing volunteer causes around the world.           

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Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?

I hope that little kids – especially girls – read the book and feel like aviation is a dream they can pursue. The illustrator, Kalpna Patel, did such an amazing job getting the people in her cut-paper art to reflect the incredible diversity we have in Canada and the US. The number of girls and people of colour in aviation is tiny, unfortunately – and I recently learned that only about 1% of all picture books feature Indigenous characters. I hope kids of all backgrounds see themselves reflected in this book!

How much of the book is realistic?

This book is 100% fact-based. It’s a nonfiction picture book that incorporates my years of aviation history research, but presents it in a colourful and quirky way to hopefully capture the imaginations of tykes and their grownups.

Do you have plans for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

I have a few manuscripts in the works. The one I see following on from Alis the Aviator is a picture book biography of the pioneering Gwich’in pilot, Freddie Carmichael. We’ve known each other for ten years and it was incredible spending a week with him in Inuvik this past March working on the book. I can’t wait to share his story with the world!

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Do you favor one type of genre?

I write across genres and audiences, which can be tricky from a branding perspective! So far I’ve published nonfiction for adults and kids, but I’ve got two novels in the works (a WW2 book and an upmarket contemporary novel). I’ve also been researching and writing a book about the Charles Camsell Indian Hospital that is part memoir and part history.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

I’m a plantser – half and half. It really depends on the project. With my picture books, it’s like writing poetry or songs. I do a ton of research and thinking and then the first draft pours out of me in one or two sittings (with multiple rewrites and tweaks). With my adult popular histories it was easier to plan out ahead of time because I had most of the research done and they were chronological. But even then there were surprises! My novels and creative nonfiction are somewhere in the middle because they are largely based on research and real-life events.

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What is your best marketing tip?

It’s also my best writing and life tip! Make friends. Join communities. Be a good literary citizen. Remember that high tides raise all ships. 

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

A little of column A and a little of column B. Or a lot of each, actually. Social media has been a great way to connect with people around the world – especially as I move around so much. I learn so much through those channels as well. At the same time, it can have a toxic quality to it full of judgment, comparison and shaming. I find if I think about it too much it can have a silencing effect, because I worry too much about what other people will think of me. And, like the news, it can be devastating and overwhelming, so I have to be careful how much I take in.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

It’s hard to pick just one! While it’s true that sometimes it can make me cry with how challenging it can be, with how exposed I feel, there are those times when I’m in the flow and it’s like all is well. I’m in alignment. My words come out and I feel that maybe I will be understood and seen.

High res PW cover

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

My parents saved the clippings from when I was a kid – so there’s (often embarrassing) proof that I was scribbling little stories and poems from a young age. I created a little zine in my neighbourhood with friends when I was in elementary school and then was co-editor of a school newspaper in middle school. I think I published my first letter to the editor in the Ottawa Citizen in Grade 8 – then I was totally hooked on bylines!

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

I have jumped all over the place – poetry, fiction, nonfiction, kidlit and freelance writing for magazines and newspapers. They all feed into each other in interesting ways, I’ve noticed, and taught me different lessons. Freelancing was excellent discipline for hitting deadlines and pitching ideas, and not taking edits personally.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

I belong to several writing organizations: the Writers Union of Canada, Creative Nonfiction Collective, and the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators. I was a member of the Writers Guild of Alberta for five years and it was excellent – I still miss it! I’ve created two critique groups since moving to Houston. One is online-only and focuses mostly on creative nonfiction. Members span from Canada to California to Texas. The other one is in-person here in Houston. I realized it’s not natural for me to write in a cave all the time!

Do you see writing as a career?

Actually, I see it as more of a compulsion. A job you can quit. This is forever. My son (who is now 7 years old) asked me the other day, “Mama, will you ever stop writing?” And I told him, “As long as the stories and ideas keep coming, I’ll keep writing.”

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

If readers would like to connect with me, they can find me at my website (www.daniellemc.com), and on social media: @Danielle_Author on Twitter, @dmchenail on Instagram, and Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail on Facebook. I also have a blog dedicated to my Camsell Hospital research, www.ghostsofcamsell.ca.

 

Comet’s Near Miss – A Learning Tool…?

February 21, 2013
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Trajectory – definition: the curve that an object travels along through space (such as a bullet, a rocket, or a planet in its orbit)

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What a shame this word was not on my desk diary a couple of days ago, it would have been perfect for the spectacular but frightening event in Russia. Having a massive piece of rock hurtling towards earth certainly shakes our false sense of security doesn’t it? At any time a projectile could plunge to earth devastating everything in its path or at the very least showering molten fragments into the atmosphere with an accompanying sonic boom.

Reviewing all the data that flooded the Internet and news programs made me realize why we like disaster movies so much. In every one there is a seemingly insurmountable problem that is neatly resolved at the end. You can probably think of quite a number of them without much thought. We humans are portrayed as being able to overcome aliens, the earth’s core becoming unstable, mutant animals and a host of other threats. But when it really comes down to it, we have no answer for space rocks apart from tracking them and hoping they miss. A sobering thought. No futuristic spacecraft to shoot them down or massive laser beams exploding them thousands of miles above the earth – but lots of material for ideas!

If we use the comet as the basis of a story, there are a few options. We could start with the object approaching and how the inhabitants react and plan, or the big burning ball could be viewed as a sign and worshipped or we could write about how the survivors deal with the after effects of the impact. Just one event can spark many view points and scenarios. Which view would you choose?

When we develop our stories we need to give our readers the same form of scenario – the ‘normal’ life for our characters, the obstacle they need to overcome and ultimately  the resolution. The greater we can make the odds, the better we engage our readers. Obviously, we don’t all write disaster type stories but every hero or heroine needs to conquer something or someone. Finding a new perspective or view point in which to tell our story makes it unique even if the basic scenario has been ‘covered’ before. This is something I did with my children’s story, Rumble’s First Scare. Instead of the usual Halloween – people are scared by monster – I viewed the night’s events of All Hallows Eve from the monster’s perspective. Rumble experiences his very first scaring expedition.

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Rumble's First Scare

Interview with Dennis Collins…

January 30, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Please welcome Dennis Collins to my blog, he has a quiet humor and strong writing trait.  Today’s word is Complicit – definition: associating or participating in a wrongful act. This lends itself to the characters in Dennis’ books who live in the shady underground of mystery and thriller.

Dennis Collins

a) Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

That’s difficult to answer because I began my series with a trio of protagonists, Michael O’Conner, Otis Springfield, and Albert McCoy who were introduced to one another and shared equal billing in The Unreal McCoy. In the next book Turn Left at September I allowed McCoy to acquire a love interest and made him the featured character. Then it was Otis Springfield’s turn as the star of The First Domino. In Nightmare, it’s McCoy and O’Conner sharing the spotlight. I guess it just depends on who’s carrying the load that day.

b) Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

Right now I just write traditional mystery/thriller kind of stuff. I must admit that I’m somewhat intrigued by the extra space you get with a paranormal kink to your story. I need to learn the rules before I dive into anything like that.

c) What do you enjoy most about writing?

I’ve been a storyteller all my life and just like the old days sitting around the campfire with the other kids, I love the look of interest on people’s faces as my imagination runs wild. I’ve matured a little though these days and strive for realism in my stories. I suppose the short answer is that I like pleasing people with my tales.

d) Have you got a favorite place to write?

I’ve tried writing in coffee shops and poolside at motels but the fact is, I’m way too easily distracted. For me, the most productive place is in my little home office with no TV, no radio, no music, and just one light turned on.

e) Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

My first book was totally “stream of consciousness.” I started writing and kept going until I reached the end. It took me three years. I did a little planning, at least plot-wise with my next book and it came out just fine. I’ve sort of settled in on a combination. I write until I hit a wall and then I plan, but the secret is to keep it moving. You can always repair bad dialogue or narrative but you can’t fix… nothing!

f) What inspires your stories?

Inspiration comes from everywhere and anywhere. My first book was inspired by an obituary; the second was just the desire to get more use out of a fictional location that I created in the first book. Then there was a family incident where no one in my generation knew the true story about an uncle who died a hero in world war two. My last book was inspired by an Internet report that I stumbled on while researching something else. Where will the next inspiration come from? I haven’t a clue but I know it will happen.

g) What are you currently reading?

I just finished reading Targets of Revenge by Jeffrey S. Stephens, an international thriller about drugs, mobs, terrorists, and the CIA. Such a fast pace that it left me exhausted. It will be released on 2/13/2013

h) Do you have any odd habits or childhood stories?

I ride a big Harley if that counts. Been a professional (automotive powered race boat) hydroplane driver, motorcycle racer, skydiver, and scuba diver, just the normal stuff.

i) Do you have any pets?

No cats. I’ve had dogs all my life. My last beautiful little mongrel died on New Years day last year at almost nineteen years of age. She was my final pet.

j) Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

A friend and I formed a writer’s group in Huron County, Michigan a couple of years ago. We have close to fifty members now.

k) What age did you start writing stories/poems?

Fourth grade. The nun threatened to kick me out of school for writing a violent story. It was cowboys and Indians. What do you expect from a fourth grader? I was terrified but later I got even with her. I put her in one of my books and I made her… nice

l) Do you have a book published? If so what is it called & where can readers purchase it?

My first two books, The Unreal McCoy and Turn Left at September are currently out of print but are both available for Kindle or Nook. The First Domino and Nightmare are available at Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com in both print and electronic formats.

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The First Domino

m) If you could meet one favorite author whom would it be and why?

Probably would have been Hemingway just to feel his presence.

n) If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

On the shore of one of the Great Lakes and that is where I live. Lake Huron is right out my front window. Maybe someplace a bit warmer for a few weeks in the winter, but not too much. Snow has always been part of my life.

English: Map of Lake Huron. Category:Michigan maps

o) What’s your favorite movie of all time?

Probably The Best Years of Our Lives, such a powerful story.

p) Where can readers find you and your blog?

I will soon be launching a new website but my blog is http://www.theunrealmccoy.com/

q) Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?

I’m working on one right now (Fool’s Gold) about millions of dollars worth of gold lost at the bottom of Lake Michigan by the Confederacy during the civil war. The truth of the legend is still under debate.

r) Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

Fear of failure.

Today’s desk diary word…sparks a writing tip

January 2, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Cerulean (adjective) – si-roo-lee-in

Definition – a deep sky-blue colour.

Just saying this word conquers up lazy summer days, lying on the beach or a lush green lawn looking upward in that happy childlike innocence. Here in Alberta we are very fortunate to have cerulean skies a large part of the year, yes even when its -37 degrees!

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I remember waking up the first morning I had emigrated here and thinking ‘how cool a nice sunny blue skied day to welcome us’. Never imagining that I would wake up for the next eight days welcomed with the very same thing! Coming from England, which has cloud cover the majority of the time it was amazing.

The other thing I came to notice about the Albertan sky was how huge it was. Now I know that seems like a strange thing to say but it does seem to stretch forever upward and horizontally. My theory is that the land mass is so large and flat that there is no ‘interruption’ to your view. Even the clouds are different! Each has a ‘flat’ bottom instead of soft fluffy curves. Again this may be due to the prairie lands affecting them. In England we glimpsed the sky through dense trees and hills. A very different landscape where clouds were massive and covered vast areas of the sky.

As you can see from just one word a myriad of images and ideas can come to mind. Using such words enables a writer to create a sense of time and place for their readers, without having to describe them in minute detail. Too much description tends to ‘shut your reader off’ so your use of words is vitally important. Yes its that old adage ‘show not tell’, which raises its head time and time again.

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