Words on flipped pages…

It’s been raining all week and what better way to spend it, but inventorying all the books I’ve collected over the years. There are lots of surprises found, rooting through the shelves, reconnecting with old friends, apologetically unearthing discarded half-read tomes. There’s a calling between the covers.  Words on flipped pages draw me like a magnet and refuse to let go.  The fresh cracked spines smell of wilting carnations, an abandoned celebration longing to be revived if only I’d sit and stay a while.  I carry one upstairs and slip it beneath my pillow to warm up, dreaming of Elizabeth Barrett Browning: 


Books, books, books!

I found the secret of the garret room

Piled high with cases in my father’s name;

Piled high, packed large–where, creeping in and out

Among the great fossils of my past

Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs

Of a mastadon, I nibbled here and there

At this or that box, pulling through the gap

In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy

The first book First. And how I felt it beat

Under my pillow in the morning’s dark

An hour before the sun would let me read

My books!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Congrats sent to Granada!

Congratulations to Maureen St. Clair, who is part of my Artist Circle doing Julia Cameron’s book “Finding Water” by e-mail this winter. She won a copy of ROADS UNRAVELLING in my Spring newsletter draw.  Maureen is a writer, painter and activist. The picture featured here is one of her prints. I asked her to send a few word along about her work. She writes:

“Recently a friend of mine described my Art Work as Heart Work and it made me think more seriously of why I do what I do: paint people celebrating their lives, their selves. My Grenada family, friends, and community are the foundation of my Heart work. They have taught me hope, strength, resilience, courage and resourcefulness in the face of life’s difficult moments. I have learned and continue to learn the fine balance between hope and despair and the power of music, dance, storytelling, poetry, and laughter in healing, transforming and revolutionizing.

I left Canada in 1993 and since then have made Grenada my home. I met my life partner Theo soon after arriving in Grenada and in 2001 we planted our own roots with the birth of our daughter Maya.

I freelance part time as a community facilitator and work full time as an artist and peace educator. I am also passionate about writing and would like to use this passion to further my work as a peace activist.  You can experience my work as writer, artist and community peace worker at http://maureenstclair.blogspot.com/.”

Congrats Maureen. Hope you enjoy the copy of “Roads Unravelling” and it inspires you to finish your short story collection.

“Dive into these stories, let their current take you. New Brunswick’s Kennebecasis is to Kathy-Diane Leveille what the Miramichi is to David Adams Richards—a harsh and lovely riverscape of the soul. Leveille’s writing sings of heartbreak and redemption, and the wicked dancing moments in-between.  A wise and stirring debut.”  Carol Bruneau author of Purple for Sky

Shift Happens: Did you know?

I usually hold an Artist Circle group in my home over the winter to discuss one of Julia Cameron’s books (The Artist Way: A Spiritual Path to Creativity). However, this year, I posted on-line to a few professional groups to see if anyone was interested in trying it by e-mail. 

Sixteen people quickly signed up and we now have writers, weavers, painters, jewellery artisans, soap makers, photographers  corresponding  weekly on-line from  as far away as India, Barbados  and Guatemala.  I love connecting this way.  Technology IS changing everything.   You’d be amazed at the statistics.  Check out the SHIFT HAPPENS, Did You Know video.

TWUC 12th Annual Postcard Story Competition

Congratulations to Darcy, a fan on GoodReads, who won a copy of “LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU” in the draw for the winter newsletter.  All the fans on GoodReads are entered into the quarterly prize draws.  Hope you enjoy the read, Darcy.  If you missed my newsletter, you may have missed the announcement about this Postcard Story Competion from The Writers’ Union of Canada.  It’s an excellent opportunity. I won one year and it was subsequently published in the literary journal “Grain.”  Good luck!


$500 PRIZE

 The Writers’ Union of Canada is pleased to announce that submissions are being accepted until February 14, 2011, for the 2011 POSTCARD STORY COMPETITION. The winning entry will be the best Canadian work of 250 words or less in the English language, fiction or nonfiction. Are you up for the challenge? Can you create a dynamic, lean, and efficient piece in only 250 words? You can use humour, poetry, dialogue… anything goes!


$500 for the winning entry. The winning entry will be published in Write, the magazine of The Writers’ Union of Canada. The winner agrees that The Writers’ Union of Canada will have non-exclusive publication rights to publish the winning entry in Write for publicity purposes. Any publication of the author’s story by The Writers’ Union of Canada will include an authorship credit and a copyright notice in the name of the author. Copyright of the winning postcard story remains with the writer.


Ray Hsu, Samuel Thomas Martin, and Edeet Ravel will serve as the jury.


This competition is open to all Canadian citizens and landed immigrants. Original and unpublished

(English language) fiction or nonfiction, no more than 250 words.


·         Entries should be typed, double-spaced, in a clear twelve-point font, and the pages numbered on 8.5 x 11 paper, not stapled.

·         Submissions will be accepted in hardcopy only.

·         Include a separate cover letter with title of story, full name, address, phone number, e-mail address, word count, and number of pages of entry.

·         The author’s name should not appear on the actual entry.

·         Make cheque or money order, $5 per submission, payable to The Writers’ Union of Canada. Multiple entries can be submitted together and fees can be added and paid with one cheque or money order.

·         Entries must be postmarked by February 14, 2011 to be eligible.

·         Mail entries to: PCS Competition, The Writers’ Union of Canada, 90 Richmond Street East, Suite 200, Toronto, ON M5C 1P1.

Results will be posted at www.writersunion.ca in May 2011. Manuscripts will not be returned.

“LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU is kind of a “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” for grownups. Four friends who bond together in childhood, each coming from a troubled past, they create a group for themselves–only does one of the women go above and beyond to take care of the others–even murder? …this book kept me coming back for more.” -Night Owl Romance

Bad Sex Fiction Prize

In 1993 LITERARY REVIEW magazine started the BAD SEX FICTION PRIZE to highlight  “the crude, tasteless, and often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in contemporary novels.”

This year’s winner is author,  Rowan Somerville, author of  THE SHAPE OF HER, a novel about desire and memory set on a Greek island.  The judges enjoyed his insect imagery and apparently were impressed by the description comparing making love to “a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect.”

Somerville, who was born in Britain and lives in Ireland, commented with good humor that “there is nothing more English than bad sex.”

Good for him!  It got me thinking about my own sex scenes in fiction writing.  Have I ever used animals to enhance  ‘the mood?’ How about a deer?  After all, I did grow up fishing and hiking in northern bush country.  Here’s a scene with Nikki and Brannagh on the bird count in LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU:

Two minutes into their first survey stop, Nikki finally caught on to her. Unless they were solely listening for whippoorwills (who sound just like their name), Brannagh was up the creek.

“You’ll have to be our eyes, and I’ll be our ears,” he concluded, as he gazed off into the horizon through binoculars. “Besides, there’ll be times when we have to conduct our survey a little differently from the rest because you have to get the drawings done.” He sighed here, and she knew that not confessing about the white lies on her job application had been the right thing to do.

Every day at lunchtime, they settled into a cubby Nikki created in the brush. After a lecture, he ordered her to listen carefully and then he fell asleep; all she heard was faint snoring in the afternoon breeze.

Despite this, Brannagh eventually learned that a musical queedle, queedle of the blue jay, was not to be confused with the zhreek zhreek of the scrub jay; that a nuthatch crawled down a tree trunk while a creeper crawled up it; that robins were cranky, chickadees fearless.

Sometimes when the deer flies were biting, or there were miles of dense bog to slog through, they argued. Nikki lectured her on the need to concentrate and she yawned in his face while he explained the difference between a bird bobbing, fanning or flicking its tail.

“Thank you for imparting that scintillating information,” she’d say, and yawn again.

“It’s all in the field guide,” he’d continue, losing his patience. “And you better study it tonight, because if you don’t know it come morning, I’m fining you two rations of chocolate.”

It didn’t help that the rain had let up, and that Mother Nature had loosened her stranglehold on summer’s blossoming, allowing it to assume full gallop, until the days slowly gave in to an indolence illustrated in still, expectant cobalt skies and warm feathery breezes. The scent of pine sap and peppery wildflowers hung in the air. Brannagh imagined that she could hear the life juices of the surrounding flora flowing from root to stem to leaf. All around her was an unfolding, a lazy rich mellowing.

When Brannagh lay on the bracken in the cubby that Nikki cleared at lunchtime, she could almost feel the earth humming in her belly, could recognize the trembling of it beneath her.

She welcomed the warmth of it, the lushness, the energy of all the creatures of the earth gleaning sustenance from it and reaching up, up towards the sun.

One afternoon, while Nikki snored softly, Brannagh heard a snapping of twigs, a crackling of brush. She turned away from him and watched the leaves of the poplars in the distance flipping lazily in the wind, as if an invisible hand ruffled the nap of the landscape. Further back, the clouds spilled shadows onto the hills.

Into the clearing stepped a creature that at first glance looked like a large dog with a reddish-tan coat and long, thin legs. Brannagh rose on her elbow, noticed the puff of a tail, the over-large ears, the spotted flank. There was a cracking sound. The young doe paused, its ears perked. A buck with large antlers galloped out of the brush, nostrils quivering. The doe stood silently upon his approach. He ran his nose along her flank. There was a thick bald patch on his rump where the fur hung in clumps.

Loosestrife, fireweed and bright yellow sow thistles waved round them in the summer breeze. While horse flies and hornets droned in the heat, the buck attempted to mount the doe. She lowered her head, seemingly oblivious, sniffing at the undergrowth.

The buck reared and with an awkward lumbering grace straddled the doe’s flanks, the tip of his swollen shaft rising from the long thick casing. His hind legs stumbled as he pushed against her. The doe’s head rose and she stood perfectly still, ears cupped forward, large eyes glistening.

Their thrusting, quivering, staggering dance held Brannagh spellbound.

Suddenly the doe bolted, crashing through the trees.

Brannagh turned around. Nikki stared, unblinking. He ran his fingers through his sweat-slicked brow and plopped his hat back onto his head. “It isn’t rutting season.”

Brannagh gathered her papers and secured them to the clipboard. “Guess they neglected to study their field guide,” she quipped. “So fine them, why don’t you?”

Black Cat by Rainer Maria Rilke

For Halloween and in the spirit of the novel I’m currently writing,  here is a poem I admire by Rilke.  It’s called BLACK CAT.  The line that reverberates in my imagination is:  ‘She seems to hide any looks that have ever fallen into her.’


A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.

She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

Rainer Maria Rilke

“All of us can see ourselves in Leveille’s characters. These are stories that speak to the complicated bonds we have with siblings and parents, who they were and who they are now and how we learn the truth of what we took for granted before.” The Daily Gleanor

Who do you write like?

Congratulations to Mary Fulton who won a $25.00 gift certificate to Chapters/Indigo/Coles in the draw for my fall newsletter that went out today.  Everyone who subscribes is eligible.  Mary is coming to the retreat at the end of the month and I’m looking forward to hearing her poetry.  For those of you who aren’t subscribers, here’s something I talked about in this issue that you might find interesting:


Check out this great web site “I Write Like” passed on by author, Linda Hall, in Fredericton. Just cut and paste a chunk of your own writing into the window, click “Analyze” and it will tell you who you write like. It analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them to those of famous writers.


I inserted an exerpt from LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU: 

“Do you regret falling in love?  I mean, really falling in love.”  Tish’s expression was open and honest, washed clean of the pretence that came with their initial awkwardness together, born of the need to appear carefree and happy after all these years, and not a failure, never that, heaven forbid, no matter what the cost.  Brannagh envied Tish’s quick child-like flow of hot tears.  She had always been able to boil over at the drop of a hat, spilling everything out in an illogical mish-mash, then basking in a clean glow afterwards.   “It’s kind of like jumping off a cliff, isn’t it?”  Tish ventured, eyes shining.  “Without looking down.”

Brannagh’s ability to express her emotions was something else entirely.  She had learned, from living in the house on Argyle, to compartmentalize everything.   Her feelings were relegated to the distant third floor, behind closed doors, and thumps, and bumps, and meandering shadow-filled halls.

Brannagh attempted to smile, then gave up.  She reached into the top cupboard for the tin of tea bags.  “No, I don’t regret falling in love.”   She dropped two teabags into the pot, and filled it with hot water.  “What I regret,” she finished coldly, “is not falling out.”

According to “I WRITE LIKE,” I write like Charles Dickens.  


“Leveille has the ability to write convincingly and with precise delicate strokes that reveal nuance and shadings of character that are very satisfying.” – The New Brunswick Reader

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