Rides That Way by Susan Ketchen

Sylvia is gal­lop­ing through life as only a four­teen year old can do. At school there are friends, bul­lies and worse. Dinner with her par­ents is like sid­ling through a field of land mines. And all of a sud­den she’s Keeper of the Secrets: her own, her grandpa’s and her rid­ing coach’s.

Then there’s the whole hor­mone thing. Those mys­ter­i­ous entit­ies that surge through a teen’s body mak­ing them emo­tion­al and affect­ing their bod­ies in very notice­able ways. Only Sylvia isn’t hav­ing that prob­lem. She has Turner Syndrome, which means she’ll always be short and have to wear kids’ clothes the rest of her life because her body will nev­er devel­op. Unless she wears estro­gen patches and she’s not sure about that.

In fact, the only thing Sylvia’s sure about is that she loves hanging out in the barn, lucid dream­ing and doing the for­bid­den — gal­lop­ing her horse, Brooklyn. Well, Logan Losino, the cute guy at school, is pretty dis­tract­ing too.

Rides That Way is funny, warm and per­cept­ive. An unpre­dict­able plot keeps the read­er turn­ing pages as Sylvia struggles to come to terms with being a teen and hav­ing Turner Syndrome. No mat­ter what, she’s determ­ined to be her true self and find accept­ance on her own terms.

Rides That Way is the fourth book in Susan Ketchen’s Born That Way series. Each book delves into the life of Sylvia as she nav­ig­ates the chal­lenges that rela­tion­ships with people and anim­als present. And, although the books are stand-alone reads, once you’ve sampled one, you’ll be eager to explore more of Sylvia’s world.

Although typ­ic­ally classed as young adult nov­els, Ketchen’s char­ac­ters gen­er­ate fan mail from read­ers age 12 to 82 cre­at­ing their own niche as fam­ily fic­tion. Gently pok­ing fun at the quirky thoughts and actions of people at every age is one of the things Ketchen does best.

Ketchen, a former mar­riage and fam­ily coun­sel­lor, lives in Courtenay, BC on a river­side farm along with her hus­band, two cats, a multi-trick pony and a flock of geri­at­ric chick­ens.

For more inform­a­tion vis­it www​.susanketchen​.ca.

       Ketchen will be sign­ing books at Laughing Oyster Bookshop in down­town Courtenay on Saturday, September 30 from 1:003:00 pm.

Ketchen and her horse, Lolli, who knows more tricks than most dogs.


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Writers, words and time

Words and time are some­thing every writer wrestles with. Two truths sum up the dilemma:

  1. There is nev­er enough time to write.
  2.  When you do write, you nev­er pro­duce as many words as you’d like.

Professional writers and those who are ser­i­ous about writ­ing, even if they have oth­er oblig­a­tions, such as day jobs and or young fam­il­ies, learn to set aside time every day – or at least every week – to prac­tise their craft. And it’s called prac­tise because, just like play­ing the piano, the more you do it, the bet­ter you get.

But what con­sti­tutes a reas­on­able writ­ing prac­tise? Many pro­fes­sion­als set them­selves a min­im­um word count each day. According to “The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors,” Ernest Hemingway aimed for 500 words a day while Sophie Kinsella man­ages 1,000 and Stephen King aver­ages 2,000.

Once, I con­duc­ted a 30 minute phone inter­view and com­pleted a 1,000 word art­icle with­in two hours. But most non­fic­tion pro­jects – espe­cially a book – rarely move that quickly. What seems like a simple sen­tence can lead to hours of fact-check­ing or track­ing down elu­sive sources.

So, instead of set­ting daily word counts, I don’t con­sider my work day over until I’ve put in a min­im­um of five intensely focused hours on my book. That can include inter­views and research, as well as writ­ing. In fact, research can make up as much as 75% of the time I spend on a non­fic­tion book.

At the end of five hours, I may have writ­ten five pages, five para­graphs or five sen­tences. I put in the time but the words — and research — set their own pace. In an inter­view by Alan Twigg pos­ted on BC Booklook, the late Al Purdy, poet extraordin­aire, noted that he wrote the title poem to Caribou Horses in 30 minutes while anoth­er poem, “Postscript,” took sev­en years.

When you write can make a dif­fer­ence too. In “Famous Authors Routines: Rise Early, Work Early, and Count The Words,” David Paul Kirkpatrick observes that many fam­ous authors get up early – even before first light — to write.

I must con­fess, the sol­it­ary silence of early morn­ing is my favour­ite – and most pro­duct­ive – time to write. The house and neigh­bour­hood are quiet, it’s highly unlikely the phone will ring and my brain is unsul­lied by the chat­ter and occur­rences of the day. That’s when it’s easi­est to lose myself in my work.

A computer generated collage by artist Bev Byerley. www.bevbyerley.com

A com­puter gen­er­ated col­lage by artist Bev Byerley. www​.bevby​er​ley​.com

Occasionally, I even flip the angst of insom­nia into cre­at­ive energy by get­ting up to write. Tiptoeing to the com­puter with mug of tea in hand feels slightly naughty and I know I’ll sur­render to sleep at some point in the day. But in the mean­time, I’m dis­trac­ted from whatever was keep­ing me awake…and, strangely, the words seem to fill the page faster than usu­al.

I nev­er take my work (or self) too ser­i­ously at 2 am so that may explain the tsunami of sen­tences. But part of the magic, I’m sure, comes from being some­where between con­scious­ness and sleep, that dreamy, half-awake state that shuts off the inner cen­sor and allows the muse to creep in.

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Four writers, four questions #4 Rick James

The last install­ment of Four writers, four ques­tions.

What are you work­ing on right now?

For the past five or so years, I’ve been immersed in research­ing and writ­ing about West Coast rum run­ning, a fas­cin­at­ing top­ic which soon became an obses­sion. In January 1920, the National Prohibition or Volstead Act was offi­cially declared in the U.S. of A. Meanwhile, voters in British Columbia decided, that after three years, they’d had enough of their government’s own failed attempt to cur­tail the con­sump­tion of alco­hol and brought it to an end in a plebis­cite that year. As a res­ult, with liquor leg­al on one side of the bor­der and out­right illeg­al just over the line, rum run­ning into the United States from British Columbia soon proved an extremely luc­rat­ive enter­prise.

My primary focus has been to explore how rum run­ning was oper­ated out of British Columbia and down along the U.S. coast and even into Mexican waters. Basically, my goal is to provide not only a com­pre­hens­ive his­tory of the vari­ous ves­sels and char­ac­ters involved in the mari­time liquor trade, but also to explore the major eco­nom­ic and polit­ic­al con­sequences of what quickly proved a very reward­ing enter­prise for all involved. 

Why is this mean­ing­ful to you?

018Maritime his­tory has always been of par­tic­u­lar interest to me espe­cially hav­ing been born and raised on Canada’s West Coast and spend­ing a lot of time out on the water ever since I was a boy sports fish­ing with dad on south­ern Vancouver Island. For most of my life, I’ve lived, worked and con­tin­ue to explore this unique coastal envir­on­ment. In the late 1980s, I delved deep­er into these waters by research­ing our coast’s mari­time his­tory and attempt­ing to identi­fy the fas­cin­at­ing col­lec­tion of fif­teen old ships that made up Royston’s hulk break­wa­ter. (Up until the time, nobody had kept a record of what was bur­ied there were.) This soon led to vari­ous research and writ­ing endeav­ours first appear­ing in the Victoria Times Colonist and Western Mariner magazine.

What is your pro­cess?

A good por­tion of my research time is spent in vari­ous archives thumb­ing through old news­pa­per micro­films attempt­ing to unravel coastal tales and mys­ter­ies. I think the key to my suc­cess is that I’m some­what of an obsess­ive com­puls­ive indi­vidu­al when it comes to research. God only knows how many hun­dreds upon hun­dreds of hours I’ve spent fer­ret­ing out ori­gin­al, primary source mater­i­al or flip­ping through reels upon reels of old news­pa­per micro­film chas­ing down a first-hand account of ship’s sink­ing. I’ve also spent one heck of a lot of time search­ing through lib­rar­ies and archives all the way from the read­ily access­ible B.C. Archives in Victoria, the Vancouver Maritime Museum and right down to the J. Porter Shaw Maritime Research Centre in San Francisco.

Then there’s the actu­al pro­cess of sit­ting down in front of my key­board and mon­it­or and sort­ing through the mess of pho­to­copied records and news­pa­per stor­ies all stacked on my desk and try­ing to bring some semb­lance of order to it all. (This part of the pro­cess has always been a prob­lem for me since I’m some­what of a hyper per­son­al­ity and find it hard to remain seated for any length of time.) But once immersed in a tale that grabs my interest, I’ve learned over time that I can really pound out text; espe­cially when I’m onto a real good story line.

 Why do you write?

I still think of myself as a stu­dent rather than as a ‘his­tor­i­an’ and my greatest reward is learn­ing about dif­fer­ent events, many of which are fast dis­ap­pear­ing from loc­al memory. But when comes right down to it, being able to piece a story togeth­er and then share your sleuth­ing research with oth­ers via pub­lic­a­tion really keeps me inspired. And many a time, fol­low­ing a stor­ies pub­lic­a­tion, I’ve received a phone call or a let­ter in the mail from an old salt to say he really enjoyed the story, but just wants to set me straight regard­ing a fact or two. I find that par­tic­u­larly reward­ing. But still, as all writers know, see­ing one’s cre­at­ive endeav­ours out there on news­stands or in book­stores to be read by all, is per­haps a bet­ter reward than the cheque received from a pub­lish­er.

Rick James’ work has appeared in numer­ous peri­od­ic­als includ­ing British Columbia Magazine, The Beaver: Canadas History Magazine, The Sea Chest: Journal of Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society and Western Mariner. He is also the author of Raincoast Chronicles 21: West Coast Wrecks & Other Maritime Tales and the Underwater Archaeological Society of B.C. pub­lic­a­tion: Ghost Ships of Royston, as well as co-author of  its Historic Shipwrecks of the Sunshine Coast, and Historic Shipwrecks of B.C.s Central Coast reports.

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Four writers, four questions #3 Deborah Griffiths

Here’s the third install­ment of Four Writers, Four Questions. Installment #4 will be pos­ted next week.

What are you work­ing on right now?

I have a com­bin­a­tion of light and intense work on the daily writ­ing menu right now. I’ve just fin­ished co-author­ing Watershed Moments-A Pictorial History of Courtenay and District. It was a great exper­i­ence work­ing with my co-authors  and the edit­ors at Harbour Publishing.

This pro­cess inspired me to go back to my second nov­el, Snow on the Monashee and clean it up. This is light work and gives me a view of how my approach to writ­ing- and the world- has changed since I wrote it in 2014.

My more intense work is cre­at­ing an out­line for a new his­tor­ic non-fic­tion book. I love research and dis­cov­ery so this is excit­ing and I enjoy put­ting pieces of a puzzle togeth­er and cre­at­ing an out­line. The nice thing about out­lines is that they’re so flu­id. The basic bones remain the same as I move along; but the flow around them changes as I pro­gress.

Why is this mean­ing­ful to you?

Right now, being able to move back and forth between fic­tion and non-fic­tion is mean­ing­ful to me. Until recently, I’ve put them into two cat­egor­ies, as though I had to choose between one friend and anoth­er. Non-fic­tion has always been my “work” as a cur­at­or and con­tract­or. It’s enjoy­able, but I use dif­fer­ent pro­cesses for it than I do for fic­tion. I’m learn­ing that cre­at­ing both improves my writ­ing.

DebWhen work­ing on Watershed and talk­ing to Paula about it, she gave me some great advice about present­ing his­tory in a pleas­ur­able read­ing style. Seeing the response to the book and work­ing with the oth­er authors’ styles has been an eye-open­er. I’ve begun to worry less about what read­ers think about my writ­ing and to focus more on what I bring to life and the read­ers’ enjoy­ment.

I’ve also recently been read­ing books like In Fact: The Best of Creative Non-Fiction by Lee Gutkind. This has helped me remove my self-imposed style bound­ar­ies between fic­tion and non-fic­tion.

What is your pro­cess?

My pro­cess involves tak­ing my curi­os­ity and wrap­ping that up with a love of work, daily routine and focus. Pair this with inter­mit­tent pro­cras­tin­a­tion, insec­ur­ity and second-guess­ing and it’s a typ­ic­al week.

For ongo­ing learn­ing, I read a lot. I also sub­scribe to a couple of blogs that delve into the nitty-gritty of writ­ing and push me. One is Daphne Grey Grant’s Publication Coach (Vancouver) blog. Her take is that writ­ing is open to the pub­lic and it’s not a high­er mys­tery. It requires organ­iz­a­tion, work, strategy and inspir­a­tion from read­ing, listen­ing and all aspects of life.

Finally, I have won­der­ful friends and fam­ily who are patient with my rough drafts and pro­jects. My fam­ily tends to see plain-old-every­day writ­ing as a fine means of expres­sion. The more humour the bet­ter. Growing up, my fath­er wrote poems and put them into our brown-bag lunches. My moth­er was a cross­word afi­cion­ado and more. My uncle is 97 and just pub­lished a book of 97 poems. The list goes on. How lucky could I be?

Why do you write?

I write because it’s a cre­at­ive state of con­stant improve­ment, learn­ing and dis­cov­ery. It’s a world of acknow­ledging and fol­low­ing con­nec­tions and pos­sib­il­it­ies. I’m able to take my pick of sub­jects: people, nature, anim­als, land­scapes, sea­scapes and sky­scapes, past, present, future-and run with it. A free-range writer.

Deborah Griffiths is the author of two fic­tion books (writ­ten under the pen name Deborah Greene) and three non-fic­tion books includ­ing Heather’s Amazing Discovery (final­ist, children’s non-fic­tion, Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable) and Water­shed Moments — A Pictorial History of Courtenay and District (with Christine Dickinson, Judy Hagen and Catherine Siba).



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