Archive for the ‘honesty’ Category

2022 has been a fascinating rollercoaster ride so far. Three weeks ago, the middle son – Samuel – who is nineteen and has a dual diagnosis, Down syndrome, and Autism, began to exhibit certain worrying behaviours: not sleeping, not eating, talking incessantly, flicking light switches on and off, and so on. I existed on little to no sleep. The stress levels were through the roof. I sought professional help, and we ended up seeing a behavioural specialist.
We managed to link Samuel’s behaviour issues to the many changes going on in his life and a simple error on our part of not fully explaining things to him as we went along. Because Sam is non-verbal, we can sometimes forget to include him in the conversations about what is happening in our family. It is easy to overlook that he is affected by every decision we make and therefore needs things explained to him every step of the way.

Frankly, a lot of things have altered lately. Sam’s father decided he would sell his house, intending to move to the countryside. He started renovating the house, and his flatmates moved out. Sam’s younger brother (and best mate) stayed at dad’s house for three weeks, helping him to paint the exterior. All these major events were going on around Sam without his understanding. No wonder he started acting out.

We sat down, and I talked to him about the entire situation, moving house, the renovating, and so on.
The behavioural specialist said until the living setup and routine fully settle down, Sam may continue to exhibit erratic behaviours. “But you understand it now. It’s his way of controlling an uncontrollable situation. Let him do his little things and know that it will eventually pass.”

Heartened, I told various family members and my closest friends about what we had gone through around here for the last three weeks. The general reaction was shock. My sister said, “Tell me while it’s going on, next time. Why don’t you let me support you?” And my friends told me off similarly. One of my oldest buddies said to me today, “You know, it helps to talk about difficult things. That’s what friends are for.”
I hear what they are saying, and I get it. What they don’t understand is this is the way introverts deal with the big stuff. We live through it, figure out the answers (often with the help of professionals), contemplate the circumstances and what we have learned. When we have the issues resolved, we share the carefully considered results.
It doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the offers of help. We do. We do things a little differently from the majority.

According to the site Introvert, Dear, an award-winning community hub:

We introverts make up 30 -50% of the population, and most of us share these characteristics:
We’d rather stay home most nights than go out to one social event after another.
We enjoy quiet, solitary activities like reading, writing, gaming, gardening, or drawing.
We’ll usually choose the company of a few close friends over a wild party.
We do our best work alone.
Many of us will avoid small talk or other unnecessary social interactions.
We usually do our best work alone.

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And, from my personal experience, when the major events take place in our lives, we wish to sort out our business by ourselves first, before we include loved ones.
Apart from irritating my family and friends with this introverted trait, I am happy to report that the worst of the crisis is over. Samuel is sleeping and eating again. So am I. Huzzah! His father and I have made a point of talking with Sam about each new thing. There are fewer erratic behaviours and more of the son we know and love.

Currently, I’m floating in a state of utter relief and bliss. My patience has returned. I can feel my face again. Now, I want to spend time with those around me and talk.

Family and friends of introverts know this. Talking to you after rather than during a crisis does not mean we don’t need you or love you. We need to process our experiences in a private way before we share. Is that okay?
To my fellow introverts, I say: It is essential to honour your real self and what you need for bliss. The world needs more contemplative, calm people. It is fine to be an introvert and do things your way.
Let us celebrate our differences.

How do you process the big stuff? By talking it through with folks (extrovert) or talking about it after the fact (introvert)?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” ~ Albert Einstein

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I confess. I like reading children’s literature. For years I’ve said, I have to read middle-grade fantasy fiction because I’m “reading within my genre.” Yes, if I want to have an idea of what’s going on in the world of children’s literature, then I have to read what my contemporaries are doing. If I want to add to the body of that literature, I need to read everything in my genre. Most writers know that. But the truth is the last 35+ years I have learned I prefer reading middle-grade fantasy fiction to adult fiction. Uh-huh.

Now and then someone forces me to read adult fiction and I always regret it. The only adult fiction I enjoy is the classic mysteries like those by Agatha Christie. I would say my taste is eclectic. My sister usually buys me adult literary fiction for gifts. Some of the nonfiction books she has bought me over the years have been a hit. But I confess I am not a fan of literary fiction. There has been more than one occasion where I have opened one of these books, then closed the cover, and never looked at them again. Sorry fans of the art. I just can’t.

As I turn into the crone my interest in middle-grade fantasy fiction is far from dimming. On the contrary. It has grown. Here write my favourite authors of all time, Brian Jacques, Beverly Cleary, C.S. Lewis, Tove Jansson, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, Maggie Stiefvater, Philip Reeve, and J.K Rowling. What I love about these stories, apart from the comforting point of view of innocence, is the way the stories move forward and then something special or magical or unusual happens. As the reader, it’s like lifting off into outer space. You are transported somewhere different. In children’s literature, it is a smooth transition, there is no strain or effort. Children are there already, living in the Twilight zone. They accept what happens in cartoons and animations.

It feels to me with this style of fiction as if ‘anything can happen’ and I like the creative freedom that affords me as a writer and a reader. It’s like happy juice.

It transports me to childhood. As one of my favourite teachers, Kiwi, Kate de Goldi, once put it, she ‘wrote children’s fiction to recreate the shaded places of childhood.’ I’ve thought about my writing that way ever since. Reading middle-grade literature is about childhood and it helps me to reconnect with that innocent wide-eyed part of myself, which I cherish. It helps me to connect with my target audience and better understand my readers. The benefits, I tell you, are multifold.


At least, that’s what I tell myself.


What do you like to read and why?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Reading is dreaming with your eyes open. ~ Unknown


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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.

This month’s optional question: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?
The most stress I’ve been under in my entire life was the six months I spent last year doing the final edits on all three books in my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I believed they were ready to go. At that point, the books had gone through their paces. I’d polished all three with the help of my critique group (twice). I put them through my online editing suite with prowritingaid.com, then paid a professional proofreader and a copy editor. But, a funny thing happens when the actual deadline for publication stares you in the eye. Suddenly all the remaining issues that escaped detection up to that point gained a spotlight.
When I read again from book one, line by line, word by word, I found so many tiny errors that it became alarming. That’s the thing with checking copy, the intensity of focus required to question each word in an 80,000-word manuscript is almost a superhuman feat. Times that by three (volumes), and you start to get some idea of the Herculean task. It seemed like every time I made it to the end of a manuscript, thinking, right that one’s done, I’d re-read and find more errors. I began to fear I was losing my mind.

Electrified by pure panic, I stretched the working hours of the day longer and longer. I had freaking deadlines to meet. I got up earlier, went to bed later. I stopped doing the less essential things, like housework, gardening, exercise, and eating. To publish a novel as an Indie, the layout, cover design, printing, and PR, need to be booked months in advance of the launch date. The printing, likewise. My designer is particularly busy, and if I wanted any hope of releasing the book on the date advertised, I knew the date we would have to start working on it. That was my deadline.
My youngest son asked me, “When is this going to be over?” I gave him the death stare. He said, “You’re no fun anymore.” And he was right. Knowing the kids were suffering added stress, but I was knee-deep in the quagmire, and the clock was ticking. I had to slog on night and day until I thought I would combust.
Six painful, exhausting months later, in September 2020, I released my trilogy.

Party. Celebrate.
A collapse in relief.
A few days later, my brother said, “I know you’re not going to want to hear this, but I’m halfway through reading The Last Tree (3rd book in the series), and I’ve found an error.” No, I did not want to hear that. I was so beyond repair, so frazzled and burned out, I walked away from my laptop for six months and did no creative writing at all.
The youngest son asked with trepidation, “Are you going to put out another book?” Just between you and me, I am still undecided. I told myself I’d write my stories and keep them all in the bottom drawer where stories go to retire. I already have a plastic box in my room full of manuscripts from the last 40 years of penning fiction for children. I may just keep adding to that and die happy.

That was March. I took a pen and paper and sat down to write a new story. And that’s where the delight part kicked in. Like a soothing balm to my weary soul, the sheer joy of creative writing began to fill in the cracks and heal the tears. The bliss of writing a new copy is unequaled. To gambol about in the meadows of my unfettered imagination without the specter of publication hanging over me is akin to stepping back to the giddy glee of childhood. No restraints. No rules. No pressure. Just the daily outpouring of my collaborations with the muse in the heady blooming fields of my mind.
Realigned with my purpose and the delight is effortless. Inspiration needs no electric current. No data. No technological interference. Just a pure connection with life. Just daylight and fresh air. Just time to dawdle.

Give me time to daydream.

Nine months later, I am part way through writing a new children’s series. I’m in the zone. The genesis draft of any story is always the ecstatic part for me. The thought of publishing the result makes my knees knock, so necessarily, there is still no plan to publish the result. At least not yet. I might feel burned out as an Indie, but I have learned in this life “never to say never.” A faint maybe will have to suffice. I’m writing. That’s the main thing and always will be the main thing.


What stresses you most about writing? What delights you?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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You only fail if you stop writing. ~ Ray Bradbury


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When traumatic events happen, you deal with them as best you can. Times goes on. You assume the event is safely in the past. Then, you enter a situation that is similar to the traumatic event and have a panic attack. This is what happened to me this week, and it took me by surprise.
In some cases, life-changing experiences can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a mental illness triggered by peak levels of distress. It can be treated and brought under control with help from a doctor, therapy, and professional guidance. A good friend lived through the big earthquake that rocked Christchurch in 2011. Diagnosed with PTSD, she suffers recurrent nightmares and over-reacts when she hears loud noises.

In my case, what I went through this week was not PTSD but a flashback. A flashback is when you feel drawn back into the traumatic experience as if it is happening all over again.
This week, the youngest son was scheduled for an adenectomy and to have grommets inserted. Surgery is a last resort in my book. But in my son’s case, the specialist believed that his oversized adenoids were causing the loss of hearing in his left ear and inability to breathe through his nose. So it had to be done.
We sat in the hospital waiting room and worked on our crossword, chatting and laughing.
A nurse said, “We’re ready for you now. Follow me.” We followed her along the winding corridors through a pair of heavy blue doors. As the nurse and my son stepped aside, I got my first sight of the room. I took in the surgeons, the anesthetists, the nurses, all in masks and gowns, the skinny operating table, the machines, and the lights. My stomach immediately dropped sickeningly. My skin prickled with goosebumps, and my heart was pounding. I was freaking out. But I couldn’t show it. My son needed me, and I had to be strong for him.

It was scarily like that other time, in August 2010, when he was five years old, and we followed a nurse into a stark white operating theatre. I was straight back there. No time had elapsed in between. In 2010, I looked at my little boy, and I looked at that operating table and felt as if I would throw up with fear, knowing my baby was about to undergo a heart bypass and open-heart surgery.

However, as a parent, you are the captain of the ship. Captains don’t get to freak out. Your job is to stay at the helm until the bitter end.

I had to be calm that day in 2010 and smile for my son. I murmured, “You’re okay, mama loves you,” when he fought the gas mask, and the doctors made me lie on him until the anesthetic took effect and he went limp beneath me.

On Tuesday morning this week, I walked into that operating room, took one glimpse, and stepped back ten years to the scariest time of my life. On Tuesday, my son was only undergoing a minor medical procedure. Yet, I was staring into the white light and hearing angels as if his life was on the line.

As a mature adult today, I have lots of tools to help me weather the storms of life. Whenever something stressful happens, I calm down with meditation, affirmations, yoga, and breathing techniques. But for the private panic attack, I suffered in that hospital room this week, none of my tools helped. I was physically reliving the helpless terror I felt in that other theatre room. According to Rothschild, ‘A flashback can mimic the real thing because it provokes a similar level of stress in the body. The same hormones course through your veins as did at the time of the actual trauma, setting your heart pounding and preparing your muscles and other body systems to react as they did at the time.’

That describes my panic attack perfectly. I stayed with my son until he had fallen unconscious. In the waiting room, I did the only thing I could do. I rang my family and talked to people who cared, and it helped so much.

*According to the site, Trauma Recovery, here are some ideas for managing the situation if you get stuck in a flashback:
NAME the experience as a flashback (example- this is a memory, NOT a recurrence of the actual event)
Use LANGUAGE that categorizes the flashbacks as a “memory” (example- I was attacked, rather than I am being attacked)
Use the SENSES to GROUND self in your CURRENT environment:
Name what you see, feel, hear, smell, etc.
Rub hands together
Touch, feel the chair that is supporting you
Wiggle your toes
Favourite colour- find three things in the room that are “blue”
Name the date, month, year, season
Count backward from 100
Use an object as a grounding tool
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I’ve kept a note of these points in case any of my loved ones need escorting into theatre in the future.
Have you ever suffered a private panic attack or a flashback? What did you do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating
Yvette Carol
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“I have laid my son on an OR table and kissed him as he fell asleep. I have handed him to a surgeon knowing they would stop his heart and prayed it would beat again. I am a Heart mum.” ~ Suzanne White

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post 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.

October 6 question – In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?
LOL! I draw the line in so many places there is hardly anything left on the table! One of the keys to writing for children is figuring out how to look at the world from a child’s point of view. When I started, that was one thing my critique partners would always say. ‘This sounds like an adult thinking/talking.’ ‘Your child protagonist seems to be an adult.’ I have worked on it for years to figure out the child-friendly view. One of the things Beverly Cleary attributed her success to was that she ‘had never grown up.’ Cleary maintained a powerful connection to the child view and what they’re interested in that made her able to connect with a vast audience of appreciative readers.
Along with writing at the this age level for a children’s author comes the responsibility to keep the language clean and the topics suitable.

In the first draft of my debut novel, The Or’in of Tane, I had written a romance between the characters of Henny and Dr. Milo Mahiora. My friend and then editor, Maria Cisneros-Toth, pulled me up on the romance and kissing scene. She said, “No, no, no. Not in middle-grade fiction.” I cut the scene out, removing the whole romance. To my surprise, I discovered the story was the better for it and I understood Maria was right. I have not crossed that line since.

In the last few years, I have read the occasional middle-grade novel that has included romance, and it has struck me afresh why Maria told me no. The effect is a shock. It’s not appropriate for kids whose lives still involve bouncy balls, bikes, and games of Go Fish. Yes, okay, kids are exposed to all kinds of things via social media these days. But that doesn’t give license to authors to introduce elements to 8-12-year-old readers that we would be uncomfortable with our children reading. That gave me a gauge for the level of what should be off-limits. What would I want my children of similar age reading? Age-appropriate fiction.

I draw the line at romance in my genre, either reading it or writing it.

As for topics, there are so many contentious subjects these days. The list is endless. Writers fear they might say one wrong thing and attract a backlash. There is a strong sense of staying within the confines of what is deemed politically correct. I have a friend who writes urban romantic fantasy. She included one of the mythical gods from religion in her book and received death threats. This sort of thing naturally scares authors.

At the same time as wanting to stick within the limits, I also feel strongly that the ultimate choice about topics and language should remain in the hands of the individual. In my opinion, the worst thing that could happen to our society would be for the artists to lose their freedom of expression or creative license. I’m mindful of that sublime quote by Jane Yolen, ‘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.’
What about you. What sort of language or topics are off-limits in fiction?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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“No one is born a writer. You must become a writer. You never cease becoming, because you never stop learning how to write. Even now, I am becoming a writer. And so are you.” —Joe Bunting


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I have finished reading my sixteenth novel for 2021, Gods and Warriors, by Michelle Paver. Frankly, I was curious. I kept seeing this author’s name every time I was out buying books. Paver featured in every new and secondhand book store as well as gracing our library’s shelves. Who was this new author?
I’m always looking for middle-grade fiction to read my son with special needs as part of our bedtime ritual. Man, I was not ready for Paver. I was unprepared for the shock value in the opening pages of Gods and Warriors. Paver hits the ground running. In the first five paragraphs, our protagonist, Hylas, has an arrowhead buried in his arm. We learn his sister is missing, his dog is dead, and he is running for his life. By the fifth page, the Crows hurl a boy’s body down the slope in front of Hylas, ‘it was now a terrible thing of black blood and burst blue innards like a nest of worms.’

This unexpected element of shock and gore made reading Gods and Warriors to my nineteen-year-old son, who has the equivalent mental age of a twelve-year-old, a bit awkward. I ad-libbed at random to cover the frightening parts, which seemed more suitable for an older audience. For some more sensitive middle-grade readers, I fear they would suffer nightmares for weeks. If you are an actual middle-grade reader, I warn you to read through your fingers.
Our hero, Hylas, is a 12-year-old goatherd. As an Outsider, the Crows are hunting him and his kind. The terrifying Mycenaen warriors are ‘a nightmare of stiff black rawhide armour, a thicket of spears and daggers and bows. Their long black cloaks flew behind them like the wings of crows, and beneath their helmets, their faces were grey with ash.’ While hiding from the Crows in a tomb, Hylas finds a dying man who gives him a bronze dagger (a priceless gift to a simple shepherd) and speaks in verse about his fate. Hylas takes the dagger and carries on to try to find his sister. Along the way, he meets Pirra, the daughter of a High Priestess, who is also on the run, trying to escape a forced marriage.

Hylas befriends Spirit the Dolphin, who has lost his Dolphin pack. And Hylas has a conflict with his best friend Telemon, the son of a Mycenean chieftain, who is torn between wanting to be a good friend as well as a good son.
What I liked about this novel were the Bronze Age setting and the mythological elements. Although I did feel confused at times by the mysterious “higher” powers: the Goddess, the Earthshaker, the Angry Ones, the ghosts. They were referenced, feared, placated with gifts, yet, they were never fully explained or seen. They provided a vague background threat that sometimes sprang forward to scare the pants off us. However, on the plus side, it was cool the way Paver included the different customs around the Greek Islands in the Bronze Age, depicting the unique ways people worshiped and lived. Paver evoked the time and era with ease.

What I didn’t like was the sometimes shallow feeling to the characters. I didn’t like the head-hopping, especially when we were given Spirit, the dolphin’s point of view. Though a fan of anthropomorphism, it has to be done a certain way. I found the sudden switching from Hylas into the mind of a dolphin a step too far. The other three characters showed great promise, especially Telamon, but they weren’t developed enough for my liking. The issues presented were different for each character, Hylas to find his sister, Pirra to escape her marriage, Spirit to find his pack and help Hylas, Telamon to please his father and his friend. Yet, none seemed truly compelling. At the end, none of the characters achieves their goal except for the dolphin, Spirit, who saves the life of his friend Hylas again and again then finds the other dolphins at the end. I thought the writing was competent. The problem was the story had no grand goal to get behind. It felt like eating junk food, you enjoy it for a moment but once you’re finished, you feel unsatisfied.
Michelle Paver was born in 1960 in Malawi, Central Africa, moving to the United Kingdom at the age of three. She earned a degree in Biochemistry from Oxford University and became a partner in a law firm. Paver’s books reflect her lifelong passion for animals, anthropology, and ancient history. She is most well known for her bestselling Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series.
As for Gods and Warriors, I won’t be seeking out the sequel.
My rating: One and a half stars.

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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A classic children’s book…superb writing. ~ Anthony Horowitz

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I have finished reading my fifteenth novel for 2021, Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins by Carlos Fuentes. It was one in a pile of books I picked up while visiting my sister on Waiheke Island in the upper north island of New Zealand. We popped into the Salvation Army shop. I drifted into the books section and walked out thirty minutes later with two bags of books! That always happens. I got the lot for ten bucks. You’ve got to love that.
Usually, I stick to reading within my genre of middle-grade fiction, but I will also buy anything that takes my fancy. Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins sounded so quirky. I thought, what is that about? And I recognized the author.

The book consists of five short stories. In the title story, a kind and happy husband discovers the true nature of his marriage. ‘As though he has walked through a mirror and found that the life held in the glass was not his own at all.’ ‘…you repeatedly seem to shudder awake, you think you’ve opened your eyes, but in fact, you’ve only introduced one dream inside another.’ I would try to precis the stories, but I fear that might be beyond me. From a doll coming to represent a human woman to a story narrator in bed with a ghost, the stories pitch you from the boat into a dark swirling morass of imagery and ideas in which there is no life raft. There is no way of making sense of the stories contained within this book. The stories located from Savannah, Georgia to Glasgow, depict the moments in life when worlds collide, and they are fittingly chaotic.
Carlos Fuentes Macías (1928 – 2012) was a Mexican writer. He also served as a diplomat in 1965 in London, Paris (as ambassador), and other capitals. Though he became one of the best-known novelists of the 20th century in the Spanish-speaking world, he found the time to teach courses at Brown, Princeton, Harvard, Penn, George Mason, Columbia, and Cambridge. The author of thirty works, his first book, Aura, was published in 1962. He published Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins, in Spanish, Constanciay otras novelas para virgines by Mandadori Espana, in 1989.

The book received mixed reviews. The deconstructionists of the world heralded Constancia as a miraculous conception and a great example of the ‘imagination unbound.’ The great unwashed masses, of whom I count myself one, reviled the book, like a big shiny house to which we did not possess the key to get in. There are no story structures, nothing to grasp, no compass or road map through the forest of words.
I would not go so far as to say what some of the critics said. I wouldn’t call the book ‘the ravings of a madman,’ or ‘a senseless mess,’ or ‘UNREADABLE.’ But I will tell my ultimate truth, and that is I couldn’t finish it. It’s not often I can say a book has beaten me. This one did. It is one of the few books I have put down halfway through and walked away from. I literally could not take another word of such nonsense. Magical Realism. Definitely. Not. My. Genre.
My rating: No stars. But I will give it two groans.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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As a literary fiction style, magic realism paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements, often dealing with the blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality. ~ Wikipedia

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers 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.

July 7th optional question – What would make you quit writing?

Whatever it is, I haven’t discovered it. I’ve kept working through sickness, deaths in the family, divorces, the pandemic, the kids’ dramas, you name it. I took a break when I finished my trilogy The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, but that was fine. It didn’t occur to me to be scared I’d never write again. This year, for the first time, I wondered if the writing was going to quit me. I’ve heard many authors say this over the years that after completing each book they feared that it was the last. Well, that had never been a problem for me in the past. I had never experienced “writer’s block,” there had been a constant flow of prose since the day I learned how to hold a pen. Even as preschoolers, my brother and I used to play storytelling games. Stories came easily. And I loved it so much. Growing up powerless – the third child from a big family cramped inside a small house – creating stories was a great escape. The hours would disappear.

Writing was my secret super power! My window to glory.

At fifteen I started keeping a journal, and I still write in one every day. Writing as therapy continued, proving a terrific release valve throughout my life. It is wonderfully cathartic. In fact, I have preached at Toastmasters and elsewhere about the “benefits of having a creative outlet.” Everyone needs a creative way to express themselves, and storytelling has always been mine. It didn’t occur to me to be scared until I walked away from publishing my trilogy and thought, what next?

I released The Chronicles of Aden Weaver in October 2021, collapsing with relief. The exhaustion was so complete that for the first time in my life I took six months off to recover.

When the time came to start the next book, I looked at that empty page and shook like a leaf in the wind. There were no words boldly appearing from nowhere, no inklings for stories. The muse had gone strangely silent.

I was wandering in the wilderness, let me tell you. It was a scary place to be. To not be able to write was hideous. Disenfranchised: a writer not writing, a storyteller not working on a story, like being cast adrift, existing in a weird state of limbo or stasis with no sense of direction. “Writer’s block” is a gnarly ride. An uneasy month went by. My life was still wonderful. I love my kids, friends, my family, and my home. I enjoy looking after this property, but here’s the thing, we all need a creative outlet.

I wasn’t fully enjoying life and without my author’s work I was never fully at ease in my skin. I wasn’t ME.

Each weekend I faced the enormity of the empty page, doing my relaxation techniques, and freewriting. Eventually, this started the cogs turning, and that was the best feeling to break through the blockade. What a relief to write again! I sat down and “blathered away,” as my grandmother would say, no longer floating idle, no longer rudderless.

The rush of joy reassured me. The muse was back, full of ideas. I was still in the author business.

Writing stories, I have realized, is not just about getting the words from head to page, or crafting them until they take on a high sheen. Being an author is a way of life. At this stage I don’t know whether I’ll ever self publish again. What I know is I must write stories to know my purpose. Now, I feel aligned in my skin, that my wheels are back on the tracks and life has meaning. It doesn’t get any better than that.

There’s a Carl Jung quote that goes,what did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes. Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.’

What did you love to do? I’m interested to know.

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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“Publication of a book is a misery… writing to write and enjoy it, that’s the best—it’s the Eden that we writers lose.” ~ Anon

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I’ve finished reading my tenth novel for 2021, Code Name Bananas, by David Walliams. This book is one of the most recent offerings from the English comedian turned children’s writer. Published in 2020, and given to my son as a present, we started reading Code Name Bananas in lockdown this year and it provided us with some welcome comic relief. The book is full of action, laughter and secret plots, enough to keep us entertained.

This was my first time reading one of Walliams’ books. His fame precedes him. I knew he was the biggest selling children’s author to have started since the year 2000; he has books in over fifty-five languages and has sold over forty million copies worldwide.

To say I was curious would be an understatement. I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

In Code Name Bananas it is 1940, Britain is at war with Germany. As bombs rain down on the city, orphaned eleven-year-old Eric forms an extraordinary friendship with a remarkable gorilla: Gertrude. Eric spends his days at the place that makes him most happy: London Zoo. But during the blitz, the zoo is no longer safe, and Eric must go on an adventure to rescue Gertrude. Together with his Uncle Sid, a keeper at the zoo, the three go on the run. After a harrowing series of near captures and hair-raising escapes, the trio end up hiding out at the seaside, where they uncover a dastardly plot… fall into the clutches of the bad guys… and have to foil the ultimate villains.

The sumptuous packaging of this book reeks of money spent. With a satiny cover and gilt lettering that catches the eye, it’s a beautiful piece of literary art. Tony Ross is fantastic! The combination of Tony Ross’ fabulous illustrations and David Walliams’ wonderful story work well together. On the front cover there is a gold badge in one corner, marketing the story as a “WHIZZ-BANG EPIC ADVENTURE.” What is a “whizz-bang epic adventure,” you may ask? Apparently it’s a story so crazy and unbelievable nothing is off limits. I was a bit startled how far Walliams will go. But is that not a sign of greatness? It was Neil Gaiman who said, ‘The fundamental rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like.’

With those parameters, Walliams may take over the world with insane outings like Code Name Bananas. RatburgerDemon Dentist and Awful Auntie have all won the National Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year. The Ice Monster won ‘Children’s Fiction Book of the Year for 2018’ at the British Book Awards and some of his stories, like Grandpa’s Great EscapeMr StinkGangsta Granny and The Boy in the Dress are all available on DVD.

Yup, world domination is definitely on the cards.

Born in Wimbledon England in 1971, David Edward Williams OBE, known professionally as David Walliams, is a comedian, writer, actor and television personality. He is best known for his double act with Matt Lucas on the comedy sketch series, Rock Profile, Little Britain, and Come Fly With Me. Walliams has been a judge on the television talent show competition Britain’s Got Talent on ITV, since 2012. Now he has added best-selling author to his list of accomplishments.

You often hear Walliams being compared to Roald Dahl and I can see why. Walliams has the same blithe irreverence but with a slightly darker edge, and they’re both risk-takers. Walliams is a fun writer, however, the critics of Code Name Bananas have called it “phoned in” and “rushed out.” I enjoyed some parts of the story. Mostly it was too farcical for my taste. I got annoyed at the constant sound effects. They were unnecessary. Though novel at first, it quickly became overdone. If someone is eating, we don’t need to be told ‘MUNCH!’ I almost wondered if the sound effects were padding as they took up a lot of real estate.

On the plus side, I commend the historical aspect, especially for young readers. Code Name Bananas contains useful information about the Second World War, Adolf Hitler, German U boats, the Blitz, the Dunkirk evacuation, the London zoo, Winston Churchill and Buckingham Palace. I’m a big fan of historical fiction. Is it not the ultimate way to grasp information, to hear it in a story? That said Code Name Bananas will not make my list for favourite books of the year.

My rating: Three stars, just.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”–Jack Kerouac.

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The weekend before last, I went to see Neil Gaiman at the Auckland Writer’s Festival. With the restrictions imposed worldwide because of the pandemic, the organizers intended the festival would focus on those authors resident in New Zealand. It was a great opportunity to highlight the national talent pool, and the organizers also drew from the international authors already available in the country. Neil Gaiman had been here since lockdown was first imposed in 2020, being with his wife Amanda Palmer, who had been touring here as a writer at the time. The festival organizers had tried to get Neil Gaiman along to the Auckland Writer’s Festival many times in the past and failed. Lucky us.

Neil Gaiman and his interviewer Nic Lowe wandered on stage, no introduction apart from the lights being raised. They sat in worn-looking black leather armchairs while Nic conducted the live interview. Neil Gaiman was normal. It was great. And he was also the typical author, long-haired, a tad shambolic, wearing an exhausted jacket, the pockets hanging heavy with what one imagined were several books, maybe even cigars. He looked thoughtful, yet at ease with everything. It was easy to imagine him writing at home wearing pyjamas and a robe all day long.

The interview was fine. My feedback to Nic Lowe would be this: he could try speaking a little less, allowing us to hear a little more from the star.

How many books had Neil Gaiman written in his illustrious career? “A fan had stacked them up at one point, and the pile reached over 7 feet.” Wow. His output has been prodigious, including the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. They have made his stories into movies and TV series, Good OmensAmerican GodsCoraline, and more. And Neil has plainly loved every minute.

Did he expect to be where he is today in terms of career? Neil said he never expected to be famous. When he started out, 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.’ The audience laughed. In fact, we laughed a lot. The humour surprised me—I didn’t expect him to be so funny. Neil spoke with intelligence and dry wit, poking fun at himself and everything. When asked what he would have done if he hadn’t become an author, he replied, “I would have been a freelance religion designer.” That got the biggest laugh.

And the theme Neil put across in the hour-long session, was, “Young writers don’t have to feel guilty for not inventing the whole thing. It’s okay that you got it from somewhere and passed it on. I want young writers to know it is okay, and that’s how storytelling works. Know that nothing comes magically from nowhere.”

He said that writers who think their prose all comes from within them were ‘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.’ Cue another belly laugh.

Personally, 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.

Having a talented author like Neil Gaiman telling authors there is no need to reinvent the wheel, that we can dip into the community stew pot and borrow the pieces we need then we give back our piece for passing on to others, was liberating and exciting. I hadn’t ever heard anyone say that before. It was warm, generous and inclusive during these more divided times. The fact I came home excited to write means it was time well spent. 

While I made myself a hot cup of tea and a slice of buttered toast at home, Neil Gaiman remained at the event. In fact, he stayed there for five hours, some people said it was seven, signing autographs for the queue of avid fans who snaked outside of the building into the square. Honestly, I do not have any ambition to be famous—I’m too lazy! Would I want to be Neil Gaiman, stuck at his signing table well past dinner time? NO.

Being unknown has its perks. Like dinner and stuff.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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What we need in a crisis are friends. ~ Neil Gaiman

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