Archive for the ‘children’s writing’ 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. Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

We post the first Wednesday of every month. 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: February 5 question – Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

In a word, no. However, as luck would have it, my friend, author Donatien Moisdon asked a question the other day in an email which I think would make an excellent question of the month.

Donatien: In your latest newsletter, I was very interested to read about your thoughts and those of your friends regarding the question: What makes a good novel?

For me, a writer of popular fiction, a good book entails the perfect marriage of a riveting story line and great characters. I have to feel a connection with the main character; I want to feel drawn to them and want to know what happens to them next.

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So when I’m writing a new story, I strive to know the characters first. I am a fan of the “story bible” or “book journal” which means I write the details of the characters, and setting, background, longhand in a special notebook. By this method, I develop my characters well before I ever start writing the story. The hope is to convey real characters who have depth.

I prefer a small cast. Donatien’s advice is to deal with only a limited number of characters and make sure that readers will recognize them easily.

I agree. I finished reading The Warlock by Michael Scott a few months ago. It boggled me for half the book, trying to remember the vast catalogue of players. For the second half of the book I had a handle on the enormous cast but I still got confused. Even the professional writers get it wrong.

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Donatien recommends keeping things clear in the reader’s mind especially in dialogue. It is very important for readers to know exactly who is saying what. Thus the importance of perfect punctuation.

So for a good book, you need a manageable number of characters. You need to hone good dialogue and pay attention to punctuation.

You also need a rivetting story line. I prefer adventure stories, and I have done since I first discovered the joy of reading as a young girl. And in writing popular or genre fiction for children, the goal is to take readers on a fabulous ride they won’t want to get off. In a story worth its salt the protagonist/s have to win fire (or the elixir) and bring it back to the tribe, but to get there, keep upping the pace, worsening the conflict for the protagonist and deepening the stakes.

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There is an infectious pace that kicks in on a brilliant story. You can’t stop turning the page. Donatien says, Rhythm is very important. Can each sentence be read in a loud voice for the first time by a newcomer without hesitation? If the reader stumbles, chances are the sentence needs work. To bring your writing alive in the reader’s mind, he suggests remembering to use all the senses. Place the reader at the very center of the action, but also at the center of the environment through the use of the five senses. Add a sixth sense: the sense of a dream.

For me, there’s also an X factor that marks a good book, that singular thing of being able to drift away with the words. It’s the fairy circle where you enter and the more you read the more you lose time. I like stories that take me away somewhere. My goal with every story I write is to return the reader to the shaded places of youth where they remember magic can happen, to inspire a sense of wonder. That is the holy grail.

How do you instill wonder? I’m always trying to figure it out! Do you know?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Storytelling is really one of the most wonderful things about human beings. And some of us get to be lucky enough to also be the storytellers. ~ Bryan Cranston

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*Please note this special request from Donatien: If you could find the time to read The Immortal Part, available on lirenligne.net, and let me know if I’ve managed to follow my own recipes, I’d be very grateful. On the lirenligne.net website, you have to click on Donatien Moisdon or The immortal Part, then “télécharger” (download) in the brown square. 

*Please remember to write a review. Thank you! 

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

OPTIONAL January 8 question – What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Did you just “know” suddenly you wanted to write?

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Thinking about this question was like going back in time in my mind.

I thought it started when I wrote my first children’s story at seventeen. Why? It was the perfect escape from my life as a teen mum, living in a squalid upstairs flat, washing twenty dirty nappies in the bathtub every day, and making macaroni cheese with a different flavouring every night for dinner.

Then I thought no, it started further back than that. It started when I was seven and had first learned how to read and write. At school, I was a natural-born leader and could organize all the other crying kids into happy games of ring-a-roses and so on. However, I couldn’t do math, I struggled to learn to tell the time for years; I found every subject difficult apart from English because that was when invariably they would ask us to write a story. I can even remember one of the story prompts from when I was seven, ‘I was so scared when…’

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Every time the teacher asked the class to write a story, I would pick up my pencil and let fly with my imagination. There was ever a story to hand, I was never without one, and they tripped easily off the end of my pencil with ‘gay abandon’ as they used to say in the 60s. Suddenly I felt empowered suddenly I felt alive and suddenly I felt I could do anything!  I knew I could write a story. It felt wonderful to be sure of myself and to get good marks and encouragement for my work.

I loved expressing myself in the written word even then.

But the more I thought about it the more I thought no, it started further back than that. It began back when I used to tell my little brother spontaneous stories in our “curtain game” which we used to do when I was four and he was two.

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We had picture curtains displaying bright images of toys, dolls, trucks, and pets, and the game we used to play was to pick a picture and tell a story. My brother’s stories were a few words long while my stories could stretch on for fifteen minutes. I found story telling came to me easily, the ideas, the characters, the scenes tumbled out effortlessly, and the process gave me great joy.

Writing the stories down on paper began at seven, so I guess you could say my “writing journey” started properly then.

Into my twenties and thirties, I still wrote with pen and paper. I would spout off about how I liked the tactile aspect and that the thoughts seemed to flow more easily from brain via pen to real paper, and so on and so forth. But when I faced typing up the first draft of The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, in 2010, I had the unenviable task of typing up a 300,000 word handwritten manuscript. I chopped the story into three sections and I still had a huge job before me. I roped in a few people to take a few thousand words each, to make it less daunting. And it helped.

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However, when I finished that task, I felt burned. I never wrote another story with pen and paper. And you know what? I can write stories perfectly well on a computer, I’ve discovered the story writing is the same and you have the benefit of not having to transcribe your own tiny handwriting afterwards! Win-win. I published the first book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta in 2015, the follow-up, The Sasori Empire in 2017, and the third book in the trilogy, The Last Tree is due out this year. It’s been a thrilling journey so far. I love writing stories no matter the medium, and I can’t wait to see where I go in the decade ahead.

I love writing fiction! Do you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.” ~ Goethe

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There’s something about being a writer where, mostly your stories, your characters live only in your head. They’re yours and yours alone to shape and mould and develop as the story genesis dictates. You get to know the characters so well and yet they remain in your mind’s eye only. Then comes the day where you get to see an artist’s rendition of your creation, and all these beautiful ideas that came from your head suddenly take on a new dimension. They come to life and become available to other people. I remember the first time this happened for me, when my nephew, Si, delivered the image for the first cover in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta. Here was a character from my imaginary world and it was special and magical and everything I could have asked for. Here was the young hero I’d grown to know so well, Aden Weaver. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

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I made the picture my screensaver, put it on my website, shared it here on my blog, Facebook, I shared it high and low I was so over the moon. My buddy, Aden, the kid who had grown up through the development and writing of this series over the last fourteen years, had a face! It was extraordinary. I didn’t have to imagine him anymore. I think I smiled the rest of that day. And technically, with the manuscript ready and the cover art in hand, the whole process of publication could begin. That was 2015.

When I saw the interpretation of the villain, Chief Wako, for the cover of the second book, The Sasori Empire, two years later, I was blown away. Somehow Wako had all the presence and the confounding combination of good looks and menace I’d imagined. There’s something very gratifying about having an artist take up your words and turn them into an illustration. You and the artist collaborate to create a third thing that neither of you could have created alone. It’s a rewarding experience.

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I found the artwork fed back into the story because the illustrations had formed the characters’ contours and this altered further dialogue and actions. That was 2017.

Since then, I’ve been working on the third and final book in the series, The Last Tree. During that time, I’ve communicated back and forth with Si about thoughts for the cover art. Now and then he would ask me a specific question. After that I had to leave it up to him. As I’ve slogged through the last few weeks of intense editing, I began to anticipate that the artwork would soon arrive. I couldn’t wait to see what he would come up with. I trust his instincts and have great respect for his talents. His art is visually arresting and expresses his considerable mana, and he has the artist’s eye for composition and scale.

The deadline of sending the material for The Last Tree to the printer by November 4th was looming large, and I still had seen nothing from Si. Then, two days ago, an email arrived from him with an attachment. The cover art had arrived! I took a deep breath and opened it.

The Last Tree, cover art

When I first laid eyes on the image, my heart stood still. I couldn’t take it all in. I found there were no words. I stared at it for a full five minutes, absorbing it. I had given Si a brief on the most dynamic female in the series, the enigmatic Number Three. To my surprise, he’d rendered her from the side, and yet he’d captured her in the most impactful way. And he’d given us a new view of Aden, with emotion in his face. Mid-fight, there is action, there is feeling. There are so many levels to the image I could look at it all day.

He had done it again. Through the cover art, my story, my characters, my world had taken on two dimensions. They had become something almost tangible. They had taken that step outside of my imagination and into the public domain. The whole package goes to the printers in the morning. Exciting times!

What do you think of the cover art? I’d love to hear from you!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you. ~ Walt Whitman

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

I was thinking today how cool it is being an Indie Publisher. I get to do the labour of the writing and I also get to design the finished product. For instance, with my upcoming release, The Last Tree, I’m in the final stages of preparation. After two years of writing, rewriting, and editing, now I get to put the whole package together.

I will do a few illustrations, organize the formatter, the printer, the ISBN’s, and think about the book launch—you know, the fun stuff. I’m communicating with my nephew, Si, the artist, about the cover art. And I’m dreaming of what it will look like and whether it will mesh well with the first two books in the series.

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I can’t wait to see it and the artwork could arrive at any moment!

This is when you can be as creative as you like. You don’t have to go the full Lemony Snicket, but you can let your imagination run wild in your own way about how your final masterpiece will look. I like the design side of book production. I would find it difficult to hand over the decisions to someone else. I had a picture book accepted once by a Wellington publisher, but they wanted to change the names of every character, so I declined the offer. These stories are my creations. As Martin Baynton said, ‘A book belongs to you. It’s your intellectual property.’

My stories are my intellectual property, and they will live long after I’m gone, therefore I want a true representation left in the world.

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I find the end stages of book production particularly pleasing. There are lots of little details to get done. It’s when the story morphs into something real I can hold in my hand. There are delicious treats to savour ahead like seeing the cover art, when Si will bring one of my characters to life. Then there is that singular moment when I get to see my book cover for the first time. Every published author can attest that there is no greater delight than laying eyes on one’s new novel! After the hours spent nose-to-the-grindstone editing the story, these are the glory days. These are the exciting things every author dreams about.

When I pictured how the finished books in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series would look, I wanted eye-catching covers, which I created with Si, and the cover designer at BookPrint. And, I wanted a symbol to act as an emblem linking the books together visually on the shelf. So I designed the seal of the Order of the Order of Twenty-four and set that on the spine of the jacket.

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As a child reader, I always appreciated it when the author added their own artwork to their stories, which is why I also include my pen and ink illustrations inside. In last week’s post, I shared how to create a map. This week, I’m sharing how I created the first pen and ink illustration, which I finished on the weekend.

This is how I did it. I drew a rectangular frame within an A4 sheet of paper. Then I chose a scene from the book—a battle between two giants. Breaking away, Ike Lee collected a boulder with his free hand and tossed it. (chap. 63, pg 210)

I drew the scene in pencil within the frame. Once happy with the image, I went over the pencil lines with black ink pens.

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As with making my map, I used a variety of size nibs, and also black water colour paint to fill in the shadows.

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It is fun to fill in the outlines and ‘colour it in’ with ink. I like to experiment with different patterns and textures. I think it’s essential with pen and ink to have some decent areas of black and white, too, as it’s so effective in this medium, creating differentiation, drama, and maximum impact. Then imagination can let fly.

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I built up the layers, lines, dashes and dots. I spent the whole day adding more. I finished with a black key line to frame the image. It was lovely to doodle all day after the hard graft of getting the story written and edited. I always look forward to doing the illustrations as an author’s reward for making it to the final stages of production.

And here’s the finished picture. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you!

The seond illustration, 200 dpi

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it. ~ Roald Dahl

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When I first started writing my third book, The Last Tree, I was able to refer to a simple map I’d made. I had sketched a quick idea of what I thought the Land of Fire and Ice looked like when I began writing the series. And I’ve used this as a reference over the last fourteen years I’ve been working on The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series. But a simple sketch would not be enough to accompany the final book in the trilogy. The challenge was to upgrade my rough sketch to something I could put in my book. Last weekend, I turned that rough draft into a map to go inside the front cover.

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This is how I did it. The place I started with this job was probably the first most important stop the author should make, and that is to sit down and read the entire story making sure your map is as accurate as possible. Once I had checked the placement of every element and what each area looked like, I felt confident to go ahead.

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The next step was to take an A4 piece of art paper and draw a rectangular frame in the middle of the page with a ruler.

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Then I transferred the details of the landscape from my sketch onto the art paper as if I were closer and on a lower angle, rather than the flat bird’s-eye view. I added a few more details just to make it interesting, like showing the site where the group first landed and the site of the shrine they visited in Book Two. I added a compass in the top right hand corner, giving the cardinal directions.

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In each book of the chronicles trilogy, I’ve included two of my pen and ink illustrations. The ink pen is a favourite medium of mine. And it’s a traditional medium for illustrations in children’s chapter books, too, which is rather fortunate.

Once you are satisfied with the way the map looks in pencil and that the features are in the right place, you can use ink. This is the truly fun part of creating your own map. Think of all these adult colouring in books you can get these days. I can attest it is way more fun to make your own. And it’s easy.

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Go over your pencil landmarks and features with a selection of black ink pens in varying nib sizes, (available at any art store) to fill in the lines. It really is fun and I take my time to enjoy the process.

To finish the picture, every map needs a sturdy border. I gave my map a thick border as if it was a painting in a frame. I filled the framework in with a leafy motif made more dramatic by silhouetting the leaves with black ink.

The map took me the whole day. And it was a day well spent.

What do you think? It’s simple to create your own map to go with your story. You can do it too, so let me know if you do. I’d love to hear about it!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.” ~ Les Brown

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

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: October reflective question: It’s been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand how can you expect other people to want to read your writing if you don’t enjoy reading yourself? What are your thoughts?

While parenthood and other strains have sometimes prevented me from reading nevertheless books have always played a major part in my life. From listening to mum and dad reading us stories from babyhood, to being given my first book of legends, my first book of poems, fairy stories, and so on, as a special Christmas gift each year, I grew up surrounded and encouraged by literature. There were lots of books in our house. My parents sometimes even allowed me to borrow from my sisters’ library, which was considered a special treat.

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We grew up with a nightly ritual of our father reading us bedtime stories. From the time we were babies right through to young adolescents, in reward for getting ready for bed dad would come and read a few pages to us. He read slowly in his deep voice and it was wondrous to hear all the classics, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and so on.

You’ve heard the saying, you are what you eat. I believe it’s also true to say; you are what you read.

The wonderful Kate De Goldi put it best when she said, ‘I’m someone who’s been constructed by books, my sense of self, how to think about other people, how to understand other people’s realities is largely down to reading.’

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Having been an avid bookworm since the age of seven, I feel I’ve been steeped in the cultures and stories of every novel I’d ever dragged home from the library and pored through every night.

I am not sure how you would separate me from the stories I’ve heard and told and read.

So I must accept that there’s no getting away from the literature I’ve imbibed. Those books are part of my DNA. I’m re-reading the Redwall series from the beginning. I got a shock the other day, when I read a character refer to death/the afterlife as being ‘the dark gates’ because in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, I called death ‘the black gates.’ I must have subconsciously recalled the phrase from those wonderful books by Brian Jacques and made it my own. I’d completely forgotten the term until I read it recently.

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Do the best you can to be as scrupulous as possible, but sometimes these things happen. Does it mean I should stop reading to avoid such clashes? No.

Every writer has heard that they should read to write. The theory being if you don’t read the best in your genre, how do you know what those readers are interested in reading? It’s vital research to every author worth their salt, to know their genre.

When I was a younger writer I used to exist in a bubble of solitude. It was the 80’s before the internet and personal computers. I was a young mother at home and I did not understand what the marketing of books was about in those days.

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I hadn’t read in my genre (of children’s fiction) since I had been a child. I wrote about whatever I liked. The resulting epic, The Scrifs and the Stirrits, was fantasy adventure for 6- 9–year-old readers with a tale of furry little critters on a quest.

In the 80’s absolutely no one was publishing anthropomorphic, off-world fantasy adventures for 6- 9–year-old readers. They weren’t popular, but I had no way of knowing as I was not reading in my genre. There wasn’t a single publisher in New Zealand who would look at my manuscript. Those were the days before self publishing when the traditional gatekeepers really did stand between the writer and the goal of publication. It was a tough lesson.

Point taken: you have to read to write. What do you think?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R. R. Martin. A Dance with Dragons

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Yesterday, after a slog of four doctor/hospital appointments in one day between my two younger boys, I received some horrible news. I had finally made it to sit down at my laptop and zone out with a stroll through my feed on Facebook. It was there I read the sad update of a friend’s son, to say that Robyn Campbell, beloved mother of seven, and highly regarded member of the writing community, had passed away in her sleep.

I left two stumbling messages on the post and immediately shut down my computer. I went about the rest of my evening, thinking about Robyn. She was such a great editor and writer, and a real firecracker. She and I formed a critique group of two a few years ago, called ‘The Two Amigos,’ and we spent a year or more working on our middle grade novels together.

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Robyn was sweet, and she ended every email with “SMOOCHES! Xxx”

I admired her endlessly positive attitude and spirit. She let nothing get her down.

Robyn was one of the original members of my online group, ‘Writing for Children’ over on Wanatribe International. That’s where we first met. She was so vivacious and fun. Her son was going through serious health issues, then their barn burnt down full of gear, and in the last couple of years, she fell down a hill when running away from a bear and hurt herself badly. Yet, her buoyant spirit never wavered. She was always positive. I used to marvel at her strength and willingness to get back up again and keep striving.

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One of her children, Christopher, was born with Sturge-Weber syndrome, characterized by the port-wine staining of the skin and various health issues. People with Sturge-Weber have a higher risk for seizures, glaucoma, stroke, blood clots, blindness, and paralysis. It was on Writing for Children we hatched a book, compiling an anthology of stories together. We wanted to help Christopher and other children like him. We formed the idea to donate all the proceeds of the book to the Sturge-Weber Foundation which is doing research on the rare condition.

Robyn’s story took us, that when Christopher was little and had asked about the staining on his skin, she would always say, “That’s where an angel kissed you.” We thought it was beautiful. With that in mind, the title, Kissed By An Angel was born. We went over to Facebook with it, creating a page for the book where we invited middle grade authors we knew to join and take part.

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We ended up with eleven authors in all. Our theme was angelic, supernatural, or somehow not of this world. 

I wrote a story, illustrated my story and the cover. We edited the book by sending our stories to the whole group and critiquing back and forth. Then another member did the formatting and so on.

We were proud of the resulting anthology, Kissed By An Angel . After publication, we sent one copy around the world to every contributing author to sign, and Robyn gave it to her son. In the foreword, Robyn wrote that the authors of the anthology ‘volunteered time to work on their stories and the publication of this book. They’re more valuable than the finest jewels–more cherished and appreciated than mere words could ever say.’

Robyn was the best.

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In her moving story, which starts the anthology, Kissed By An Angel Robyn wrote the story from Christopher’s point of view. She retells when he says he’s sorry for having seizures and making her cry. “This is nothing you’ve done. It isn’t your fault.” Momma smooths the sheet. “…I want you to know I would never, ever need a break from caring for you.”

Robyn was a truly wonderful mother.

I remember when one writer’s mom became ill. Robyn organised a big group of writers to write a funny story by each adding a snippet and send it to her to cheer her up.

Robyn was a truly good friend.

What a giant hole she has left in her family and in everyone’s lives. I’m so sad, I could hardly sleep last night…

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And then I started to think about how much Robyn has inspired me.

She was a warrior mother, a home-schooler and a hard worker on the farm. Her nature was one of giving, and there’s a lot to learn from that. She never let things get her down and always looked to the positive.

Robyn was truly a role model.

She showed by example how to have the right attitude in life. That’s what I aspire to do, too, hopefully half as well as my amigo. 

Love you buddy, smooches! Xxx

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Choose happiness. It’s the ultimate act of rebellion. ~ Piper Bayard

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Subscribe to my newsletter, email me on 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 of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

Writing takes me by surprise all the time, and that’s one of its many charms. It’s a great way to live, trying to catch the muse by the tail as she sails by on the breeze. Then if you’re lucky enough to catch a good story and follow it through into form, you have the joy ‘going along for the ride’ to see where the tale goes.

One thing that never fails to surprise me, is the way story elements you wrote in rough draft six months ago, suddenly make sense when you get to write the end scenes. That’s the fun of being a “pantser” (someone who writes without a plan). You get to feel part of creating something ‘other’ outside of yourself. You are just a cog in the wheel, a part of the story writing process, not the only agent of its creation, and that is a marvellous, magnificent feeling.

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Another great surprise along the way has been the relaxation I always feel in being able to wear my pyjamas all day. I’m a full time mum part time writer. The only time I get to myself is at the weekends – while the boys are at their dad’s – and I use all of that time writing. During the weekend, I will not get out of my pyjamas once. I wrap myself up in a dressing gown, grab a hat and a shawl. Bliss.

It used to be, thirty or so years ago, that I would have hankered to get dressed up and go out somewhere. I would’ve looked forward to wearing my latest gear or hair style, to go out doing things with friends, or going to the movies. I’ve found the older I get the more I adore being at home and not going anywhere. It’s liberating not worrying about how I look. To work from home is relaxing, comforting, and it doesn’t cost very much to do.

Reading an excerpt of The Sasori Empire

On the downside, I’ve been surprised to find that being a writer makes for really awkward social conversations. Being a writer is not a conventional job. Whenever I’m at a party and people say, ‘what do you do?’ and they hear my answer, they invariably ask what do you write? Where do you sell your books? Are you in the library? And so on. When you’re a part time writer and self published as I am, and a relatively long way off being on the library book shelf, it can make sometimes for painful party conversation.

I love the way Alice Munro put it when she said, ‘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.’

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That’s been the best surprise of all about this business. And I guess it’s what drew me into pursuing this as a ‘path’ over thirty-five years ago. As a seventeen-year-old children’s writer, I became hooked on the sheer joy of story writing. It takes you to great heights and lows, and extraordinary lands in between; you get to chase an idea to see where it takes you and experience the journey the characters take with them, it’s exciting.

Hunter S. Thompson said, ‘every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man and hence your perspective changes.’ I think I’ve grown as an author over the years. I’ve changed a lot. My fiction is no longer a hobby, it’s become a lifestyle. I savour every moment. I still revel in the delicious surprises that are part of the job. It’s a wonderful ride.

Does your writing or art every surprise you?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. ~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

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As I enter the final stages of editing my third book, The Last Tree, I find I’m often asked the question, “What are you going to write next?” The answer is, I don’t know. This is the third and last volume in my middle grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, and it has so engrossed every moment, I haven’t had the chance to look beyond it.

When I do look beyond it, I feel this irrational fear, which I believe is commonly felt among other writers. Will I ever write another story?

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For the last fourteen years, I’ve been fitting in writing the Chronicles around raising my two youngest sons. As a solo mum, with a house and garden to care for, and elderly parents, I enjoyed every chance I had to escape into my imaginary world on the planet of Chiron, whenever I was writing. It’s hard to imagine moving on. The thought of starting a new plot, a new world, a new dilemma, and new characters terrifies me.

It’s not me who writes the genesis draft anyway. Elizabeth Gilbert calls the process of inspiration, the ‘other’ energy that comes from nowhere and brings the stories with it, the muse; some call it a “genius.” The stories arrive from elsewhere as if they come on the wind. You have to be fleet of mind to grab them when they whistle by or you might miss out.

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I guess that’s part of the fun also of being a writer, living on the knife edge while you wait to be the instrument of the creative ferment. Once you start the process of formulating a story, you open your mind to ideas and wait for lightning to strike.

I haven’t had to do that in a long time. I’m nervous. Last night, I had a few nightmares. Thinking about them upon waking up, I could see the common denominator was fear. I decided, as we approach the winter solstice, that I would let go of all fear around writing the next book.

Every writer goes through this same anxiety at some point. Will I ever write again? Every writer has a different way of handling the period of not knowing that follows finishing a project and before starting the next.

My method is to craft notebooks for each potential project.

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This began back in the 1980’s, when I was writing my series, The Great Adventures of Splat the Wonder Dog. I put effort into creating a notebook of every background detail. The act of crafting images, making lists of story details and background and focusing in on the tale seemed to bring it to life in a whole new way.

The notebook also helped corral my thoughts and world-building.

In 2005, when I started writing The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, my notebook was a pad of old paper on the nightstand, on which I jotted down details of background, history, geography, characters, setting, mythology, religion, and plot each time I passed. There were no sketches or pictures pulled from magazines. I had two sons under the age of ten. I didn’t have time to shower or clip my own fingernails, let alone make works of art. Simple or not, the creative process was still seeded and propagated through the power of that notebook.

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This afternoon, I was doing the housework when an idea for a story setting popped into my head. It was a simple notion about an island I had read about years ago, in one of the old hardbacks in my parents’ home library. A few more ideas flashed by. I grabbed for my trusty moleskin and jotted them down. The muse was in flight.

The next logical step for me is to start collating these ideas into one place – a notebook. It’s so exciting! Whether it turns out to be a series or stand alone novel, that humble repository is where it will come together. While I’m still hard at work on publishing my third novel, the fourth will have time to develop.

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New Zealand author, Joy Cowley, said that she ‘baits the hook, drops it in the water and then waits for three to four years for each story idea to gather more ideas.’

I see my notebook method as being very similar to this analogy. Maybe someday soon, I’ll have an answer to the question, “What are you going to write next?” and it all begins right here with a pen and paper.

I’m ready for a new adventure to begin. Bring it on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have yet to meet a writer who wouldn’t rather peel a banana than apply himself to a pen. – Alice Thomas Ellis

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The benefits of reading for the writer are multi-fold. I knew that. Yet, there were a lot of years in the middle of my life where I wasn’t reading modern fiction.

I discovered the joy of reading, as a little kid. A trip to the library each week was a part of our pre-school and early school life. I can remember eagerly choosing books and taking them home to savour. Then somewhere along the way I lost the habit. I felt guilty. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t reading.

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Anyone who follows this blog will have heard me talk about the wonderful writer, Kate de Goldi, our award winning kiwi writer. I admire her work and she is a great teacher, too. When I did Kate’s Writing for Children workshop, in 2005, she was emphatic about how important it was for us to read. In the very first lecture she gave, Kate said, ‘Read the genre constantly, get immersed in the form.’ She finished the lecture with the exhortation to, ‘Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Write, write, write.’

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At the time, my two youngest boys were one and three, and I was trying to work on my stories, and be a good wife and run the household, and I was busy. I was too busy and exhausted to read. Then, I became complacent.

Last Christmas, however, I decided enough was enough.

At the start of this year, I made a private resolution that I was going to start reading again.

So far, it has been incredible. Every time I find myself at a second hand bookstore, or a book fair, I buy every middle grade book I see that looks interesting. I have built quite a library. And, I’ve started happily working my way through my collection.

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I’ve read all sorts of novels: Margaret Mahy’s Raging Robots & Unruly Uncles, Jane Bloomfield’s excellent Lily Max, Satin, Scissors, Frock, Joy Cowley’s The Wild West Gang, and Emily Rodda’s The City of Rats, averaging one book a week.

It has been more than entertaining; it has more than reminded me why I love to read. It’s been an education.

I understand now why Kate specified reading in one’s genre. You begin to realize what’s out there, and how people are writing to “tweens” these days, you start to see more modern structure to the stories. I’ve been inspired and encouraged to refresh my own approach to fiction. Becoming ‘immersed in the form’ helps me better understand how to emulate it. Reading is teaching me how to write.

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I cannot tell you how greatly I’ve felt revolutionized by reading again. Reading, as a writer, is entertaining and informative. Blogger, Laura Thomas, said, “When you read, you experience the power of writing. You learn what words work together and how they can be used to convey emotions.” You see which techniques and approaches to writing modern fiction are the most effective, what sort of storylines are drawing people back for more. Most of the articles I’ve read on the subject of ‘reading to improve writing skills’ recommend reading traditionally published, successful authors in your genre.

You can study good writing by reading the most popular books.

 

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According to a report on the benefits of reading in the Health Fitness Revolution blog, reading ‘sharpens writing skills.’ They attribute this improvement to the ‘expansion of your vocabulary.’ “Exposure to published, well-written work has a positive effect on one’s own writing. Observing the various styles of other authors, journalists, poets and writers will eventually be reflected in your own writing style.”

I believe that to be true. I see my style changing. I notice that when I’m thinking on my feet as well, for instance in Toastmasters, I have more words available than I used to. It’s wonderful.

I like to hear also, how reading influences other artists, because the impact crosses all forms. I had the great pleasure of hearing artist/author Shaun Tan speak at one of New Zealand’s Storylines Children’s Literature festivals, a few years ago. He’s such a genius.

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Of reading, Shaun said, “As well as visual sources, many ideas for the illustrations emerged from my reading history. I’m often thinking of different things I’ve read, or particular words, while I draw and paint which best express the poetry of colour, line and form I’m after.”

I found that thought uplifting.

Reading a great story is universally beneficial. How cool is that.

I aim to continue to read my way through my library of novels and when the time comes, I shall take great pleasure in starting to frequent my own local library again. I can’t wait.

What about you, do you read books? Have you been to your local library lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Reading!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write.” ~ Samuel Johnson

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