Archive for the ‘time’ Category

I have finished reading my second novel for 2023, a Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret in the Old Lace, by Carolyn Keene. I have fond memories of reading Nancy Drew mysteries as a young girl and was curious to take a peek back into my past. It is interesting, is it not, to read material that fascinated us when we were children and gain that window to our more innocent, younger selves.

The first part of the mystery is the cold case of a famous Belgian aristocrat, Francois Lefevre, who vanished in the 1700s. A magazine runs a contest where people can write the “solution” and win a prize. Needless to say, our ‘attractive titian-haired girl’ Nancy Drew enters the contest with her story solution. Bess’ mom has asked Nancy and the girls to solve the mystery of Madame Chambray, a friend of hers in Bruges, who has found a fancy cross and wants Nancy’s help finding the owner. Add to this a side plot where the bad guys, having heard about the cross, try to sidetrack Nancy by stealing her story and submitting a copy of it before her entry arrives. Then Nancy gets accused of plagiarism.

*Spoiler alert* (I’m going to tell you what happens).
The intrepid sleuth leaves her father to sort out the accusation of plagiarism, while she jets off to Belgium with her pals. While staying with Madame Chambray, the girls learn of another mystery involving the home. Somewhere on the grounds, the famous Belgian aristocrat who vanished has a hidden treasure. The girls meet the great-grandson of the aristocrat, and they discover the hiding place of his lace cuffs and the fortune, which turns out to be jewelry. Nancy has solved the century-old mystery. Hurrah!

It was a company called the Stratemeyer Syndicate that created the Nancy Drew series. The author’s name, “Carolyn Keene,” was a pseudonym used by many people – both men and women – over the years. But the original writer of the first 23 novels was Mildred Benson (aka: Mildred A. Wirt). Also contributing to Nancy Drew’s catalogue of titles were Walter Karig, Leslie McFarlane, James Duncan Lawrence, Nancy Axelrod, Priscilla Doll, Charles Strong, Alma Sasse, Wilhelmina Rankin, George Waller Jr., and Margaret Scherf. Notably, Harriet Stratemeyer, the daughter of Edward Stratemeyer, also wrote a number of novels.

Nancy Drew still has fans all around the world. However, the stories don’t stand up too well to modern scrutiny. Casual sexism and outdated attitudes rankle. In 1959, a concerted effort was made by the publishers to rewrite the earlier books, removing racial stereotyping and attempting to update the language. But 1959 was a long time ago, and there is still a lot left to raise an eyebrow. Nancy’s boyfriend Ned is mentioned multiple times as a potential hero to rescue the girls if needed. Nancy says at one point that she would not be able to stop the bad guy herself but would need a man to do it. Also, the non-P.C. element of constantly mentioning Bess’ weight would not fly these days, and we are told: “calories are bad.” Nekminit, George grabs a kid and shakes them. The P.C. police would have a field day!
Reading a book like this is an invitation to consider how much things have changed in our modern era. Nancy Drew is the sort of light reading that reminds us of simpler times. The child reader I was fifty years ago did not think to question stereotypes or gender bias. I read for the love of reading alone. That’s a lovely state to remember. These classic stories are a bit of naive fun. Having said that, I doubt I’d bother reading another Nancy Drew novel anytime soon. There is insufficient specificity, zero character development, no depth, and no real challenge to the mystery. Perhaps some books are best left to our fond childhood memories.
My rating: One star

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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“For me, euphoria is simply the act of waking up, making my coffee, and sitting down with a book and being able to read.” Elliot Page


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

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

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

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

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


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Covid caused a lot of division in many ways. One of the ways it affected us was that our family split down the middle and the two sides stopped talking. We have operated in two camps throughout all the trials and tribulations of the last two years. It’s been so sad and unnecessary. We didn’t even come together for Christmases. We’ve missed celebrating one another’s birthdays and other milestone events. In 2020, I released my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, while we were scattered to the winds. It sucked when only five family members showed up.

This situation was at the forefront of my mind this week. My family has been split asunder for two years. Life has not been the same. In the diagram created by Abram Maslow, called the ‘Hierarchy of Needs,’ one of the levels of basic human requirements are the security needs followed by those of love and belonging. A well-functioning family fulfills those basic needs. There is nothing healthy about family battles. They fundamentally weaken us.
What changed the stalemate? We gathered together for a wedding recently, and it caused a thaw in relations between the factions. The door opened to a reunion, and it was because one member was brave enough to “just invite everybody and let them deal with it.” Everyone dolled up and gathered in one place for this glorious occasion. We hung out together for half a day and remembered, Oh, that’s right, it’s fun being together. Oh, that’s right, we’ve spent years of birthdays, Christmases, and parties together. Oh, that’s right, I love these people.

The next thing that happened was we started discussing a family vacation together this summer and even booked accommodation. How’s that for something to be grateful for? I have such good memories of holidays gone past. We used to travel most summers while my parents were alive to gather at their seaside cottage for Christmas and happily spend the summer break there till after New Year. We’d spend whole days at the beach. In the evenings, the parties used to go into the wee hours, with music, laughter and talking. There were card games, and rounds of Cribbage. Dad would tell a story and sing a ballad or two. Mum would do an interpretive dance, which always made us laugh. There were board games of scrabble and Trivial Pursuits. All the things.
The night skies in the Coromandel Peninsula are exceptionally clear and have a following among stargazers worldwide. At some stage during the evenings, we would go outside when it was dark and look at the stars. There is something otherworld and magical about seeing so much more of the Milky Way at a decent elevation.

Mum’s and dad’s log cabin was sold after dad died. Then Covid happened. The family went separate ways, vowing never to talk to one another again. Then two years of estrangement ended recently with the family wedding. This summer will be the first time we’ve gathered together as a family for a seaside vacation in years. I feel gratitude that the truce is in full effect. To think of our family coming back together again gives me a feeling of succour, strength, and stability.
All this made me realize how much we need our families. Sometimes it takes forgiveness. Sometimes it takes a willingness to let things go. Sometimes it takes preparedness to back away from the argument plus acceptance that that’s okay. But, whatever it takes, the effort is worth it. We need that family bonding time, that love and support. They call this ‘the age of anxiety.’ What a soothing balm it is to the harried modern soul to have one’s family intact and functioning.

A year or two ago I would never have thought this would be possible. Covid caused the division, but we’re not letting Covid have the last word. Even when sometimes family rifts seem unsurpassable, I have learned that all is not lost. Even the most torn-apart family can heal if both factions reach the point of wanting to heal. We needed to step back from our differences and remember the common ground we do share as a family. We needed to be prepared to let bygones be bygones. We needed to attain the point of saying, Life is too short for this. We’ll never be perfect but we are finally coming back together. So, now I know it can be done. Take heart.
Family time is important. Now, more than ever. What about you? Did you manage to stick together throughout the pandemic?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

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Eventually, you will end up where you need to be, with who you’re meant to be with, and doing what you should be doing. ~ unknown


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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.

August 3 question – When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?
Whew! Talk about a challenging issue for authors, especially unpublished writers. When you’re starting out and unsure of yourself, you wonder do I follow my ideas or try to write for the bestselling genres? If an author wants a long career, can they afford to ignore the demands of the market? That is the million-dollar question.
When I started writing picture books in the 80s, agents and publishers said you couldn’t write about cats or dogs because they were overdone. Although that didn’t stop everyone else from writing about them. When I started writing children’s chapter books in the 90s, they warned against writing about witches or wizards for the same reason. Since then the Harry Potter phenomenon happened, so, yeah, thanks, guys. Several years ago, everyone was writing about vampires, then it moved on, and everyone wrote about zombies. I didn’t bother. Suffice to say, I stopped worrying about what the market wanted long ago.

I guess I’m fortunate. Being a hobby writer, sales are not my main focus.
I don’t strive for originality, either. Over the years, I’ve learned that the prose has to come through me in whatever state it arrives. Then I enjoy tinkering with the muse’s gift. After all, isn’t most of an author’s time spent on editing rather than the original free writing? It’s up to us how much we change the form.
At the editing stage, I appreciate the input of critique groups. I feel they give insight into how readers might think or feel. My sister always urges me to leave my stories untouched. Her point is that too many cooks can spoil the broth. I get it. However, I value the opinions of my critique group, feeling that at some stage, an author does need to consider their audience, even if they self-publish and their audience is few.

The danger is when you overdo the critique and meddle to the point that the essence of your creative intelligence gets diluted. Was it Terry Pratchett who said if you question the muse too much, you might stuff the whole thing up? I’m paraphrasing. But it was something like that.
Creativity is a divine splash of energy in our brains. My dear elderly friend, Meg, used to call it ‘the inspired whatevers.’ The writer’s task is to watch for when the muse might strike and endeavour to catch ‘the inspired whatevers’ straight off the ether. I remember one writing teacher telling us that we had to ‘grab the first word given, and from there, the rest would come.’ That has been true for me with my fiction. Sometimes, I have failed to catch the first word, which resulted in floundering, unable to get started. But, if I catch that first word, then we are away. The rest of the story tumbles out of the cosmos, ready and willing. That magical feeling occurs when art can happen, that tingling when you capture the spark. We authors act as the conduit for the sublime. As do all artists.

During the editing stage, we turn into alchemists. We try to bash and hammer the divine spark forcing it into a round hole. We take inspiration from the ether and try to make it fit within the standards of storytelling. I remain uncertain about how to get the balance right. How much do you add, and how much do you lose? It’s a constant balancing act.
How about you? Do you strive for originality with your writing? Or do you try to conform to current literary expectations? What do you think?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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I’m never truly happy with everything I ever put out. There’s always something I can improve on. Phrase a sentence better. Make the message pop. Not be such a dullard. But facing that doubt is part and parcel of the writing life. ~ Stuart Danker

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

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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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!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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

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Do you remember turning 16? I do. Like it was yesterday. It was the summer holidays. My friends and I were hitchhiking up north. We stopped at a cafe. There were four of us hunched around a Formica tabletop with sodas, and I remember saying I didn’t want to turn 16 (the next day). Why not? It was too close to 20! Who could imagine being “so ancient?”

Funny how the vantage point of time changes things.

The youngest of my three sons had his sweet sixteenth birthday two weeks ago. He is more mature at this age than I have ever been. I guess for some people it just comes naturally. The other day, he said, “Do you know what I’m looking forward to the most about growing up?”

I said, “No” although I imagined he’d say beer, driving, or possibly not going to school.

He said, “I’m looking forward to having logical, rational conversations.”

Huh? Jaw drops to floor.

We’re definitely different, he and I. At 16 I fretted about getting old, while my youngest son pines for more adult conversation. How shallow was I? He’s already a better human being than I am. Huzzah!

What did the son want to do for the big milestone birthday? After offering him every adventure option or fun experience available, what he most wanted was ‘a cake and to hang out’ with his friends uninterrupted. Could they hang here? Sure, I said, smiling, although I secretly dreaded it. Idiot Trooper that I am, I let him invite all his mates over regardless.

My friends and I at 16 were rebels. No self-respecting adults wanted to be around us.

To my surprise, my son’s friends were delightful. They had the run of one part of the house the entire day, while I kept food and liquid coming. They played online games, outdoor games, jumped on the trampoline, took photos of themselves, played music, and sang in harmony together the entire day. In the afternoon they demolished an entire chocolate cake and then left en masse to buy supplies from the supermarket, returning an hour later to cook a feast. So lively, so fun, were they, I even missed them in their absence.

In the late afternoon, the girls drifted home. Finally, just “Da boys” remained, playing online games into the evening, still singing in beautiful harmony along with their favourite songs. By the time Da boys left, I felt tired but mostly buoyed by the experience.

They’re mature, considerate kids. Who knew?

That said, they’re still only 16. They still like to play games the same way they did when they were little, but with a lot of music, singing, slang and posturing thrown in. The energy levels when these teen buddies get together can ramp up suddenly, get inexplicably loud for a short period—almost explosive—then peter out again and dip so low the kids appear to retreat behind their phone screens for a while to reboot, becoming temporarily tomb-like and silent, before the shrieks and the laughter escalate and they flare into life, noise and energy all over again. To be around them even for a short period is akin to putting one’s finger into an electric socket, recharging every cell in the body and rendering one’s hair into an instant afro. It’s vitalizing and frenetic at the same time.  

The upshot overall was the day was easy, no drama. As their humble servant, I got to witness snippets of their group dynamic, the teen slang, the weird sounds they make when they’re together, which was fun.

I remember the heady freedom of being 16. You’re old enough to do things but young enough to be silly and not care who is watching.

There was one of son’s friends singing that very Michael Jackson, high-pitched, “Hee hee!” so frequently I nearly asked him to stop (although thankfully, I didn’t). One boy hugged his phone and speaker the entire day, constantly scrolling the music selection – he was clearly in charge of the music selection. There was the occasional daring use of a swear word, but not loud enough for me to discern. I turned a blind eye, regardless. As head provider of refreshments, I stayed in my quarters – the perfect excuse to get some writing done – and let the teens have the house for the day. Some freedom was all they wanted. They often burst outside to play Frisbee, badminton, shoot hoops and jump on the trampoline for hours in the afternoon, which rather impressed me.

I think your child’s friends say a lot about who they are and how they’re doing, and I liked the son’s friends a lot. That made me happy.

At sixteen, I was a fool. At the same age, my son is smarter, more mature, and more emotionally intelligent than I am. Maybe there’s hope for the future, yet.

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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There’s nothing wrong with teenagers that reasoning with them won’t aggravate. ~ Anonymous

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*Tips for parents on Stanford Children’s Health, Understanding the Teen Brain

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

April 7th’s question, if you’d like to answer it, is: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

No, I’m averse to risk. Although I write middle grade fantasy, which is different and “other,” I still find it hard to stray outside of accepted styles. Maybe it’s because I still feel like a beginner, a novice at all this. Imposter Syndrome, anyone? Someone said once that the truly popular authors are the ones who have the most guts. I believe this to be true.

Take a great like Lemony Snicket, for instance. Snicket writes crazy books no sweaty beginner could ever hope to get away with, but he’s so bold and brassy, he gets away with it. Not only that, he’s a bestselling author getting sales other authors could only dream of. Balls of steel, that’s what an author needs to succeed in this business.

Look at David Walliams. I know, I know; he got a foot in the door of a publishing house because of his fame as a comedian, but his many books have gained him a whole new fan base following with good reason. My son and I just finished reading Walliams’ latest release, Codename Bananas, which my son received for Christmas. This guy’s fiction is so out there, it’s almost verging on mythology, but when the impossible things happen, it’s penned with such panache and aplomb you’re ready to forgive him anything, as long as he keeps telling the story. I’m reading a book by the fabled Carlos Fuentes at the moment (Constancia and other stories for Virgins), and this book is so off the wall, so bizarre, that it turns into art. That’s what these brave writers do by being innovators.

When I read books by authors such as these, I realize that an excellent storyteller will keep the audience coming back for more. The best storytellers don’t care about tradition, or the accepted mores, they kick sand in the face of the rules. They write stories from a more pure place, that of gut instinct. They write whatever they want to write. End of. That’s the sort of writing bravado I long for because I imagine that is the greatest freedom like being a kid again.

In October of last year I released a trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, a set of books I’d been working on for fifteen years. Since I finished the series, I’ve struggled to relinquish the world I’d created and the characters I loved. It took a long time to let go. Then I tried to start a new book. I’ve been doing some free writing exercises each weekend, trying to loosen up the writing muscles, but I have felt stymied, stifled, stuck. The needle simply hasn’t moved.

It felt like a turning point when I came across a rather triumphant, sassy little blog post this week called Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney on First Drafts and Battling Writer’s Block. I really needed to hear her sage advice, “write the first draft for yourself.” Because I think that’s where I’ve been going wrong the last few months. When I wrote The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, I was an unpublished writer, I wrote fiction as an escape route for a harassed mother of two boys under the age of five. This time round I’m a published author and I’m thinking of genre, age group, who might read it and what they might be interested in reading–a total buzz killer. When I read “write the first draft for yourself” I thought that’s what I need to do! The goal is to write all the drafts for myself, to have the courage to totally and utterly back myself and my own creative choices, whether they fly in the face of the rules or not, just like the greats do. Yeeha!

Do you try new things?

Keep Creating!

Yvette Carol

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The process of writing—for me and for almost every writer I know—is some combination of fast, slow and excruciating. ~ Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

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A lot of times as an author it can feel like you are stuck in an endless loop of editing from which you might never escape. And some books take a lot longer than others to complete. The youngest son said last week, “When is this going to be over?” and I felt exactly the same way. After fifteen years of writing and editing on repeat loop, I finally finished my middle-grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. Incredible. I think I was in a state of pure disbelief that I had concluded the journey. Is it over? I kept asking myself at first. I was in a state of shock.

The day I “signed off” on The Or’in of Tane, The Sasori Empire, and The Last Tree to go to the printer, it was like a weight lifted off me. It was done. I had told the story to the best of my ability and edited it to the best of my ability as an Indie Publisher. It was time to release the culmination of years of change and growth as a writer. I couldn’t believe I was done working on the Chronicles. The moment overwhelmed me with emotion. I shed a few tears. Fifteen years of writing in all the spare moments around raising my two youngest sons, cramming the editing into every crevice had borne fruit.

I had finished three books, and I waited less than patiently to receive them. When the boxes of my books arrived by courier, I was so excited.

There is nothing like that moment when you first get to see and hold the real paperback in your hand. Writing the story, following the idea from start through to finish and creating a book is the greatest feeling in the world! As a lifelong reader, I’ve always regarded books with reverence. Now I have created one of those magical things that have given me so much joy. It is bucket list material.

Some things in life are worth waiting for, like the satisfaction of crossing the finish line, releasing your own novels, and the celebration of the book launch. You slave your butt off to complete the course and earn your right to party. The relief! The joy! I’m sure they could have seen my smile in Wellington. The launch was fabulous. Thanks to my friends from Toastmasters, we transformed the hall with flowers and tablecloths and the sparkle of china and glassware. The covers of the books shone like gems and the themed cupcakes looked almost too good to eat!

However, the point-of-sale material I had designed and ordered failed to arrive, the elections and voting clashed with our event which affected our turn-out, and one guest helpfully tried to open a whole box of expensive cupcakes by turning it upside down! But that’s life, and we roll with the punches. The hall looked charming; the atmosphere was spring like and promising. The guests filled the seats, and everyone enjoyed the afternoon, so it was fine.

In the week leading up to the launch I suffered horrible bouts of nerves about giving the oration. Though I had done some research and had an idea for the format of my keynote address, I ran so late with book production and the launch that I ended up with only one day to work on the speech. I thought the presentation would come together easily, but it didn’t, and I panicked. I was still pacing the house at ten o’clock on Friday night – not a good way to be the night before your book launch.

Saturday morning was hectic. I dropped my boys off at their father, went to get a blow wave at the local salon, then I tried to remember how to apply make-up and put my glam on. There were boxes of books, signs, tablecloths, thank you gifts for my helpers and the liquid refreshments to load into the car. There was still the hall to set up. Luckily, when it came time for me to walk on stage and speak, the speech came together. I’ve moved on from writing out and rehearsing my speeches, to trying to strike a 50/50 blend of research and spontaneity. It means potential for failure, so I get more nerves and it’s always a relief when the speeches work. Whew!

We followed my keynote with a lively Q&A session lasting nearly forty minutes, which was cool. I sold three boxes of books and two people asked me about writing and self publishing. Yes! Afterwards, friends took me out for dinner and we toasted the launch with bubbly. It was a very good day.

Now let me shuffle off stage and collapse!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Sunshine is the best medicine. ~ Unknown

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Yesterday, I left Toastmasters. The send-off my friends gave me was so loving, so generous, so kind, so full of good cheer and heartfelt comments, I think I wept the whole time. Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it was not a decision taken lightly. I had wrestled with it for more than a year. I knew I needed to put the hours I’d been putting into the club and my speeches into writing my stories and books.

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I knew I wasn’t achieving enough real B.I.C (butt-in-chair) hours to make the progress I wanted to make with my series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. That the boys still required the same amount of my input as teenagers as they had when they were little frustrated me. There weren’t enough hours in the day. Something had to give. To leave the club would seem obvious, and yet it wasn’t. A lot of self talk went on in my decision to quit Toastmasters. I love my friends there and the weekly get-togethers are fun.

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I joined a local club in June 2015, with the plan to stay for four months, hoping I would learn how to give a decent speech so I didn’t suck at my first ever book launch. September 15th arrived, and I launched my book and gave a speech my family were proud of. I knew the effort I had put into months of Toastmasters’ speeches to get to that point, and I felt proud of myself which was a lovely new feeling. The weekly meetings were stimulating and informative. I enjoyed my circle of inspirational, intelligent, interesting and funny friends. The book launch came and went, and I said, “I’ll just stay another month.”

I stayed another month for five years.

Evaluation Contest

With each year I learned more, I gained more strength; I discovered an unexpected facility for public speaking. And all in the company of some of the most wonderful folks I have ever met. In my parting speech yesterday, I said the people you meet in Toastmasters are the greatest people you’ll meet anywhere in the world. You make firm bonds with others in a speaker’s club. Through the fires of facing down knee-knocking, heart-pounding challenges together you forge friendships that can last a lifetime. You have been comrades, side-by-side, daring yourselves to compete in the many speech competitions the organisation runs each year, and you have shivered together before going on stage, daring each other to grow. It creates closeness between the members and real empathy for one another.

Being awarded my second trophy

It was during the last five years that both of my parents died, my mother passed away in her sleep within a few weeks of my joining the club, and my father died in hospital after a heart attack a few years later. Toastmasters proved a lifeline throughout my grief. I had the comfort of friends to care about me and a creative outlet in which to express my feelings. I was grateful for the gift of being able to speak in public because this empowered me to speak about my great love for my parents at both their funerals. Prior to Toastmasters, I would have been shaking in a corner, too paralyzed by fear to step up to the lectern and do them justice. Though I wobbled at the start giving Dad’s eulogy, I recovered using my training and delivered a tribute speech I still feel good about today.

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The older members sometimes say “the system works” and that’s because it does. The Toastmasters educational program is transformative. It is an honour to guide the terrified newbies who join the club and mentor them through their journey of self development, as they turn up and do the work and find their voices, and develop self confidence, new strengths, and open their wings.

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It was Dr. Ralph Smedley who founded the Toastmasters organisation on March 24, 1905. His brainchild, the idea was to foster potential in others by teaching interpersonal skills, to do with communication, management and leadership in the community, all by teaching the art of public speaking. From humble beginnings in a room at the YMCA, today it is an international speaking organisation with over 352,000 members in 141 countries. Why? Because the system works, it develops individuals into better versions of themselves. I’ll always be grateful to Toastmasters and sing its praises to anyone who will listen. You haven’t joined yet? Why not?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Whatever your grade or position, if you know how and when to speak, and when to remain silent, your chances of success are proportionately increased.” ~ Dr. Ralph C. Smedley

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