By: Tony Davis
Saying Orysia Dawydiak has worked closely with animals is an understatement.
She read an excerpt from a short story collection she and other female writers are working on for release next year.
“It was late August 1979, in Kansas, hot and sticky,” Dawydiak said. “…my plastic encased arm lodged shoulder deep in the rectum of a cow, a torrent of sweat runs down my face, stings my eyes.”
Three years earlier when Dawydiak began to study embryology as a graduate student, livestock artificial insemination wasn’t on the radar. “My main career before I retired was at the Atlantic Veterinary College as a medical technologist,” she said at the P.E.I. Writer’s Guild open mic series at Receiver Coffee Co. in Charlottetown.
Born in Ontario, Dawydiak has lived on P.E.I. since 1986 and her career and love for animals has lead her to writing books. Dawydiak said she has been writing stories since she was a child.
“I’ve always been torn between science and the arts.”
Dawydiak’s next book Rika’s Shepherd set in P.E.I. launches 2:00 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Confederation Centre Public Library.
Rika is an energetic girl helping her father run their farm and household since her mother died. Rika takes care of a small flock of sheep. One thing which would make her job easier is a dog she could train to herd. However, things begin to unravel when a coyote attacks the flock.
It is a much different story than Dawydiak’s first novel House of Bears which loosely follows her family history of leaving Eastern Europe during WWII and emigrating to Canada.
“The book talks about families like that and the coming of age and different relationships and conflicts between people coming from a different culture and dropping into a new culture…,” Dawydiak said.
Dawydiak also plans to release the third book in her “Kira trilogy” which started with Kira’s Secret, a novel about a 12-year-old girl who becomes a mermaid.
Kelly Sampson was at the P.E.I. Writers Guild open mic to hear Dawydiak and other Island writers read. Sampson who teaches blueprint reading and drafting at Holland College is reading the first book in the Kira series.
“I am immediately involved in Kira’s story. It draws me in. I think the reader knows what her secret is, but she doesn’t, and I think she has a few secrets,” she said.
Dawydiak’s new book is much different than others she has written.
“It is quite reality based, and much different than the story of Kira the mermaid.”
Dawydiak expresses herself in different styles, she said.
“When I try to express myself sometimes it’s more of a journalist style, sometimes it’s fantasy, sometimes it’s poetry.”
Keith Burgoyne thinks Dawydiak’s range of style made her a great featured reader for the P.E.I. Writer’s Guild open mic.
“Orysia has been a consistent player in the island’s literary community for years. She has held a number of positions within the PEIWG board of directors, has attended nearly every event we coordinate and has been a very active writer with numerous exciting writing projects in her queue.”
Burgoyne enjoys Dawydiak’s work because of her attachment to animals which he said comes through in her writing, subtly revealing her work in animal sciences.
“She’s an excellent writer, and the love and respect she has for animals hooks me, draws me in, and turns those animals into people for me. I find the same allure in her writing that I see in the likes of James Herriott’s.”
When Dawydiak’s writes, she uses colorful descriptions, dialogue and storytelling while weaving in some education.
“That’s the way people learn, they need to be intrigued and want to read more… I think that’s what I did with the book.”
To hear from more Island writers, the P.E.I. Writers’ Guild runs every second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at Receiver Coffee Co.
Confederation Centre Library
Sept. 22 at 2 pm.