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My youngest son asked me a new question on the drive home from golf, yesterday.

He asked, “Are you happy?”

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I sat stunned for a moment or two. I thought, my boy’s growing up. This was the first time, as far as I knew, that his perception had gone beyond himself to thinking of other people. Then, I felt sorry for him. He’s the little worrier in the family.

Next, I felt incredulous that anyone close to me could think I was unhappy. I get to bring up my lovely boys, be with family and friends sometimes, and then I get to write, and be alone. What could be better than that?

To walk the path of the writer is not easy sometimes, because a lot of people just don’t get it.

I can see how in the “world’s” eyes, I might be miserable. I’m divorced. Single. A stay-at-home mum. A writer (the loneliest profession of them all!) and a “card-carrying” introvert!

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In fact, there are more single women these days than ever before, in the U.S, single women account for half the female vote, 56 million, up from 45 million last year, and in Australia, single women make up 42% of the adult female population. Yet, there’s still social stigma around doing certain things on your own, like going to the movies or eating alone. The writer, Christina Ling, wrote a fantastic piece for the Huffington Post, Don’t Feel Bad For Me Because I Do Things Alone. It echoes my feelings exactly. I rejuvenate through time alone, that’s how I recoup my energy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-ling/the-stigma-of-doing-things-alone_b_9239900.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

As Christina puts it, ‘Being alone with your mind, however, is one of the best things for your soul. More importantly, I think we are perfectly entitled to simply not be in the mood to entertain someone throughout an activity or socialize, in general.’

 

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After being mama to two rambunctious boys for five days of the week, I look forward to my 48 hours break, when the boys spend time with their father. Even though I work alone, I still crave that solitary time, in which to recuperate fully.

Carol Bainbridge, the Gifted Child Expert explains the need of introverts to withdraw, ‘Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective.’

http://giftedkids.about.com/bio/Carol-Bainbridge-19284.html

The lucky thing is, my job is directly suited to the introvert. And, I can’t imagine a job I could enjoy more than I do mine. I get to write fiction for young persons and those of the eternally youthful mind. It’s so fun, it’s the best job on the planet, hands-down.

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Murphy’s Law and the laws of randomness usually apply to most of us, and therefore, there may never be more than a penny or two in it for me. I may never build up a fan base beyond that of my family and pet fish. But that’s not the point. Doing what you love is the point, and as long as I get to write, then I shall still be the happiest mama within a five-mile radius of my son at all times!

I understand how my eleven-year-old looks at me, and he probably feels I must be miserable. Introverts only make up about 25-40% of the general population. There are not exactly a lot of introverted role models to look up to.

I had to assure him, “Yes, I am happy.” I don’t know whether it’s a “boy thing” or whether it’s the age, but that answer was enough. He took me at my word and carried on to the next subject.

I was still fascinated with the subject of happiness and what it means. He’d brought it up and I wanted to talk about it. However, I could see he’d already moved on. I let him take the lead, and we talked nonsense the rest of the way to his father’s house.

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After dropping my son off, I drove home to my weekly respite, and I pondered further on this delightful question my son had asked, Are you happy?

No one is happy 100% of the time, that’s just not natural, however, would I say I was predominantly happy? Yes.

What I was left with, was the sensation that my son cared. It takes emotional health and depth to ask another person how they are feeling. Therefore, I had a sense of my son’s developing emotional wellness, and his humanity.

It was a lovely, poignant, parenting moment. One of those, ‘he may act banana-pants crazy half the time, however, he’s going to turn out all right’ moments. It was one of those reward moments, when all the hard work of parenting is blissfully worth it.

What about you, what great questions have your kids asked you? Would you say you’re predominantly happy? 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom. ~ J. G. Ballard

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

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This Wednesday it was time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! I’m late again, (sorry). It is 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.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

I spied a funny meme on Facebook this morning, then when I went back to look for it this evening, I couldn’t find it. It had vanished on the ether. If I can paraphrase, the message was this: “Teach a person to read a book, they’ll while away many a happy hour; teach a person to write a book, they’ll spend a lifetime mired in self-doubt.”

A chorus of ‘ain’t that the truth’ comments had poured in. I suspect that we, writers, and creatives, all suffer the same voices of self doubt about our work. I found it rather heartening, to know I’m not alone in my uncertainty.

A friend and fellow Toastmaster, said to me to the other day, “We creative people are sensitive.” This is so true. When our speech or our story gets picked apart, as she said, “we take it personally, because we’re so close to the material.”

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We have to learn how to keep our feet on the ground, when our business is to reach for the stars. A photographer friend, said, we creative people put our heart and soul on the line when we show our work.

This is true. As a writer in the early ‘80’s, I used to stress and sweat it so much over every publisher’s rejection letter. I can remember as an over-dramatic teen feeling as if my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I think it was Leonardo di Caprio who said, ‘With age, comes wisdom.’ Luckily, I’ve learnt a thing or two as I’ve gone along.

What can we do?

Mindfulness. ‘Mindfulness is being deeply aware of what is happening from moment to moment, outside and inside us, without judging or attaching to the content, feelings and emotions that arise. It refers to living deeply and richly in the present moment and not responding to life in a distracted and mechanical manner.’ Dr Yellow Bird.

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World-renowned spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a lovely little book, Peace is Every Step. ‘The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.’ I have a copy of this classic book in my home library and re-read it regularly. The ‘deceptively simple practices of Peace is Every Step encourage the reader to work for peace in the world, as he or she continues to work on sustaining inner peace by turning the “mindless” into the mindful.’

How should one go about Mindfulness?

Dr Yellow Bird recommends, ‘formal mindfulness instruction can benefit anyone who is exposed to chronic stress.’

However, if formal instruction is not your style, Nhat Hanh’s book, Peace is Every Step, gives simple exercises you can do at home, to develop and build our awareness of your own body and mind. You work towards mindfulness through conscious breathing.

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Jordan Bates wrote a great article over on his blog which is another good resource. Check it out! The 14 Mindfulness Teachings of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Zen Buddhist Order

These sorts of relaxation-based techniques really speak to us, the sensitive souls who have to expose their souls in their work, writers, photographers, artists, etc.

I find mindfulness and meditation help keep me balanced in my middle age. And I feel they enhance my writing. I like to see that research is currently being done and they are discovering a basis for the reputed health benefits of meditative practices. I know they work for me.

How about you? What have you found that works for you to battle the self-doubt?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Friendship redoubleth joys and cutteth griefs in halves.  For there is no man that imparteth his joys to his friend, but he joyeth the more, and no man that imparteth his griefs to his friend, but he grieveth the less.”  Francis Bacon

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

 

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“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

Christopher Campbell

This week a dearly beloved and heart-inspired project came to fruition. My author friends and I have been putting together a children’s anthology to support our dear friend, Robyn Campbell, and her son, Christopher (29) who lives with the little known or understood syndrome called Sturge-weber.

Our beautiful book, Kissed by an Angel is out now, available on Amazon.

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I thought that I would re-issue this earlier post, detailing the illustration I did to go with my story in the anthology, ‘Grandpa & Loor.’

A Photo Essay for ‘Grandpa & Loor’…

A few years back, I tried using computer software to “draw” but I didn’t take to it. I simply prefer pencils, erasers, pens, colour pencils, and paints. I’m old school. So, bear with me. For some people, this might be a trip down memory lane.

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First, I had to work up a sketch I liked. I borrowed the man’s expression from an old photo of my boys’ father and aged him by adding wrinkles, I borrowed the idea for the hair out of a Santa book from the ’70’s. I was seeking with this illustration to express how we caregivers and parents of special children feel about them, and how they feel toward us. Once I was happy with it on a feeling level, I had a pencil template.

Grandpa & Loor

I painted the background over with a pale wash of pink.

First wash, G&L

Next, I applied the first coat of watercolour. At this stage, I made a timeline of the process, by taking this snap when I started.

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I gave each area a slightly different shade, in order to alter the end look. The lesson I’ve taken from training in oil portraiture is to build layers. That’s where you get your depth.

At that stage, I added the second layer to the characters, according to what I thought the colours might be later.

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As I got onto the third coat, I started to use three or more variations of the shades and add areas of light and dark.

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The fourth layer always makes the tones more solid and real.

At that point, I switched from water colour to gouache, and started using the fine tipped brushes.

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I made the shadows more convincing.
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And, just like that, in the twinkling of a back-breaking eye, I had finally crossed the finish line, thirteen hours later!

I feel victorious. Art is magical, isn’t it?

What sort of art do you do in your life? What’s important to you creatively? Tell me in the comments….

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Keep Creating!

Talk soon,

Yvette K. Carol

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‘I’ve been thinking about my Christopher and how our family could never make do without him. He is the epitome of this quote: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.’ Robyn Campbell

‘This is the best time in history to be a writer. Today, you can bypass the gatekeepers.’ So said the author, Andy Weir.

 

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It is also said, there will be more books published in the next five years than have been published since the invention of the printing press.

 

“Going Indie” means everyone can publish their own work, which is wonderful news. This effectively means that the author takes on the lion’s share of the burden.

 

Personally? Long story short: In September, I self-pubbed my first book*, then I found mistakes, recalled the book, and have been editing for the last 3 months.

 

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My eldest son asked me the other night, Why are there so many mistakes?

 

A perfectly presented and edited book is not a freak of nature, my son. They do not just happen by themselves, you know.

 

Once upon a time, the large traditional publishing houses were the so-called “gatekeepers.” These big publishers (and loads of smaller ones) employed all the experts in the industry to curate and produce their perfectly-turned out books. Many different professionals had input on guiding every author’s work into an error-free work of art.

 

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As opposed to the past, these days, self-publishing is becoming more accepted and is becoming a phenomenon. Some Indies have done very well at it and made loads of money. Some have ended up being signed to traditional publishing companies. For every Indie author who wins, however, a gazillion fall by the wayside with their hard-won novels fading into obscurity.

 

I’ve blogged before about how I held on stubbornly to my dream of being picked up by a traditional publisher. However, even the rock of Gibraltar is wearing away with the years, I’m sure, and the attrition of the fact that everyone’s doing it had a pumice-type of effect, because last year, for the first time, I began to consider publishing my own book.

 

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I was busy editing the first book in my Fantasy Tween Fiction series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, called ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ for the umpteenth time, through the critique group process.

 

When I felt it was ready, instead of submitting the manuscript to publishers, I hired an American professional to edit it for me. In my innocence, I imagined that once I put in the editor’s changes, I would be ready to upload and to go to print.

 

Yet, once I did get to that stage, author friends told me, no, no, no, you need to get as many people to read it as possible.

 

Lynn Kelley

 

Therefore, I asked friends who are well-published authors to proof-read it for me. I made more changes to the copy following the editing suggestions. I then had a very kind friend, who has published more than thirty books with a NZ publisher, give the book one last edit, just to catch the last two or three mistakes. Then, I read it myself one last time.

 

Finally, after six months effort, I handed over the manuscript to a local typesetter and printing house, BookPrint.

 

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The same day I launched the book, it came to my attention that there were still some errors in the book. Despite the carefully editing and checking, a few things had been missed. As my author friend said, ‘Your name is going to be on that book forever, how do you feel about that?’

 

I recalled the book.

 

I proof-read another three times, picking up a surprising number of mistakes.

 

The time had come, I realized, when I needed to hire a second professional proof-reader. This girl did a stellar job, finding “70 inconsistencies,” and she delivered the edits within the time she’d predicted.

 

I read it through and edited it another two times after that.

 

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To be absolutely certain, I asked the proofreader to read it through again for me. She did so and found yet more errors. Sigh.

 

*Indies who are reading this, wait, don’t be discouraged. Be informed. Go into this battle arena clear-eyed, focused and aware of your tactics.

 

We Can Do It!

 

Here’s how you can benefit from my experience. When you’re ready to self publish your book:

 

  • Hire professionals, one after the other, to catch what the other has missed.
  • Hire people who come well recommended to you.
  • Double- check and check your work again!
  • Be prepared for everything to take longer than you expect. I think it’s more realistic when planning a self-published novel to do it this way: set a launch date for your book, take that length of time and double it. That’s your realistic projected date of publication.

 

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‘This is the best time in history to be a writer.’ Yes, agreed. We are lucky we can ‘bypass the gatekeepers.’

 

Is it hard? Yes.

 

Yet, you gain the reward, the satisfaction at the end. When you publish your own as-near-perfect-as-you-can-get-it novel, as I did yesterday, the sheer sense of absolute triumph is immense. I felt as mighty as a victorious Viking.

And just in time for Christmas. Squeee!!!

What are you doing as an Indie? Do you have any tips to suggest?

 

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Raise your sail one foot and you get ten feet of wind. – Chinese Proverb

*my recently self-published debut novel, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’

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Sturge-Weber Syndrome is a rare brain disorder. It is characterized by a port-wine birthmark. It can cause seizures, paralysis, stroke, blood clots, glaucoma, and a host of other problems. The Sturge-Weber Foundation is a place where parents can go to find information. ~ Robyn Campbell.

 

Since meeting writer, Robyn Campbell, through our “tribe,” Writing for Children, over on Wanatribe, we’ve learned about her brave son, Christopher, who lives with Sturge-Weber Syndrome, a rare brain disorder. Though doctors predicted Christopher would not make it to the age of two, he is twenty nine today.

 

One fine day, in October of 2014, WfC member, Teresa Robeson came up with the idea that we put together an anthology, to benefit the Sturge-Weber Foundation, and in that way, she started the conversation. Lynn Kelley, Catherine Johnson, myself and of course, Robyn, jumped aboard the project.

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Robyn loved the idea. She said, ‘The seizures in Sturge-Weber kids are really mini strokes. I really hope that the research finds better treatment options. The slogan has always been, the stronger the wind, the tougher the trees.  Maybe folks will donate and at the very least maybe when they see a Sturge-Weber child or adult, maybe just maybe they won’t stare. 🙂 That’s worth it all.’

Her words galvanized our effort. As we worked on our stories, over the months, more and more writers came on board, from other areas, until we had eleven contributors.

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In celebration of the fact that our anthology is soon to be released, I interviewed Robyn Campbell about her feelings and thoughts.

In your own words, what sort of book is KBAA?

 

First off, let me thank you Yvette, and all the contributors for over a year of solid work for the Kissed by an Angel Anthology. I feel so blessed to know all of you in such a personal way. This past year has been a struggle as doctors have tried to find the reason Christopher is having these latest problems. To me, Kissed by an Angel is a book of hope, magic, love, joy, and the belief that anyone can do anything if they set their mind to it. The stories are the best of the best. You writers are the best of the best. I will miss our family after the launch. That’s what it is, you know? We’re family.

 

Definitely! I’m grateful to have had something concrete to do, Robyn.

Tell us what this anthology means to you? How did you get involved?

 

The anthology means so many things on so many levels. This is our chance to do something for research. We know the gene that causes Sturge-Weber (GNAQ), so now we are chomping at the bit for better treatment options and dare I say it? A cure. I want to know that I had some say in this. That I made a difference toward finding a cure. It makes my heart cry to hear of these deaths from Sturge-Weber that we’ve heard about. It brings it too close to home. Way too close. I got involved after Lynn Kelley (who has worked on formatting and everything else, she needs a medal), Yvette Carol (that’s you), Teresa Robeson, and Catherine Johnson (our tribe) started tossing around the idea of doing an anthology to benefit the Foundation’s research. And may I say that Christopher just wants to give all of you a colossal smooch on the mouths. Well, except Erik. Haha Actually, Christopher loves Erik and his family. He KNOWS they pray for him. That means a lot to him. He prays for them and for Sam and for all of you.

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Thank you, Christopher!

Robyn, your story starts the whole book. What is your story about and why did you choose to include it?

 

My story is titled Kissed By An Angel. It is real life turned into a fictional story. But it is very true. It’s about Christopher before he got his black belt. When he was having many seizures. Every day he would have seizures. All day long. He’d end up in the hospital. It was a trying time. Especially, because he was trying to test for that belt.

The anthology stories are about special powers of middle-graders. I wrestled with writing a story on magic. But it didn’t feel right to me. I always believed Christopher had his own special powers. So I decided to write the story that is in the anthology. It was hard. I cried so much while writing that first draft. All those memories came flooding to the surface. I wrote his neurologist into the story too. I dedicated it to Dr. D’Cruz. And to someone else. Shhh. I can’t say anymore. All of those seizures are why Christopher will always live with us on the farm. He will never drive. But he can read and write. He can do much more than doctors ever thought he would. I give all the credit to God. Christopher had a very special request of the authors in the anthology. That they all sign his copy. Poor Yvette lives in New Zealand. But they all agreed. He is so excited to get his anthology.

KBAA, cover art, 2015

Tell us a little about the idea of the charity initiative behind KBAA, with all proceeds to go to the Sturge-Weber Foundation, as a lot of people are unfamiliar with either the syndrome or the organisation.

 

The Sturge-Weber Foundation is a place where parents can go to find information. Karen Ball started it after her daughter was born with Sturge-Weber. She works tirelessly for the families. The foundation has research irons in the fire. We hope for better treatment options. 100% of the proceeds from the anthology goes to the Foundation. I will set Karen up with CreateSpace as soon as we’re finished with everything. That way, all money goes into the Foundation’s account. I’m super excited. I want this to be huge. I want this to help bring answers. Please buy a copy. It will be in print and ebook. Thank you, Yvette. For everything.

Thank you, Robyn!

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The anthology is due for release Dec 13. In the meantime, to whet your appetites, here’s a cover reveal for the anthology. Ta da!

Our hope is that we have given people a simple way of helping an awesome charity. Spend a few dollars on a really great book you can read with your kids this Christmas. 100% of the money goes straight to the coffers of the The Sturge-Weber Foundation.

Easy as!

 

Yvette Carol

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‘Every story started with just an idea in someone’s head. Isn’t that a fantastic concept?’ Bob Mayer

Here’s what other contributors are saying:

Robyn Campbell – http://robyncampbell.com/

Sharon Mayhew – http://skmayhew.blogspot.com/

Theresa Milstein – http://theresamilstein.blogspot.com/

Erik Weibelg – http://ThisKidReviewsBooks.com

Vivian Kirkfield – http://viviankirkfield.com

Ellen Leventhal – http://ellenleventhal.com

 

 

 

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

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

Presently, I’m all caught up in the wonderfully exciting and yet, fraught end times of producing my first ever book. I submitted the finished manuscript of ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ to the printing place on August 21, just two weeks ago.

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After so many years of writing stories, and a decade of hard graft on this particular story, I find myself mere weeks away from actually holding this baby in my hand. Incredible! Nevertheless, whirlwind aside, it’s happening. And now, I get to face that other fear I’ve had and that is, the fear of how my story will be received.

That’s my insecurity for this post, the fear of putting out that first book.

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Mitchell James Kaplan, said, “Writers should never believe anything anyone tells them about style or anything else. To be a good writer means to question everything, to look beyond appearances and fashions.” Yes, that’s true.

However, I can’t get away from the fact that I still have these insecurities anyway.

I still want the world, or at the very least, a hard-bitten few, to love my stories, and to carry on the journey with me. I want folks to join in with me on the flights of imagination which have seemed to come effortlessly to me ever since I was a small child of three, telling stories to entertain my baby brother.

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Yeah, that’s what I want. A girl can dream. They say the Y generation have entitlement issues, and can get disillusioned by the realities of life. My generation, I’d venture to say, might be a little bit more practical. Yet, even so, I’m finding everything about the process of self-publishing to be daunting right now. Every day, I learn something new.

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A friend warned me it’d be an adrenalin ride till publication day, and so far, she’s right. I’m consulting constantly with the cover artist and with the graphic designer and book printer, over the all-important little details. I’m thinking and organizing all the different bits and myriad pieces needed to bring the launch party together. Publishing your own book is an undertaking of mammoth proportions. It calls on every ounce of brain power you possess, it requires the stamina of an endurance runner, and the willpower of a gladiator. This is the stuff of champions!

“After trad publishing a few, I switched and won’t go back. I love the control over my book’s destiny 🙂 Every choice is an act of love.” ~ D. Wallace Peach

While I may be grumbling a bit about the rigours of the process of book production, I’m not even doing all the formatting and everything myself. No, I’m too exhausted by everything at the moment for that. I opted to pay a local printing outfit, for a package deal. They’re going to format it, design the cover and back cover, give me an IBSN number, a digital copy, and 100 paperback copies. The artwork for the cover is finished and it’s amazing. We’re in the final throes now. Which brings me neatly back to my being terrified of putting this book out there and hearing crickets! Eeeks. The fear is so very real.

Does anyone else reach for the chocolate at times like this?

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Keep creating!

Talk to you soon,

Yvette K. Carol

Look, writing a novel is like paddling from Boston to London in a bathtub. Sometimes the damn tub sinks. It’s a wonder that most of them don’t.

– Stephen King

Good things take time!

Posted: August 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

And this Wednesday 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.

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A lot of times, when I’ve prepared blog posts to join in with the IWSG, I’ve not felt particularly insecure, and have had to reach for things to say. However, that’s because I wasn’t a published author, I didn’t have manuscripts or stories circulating publishers, I wasn’t trying to land an agent. I was immured from those crushing realities that deal death blows to other writers competing for the public eye. I was happily plodding away in my spare time on the same manuscript I’ve been working on since 2005. In my own mind, the process could easily take another ten years.

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Then, my mother died, and something changed inside. I guess in a nutshell you could say I came face-to-face with my own mortality. I realized because my mother (who always seemed like an unstoppable battleship) had moved on into the hereafter, that what they say is true: life is short, and there’s no time to waste! I swiftly moved from complacent to desperate! I needed to cross the finish line with this book and by doing so, poke mortality in the eye with a big stick.

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I went ahead and hired an editor. The wonderful Carol J. Amato, of Stargazer Publishing proofread the manuscript and sent it back to me this week. Wow. In all the years of working on this story, I’ve never dared print it out because the flipping thing was too big. It used to be all of 100,000 words long. I had charged through it with a scythe and slashed over 30,000 words however, I still had never seen it in paper form. It was gorgeous! 

At first, I was overcome with joy. Tears. Laughter. Excitement.

The word ‘shrine’ comes from the Latin scrinium meaning ‘chest for books’. I was very tempted, I admit, to build a shrine to my story right there on my kitchen counter.

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Yet, reality demanded that I move on from giddy dreams of holding my own book in my hand, and get back to making it happen.

Today, I have a meeting with a local publisher called Book Print. We’re going to discuss designs for the cover and the prospect of a small print run.

Finally, I cast my gaze ahead and see the next hurdle I need to cross. Marketing. Promotion. Things I’ve blogged about and talked about a lot in the past. Only now, I actually have to come up with an action plan and slog it out with the rest of the millions of other authors out there trying to outsmart everyone else to get to the top of the bestselling lists.

What do I feel now? Fear. Utter, fallible, gullible, vulnerable fear. Have I slogged away for the last ten years for only friends and family to read my work? Will even those precious few literally read my book? Will they like it? Will anyone like it? The insecurities mount into a veritable Everest. Someone help! Rescue parties may be needed.

What about you? Have you made any changes and then felt afraid? Are you insecure about your artistic efforts? Do you need a rescue party too? If so, send your coordinates!

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Talk to you next time!

Yvette K. Carol

http://www.yvettecarol.com

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‘The only way to learn is to take risks, make mistakes. Go out, make a mistake. Have the guts to fail. Talk about it. And there’s nothing wrong with that.’ ~ Eunice Kennedy Shriver

The first speech one gives for Toastmasters is called ‘The Icebreaker’. Four to six minutes long, it performs the same function as the “Mihi”, in the Maori tradition of introducing oneself by saying who you are, who your family is, where you’ve come from.

I struggled to write my Icebreaker because nothing seemed important enough to say after Ma’s death and writing her tribute. However, I realized I was steeped in the stories of our family. We’d spent precious night after night, by the fire, sitting around the living room, listening to my father recall stories from his and mum’s past. So I decided to base my speech on the meeting of my parents, and because that felt meaningful, the Icebreaker flowed from there. Great. I had it written.

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The next trick was to learn it. The family gathered again around my father, last weekend, because it was Dad’s 83rd birthday. I stayed at a motel, and every night I went back to my rooms and practiced my speech. By the time I returned to the city, I had nearly got it down pat.

Then, horrors, the night before I was due to give my speech, I was hideously grossly ill. I coughed all night long. I woke in the morning, feverish and shaky. I vomited absolutely everything even water. I had to ring our carer supporter and ask her to come in earlier as I was so unwell I hadn’t even managed to dress the boys. I prayed for help and friends said they’d send prayers and miracles. Incredibly, about an hour before I was due to speak, the illness lifted. I put on some make-up, some bright clothes and a smile.

Wonderfully, it was the school holidays so the boys were home, and with help, I was able to take them with me to witness my first ever speech for Toastmasters. My youngest even volunteered to be video-guy.

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When it came up to my turn to speak, and the Toastmaster was introducing me, my heart started to pound at a completely ridiculous speed. I thought, am I having some sort of episode? I did relaxation breathing techniques which normally always work and they didn’t work! My heart-rate was still going a hundred miles an hour. I stepped up there with a smile on my face anyway. The crazy thing? The minute I started speaking the nerves went away! Blow me down with a feather. I didn’t know that.

I learnt I can do something I was formerly terrified of doing.

Wow.

That’s cool.

What else can’t I do?

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This is the ‘Icebreaker’ speech I gave yesterday ~

“Mister Toastmaster, fellow members and guests,

You may ask, what does an alarm clock have to do with a person’s history? In my case, and the case of my family, everything! I wouldn’t be standing here, neither would my children be sitting there if it wasn’t for the case of the mysterious alarm clock.

My story begins in England in the early 1950’s with the coincidence of my parent’s meeting.

At the time, Mum’s parents lived in apartment number 5, Dad’s lived upstairs at number 7. Yet Mum and Dad had never met. Mum was a trainee nurse at London Hospital and was home two days out of the month. Dad had joined the merchant navy and was on land and home one month out of six.

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One day, an alarm clock was delivered to number 5. Granny sent Mum to ask at the other apartments if the clock belonged to them. Mum knocked at #7. Against all odds, it was Dad who answered the door, in his navy whites. The clock didn’t belong to them. As mum walked away, Gran asked Dad, “Why don’t you go out with a nice girl like that?”

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Dad said, “She’s not my type.”

While according to Mum, her response to meeting Dad was to think, “God preserve me from those hairy legs!”

But God had other ideas.

Dad says, ‘he must have thought about it’ because he ended up inviting Mum to a game of tennis. Then they went to the pictures. Dad buzzed up to London Hospital on his BSA 250 to look for her, and couldn’t find her anywhere. Lucky for him, (and for us), he knew where Mum lived!

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They married within two years of meeting and had two lovely daughters. By now Dad had worked his way up to the position of First Mate, Navigator. My parents began to think about emigrating. Dad brought the ‘Ngakuta’ out to NZ in 1961. Mum and my sisters arrived a year later. They settled on the North Shore where two even more wonderful children were born, my brother and I!

So here we were in NZ, Kiwis with English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish blood. What started out as a tiny band of Poms on foreign shores became a family of six and a menagerie: birds, fish, guinea pigs, a rabbit, hare, a dog, a cat, chickens and a goat. That was then. Today, my parents have four kids, nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren, and they’ve run out of pets.

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I think of our childhood as idyllic. We had a secure home base with our parents, from which we could roam wild and free all day long until the sun went down. It’s the ‘lost Eden’ of my childhood I seek to recreate through my stories when I write fiction for children.

I owe my folks a debt of gratitude where my career is concerned. When I decided to quit freelance journalism and pursue my dream of being a writer, it was Mum and Dad who opened their home and their arms. They gave me the grace of their belief and support. I’d always nursed the hope that they’d be around to see my first book published. Hence the big push I’m putting on now, to get this book on the market while I still have one parent alive to bear witness!

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My parents supported me through having my first child when I was a teenager. They were there when my second marriage ended, and they let me buy the family homestead Dad built when he first landed in this country, at a good price. My children and I were able to settle down. Mum and Dad knew I had my own fight on my hands, with a special needs child to raise on my own, and a child needing heart surgery and a lot of health intervention besides. My parents extended unconditional love which meant the world.

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I intend to do my best to honour and respect the struggle they went through to create a better life for us in this new country. I want to make them proud, to let them know their hard work, their courage, their smarts, their spirit live on forever and will never be dimmed. My youngest son, Nathaniel, is the spitting image of my father. My middle son, Sam, takes after my mother’s side. While my eldest boy, Chris, has his grandpa’s integrity, and his grandmother’s heart. We are all the leaves and shoots which have sprung from this adventurous vine.

But what about the mystery alarm clock, you ask? Who did it belong to? The owner was never found. The clock had done its job. It had brought my parents together. Why it was addressed to apartment number five remains a mystery to this day. Hmm, maybe someone should write a book about that?

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Thank you all for bearing witness to my first ever speech for Toastmasters.

But not my first ever speech. As you may already know, I gave a tribute at my mother’s funeral last week in front of a big crowd of people, while I was under considerable duress, and … I rocked it. I may have only been along to a few meetings, however I know that if I hadn’t joined Toastmasters, there’s no way I would have been able to do the tribute justice.

So believe me when I say to you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Thank you, Mister Toastmaster.”

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talk to you next time,
Yvette K. Carol

http://www.yvettecarol.com

When I got the news, last Thursday afternoon, that my mother had passed away, my reaction, as a writer, was to want to write about it. So, I wrote down a page or two (or four) into the wee hours of the night.

I have been afraid of public speaking all my life. I’d only just joined Toastmasters a few weeks ago, and was due to give my first speech, the ‘Icebreaker’, in the second week of July. However, this huge event of losing my mother, demanded a speech. I knew it in my bones. It was the right thing to do, to overcome my fear for her, in order to pay her tribute. This is the speech I gave, based on my writings from the day my mother, Shirley Angela, died.

25 June, 2015

Ma,

Where to start, to say goodbye?

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When I think of my mother, I see that I got my bubbly nature from her, all my siblings did, we’re quick to laugh and to be silly and that was mum to a tee. From mum, I got my taste for chocolate as well as for the finer pleasures of life. I’m not averse to skipping the main course and going straight to dessert, nor do I have a problem in applying second and third dollops of cream.

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Though ma got into her eighties, she was perpetually young of spirit, I know I have that same youthful spirit in me, all of us do. Not just my siblings and I, but the next generations too. We share in the spark of grandma. Who else but mum could come up with her own, nearly-famous interpretative dance – “the G-Nu” – performed with usual panache, her own unique blend of graceful exoticness. Be warned, kin who reside in New Zealand, the role of carrying on “the G-Nu” appears to have fallen to us! My sister and I performed our own rendition of “the G-Nu” (while dad read the spoken parts), for the entertainment of the whole family!

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Mum had a good heart and she was generous to a fault. I remember when I married my first husband. Mum was the only one who believed in me, and it helped. Her support always helped. She could be counted on in a bind. I remember when I presented my poor stunned parents with the news I was pregnant as a teenager, that it was mum who immediately stepped forward, put her hands on the table and said, “Right, what are we going to do?”

The last eight or so years since the strokes have been difficult. The strokes made mum angry, aggressive at times, and tearful and sometimes fearful. She had her good days and her bad days. She and I had a few altercations. At times, things were said – she may or may not have called me ‘a cockroach’ on my last visit. But in my eyes, the time had simply come to stand up and say a few home truths between us. So we did. Mum and I cleared the air a few times which I felt was good and healthy for us. So our relationship did evolve in these last years.

And through her friendship with the therapeutic masseuse, Erin Lees, who she was seeing for treatment once a week, mum experienced some real moments of peace, joy, and lucidity that gave me great hope.

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I think I’ve had some of my most enjoyable times with ma in these last years too. She had moved on from only ever being the one doing the talking, to being the one who could also sit and listen.

In my adult life, she featured greatly. Mum and dad were a great support when my eldest son was little. I remember I went to see a clairvoyant around that time, the first thing he said was, “I see your mother and father at your shoulders, that’s how close you are.” And he was right!

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I owe ma and dear pa a great debt of gratitude, and I’ve expressed this to them before. But now that my mother has passed, I want to take this opportunity to say it again. When I gave up freelance journalism at the age of 25 and asked them if I could move back home to pursue my dream of being a writer, they didn’t hesitate to open the door. They believed in me. They gave me wings. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Mum and dad arranged things so that I was able to take on the purchase of the family home, ‘The Stags’, at a good price when my marriage ended. They gave me and my younger boys a stable place to settle down and grow roots. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Ma had developed a real keen interest in my stories. Nearly every time I visited them, at some point we would talk about what I was writing. She would ask and then really pay attention to me spinning my worlds. She had a childlike way of going there with me, which was deeply rewarding. Ma, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Last year, she was talking about dying, as she had taken to doing at times, and I suddenly felt this need to truly thank her for letting me return home and pursue my dream in those early years. I said I wanted her to stick around and see my first book published.

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I wanted that full circle moment, not just for me, but for the three of us. I wanted ma and pa to have that gratification, that knowingness that their faith in me had been well-founded. Their money well spent.

So, when my brother, Al, rang this afternoon to say that ma had died, I thought she can’t have died, that milestone moment hasn’t happened yet. Here I am, in the last throes of getting my first book ready for publication, and I didn’t get a chance to tell her yet. Ma left already, to move on to the next part of her journey. Which is wonderful for her. But no full circle moment.

This is why I had to take this chance to say thank you now, while I have the chance and the public floor. For your unwavering, rocksolid support, ma. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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Ma, your spirit in life and in death will always be bright. We’ll never forget you. How could we? We’ll be telling grandma stories until the end of time. You’ll never be forgotten isn’t that wonderful?

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Ma, where to start to say goodbye to you? How do I say goodbye to you?

With a tribute speech like the one I’ve just given. My first ever proper public speech, two weeks shy of my ‘Icebreaker’ for Toastmasters. You pipped them at the post! I give this honour to you, ma.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

Yvette K. Carol

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R.I.P Ma

The quote in the title for this post is taken from the Bible’s book of Proverbs. It speaks to me about the yearning of the human heart to have a goal—a vision—to pursue. It’s as true for us today as it was in the time of the bible that the average human being desires more than mere physical and social gratification. We also seek a wider sense of belonging in the universe.

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with the “mystery of all things”, and to borrow the phrase author, PJ Reece, coined, “the transcendental story heart”. I’m intrigued deeply by the puzzle of how to connect language to experience. My personal quest as a writer is to learn how to successfully translate the long story or the eternal aspect of ourselves.

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The great Athenian philosopher, Plato, (c. 428-348 BC) used the expression techne tou biou, which means “the craft of life”, to refer not only to domestic and mechanical skills but also to development of the soul. The psyche, anima, atman, savira, semangat, nephesh, otachuk, loákal, tunzi, prana, duk, geist, sala, every ancient people had their word to describe the “life-giving principle”.

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As the later Roman writer Apuleius wrote, “Everyone should know that you can’t live in any other way than by cultivating the soul.”

Artists and writers have the job of translating this wondrous ‘soul’ experience. Or as PJ Reece reminded me via email, “We live on the surface, but in constant awe of what lies beneath/above/beyond. As writers, it’s our job to live in the liminal zone between the two. And report back.”

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At the end of this year, I’ll be attending the Tinderbox Conference for Children’s Writers and Illustrators (*see info. below). The first time Wellington hosted, I flew down for the ‘Spinning Gold Conference’ and over three days, I attended seminars, fangirled over authors, bought books (what’s not to love?) Yet, over and above the glamour of socializing with birds of a feather, the main thing I took away was inspiration.

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Kate d Goldi, my tutor and mentor, gave a speech which she based on Jane Yolen’s idea of the ‘alphabetics of children’s literature’. “A is for antecedent,” said Kate, urging us to read the greats.

“B is for bone. Your fascination, your idiosyncratic fascination is why you were made and set here. Thoreau said, ‘Know your bone.’ Circle your preoccupations, recurring motifs, bury it up, dig it up, sniff it. If it hasn’t been written yet its because its up to you to write it.”

I was riveted. As was every person in the room. You could have heard a pin drop.

“I believe the compulsion to write comes from a deeper place,” said Kate. “I don’t write about or for children, but I write for the once and always child in myself. When I’m writing for children I’m chasing down a lost Eden, that hopeful springtime, to approximate the pleasure I had in those shaded imaginative places. The lost Eden of my childhood.”

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 Kate spoke of getting her ‘nourishment at the knees of writers’. Being one of the keynote speakers at the conference, now she was nourishing us.

“Carlos Fuentes’ book tells us that our lives transcend possibilities,” Kate said, “I think current stories are lacking in complex structure, nuance. Kids need more than a limited diction, and a palette of Smarties. We remember readings that acted like transformations.”

Her speech got a standing ovation as well it should. This is what we pay for, as Elizabeth Gilbert said on her amazing TED speech-, it’s ‘a glimpse of god and we need that’.

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According to PJ, “There’s a theory of mental growth that states that we go through a series of psychological “disintegrations” on our way to becoming authentic persons. So it’s very much true to life that a character would be thrown into an existential void again and again. With each passage through the fire, so to speak, and with each “reintegration” the person becomes increasingly altruistic.”

Sophocles described his heroes with the term deinos, which translates loosely as “wondrous and strange.” A character who lives up to that description possesses a kind of incandescence, reminding us of the unpredictable capacity for loving sacrifice, heroism, fierce persistence—as well as craven selfishness, cowardice, vacillation—that each of us carries within his heart. ~ David Corbett

This is the transcendent moment in action. It’s what we live for.

Plato likened the perfect soul to a winged creature, hoping to soar upward toward Truth. I’ll be going to the conference in Wellington, to learn new tools for taming the muse, sure, to schmooze with other writers, yes, and also to be inspired, to soar upward toward the Truth!

Are you joining the Tinderbox in Wellington? Been to a conference lately and felt uplifted? Please share!

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 See ya’ in the funny papers,

Yvette K. Carol

@YvetteCarol1

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Humans are built for adventure and accomplishment. If we weren’t, James Bond, Indiana Jones, and the rest wouldn’t do anything for us.’ ~ Paul Rosenberg

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If you’ve ever wanted to write a book for children, come to the Tinderbox Conference for Children’s Writers and Illustrators 2015. Check out the Tinderbox program is available for viewing on the website: http://tinderbox2015.blogspot.co.nz

Registrations open on the website at 7:00pm Tuesday 16th June.

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