Archive for the ‘Competitions’ Category

School started again this week. Talk about from “whoa” to go. We went from sleep ins and no schedules, to waking at the crack of dawn for exercise regimens and sports practices before school, multiple appointments for everyone, and extracurricular activities after school. I feel like I’ve been running since my feet hit the floor at 6 a.m. Monday morning. It has been an utter madhouse around here.

The youngest son sprained his ankle at the end of last term. We’ve been doing a regimen of exercises each day and attending physiotherapy each week. The middle son needed an eye exam on Tuesday and new glasses.

The guy turned up to finish the trimming of the hedges leaving me a piles of branches to dismantle.

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There has been a bombardment of emails from schools, sports coaches, music and dance teachers. A lot has been going on.

One of the things I did this week was to take my sixteen-year-old son with Down syndrome to the University, to take part in a study on Keratoconus, the degenerative eye disease which can often affect those with Down syndrome. If the disease goes undetected, the changing shape of the cornea can lead to progressive vision loss. I was told my boy has two lumps on one cornea and one on the other. So we will be screened again to monitor changes. We were lucky they picked it up. And since the study being done will be of worldwide significance, it was a win-win situation to participate.


By Wednesday night, I was exhausted. Yet, the youngest and I had to stay up late and bake the scones he takes to school each day in his lunches.

Yesterday, I had the kids to organize, a full day of errands, plus the grocery shopping. I was feeling dispirited.

It’s at times like these that I miss my mother, who passed away in 2015. Ma had an uncanny ability to tune in when I was going through difficult times, and she would give me a call. When I visited my parents in their small seaside town every five weeks, mum would have flowers in a vase in my room and a hot water bottle heating up my bed at night. She surrounded me with love and a feeling of being of cared about.

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I remember there was this one time that happened six years ago. After working on my middle grade story for years, I had submitted the manuscript to an international story competition, the prize offered was book publication. As an unpublished author at the time, the prize was considerable. On the official website, they said, those who don’t hear back are the finalists. I didn’t hear back so naturally I was jubilant. Until upon further enquiry, I discovered that not only had I not made it into the finals, but the organisers had not received the manuscript at all, due to my fatal error in calculating the time difference between the countries. I’d missed their deadline by a day.


In my mind, I had thought I was close to breaking through the glass ceiling. Instead I was back at square one. Devastated, I fell into a black hole that lasted for seven days. At the end of that week, I got a phone-call. I heard my mother’s voice. She said, “The darkest hour always comes before the dawn. You may think all is lost right now, but it isn’t. This is just the start of great things opening up for you. You’ll see!” I remember I wept. Even though my mother was failing in her later years, she always knew when to ride in on the silver horse.

Yesterday, there I was going through the motions of my to-do list and feeling weary. I wished I could turn back time and pick up the phone to hear Ma’s voice saying something wise and knowing and caring.


Then, as I went about doing the family grocery shopping, I began to find a gold coin here, a gold coin there on the ground. And I thought of Ma. My mother was famously generous with her cash. She was always slipping me a fiver, that sort of thing. It was almost as if Ma was giving me little gifts from heaven. I don’t know if it was true, but it helped put a smile on my face again.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether a thing is “true” or not, it just matters that you believe it. Sometimes it’s that small leap of imaginative faith that gets you through to the other side of things and you feel better. Onwards and upwards, I say.


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


No man can ever appreciate the debt he owes his mother, but sometimes a little thing may come up to set him thinking. ~ Edwin Robinson



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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.


*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.


*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 (, 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.


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.


*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? 


Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol


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


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“Where There Is No Vision, the People Perish” ~ the Bible, Book of Proverbs

Last night, I went along to a speech contest, one of four which take place each year within Toastmasters. The Humorous and Table Topics Contest this year had within it a most thought-provoking question. The chair asked each contestant, “Is art essential to daily life?”


Wow, what a great question. I thought about it all the way home.

When you think the earliest examples of the cave art of our ancestors began to appear around 30,000 years ago, it makes you realize how deep this question really is. From that artistic moment in man’s history, we sought to express strong feelings through imagery. This proved a great intellectual breakthrough for our species.

In effect, man could ‘freeze’ part of his environment long enough for his powerful intelligence to think about it, to manipulate it, to understand it fully. ~ Readers Digest, The First Two Million Years.


Art can show us who we are and who we want to be, and it can give us the metaphors and thematic connections that let us understand our world in a bigger, weirder, more resonant way. ~ Chuck Wendig

When you think that our primitive art led to teaching aids, toys and tools, you realize that art has played a quintessential part of our evolution. Therefore, the answer to the question could be, art is not only essential to life but life as we know it today would not have been possible without it.


This morning, there was a new post out by Wendig, entitled, It Is Art That Will Help Us Survive

Wendig gave verdant life to some deep concerns people have these days about the future of everything. Yet, he leavens the doom and despair of “reality” with the message, ‘Spoiler warning: it’s art that will save us.’ In other words, he’s doing through his blog what art does for the observer.


He likens the positive effect to being healthy for us: ‘The act of art as a probiotic boost to our emotional and spiritual immune systems. Art as rebellion, revelation, renewal.’ I like the idea of that, art as antioxidant! Thanks, Chuck. You, the man.

I’ve been an artist all my life, whether through art or the written word. About a year ago, a talented, creative friend asked, Does being able to draw have a purpose these days…it doesn’t seem to have any artistic or financial merit.

I replied: “My oil paintings will outlive me. I kind of like that. However, leaving legacies aside, a world without art and artists of all kinds I would not want to live in. Our purpose may not be expressed in the same clearly linear format of hours done/recompense given/living earned sort of thing as other people get to do. The arts are about much more than that. They’re about spiritual, emotional, mental, physical expression and transmutation and magical processes.


‘The arts provide the rest of mankind with those most important of elusive experiences: hope, and inspiration, and aspiration and joy. They’re about the alchemy of being reminded to look up and remember the bigger picture.’

And as Wendig reminded us, ‘We learn who other people are through art — it’s not just our stories we need reflected, but everyone’s. Art maybe won’t create empathy out of whole cloth, but it can stir it, it can stoke it, like breath blown against cooling embers.’

Empathy is a vital asset in these explosive, uncertain times. Therefore art provides a vehicle for understanding one another.


This is why in times gone by, the Ancient Maori, for instance, would greet a group from another tribe by stating who they were, who their kin were, and then by sitting and sharing stories (the “mihi”). In this way, they would create common ground with those they needed to ally with and trade with or whatever. Art greases the wheels of reciprocity and peace.

Therefore, you could say, art is essential to future life.

It was the wonderful writer, Terry Pratchett, who said, Before you can change the world, you have to be able to form a picture of the world being other than it appears. I think this is the essence of the argument right here. Yes, as Wendig says, art provides an escape, and this opens us to envision, to build new worlds, better, greater, more sustainable worlds.

Imagination, said Pratchett, not intelligence, made us human. It’s art, said Wendig, that will save us. It’s art, said Carol, that will preserve our species and our world.

Yes. Art is essential to life!


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


Humans, in order to live effectively and happily, need a goal—a vision—to pursue. ~ Paul Rosenberg


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The thing about writing humour is that everyone has a different sense of humour.

I remember having a conversation about this with a friend. She said, their family had invited the son’s new girlfriend over, to join them for dinner. After the meal, they thought they’d watch their favourite show, with the idea that laughing would bring them all together. So they put on a comedy which they knew was side-splitting, ‘Little Britain.’ My friend said that she, her husband and sons were rolling off the couch, nearly crying with laughter, while the son’s girlfriend never cracked a smile throughout the whole show.

Humour is personal and deadly serious.


I promised readers I’d share my journey towards the holy grail of engaging the funny bone. Let’s say, it’s been an interesting process, so far.

In my last post, there was a great moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth about having to write the material for my humorous speech.

I got some helpful pointers from a number of responders. With regards my first idea for material, which had been my mother and her dementia, a friend on social media – the wonderfully gregarious Lord David Prosser  – countered with a great comment.

David Prosser

‘If you get the chance to read the Deric Longden story Lost for Words or get the chance to see the TV film that was made starring Dame Thora Hird you’ll see that the subject of dementia can be dealt with i a funny, charming yet sympathetic way. Because we see the humour in a situation doesn’t make us uncaring towards people suffering that illness, it just means the particular situation was funny.’ ~ David Prosser

Thanks, David.

However, for the upcoming Speech Contest, I decided to go with the same topic I covered last year, something I know intimately – being a parent. Since then, after many anxious, feeble attempts at writing it, and wringing of hands, I began to despair I’d ever be able to write anything good ever again!

Bun Karyudo

I watched footage of award-winning humorous speaker, Jeanne Robertson (thanks for the link, Jenny), and read a post or two by my friends who write funny blogs, like the self-confessed undie chronicler, Jenny Hansen, and sweet blogger, Bun Karyudo, whose excellent “Lovingly Hand-Crafted Humor Blog” is always good for a chuckle.

I thought Bun’s recent post, Teaching My Son to Swim? It’s Just Not Going to Happen was hilarious.

Here’s an excerpt, where his wife is convincing a reluctant Bun why he ought to teach their son to swim:

“When someone makes a promise, isn’t it only right to keep it.”

When someone made a promise, I nodded, it was only right to keep it.

“Right then,” she said, “I promised our son you’d teach him to swim. How can you possibly refuse?”

Bun, however, has a natural gift for turn of comedic phrase. I don’t!

Still stumped, I gazed upon these people’s brilliance and felt unable to produce anything of credibly feather-tickling value myself.

I’ve been having the same conversation everywhere I’ve gone, what makes comedy?

This week, a friend asked me, ‘Look at this way, what makes you laugh?’


Terrific question. I can tell you, one-liners leave me cold; I prefer it when there’s a storyline, and the humour comes through what happens.

A light went on! I realized that my earlier attempts had failed, because each was basically a series of one-liners strung together.

Yesterday, my two youngest sons left to spend the weekend with their father. Last night, I relaxed and listened to some music, as you do. I was thinking about how different childhood is for kids these days, compared to say, when I was young, or say my parents, or their parents before them.

A few words wafted by me on the wind. If you consider that my grandmother was born in 1901. She lived in the “pre-nuclear age…” I thought, Gran had perfect recall, while I have trouble remembering something from one room of the house to the other… that’s a funny idea! Lucky for me, I was fleet of foot and captured the words before they flew on by.

I had the start to my speech.

The concept of comparing childhoods in our family, from my gran through to my youngest son, gave me the all-important narrative I needed. The rest flowed from there.

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Here’s an example of the content as it stands so far: ‘They say there are more crazy people on the streets these days than ever before, we parents get warnings to keep an eye on our children’s whereabouts at all times. I know my children’s whereabouts – couch one and couch two in our living room, where they can get the wifi.’

Therefore, the raw material for my humorous speech has finally been produced. A labour of love, no less.

Now, I just need to figure out how to deliver the speech to achieve maximum impact. Wish me luck! Any tips for comedic timing/inflection that works,  please let me know! There’s a chocolate fish in it for you (nah, just kidding).


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol



It is impossible to look cool while picking up a Frisbee. ~ Peter Kay


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Since I put my name forward to compete in a Toastmaster’s “Humorous Speech Contest,” a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been working on the dilemma of material. Or, lack of it. The race has been on to write something funny.

I have spent days wondering what I should write about.

My hairdresser came over to give me a trim. She has her aging parents living with her, one of whom is blind, while the other has Alzheimer’s. The stories she told, of the mishaps going on in their household, had both of us nearly crying with laughter. I thought, ‘this stuff is priceless.’


I thought about my own family’s hilarious stories, about my mother, and her dementia. I put it to the arbiters of taste in my circle. The resounding answer was, ‘No, don’t go there. Mothers are sacrosanct.’ Then, I read an article the other day, in which a woman, whose mother had died with Alzheimer’s, decried another guy, who had written a piece about his mother “going mad.” She said, it was ‘cruel and inconsiderate’ to mock those whose parents had dementia.

I realized that my first two ideas were hot-button topics! I decided “not to go there.” In a contest situation, the idea is to appeal to the audience, not turn people away.

What is funny?


I have wracked my brain, and done a bit of research.

I’ve learned from reading various comedian’s blogs that humour comes from the unexpected. We laugh because we’re led to expect one thing but are given the opposite instead.

I began to experiment. Going back to the subject of raising kids for my subject matter, I wrote a short speech.


According to what I read, one’s success with a “humorous speech” depends less on content than on the delivery. In the latest Toastmasters magazine, it was reported that the speaker, Palmo Carpino advised, if you want to go from good to great, is “It’s not so much about building a library as it is about building your reflexes.” Paul, who is active with the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, says, “This is what usually separates the “ok attempts” scribed into a written speech from the “memorable point illustrated in a memorable manner.”

The next time I saw my nephew, I tried out some of the so-called “funny bits” in my speech on him. He gave me one of those face-spreading smiles you give, when something isn’t really funny. My jokes had flat-lined.

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I reworked the speech completely, remembering the rule of the unexpected. I practiced it again and again, by standing up, marching about and testing the delivery, the pauses, the inflections.

That’s what you have to get just right, the sound and timing of your material.

I tried rearranging each piece so as to take the audience in one direction then, casting about for the punch line which turns the listeners in a different direction. Bouncing it off myself and others.

I’ve received some great tips and ideas from people. The top two would have to be, ‘Just be yourself and let your character shine through.’ A great resource, according to a writer/artist friend of mine, Steve Attkisson, is Gene Perret’s Ten Commandments of Comedy. This is ‘one book that has been instructive and entertaining.’ I intend to withdraw this book from the library, to read next. I know I need help.

Will the audience laugh? Only time will tell!

In the end, I’ll get it right. Meantime, I thought the lessons I’m learning along the way might be valuable. As I figure out how to write a humorous speech, hopefully, what I share via my blog might also benefit someone else. Ain’t the internet cool?

How do you write funny? Any tips to share? Send help. Please. Or chocolate.


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


My advice? You wanna look 20 years younger? Stand further away. ~ Jeff Green



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At this same time last year, the president of our Toastmasters club asked us, “Who wants to enter the Humorous Speech Contest?” Out of the twenty-five people in the room, four people put their hands up. I put my hand up, too. I’d only joined Toastmasters the month before and I had no idea what was involved. Yet, a number of people I liked and admired, had put themselves forward, and I felt it was only right I should join them.

Evaluation Contest

In my mind, I imagined we’d be delivering our talks, as we did each week, to one another, in the usual club setting. Have a laugh. A cup of tea. End of.

Little did I expect what was to follow.

When I trucked up to our club rooms to give my speech in the contest that day, I was surprised to find the room was full of people. And at least half the people there were strangers. This is always a big step up for any aspiring public speaker. That moment when you go beyond the friendly faces and atmosphere of your club setting.


My reaction was to go into panic and meltdown.

No one had warned me. I had had no idea that this contest was on a big scale. Turns out there are four big contests in Toastmasters a year, and all of them work to funnel the best speakers in the country to the top of the pile. At the end of each year, the best speaker from New Zealand goes over to the Annual International Convention, this year being held in Washington D.C, to compete against the best speakers from all around the world. Like, it literally couldn’t be any bigger. So, for the club level contests, there have to be guest judges, a contest chairperson, tally counters, the works.

Now, I’m not a competitive person. I never have been. I only entered thinking I was participating in something a bit fun within my club. Once the event was under way, I was terrified, thinking about the scope. I was waaaaay out of my comfort zone. But, it was too late to back out.


Long story, short, I ended up winning. The moment they called my name, I thought, Oh, crabapples, now I’m going to have to compete at the next level. I tell you, there is no way I would have put myself forward into that position, if it hadn’t happened completely by accident like that. So it was a comedy of errors to get to that point. Like a row of dominoes.

Anyway, on the night of the next level of the competition, my nerves were off the charts. It was the only time I’d experienced a panic attack. When I started speaking, my nerves got worse and worse rather than weaker and weaker. So much so, that I ground to a halt twice during the delivery and went completely blank. I felt I’d flubbed it. But I won second place.

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I came home, shakily, needing a week to recover. I had never been more afraid. I had never felt more exposed. I had never felt more adrenalin. I said to myself that was one of the worst experiences of my entire life. I’m never doing that again!

This week, at our club meeting, El Presidente asked, “Who wants to enter the Humorous Speech Contest?” and I found myself putting my hand up. I know it’s going to be utterly terrifying. I know I’m going to want to kill myself for putting myself in that situation, on the night of the competition. Yet, I put my hand up.



Because it’s like I’m in competition with myself: I have to do better than I did last time. Not to come first. But to deliver the whole speech and not to freeze up when I felt so previously stricken.

Yeah, that’s the crux of it: I want to do better than that.

It’s a personal challenge. I’ll let you know how I go.

Which personal challenge are you the most proud of overcoming?

Yvette Carol 2

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


I think my securities far outweigh my insecurities. I am not nearly as afraid of myself and my imagination as I used to be. ~ Billy Connolly


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For the last month, I’ve been working on a sixth speech for Toastmasters. Then, at a competition the other night, I listened to a speech titled, ‘What is a Story?’ which focused solely on the endings. I like a good finish; I marshalled a few thoughts on the subject here a few weeks ago in a post called, The True End.


However, as my nephew sagely said, ‘A story has to have a good beginning, or I’d never read past the first pages!’

Excellent beginnings, it could be argued, are nearly more important than good endings.

I decided to change the subject of my speech and scrapped what I had been working on in favour of this question, ‘what is a story?’

My challenge was to write a speech about this vast subject and make it fit within 5-7 minutes. Talk about editing! I delivered my riposte at Toastmasters this week.

test speaker

‘What is a story? 2’

Madam President, fellow members and guests,

I went along to the International Speech Contest last week. One of the speakers I’ll never forget – John LeRoy – because of his choice of subject matter: his speech was titled, ‘What is a story?’

I thought, Great. Can’t wait to hear this.

John’s presentation was very interesting; he delivered it with action sequences. He also had that all-important swagger. Therefore, he deserved second place. John was technically brilliant, except he focused solely on the endings.

“Mr. LeRoy, what a great speech,” I said, shaking his hand. When what I really wanted to do was grab John by his neatly-pressed lapels and say, “Stories are about more than just the endings!”

If I may, I’d like to answer the question posed.

There’s far more to a story than the ending. For a start, it also has a beginning… and middle! And, it’s more than the sum of its parts.

In this talk I’d like to start with the some of the obvious traits and move onto the not-so obvious elements of fiction.

Best-selling Kiwi author, Brian Falkner said story stands for:

S – setting

T – the characters

O – obstacles

R – reach

Y – your goal

Setting provides flavour, whether it be a deserted island or on the moon. The setting gives readers framework for the adventure, and a sense of place.

The Characters. We are social animals, we like to believe in and relate to the characters.

Obstacles. No conflict, no story, or so they say. It has to have tension.

Reach. Reaching is something brave people do. Heroes. We like to read about extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. We’ve been talking about heroes since the first proto-humans told tales around the fire in their caves.

Your goal. The goal set up for the characters in the beginning must be won or resolved in some fashion by the end. Anton Chekhov said the gun that hangs over the fireplace in the first scene has to be fired by the last. The questions raised must be answered. Or as David Farland put it, Pay off! Pay off! Pay off!

Yes, the mechanics of story, the beginning, the middle, the end, the characters, the obstacles – all these elements need to be there.

And yet, it is about far more than mere mechanics!

Here’s where we move onto the not-so obvious aspects of story.

A book can be technically brilliant and yet fail to capture the imagination of the reader. Readers are seeking something else. There’s a universal need to seek an experience, an escape, a deliverance from the ordinary and every day.

Authors have addressed this in many ways.

‘A good story should alter you in some way; it should change your thinking, your feeling, your psyche, or the way you look at things,’ wrote Allen Say.

Frances Buffet once described fiction as, ‘The Hope that Books Built.’

‘Interesting anecdotes are not fiction by themselves. They need the sandpaper touch of art,’ wrote Jane Yolen.


Because good fiction takes us beyond the mechanics of beginnings and endings, obstacles and setting, although they need those as well.

Stories tell us that our lives transcend possibilities. Which is after all, what art does.

As acclaimed Kiwi author Kate de Goldi said, ‘we remember readings that acted like transformations.’

What is a story? I have given you one answer and yet, this is still only the beginning of the story!


“How to do it” will never create an Art. It will never shake the old skin, it will never get us out of here.” ~ Charles Bukowski.

Tell me, I’d love to know your view, what is a story?


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


See my dress rehearsal video on YouTube.

The confidence that comes from speaking in front of an audience is magical – it permeates our whole being. ~ George Yen

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. ~ Philip Pullman


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Back due to popular demand! Here is the transcript from the speech I gave at my Toastmasters Club this week. We held an “Evaluation Contest” for which I was the “Test Speaker.” Although it was my fifth speech since I joined the association, I tackled Project 4: “Say it” from the “Competent Communication” manual.

The aim of Project 4 is to be as succinct as possible, eliminate all jargon, and not to use words which could be taken different ways.

Evaluation Contest

For those of you who read my post, The Number One Tip that might Save Your Life, the two personal stories therein are repeated in this speech, just so you know! However, I guess this will demonstrate the difference between writing a blog post and writing a speech. Admittedly, at first, I thought I could cheat and just use my post as my speech. Yet, when I recorded myself giving the talk, I could hear all the ways in which it just didn’t work. The ideas just don’t translate in some areas. But it’s a fine-tuned balance that needs to be acquired. It takes endless editing. Which makes writing a speech exactly like writing a story!


Speech Five

Fear is a Gift!

Contest Chair, contestants, fellow Toastmasters,

Around the world attacks on women are on the rise.

In one day in America, 400 people will be injured with guns; in one hour 75 women will be raped.

According to the latest crime statistics for NZ, there were 2,277 acts intended to cause injury, 180 sexual assaults, and 633 acts of abduction, harassment and other offences recorded in the month of October alone. Frightening isn’t it?

Yet, according to self defence expert, Gavin de Becker, in his book, The Gift of Fear, we can use fear to spot signs of danger, to save ourselves, before it’s too late.

I saw Gavin interviewed on the Oprah show many years ago. Oprah called him, “the nation’s leading expert on violent behaviour.” His message was, Learn to listen to your gut instinct, and act on it.

Listen and act. Easy to say. Hard to do. How do you listen to your instincts? When I first watched that show on Oprah, I took the message in, but I didn’t know how to “listen.”

In my early 30’s, I lived in a flat on the beach. A trail ran down the garden, through native forest, and an avenue of Pohutakawas onto the sand. I swam every day, at the same time of day, for a whole year.

Halfway through that year, however, as I walked down the track in my swimsuit to take my daily swim, I got a “funny feeling,” a sort of a sinking sensation in my gullet. But, it was “nothing,” I told myself, and I ignored it.

I carried on with my daily swims, for a further six months, all the time with this funny little feeling every time I went up and down the track.

One day, I got off work early and I went for a swim earlier than usual. I was floating in the waves, and caught a glimpse of a guy tearing down the beach. I looked again and the man had disappeared. Poof! He was gone. That’s strange, I thought.

But, I ignored it. I carried on with my swim. Half an hour later, I walked back up the shore. As I neared the path, I thought, is that man who was running, still around here somewhere? To put my suspicions at rest, I decided to check out the track from the safety of the bushes. I clambered up the bank and peered through the branches. Then, I realised, I wasn’t alone. There was someone behind me.

I swung around. The man who had been tearing down the beach was lying sprawled on his side in the grass, where he could overlook the track without being seen.

That was when I discovered that all those stories are true. When you’re in danger, in real danger, the adrenalin that takes off within you temporarily makes you superhuman.

Charged with these super powers, I crouched all the way down, like a cat does, when it’s preparing to jump. Then, I sprang with great force, clear over the top of these bushes, dropping probably a couple of metres onto the sand below. Without a pause in my stride, I sprinted for home around the roadway.

The message I had taken away from watching Gavin de Becker, was that your first instinct of fear is the most important. I realized that life had given me a lesson in just how important. I had put myself in harm’s way because I’d been ignoring what my gut had been trying to tell me for six months.

I decided that from then on, I’d try harder in future to pay attention to my body’s wisdom.

These days, I am a student of a Hawaiian art called Ka ‘alele au. Ka ‘alele au is a dynamic moving meditation like a martial art. The Hawaiians call the gut, the ‘pono.’ They believe the pono gives a very deep real truth. In the Maori culture, ‘pono’ is the word for truth!

The second time I was in a situation in my life where I experienced that tensing of the pono, the first warning sign of danger, happened only a month ago.

I went out a little earlier than usual for my run, at 7 a.m. There was no traffic, no other runners around; the entire neighbourhood was still asleep. I jogged down the left hand side of a dead-end street with my headphones on.

I noticed the car because it drove on the wrong side of the road and swerved around the dead end. The large car stopped, facing me on the other side of the road, where I was heading, with the engine going. I glimpsed the dented sides of the car and the blacked-out windows. My pono grabbed. The first warning sign.

I spun on my heel and jogged back the way I had come, quickly taking the plugs out of my ears.

The strange car started moving, approaching directly behind me on the wrong side of the road! My pono tightened further.

So, I made a sharp right and ripped up the next driveway.

By this time my heart was thumping, my ears were ringing with sirens, I was so terrified.

The strange car stopped at the letterbox, engine idling.

But the driveway was short and I was met by a locked garden gate and closed garage doors. I ducked under the shallow awning to the front door of the house. I knocked, and knocked. But, no one answered. I was trapped.

Stuck there with my back to the door, I listened to the engine rumbling, with only a meter and a half at most between myself and the strange car, and nowhere else to run.

For a full five minutes I waited, not knowing what would happen next. Then, the car finally moved up the road. I crept out of the driveway an inch at a time until I could see the street really was clear. When I sprinted for home like I’d never run before.

Certainly, there’s no doubt in my mind that the people in that car wished to do me harm. If I hadn’t heard that important message on Oprah all those years ago, I might not have learned how vital it is to pay attention to the pono. I might not have listened to my first gut instinct the way I did that morning. I may not have reacted as quickly. And, I might not have been here, today, to tell you this story.

A New York Times reviewer said of Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, ‘The ability to predict and protect oneself from violent behaviour, largely through one’s own intuition, is the central premise of Becker’s book – thus, fear is a gift.



Thanks for reading, and feel free to share this message with your loved ones. This is something I intend teaching to my children. Be safe, be well.



Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”–Dr. Seuss

You can view my speech here:

This is reblogged from The Story Reading Ape’s site, because anyone who knows TSRA will know his blog is a fantastic active hub for writers. As my adopted grandfather at Toastmasters, Bruce, said this week, ‘as long as you’re sincere and supportive,’ it’s all good with him (as it is with me).


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