Archive for the ‘children’s writing’ Category

There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. –Annie Dillard

Book shelf real estate is tiny. It pays to remember that our book will only occupy a small amount of territory on that prized book or library shelf (if it gets there at all!) so we need to stand out. A number of years ago, I read a magazine article about small business start-ups creating their own symbolism, just the same way big companies choose logos. I wondered, why shouldn’t Indie writers also utilise this tool and create their own logos?

*Reason One: Our brains remember images before facts.

It’s a well-known fact that symbols work on our subconscious, and we humans respond to visual clues. There’s a reason all the major brands always build their businesses around a symbol. Once they establish a logo, the emblem then becomes synonymous with their name.

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*Reason Two: A symbol is a reminder. Logos help readers remember you.

The same way our ancestors carved runes into rocks or hieroglyphs into stone, we can use symbols, as a bridge, an illustrative shorthand, in order to convey our message to the world. An image can say so much more than a word. ‘If you let go of your idea of what you are looking at in the symbol, it will reveal itself as information in the form of knowledge that cannot be read in books. It is a direct knowledge,’ said Gurudev Hamsah Nandatha, in his book, In the Presence of Truth. ‘It is because the symbol, it could be a painting or a spiritual symbol, has an impact on your mind. It’s a reminder.’

*Reason Three: Logos help readers to quickly “recognize you” on the book shelf. They give you visibility.

As an Indie writer, I’m seeking two things: to create good content and to build myself as a brand a reader can trust to deliver a good read. A symbol helps readers young and old remember the story and who delivered it.

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*How to Create Your Symbol

One: Find a relevant form.

When I went Indie to publish my first book, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta (http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I), I wanted to start using my own logo. The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series is about shape shifters who morph from insect to human. I studied insects and looked at dragonfly wings. Then, I sketched and painted three possible options for a symbol to suit.

*Two: Enlist your readers in helping you choose.

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Others see things differently and can provide a valuable resource for feedback. I started a competition for the people on my mailing list. In the newsletter, I gave readers three options to choose from. I asked them to vote on the best. Each vote was counted as an entry, with the winner getting a free signed copy of the book.

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*Next Step: Stake your claim. Make the symbol your own, by stamping it on your books, your cards, your website, and your blog.

The winner by a majority was this one. I finally had a suitable symbol for my brand.

*Hot Tip: Make sure your logo goes on the spine of your book, where it will be seen.

You can see when I line my novel up with others, the way the publishing houses logos establish turf. At a glance, we know who they are. This is the same connectivity you want to happen in the reader’s brain with your brand when they see your masterpiece.

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I’m publishing my second book through CreateSpace. On the first proof for ‘The Sasori Empire,’ I discovered my logo was missing from the spine. Although I had originally submitted the symbol with the file, it’s possible I may have sent it to the wrong place. When you go through an online publishing service, you must read every instruction minutely, because if your work is not submitted to the company’s specific guidelines, it’s not “received” at all. Therefore, the error lies with you. And, every editing change you make will cost money.

I re-submitted the image via the correct channel and made sure my logo is featured in the correct spot on the cover. I’m saying to the world through my symbol, “I’m here.” This puts a smile on my face.

As an Indie, it’s vital to be happy with how your book is going to look sitting on the shelf, as well as how it reads inside. That way the whole package becomes authentic to you.

Are you smiling about the final look of your book? Ever thought of designing your own logo? 

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. –Annie Dillard

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 

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.

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

May Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

A colleague from Toastmasters referred to the series I’m writing as “magical realism” the other day, which I thought was a good description. I like to write of other worlds which are nevertheless based on Earth. For the upper middle grade series I’m writing currently, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, the characters are shape shifting insects. For this, I did research on the insect world, read up on some Maori and Japanese myths, and I read about Albatrosses, and I loved every minute of it.

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When I first started out as a young writer, I used to be embarrassed of my “talking animals stories” because most people, especially publishers at the time, disregarded them. However, the popularity of fantasies about animals can be traced back to Aesop’s fables and beyond. Our fascination with them goes through Greek literature and can be seen echoed in fables from other cultures such as India, through the “beasts as spokespeople” of medieval writers, to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, to The Jungle Book and The Wind in the Willows. It’s a “live” sub-genre of fantasy.

“As a critical term, ‘fantasy’ has been applied rather indiscriminately to any literature which does not give priority to realistic representation: myths, legends, folk and fairy tales, utopian allegories, dream visions, surrealist texts, science fiction horror stories…” ~ Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy, The Literature of Subversion

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As they say in The Ultimate Encyclopaedia of Fantasy, “One of the problems in any discussion of fantasy is to decide just where ‘realistic’ ends and fantasy begins.” In the “variously fashionable sub-type” of magical realism, which is the strange grayish area of literature I inhabit, the realistic aspect of the story is balanced by the fantastical.

English comedian and writer, David Walliams said, “The only limits in a children’s book are your imagination.” This is exactly what I love about writing for children and the magical realism genre; they’re both about that freedom of spirit. I feel the sky’s the limit and that’s the way I want to feel when I write.

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To achieve “realism,” I always do a bit of research for every book. So for this story about insect shape shifters, I read books, articles, watched documentaries about insects. My dragonfly characters have six legs and four wings. I feel that being able to include the facts gives credibility to the world we’re creating for our readers. Realism adds depth and complexity. It locks the reader in so that they can fly with us on our leaps of imagination. They feels safe with us to explore further.

Once your reader knows the facts, you can then build on that basis to amp up the tension when the norm breaks down.

For instance, there are albatross in this series. The albatross is a sea bird and I discovered it nests right on the coast when it comes ashore at all. Armed with this information, I was able to use this one simple fact to anchor and skew part of the story.

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Because I write for children, who may not be aware of certain things, I needed to drop in a line of dialogue or two prior to this scene, to clue the young reader in to the way things should be, e.g. “Albatross should never nest far from the sea.” Then, by placing the enemy chief’s colony of albatross deep inland, far from water, this one simple anomaly gave the enemy compound an eerie, other-worldly, slightly “off-kilter” ambience that permeates the reader’s perception of the place from then on.

Without a doubt, the coolest thing about research so far has been the research itself, learning new things and supplying good sturdy foundations to the fantasy stories I write. It’s part of the work of being a writer and it’s fun!

How about you, what is your favourite part of what you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Fantasy is the fiction of the heart’s desire. ~ Unknown

 

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Or, Editing Woes Noone Warned you About ~

The word “edit” in the dictionary means “to prepare for publication.”

For the author in the last stages of editing their book, the sheer hours spent bum-in-chair can become numbing at both ends of the spectrum.

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You see, no one tells you the truth about the writer’s life, either at school or in the way it’s rendered via popular media. As a kind of public service announcement, I’m happy to give you a “heads up” about the possible woes that lie ahead, if you’re thinking of turning that story in the bottom drawer into a viable commodity.

Here’s what to expect:

Editing Woes #1: Temporary Blindness

Stephen King once said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” There’s a good reason for keeping that office door open. Besides getting other people’s eyes upon your fiction, you need ventilation. You can succumb to writer’s fatigue. After sitting in a room on your own, staring at those dark marching ants across the screen for hours, you stop seeing the words.

Cure: Get some oxygen, head outdoors, look at nature.

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Editing Woes #2: Temporary Book Hate

“The first draft of everything is shit,” so said Ernest Hemmingway. However, given enough exposure to your own work, every other draft of your own precious story will start to annoy you, too. This is a temporary phase.

Top tip: Try not to throw the entire file in the rubbish bin.

Cure: Keep going. Do not give up!

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Editing Woes #3: Temporary Loss of Will to Live

There comes a moment, when you’ve just finished your hundredth edit of your story, and you realize you’re going to have to go back to the beginning and start again, that the apple begins to slide off the cherry.

I had a deadline to reach this weekend, my book needed to be submitted to createspace by April 15th. The material had been worked over so many times, but it still wasn’t done. When I found myself at 6.30 in the evening yesterday, and it wasn’t finished and I still I had to keep editing, I felt weak with stress.

The last yards to publication when you’re an Indie are soul destroying. Every time you think you’ve carved off the last word and discovered the last ill-placed comma, you find yet another error.

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On the fifth “final edit” I just wanted to put down the laptop lid, walk away and pretend none of it ever happened. I felt I could not read those words again.

Top Tip: This is normal. You will want to give up. You will want to curl in the fetal position. Don’t worry; it happens to all of us. It’s like childbirth or passing a kidney stone, it doesn’t matter how bad it becomes, you will get through it.

Cure: Eat treats. I took “feijoa breaks.”

Editing Woes #4: Temporarily Losing Touch with Reality

Yes, this is a common problem they don’t warn you about in writing class. When those sixth and seventh “final edits” take place, usually late at night, and you’re keeping yourself going by drinking coffee and eating sweets, the hours start to blend. One friend said, “it’s like a black hole that sucks time into it.”

This is true. The further you dive into your nitty-gritty polishes, the more hours disappear. When I finally lifted my head last night, I looked around and it was dark outside. The whole day had vanished. I was blinking like a mole, saying, where is everyone?

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Cure: Go be with human people. Exercise. Eat. Drink. Sleep.

The reward is that this really is the last hurdle.

Top Tip: just as with childbirth, it’s all worth it in the end. When the proud author gets to see their story presented in book form for the first time, it makes all the pain of editing worthwhile. The secret is to keep going through the gnarly last part!

At midnight, I had the manuscript, the cover art, a professional headshot, the back cover blurb and three great peer reviews ready to go, and I submitted the whole package to Createspace. I felt immediate relief and joy. Now, I await the first “proof” which is exciting.

But here’s the thing, no work of art is ever truly finished.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.”

I had to choose the point at which to let go. When do you let go? When do you say enough’s enough?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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Kids are visual creatures. They like to be entertained in every respect. As a child, I loved books with illustrations. When I morphed into reading chapter books as a young person I wanted the more complex stories, but I still wanted the imagery. I can remember really appreciating the authors who put ink illustrations in their chapter books. I have fond memories of poring over the minute squiggles and flourishes on the pages of Tove Jansson’s books.

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Last year, I prepared to release my first book, my novel, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’ The first book from The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I realized there was no way the budget would stretch to illustrations, so I came up with an easy solution.

Here’s  a guide to creating your own pen and ink book illustrations:

Step One: Start with your characters.

First, you must have some form of cover art for your book which you have either paid for or otherwise have liberty to use. For my debut novel, I had the two main characters rendered artistically in digital form by my nephew.

I simply copied the character with a pencil.

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Second attempt on Aden, for b&w illustration0002I wanted to introduce a new face. I took a photo of a statue of a giant which I found in a 1970’s magazine and copied the basic outline.

*Hot Tip: I use an automatic pencil, as they have the super fine leads. You want to do all the early stages on tracing paper.

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I already had my protagonist, Aden Weaver, rendered in pencil from last year, but I needed to change his position for this book so I lifted him into the air. This gave me a new image to work with. As I pinned down the character’s positions, I switched from pencil to a fine permanent marker pen.

*Hot Tip: You’ll need to see every line. A fine nib is necessary. I use a Staedtler “Triplus fineliner.” Every line needs to be carefully but clearly distinct.

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Step Two: Create the background and foreground

For this image, I decided to use one of a few special backdrops. A dear friend, Lyall Gardiner, had gifted me four of his ink/colour pencil backdrops before he passed. In A3, they’re enormous, so I selected elements from one image, the moon and wispy clouds and some of the looming shapes and traced them onto a more compacted A4 page.

You could use whatever you have to hand, interesting segments of your kids’ artwork, pieces of your own from childhood, or you could go wild and cut segments of out-of-date magazine pictures to create a montage/mosaic effect, etc. Use your imagination.

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*Hot Tip: Take care not to tread on rights to intellectual property.

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Step Three: Combine and Trace

The next part is to employ your artistic eye with placement. Arrange your characters on the background in a way that fits the “story” you want to tell. The great thing about using tracing paper is you can flip the characters over. I decided to “tell the story” of the Oni looming. However, I needed to flip our hero to have him face the giant. To do this, I simply turned the paper over and re-defined all the lines with pen on the reverse of the paper!

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Step Four: Fill it in!

I took my taped-together tracing paper image and copied it onto thick art paper. I used permanent markers and filled in the picture. I thought in terms of light and shadow, silhouette, of how things look in the dark, not drawing to be realistic but to create pattern – effect through contrast. I left certain patches: one or two to be left white and at least a few to be painted black. They added impact.

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The resulting image will be one of the two illustration plates for inside ‘The Sasori Empire.’ On Facebook, I shared it with the caption, ‘The horned face of the Oni appeared in the trunk, even more hideous than before, and a head of bark grew.’

Step Five: Copyright!

Make sure to add your name the copyright symbol and the year somewhere on your picture.

With a bit of effort, anyone can create at least a couple of illustrations to go inside their own book. These simple pen and inks are relatively easy, quick, and they’re super fun to do. You have the satisfaction of having made it yourself.

Have you ever tried your hand at your own illustrations?

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Talk to you later

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The Holy Grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it. ~ Banksy

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 

I saw a picture on Facebook the other day of Neil Gaiman. After a Nick Cave concert, the author was sitting in his chair scribbling in a notebook. And, the image really captured my imagination.

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The accompanying article was about creating healthy limits in order to get the writing done, Embrace Your Boundaries

http://writerunboxed.com/2017/02/24/embrace-your-boundaries/

Author Dan Blank, says, ‘I want to share what I have experienced recently in allowing boundaries to be a part of my own creative work. How boundaries have helped the work, instead of hindering it.’

That’s exactly where my thoughts have been. As a writer, I simply wasn’t producing enough copy. In these times of distraction, we have to carve out our own cave.

Towards the end of January, after blogging non-stop for a few years, I took a writer’s hiatus. It really worked for me. I took a break from my blog, Newsletter, and every form of social media (except for a tiny bit of stalking Facebook). I was immediately productive, at least doubling, if not tripling my former output. On the very first weekend I stopped social media, I completely finished an exhaustive edit. I then finished transcribing the edits of my editor and critique partner, Maria Cisneros-Toth.

In fact, it was so successful, I’ve decided to experiment from now on with blogging and putting out the Newsletter less often. I’ll try blogging fortnightly and putting out the Newsletter monthly. We’ll see how that goes.

Maria said at this stage with her books, she always reads them in different media, on her phone, her ipad and so on. Then, she prints out a copy and reads it on paper.

She said, “You’ll pick up lots of errors you hadn’t seen that way.” The funny thing is, in my thirty five years of writing, I’ve never allowed myself luxuries like spending $20 on a copy of a book just to edit it one time. So, this was a complete novelty to me.

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Do you know what? Printing it out was a time saver. It brought many inconsistencies to the surface. That one edit on paper probably saved me three edits on the computer.

It seems everything becomes clear when you read a story on paper. It’s as if the brain processes the material in a different way. I easily noticed repeated words, favoured ways of saying things and errors in sequence of logic.

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Reading aloud is another effective tool in the editing kit.

With my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ (http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I) I recorded myself reading to camera. I knew that listening to the prose was a step not to be missed.

For this story, I used a hand-held Sony IC recorder. I read the entire book over three days.

What an incredible tool for editing! It really shows you what’s working and what’s not.

For instance, with dialogue tags, the general rule-of-thumb is you can use ‘said, asked, whispered,’ and, sometimes, ‘added.’ In a number of places in my second book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ my young hero, Aden ‘added’ something to a conversation. It looked fine on paper, but what a tongue-twister to read! So, if you haven’t read your story aloud yet, you must do so.

When you think about it, this is the litmus test of a story, if you can’t read a story to someone, you’ve failed out of the starting gate.

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At this point, I’d edited the book eight times, Maria, once. Yet, after going through the wringer of printing out and reading aloud, the pages of my paper manuscript were covered in red pen. I was floored by how many changes needed to be made.

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Next job was to sit at the computer and transcribe the changes into Word.

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I had the stack of 227 pages of my corrections as well as a rather wonderful list, ‘things to watch for’ about general issues raised. It helped me ensure I had introduced certain characters properly and had events happening in the right order.

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It requires attention to detail and many hours of dedication to create a book!

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Meanwhile, I’d sounded out my sister, Jag, about being my first beta reader. She agreed, and bless her, two days later the manuscript was returned. This weekend, my job is to transcribe Jag’s edits into the book.

After that, I get to send it to the second beta reader. And so, the process goes on.

I’m more productive by creating social media limits. How about you? Any experiences or advice to share?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Don’t worry about genius and don’t worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination.’ ~ Sir Frederick Treves, 1903

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When creating your own brand, my advice is to keep your brand consistent. For instance, my brand is Kristen Lamb. ~ We Are Not Alone.

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At some point, each new writer must make a decision about which name is going to appear on the front cover of their books and stories.

These days, once you commit to a name, this becomes synonymous with your brand. Every little digital step we take these days gets linked to and adds incrementally to our brand. This is why we need to choose wisely where our writer’s names are concerned.

We don’t want to have to do the spadework all over again to build a new brand if we have to change name somewhere along the way.

For many years, I couldn’t decide which moniker I was going to use as a writer. Luckily, I was on Facebook, and I stumbled across Kristen Lamb. She had written a book in 2010 on social media for writers, We Are Not Alone, ‘The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.’ This book is no longer available in the original format, as it needed updating. I believe the updated version Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World  is available now.

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It was 2011. I was new to the net. I was simply a full time mother who wrote part time. I was everyone’s poor cousin. Unpublished, at the time, I had neither a blog, nor a newsletter, website, or any of the must-haves for the modern writer. I was just starting out into the jungle of the strange and mysterious world of social media, and the whole thing seemed rather intimidating and scary.

After purchasing a copy of We Are Not Alone, Lamb’s short yet impactful book, I read it in one gulp. I must admit, I went rather “Shelton” and adhered to Lamb’s principles to the letter.

With regards the subject of author names, pen names, and author brand, Lamb advocated thinking in a broad fashion across one’s social media platforms, and seeing for oneself the value in having one name, one brand, across all platforms. ‘Just because Twitter allows you to have multiple identities doesn’t mean it is a good idea, especially if you are unpublished.’

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This felt like a wise decision and the simplest, to choose a writer’s name that I would use across every social media platform.

I considered the idea of letting go of my surname and using Yvette Carol, my first and middle names. I remembered a conversation I had had about this subject with my grandmother about a decade before. At the time, I had asked Nan for her opinion on which pseudonym I should choose.

Nan said, “While I would love to see the family name on the spine of a book, up on the shelf, I think ‘Yvette Carol’ sounds more like an author.”

I felt the same way. It fitted the criteria in Lamb’s book, and most importantly, it felt like me.

I changed my name by deed poll and committed to it across all genres and all areas of my life. It really felt like taking control. Being bold. And making a statement on the internet, as in, ‘This is my name. This is my claim.’

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When it comes to choosing your writer’s name, what criteria can you use?

Make sure the words are punchy and memorable. Usually, you want to test how it sounds by saying it aloud a few times to find out how it flows.

As Lamb said, ‘In order to maximise sales, your goal is to become a brand. Brand=Big Sales.’ You want to think catchy. However, shorter isn’t necessarily better. Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger! He stayed true to his name.’

Kristen Lamb put it perfectly, when she said, ‘The internet has valuable real estate that you will want to command. How you claim that digital real estate is by using your name.’

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Lamb’s second key bit of advice re choosing the name to go by for an author was to consider what product or genre or style they wanted their name to be associated with. Then, you market yourself that way from then on. Hence, the reason my blog and website are titled, Yvette Carol, Children’s Writer.

Thank you, Kristen for the great advice!

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In a nutshell, your writer’s name is designed to be pithy and memorable

It’s designed to reflect you and your brand.

It’s designed to be flexible, so you can ‘be consistent across all platforms’

It’s designed to be classic, to last forever.

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How did you find your writer’s name or do you use your given birth name?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that. ~ Lewis Carroll

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 

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.

insecurewriterssupportgroup

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

The January 4 Question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

I have a love/hate relationship with the writing rules.

I was jagged up by the rule “show don’t tell” for years. I see this as a great cautionary tale for up-and-coming writers. Don’t let the rules limit you. As they say, learn the rules then forget them or else the writing can become stilted.

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The great writer, Ursula Le Guin said, ‘Thanks to “show don’t tell,” I find writers in my workshops who think exposition is wicked. They’re afraid to describe the world they’ve invented.’

When I was coming up as a writer, I took on board every rule I heard until my writing had turned into literary cardboard.

Other control freaks will understand. We take the rules to heart. I followed the rules to the extent that all creative spark in me became squashed. I didn’t have any fresh material for stories. I felt blocked. I wasn’t enjoying the creative process anymore.

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One critique partner at the time said my sentences had no flow and were the rhythmic equivalent of ‘riding over cobblestones on a horse.’

I had a very kind old Indian writer patiently explain that ‘a story is like a room in need of decoration.’ He said, “While your stories are good there isn’t enough furniture.’

Part of my coming up and finding my feet as a writer came from letting go of the rules or at least holding them at a decent arm’s length. I had to give myself permission to experiment again, in order to free up again and feel the inspired feelings take over.

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My writing hero, Kate de Goldi, has said the reason she writes is to chase her lost childhood Eden.

Exactly.

Childhood is eternally enshrined in my mind as the time in my life when I was the most wild and free. It is to that state I seek to return through my writing, and to help the reader see, feel and experience. It is that place I sought to go in the books I read as a child. It is to those ‘special shaded places’ I return to in the books I read as an adult.

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Can I find the secret shaded places through the window of the rules? No. Though it’s helpful to know what’s what when it comes to editing! I think this is what Stephen King meant when he said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” For me, my initial writing process, or what Joy Cowley calls ‘the genesis project,’ happens best when I shut out what the world has to say, via rules or otherwise, and surrender to wherever the muse wants to go.

If I have writing resolutions for 2017, it is to get my second book finished! And, to let myself be even more free with my writing this year, to be more wild. I want to feel I can explore, unfettered, the unique way of writing fiction which works best for me. And, I love that this particular process is an ever-unfolding road. It will never be finished. I’ll never reach the end of learning how to write.

The goal is ever to find my stories in my way, on my own terms.

What is your New Year’s Writing Resolution?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

 

 

“There clearly is a myth about boys and reading as so many people seem to think that the gender gap in reading is bigger than it is, but research shows that the number one factor that determines your reading ability is how often your parents read out loud to you and the number of books in your house, which is connected with social class”. ~ Jennifer Dyer skully jensen @catagator

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I’ve been a long time believer in the positive power of a bedtime story.

We grew up with our father reading a story to us, last thing at night, every night. The bedtime story formed a warm, loving, stable pillar of our childhood for my siblings and I.

While my middle child is an avid reader, my youngest son didn’t gravitate to reading for pleasure, so the nightly ritual of reading the boys a few books neatly filled the gap.

The kids and I have started reading Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. Sam-the-man is finding the transition difficult; he needs to babble quietly to himself the whole time I’m reading. I’m reassured he is enjoying it nevertheless, as when I asked him if he’d like me to keep reading, he said an emphatic, yes!

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Mortal Engines has my youngest son, however, riveted. He is driven to talk about what has happened in each chapter we’ve read. During the toothbrushing/toileting before bed phase of the evening, he’ll be asking deep questions and pondering on the chapter. I am seeing first-hand, how a really good book can open and broaden a child’s mind. He’s prompted to look at things a little differently and ask some of the bigger questions.

I wonder if this has inspired the budding writer in him. In the past, I’d been impressed by my youngest son’s obvious talent for imaginative story. Yet, somewhere along the way, unbeknownst to me, his writing skills had languished. I was shocked to be called into school for a talk with his teacher, earlier in the year, to discuss ‘below National standard writing and English skills.’ His punctuation, use of descriptive words, and grasp of basic story structure needed work.

You can imagine how fired up I was. In the following holiday break, I spent time with Nat, reading stories and talking about them. We sat and made stories up on the spot a few times. On more than one occasion, we used making up stories to stave off the boredom of waiting for appointments.

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This week, Nat brought home three typed pages for me to read. Titled, ‘A Wizard’s Journey,’ it was a story he’d written and read aloud in class. I read it and was knocked over by everything. He had it all: structure, descriptive words, active words. I felt a rush of admiration for his talent. Moreover, I felt proud to see he had applied himself and improved.

He said, “A very beautiful thing happened today. My teacher said my story was the best story she’d ever heard in class.”

He was melting. And so was my heart. What a joy!

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Here was a boy who used to have no interest in reading for pleasure. His writing skills were under par, and yet, through the tradition of the bedtime story, we happened to hit upon the right sort of book, at the right time, to light up his inner storyteller.

The regular rhythm of the bedtime story provided the opportunity for that key moment in a reader’s life.  This may be the first book he remembers – the first one that makes him look for the next book in the series or that the author has written.

With a bit of luck, Mortal Engines has sparked my youngest son’s genuine interest in reading. All I can say for sure is that his writing skill and ability has leaped forward. He’s asking bigger picture questions. These things go hand in hand with increasing literacy.

Author and former teacher, Michael Morpurgo: It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children. When I was a boy I didn’t much like reading either, but it was my mother reading to me and my brother Pieter at bedtime that kept stories and books alive for me.

Do you read to your kids? Do you believe in the gentle benevolent power of the bedtime story?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Everything in a good book (perhaps even in a bad book) is a new truth, a new revelation to a child, whose experiences are, as yet, so limited. Therefore writers for children need to be extra careful about preaching, about filling in those empty spaces for a child. -Jane Yolen

 

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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.

November’s Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Everything!

But mainly, this thing of nourishing oneself and others through the medium of the written art.

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Recently, our famous movie director, kiwi icon Peter Jackson, announced his next project which will be based on the Philip Reeve debut, Mortal Engines.

This week, I got hold of a copy of Reeve’s book.

First published in 2001, it received rave reviews. The Daily Telegraph said, ‘Philip Reeve’s debut novel, Mortal Engines, seems to have leapt fully formed from a startling imagination…a gripping yarn.’

Let me tell you, Engines lives up to the hype. The pace gallops along. You don’t have time to stop and think. You don’t have time to question. You don’t know what the heck is going on or what’s going to happen next, you’re in for the ride. From the first page, there was never any question of putting the book down without finishing it. This is the sort of book you read by flashlight after you’re supposed to be asleep, because you need to know what happens next. It’s almost a visceral experience, it’s that good. An instant lesson in effortless style and storytelling heft, it’s a wonder to behold.

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A young writer is an explorer. She knows she wants to get somewhere, but she doesn’t even know if the somewhere even exists yet. It is there to be created. In the process of creating it we find out how varied and complex we are.’ ~ Colum McCann

Being a writer means constantly learning, or as Ernest Hemmingway put it so eloquently, ‘For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment.’

Mortal Engines takes your mind out to a new universe where you find yourself looking back upon humanity and our modern world with a different view.

The delight of reading a story is an individual experience. Unlike seeing a movie, or something on TV, where the imagery is offered to you, and you adopt someone else’s vision, the singular action between the written word and the brain when you read a book, stirs up the imagination, and you conjure your own unique and beautiful or terrible worlds.

A book can change your world view.

Reading fiction serves to break you out of your box of living, and remind you of the greater truth and vision. What a wonderful, freeing, fabulous thing, to be freed of the oppression of our minds for a while.

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Why do I love to write? There is intense joy in heeding the call of the muse and following the dappled trails of my daydreaming.

To recapture the ‘lost Eden of childhood,’  is the way my writing teacher and hero, Kate de Goldi  described it in her oft-repeated speech, given at the Spinning Gold, children’s writers and illustrators conference, of 2009.

‘I believe the compulsion to write comes from a deeper place,’ said Kate, ‘I don’t write about or for children, but I write for the once and always child in myself. When I’m writing for children, I’m chasing down a lost Eden, that hopeful springtime, to approximate the pleasure I had in those shaded, imaginative places. The lost Eden of my childhood.’

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With effective fiction, a happy cycle gets instigated between writer and reader. I believe the restorative power of the writer’s bliss goes around and translates to the reader and everyone benefits.

I am captivated by the delightfully dark Mortal Engines so far, and have decided to start reading it to the boys. The story is so powerful maybe it has the juju to jumpstart my youngest son’s reluctance to read for pleasure.

What greater fortune could there be than this, to be employed in seeking my own lost Eden on a daily basis? Then, through the alchemy of capturing it in words, I can share stories and hopefully inspire others with their own giddy escapes from this insane and toxic world. It really is a blessing in so many ways.

Therefore, in summary, my favourite aspect of being a writer is everything!

How about you, what is your favourite part of what you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘When you’re a writer, you’re never quite like other people — you’re doing a job that other people don’t know you’re doing and you can’t talk about it, really, and you’re just always finding your way in the secret world and then you’re doing something else in the “normal” world.’ ~ Alice Munro

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My youngest son asked me a new question on the drive home from golf, yesterday.

He asked, “Are you happy?”

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I sat stunned for a moment or two. I thought, my boy’s growing up. This was the first time, as far as I knew, that his perception had gone beyond himself to thinking of other people. Then, I felt sorry for him. He’s the little worrier in the family.

Next, I felt incredulous that anyone close to me could think I was unhappy. I get to bring up my lovely boys, be with family and friends sometimes, and then I get to write, and be alone. What could be better than that?

To walk the path of the writer is not easy sometimes, because a lot of people just don’t get it.

I can see how in the “world’s” eyes, I might be miserable. I’m divorced. Single. A stay-at-home mum. A writer (the loneliest profession of them all!) and a “card-carrying” introvert!

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In fact, there are more single women these days than ever before, in the U.S, single women account for half the female vote, 56 million, up from 45 million last year, and in Australia, single women make up 42% of the adult female population. Yet, there’s still social stigma around doing certain things on your own, like going to the movies or eating alone. The writer, Christina Ling, wrote a fantastic piece for the Huffington Post, Don’t Feel Bad For Me Because I Do Things Alone. It echoes my feelings exactly. I rejuvenate through time alone, that’s how I recoup my energy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-ling/the-stigma-of-doing-things-alone_b_9239900.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

As Christina puts it, ‘Being alone with your mind, however, is one of the best things for your soul. More importantly, I think we are perfectly entitled to simply not be in the mood to entertain someone throughout an activity or socialize, in general.’

 

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After being mama to two rambunctious boys for five days of the week, I look forward to my 48 hours break, when the boys spend time with their father. Even though I work alone, I still crave that solitary time, in which to recuperate fully.

Carol Bainbridge, the Gifted Child Expert explains the need of introverts to withdraw, ‘Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective.’

http://giftedkids.about.com/bio/Carol-Bainbridge-19284.html

The lucky thing is, my job is directly suited to the introvert. And, I can’t imagine a job I could enjoy more than I do mine. I get to write fiction for young persons and those of the eternally youthful mind. It’s so fun, it’s the best job on the planet, hands-down.

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Murphy’s Law and the laws of randomness usually apply to most of us, and therefore, there may never be more than a penny or two in it for me. I may never build up a fan base beyond that of my family and pet fish. But that’s not the point. Doing what you love is the point, and as long as I get to write, then I shall still be the happiest mama within a five-mile radius of my son at all times!

I understand how my eleven-year-old looks at me, and he probably feels I must be miserable. Introverts only make up about 25-40% of the general population. There are not exactly a lot of introverted role models to look up to.

I had to assure him, “Yes, I am happy.” I don’t know whether it’s a “boy thing” or whether it’s the age, but that answer was enough. He took me at my word and carried on to the next subject.

I was still fascinated with the subject of happiness and what it means. He’d brought it up and I wanted to talk about it. However, I could see he’d already moved on. I let him take the lead, and we talked nonsense the rest of the way to his father’s house.

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After dropping my son off, I drove home to my weekly respite, and I pondered further on this delightful question my son had asked, Are you happy?

No one is happy 100% of the time, that’s just not natural, however, would I say I was predominantly happy? Yes.

What I was left with, was the sensation that my son cared. It takes emotional health and depth to ask another person how they are feeling. Therefore, I had a sense of my son’s developing emotional wellness, and his humanity.

It was a lovely, poignant, parenting moment. One of those, ‘he may act banana-pants crazy half the time, however, he’s going to turn out all right’ moments. It was one of those reward moments, when all the hard work of parenting is blissfully worth it.

What about you, what great questions have your kids asked you? Would you say you’re predominantly happy? 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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