Archive for the ‘Kate de Goldi’ Category

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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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 question: What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?
Whittling it down to just one is a hard ask. My favourite genre is the one I write, fantasy fiction for middle-grade children. I remember in one of the writing courses I took twenty-odd years ago, the tutor exhorted us to do as Thoreau once said, to “know thy bone.” In other words, to circle your preoccupations, recurring motifs, to explore your particular palette, “bury it, dig it up, sniff it, gnaw on it” – know thy bone. Thankfully, many years ago, I discovered the right genre for me, and I’ve been circling it ever since, figuring out how to say what I want to say. The tutor advised us to “immerse ourselves in the genre” by reading as well. I don’t need any encouragement! This is why I write and read my favourite genre.
What is the best characteristic? Gee, still hard…

To make things easier, I might break the answer into two parts. Let’s start with the age group, middle-grade, or children between the ages of eight and twelve. This stage of life is magical because kids are strong enough to be somewhat independent while still being young enough to be starry-eyed. They are not too old for enchantment. Ava Duvernay said of this age group that ‘it is a time to discover who we are in our minds and our hearts. A time to listen and learn and think and wonder. A time to start to decide for ourselves how we want to walk through this world.’ That’s powerful stuff, right there.
Middle grade is a great age group to write for. The first time I ever saw Kate de Goldi speak in public was when she gave a keynote address at the Spinning Gold Children’s Writer’s Conference in 2009. Every point Kate made hit home when she spoke of why she chose to write Middle Fiction. “I don’t write about or for children, but I write for the once and always child in myself,” Kate said. “When I’m writing for children, I’m chasing down a lost Eden, that hopeful springtime, approximating the pleasure I had in those shaded places. The lost Eden of my childhood.”

Thank you for putting it into words, Kate. I am ever seeking to evoke the bewitching, magical heaven of my idyllic childhood when the joy of reading took hold of my heart and soul.
There is a deep secret fascination with that time of my life. In the years 8 – 12, I was an independent thinker, and I believed in the possibility of magical things, like leprechauns, tooth fairies, unicorns, and Santa Claus. When I was on a writing course with Kate de Goldi once, Kate told us, “Inside, I’m always twelve.” And I am the same. I feel I haven’t lost touch yet with my young life. The inner child who never stopped believing in the possibilities.
Middle Grade is a cool audience. They’re not reading with a sentimental nod back to those days when we used to believe in dragons; these readers can still be thrilled by the idea that such things might exist and aren’t afraid to let their imaginations run wild with it. I love that.

The fantasy fiction part of the genre is an equally important part of my bone. I started as a young reader of fairy tale anthologies, myths, and legends, Hans Christian Andersen, C.S.Lewis and Enid Blyton, and Tove Janssen. It was not that my life was something I sought to escape from as a child, but rather that fantasy fiction was so vivid, such a thrilling place to escape to. As Neil Gaiman said at last year’s writer’s festival, “Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been.” And that’s exciting.
Why do I write it? The common thinking about our draw towards fantasy fiction is that it’s about ‘fulfilling the heart’s desire.’ This usually means our longing for a better world, a better self, and a better life. I relate to that completely. They say that ‘Fantasy seeks to heal the wasteland.’ Almost every story aims towards the ultimate wish fulfillment, where everything works towards the greater good – the wasteland healed.
Saving the world is the deeper, philosophical view. I also write fantasy fiction because that’s what I read as a child. And, it keeps my inner child happy. Keeps hope alive. Feeds my sense of wonder. And, I gotta tell you, it is rewarding to learn how to trust my style, my voice, my way of adding another carrot to the stewpot. I adore my bone. It’s satisfying to bury, dig it up, sniff it, and give a good gnaw, before burying it again ready for the next time. It somehow feeds my soul, gnawing my bone.
Many people still look down their noses at the fantasy fiction genre. But, I love it. What’s wrong with that? What the heck is wrong with escapist literature?

I appreciated what Neil Gaiman said on this subject. “I hear the term bandied about as if it’s a bad thing. As if “escapist” fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or children, is mimetic, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds themself in.” I don’t get the prejudice. When the world outside my door appears to be on fire, why wouldn’t I escape to a fabulous place which is not on fire, where fantastic things are happening? Writing (and reading) fantasy fiction is a constant spirit lifter. And, I highly recommend it.
What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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When she is most lucky, the poet sees things as if for the first time, in their original radiance or darkness; a child does this too, for he has no choice. ~ Edwin Muir

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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.

June 1 question – When the going gets tough writing the story, how do you keep yourself writing to the end?
The main way I keep myself writing is to turn up and do the writing every day. The daily pages are part of my morning routine when I am working, as non-negotiable as the walk or the yoga. It was the wonderful writer and teacher, Kate de Goldi, who taught us to start the day with ten minutes of non-stop writing. Sit in the same place, at the same time. Write every day. No stopping until the ten minutes are up. That was in 2005, and I have done the same thing every day since. It’s a tried and true method for side-stepping the rational mind and accessing one’s creativity. The routine means that rain or shine, good day or bad, the day always starts with producing fresh copy, which acts as a mental jumpstart. It’s an injection of positivity, a feeling of having started the day right. And just as Jane Yolen said, writers need to exercise the writing muscle daily to stay limber.

Sometimes, however, for whatever reason, at various times in writing a story, things just grind to a halt. It is not necessarily writer’s block, although sometimes it is. Usually, it’s a trough in the rollercoaster of the story development. At those times, I find myself coming up with excuses not to come back to work on the story. And that’s okay. Creative people can run the well dry by thinking they can endlessly pump out copy like workhorses. It’s easy to forget that we need to refill our cups sometimes. We need holidays and retreats and time out and pampering now and again. It’s vital for me to ‘re-wild’ myself and get out of the city to breathe fresh air.

Therefore, one of the ways I keep myself writing is to spend time occasionally not writing and permit myself to take that much-needed rest. It’s vital for the soul and one’s well-being. We need to remember that we are “the talent” and treat ourselves with the appropriate respect.
There have been times with various stories when I felt as if I’d written myself into a corner and couldn’t see the way for the story to move forward. It’s important not to accept this as the last word. It’s never the last word. There is always a way out. The way I move through blockages or obstacles to the story development is to brainstorm. Over the years, I’ve developed my approach to this technique. And I find it works best to walk and talk. I pace the house with a pad and a pen on the counter, ready to catch any ideas that fall out as part of the pacing process.

I start to talk to myself. I tell myself what has happened in the story to the point where we got stuck. Then I talk about what could happen next, discussing every slight notion that comes into my head. The ideas get jotted onto the paper, which helps me keep track of the options. If I keep hashing it out with myself in this way, I have found that I always end up with viable alternatives, and the story will come unstuck.
These are the methods I use to keep the flow going. As with a lot of things, keeping the momentum going is key. The momentum itself can carry you over the hump, ahead to the next part of the story, where you feel stronger.
What methods do you use to keep yourself writing to the end? Anything new to add?

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

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

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be.”
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

I’ve tried other genres each time a teacher has called me upon to write something new for writing courses, however, somehow I always end up penning fantasy for children by default. It has always come the most naturally to me, ever since I started writing this genre of fiction as a seventeen-year-old.

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I think that’s because fantasy is what I loved to read as a child. And reading books is one of the most vividly remembered aspects of my young life. When I was at my most voracious reading stage, at twelve, I had to take a stack of twenty books with me whenever we went on holiday. I couldn’t bear to be without a book to read. I was still young enough to believe in the unbelievable and to look at things out of the corner of my eye, still naïve enough to believe in the possibility of fairies and witches and magic. The stories I read were actual worlds to me, and I escaped into their dappled places with abandon. That was where my imagination lit up.

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When I wrote stories as a bored seventeen-year-old stay-at-home-mum, my imagination immediately took off into the never-never I had relished as a child, and I was writing fantasy adventure for 6-8-year-olds in my first story out of the gate. That’s the way it’s been ever since.

In my early twenties, I read in the newspaper about the New Zealand author, Jill Mitchell, creator of the Zip and Mack books (which they later made into an animated TV series). Jill was writing and illustrating and publishing her own picture books, under the imprint Wild Daisies Publications, an Indie long before it was fashionable. I contacted Jill, and she invited me out to her home to meet.

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Jill Mitchell was the ultimate artist. She had a delightfully wacky country house, in which she had painted vivid nature scenes on every wall, and she had a wild garden filled with every kind of plant and flower. How I envied her the studio she had built out of her garden shed. It was open to the air, and as she sat at the high bench and wrote or painted, her many pets could wander through and say hello, including her donkey.

Jill showed me all her wonderful brightly coloured books, and I showed her some of my picture book stories. At that stage in my writing career, I had heard the words “fantasy doesn’t sell” so many times from so many publishers I was desperate to write something a child would read. So I had penned five “normal” adventure stories and illustrated them. I showed them to Jill. She thought they showed promise. And I can remember she praised my style as “wholesome.”

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I said, yeah, they’re okay, but what I love to write is fantasy, especially about anthropomorphic critters (think, the Redwall series or Finn Family Moomintroll). Jill said, if that’s what you want to write, then you must follow your heart. It was one of those key moments in my life. Later, in 2005, when my two youngest boys were still babies, I attended two weekend writing courses with award-winning Kiwi writer and tutor, Kate De Goldi. Kate looked at my fantasy manuscripts and said she didn’t know why I had a predilection for writing about insects, but if I did, then I should follow that because there had to be a reason for it. Fortified once again, I continued to write the stories that gave me joy and made my heart sing, and you guessed it, I’m still writing anthropomorphic fantasy for children. Huzzah! Did I “choose” the genre, no, it definitely chose me.

What about you, are you doing what gives you the most joy, what makes your heart sing? I highly recommend it.

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. – Eleanor Roosevelt

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

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world–or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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The first week back at school, the youngest son and his friends organized a game of laser tag on the Friday night. The group of nine kids arranged their parental transport and played laser tag from 6-7 p.m. It was all good clean fun, and the kids had a ball. This week, they’ve organised to play Call of Duty together at one of the boys’ houses.

I thought, wow, we’ve come a long way from the earlier despair over having no friends.

His social life is definitely waxing. However, for the time being, the youngest still seems mostly content to be at home playing C.O.D, Minecraft or Fortnite on his X-box, or watching anime on his phone. Sometimes, he even reverts back to playing Roblox on his laptop. I still have a buddy a while longer, yet.

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We were talking the other night at bedtime. I’ve mentioned this before. My son does his own version of The 10 p.m. Question like the protagonist, Frankie, in Kate de Goldi’s brilliant book, who comes to the door of his parents room every night with a deep, thought-provoking question. On one of the writing courses I did with Kate, she told us that the character sprang directly from her son and his ‘nightly questions about the universe and everything.’ My youngest does his own version: every night, after we’ve all done some reading, cleaned our teeth, and said our prayers, when I go to close the door and say goodnight, the youngest son suddenly says, “Why do people get depressed?” (last night’s question) or something similarly deep and reflective and requiring a long considered conversation. He says he gets most of his ideas at night.

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As a fourteen-year-old, I had my head in a book, to the extent that I remember taking twenty books with me, when our family went on holiday to the Coromandel. I suffered frequent headaches throughout the vacation. When my parents had my eyes tested upon our return home, they were told I had 20/20 vision. So they put my headaches down to ‘too much reading’! As if.

I carried on reading regardless, of course, as you do when you’re a teenager.

My youngest son is headstrong in the way of being in his own dreamworld at times. Tonight, he was due at soccer practice at 5.15 p.m. “Finish your food.” “Put your phone down.” “You still have your exercises to do.” Why is he still sitting there watching anime on his phone and eating with one hand, when it’s 4.55? “Put your phone down.” “Hurry up and finish your food.”

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Result: we arrived at practice ten minutes late, which is disrespectful to the coach. Next week, I will renew my efforts to coral this long-limbed, gangly, phone-watching teenager and get him to soccer practice on time.

We have had one success story, so far. This year, I forced the youngest son into a new routine of nightly reading. He was consistently getting his lowest marks in English. He’d always enjoyed a bedtime story, but never spent time reading on his own. So this year, while I have continued with the usual bedtime stories for his brother, the youngest son chooses his own books and reads alone. His goal is two pages a night. Sometimes, I have to make him stop after four, or he’ll be late to bed. And he’s now getting better marks in English.

The other night, as I went to say goodnight, the youngest said, “Mum, I have to write an essay for social studies about early life in New Zealand, all about the pioneers. I need pictures and maps. I mean where do you find that sort of stuff?” “I’d go to the library and ask the librarian.” “The library? Thanks, mum, I never thought of that.”

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He needed more than Google could provide, yet he never thought of going to the library? That’s sad. The school library would have been my first port of call when I was a kid.

By the way, the youngest loved the idea and went to the school library with a few of his friends this morning. “Did you get any books out to help with your essay?” “No, I got chatting with my friends and forgot to get any books out.”

He promises me, he will remember to actually look for books next time.

I believe in the value of libraries. Well known author, Margaret Mahy said, “I’m here to assert that librarians stand dancing on that tenuous ridge that separates chaos from order. That dancing librarian makes so much of the world accessible to others.”

I’ll be expecting more 10 p.m. questions soon…

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(Kate de Goldi and I, 2008)

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Leave the libraries alone. You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after. It is too precious to destroy.’ ~ Philip Pullman

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Last week, my youngest son turned to me and asked in all earnestness, “You’ve never done anything wrong have you, mum?” This follows on from the week before last, when he asked me, “You don’t tell lies do you, mum?” He’s newly turned fourteen and we’ve entered the age of questions. You’ve heard of Kate de Goldi’s bestselling book, The 10 p.m. Question? Her son would come to their bedroom door every night with deep, thought-provoking queries. My son does the same thing.

I answered, that while I do my best, at times I make mistakes, too. I get angry at other drivers on the road. I sometimes forget why I went down the other end of the house. Recently I backed the car into a pillar at a friend’s house, which was in my blind spot, and I stove in my bumper. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes.

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Part of the youngest son’s transition from childhood to adulthood, is realizing some hard truths. In the next decade, he’ll learn that parents are not perfect, that life is not fair, that the world is not kind, that the world is in fact a scary, dangerous, ruthless place. Some people call it taking off the rose-tinted glasses of childhood.

The baby of the family is currently readjusting his view of the world. It’s a shame and also a necessary part of growing up. Every child must go through this rite of passage of adolescence, during which time the parents formerly believed to be gods, become human, during which time the reality of life starts to dawn.

It’s a bit of a test.

Still, at just turned fourteen, the innocence of the child is lingering and it’s precious.

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As the youngest, I have treasured this son’s childhood. I have truly valued the untamed, free, fluidity of the child’s spirit. ‘Is there a limited number of times that a child will insist on remaining wedded to the moment?’ asks Russell Brand, in his excellent book, Revolution. Brand posits that kids lose their spontaneity as they grow up. ‘We condition our children and ourselves to enter into this spectacle, confining ourselves to a prescribed path.’

The youngest is still in contact with the wild freedom of the boy within, while at the same time he takes tentative steps forward, finding his way into the jungle of adulthood.

I see the same wonderful element of untamed spirit in my one-year-old granddaughter. The spontaneity, the pure fervour she has for life is a joy to witness. She is a long way off from constructing a persona with which to deal with the world.

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When my son asks me have you ever done anything wrong, I feel a reaction of wanting to defend myself. But I don’t want to dig myself into a false position, or as Eckhart Tolle put it, to ‘adopt a mental position then we identify with that mental position and it becomes invested with self.’

So, I respond as honestly as I can. That way, the youngest son can come back later – as he often does, after he’s thought about things – and we can continue the conversation.

The teenage brain has been proven by scientists to only be able to sustain attention on a few things at a time. If I overburden him with too much information at once it will be wasted breath. It is far better, and more effective, to converse with a teenager in short instalments. Sound bites, if you will. Then they can retain what’s been said.

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I know he will be fine as long as we keep the lines of communication open. I remember my grandmother was proud of her closeness with her son (my father) when he was growing up. She said, they could discuss ‘anything and everything.’

When he would come home from sea for short stints, as an 18-year-old seaman, he and Gran would sit chatting for hours.

Gran said she never had a moment’s worry with dad, because she knew they could talk and sort out any problem.

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That’s the way I like to be with my kids.

In our conversations, I try to stay honest, and I try not to have a reaction to the things they share with me, so they feel safe.

The other day I overheard the youngest playing with friends on Fortnite. He said, “If you ever have a question don’t go to your teacher, they don’t like it when you ask lots of questions. Go to your mother. Mums know everything.”

Okay, so I haven’t quite debunked his myths around me yet, but we’re getting there.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A child’s bucket of self-esteem must be filled so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry. ~ Alvin Price

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

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

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

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

Last Christmas, however, I decided enough was enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

I found that thought uplifting.

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Reading!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

I’ve had many creative outlets over the years: photography, dress design, and dance, however, I would say art has been the most constant. In fact, I started out writing for children as an author/illustrator. In the margins of the first fictional story I wrote, as a seventeen-year-old, I doodled what the characters would look like. That set the stage for illustrating my own picture books, a time when I juggled the jobs of developing the pictures and writing the story.

Then, in 2005, a pivotal moment happened in my life.

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I went to a children’s writing workshop, with the award-winning author, and teacher, Kate de Goldi. After showing her one of my picture book manuscripts, Kate said, it was good, however, she felt I needed to focus on either writing or the illustrating.

I took the advice to heart. About half a year after taking the course, I finished illustrating my story, and I packed the paints and brushes away into the cupboard. Within another year, I was writing up a storm.

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Kate’s sage advice helped me to funnel all my energy into my writing and from there, wonderful things began to happen. Coincidentally, this lesson about focus became one of the story themes in the resulting trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. The hero, Aden, is taught by his wise mentor, Geo, to focus in order to prevail. It’s a lovely full circle moment.

By focusing on the writing, I became more productive:

I found my genre, middle grade (or junior fiction).

I wrote a middle grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I went “Indie” and self-published my first two books, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta and The Sasori Empire.

I had an essay included in a book for writers. I also self published a short story, along with a group of authors, in a children’s anthology titled Kissed By An Angel.

I built a mailing list and started a monthly newsletter.

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In both The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, and The Sasori Empire, I included two of my own pen and ink illustrations.

Art and writing have gone naturally hand in hand for me, however, I feel like I’ve found a way to make them complement one another.

I still enjoy drawing to bring my own characters to life. I also do illustrations upon request for certain projects. I painted the cover art as well as the colour illustration to go with my story, Grandpa and Loor, for Kissed By An Angel. The difference is, instead of the art absorbing all of my days, now with small art projects, I’m more in control of my time.

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The thing about painting – and probably any kind of art – is that it’s a time suck.

I remember an old landlord, Arthur, when he saw me at work on one of my illustrations, said, ‘Ah, painting, the thing that sucks time into it like a black hole.’ It’s true. It’s the kind of hobby you do, that you look up and realize its dark, and you wonder where the day went. I loved it, but once I was raising my two younger two boys and writing, there wasn’t time left in the day for art.

Being able to surrender my illustrator’s hat has been a significant improvement in my life. These days, I do what I love to do most, which is to write. Then I dabble at my art when I have the time and the inclination. It works.

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(artwork by Si Kingi)

I’m also more productive. This year, I intend to self publish the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, The Last Tree. I’ll need to figure out which drawings I’m going to do for it within the next few months and get them done before then. But, that’s okay. When art isn’t asking for every spare minute, you feel you can relish getting little jobs done like that.

A life in balance, between my writing, art, and the rest of my life, that’s my ultimate goal for 2019!

What about you? What are your creative outlets?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places. ~ Paul Gardner

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

 

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

Writing fantasy for children is a not exactly a hot genre. It’s difficult to do well, and as Terry Pratchett once said, there’s always been this ‘cloud of disapproval around the fantasy genre,’ as if it’s somehow the second cousin of more serious or entertaining popular fiction.

‘But some of the reasons are easy to see. The sheer torrent of the stuff for one thing. The telling and retelling. All those new worlds and eternal heroes.’ Yeah, I get it, too. Even for me, fantasy can get annoying, and yet, I can’t deny the draw. It’s what I loved to read as a child, and it’s what I love to write now.

Who cares about being cool or trendy?

For most of my thirty-five years writing for children, I’ve been writing “fantasy animal tales’ and they’re even less of a hot topic than pure fantasy. Yet, the roots of fantastic tales about animals, especially talking animals, go back to our very first oral traditions of storytelling, as far back as 600 B.C. and the time of Aesop.

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Why does this particular niche appeal to me? Kate de Goldi said once ‘writers always have their story, their palette, driven by something they find interesting that they can’t explain.’

I feel the answers lie in childhood.

I look back at my past, and I think I was a total nerd. Oh, the joy I used to get from reading a new book. To visit the library and get new books for free seemed such a delicious and exciting power to have. What to read? The choices were endless.

As a young child, I recall the impact of unexpected bliss I felt on the day I opened Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson, and read ‘Chapter 1. In which Moomintroll, Snufkin and Snif find the Hobgoblin’s hat; how five small clouds unexpectedly appear, and how the Hemulen finds himself a new hobby.’ It was a profound moment.

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I was immediately transported somewhere else. I flew away to a far more fascinating place than my powerless world, as a small child growing up in the urban landscape and a working class family.

Pure fantasy seems to deal in the fulfilment of desire, the yearning of the human heart for a kinder world, a better self, a wholer experience, a sense of truly belonging, wrote David Pringle.

Through these fantasies I read: the Moomintroll series, and the Chronicles of Narnia, the ghost stories, myths and legends, I escaped through their portal, to lands far away, where exciting magical things happened that matched the limitlessness of my imagination.

These books made my childhood more wonderful and alive.

When I first approached writing fiction for children, it was natural to reach for the subject matter which intrigued me as a young person, the genre of animal fantasy. That’s where the heart lay. It was as simple as that.

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I think it was Thoreau who coined the famous advice for writers ‘know your own bone.’

It was writer/teacher, Kate de Goldi, who said, ‘Your idiosyncratic fascination is why you were made and set here.’

In other words, in order to be true to who we are as writers, we have to find the courage to follow what truly moves us, to write what our hearts sing to read and what lights us up inside. That takes undeniable courage, to dig down to the core and come up with one’s raw innermost truths, and then own them.

I used to be ashamed of my genre. I did a lot of writing but not a lot of submitting. When I did submit, I got responses like, “no one’s buying fantasy,” or “no one’s interested in reading about talking animals.” So, I submitted less often until I stopped altogether.

That’s where self publishing is king for authors like me, who write in less than popular genres. We don’t need a nod from the gatekeepers anymore to see our books in print. We nerds can say, “I’ll publish fantasy animal tales if I want to.” And, “Nerds rule!”

What do you love about the genre you write in?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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When she is most lucky, the poet sees things as if for the first time, in their original radiance or darkness: a child does this too, for he has no choice. Edwin Muir

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