Archive for the ‘perseverance’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

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

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words 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 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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In June 2015, I had my first book launch planned for September of that year. My greatest fear was public speaking, so I knew there was no way I could deliver a speech at the launch without serious help. After some searching the internet, I discovered Toastmasters. The non-profit educational speakers’ organization began with Ralph C. Smedley in the United States, and now boasts 352,000 members in 141 countries. With more than 16,400 individual clubs worldwide, there was a club within a ten-minute drive of my house. I rocked along that week, joined up, and was assigned a mentor. What is a mentor? A mentor is a person who provides guidance and support to empower a protégé to reach their goals.

In Toastmasters, they assign a mentor to guide each new member for the first six months. Debbie was my mentor, and she was brilliant, yet not even she could help me with my nerves. Public speaking is the number one fear for most people, and for me, it felt debilitating. The way I managed the fear was by tightly controlling my speeches. I would start work on them two weeks before the due date. I would write out the idea and edit it endlessly until every word was in the exact right place. Then a week before the presentation was due, I would start memorizing the piece. I would work on it line by line, learning and rehearsing until finally, I knew it verbatim.

On the day of the meeting, in a state of high anxiety, I would pace outside rehearsing my lines. Only after giving my speech could I finally relax. The months went by, and I survived. I successfully delivered the keynote at my book launch and even won a speech competition. Somewhere along the way, the challenges of Toastmasters became fun. Far out, I thought, is it true that I have conquered my greatest fear? It was “a feather in my cap,” as my father used to say.
Then came the day an evaluator gave a speech evaluation that stopped me in my tracks and changed my trajectory forever. On that day, I remember being secretly pleased with my speech because I had recalled every word perfectly.

Mike was my evaluator. He was one of our best storytellers. Mike could come up with a speech on his way into the club and deliver an amazing piece a few minutes later. He said, ‘Your speech was fine, great. We’ve said it all before. But…you speak as if you’re talking to yourself in the mirror. You’re not connecting with us, just reciting something you’ve learned by rote. My challenge to you is to stop memorizing your speeches.’
Whoa. I was thunderstruck. My face was burning. This advice came three to four years into my Toastmasters journey, and I had memorized all my speeches until that point. I felt utterly humiliated. Scurrying home that day with my tail between my legs, I cried my eyes out. I swore I would never return to the club again! But Mike had issued me a challenge. Could I give a speech without memorizing it? I didn’t even know. Looking it up in the educational material, I saw that Toastmasters recommend solidifying the central ideas and that you learn any quotes, dates, or numbers but resist memorizing the rest of the content. Oh, geez.

For my next speech, I hatched an idea, wrote four words on a card, and attempted winging it after only two run-throughs. I felt like a hot mess. Without a clear path mapped out before me, I was sure I fumbled about for the words. Nevertheless, I did it. The second speech without memorizing was a bit easier, and the next one was a bit easier again. Then, I began to experience a real change, the back and forth, the give and take, of connecting with the audience. That’s where the magic lies. Mike’s honesty had released me from a self-imposed prison, my little cage. It was a whole new day.


Here’s the thing with public speaking. I have learned that it’s not about projecting an image of perfection onto your audience or trying to look like something you’re not. It’s about sharing your views, your thoughts, your feelings, your perspective – who you are – with others authentically. It’s about being present in the moment with your audience. That’s when you get truly memorable public speaking, and it’s also when the content comes across as the most meaningful.
It’s a process and I am still learning to the best of my ability, one meeting at a time. These days I even get to “pay it forward” by mentoring new members and passing on what I have learned, which really is a great feeling! In the words of John Ford, You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.
Why not have a go and try public speaking. You might surprise yourself!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“A WINNER IS JUST A LOSER WHO TRIED ONE MORE TIME.” ~ GEORGE M. MOORE, JR.


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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words 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 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 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.

January 5 question – What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?
I guess I regret turning down two offers from publishers. When I was first starting out and was submitting my children’s manuscripts to editors in New Zealand regularly, there were two yes replies. However, I turned them both down. One said they would publish my picture book, Free Wally, but they wanted to change all the characters’ names. What can I say? I was young and green. My creative soul felt they were going to tamper with my “artistic integrity” by changing the details. Therefore, I said no thank you and imagined I would easily find another acceptance for the story. Yet, I never did. It was the one and only offer I received for that book.
In the 90s a different publisher said they would release my middle-grade fantasy, The Scrifs and Stirrits, but they would only pay me a 5% royalty fee. In those days the going rate for royalties was 10%, and I was miffed. Why were they offering me less? I turned down the offer, thinking I wanted to be paid the same as everyone else. But I never found another publisher for that story so never got the chance.

Looking back at those decisions now, it’s easy to laugh at the folly of youth. What did it matter if they changed the names or paid me less royalty rate? I would still have had two books released by traditional publishing houses behind my name to help me stake a claim to this writer’s life. Instead, I hang in the wind of self-publishing and take the financial/emotional/mental hit of being Indie for every book. As a wide-eyed beginner, I did not know that getting any acceptance at all was fantastic. It took many more years of submitting my work to realize that acceptances are few and far between. And these days there are even fewer publishers accepting unsolicited work.
When I released my trilogy in 2020, I did a bit of research to see how many traditional publishers there were left in New Zealand. If I had wanted to submit my stories for consideration, there was only a handful of children’s publishers still accepting unsolicited manuscripts and after reading the t’s and c’s, my stories would only have been suitable for two of them. Two options? Pitiful. The current situation is very different from what it was when I was young and sending my stories to editors all over the country. I had no idea then how good I had it. But hey, hindsight is 20/20.

Therefore, if I could go back and change one thing about the past, maybe it would be rejecting the publishers’ offers. Or maybe it wouldn’t. Because I did overcome that obstacle. Early on, I made that mistake. Yet, I learned a lot through the years of “failing” that followed. They say if you change one thing about the past it alters the course of history. Would I want to mess around with the perfect plan for my life? Probably not. Maybe I was supposed to go it alone. Becoming an Indie is diabolically hard but it does have its rewards. I made all my own choices about covers, style, and everything for The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, which was satisfying. I’m proud of my trilogy. For the cover art, I collaborated with my nephew, Si, who is a consummate artist. We had such fun in the creative process, brainstorming and tooling around with options. I didn’t have to compromise his vision or question my choices. We had no interference which is a blessing only bestowed upon the self-published.

Looking back now, I have the satisfaction of knowing I did it my way, and there’s something pure in that. I cherish the books I’ve put out into the world so far. Would I have been able to say that if I was under the wing of a publisher? Or would the end result be something mutant and divorced from the original vision? With my name on the cover. No. The more I think about it, the more glad I am that I turned down those offers back in the day. I set myself on course for putting out books that authentically belong to me, and my creative intelligence is my service to the world. It will live on long after I’m gone. No, I’m convinced now I did the right thing when I was young.
So in a roundabout way, I have come back to the first question. What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
What about you, what do you regret most about your writing?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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Every story I create creates me. I write to create myself. ~ Octavia E. Butler


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It is New Year’s Eve when it is customary to look back at the year behind us and attempt to look at the twelve months ahead. Some people like to make resolutions or set goals about what they want to achieve in the coming year. I have always kept a journal in which I make a list of “Intentions” every New Year’s Eve. It’s an opportunity to get the glitter and stickers out and let myself dream about my aspirations. I also do a “message in a bottle” to myself. It is a wish list for the year ahead. For instance, I wrote a wish list for 2021, and today I read through the list. Then I’ll replace it with the new message I have compiled for 2022.
What a strange year, though!

At the end of 2020, I remember everyone saying how much they were looking forward to New Year’s Eve because people wanted to put their first experience of a pandemic behind them. There were hopeful memes on Facebook about looking forward to starting a brand new experience. Of course, none of us knew what lay ahead. 2021 has been just as tough in some cases, even tougher. As the virus has changed shape and name, we have learned new ways of coping. We have found new ways of staying sane and healthy.
And a great many of us have and are still suffering the repercussions of the anxiety. I have been under a great deal of stress. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas probably more than I should. However, it brings a s..t-ton of work with it. Life gets intense throughout December, having to plan things, visit people, send cards and letters, and battle to do the Xmas shopping in the insane traffic.

It does get overwhelming.

On top of all that, in early December, 18 of my trees became infected with Myrtle Rust, a fungal infection currently sweeping New Zealand. I had to trim every infected leaf and bag carefully then spray the fronts and backs of the remaining leaves. I got the trees done and organized Xmas, it’s true, but this week, I developed shingles. When the doctor said the chickenpox virus reactivates if you are under undue stress or overdoing it, I thought, oops, guilty as charged, on both counts. I have burned the candle. Yet for a good reason, people. We had a s..t year, and I wanted to celebrate the heck out of Christmas. So I overdid it in every direction. Do you know I got so stressed, there were three or four times this month when I woke in the morning with my fists clenched? And that’s a big part of how I became so run down. I let things get on top of me.
We have been through a lot in the last two years and now that we have reached the end of 2021, people are weary and a lot more subdued about what to expect.
The problem is mental/emotional stress is a killer.

The shingles have forced me to slow down and it has been an unexpected blessing. This week, I employed my youngest son and his friends to wash the exterior of the house and the windows and repaint all three verandahs. And I didn’t have to lift a finger. Not that I could have. I am on a week’s total physical and mental rest, doctor’s orders. I thought this is nice. Thing is, I’ve always walked and talked too fast. At my age, perhaps I should stop rushing around all the time, being a superwoman. Now that I’m doing everything more slowly, I find I’m enjoying each moment more. What a revelation. Being ill has given me some much-needed perspective.
N.Y.E? Okay, we might not be quite so enthusiastic about the twelve months ahead. There seems to be a general feeling of trepidation around the New Year.

Yet, I like to only plan for the positive preferred outcome. Readers of this blog may remember a post I wrote, sharing my Gran’s wisdom, Thinking the Right Thoughts. This is the method I am employing today. I will write in my journal, The theme for 2021 was …. What I noticed was… What didn’t work was… I am letting go of …. What I want for 2022 is … and I am willing to embrace… I shall say, “Thank you, 2021.” And, I will write Intentions and put a new message in my bottle aspiring to peace, relaxation, joy, abundance, good health, and rapture in 2022.
Remember, whatever comes, we can deal with it day by day, one day at a time, together. We have managed the same way for the last two years. I have never felt more bonded to the people in my life, whether in person or online than I have done since the pandemic started in 2020. I think the challenge has brought us all closer together. I feel I am part of a global family. My darling Gran would say, that’s the silver lining.
Going forward, let’s be positive and think the right thoughts. DARE TO WISH FOR BLISS.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Don’t let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace.” ~ K. Jones

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words 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 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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Long before positive thinking or affirmations became a thing, my grandmother led by example. She had a way of framing things and people in the best light. I’ll never forget what Gran said one day after my eldest son was scolded by my father for doing something naughty. The family, exasperated with him, had decided my son had Attention Deficit Disorder. Gran said, “He’s not naughty. He doesn’t have ADD or anything like that. What he has is spirit. Mark my words, he will go far in life.” (Turned out she was right, but that’s another story). With those words, my beloved grandmother turned a bad situation around to good and changed my outlook for the better.
Gran called it ‘thinking the right thoughts.’

We love that phrase in our family. Whenever any of us had something important happening that we were hoping would go well, Gran would always say, “I’ll think the right thoughts.” Which meant she would only envisage and only speak about the best possible outcome. That was how she lived. She walked her talk. These days I use the technique constantly. In keeping with the theme of resilience in various posts lately, I thought it would be the ideal time to share some of my grandmother’s outlook on life.

You’re welcome.

Whenever Gran had an event or outing coming up, she would say, “I’m looking forward to it with a confident sense of anticipation.” It was so simple. She demonstrated positive thinking as a way of life. That little gem has become a family saying, a special something we say to one another on occasion with fond knowingness.
I used to visit my grandmother on Thursdays. She lived around the corner from our house. I’d walk into her neat, elegant little unit at the start of the day and leave again around five in the evening. Thursdays were our day to hang out together. We always started our soiree with morning tea, which Gran would have set out on a tray. There would be tea in fine china cups with saucers, served with an array of sweet treats. Gran was a legendary baker and baked every day. She’d serve a plate of fresh scones, or sponge cake, or muffins, whatever treats she had made that morning. After eating, we’d sit in the lazy-boy chairs in the living room and talk. Then I would help her put out and bring in the laundry. We sometimes looked at photos or her embroidery. Sometimes we baked together. Then Gran would serve a big lunch with meat, vegetables, and homemade dessert like her apple pie or blackberry crumble. We would talk until it was time to say goodbye.

Every time I reached her door to leave, Gran would give one parting shot to take with me. It was usually one or two favourite sayings, “Remember my dear,” she would say, “Set your sights upon a star, and you will go far,” or “Every cloud has a silver lining, if you look for the silver lining you will find it.
They were the same sayings, time and again, yet I would walk along the street thinking about what she had said and repeating it to myself.
My grandmother inspired me with her natural optimism and right thinking. It shaped how I look at everything. I am a big believer in daily affirmations, in speaking positively to myself and others. I have a whiteboard with life-affirming statements on it, which I read a few times a day.
If we want to keep our spirits up, we need to bear witness to the words coming out of our mouths. People these days tend to be one-track-minded and fatalistic. Conversations have never been more boring.

Chats with friends and neighbours can often be depressing, and I don’t think these people realize the effect they’re having on others. Why not converse with loved ones about the book you’re reading, the movie you’ve seen, or the creative project you’re working on. We don’t always have to talk about Covid, people!
I prefer following my grandmother’s example. The glass-half-full approach means looking at the things that are working in our lives. I use a daily gratitude journal to note what I’m grateful for and make it a practice to say thank you for all the blessings. If you ask how I’m doing, I’ll be thinking the right thoughts and looking forward to what the future brings with a confident sense of anticipation!

I hope you gained a gem or two from this post for yourself.
Do you have grandparents with their little sayings? Have you ever tried keeping a gratitude journal?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Emptiness is a symptom that you are not living creatively.” – Maxwell Maltz.

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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.

September 1 question – How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?
Without question, success is holding the book in my hand. I guess that is because I wrote stories for half my life before I published a book. Although I started writing fiction at age 17 and had a story and an article published in other people’s books, I didn’t produce a book until I was 50. I think the moment I laid eyes on that first novel is engraved forever in my memory. I was so excited, taking numerous photos and bombarding social media. It was unbelievable, overwhelming and the satisfaction was complete.

To me, it felt like the ultimate vindication and success because the road to publication had not been a straight one. An idealist, I had expected the publishing side of being a writer would be as much fun as doing the writing. Find an agent, grab a great deal with a publishing house, and make lots of money. Easy. In the 80’s I found myself an agent, and I carried on writing children’s stories, thinking the agent would take care of finding homes for my books. Four years later, he still had not sold a single manuscript. I fired the agent and started sending the manuscripts out myself. After many nibbles, I had one story, a re-telling of the folk tale, The Ice Queen, accepted by a traditional publishing house. I waited a year, then they returned the manuscript, saying they had been unable to fit me into their schedule. No way.
Another year I had one of my picture book manuscripts, Free Wally, accepted by a publisher in Wellington. But they wanted to change the names of all the characters. I couldn’t handle that! Give me money, do all the work of publishing, fine, but change the details of my creative progeny? No deal.

I carried on writing (and illustrating) and sending out stories, finally gaining another acceptance for a picture book, The Unsightly Wet Nightie. Whoopee! I thought. Then I read the fine print. They were only offering me a 5% royalty fee, which at the time for authors was usually 10%. I said, No dice.
A year later, I entered my story, The Or’in of Tane into an international writing competition. The prize was the publication of the book. I waited, revisiting the website day and night, waiting for news of who had made the shortlist. The publishers released a statement, saying if you had not heard back from them, you had made the shortlist. Happy dance! I had not heard back and was euphoric. A month later, the shortlist then the winner and runner-up were announced. My name did not appear. When I followed up on my story, they told me that due to the time difference between here and there, my competition entry had arrived a day later than their deadline, and they had disqualified me.

Meltdown. Tears for days. Gloom and doom.
Was I beaten?
Well, initially, yes.
Then I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and decided to take my fate into my own hands. For the first time, I seriously considered going Indie. I began to venture online and learn about self-publishing. And the rest, as they say, is history. I did the spadework and self-published my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, in 2020. Talk about a moment of triumph. The books were well received, gaining a 9.8 out of 10 ratings by one popular book reviewer.

Every time I see those books on the shelf, I get a thrill.

Holding my book in my hand, that spells success to me. Because I know what it took to get here and all the years of solitary blood, sweat, and tears that went into this. Self-publishing is hard work. However, that’s the buzz, isn’t it? Hard work makes you feel good.
It has been fulfilling to produce something my kids and grandkids can hold in their hands. Now, I leave physical books sitting in libraries and on bookshelves and lodged within the hallowed halls of the National Library of New Zealand. To create is the best, and then to share that creation is ‘reason I am here’ material.
When you take things into your own hands with your career, the world is your oyster! How do you define success as a writer?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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Regardless of your genre, your task is to get your book in front of readers. ~ Jaq D Hawkins


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Currently, we are in lockdown level 4 in New Zealand. I have been watching the news (I normally do not watch it at all). It is easy to spend time worrying about businesses trying to pay staff during the lockdown, all the overworked essential workers, and our healthcare system under pressure. You feel for the parents working from home, especially the solo parents, those with small children, the lonely old folk, and the teachers trying to teach online. It is not an easy time. However, I have noticed a heartening difference in the way people in my neighbourhood behave. The first time we went into Level 4 lockdown in 2020, when out walking, other walkers and runners would look down or away while crossing the street to avoid you. This time around we are still keeping our distance, but the other people out exercising have looked at me and waved, calling cheery hellos, and smiling behind their masks. I think there is a collective understanding that we have been through this before, and we will get through it again given the right attitude.
There also seems to be a realization we need each other, and we are more aware that we miss those human interactions when we are confined to our bubbles.

A lot of people get swept up by the fear and stressed out. I rang the doctor this morning, and the receptionist said Kia ora like she would bite my head off in one gulp. The stress is real. We have to find coping mechanisms that work for us. I always tell my friends to shut off all the devices in the house and pick up a good book. Looking back, I realized that apart from taking long breaks from the news, it was writing and reading that really helped me through the lockdown in 2020. The same coping mechanisms will help get me through the lockdowns in 2021. I have a few excellent books on the go at the moment. I’m reading, Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman, Spirit Animals Fire, and Ice, by Shannon Hale, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare (thanks to fellow writer Susan Baury Rouchard for sending me that one).

If I find myself panicking, I turn off the devices, then do something I love, whether it be reading, gardening, walking, painting, or just watching a movie eating bon-bons.

Yesterday, a friend said, It looks like things are going to be turbulent for a while. I replied, We have to hold onto our joy more tightly. There is nothing we can do to alter what is going on out there. But we do have control over how we react and act while we are in isolation. There are a few tricks I have learned since 2020 about how to keep my family’s spirits up while we’re in isolation.
My Top Tips:
Limit news updates/turn off your devices
Paint your toenails (and your kids’ toenails – my boys think it is hilarious)
Sleep in! (For a lifelong early riser like myself, this has been a revelation!)
Wear bright colours. (I have shelved all the grey and black in my wardrobe. It is a simple trick, but it makes me feel happier to wear all the brightest clothes I own)
Bake!

Read! (Maybe I will make progress through my tower of to-be-read novels)
Coloured lights! (Drag out your fairy lights, or any twinkle lights and have them on all day as well as at night)
Flowers. (I pick flowers daily on my morning walk along the verges and alleyways and set out mini posies around the house)
Music! (Play your favourite tunes, sing-along, and dance like nobody is watching)
Talk! (Phone your loved ones. Talk across the fence to your neighbours. Sit and talk with the family members in your household). Check on the people you know.
Work in the garden
Dress up in crazy clothes (it makes the boys and I laugh to wear silly hats)

Exercise
Do something creative (my friend said she has started writing limericks because they make her think and make her laugh)
Do a jigsaw (My father’s favourite pastime is fun and calming)
Meditate
Write a gratitude journal
Be kind
We will get through this, just like we have done before. Stay calm and carry on and remember to hold onto your joy tightly!
What are your top tips for staying positive during lockdown?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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As we traverse this very unstable time, it is so important that we keep track of our real joy and our vitality. ~ Jai Dev Singh
 


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