Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

In 2020, I challenged myself to get back into reading. That year I set the bar high by completing twelve novels. A big step up from 0. Then I went further by reading a total of eighteen books in 2021. But, somehow, last year, I fell back to thirteen. As a person who sets high standards for herself, this came as quite a blow. A fellow blogger said she had read 166 books and that the standard number read by most Americans is thirteen or fourteen. The goal for this Kiwi in 2023 is to read more than thirteen! The challenge is on! And I’m proud to say I have already finished reading my first novel for 2023, The Grimm Conclusion, A Tale Dark & Grimm #3 by Adam Gidwitz.

I bought this book while cruising around the secondhand bookstores at Christmas. I thought anything to do with the Brothers Grimm would be interesting. Boy, it did not disappoint. The Grimm Conclusion is the final book in Gidwitz’s acclaimed series, A Tale Dark & Grimm, preceded by A Tale Dark and Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly. Gidwitz did the brilliant thing of retelling the famous Grimm fairytales with a stroke of genius, adhering more closely to their original gruesome forms. Blood, gore, and death abound. So horrifying are these tales that the Middle-Grade reading age is sometimes questioned. Are these children’s stories?
But, I was entertained from the first minute of reading because I have read a number of the original fairytales. I remember vividly reading an early version of Cinderella. There was a scene where the ugly sisters were so desperate to fit their feet into the glass slipper they cut off their toes and stuffed their feet into the shoe, blood dripping everywhere. I could not believe a modern author would have the audacity to retell these stories. And let’s face it, that’s where the richness, the weight, and the true meaning of the stories lie.

As an adult reader, the opening line amused me. “Once upon a time, fairy tales were grim.” Surprise after surprise followed. When one considers the 8 -12-year-olds reading this book. Raised on the diluted fodder of today, I imagine the child reader would immediately devour the book whole. The narrator is hilarious in a dark, daring, dangerous way. On the first page, he talks directly to the reader – which drags you in, like being sucked into Jumanji (you can’t resist). He wants to tell us the story of Ashputtle. “‘Cinderella’ is the name of the cute version of the story, the one that makes little girls want to dress up like pretty princesses. That story makes me want to hit myself in the head with a sledgehammer, also.”

We then shift perspective and hear the tale of twins Joringel and Jorinda. The pair are conceived magically by infertile parents from the blood of their mother after cutting her finger and making a wish. Joringel and Jorinda grow up, but where we would expect the twins would have the best childhood ever with a family made whole at last, they become afflicted in every way. Straight away, their father is so happy he dies the night they are born. Their neglectful mother remarries, giving them an evil stepfather. The cruelty shown to the twins by their parents is disturbing. And the twins, rather than growing into wonderful human beings, become twisted people.
Our gleefully unapologetic narrator leads us through the world of Grimm-inspired fairy tales, like The Juniper Tree, Cinderella, and Rumpelstiltskin telling us their story. Our emotionally crippled protagonists proceed to make terrible mistakes and then try to make reparation for them. Somewhere along the way, the author brings the characters to the classroom where the narrator (author/teacher?) is reading this story to his students. Things get very confusing. Yet, always, the story has a pulsing heart of truth that is its salvation. Gidwitz deals with the fall-out of abuse in a way that we never feel preached to. Kudos to the author for an ambitious project.

American author, Adam Gidwitz, was a teacher for eight years before deciding to write, which (according to his bio) ‘means he writes a couple of hours a day and lies on his couch staring at the ceiling the rest of the time.’ Since producing the first book in the Grimm series in 2010, Gidwitz hit the New York Times Bestseller list. The idea was unique and well-written. It was fresh, different, and shocking. I admired the author’s willingness to break the 4th wall, too. Always a risky move.
I think where it fell short for me was when the story shifted from the realm of a fictional story being told to students to the protagonist characters somehow crossing into the ‘real world,’ meeting the narrator, and so on. Whoa, it gave me vertigo. It was hard to keep clear on what was happening. However, kudos to Gidwitz that he kept me reading despite this setback.
The Grimm Conclusion bravely tackles life, death, and the intense emotions in between. It’s an impressive undertaking.
My rating: Three stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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“Because, you see, every triumph begins with failure.”—The Grimm Conclusion


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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 on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

January 4 question – Do you have a word of the year? Is there one word that sums up what you need to work on or change in the coming year? For instance, in 2021 my word of the year was Finish. I was determined to finish my first draft by the end of the year. In 2022, my word of the year was Ease. I want to get my process, systems, finances, and routines where life flows with ease and less chaos. What is your word for 2023?
My sister and I had already decided this week that our word for 2023 would be synchronicity. I finished writing the rough draft for my next book at the beginning of last year and started working on editing it. Whereas in the past, I have poured decades of my life into editing my stories, there was a decided impulse this time to make things simpler. So halfway through 2022, I formed a writing group, The Fabulatores, and began editing my book through these sessions with other writers. I am nearly halfway through polishing the manuscript this way. We took a hiatus before Christmas and re-adjourn on January 20. I intend to complete running through the material with The Fabulatores this year and then turn it over to the professional proofreader and editor for the polishing steps.

Am I hopeful to publish before Christmas? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. But the difference now is I’m not willing to wreck myself. The biggest lesson I learned last time was that nearly all my ills related to the deadline I had set for publication. The moral of the self-publishing story is do not set unrealistic deadlines. Publishing a book takes waaaaaay longer than you think it will. Therefore, knowing that up front this time, I won’t make the publication deadline on a date set by wishful thinking. Trying to meet the date I had slated for the book release party nearly killed me in 2020 and made everyone around me miserable. My youngest son begged me not to write and publish another book because he didn’t want to go through it again. I felt sorry for my family, friends, and everyone who had to deal with me. I made my apologies and resolved that I would never self-publish another book, at least not in that working-around-the-clock way ever again.

The quandary was how to do it differently?
My general feeling about how the word synchronicity applies to my fiction writing in 2023 is this. From now on, I will try not to push my work to publishable standards in a vanishing amount of time but to allow for the production to happen more naturally. Not to run around like a headless chicken the whole time but to manage running everything else in my life calmly. It’s about relaxed, organic, sustained effort on the goal while maintaining an attitude of humility and patience. I want to allow time and grace for the synchronicity to happen. I’m hoping that if I keep the Ace up my sleeve of a flexible publication date, I can produce my next book without poisoning the goodwill of everyone else in the family! That’s the hope. Wish me luck!
How about you? What is your word for 2023?
Happy New Year, everyone!

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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A great success is the cumulative effect of many small opportunities seized and wisely used. ~ Lord Wakefield


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Do you write New Year’s resolutions? I used to back in the day. Then, I’d fret all year long because that list would stare me in the face with a baleful eye, reminding me I hadn’t followed through on anything. Then, I’d get all resentful, and it went downhill from there. The definition of the word resolution according to my handy pocket Oxford is this, Resolving; Great determination; Formal statement of a committee’s opinion. Well, my committee quit on the whole thing. I stopped writing resolutions in my twenties.
But naturally, being a writer, I couldn’t just go cold turkey. I had to write something. So, my sister and I came up with a reasonable alternative.

We started writing personal lists of “intentions” for the New Year. It has a much nicer ring to it and so does its definition. Consulting my Oxford, Intention means, With concentrated intention, What one intends to do. Sans the formality and sans the committee, writing intentions felt less intimidating and more doable. And likewise, the flavour of the items on the said list changed up a bit also. My New Year’s resolutions used to be grand and overwhelming like I will find a publisher this year. I will meet my soulmate, and I will travel overseas.
In contrast, I found myself writing intentions that were far more friendly and more doable like I intend to start doing a second daily meditation; slow down; do less; wear dresses more often, and so on.

They say that when goal-setting, you should set out the short-term, achievable steps needed to attain those big goals. If the steps are too large, or too far out of reach, people will typically never start. That might be true, but these days, I far prefer writing out intentions which give me a warm glow at the time of writing and also in the doing, and I leave my big life goals for noting in a separate notebook, no deadline, no time frame. I’m a firm believer in taking the pressure off myself where possible.
According to the College for Adult Learning, under HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT, LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT, they list 10 steps for effective goal setting:

  1. Believe in the process
  2. Write it down
  3. Set specific goals
  4. Set measurable goals
  5. Set attainable goals
  6. Set realistic goals
  7. Set timely goals
  8. Remain accountable
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  10. Continuously assess your progress

Each year around this time, I start to think about my list. It formulates slowly. I try to frame every thought with kindness towards myself and others. We writers tend to be fans of physical notebooks. I have at least a dozen. My usual tradition during the day on the 31st is to take a fresh page in my Intentions notebook and bling it up with stickers, glitter, and dodads. You can add emojis to a page on your phone, but where’s the fun in that?

Then, I ponder my intentions more closely, and I write them out with colour pens, adding flourishes, doodles, and love hearts! See, not so grown up after all. But it’s so much fun. And it gives me a feeling for where I’m heading and what I’m aligning myself with during the year ahead. It’s like a compass or a touchstone that I can come back to again and again for guidance. And unlike my phone, my notebook never gets lost, stolen, or runs out of charge. I love it and can’t wait to get started on my list for 2023.
What about you? Do you set resolutions? Happy New Year!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Don’t look back, you’re not going that way. ~ Mary Englebreit


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Still, looking for that perfect gift for your writer friend for Christmas? You could try making one. After attending a writing workshop by Graeme Simsion earlier this year, I wrote several writing posts sharing his best tips for writing a novel. One of Graeme’s fascinating ideas was the “bucket of scenes.”

When brainstorming the content for our stories, Graeme advocated having an actual bucket and using index cards to jot down a couple of ideas each day using the cards. We can then toss the cards into the bucket, aiming for 180 per book, though we might only use 120. ~ From my blog post, Step by Step

As the festive season approached this year, late November, or early December, I began to think of the people I wanted to buy gifts for and made my lists. For my talented writing group, the Fabulatores, I thought of Simsion’s bucket of scenes. Although I would not call myself a crafter, I am an ideas person, and I stumble through discovering how to craft things myself. If they turn out well and are after deemed valuable, then I will share the “how to do it yourself” information at some stage afterward, whether as a blog post or an update in my monthly newsletter. This is such.
Here, in a nutshell, is how I make the bucket of scenes:
What you’ll need:

Start by buying small buckets. Initially, when I walked into one shop, I was drawn to big silver, highly decorated buckets. Then I thought no, they would take up too much space. Far more practical to get the smaller variety.
I also bought a couple of packs of cardboard, some lined, some not, and some pages of adhesive letters. I needed a sheet of fancy writing paper, a ribbon, and a bag of chocolate coins.
The method:
Spell out the words “Bucket of Scenes” onto a blank adhesive panel and adhere to the front of the buckets.

Cut your cardboard down in size until you have 180 cards each.

The lined and the unlined stacks of the card I tied with ribbon separately – a sweet touch to give the writer the option in the heat of the inspired moment – whether they feel like writing on lines or want to scribble down a few words on a blank canvas.
Then write the quotation I’ve given above, taken directly from my notes from Graeme Simsion’s workshop, on a nice piece of paper. Tie with a ribbon to make it look like a scroll.

Put two stacks of the card in each bucket – one lined and one unlined. Pop the scroll of instructions in behind them.
Fill the gaps with chocolate.

Voila! You have a bucket of scenes, writer’s aid extraordinaire, with instructions.
Gift wrap and give to the writer in your life.
‘Tis the time of year for being jolly and giving and sharing love with others.

As my dear grandmother used to say, “Be kind.”
Happy Holidays!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things, not the great occasions, give off the greatest glow of happiness.” – Bob Hope


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When I started this blog, I shared how to make your family greeting card at this time of year. Every year since I have brought out the instructions, dusted them off, given them a re-jig, and re-posted them. The tradition of making my cards with photos of my youngest boys started with my middle son’s birth. Samuel was born with Down Syndrome and Autism, and it was a way of celebrating Sam by making him the feature.

When my youngest came along two years later, we added him to the greeting card, and I’ve made the same photo cards, updating the festive sibling portrait every year since. I love the ritual of taking photos for the card and then having a crafting afternoon to make homemade cards, bringing out all my card-making materials. Crafts are fun! Just seeing my glitter and stickers and the carefully saved paper brings a smile to my face. It’s like being a kid again. I am a fan of the homemade, custom look to festive things rather than the store-bought variety. In the beginning, I used to make a stack of forty cards or more for everyone on the family, friends, and acquaintances list. But, oh my gosh, it was a lot of work. The list of recipients whittled down slowly over the years. These days I only make about a dozen festive cards and they go solely to family members. I’ve learned to conserve my energy. With age, comes wisdom, one hopes!

This year, the sibling photo my son preferred for the Christmas card was the one where neither of them was smiling. I printed the photos and half-made the cards before I realized I wasn’t happy with the image. There was a nice alternative pic of both of the boys smiling. I printed that instead and began making the cards again. I loved the end result and put them in the postbox.

Here, in a nutshell, is how I craft our family Greeting card:

Start by taking a batch of cheap Christmas cards and cutting them down to nearly half the size, trying to preserve the greeting inside. Next, take the photo you want to feature on the front of the card. This is the top layer and, therefore, the smallest. Print the photos. You are going to build a couple of layers. I have cardboard guides for the size of each layer so I can keep the sizes regular, year after year.

You have the first two items needed for your card: a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible), and a stack of cut-out photos.

At this stage in the card production, I take any saved wrapping paper, or other coloured paper, set the iron on low heat, and iron out the wrinkles. Reduce, re-use, and save the planet!
*My tip, iron the paper with the picture side down, in case any ink comes away. Then it doesn’t mar your iron’s surface and protects the ink.
Now take a second cardboard “guide.” It needs to be smaller than the card and slightly larger than the photo. Cut your saved wrapping paper or other coloured paper to this size. You have your photos, cards, and cut-down paper that will act as frames for the photos.

My next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix,” a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product wherever you are. The fibers come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper, iron on low heat, and the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly stuff. I make a few sheets of Hot Fix at a time and then cut out small rectangles for each card.
The first official step of constructing the cards entails gluing the coloured paper to the card, also trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one glittery flag extends. The second step is to glue the photo on top. *Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile weights on top.

The third step is the best part—embellishments! Time to decorate the fronts with glitter, ‘gems,’ stickers, and doodads to your heart’s delight. I believe the technical term is bedazzling.
I write a personal message inside each card. With each card, I post a surprise, usually a gift tag, or a miniature antique postcard. I like the thought of loved ones getting a nice surprise when they open the envelope. A card is a lovely thing to send and receive at this time of year. Why not try making your own? It’s easy and people love that you’ve put time and energy into them!
What do you think? Have you ever made your own cards?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Life is short. Kiss slowly, laugh insanely, love truly, and forgive quickly. ~ Paulo Coelho


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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 on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

December 7 question – It’s holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?
Fall behind, way way behind. This is the time of year when – ooh, look, something sparkly – I can easily get distracted. There is a very small child inside of me who is all agog about coloured lights, baubles, and glitter. When December begins every year, I imagine I’ll carry on just the same way I have the rest of the year, that I’ll do all my writing jobs each week the same as normal. And every year, on the first weekend of December, I go to the Xmas market and start my gift shopping. Something gets ignited within, and from then on, for the rest of the month, my life turns into a whirlwind of Xmas-related things. I watch all the movies and cooking shows about how to make festive dishes. Working on my stories starts to take a back seat to list-making, shopping, catch-ups, get-togethers, and sparkles.

I have to-do lists as long as my arm. I make the annual greeting card and post them to family and friends. The boys and I bake the big Christmas cake (rich fruit cake). We go visit friends with food and gifts. We attend group lunches and end-of-year dinners. I go out shopping most days, to various carefully chosen stores to buy small gifts for family and friends. I wrap gifts. Wrapping gifts is one of the most universally hated jobs. Not for me. I make an evening out of it. I treat it like a craft project, getting out my boxes of ribbons, papers, and bows. It’s fun.

I still have the end-of-year maintenance jobs to do: washing the house and the windows, cleaning and repainting the three verandahs, and repainting the bathroom. I’ll add them to my “to-do” list. December is a juggling act. I intend to relish every moment of this wonderful season. The food, sunshine, time with family, and vacations. What’s not to love? Hello, Summer. (Yes, here in the southern hemisphere it is summer!)
Wherever you are for the month ahead, whatever you celebrate, I wish you every success. And I hope you do celebrate, make (or order) a big cake, light some candles, play beautiful music and enjoy the coloured lights. After the year we’ve had, we deserve a party. A big party.

Writing? What writing? LOL.
Happy Holidays!

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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Let it be easy. ~ Anon
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This is the final report from the local writers’ festival I attended in August. It took me a while to get through them all. The last session I attended at the festival was called Frankenstein’s Children. Acclaimed Kiwi Speculative Fiction writers, Elizabeth Knox & Lee Murray debated the influence of Frankenstein on modern literature. Knox is one of my favourite Kiwi authors. I’m a big fan of her Dreamhunter series, which I found transformative and compelling reading (reviewed long ago when I was a member of Goodreads). Knox has an ONZM, is an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate, and won the Prime Minister’s Award of Fiction in 2019. She teaches at Victoria University and lives in Wellington, New Zealand with her family.

Lee Murray is a New Zealand science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer and editor. She is a multiple winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a twelve-time winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award. She is a well-respected rising star.

It felt like a privilege to sit in on their live-streamed interview. I love hearing how other writers think and how they approach their craft.

Both authors were asked the same question about why they had chosen the spec. fiction genre. “From childhood, the things that most excited me had dragons and ghosts. My imagination went in that direction very early.” Elizabeth Knox said, “You have a reaction to the world, and you want to push against appearances and say, what if? How much do we live in the present; how much do we live in imagination? It’s a penetrating, all-time approach to the state of the human being.”
Lee Murray had done her research. “It was a term coined in the 1960s. It was called Speculative, and it’s developed over time. Ursula le Guin said, ‘It’s about possibilities.’ It’s also about myths and legends, asking what if, and looking at the human condition. It’s new perspectives. It’s changing all the time.”
What a great way of looking at it. Why did the two authors consider their work to be “Frankenstein’s Children”?

“Mary Shelley is considered the mother of spec fiction,” Murray explained. “She wrote Frankenstein at the age of 17 in the 1800s, writing about the resurrection of life with electricity before it was invented. It’s a book about othering. The monster wanted to belong. Shelley couldn’t be published because she was a woman. Spec Fiction is a place for women’s narratives. She was able to show she is intelligent.”
I found this thought-provoking.
Murray went on. “I wanted to write about what mattered to me and things that frighten me. It allowed me to write about things safely. Spec fiction is not this world. It’s not pointing at this person or thing. It gives us a little bit of distance.”
The author neatly skewered one of the reasons this genre drew me to it. I can tell my stories without having to worry about treading on any toes because it’s all make-believe. The genre is a forgiving umbrella. I’m fascinated to hear it is popular. Since the age of seventeen, I’ve been writing spec fiction, but whereas in the 80s publishers told me, ‘No one is interested in fantasy,’ now, suddenly, it’s cool. Or, as Murray said, “It’s the place to be.”

This reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s interview. When asked at a previous festival, did he expect to be where he is today in terms of career, Neil said he never expected to be famous. When he started, he worked in niche areas where no one in those days ever got famous. ‘You didn’t get famous in comic books, fantasy, or children’s writing—I thought I’d be out here with the weird kids. Then it spread out, and now we’re all the weird kids.’ That’s it exactly. Our strange little frowned-upon fantasy corner of the world is becoming more mainstream. Hey, it’s nice to have company.

I am also drawn to writing middle fiction, and maybe there’s a reason for that. Knox said, “There’s a period when young people are entering the world, and they’re refusing it.” I liked that. There’s an inherent kind of rebellion that comes naturally with being young or young-at-heart and trying things out, questioning the status quo. “I think we need fiction more than ever.”

Murray said, “Spec. fiction has a role in social change. It has real value. It’s the new black. It’s the place where the young people are.”
I agree. But you have to write with a lightness of touch. “As soon as you start hitting readers over the head with your message, they don’t want to read it.” Knox said, “I’m an avid reader. But I’m resistant to being told I have to do anything. You can’t step outside reality. Spec fiction is the world outside the consensual reality.”
That’s what makes it so exhilarating.
“I love fairies and Arthurian legends. Even a tragic ending can bring joy because of the shapeliness,” said Knox. “I’m changing my mind about hope. I think it belongs to the things that console us like fiction.”

Wow!
Do you see why Elizabeth Knox is one of my current writing heroes?
I’m proud to write Speculative Fiction or Frankenstein’s Children. It’s fun! How about you? Do you read it or write it?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

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Good stories are dangerous. Dangerous, anarchic, seductive. They change you, often forever…they challenge our vocabularies and our history. Sometimes they challenge our comfortable morality. And sometimes…they challenge our most basic assumptions. ~ Jane Yolen

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This is another report from the local writers’ festival I attended in August. My apologies that it’s taken me so long to report on it. The session was called Timeless Tales, with Hereaka & Jones. After this, I have one more session to review and hope to get on to writing it up soon.

I enjoy the live interviews or “conversations”. You get to see authors at the top of their games speaking about their books and answering thought-provoking questions. The theme of traditions of fable and myth drew me in to witness Timeless Tales, storytelling forms I find compelling and endeavour to utilize in my work.

Delayed leaving the house, unfortunately, I arrived at the event late. Bah humbug! It started everything off on the wrong note. I had missed the introduction and the opening questions, and I had to disturb others to find an empty seat. But, that hitch aside, I sat with my trusty pad and pen in my lap taking notes throughout.

Let me tell you, ‘contemporary writers at the height of their powers’ make fascinating conversation. Commonwealth Prize winner and Man Booker-shortlisted Lloyd Jones and 2022 Ockham NZ Book Awards Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize Fiction winner Whiti Hereaka spoke about their books, The Fish, and Kurangaituku, respectively. They were interviewed by Claire Mabey with a focus on the power of mythology and why each chose them for their stories.

Lloyd Jones put it this way. “The whole of literature is a rewrite. You can find threads in contemporary stories that go back to the beginning of time.” He was making the point that even when we don’t intend to write about mythology, we are inherently familiar with the old storytelling forms and resort to them unconsciously. “Stories are malleable from one generation to the next when they are told and told again.”
I agree with that 100%. That’s part of why I love to draw upon mythology because the stories are ours, and we’re allowed to retell them.
It reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s interview at last year’s writers’ festival. Gaiman said that writers who think their prose all comes from within them are not being honest. He likened it to there being a giant pot of stew bubbling. And we all take bits out and “along the way we get to add a potato or two to the stew pot or a bit of gristle.”

Neil Gaiman said, “I don’t think it’s always dishonesty by the authors. In a lot of cases, you write what comes to you and you do not realize that you are pulling archetypes and story tropes from a treasure trove of shared ancestral memories.” That explains why legends are always the first things to hand in whenever I start a new story. Jones said when he sits to write, he never knows what he’s going to write, but these time-honoured story templates come up readily because we already have the story forms within us.
Whiti Hereaka concurred and spoke about growing up with myths. They “had always been there” so were a natural resource. In her book, Kurangaituku, she is retelling the Māori myth of Hatupatu and the bird-woman Kurangaituku. “In the original story, Hatupatu is captured and finds the strength within him to trick the bird woman and escape from the clutches of Kurangaituku.”

Hereaka found the writing of her mythological story so profound, that she even began to feel taken over by her main character, who was talking to her and telling her the story all the time. Hereaka said she learned “to say a karakia (prayer) to create the space to write and then again to close it and step away” to separate herself from the character. Even so, she was driven to right the balance of male-centric mythology and present a female voice.
Lloyd Jones added, “Fables are at their core an imaginative risk.” And, he elaborated, “You gather stories just in living, and one day you use them. It becomes lodged in you and you never know when they’re going to bubble to the surface.”
What is it about ancient stories that hold us transfixed? I know for myself, that the older the story, the more I pay attention.
“There’s truthiness in fiction because of the lies,” Hereaka said, “There’s an emotional truth that holds us. We are creatures who need a story to figure ourselves out.”

You can say that again. It was a riveting afternoon, guys. Thanks for the brain food.

It’s a fact we all use these fables instinctively. Do you? Do you notice the echoes of mythology everywhere?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

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“Someone said once when a person is being read to they inhale it and when they exhale it, they have made it their own.’ ~ Lloyd Jones


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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 on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

November 2’s optional question – November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?
No, I have never participated. Frankly, I resist the idea of inviting more pressure into my life than I have already. The thought puts me off and I must admit that I scratch my head over why NaNoWriMo is so popular. I tend to be a slow writer. While others produce thousands of words a day, I have to take my time. And, I have this ornery side that rebels against joining what everyone else is doing just because they are doing it.
Many friends do Nanowrimo and I always feel in awe of how hard they work. They have to maintain rigid discipline in their daily routine for the month to achieve it. One of my friends and fellow authors from The kiwi kids’ bookstore, Donna Blaber, wrote the first draft of her new series while on NaNoWriMo. Donna relishes the challenge. Me, not so much. I have plenty of mountains to scale in my life and try to keep my writing as a reward for getting everything else done. Setting myself a strict regime and then flogging myself every day for a month does not appeal at the moment. Maybe I’ll participate someday though. Never say never.

National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 with San Francisco-based writer Chris Baty. According to the website, the NaNoWriMo challenge is to write the first draft of a novel that’s at least 50,000 words, starting on November 1 and ending on November 30. ​In 2005, it gained nonprofit status. Now, when participants donate to NaNoWriMo, the number of writing programs and the availability of resources increases.
I think it’s a worthwhile initiative and applaud the great work.
There are other ways to participate for people like me who don’t wish to take part in NaNoWriMo. We can support other writers who are undertaking the challenge. I have two friends doing it this year, and I intend to encourage them through the grueling process. We can also donate to the cause. I get nervous for my buddies as the clock winds down. The tension is palpable. Rather them than me.


To all the 2022 participants, good luck!
Are you doing the NaNoWriMo challenge?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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Let it be easy. ~ Anon


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My friend said she soaked up the events at this year’s writers’ festival like a sponge. I know what she means. The “conversations,” the lectures, the workshops, and the performances that took place in August filled my cup to overfloweth. It’s worth putting aside a week each year for the festival. I’ve been attending for years and have a large old paper notebook spiral-bound that I have kept notes in since the first time. As promised, I will continue to report on the events I attended whenever I get the chance. The writers’ festival is a blast. The buzz of being around other scribophiles and learning more about the craft and the business is an intoxicating mix. As a card-carrying introvert, it takes a lot to drag me out of my cave, especially in winter. But events like that can do it. Then I go out and come home jazzed every single day. However, once it’s over, I must lie inside my cave for a while to recover.

The second session I attended was the Middle Fiction workshop with Kate de Goldi. I know! I am such a fangirl and have rabbited on about this much-lauded Kiwi author and tutor for years, and I got to attend another workshop with Kate herself! As soon as I saw her name on the agenda, I signed up. I’ve done several courses with Kate over the years, and they have always enriched, enlightened, and inspired me. Though I didn’t expect Kate to recognize me, I’ll admit I was chuffed when she did. We even had a quick chat about the workshops in the past, and Kate let me get an updated photo with her. Yay!
Kate is a passionate advocate of the middle fiction genre and maintains that ‘Much of the best writing for children can be found in the middle fiction space.’ I remember the first workshop I did with Kate in 2005. I was so excited about her perspective. “I don’t think you can say suitable for 9 – 13. I resist those divisions. It should be 9 – 99. Most of the great children’s books are read by adults.” This so mirrored my feeling about children’s literature that I felt at home, in the right place. “There is no difference between writing for children and adults, and there’s no difference in the level of craft.” My sentiments exactly.

This workshop with her was about exploring ‘language, voice, and characters of the form’ and was as brilliant as expected. Kate had some terrific advice on how to write at the middle fiction level. “If we bring the same armoury of craft to children’s fiction, we need to be observing. Polishing and excavating your sensory capacity is necessary. Seeing the world from a completely different point of view is essential.” Kate recommended we get in touch with the old child self. “Interview your 9, 10, and 11-year-old self. Your job is to practice noticing and to think about the emotional territory we occupied at that time.” The reason for that was simple. “Noticing, a sense of wonder, and being new in the world IS middle fiction.” I love it when a teacher can be reductive yet, at the same time, say everything.
As Kate doesn’t believe in rules for fiction or prohibitions, she has a free approach to teaching about writing, which I also appreciate. “Being in the world and thinking about your inner child self is a good place to start.” That, I can do.

And how do you learn how to write? “A plumber knows drains. Read your genre. Go to the library and read your genre across decades and authors.” That was how Kate had learned to write. She started as a reader. She said she was too underconfident in her writing to take a writing course and had learned by reading. Similarly, I was too shy to share my work for years, therefore I connected with that point. Usually, I feel daunted by the wealth of scholastic accomplishments achieved by my writing peers. At least now I can say I’m in good company.
How do you figure out what to write about? Kate said you should not come to the page wanting to write about X. “You should come with something you feel driven to say that you don’t fully understand yet. Interrogate your 11-year-old self. What were you puzzled by, conflicted by? A character propelled by something is a good place to start. After that, I get them walking and talking.” Easy, right?

While I’m busy fangirling, who are your favourite authors? Who would you love to meet in person?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

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“I think of middle fiction as the body of work that has most influenced children.” ~ Kate de Goldi


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