Archive for the ‘“big picture” questions’ Category

It’s time for this month’s group posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

That’s a brilliant question because it really made me sit back and think. My goals have changed a lot. When I started penning kids’ fiction as a seventeen-year-old, I was far removed from the reality of being an author.

Believe it or not, when I started out, personal computers were not yet a thing. Although some people had them, no one I knew owned one. And the internet was just a twinkle in the eye of a brainiac, somewhere. I spent the first decade writing the good old fashioned way, with a pen and paper. I was a teenager, starting out in the 1980’s, just following the thread of what interested me in terms of subject matter and genre.

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I worked a string of other jobs and often second jobs as well. Writing stories was what I did in my spare time, and it still is.

When I started out at seventeen, I wasn’t thinking of publication. I was impelled to share my creativity through children’s stories, so I followed it. It took me another ten years to start submitting to publishers. My ultimate writing goal at the age of twenty-seven was simple, to get published and make money.

I have an old book of ‘Intentions,’ which I write up each year like resolutions. I discovered that by the age of thirty my ultimate writing goal had morphed into: “I want my books to be a huge success like Harry Potter.”

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Wow, I sure didn’t aim low in those days. I was quite surprised by the audacity of my intention.

I admit I’ve reduced my ultimate writing goals as I’ve gone along. Which I think boils down to figuring out what you really want to do with your time. As you grow older, time becomes more precious. The entry for 2017 reads: I raise people’s awareness and bring joy, inspire and make people feel better through the power of story.

And with age, you get more realistic. I might not be the next J. K. Rowling.

These days, I’m a stay-at-home mum and caregiver to my thirteen-year-old and my middle son who has Downs’ syndrome. I write part-time. I have two stories published and two books which I self published. My wish list these days tends to focus on more meaningful things like wanting joy, and a sense of fulfilment.

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These days my ultimate writing goal is to write more of what I love.  However, the series I’m writing is anthropomorphic fantasy fiction about insects. It gets some strange reactions at times.

I’ll never forget the response of one assessor to my book,  The Or’in of Tane Mahuta. She said, “Great story, but lose the insects!” I couldn’t lose the insects, they were an integral part of the machine of the story.

One day, I will move on to new fields in fiction. For now, I want to see this series out and do the best I possibly can.

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One of the authors I like is Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels. He’s a real storyteller. Asked to give a tip recently for writers, he said, “Ignore all the tips. It’s got to be 100% your own product. As soon as you start thinking about what you should do, there’s a compromise and the spark goes. You’ve got to do what you want to do.”

Child really gets it. He’s talking about listening to the gut and the heart of the story. I love it. I’m ignoring all the tips. It’s 100% my anthropomorphic fantasy fiction about insects. If I want little critters creeping and flying and turning into human hybrids, I must write them. You’ve got to do what you want to do, right?

I wonder what my intention for 2019 will be? I think it’s going to be something along the lines of ‘I just want to be myself and enjoy the process!’

What about you? What are your Ultimate Writing Goals for 2018? Have you met them yet?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom. ~ J. G. Ballard

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“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”~ Maya Angelou

This famous saying is one of those truisms that seems well said when we hear them as young people, yet sinks in deeper and deeper the older we get, the more we realize the profound truth.

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Today marked a certain milestone.

My youngest son turned thirteen. He boldly crossed the threshold to teenager. To commemorate, I gifted him his grandfather’s razor. Though he isn’t shaving yet, he soon will be. The razor is good quality and with continued care will last him for years. I know the gift hit the spot because he examined the razor minutely, popped open the lid and looked inside. He had to plug it in and turn it on. As he navigates these wild waters of his teenage years, I want him to feel supported and to feel loved.

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I’m glad he liked his gift, and I’ll freely admit I’m relieved he’s not using the razor, yet. He might be jumping with giddy glee from milestone to milestone, but, poor mama back here needs to sit down a minute and get her breath. We’re at the stage now where his childhood is hurtling by so fast it’s giving me whiplash.

Today also happened to mark another important milestone.

It was the day my beloved “adopted grandfather” Bruce left Toastmasters. He retired after having been in the speakers’ association for twenty-six years, much to the chagrin of all present, especially me.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t know either of my grandfathers. Both sets of my grandparents lived in England. As a consequence, my entire life, I’ve idolised grandfathers and that patriarchal figure in the family.

In my writing, the grandfather figure always plays a key role. In the series I’m working on at present, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, the first book starts off with Aden’s conflicted relationship with his ‘Papa Joe.’ It ends in the third book, which I’m writing at present, The Last Tree, with Aden now the grandparent telling his grandchildren a bedtime story.

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My maternal grandparents, Evelyn and Alfred Leonard

To me, that is the penultimate circle of life, when you have the child and the elder present in a story. I may have never met my own grandfathers, however, I can indulge in the experiences I missed out on by vicariously living through my characters, and I must say it is very soothing and healing to do so. I thoroughly recommend it.

Spending time around my “adopted grandfather,” Bruce, has been a real tonic these last few years, also. I’ve enjoyed our friendship. Meeting him at Toastmasters each week has been a hoot.

On that day, nearly four years ago, when I dared try Toastmasters, I went along sceptical and highly self-conscious and absolutely terrified at the idea of tackling my all-time biggest fear, public speaking. I made myself go by assuring myself I didn’t have to join; I was just ‘going to have a look.’

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When I arrived, I saw two silver haired gentleman standing talking outside talking. Bruce shook my hand and welcomed me warmly.

I felt an instant gravitational pull towards this venerable elder. I sat next to him for the rest of the meeting, and Bruce brightly asked questions about me at every opportunity. He said he was 96-years-old, a war veteran. He had recovered to sprightly good health after having both knees replaced at the tender age of 90. I had made a friend.

Needless to say, I joined the club.

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After the nerve-wracked, heart-thumping, knee-knocking experience of delivering my first speech, I walked to the back of the room and Bruce stood there, clapping.

He said, “Congratulations, my dear! You’ve been blooded.”

It was something only a patriarch would say, and I loved him for it.

For the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to be guided by him through many of my speech projects. At Bruce’s farewell party today, held not four days out from his 100th birthday, our club said heartfelt goodbyes.

I gave a one minute speech and said, “Everyone asks Bruce, ‘what’s the secret of your longevity?’ It’s not vegetarianism. He makes every single person he meets feel special. For that reason, everyone he meets loves him. Bruce is surrounded by love everywhere he goes. That’s the real secret to his youth.”

Which brings us neatly back to where we started. How will you be remembered? By the way you made people feel.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”~ Malala Yousafzai

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012 (16)What a week! There is this thing kids with special needs do sometimes, which myself and friends who have special kids like to call, “running with Diablo.” It refers to those inexplicable times that come around with cyclical regularity, when our kids go off the rails for a short time.

Overnight, they go from sweet and obliging to fickle and resisting.

I’m not sure what sets Sam-the-man off. Our fifteen-year-old with Downs’ syndrome will periodically become impossible to deal with. What causes it? I’m not sure.

It never lasts more than a few days, yet while it’s here, he can cause merry havoc.

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Sam’s been running with Diablo this week. Yesterday, his teacher rang to say he’s not listening to any of the teachers in class. The day before, the taxi driver had to move him to the back seat, because Sam kept taking his shoes off and putting them in her face as she was driving. On Tuesday, my neighbour came to tell me Sam was in his school uniform lying on the grass verge. We ran down and there he was. He must have gotten off the taxi outside our house, as usual, but instead of walking up the drive to the house, he’d walked along the street and lain face down on the grass verge. Luckily he was unhurt. I thanked my neighbour and brought him inside, thanking our lucky stars as well.

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The rest of the time, Sam’s a model child! He will do everything he’s asked. He knows his daily routines, though he still needs a parent there to keep him on task. He can do everything for himself with guidance. It’s taken a lot of work and patience over the years to get him to this level of independence, but we’re here and so proud of his progress.

Sam’s doing really well in school and in general. He’ll happily sit and do his homework for an hour with his carer supporter in the evening. He’ll do anything he’s asked with a smile on his face that melts your heart.

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Then overnight, Sam is the exact opposite, he won’t do a thing I say, and he won’t go along with a single thing the family is doing. He plonks himself down and refuses to move. It’s like a switch is flipped. I talk to him a lot at these times, to explain why he has to do a thing. If he hears enough that makes sense to him, he’ll cooperate.

Next week, I’m attending another child behaviour workshop run by Sam’s school. A special needs mum needs tools in her kit!

The best tip I ever heard was “Distraction! Distraction! Distraction!” and it’s the parental trick I use with Sam most often.

They say the mental health of someone with Downs’ syndrome is five years younger than their physical age. Therefore, Sam is mentally around ten.

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When his behaviour derails, and he’s sitting on the floor refusing to get up and walk to the taxi, I divert his attention, “Oh, did you see that bird?” “Did I tell you about the thing we’re doing this weekend? Come on, get your shoes on and I’ll tell you.”

And the second best tip would be momentum. Once you’ve got them moving in the direction you want them to go/doing what you want them to do, KEEP GOING, do not stop!

Momentum is your friend.

A friend asked, “How do you cope?” Some days are harder than others.

Sam-the-man tests me sometimes to be more resourceful, and he keeps all of us on our toes. There are times when he’s locked us out of the house, or taken something important, like the remote for the garage or a personal device or car keys, and hidden them.

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We’ve lost many tv remotes and devices over the years that the phenomena even has a name, we call it a “Sammy special.”

The fact is it’s not easy, and as a parent I am tired a lot of the time.

I’m not sure whether his cyclical bad behaviour is a childhood thing he will grow out of or not. I remember my father asked me a couple of Christmases ago, “How much do you think Sam will grow up?” And I said, “I don’t know.” That’s the thing. The future is unknown. We’ll find out when we get there, I guess.

Meantime life is never boring, and I wouldn’t trade Sam for all the money in the world.

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with open eyes. ~ Nehru

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The All is Lost moment is powerful because it is primal ~ Cory Milles

Loss in the course of life is inevitable, yet we eventually become enriched and deepened by pain. We learn and grow from experiences of difficulty.

As writers, we can employ obstacles, failures and friction in a similar way, to force our characters to evolve.

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In his book, The Prophet, poet, Kahlil Gibran, writes of love, ‘He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant.’ This gives an apt metaphor for human life. In our short spans on this planet, we suffer and win and are made anew. ‘That you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.’

This is exactly which happens in life and what we seek to get right with writing fiction. It’s why people read, too.

As my teacher Kate de Goldi said, ‘We remember the readings that acted like transformations.’

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Author, PJ Reece wrote, ‘We’re not attracted to stories without conflict simply because we can’t learn anything from them. They are empty of the seeds that might nurture our own growth, in whatever direction that might be. Of course we love to read happy stuff in books too, but only after the hero has travelled his or her difficult path of personal growth and finally reached the reward for their journey.’

This is precisely why we like books with a solid definable problem.

Think Harry Potter vs Lord Voldemort, or Katniss vs the tyranny of the Capitol. We know who we’re cheering for and that there’s the promise of a good fight.

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All stories, since the first tales told around the campfire, capture the same essence, that of our collective struggle through life.

The stories we remember are those about characters who strive and fail. We love those who transcend their lower natures to become something more, because we relate to that battle. The triumph of our tiny hero, Bilbo Baggins, in The Lord of the Rings, when he throws the ring in the fiery pit is universal and the jubilation at the return of the king is the sort of life-affirming, inspiring fodder we will read for generations. They’re the stories about the human condition, our common travail, and they’ll never age.

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In the Warrior Writer’s course I took with tutor, Bob Mayer, he taught us that conflict is the fuel of a story. He also taught that the goals of the protagonist and antagonist must be opposed, although their goals don’t need to be the same thing.

Whether your antagonist is the ocean, a person, or an idea, in order for the core conflict to work, it must bring them against the protagonist in direct dispute. For one to achieve what they want, the other can’t achieve their goal. Therefore they become locked in a dilemma which needs to be resolved.

The questions which this tussle generates keep the readers glued.

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If your story is low key and quiet, then force the protagonist through inner fires. ‘The best stories — and the most lifelike — are ones that follow/force the protagonist through a series of disillusionments.’ Wrote author PJ Reece. ‘I see all protagonists as bumbling their way into the dark, otherwise they never leave their valley, the Valley of the Happy Nice People, and who wants to read about that? No one.’

In other words, if you want your story to be remembered, get the problem nailed down because a sturdy conflict can turn a mediocre story into a bestseller.

With a believable force opposing our hero, the characters are forced to make choices, and we ask which choices they will make and what will be the result. Result: reader engagement.

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Some stories have a background antagonist, who presents no immediate threat, in which case most of the conflict will come from friends, family, team members and “threshold guardians.” Yet, whether there’s a direct or indirect antagonist, each external mini-battle must expose more of the root of the character’s internal conflict.

Each test slowly grinds them to whiteness, teaching them a life lesson or giving them the option to change and grow.

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Within each story there are both internal and external sources of conflict. The internal relates to the character’s inner flaws which need to change. The external refers to the physical forces opposing him creating tension.

In every scene the ideal is to have both an external and internal conflict.

The transformation at the end of the book comes only after the protagonist confronts their limitations and defeats both them and the antagonist. Hopefully, there is a glorious resolution of storyline. There is a positive change in the central character arc, a blooming of the protagonist’s full potential, and a reward, a boon, “the gift of fire” to bring back home for the tribe.

Or as writer, David Farland said, ‘At the end of your novel, there are only three rules: Payoff! Payoff! Payoff!’

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Life is trouble. When everything goes wrong, what a joy it is to test your soul.’ ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

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A tragedy befell our garden this week of Edwardian proportions.

On Tuesday night, around nine o’clock, a storm sprang out of nowhere. It only lasted a few hours and yet, it did untold damage across our region. Trees fell down on people’s houses, on cars and across roads. Winds gusted 100 -160 kilometres an hour and in some places got up to 210 kilometres. A four story building under construction caved in, and there were power outs in many areas, leaving people without heating on the coldest night of the year.

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I went to bed around 9.30 on Tuesday night, afraid of the big gusts of wind roaring around the house. About half an hour later, I was woken by a loud, insistent banging on the door. My neighbour, Pete, stood on the doorstep in an oil slicker, holding a powerful torch, with the wind and rain howling behind him.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yes, why?”

“Your big tree’s fallen down.”

My heart sank. No. Not that tree.

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Not the tree my parents planted in 1962 when they first moved in. The tree my brother-in-law dubbed ‘The Jewel of the Garden’ for its radiant magnificence. The tree whose dramatic changing hues, shedding of leaves and regaining of resplendent green shoots has heralded the turning of the seasons throughout my life. The tree I went and hugged for a few days in a row after dad died, and sang to. No. Not that tree.

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I remember when dad came back to visit the old homestead, a few years ago. He walked out into the backyard to admire the liquid amber he’d planted fifty years before. His head tilted, and he marvelled, “It’s grown so big.”

No.

Not that tree.

I couldn’t bear to go and look at it that evening and, besides, it was too wild outside. I waited until the next morning. Then, I went out into the garden, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Most of the main column was gone. My nephew, who lives in the sleep out, said he could hear branches cracking in the storm. He’d gone outside to get a look and could see the big gusts of wind whipping the branches around. He went back to bed and threw a mattress over himself when he heard another loud crack, then a resounding thud when the top half fell.

Miraculously, it had crashed into Pete’s backyard, missing everything except for his clothesline.

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I was relieved to see the remaining trunk was still firmly planted in the ground and that many of the branches still seemed strong.

The tree removal guy says he hopes to salvage what’s left. He can trim the branches and trunk. The tree will be half the size, but the prognosis is that it might survive to be hugged another day.

Boy, I hope so.

I don’t care to lose too many more family members at the moment.

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The theme of loss and the reality of it in our daily lives is difficult.

At the end of the middle grade novel I’m working on, The Last Tree, when the hero, Aden misses his elderly mentor, Geo, he asks himself, ‘Is this what it’s like to grow up, there’s more pain and losing people?’

I think that’s one of those storms we all have to go through, when we start to mature, in becoming aware of our mortality and that our parents aren’t going to live forever. There are moments of understanding that one day we’ll have to find our way through this world alone, and one day, we’ll take the place of our parents as the elders in our own families.

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The elderly or grandparent character in a story always represents our mortality, by the nature of their advanced age, they represent impermanence.

I love to write the grandparents and always include them in my fiction. The truth is, that half the Jewel of the Garden must be taken away, that grandparents will die some day, and that our beloved parents will one day do the same, and so will we. But, the student, the child, the garden will carry on. The new growth will replace the old tree. And the next generation will blossom and thrive and have their season in the sun. That is the flow of life, and there is comfort in that knowledge and wisdom in acceptance.

Have you ever weathered a major storm or lost a tree you loved? What did you do? What nugget of wisdom did you gain from the experience?

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(Dad’s grandson and great-granddaughter)

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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If we know how to appreciate these beautiful things, we will not have to search for anything else. Peace is available in every moment, in every breath, in every step. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

As a matter of fact my life has been cloudy lately and there have been a few deluges as my beloved father died in February, following my mother, who had died two years before. I would say that the process of writing itself really helped me come to terms with things.

I’ve always found it cathartic to write.

I learned to read and write at the age of seven. I enjoyed to write stories. As a teenager, I was still writing stories, and I started to keep a personal journal as a way of releasing my fears and worries and doubts. Writing has been an essential lifeline throughout my life. It helps me make sense of things to see the thoughts take form into words.

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Writing blog posts about the passing of both my parents was therapeutic and helped ease the pain. I was able to share with people through my blog and my newsletter about what had happened.

Going back to my work-in-progress was a bit trickier. At times of great emotion, I tend to put down my book and walk away for a while, sometimes for long periods.

Top Tip: Set a time limit.

I’ve learned that it works when I say to myself, you can grieve, be with family, however you have to be back at work by ‘such-and-such’ date.

Top Tip: Stick to your deadline.

It’s a bit of structure imposed upon the chaos. Once, there’s a set deadline to return to my writing desk, I try to stick to it.

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Top Tip: to get writing again, sit down at my computer, open the document and start.

Every time, before I know it, the magic starts to take over.

Right away, there is engagement with the work.

It’s like feeling you’re exactly where you should be and there’s nothing you’d rather be doing.

Once back in the zone, writing, editing, working on my WIP, I feel my balance return and sense of equilibrium become restored.

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As the poet, Sage Cohen, said so eloquently, ‘for me, writing has always been alchemy: from resistance to acceptance, from pain to beauty.’ Yes.

The world in creation begins to shine. The right words come. But what it takes is showing up.

The really successful authors are those who treat it like a job. They stick their butts in their office chairs and write from nine to five.

In reality, they’ll put in far more hours than a forty hour week. It’s a time intensive profession. The reward always comes in the fiction itself. We do the work. We show up.

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Then, we open ourselves to ‘being alone with the gods’ as Charles Bukowski put it and that’s where the transcendent joy takes over. When we’re lucky, sometimes we catch the lightning and write it down perfectly. Or as Cohen said, ‘transcend the events of our lives, finding a resonance of grace simply by writing something just right.’

Before you know it, skies are blue and the sun is shining again, and you’re scampering around capturing words like butterflies.

For the magic to happen though, the only way is to keep on writing, to put B.I.C butt in chair.

What’s that old saying, the harder I work, the luckier I get? That sure is true for me.

How about you. What keeps you writing?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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There is no other feeling like that, you will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire. ~ Charles Bukowski

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I was talking with friends at Toastmasters this week. We find solace as women, in sharing stories with one another; it helps us to find our peace with the way things are. I and two other Toastmasters are in the same situation at present. We’re wondering what to do with all of our parents’ beloved possessions.

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If it was up to my nephews, they’d “back a truck up to grandpa’s section and just throw everything in.” But, it’s different for me and my women friends.

Our parents’ things, their worldly treasures have emotional resonance.

We value their collections, their chosen artworks, however, we can’t keep all of our parents’ possessions. It would be impossible. So we’re left to walk the tightrope of this critical decision making on what to throw and what to keep.

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One friend was saying her mother had collected the old fashioned bread plates and had a hundred and twenty of the pottery bread bases hanging on the walls in her house. Now, the family is stuck with what to do with them.

My other friend has an elderly mother who is currently downsizing, while she herself is retiring to a small town. Her mother had a treasured full dinner set with gold trim, which she’d bought when she first arrived in New Zealand, in the 60’s. My friend can’t take the big dinner set with her into retirement. She’s going to offer them to her daughter but her daughter is into minimal living. So the freighted question has to follow? Re-cycle, re-use or reduce?

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It’s such a hard call, because it feels like you’re parting with your parents in a very real way, dispersing their belongings, which they had gathered over a lifetime, while they raised you. I want to keep everything!

But, then I would be repeating the same cycle of having loads and loads of possessions I neither use nor look at.

I think I’m with my friend’s daughter. I prefer the idea of minimalism.

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If there’s one thing that dad’s death has brought home for me, it’s that we have far too much “stuff” generally. My parents, god bless them, liked collecting cool things too, shells, rocks, driftwood, amber (kauri gum). Yet, the boxes upon boxes of these treasures were accompanied by hordes of acquisitions over the years, which they had stored in the garage and forgotten about.

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I think it was after emptying the tenth or twelfth trailer full of rubbish from my parent’s property and seeing all the old crockery, and broken appliances, and junk going into that landfill, that I felt, this is wrong. Over consumption is killing our environment.

It made me want to do better, to yearn for simplicity in my own life at home.

After coming home from the first working bee with my siblings at my parent’s house, I started spring-cleaning my house. I gave away boxes of unnecessary bits and bobs to charity. Because I had seen firsthand that we’re weighted down with belongings we never look at and never use.

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At the same time, I feel a great need to simplify primarily by consuming less.

I need to be far more discerning in my shopping choices, from now on. I want to buy quality brand products when I do need to buy things, and buy as little things we don’t need, as possible. That’s the goal, anyway.

Wish me luck!

How about you, have you felt the need to simplify?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings

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I remember how sad it was when mum died in 2015, but, now, with dad’s passing, it’s a whole other thing. I feel as if my world has turned upside down, and nothing will ever be the same again.

While I still had one parent alive, there was still that level of compassionate protection against the barbs of the world. There was still that parental feeling of someone being there who truly cares about you more than any other person. There was still that wise older person to turn to for advice.

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But, with both of my parents gone, the feeling of support has been severed completely. It’s like going into free fall. I don’t know where earth is.

The only remedy for me in the last two weeks has been working in the garden. I’ve spent the weeks, weeding and digging, and planting trees and flowers. I have needed to walk on the grass barefoot and get my feet back on the ground and plant new things, to remind myself of life on-going and eternal.

Yesterday, I asked my friend about this strange feeling I have of being at sea, disconnected and discombobulated, and she said she still feels the same way about the loss of her parents seven years later. I get the sense this might be something you learn to live with. “But with the years, it hurts less,” said my friend.

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I’m glad to hear that.

Losing the second parent is a broad type of grief that is multi-fold. There is a real loss, an empty feeling. There is a feeling of absence in the upper tier of our family. There is a sense of connections lost with the past. There is no longer a shoulder to cry on.

There is no one to sit and tell the family stories. That’s a hard one. I console myself I’ll have to start telling the family stories for my own children and grandchildren.

Now, I’m the parent. I have to answer my own and my children’s questions.

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So, there is this feeling of roles having changed, and the season of all our lives has irrevocably moved on. One world has sloughed away and a new world has taken its place.

And, it’s a strange and sober world without my mother and father.

I hadn’t realized that they buffered me while alive; they stood between me and heaven. With dad gone now, too, heaven draws a little closer. It’s my turn to stand on the top rung. It’s my turn to walk the walk of the kamatua, the “elder” level of this family. It’s my turn to start the walk of the grandmother, the crone.

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My parents got to live long healthy lives into their eighties. With both of them gone, I’m reminded of my own mortality. As the priest Father Tony Delsink, said in his sermon at dad’s Committal Service, “When someone close to us dies, it’s a wakeup call.”

I keep trying to explain it to friends, but nothing ever quite nails the way I’m feeling: I miss dad, I have new responsibilities, and I’m suddenly old. At the same time, I’m truly deeply appreciating every moment, loving my kids and nature and life, because I have this fresh new awareness of how short life is. How precious.

As a writer, I seek to write and see the feelings transform into words that bloom. That is part of the process of grieving for me. This is my third blog post in as many weeks on the subject of the death of my parents. I think about them and our history together, the times we shared, and the implications of this new loss to our family.

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The changes that are taking place in our family are really profound. There’s a seriousness that has entered my life with my second parent passing away.

My siblings and I get to make big decisions about what to do with my father’s estate, his belongings, the bills, and so on. There are heart rending jobs to do, like washing my dad’s clothes, selling his car, and dismantling some of his beloved, well-overstuffed, cobwebby garage workshop, the inevitable cleaning out of his drawers and cupboards. I’m sure there’ll be other poignant moments too, as we gather to work on dad’s property in the months ahead. The gradual, loving dismantling of a well-lived life.

Then once the work is done, we’ll each get down to the real work, of going on with our lives without him.

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Talk to you later,

Yvette K. Carol

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600 BC, Lao Tzu ~ “The muddiest water is cleared as it is stilled.”

 

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

Writing fantasy for children is a not exactly a hot genre. It’s difficult to do well, and as Terry Pratchett once said, there’s always been this ‘cloud of disapproval around the fantasy genre,’ as if it’s somehow the second cousin of more serious or entertaining popular fiction.

‘But some of the reasons are easy to see. The sheer torrent of the stuff for one thing. The telling and retelling. All those new worlds and eternal heroes.’ Yeah, I get it, too. Even for me, fantasy can get annoying, and yet, I can’t deny the draw. It’s what I loved to read as a child, and it’s what I love to write now.

Who cares about being cool or trendy?

For most of my thirty-five years writing for children, I’ve been writing “fantasy animal tales’ and they’re even less of a hot topic than pure fantasy. Yet, the roots of fantastic tales about animals, especially talking animals, go back to our very first oral traditions of storytelling, as far back as 600 B.C. and the time of Aesop.

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Why does this particular niche appeal to me? Kate de Goldi said once ‘writers always have their story, their palette, driven by something they find interesting that they can’t explain.’

I feel the answers lie in childhood.

I look back at my past, and I think I was a total nerd. Oh, the joy I used to get from reading a new book. To visit the library and get new books for free seemed such a delicious and exciting power to have. What to read? The choices were endless.

As a young child, I recall the impact of unexpected bliss I felt on the day I opened Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson, and read ‘Chapter 1. In which Moomintroll, Snufkin and Snif find the Hobgoblin’s hat; how five small clouds unexpectedly appear, and how the Hemulen finds himself a new hobby.’ It was a profound moment.

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I was immediately transported somewhere else. I flew away to a far more fascinating place than my powerless world, as a small child growing up in the urban landscape and a working class family.

Pure fantasy seems to deal in the fulfilment of desire, the yearning of the human heart for a kinder world, a better self, a wholer experience, a sense of truly belonging, wrote David Pringle.

Through these fantasies I read: the Moomintroll series, and the Chronicles of Narnia, the ghost stories, myths and legends, I escaped through their portal, to lands far away, where exciting magical things happened that matched the limitlessness of my imagination.

These books made my childhood more wonderful and alive.

When I first approached writing fiction for children, it was natural to reach for the subject matter which intrigued me as a young person, the genre of animal fantasy. That’s where the heart lay. It was as simple as that.

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I think it was Thoreau who coined the famous advice for writers ‘know your own bone.’

It was writer/teacher, Kate de Goldi, who said, ‘Your idiosyncratic fascination is why you were made and set here.’

In other words, in order to be true to who we are as writers, we have to find the courage to follow what truly moves us, to write what our hearts sing to read and what lights us up inside. That takes undeniable courage, to dig down to the core and come up with one’s raw innermost truths, and then own them.

I used to be ashamed of my genre. I did a lot of writing but not a lot of submitting. When I did submit, I got responses like, “no one’s buying fantasy,” or “no one’s interested in reading about talking animals.” So, I submitted less often until I stopped altogether.

That’s where self publishing is king for authors like me, who write in less than popular genres. We don’t need a nod from the gatekeepers anymore to see our books in print. We nerds can say, “I’ll publish fantasy animal tales if I want to.” And, “Nerds rule!”

What do you love about the genre you write in?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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When she is most lucky, the poet sees things as if for the first time, in their original radiance or darkness: a child does this too, for he has no choice. Edwin Muir

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Our fifteen-year-old Sam-the-man has the face of a flower and the temperament to match. People love him. ‘He has something special,’ said a friend, ‘he’s open.’ At the same time, the fact he has Down’s syndrome means he is five years younger mentally than his actual age. So, while his physical self might be fifteen, his mental self is 9-10-years-old. And just as when you have a small child, when he leaves to spend the weekend with his father, the first thing that needs to be done to restore the house to sanity is to clean up.

Having a child with special needs is like raising a perpetual child. There are joys and there is continuous work to be done.

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As the parent to a special needs child, there is only the unknown instead of a finish line in sight. I use the metaphor of ‘the child who can never grow up’ to try and share my understanding thus far.

Sam’s our Peter Pan. God love him, he does a chore when I ask but, as the eternal child, he simply also creates a mess wherever he goes.

There’s always a sea of crumbs extending out from where he’s been sitting and sometimes funny smells, I find old bits of food, sticky patches on tabletops, writing on the wall, or the furniture, and globs of unmentionable things. The bathroom always needs a good clean.

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Sam has no concept of keeping track of things or the consequences of his behaviours. Sometimes, I find a random object has been broken, or – as I did yesterday, I literally walk into a sea of orange juice and discover that Sam had spilt his drink. He’d put the cup away carefully in the kitchen and then moved to a room where there was no sticky juice spilt all over the floor and started playing happily there. He would have been completely oblivious to the possibilities that could follow leaving a sea of liquid on the floor. Luckily, I was barefoot and ran away for a mop and bucket.

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I looked into Sam’s guilt-free, innocent eyes afterwards, and I marvelled at him anew. His motivations are never vindictive, his motivations are always pure. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’d never hurt someone on purpose. His mind doesn’t work that way. It’s not preoccupied.

Sam doesn’t worry about things, he doesn’t anticipate harm. He’s always right here now in the present moment.

A year ago, it took me six weeks; from the moment the first bruise appeared on his legs, to realise someone was harming him. I discovered the boy called James next to him in the taxi, was a serial abuser, who had a reputation for hurting other kids. Sam had suffered this boy’s advances, an hour each way, to school and back every day, and never said a word, never showed any change in the way he felt about going to school or coming home.

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And he’s intelligent, Sam is smart. He can read, write, use a computer, he can use any device after watching someone use it once. He’s not dumb. Although he can’t speak clearly, he can get his message across. No. It wasn’t about being unable to communicate the fact he was being bullied every day. Rather, it was his ability to take anything in stride and to be in the moment. The bullying didn’t exist the instant he left the van or prior to getting back into it, simply because it wasn’t happening before of after.

Yes, Sam teaches me every day.

Anything that happens in his life, he’s able to take it in stride. It’s like living with a mini guru.

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I remember when Sam was born and we found out all the facts like one baby in 600 is born with Downs’ syndrome, they still don’t know why. We found out the official name is Trisomy 21 which stands for the extra chromosome.

Being classed as a “severe disability,” the embryos can be aborted right up till birth.

His father and I had no idea then, the amazingly transformative journey which lay ahead of us, raising Sam: through all the trials and the tribulations, through the years of watching him struggle, taking one step forward three steps back, to achieve every little milestone other children take for granted.

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It took Sam a year to be able to sit by himself, four years to learn to walk; it took him till the age of ten to be able to walk down a flight of stairs, and thirteen years to become fully toilet trained. Everything he’s learned has been hard-won. Yet, that has made every goal achieved much more satisfying. To watch Sam today wash himself in the bath, dress himself, shave his own stubble, and walk confidently to the taxi in the morning, I brim with pride, because I know how far we’ve come. And I also know how far we have yet to go.

It’s not easy but it’s a real privilege to raise a child with Downs’ syndrome.

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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What’s so dreadful about Downs’ syndrome? ~ Sally Phillips

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