Welcome Lounges AMA AMA with Gaylene Dutchyshen

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    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Ask Me Anything

      with Gaylene Dutchyshen

      thin air winnipeg international writers festival international ecrivains logo

      Gaylene Dutchyshen is a Canadian novelist who writes prairie literary fiction. After a thirty year hiatus, she returned to the University of Manitoba to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree, then completed the Creative Writing program from Humber College, working with Sandra Birdsell on a first draft of her novel, A Strange Kind of Comfort. It was published by Dundurn Press in January, 2020.

      Gaylene has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance journalist, served as a school trustee and provincial agriculture board member, all while raising three children and operating a large grain and cattle farm with her husband,Wayne, in Gilbert Plains, Manitoba.

      She enjoys gardening, traveling and spending time with her grandchildren. She is at work on her second novel, returning to the fictional town of Ross Prairie, to tell the story of siblings, Tom and Marissa Nychuk.

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Hello! I’d like to thank the organizers of the Thin Air Festival for the invitation to take part this year and for this opportunity to connect with readers.

    • Marjorie PoorMarjorie Poor
      Participant
      Post count: 2

      Hi Gaylene!
      I’m already a big fan of you and A Strange Kind of Comfort–I read it early this year and loved it. I’m also the editor of Prairie books NOW, and I thought you and your readers would like to know that the story Bev Greenberg wrote about you and your book for the spring/summer issue is posted online at https://prairiebooksnow.ca/articles/view/family-conflict-forgiveness-and-rural-life-woven-together-in-four-part-novel.
      As far as a question goes, I watched your videos (both were very well done and interesting), and so heard that you worked with Sandra Birdsell on this novel–that seems like such a perfect fit! What was it like to work with her? What did she help you with most?

    • Christine DoerksenChristine Doerksen
      Participant
      Post count: 2

      Hi Gaylene,

      I enjoyed your book very much. I’m wondering what you gained/learned from your time with Sandra Birdsell?

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Hi Marjorie! Thanks for the kind words and I’ll check out that link. I wrote the first draft over the ten months of the course and she printed out each submission and mailed it back with a detailed critique. She was supportive, yet she often pointed out my weaknesses. One example… I veered completely away from the story to tell a back-story of Sarah Coyle/Bilyk’s grandfather arriving in Ross Prairie. She put a big X over the pages and said that it brought the story to a grinding halt! She also pointed out that I didn’t explain and fill some glaring plot holes. My novel changed quite a bit after that first draft but I’d say about 50-60% of it is what I submitted to Sandra. Of course, her prairie roots and writing made us a good fit, too.

    • Faith BuchananFaith Buchanan
      Participant
      Post count: 11

      Hi Gaylene, thanks so much for being here! I’m curious what it was like going to university as an adult, and how you think that may have helped to shape your experience as a writer.

    • Lynne MartinLynne Martin
      Participant
      Post count: 3

      Hi Gaylene,

      I have your book sitting beside me, though I haven’t started it yet as I too have just returned to university. I’m a playwright, but I used to be a preacher, and I find that the writing requirements of my former job both are and are not serving me well in playwrighting. You used to be a journalist. How has that writing practice/style helped you, and how has it hindered you as a novelist?

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Hi Christine! Thanks for the question. In addition to what I’ve told Marjorie, Sandra was encouraging and yet she would “tell it like it is.” As writers, we need to hear what we are doing well but we can’t improve unless we know what we’re doing wrong. I ended my course with Sandra with a lengthy telephone conversation in which she gave me her overall impressions. I gained confidence working with her, and felt that maybe I really could send my novel out to publishers.

    • Marjorie PoorMarjorie Poor
      Participant
      Post count: 2

      Thanks, Gaylene! I’m looking forward to your next novel.

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Hi Faith! Thanks for the question. It was quite an eye-opener going back to school when I was nearly 50. As you know, I live in rural Manitoba so it meant rooming with our youngest daughter. I loved it! Being on campus with all those young people was awesome! My favourite class was my Advanced creative writing class. It was about twelve young adults and me! Of course, I was older than our professor. But the kids were very respectful of my “prairie” writing. Again, the experience gave me confidence. Not only in my writing course (where the prof told me to keep at it) but also my women’s studies prof told me I had an elegant writing style. A Strange Kind of Comfort is based on a short story I wrote for a chapbook our class put together at the end of the year. It was chosen by my classmates. And my second novel is also based on a short story I wrote for that class. I also learned that I am a novelist, not a short story writer! I have too much to say!

    • Faith BuchananFaith Buchanan
      Participant
      Post count: 11

      Thanks for sharing! I’m glad to hear your experience was positive and enriching.

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Hi Lynne! Thanks for the question. There’s a big difference and I think it was harder for me to write articles for newspapers because I am detail-oriented and I see things so vividly when I write. I did alot of feature stories, so I enjoyed those but I have to admit that writing some of my agricultural articles were kind of a drag. I’m a fiction writer at heart so I can’t say the journalism helped but it also didn’t hinder my writing. I may do a story some day about a small town journalist that solves a mystery, though!

    • Joy RenwickJoy Renwick
      Participant
      Post count: 16

      Are there particular challenges being a writer in a rural community? Are there particular benefits?

    • Christine DoerksenChristine Doerksen
      Participant
      Post count: 2

      Hi again,

      I’m curious to know why you had a personal care home as the center of the story. Was this first or did you put this “tie” in later?

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Hi Joy! Thanks for being here and for your good question! Yes, there are challenges being a writer in a rural community. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I answered an advertisement in a newspaper with regional distribution. There was a fellow writer looking to start a writer’s group. There are four women in our group; the other three are from Swan River. It was wonderful to meet these ladies and find someone who shared my love of writing. We meet about every six weeks and each of us has grown so much in our abilities. Best of all, we’ve become good friends. We often talk about how isolated we are from Winnipeg and it’s writing community, although two of us are members of the Writer’s Guild. So there aren’t opportunities to hone our skills through workshops, etc. We did have Armin Wiebe here at the Dauphin Library a number of years ago, so I took advantage of having him here to read a YA novel I had written. As for benefits…I live on a river and it’s a peaceful place to write. And of course, my small town gives me lots of ideas for characters and the rural landscape is very influential in my writing.

    • Bernice FraserBernice Fraser
      Participant
      Post count: 21

      Hi Gaylene, I loved watching your neighbourhood walk video! That’s for sharing that with us. Is there any “prairie writers” who really inspire you?

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Christine: I needed a place for Sarah and Caroline to come together. It definitely was an idea from the very beginning. I’ve had one close family member in a care home, so I felt comfortable writing about the atmosphere, the staff, etc. I also wanted to portray older women who juggle the responsibility of caring for an elderly relative with parenting/grandparenting/farming/working, etc.

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Thanks Bernice! I was quite nervous about “making a movie” so I’m glad you liked it. I studied Canadian lit back when I first went to university right out of high school. I loved Margaret Laurence and was so intrigued by her characters and the fact that she was from Manitoba. I also loved My Antonia by Willa Cather and Sinclair Ross’s novels. Also Dianne Warren and, of course, Sandra Birdsell. David Elias, Armin Wiebe, too.

    • Alina MooreAlina M
      Keymaster
      Post count: 4

      Hi Gaylene! I was curious about your writing routine, are you more of a morning or evening writer? What is your process like?

    • Lynne MartinLynne Martin
      Participant
      Post count: 3

      Ooh! I would read that mystery novel! Go for it!

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Thanks for all the great questions and for taking time to visit with me! I’ll tell you a bit about my next novel. It’s based on a short story called Found. Marissa and Nychuk are 11 and 15 when they lose their father. The story takes place between 1977-2019. I’m letting it sit and steep for awhile before I send it out after some recommendations from my writer’s group. I’m juggling chapters as I’m not sure I started the novel in the right place. Check out my Facebook page, Instagram page and my website, gaylenedutchyshen.com to keep up with my progress.

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Hi Alina! Thanks for the question. I am definitely a morning writer. I have a strict routine, especially when I’m in a first draft. I write from 9-12. I usually find the creative juices dry up after three hours. If I’m in the edit stage, I can work longer.

    • Joy RenwickJoy Renwick
      Participant
      Post count: 16

      Hi again. I’m curious if you have any particular rituals that help you get over the bump and actively start writing.

    • Lynne MartinLynne Martin
      Participant
      Post count: 3

      Thanks, Gaylene. I’ll be reading A Strange Kind of Comfort over Reading Week next week, and then I’ll look forward to your new one.

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Oops! I meant to say Marissa and TOM Nychuk… Also, Alina, my process is usually trying to write at least 1000 words a day during the first draft phase. I don’t leave until I get that minimum done and I often go over that word count. I think of writing like the game, Mother May I. Mostly baby steps forward, but the odd giant step happens, too, lol!

      • Alina MooreAlina M
        Keymaster
        Post count: 4

        lol, that’s great. I really like the idea of treating it as a game! Thank you for your thoughtful responses 🙂

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Joy…No, I don’t have any rituals. As I said, I like to write in the morning. I need quiet…no music or distractions. This summer I went out to our camper that was set up in our yard so I wouldn’t be disturbed by the phone or tempted to check my email or Facebook. I dream of writing in a French villa or at a seaside cottage somewhere but with Covid, that’s not going to happen!

    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Thanks so much for all your thoughtful questions and spending your time with me this evening. It’s wonderful to know readers appreciate my work. You can reach me anytime through social media. I’m always happy to hear from my readers.

      • Alina MooreAlina M
        Keymaster
        Post count: 4

        Thanks, Gaylene. Wonderful to connect with you tonight!

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