Archive for the ‘“big picture” questions’ Category

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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I’m sorry to tell you, but you are not equal. And neither are your daughters. ~ Dina Leygerman

Just prior to Christmas the local authorities took a chainsaw to our driveway in order dig a trench under the lower concrete pad and to put fibre into our street. The gravel-covered trench has remained open until now. The natural forces of our vehicles driving over it combined with gravity are causing the other sections of the pad to weaken and subside. Knowing the guys were only planning to patch the gap, I realised we could end up left with the damage. So, I decided to have a talk with the workmen the next time I saw them.

It just so happened that when I walked down the drive to speak to the workers, my ex husband had arrived.

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The head engineer stepped over the hole in the driveway and shook my ex husband by the hand.

Undaunted, I began explaining to the engineer what had happened so far with the drive. He listened, and then replied to the ex husband and not to me.

No matter who I spoke to, these guys were oblivious to me. When it came to talking about the job needing to be done, I was invisible to them and they were deaf, dumb and mute towards me. We did reach an agreement, via my ex as go-between, that they’d re-concrete the lower pad as well for a fee. And, I came away, fuming.

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Later that day, I said to my nephew, who is half Maori, ‘You experience racial inequality, I experience gender inequality.’

He said, ‘You should have just marched in between them, shook the guy’s hand firmly and said, “I’m the owner of this house, you talk to me”.’

He’s right, of course.

I thought about it afterwards. These are very complex thought and belief systems being dismantled, at present.

It’s clear that however much we might think we have striven to move beyond such limiting concepts as gender definitions, that we will continue to experience those beliefs as the negative attitudes of some people. And, further, that because we’re used to these old thought systems, we still sometimes play along with them.

Thanks to those women who have gone before us, we have come a long way in the march to equality. It’s sad we still do not have equal rights. In reality, women are still paid less to do the same work. In New Zealand, we have the smallest gender gap in wages, at 5.6%. In the United States’ the pay gap is 20%. (D.L’s post)

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There are still imbalances within our society which are not okay and haven’t changed a lot. I think writer and blogger, Dina Leygerman, put it best in her latest post, when she said of the modern woman, ‘You are still objectified. You are still catcalled. You are still told you’re too skinny or you’re too fat. You’re still told you’re too old or too young. You’re applauded when you “age gracefully.” You’re still told men age “better.” You’re still told to dress like a lady. You are still judged on your outfit instead of what’s in your head. Our equality is an illusion.’ “You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry.” by @dinachka82

Yes, it is a trick of the mind to think we’re all equal.

But, I venture to put forth the notion, that it’s just as much a trick of the mind to think we need be restrained in any way from bursting free of that idea. Gender inequality is, after all, another thought or series of thoughts.

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As the ancient Hawaiians said, where attention goes, energy flows.

What my brilliant nephew did was to remind me, ‘you could have reacted differently. But you didn’t. You kowtowed. You gave up. You didn’t stand up and get strong in the face of sexism.’

I saw myself from his point of view. In his eyes, I had let myself become less and I conformed to the definition, instead of having a fresh reaction and changing it.

I learned a lot from that encounter with those workmen and then, the conversation following it with my nephew.

The next time there are a group of men working on my property, I can say, ‘I own this house, talk to me first.’ There’s my side of this equation too, as a woman that I start to act equal. At the same time as men need to cast off those old belief systems, I do too.

The challenge is there, can I find my own reserves of strength? Can I locate my voice and plant my feet, when I need to stand up and assert myself? I don’t know but I intend to find out.

So, are the genders equal, yet? No. But we can take the steps together towards the goal.

Which ideas do you want to break free of in 2018?

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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 think when you have kids at the age of fifteen and twelve. you’re daily reminded by the sheer size of your children that the days of raising them are nearly over. At this stage, every milestone, every Christmas and New Year’s, has a slight touch of pathos, and there is the ever present awareness of appreciating their last days of childhood, their last carefree days of their youth.

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The six weeks the boys have off from school every summer has been one of the parts of parenting I’ve relished over the years. Never more so than now.

Of course, for a writer, who works from home, it is also a lot noisier, and it is more chaotic and harder to concentrate having the kids underfoot, yet, it’s an undeniable opportunity to spend time and bond together.

I would never allow myself to take that sort of time off writing usually, but because the kids need shepherding, help, driving about, as well as to be fed and watered during the holidays, I say, ‘it’s okay, I must.’ I end up taking the breaks with them.

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That’s no mean feat, because it takes a lot to stop me. I’m like a speeding locomotive. I get so much done during the year that when the festive season approaches, I’ll typically keep writing right up to Christmas Eve. This last Christmas, I stayed at my desk until 11.30 p.m. on the 24th before I finally conceded and closed the file on the work-in-progress, The Last Tree, and put the computer away.

When I finally do go on holiday, I like to go off the grid. I don’t take any devices with me, not even a phone. I think time away from the internet is very important for the creative soul, to replenish itself in nature and natural things.

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The kids and I, along with my eldest son spent the festive break with family at dad’s place, from Christmas to after New Year’s, for days of sun, sand and surf.

Burying children repeatedly in the sand

IMG_1454Eating fish and chips with the cousins

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hanging out together

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climbing mountains…

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…and more eating together.

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Once the kids and I returned to the city, we spent a day at the beach, a couple of days shopping for gadgets and supplies, a picnic with the family, friends coming over, dinner out, as well as a day trip to the fun fair.

It’s two weeks into the New Year and I still haven’t returned to work fully. It’s lovely to let go of the reigns, to take the foot off the accelerator for a few weeks, and remember what it is to have no agenda apart from having fun and connecting with the family, with no jobs to do other than to keep the food coming!

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We’re nearing the end of the kids’ long break, though. There are only one and a half weeks left. Thoughts turn towards preparation for school: stationary, uniforms, shoes, and of course, paying the various fees. But, there will be one or two more “play dates” for the boys and most likely, a few swims first.

All in all, our break has covered the bases, and I have to say, I like the feeling of 2018. Heading into the year of the Earth Dog, despite everything going on in the world, I feel a tentative optimism.

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I’m reminded of a great one of my dear grandmother’s invocations, once said to my sister and me and never forgotten.

One day when Gran was struggling with her health issues, she said to us, ‘let us go forward with a confident sense of anticipation.’ That quaint saying or “Nanism,” as I once coined my grandmother’s little repeated phrases, has become a favourite of ours, and it encapsulates my sense of the year ahead.

What’s your sense of 2018? Can you move forward with a confident sense of anticipation? 

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body, work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness too. ~ Holly Butcher

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Over the festive period and summer holidays this year, I’ve been getting out more socially. My oldest friends finally managed to prise me out of my writer’s cave. I get so intense about my work, that it’s actually quite a relief to take a minute off and be reminded to cut loose again. When a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in thirty-five years, turned to greet the rest of us old high school mates, as we arrived in the bar last night with, “Right ladies, it’s time for cocktails,” you know it’s time to party.

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Now that my friends and I are into our fifties, the conversation topics will always include stories of our children and aging parents. Romy Halliwell put it best when she said; Middle age is that time in life when children and parents cause you equal amounts of worry.

Yet, there is great comfort and surcease to be had by sharing these stories of anxiety. We hear tips, we gain new ideas for how to do things.

Each event has been a lot of fun! It’s nice to see everyone again and catch up.

At the same time, I approach social events a little differently to other people. As a writer, I absorb lots of details, and a party is like being bombarded with information. Israeli author, David Grossman, once said, ‘Telling your secrets to an author is very much like hugging a pickpocket.’ That’s a great analogy. I come home from social events loaded with ideas and voices and colours, enriched with the minutiae of people’s lives.

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The conversations have covered all the important bases, too: we’ve discovered one another’s current home locations, marital status, and career situations.

There is one subject however, which I try to avoid at all costs. Money. The stark reality for the majority of authors, is that they will never recoup the production costs, let alone make a living out of writing fiction.

From what I understand, very few fiction authors do.

When talking about the subject of money, I always think of a friend who collaborated with us on the Kissed by an Angel anthology. Ellen Warach Leventhal. Ellen said that, during an author visit to an Elementary School in the States, this was her favourite response from a fourth grader: “You work hard, you don’t know if you’ll ever get paid for it, and you aren’t rich? Man, not sure I want to do that.”

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Or, I remember picture book creator, Don Tate’s recent Facebook post, which said, ‘Book birthdays are exciting but, let’s face it, they’re quiet. After many years of hard work, a book is finally available for sale. There are no trumpets. There is no confetti. Heck, there ain’t even no money. So, I like to make my book birthday’s as special as possible.’

Good on him, for throwing a big shindig to celebrate every book, and for being honest about this business.

A top tier of authors do make a fantastic living, and there is good money to be made. The rest of us have to slog it out for the sales. Like most authors and artists I know, I have to maintain a whole variety of other income streams, in order to survive.

Therefore, when I go out socially, and I’m making conversation with old mates, it gets awkward when everyone is comparing “what are you doing now” stories.

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My tale of hard won self-published books comes across sounding pretty weak, even to my ears, alongside the dizzying career heights of my professional female friends.

After listening to their stellar achievements I heard myself saying, “Producing a book is a lot of hard work.” “I need to sell a hundred books to get my first royalty cheque.” Somehow, it didn’t sound quite as glamorous!

Then, I thought of the letter left by Holly Butcher, the twenty-seven-year-old with cancer, which I read on Facebook today. She said of our worries, I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go.

This reminded me about to get real about what matters.

Last night, instead of trying to compete with success stories, I concentrated on sharing with my friends how much fun and fulfilment I get from writing fiction for children. Do what makes your heart sing, right? In the end, that’s what really matters.

Is your profession your passion in 2018?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘I’d rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet.’ ~ Jack London

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Any book that helps a child to form the habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. ~ Maya Angelou

When I was small, our father used to read us a bedtime story every night. My brother and I would lie in our beds after all the bedtime rituals had been done. We’d yell, “Ready!” and dad would come down to sit in our room and read us the next precious pages in whatever book we were reading. He read us the classics, Wind in the Willows, The Water Babies, The Jungle Book, Treasure Island, and Robinson Crusoe. We grew up with a love for stories.

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It is as writer, Sage Cohen said, that we ‘come into this world hard-wired for the repetition of sound, rhythm and pattern in language. Before we can even speak, we delight in recognizing our own experience and learning about those unlike ours through the stories we are told.’ There is a primordial response of satisfaction to hear a good story, and for the writer it is the same joy to write one.

When you start out as a book lover who turns into a children’s writer you are deeply connected to the meaning and purpose of fiction. Michael Morpurgo said, ‘It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children.’ We write because that love still lives and resonates inside us. Writers'_Week_Kate_de_Goldi_Adelaide_Festival_medium

We can still remember the special hushed feeling, like we had entered a cathedral, which we had as a young person every time we opened a book and stepped inside another world. We can still remember some of the tales and how we felt.

As author, Kate de Goldi once said, ‘We still remember readings that acted like transformations’.

I took a couple of writing for children courses with Kate de Goldi. I was struck when she said that she ‘never writes about or for children. I write for the once and always child in myself.’

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I related to that idea and I let rip, writing what the wild little girl inside wanted to say.

The danger for me, as an introvert, is that I can go far into my own world and lose contact with people. It’s easy to become distanced from the reading audience.

Yesterday, I was pried out of my bunker by well-meaning friends and forced to go to a Christmas party. I trooped along with an eye on the clock. Yet, the most extraordinary thing happened. I had the experience of meeting my first “fan.” Blake is the 8-year-old grandson of a friend. He happens to be a voracious reader, bless his soul, who ‘devours books’ as his grandmother put it.

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Blake had read my first book, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and had been waiting for the sequel. When I gave him The Sasori Empire, he carried it with both hands, staring all the while at the cover. He walked straight to a chair, sat down and started reading. When I left the party two hours later, Blake was still reading.

I could have wept. This experience was revelatory for me. I saw with my own eyes, a child who loves to read, diving headfirst into my world. A child who was engrossed in my story.

This simple situation took me out of my “shoes” as the author and put me into the shoes of the “reader.” I felt the responsibility to do justice to the world I’ve created, and to honour the needs of the reader, to deliver the best story I can.

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It had the singular effect of realigning me with my writer’s oath. I was reminded that once one has taken the reader on a journey, the responsible author ushers them safely home to a satisfactory conclusion. I recalled the pinkie swear to resolve all the questions and storylines raised.

Seeing that precious beautiful young reader deep into his book, (my book!), reminded me that my pen is a direct conduit to young readers’ hearts and minds. I have a duty to him and to all young readers to do the best I can. These years of reading literature will be some of the best and most exhilarating of their lives. I have to raise my game to be worthy of the challenge.

What a gift. And, just in time for Christmas.

That’s the New Year’s resolution sorted! Have you ever had a situation which made you remember your reader?

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Talk to you later.

Happy Holidays!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.’ ~ E.B.White

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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: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

What a great question! This is the perfect time of year for reflection. Yet, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to look back at all or get any perspective. November was a rush from start to finish, and so I’m going to post the December question early  and get a head start. I appreciate the prompt to pause, take a minute and think about it.

Things lately have been great, but the start of the year was rocky and hard going. I went through a self-publisher’s nightmare.

I went Indie in 2015, publishing my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’ The first volume in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver series was relatively painless, using the services of a local company, BookPrint. They did all the layout and formatting and cover design for me and being local, it was easy to work together.

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At the beginning of this year, for the second volume in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ I decided to try a new route and use Createspace services. Everyone had spoken highly of them, and I thought they would be a viable alternative, as well as being more cost effective.

It ended up turning into a six month comedy of errors. It ended up costing me double when I had to withdraw my book from Createspace and get BookPrint to finish the job. It ended up making me ill with stress and worry.

I wrote a blog past during that time, ‘Quit or Stay’ post, and Kristen Lamb responded, ‘Life knocks us down, but that’s just life. The getting up? All on us.’

It encouraged me to hear from my idol. I remember I took great heart from the stirring poem Kristen put me onto in her response, How Did You Die? By Edmund Vance Cooke:

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The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce;

Be proud of your blackened eye!

It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts, its how did you fight — and why?

Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,

And whether he’s slow or spry,

It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,

But only how did you die?

The warrior girl in me cried, HUZZAH!

I knew Kristen was right. You have to have skin in the game. And you have to be cool when you get popped in the nose. Emboldened, I fought on. I finally triumphed, and five months later than scheduled, in collaboration with BookPrint, I produced a truly beautiful tome.

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Looking back, what I would done differently in 2017 is listen to my gut. Early on in the piece, I began to get the feeling that this was hopeless. Early on, I had feelings of dread. I didn’t listen to them.

Looking back, what I would done differently in 2017 is listen to the little inner voice, which was saying, ‘don’t spend anymore.’ I didn’t listen. I told myself I’d already committed to online publishing and there was nothing I could do, which was ridiculous, because in the end it cost me twice as much as book one.

Looking back, I think, If only I had listened to myself and honoured those instincts at the start, I could have saved myself a lot of grief.

Once I took the project to BookPrint, everything began to take off from there. The book launch was a success. We celebrated and toasted ‘The Sasori Empire’ and I really did feel triumphant. I guess there’s always that. A victory hard won is all the sweeter.

Looking forward to 2018, I intend to honour my instincts a lot more. I intend to listen to my little inner voice. I intend to pay heed to my gut. That’s the New Year’s Resolutions sorted!

What would you have done differently looking back on 2017?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce, Or a trouble is what you make it, And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts, But only how did you take it? ~ Edmund Vance Cooke

 

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Are you a Pantser? An author who writes by the seat of her pants? If you are, then you’ll be familiar with the process I’m currently stuck in as a writer. I am on the third pass of editing the raw material for my third book. I am therefore stuck in a phase of self loathing and hate of the material. It seems nothing works, nothing is making sense. I just have a jumble of words—pretty good words—some of them pertaining to my characters, some of which resolve the storyline, however the plot is a mess.

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I remember with books one and two going through this same stage. It’s an utter headache. You waste a lot of time feeling badly about the story and thinking, I’ll never get the structure sorted out. You know the dynamics of structure in your head as well as the back of your hand and yet, somehow it still remains elusive. It’s like trying to overlay the blueprint after the building is erected: it seems too large, too big of a job; you feel you’ll never be able to do it.

The only cure? I reassure myself as I pace the hall at night, that I went through this nasty valley of shadows before and survived. I’ve weathered this doubting dark night of the soul before and ended up nutting out killer plots. “You can do this,” I tell myself.

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As it was with the last two books, it will be the same with the third. It is the pantser process of editing and the attrition of editing over months of time, which moulds the material into something that works so well it surprises you. You discover little gems of clues of events to come which had been foreshadowed in the genesis draft you didn’t even realize were there, that only make sense once you reach the final stages of development. That’s when the delightful prickle of hairs goes up on your arms and you realize you’re dealing with ordinary magic. It’s part of our job as authors. It’s almost like a trade secret among artists. There is this ephemeral joy of joining forces with the Divine that is like sweetest nectar. Nothing else can touch this secret garden. It is nirvana, the wordless ecstasy of inspired endeavour.

by Gary Cook

I’ve long said, “Everyone needs a creative outlet.”

I truly believe this with every atom of my being. Criminals in prison, sick people in hospitals, people with depression and other anxious disorders, everyone should be given the opportunity at least once to discover the creative outlet which fits with them. Given tools and time to develop their creativity, a lot of people flourish. A friend who works with a tetraplegic said she was a sad case and yet, once the girl in the wheelchair started going to a weekly art class, her life changed for the better.

When you create something from nothing, you feel yourself part of the miracle of life. It gives your life the inner compass of purpose.

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As a writer, the alchemy of the words you choose serves to clothe the divine impulse and give it form. These scratchy black and white marks convey the universe, a word at a time. And then all the perspiration, anguish, questioning, tears and sheer graft that also goes along with the creative process is worthwhile.

Yesterday at Toastmasters, the question asked in Table Topics (speakers are given a topic and asked to speak spontaneously for one minute) was “If you had not been born, what would be missing from the world?”

If I had been chosen to answer that question, I would have answered, ‘my three sons and my books.’ All of these beings are my legacy and will live on long after I’m gone, doing good in the world. What a wonderful, marvellous, blessed thing.

Do you have your creative outlet up and running yet? If not, why not?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I believe that people who are attracted to a life of writing have an incredible opportunity to transform and transcend the events of our lives, finding a resonance of grace simply by writing something just right. ~ Sage Cohen

 

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~ I’m afraid of losing my obscurity. Genuineness only thrives in the dark. Like celery. ~ Aldous Huxley

When I started writing fiction as an adult thirty-five years ago, I did so for the love of it. I wrote because creativity wanted to pour out of me that way. My “certain set of skills” happened to lie with prose and that’s where I ran wild with the giddy rush of youth. I was not preoccupied or clouded by the need for publication. I wrote to explore the parameters of my imagination, to see where I could go, to travel to far-flung places and report back. The possibilities and the horizon were equally endless.

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Five years ago, when I began my first steps into the world online and social media, I set up author pages, started making friends and finding out more about the online writing community. It wasn’t long before I felt the pressure to have something to show for my years of writing effort. I needed something to hang my shingle on. In 2015, I made the death-defying leap from unpublished to Indie author.

What I didn’t know then is that once you pass over that threshold, you leave innocence at the door. After that, the gloves are off; you have entered the arena of life. And life is brutal. It wants to eat you. Every move you make as an author or artist these days is public and hung out to dry in the open marketplace. Whether you make it or break it is global, everyone’s going to know. As the Indie author, you have become your own middle man; you manage everything from advertising copy, to every aspect of book production, to hawking copies at book fairs. The marketing machine never stops and you can never feed it enough.

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If you’re a savvy Indie, every step you make after that has an angle. Every friend you make is a prospective customer. Every post, every tweet, every conversation is another way to sell your product.

What this does to my creative soul is like toxic gas, it slowly poisons the ground.

Author and teacher, Lan Samantha Chang, addressed this phenomena in her speech, Writers, Protect Your Inner Life*. ‘We are taught to believe that the publication of a book is the happy ending to a long journey of working and striving, but according to many new authors with whom I have spoken, publishing is only the beginning of the journey of learning to navigate the world as a public writer, which is the opposite of making art, and it requires learning to protect that inner self from which the art emerged in the first place.’

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This is something I’ve really been thinking about a lot lately, is how to preserve and keep alight this flame of purity inside me.

How do I protect my dignity, my artistic integrity?

How do I maintain my ability to enter the shaded places of childhood, the secret inner recesses of my soul, in order to write the rough draft?

It pained me that in my reaching for public attention, I had forgotten the innocent joy of writing for the sake of writing, not for the buck. Not for the fan. Not for the “likes” on Facebook. Not for the bestseller list. Not for status updates. In my struggle to be heard, in my fight to get my book on the front shelf to be seen, I had lost sight of what was really important. Or why I started this journey in the first place, to ‘live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories,’ as Ray Bradbury put it so eloquently in his day.

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Like the celery that only grows in the dark, the artist, the creative soul requires time in stillness and solitude and retreat in order to gestate.

I have learned the only way to preserve and protect my inner life as a writer is to carve out regular prolonged time away from marketing and (if possible) social media. I call them ‘net breaks,’ and they’ve become as necessary to my creative spirit, as walks outdoors or glasses of water are necessary to my health.

Sometimes I need to turn off all my devices and get out into nature. I need to forget about the end point of the sale and refocus on the love of writing – that eternal spark. Only then, can I truly re-enter my own private Eden from which I can create worlds.

How do you protect your inner world?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Cherish yourself and wall off an interior room where you’re allowed to forget your published life as a writer. There’s a hushed, glowing sound, like the sound coming from the inside of a shell,’ said writer Lan Samantha Chang

*http://lithub.com/writers-protect-your-inner-life/

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Humankind have been obsessed with the idea of immortality and living forever for centuries, according to Adam Gollner in The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever:

Gollner tells us the twenty-five-year old Emperor Ai died in 365 CE, after overdosing on longevity drugs. In medieval times, they thought the answer lay in the moss that grew on hanged men’s skulls. And, David Copperfield has an archipelago in the Bahamas, where the magician claims to have found “a liquid that reverses genes.”

Why are people fascinated by immortality? Is it because we’re afraid of death?

Watching my father go through a life-threatening illness in the past fortnight has instigated many thoughts on mortality for me. It’s been an interesting ride. Everyone knows their parents will die, as we all will die and so will everything alive at this moment. However, mental knowledge is a very different animal to seeing and experiencing it for yourself.015I understood to some extent what people have felt in the past about wanting to cling to life as long as possible.

In the 1300’s Nicolas Flamel created a “sorcerer’s stone” which was said to make the drinker immortal. In the 1500s Ponce de León, discoverer of Florida, is rumoured to also have set out in search of Bimini, a legendary island in the Bahamas. Long sea voyages of discovery in those days cost vast fortunes to finance. Why did he go? Because the fabled ‘Fountain of Youth’ was said to be on Bimini. It was believed the Fountain of Youth ‘gave everlasting life to all who drank from it.’

 

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We can laugh at those from the past. Yet, when you think about it, as author Adam Gollner pointed out, we each take a modern version of magical elixir every day in order to prolong and hopefully preserve our lives. ‘We’ve tried elixirs, hormones, prayers, pills, spells, stem cells.’

I myself take vitamins and pills. It’s no wonder the health supplement industry is one of the biggest growth areas today.

Why are we afraid of death?

I guess we fear dissolution. When I thought I was witnessing my father dying, I faced my own mortality. I saw it and felt it all around me. It felt confronting and a little scary.

Yet, there is freedom in surrender.

I said to myself, ‘death is an inevitable thing.’ I felt the comfort of being present with it in a quiet way. I released into the emotion of love for my father and love for my own life. That brought me into feeling a lot more appreciation of this wonderful moment right now.

I remember an old friend of the family said to me once, ‘Acceptance is the hardest word in the English language.’

Ever since, I’ve come to realize how wise that statement was. In the middle of being there for my father through his scrape with death, I wept and wept. I struggled to accept that this could be our final goodbye. It was only when I was able to accept his mortality and therefore, my own that I found the relief of coming back to ground zero. I felt that was the gem amidst the grief.

Since then my father has made a miraculous recovery. He has successfully made the transition home, where he is now doing well, recovering rapidly.

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In the wake of ten days fear and worry and tears at my father’s bedside, I feel I understand my own drive for a longer life. I empathise with my ancestors’ quest for immortality, and yet, at the same time, I have a new feeling of acceptance for death. Happily, these things have gone hand-in-hand because, while exhausted, I feel great serenity. I have a sense that I can cope.

In ancient times, our forebears went to extremes. I was quite shocked reading in Gollner’s book that members of the Tang dynasty poisoned themselves taking untested potions. Apparently, people trekked into the Himalayas seeking the restorative powers of drinking pure llama urine, bathed in the blood of murdered virgins, and concocted saline solutions with the ash of dead bodies and myrrh.

Even in our modern, technologically advanced era people are still obsessed with anti-aging. Plastic surgery has never been more popular. There’s research being done into cryogenics and prolonging life.

Yet, when you come right down to it, acceptance is a far easier option. It costs less. It’s less stressful, which leads to inner beauty, to having a happier life and greater equilibrium while you’re here. Win, win.

My father’s health scare was a reminder to me that life is short and time is fleeting. I made a mental note: must gather together with loved ones and have more parties!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The only secret people keep is immortality. ~ Emily Dickinson

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