Archive for the ‘Reading aloud’ Category

I saw a picture on Facebook the other day of Neil Gaiman. After a Nick Cave concert, the author was sitting in his chair scribbling in a notebook. And, the image really captured my imagination.


The accompanying article was about creating healthy limits in order to get the writing done, Embrace Your Boundaries

Author Dan Blank, says, ‘I want to share what I have experienced recently in allowing boundaries to be a part of my own creative work. How boundaries have helped the work, instead of hindering it.’

That’s exactly where my thoughts have been. As a writer, I simply wasn’t producing enough copy. In these times of distraction, we have to carve out our own cave.

Towards the end of January, after blogging non-stop for a few years, I took a writer’s hiatus. It really worked for me. I took a break from my blog, Newsletter, and every form of social media (except for a tiny bit of stalking Facebook). I was immediately productive, at least doubling, if not tripling my former output. On the very first weekend I stopped social media, I completely finished an exhaustive edit. I then finished transcribing the edits of my editor and critique partner, Maria Cisneros-Toth.

In fact, it was so successful, I’ve decided to experiment from now on with blogging and putting out the Newsletter less often. I’ll try blogging fortnightly and putting out the Newsletter monthly. We’ll see how that goes.

Maria said at this stage with her books, she always reads them in different media, on her phone, her ipad and so on. Then, she prints out a copy and reads it on paper.

She said, “You’ll pick up lots of errors you hadn’t seen that way.” The funny thing is, in my thirty five years of writing, I’ve never allowed myself luxuries like spending $20 on a copy of a book just to edit it one time. So, this was a complete novelty to me.


Do you know what? Printing it out was a time saver. It brought many inconsistencies to the surface. That one edit on paper probably saved me three edits on the computer.

It seems everything becomes clear when you read a story on paper. It’s as if the brain processes the material in a different way. I easily noticed repeated words, favoured ways of saying things and errors in sequence of logic.


Reading aloud is another effective tool in the editing kit.

With my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ ( I recorded myself reading to camera. I knew that listening to the prose was a step not to be missed.

For this story, I used a hand-held Sony IC recorder. I read the entire book over three days.

What an incredible tool for editing! It really shows you what’s working and what’s not.

For instance, with dialogue tags, the general rule-of-thumb is you can use ‘said, asked, whispered,’ and, sometimes, ‘added.’ In a number of places in my second book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ my young hero, Aden ‘added’ something to a conversation. It looked fine on paper, but what a tongue-twister to read! So, if you haven’t read your story aloud yet, you must do so.

When you think about it, this is the litmus test of a story, if you can’t read a story to someone, you’ve failed out of the starting gate.


At this point, I’d edited the book eight times, Maria, once. Yet, after going through the wringer of printing out and reading aloud, the pages of my paper manuscript were covered in red pen. I was floored by how many changes needed to be made.


Next job was to sit at the computer and transcribe the changes into Word.


I had the stack of 227 pages of my corrections as well as a rather wonderful list, ‘things to watch for’ about general issues raised. It helped me ensure I had introduced certain characters properly and had events happening in the right order.


It requires attention to detail and many hours of dedication to create a book!


Meanwhile, I’d sounded out my sister, Jag, about being my first beta reader. She agreed, and bless her, two days later the manuscript was returned. This weekend, my job is to transcribe Jag’s edits into the book.

After that, I get to send it to the second beta reader. And so, the process goes on.

I’m more productive by creating social media limits. How about you? Any experiences or advice to share?


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


‘Don’t worry about genius and don’t worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination.’ ~ Sir Frederick Treves, 1903



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“There clearly is a myth about boys and reading as so many people seem to think that the gender gap in reading is bigger than it is, but research shows that the number one factor that determines your reading ability is how often your parents read out loud to you and the number of books in your house, which is connected with social class”. ~ Jennifer Dyer skully jensen @catagator


I’ve been a long time believer in the positive power of a bedtime story.

We grew up with our father reading a story to us, last thing at night, every night. The bedtime story formed a warm, loving, stable pillar of our childhood for my siblings and I.

While my middle child is an avid reader, my youngest son didn’t gravitate to reading for pleasure, so the nightly ritual of reading the boys a few books neatly filled the gap.

The kids and I have started reading Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. Sam-the-man is finding the transition difficult; he needs to babble quietly to himself the whole time I’m reading. I’m reassured he is enjoying it nevertheless, as when I asked him if he’d like me to keep reading, he said an emphatic, yes!


Mortal Engines has my youngest son, however, riveted. He is driven to talk about what has happened in each chapter we’ve read. During the toothbrushing/toileting before bed phase of the evening, he’ll be asking deep questions and pondering on the chapter. I am seeing first-hand, how a really good book can open and broaden a child’s mind. He’s prompted to look at things a little differently and ask some of the bigger questions.

I wonder if this has inspired the budding writer in him. In the past, I’d been impressed by my youngest son’s obvious talent for imaginative story. Yet, somewhere along the way, unbeknownst to me, his writing skills had languished. I was shocked to be called into school for a talk with his teacher, earlier in the year, to discuss ‘below National standard writing and English skills.’ His punctuation, use of descriptive words, and grasp of basic story structure needed work.

You can imagine how fired up I was. In the following holiday break, I spent time with Nat, reading stories and talking about them. We sat and made stories up on the spot a few times. On more than one occasion, we used making up stories to stave off the boredom of waiting for appointments.


This week, Nat brought home three typed pages for me to read. Titled, ‘A Wizard’s Journey,’ it was a story he’d written and read aloud in class. I read it and was knocked over by everything. He had it all: structure, descriptive words, active words. I felt a rush of admiration for his talent. Moreover, I felt proud to see he had applied himself and improved.

He said, “A very beautiful thing happened today. My teacher said my story was the best story she’d ever heard in class.”

He was melting. And so was my heart. What a joy!


Here was a boy who used to have no interest in reading for pleasure. His writing skills were under par, and yet, through the tradition of the bedtime story, we happened to hit upon the right sort of book, at the right time, to light up his inner storyteller.

The regular rhythm of the bedtime story provided the opportunity for that key moment in a reader’s life.  This may be the first book he remembers – the first one that makes him look for the next book in the series or that the author has written.

With a bit of luck, Mortal Engines has sparked my youngest son’s genuine interest in reading. All I can say for sure is that his writing skill and ability has leaped forward. He’s asking bigger picture questions. These things go hand in hand with increasing literacy.

Author and former teacher, Michael Morpurgo: It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children. When I was a boy I didn’t much like reading either, but it was my mother reading to me and my brother Pieter at bedtime that kept stories and books alive for me.

Do you read to your kids? Do you believe in the gentle benevolent power of the bedtime story?


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


Everything in a good book (perhaps even in a bad book) is a new truth, a new revelation to a child, whose experiences are, as yet, so limited. Therefore writers for children need to be extra careful about preaching, about filling in those empty spaces for a child. -Jane Yolen



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



I did a public book reading this week. My first ever. And I sucked. Big time.


There’s a common misconception that reading aloud is like falling off a log. If you can entertain your children with a bedtime story, so the wisdom goes, you can read to anyone. But that’s not strictly true.


I tell my kids a bedtime story every night. Recently, I published my own book, so when my Toastmasters club ran an “Oral Reading Contest,” I thought, Perfect. No one knows my story better than I do. No one loves these characters more than me. Therefore, sharing it with an audience should be simple, right? No.


Long story short, I failed to even scrape into third place. And, I only sold two copies.


This was because I had imagined that a public read-aloud would be similar to giving a speech. In fact, it requires a certain skill-set, which includes: 1) ability to pitch your voice to the back of the room, 2) ability to annunciate clearly and have resonance, and 3) ability to interpret and articulate an idea. While all these things are part of public speaking, in a reading, they are the be-all and end-all.



Reading aloud is about the voice.

There is no emphasis on actions or ‘using the space of the stage’ as there is when you give a speech. The winner, Margaret didn’t move from the spot or do anything but read. It was a riveting performance, a study in vocal modulation, the well-defined pause, and emphasis on certain words.  Margaret demonstrated eloquently just how much I still had to improve.


I did some digging and wish to share with you what I’ve learned so far. Here are the three basics of reading aloud successfully:


1) Ability to pitch your voice to the back of the room

I remember when I took drama classes as a young adult. The first thing our teacher had us do was throw our voices. He gave each of us a poem to read, then he ran to the back of the auditorium and we had to practice being able to project our voice further and further, until he could hear every word from the back row. This is how we can work on our audibility.



2) Ability to annunciate clearly and have resonance

Slowing down is a good way to start. We have to allow enough time to get the mouth around each syllable. When we rush, we can “swallow” the words and drop the consonants.

A good posture is important. Keep the chin up and the eyes level. It’s easy to mumble when the chin is lowered. Resonance comes when we breathe fully. We must draw the breath right down into the diaphragm and release the whole breath before we take another. Otherwise a voice can sound “tinny” or “whiny” and will not have the desired effect.




3) Ability to interpret and articulate an idea

As opposed to the razzle-dazzle of public speaking, public reading is about a quiet focus. It’s about inhabiting the prose. As one senior member explained to me, “It’s re-living the piece, rather than re-telling it.”

So we have to dig deep in order to bring all our understanding to the prose. Then we have to choose wisely, to make sure we’re doing the piece that speaks the most strongly to us.




If you’re a writer, a poet, a singer, a teacher, a salesperson, or whatever your profession, there may come a time when you’re expected to get up and read in front of a crowd. Don’t make the same mistake I did and simply assume that just because you read bedtime stories to your kids every night, or read poetry to your mother, that you can wing it.

Margaret gave me some great advice. She said, “The secret is to read the bit you love most.” Then she added, “The main thing is to really enjoy whatever you’re reading.”


Lynn Kelley


Reading aloud is a skill which does need to be learned.

The good thing is you don’t have to do it alone. I have some good teachers in my Toastmasters club to learn from. As one member said, “Every meeting is a workshop.” I’m thinking of joining a “book reading club” as well. So, it can be a simple fix and it doesn’t need to be daunting. Find a club, your own “workshop” situation, and practice, practice, practice!

That’s what I’m doing!


Keep creating!

Talk to you soon,

Yvette K. Carol


I get my ideas from a warehouse called Ideas R Us. ~ Terry Pratchett