Archive for the ‘words’ Category

This week, I took the boys down country and met my brother with his son. We stayed with grandpa for four days, as we do each school break.

Here’s the thing about visiting parents when they’re aging, there’s always a slight tension that never quite goes away. It’s like the prickle in your finger you can’t stop thinking about.

In between our visits, I worry about my father. He’s on his own now, mum having died nearly two years ago. I love his independence. He’s a potter-er. He has his aches and pains but he soldiers on. He makes his own meals and does his own laundry. I know he can take care of himself. I know he’s happy. I know he has a good life between his church, friends, bowls, volunteer work, clubs, and meetings.

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The last few get-togethers dad started complaining of memory loss. The last holiday or two, we have noticed changes. Some little instances of his not recognizing people he should have known, and so on. Since then, the normal mild tension one feels with a parent in their 80’s, became greater concern for his well-being. We’ve been keeping an eye on him. And now, each time we go, I’m hyped with stress, how is he going to be this time? Is he going to be worse? Will the decline be slow or steep?

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This visit was a relief for my brother and I because dad was fine. He showed no displays of memory loss beyond the ordinary things you or I would do. He was great. However, he is still different, more turned inward. When we saw a family friend on the last day, she asked my brother and I, how was your trip, and we both replied, “Interesting” in the same breath.

This holiday, dad, who is famous for his telling of jokes, and the offer of “a story,” had been silent. He didn’t tell a single joke in four days. That, in itself, set the tone for the difference. Dad also has his favourite things he likes to say, like how he was blessed with a lovely wife, a happy family and finding the land he lives on, and the story of how he found it. None of these stones were touched upon. And, that was unsettling.

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In the evenings, the boys would be playing cards (and dad joined in on many games), Sam would be playing his psp, and I’d be writing. I’d look up at dad and think, why isn’t he talking? He was busy with his Sudoku or he was working on his crossword, or he was reading the paper. If I asked a question, he’d answer and then go back to his crossword. He seemed deeply intensely absorbed in his routines and his things he likes to do.

Then on the last day we were there, I thought, I need to have a talk with dad.

I got up early. The instant I heard a footstep above, I rushed upstairs. I caught him before he could get started on his paper and I started him talking.

I engaged him, told him things about us and asked him questions. We had a conversation.

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He said, “I’ve been blessed with…” and I can’t tell you the relief I felt as he told me his familiar saying. He said, “And this place had only been open for development five days when we first saw it. I’ve told you the story, have I?” I said, “Yes, but tell me again!” I was so overjoyed he was back. There you are, dad. Whew!

Dad is simply aging naturally and as well as you can. He’s at the age and stage in life where he’s becoming more introverted. He’s looking inward which is the normal thing to do in the final stage of life. He’s got his routines and his set ways of doing things and he concentrates on them more so now than he did before as is natural. All is well with grandpa.

Yet, still I worry.

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The kids love to visit. My son with Downs’ syndrome loves grandpa, and Sam did spend a fair bit of time just staring at his face. Bless him, dad didn’t react but carried on as usual. I treasured him more than ever. I came home happy to report to the rest of the family (and Facebook!) that grandpa is going strong.

Now, how to manage the stress of worrying about him. What do you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius

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Or, Editing Woes Noone Warned you About ~

The word “edit” in the dictionary means “to prepare for publication.”

For the author in the last stages of editing their book, the sheer hours spent bum-in-chair can become numbing at both ends of the spectrum.

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You see, no one tells you the truth about the writer’s life, either at school or in the way it’s rendered via popular media. As a kind of public service announcement, I’m happy to give you a “heads up” about the possible woes that lie ahead, if you’re thinking of turning that story in the bottom drawer into a viable commodity.

Here’s what to expect:

Editing Woes #1: Temporary Blindness

Stephen King once said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” There’s a good reason for keeping that office door open. Besides getting other people’s eyes upon your fiction, you need ventilation. You can succumb to writer’s fatigue. After sitting in a room on your own, staring at those dark marching ants across the screen for hours, you stop seeing the words.

Cure: Get some oxygen, head outdoors, look at nature.

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Editing Woes #2: Temporary Book Hate

“The first draft of everything is shit,” so said Ernest Hemmingway. However, given enough exposure to your own work, every other draft of your own precious story will start to annoy you, too. This is a temporary phase.

Top tip: Try not to throw the entire file in the rubbish bin.

Cure: Keep going. Do not give up!

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Editing Woes #3: Temporary Loss of Will to Live

There comes a moment, when you’ve just finished your hundredth edit of your story, and you realize you’re going to have to go back to the beginning and start again, that the apple begins to slide off the cherry.

I had a deadline to reach this weekend, my book needed to be submitted to createspace by April 15th. The material had been worked over so many times, but it still wasn’t done. When I found myself at 6.30 in the evening yesterday, and it wasn’t finished and I still I had to keep editing, I felt weak with stress.

The last yards to publication when you’re an Indie are soul destroying. Every time you think you’ve carved off the last word and discovered the last ill-placed comma, you find yet another error.

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On the fifth “final edit” I just wanted to put down the laptop lid, walk away and pretend none of it ever happened. I felt I could not read those words again.

Top Tip: This is normal. You will want to give up. You will want to curl in the fetal position. Don’t worry; it happens to all of us. It’s like childbirth or passing a kidney stone, it doesn’t matter how bad it becomes, you will get through it.

Cure: Eat treats. I took “feijoa breaks.”

Editing Woes #4: Temporarily Losing Touch with Reality

Yes, this is a common problem they don’t warn you about in writing class. When those sixth and seventh “final edits” take place, usually late at night, and you’re keeping yourself going by drinking coffee and eating sweets, the hours start to blend. One friend said, “it’s like a black hole that sucks time into it.”

This is true. The further you dive into your nitty-gritty polishes, the more hours disappear. When I finally lifted my head last night, I looked around and it was dark outside. The whole day had vanished. I was blinking like a mole, saying, where is everyone?

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Cure: Go be with human people. Exercise. Eat. Drink. Sleep.

The reward is that this really is the last hurdle.

Top Tip: just as with childbirth, it’s all worth it in the end. When the proud author gets to see their story presented in book form for the first time, it makes all the pain of editing worthwhile. The secret is to keep going through the gnarly last part!

At midnight, I had the manuscript, the cover art, a professional headshot, the back cover blurb and three great peer reviews ready to go, and I submitted the whole package to Createspace. I felt immediate relief and joy. Now, I await the first “proof” which is exciting.

But here’s the thing, no work of art is ever truly finished.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.”

I had to choose the point at which to let go. When do you let go? When do you say enough’s enough?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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

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

http://writerunboxed.com/2017/02/24/embrace-your-boundaries/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reading aloud is another effective tool in the editing kit.

With my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ (http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I) I recorded myself reading to camera. I knew that listening to the prose was a step not to be missed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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

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

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

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

The January 4 Question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

I have a love/hate relationship with the writing rules.

I was jagged up by the rule “show don’t tell” for years. I see this as a great cautionary tale for up-and-coming writers. Don’t let the rules limit you. As they say, learn the rules then forget them or else the writing can become stilted.

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The great writer, Ursula Le Guin said, ‘Thanks to “show don’t tell,” I find writers in my workshops who think exposition is wicked. They’re afraid to describe the world they’ve invented.’

When I was coming up as a writer, I took on board every rule I heard until my writing had turned into literary cardboard.

Other control freaks will understand. We take the rules to heart. I followed the rules to the extent that all creative spark in me became squashed. I didn’t have any fresh material for stories. I felt blocked. I wasn’t enjoying the creative process anymore.

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One critique partner at the time said my sentences had no flow and were the rhythmic equivalent of ‘riding over cobblestones on a horse.’

I had a very kind old Indian writer patiently explain that ‘a story is like a room in need of decoration.’ He said, “While your stories are good there isn’t enough furniture.’

Part of my coming up and finding my feet as a writer came from letting go of the rules or at least holding them at a decent arm’s length. I had to give myself permission to experiment again, in order to free up again and feel the inspired feelings take over.

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My writing hero, Kate de Goldi, has said the reason she writes is to chase her lost childhood Eden.

Exactly.

Childhood is eternally enshrined in my mind as the time in my life when I was the most wild and free. It is to that state I seek to return through my writing, and to help the reader see, feel and experience. It is that place I sought to go in the books I read as a child. It is to those ‘special shaded places’ I return to in the books I read as an adult.

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Can I find the secret shaded places through the window of the rules? No. Though it’s helpful to know what’s what when it comes to editing! I think this is what Stephen King meant when he said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” For me, my initial writing process, or what Joy Cowley calls ‘the genesis project,’ happens best when I shut out what the world has to say, via rules or otherwise, and surrender to wherever the muse wants to go.

If I have writing resolutions for 2017, it is to get my second book finished! And, to let myself be even more free with my writing this year, to be more wild. I want to feel I can explore, unfettered, the unique way of writing fiction which works best for me. And, I love that this particular process is an ever-unfolding road. It will never be finished. I’ll never reach the end of learning how to write.

The goal is ever to find my stories in my way, on my own terms.

What is your New Year’s Writing Resolution?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

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

 

 

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

insecurewriterssupportgroup

When the upper-ups at IWSG headquarters decided to bring in the Question of the Month, earlier this year, I admit to not exactly clapping my hands with glee. I opted out at first.

You see, I like to write every post from the point of view of sharing either what’s been going on for me, or what I’ve been thinking, or doing creatively, or experiencing through my kids and my family. As ‘the Question’ was only a suggestion, not a given, I decided to make my own choice as to this blog’s content.

I wanted to remain true to my ideals. Yet, as the year went on, I noticed other #IWSG bloggers I visited always answered the Question. I began to feel like the only kid on the playground, while all the other kids are jostling for elbow-room in the sandpit.

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Long story, short, last month I answered the Question. It was fun. I imagined myself one of the big gun authors being asked a question about my writing career by a newspaper reporter.

December 7, the IWSG Question of the month – In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

Great question!

I see myself with the series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, finished and published. I see spin-offs from the series, evolving naturally. I can see the books being made into some sort of local production, either theatre or movie, or maybe artwork springing from it, or the series being made into some sort of video game.

I see myself blissful at work on the next book/s.

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Have you heard of making a “vision board?” I saw the idea on an Oprah show back in the day. You create a pictorial poster of what you hope to achieve. I preferred writing down my dreams. I call mine a “wish list.” Each year, on my birthday (which was the day before yesterday) I update my wish list for future dreams and goals. For more than ten years now, at the bottom of each list, I’ve written the same line. “Peter Jackson turns my books into movies.” That’s a big dream, however if we’re talking about what I really want to achieve in five years, then!

My plan to get there is to keep on writing. Write. Write and learn. Learn and write.

I shall also keep on networking, which is a necessity these days, to be active on social media and create an active digital footprint. I’ll carry on blogging, tweeting, putting content on my YouTube channel, and pinning on Pinterest. I’ll keep on building my email list for my *Newsletter and putting out quality content.

(*For Newsletter, e me at yvettecarol@hotmail.com put “Subscribe” in subject line, you will automatically be added to the family!)

I think it’s important now that I have overcome my fear of public speaking to keep up the public speaking to improve my self-confidence levels.

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Then, we come to the most important thing I intend to keep on doing. Those who have known me on the ether for a while will have heard this story before, however, I always find its worth repeating. Back when I was into multi-level marketing, our very wealthy, mega-successful, charismatic leader took me aside one time, to pass on a gem of her wisdom. I remember we were standing in the car-park, after an evening meeting.

She said, she was going to pass on the single most important thing I had to do.

‘I don’t mean just in business, I mean in life. Forget about the money, building a business is not about that. You must think one way and one way only. There is only one thing you need to do. And that is, Spread the Love. Everything you do, everything you say, every action every day, you Spread the Love. That’s all you need to do.’

I really took the message to heart. I went away from that night and I have applied that principle to everything I’ve done since. It works for me.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘New Zealanders by nature of our isolation just go ahead and do things our own way. That’s the New Zealand spirit.’ ~ Peter Jackson

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

 

insecurewriterssupportgroup

Wednesday is 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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The wonderful writer and the guy behind the successful blog, The Write Practice, Joe Bunting said, ‘No one is born a writer. You must become a writer. In fact, you never cease becoming, because you never stop learning how to write. Even now, I am becoming a writer. And so are you.’

Three chapters from the book I’m working on, had come back from critique, and one comment in particular came up again and again. Show it. Don’t tell it. This is basic, fiction writing 101. Yet, this is what the process of critique is for. By showing your prose to third parties for evaluation; you discover blind-spots. In my case, there have been seemingly endless ways and times in which I have told when I should have shown.

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I haven’t abandoned my earlier stance, my stated belief in the value of a good “tell.” I still feel the same way. Telling gets such a bad rap these days. I still align myself with the bestselling author, Lee Child, who once famously said, “I’m a storyteller, not a storyshower.” Me, too, Lee!

In her essay, ‘On Rules of Writing, or, Riffing on Rechy’, popular author Ursula Le Guin cautioned against the commonplace writing advice, ‘show, don’t tell.’ Says Le Guin: ‘Thanks to “show, don’t tell,” I find writers in my workshops who think exposition is wicked. They’re afraid to describe the world they’ve invented.’

However, too much exposition is like pepper in a meal, too much will spoil the dish.

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‘Adjectives and adverbs are rich and good and fattening. The main thing is not to overindulge.’ Says Le Guin. So, while telling is vital, the technique must also be leavened by lots of hearty showing.

I found a number of places in my story, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ where judicious tweaks along these lines elevated the material by miles.

Here’s an example:

On the long walk from the HAFH library back to their quarters, Aden pondered the news of the Forbidden Time.

I rewrote the opening paragraph:

On the long walk from the HAFH library back to their quarters, Aden recalled how they’d managed to get into the library. In his mind’s picture, he again stood peering at the framed page, which proclaimed the news of the Forbidden Time. His heart beat faster.

It’s a slight tweak and yet, it improves the whole flavor. Truth to tell, I’m constantly surprised and delighted by the power of the show.

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I’m editing my novel, The Sasori Empire, and yet rather than cutting words out, I’m adding words in. We coined a new term for it, “aditing.”

The thing is, we all know we have to show not tell most of the time and yet, for some reason perversely, it’s quite hard to do. Maybe we could work an 80/20 ratio on this.

Having acknowledged I needed to show more areas of the book, I have continued to wade through each chapter, like a “tell” seeking missile. I locate static areas on each page to break down and expose.

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These areas of telling are really just momentary lapses of attention on my part, when I was originally writing the rough copy. With the help of my critique partners, we find more dark corners like this in my story all the time, areas badly in need of illumination.

The best ways to “show” parts of your story is to think as if you’re in a movie and tease apart all the elements that make up a scene, action, dialogue, and rendered thought.

Herein lays the real value of showing. It gives us detail, context, a sense of place. These things influence our sense of the stakes, whether we care about the story and the characters enough to keep reading.

How about you? Are you creating something? Editing? Writing? Aditing? Let us know, and share the pain!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Now let’s write our brains out passionately and with minimal reference to grids and rules. Let’s write from a love of the art and the heart of fiction.” ~ PJ Reece

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

“Where There Is No Vision, the People Perish” ~ the Bible, Book of Proverbs

Last night, I went along to a speech contest, one of four which take place each year within Toastmasters. The Humorous and Table Topics Contest this year had within it a most thought-provoking question. The chair asked each contestant, “Is art essential to daily life?”

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Wow, what a great question. I thought about it all the way home.

When you think the earliest examples of the cave art of our ancestors began to appear around 30,000 years ago, it makes you realize how deep this question really is. From that artistic moment in man’s history, we sought to express strong feelings through imagery. This proved a great intellectual breakthrough for our species.

In effect, man could ‘freeze’ part of his environment long enough for his powerful intelligence to think about it, to manipulate it, to understand it fully. ~ Readers Digest, The First Two Million Years.

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Art can show us who we are and who we want to be, and it can give us the metaphors and thematic connections that let us understand our world in a bigger, weirder, more resonant way. ~ Chuck Wendig

When you think that our primitive art led to teaching aids, toys and tools, you realize that art has played a quintessential part of our evolution. Therefore, the answer to the question could be, art is not only essential to life but life as we know it today would not have been possible without it.

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This morning, there was a new post out by Wendig, entitled, It Is Art That Will Help Us Survive http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/09/21/it-is-art-that-will-help-us-survive/

Wendig gave verdant life to some deep concerns people have these days about the future of everything. Yet, he leavens the doom and despair of “reality” with the message, ‘Spoiler warning: it’s art that will save us.’ In other words, he’s doing through his blog what art does for the observer.

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He likens the positive effect to being healthy for us: ‘The act of art as a probiotic boost to our emotional and spiritual immune systems. Art as rebellion, revelation, renewal.’ I like the idea of that, art as antioxidant! Thanks, Chuck. You, the man.

I’ve been an artist all my life, whether through art or the written word. About a year ago, a talented, creative friend asked, Does being able to draw have a purpose these days…it doesn’t seem to have any artistic or financial merit.

I replied: “My oil paintings will outlive me. I kind of like that. However, leaving legacies aside, a world without art and artists of all kinds I would not want to live in. Our purpose may not be expressed in the same clearly linear format of hours done/recompense given/living earned sort of thing as other people get to do. The arts are about much more than that. They’re about spiritual, emotional, mental, physical expression and transmutation and magical processes.

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‘The arts provide the rest of mankind with those most important of elusive experiences: hope, and inspiration, and aspiration and joy. They’re about the alchemy of being reminded to look up and remember the bigger picture.’

And as Wendig reminded us, ‘We learn who other people are through art — it’s not just our stories we need reflected, but everyone’s. Art maybe won’t create empathy out of whole cloth, but it can stir it, it can stoke it, like breath blown against cooling embers.’

Empathy is a vital asset in these explosive, uncertain times. Therefore art provides a vehicle for understanding one another.

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This is why in times gone by, the Ancient Maori, for instance, would greet a group from another tribe by stating who they were, who their kin were, and then by sitting and sharing stories (the “mihi”). In this way, they would create common ground with those they needed to ally with and trade with or whatever. Art greases the wheels of reciprocity and peace.

Therefore, you could say, art is essential to future life.

It was the wonderful writer, Terry Pratchett, who said, Before you can change the world, you have to be able to form a picture of the world being other than it appears. I think this is the essence of the argument right here. Yes, as Wendig says, art provides an escape, and this opens us to envision, to build new worlds, better, greater, more sustainable worlds.

Imagination, said Pratchett, not intelligence, made us human. It’s art, said Wendig, that will save us. It’s art, said Carol, that will preserve our species and our world.

Yes. Art is essential to life!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Humans, in order to live effectively and happily, need a goal—a vision—to pursue. ~ Paul Rosenberg

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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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15 September, 2002

The worst night yet for aches, pains, difficulty turning over and lack of sleep. I woke at 4.22 a.m. with the conviction the Braxton Hicks (false labour pains) had changed nature and were stronger. Fortunately, I remembered to breathe.

Some people dismiss keeping journals, however when you’re looking back at one of the major events of your life, after a period of fourteen years has elapsed, and you think, I’ll look that one up, you realize the wisdom in keeping a record of every day.

You have notes on the milestones in your life. This forms a precious record of your thoughts and words at that moment in time. Not sanitised by the mind, not romanticised by distance, but the fresh, raw “moment” captured.

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At this particular point in my life, 14 years ago, I was newly married to my second husband, expecting my second child. My first born child had been delivered when I was a teenager, under crisis circumstances. I’d always had the dream of getting to experience a planned pregnancy, in a family situation.

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It was great to have my husband here, because I felt like a ‘space cadet.’ My head was spacey, my belly felt firm like a melon, my whole body seemed to be vibrating, the cells skittering. Throughout the day, the contractions fluctuated in time and intensity, sometimes bearable, sometimes unbearable. I didn’t feel afraid. Rather, I felt joy; at the “second chance” I’d been given.

Whew. This excerpt takes me back so clearly to this day.

After a long, difficult and traumatic birth, I remember, I climbed from the birthing pool into bed, at last. My husband and I waited for the baby to be cleaned up and examined.

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I wrote in my journal, Instead of our emotions rushing into euphoria, we both felt there was something wrong with the look of his face. Our midwife said she had to tell us, she thought our baby might have Down Syndrome and our emotions rushed into shock and fear instead. We held him and looked at him. He was born at 1.26 a.m.

My own words bring it all back so clearly.

I sit here shedding a few fresh tears at the memory of how devastated we were at the time.

The day followed in a blur of visitors, texting, breastfeeding, and talking, and at the end of the day everyone left.

16 September, 2002

After dinner, I wrapped Sam in blankets and lay him on the bed in front of me, so I could sit with my legs stretched out on either side of him.

Watching my baby and stroking him, I began to truly connect for the first time and feel my heart start to break free of its bonds to stretch towards him.

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At 9 pounds 11 ounces, and long-bodied with it, he was a lovely plump size. And his nature was beautiful, compared to the other babies I could hear wailing and crying, Sam never cried at all, he radiated a gentle sweetness.

From that moment on, Sam and I began our mother-son bond, a connection that has steadily built with every day.

It has been a long and interesting road these last fourteen years with my middle child, my special boy.

We went from the grief and devastation of the early days, to the dawning realisation we’d been graced with a little Buddha in our midst.

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This masterful character who has a heart as pure as driven snow, a spirit as unbreakable as steel, and a wisdom that is as earthy and real and grounded as you’re ever going to meet, has changed us and our lives for the better, forever. None of us in Samuel’s immediate family or even range of influence altogether will ever be the same again.

Little did we know, in our “green” state back in 2002, the miracle that had taken place on that day.

On the 16th September, at 1.26 a.m an angel was born to us. And, we had been forever blessed.

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16 September, 2016

I woke this morning and my first thought was of my middle child, my wonderful son, Samuel, who turns fourteen today.

Happy Birthday, my darling son

You are perfect in every way

You teach me every day how to slow down, how to listen and be happy

Thank you

I love you!

Mama xxx

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The hero’s redemption (and ultimate victory) hinges on their transcending their self-concern. And it rarely happens unless the writer brings the hero to the point of despair. ~ PJ Reece

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Do you remember the Humorous Speech Contest I’ve been sweating over? I took one in the eye. I didn’t even place.

It’s a process, losing.

I think I must have gotten full of myself there for a while. You see, even though public speaking was my number one fear in life until a year ago, through tackling it, I seem to have somehow discovered an unknown resource. People keep telling me I’m good at it. I keep saying, ‘Am I?’ with a dazed look. I really have been genuinely moved and pleasantly surprised. In fact, the joy of back-patting has become so addictive, I’m a Toastmasters convert.

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I’ve always felt alien to everyone else, and that my particular gifts with writing, creating, and communicating were burdens for other people in some fashion. My entire life I’ve been told I’m too loud, and that I’m too expressive. Now, these very traits which have been my afflictions have undergone a process of alchemical transmogrification. They are now revealed as perfectly suited for public speaking. I can easily pitch my voice to fill a room and I can bring a story to life. I can also write a speech.

Last year, I won the first round of the speech competition and came second at the District level. Secretly, I wanted to win the District Contest as well.

It was like I was competing against myself. I poured weeks into figuring out how to write humor, Funny, Me? And Funny, Me! And, I didn’t just pay lip service, I utilised all the advice given. I followed every lead. I watched comedians, and other humorous speakers, I read humorist blogs. I wrote my speech and rewrote it a dozen times. Finally, about a week prior to the competition, I started trying to learn the material. I practised, rehearsed, refined, and edited my speech, ‘You Call That Progress?

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Wednesday, 31st was the day of the Contest. There were five of us in the fray. It’s a strange animal, the contest. Some people thrive in those situations, others don’t. When you’re faced with judges holding pens at the ready, as they frown over their scoring sheets, the words start to get jumbled in your head.

While I’d imagined a year of my attending Toastmasters meetings would have helped banish the nerves, no, it was just as terrifying as the first time. I found the speech I knew so well at home suddenly became slippery and ethereal, slithering through my fingers. The same thing happened last year, when I went blank in a couple of spots. I did recover and carry on, but it had rattled my composure. And any humorist worth their salt will tell you, it’s all in the attitude. Once you lose the swagger, you’re lost.

The person who won deserved to win. Her speech was amazing. What got me was that the lovely friend who came second, put his speech together in 10 minutes! Agh, the injustice.

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I went through a real journey after the Contest. First, I came home and sobbed a bit. Then, I watched the video of my dress rehearsal which I’d put on my YouTube channel, and it made me laugh. I watched it a few times and the laughter made me feel better.

Then, I realize how pleased I was for the winner. She’d said to us in the kitchen beforehand, that this was really far outside her comfort zone. She’d challenged herself to do it because it was difficult. I felt that kinship that we co-contestants feel, and there really is a sisterhood there, because we know how hard it is to do. We admire each other. The respect is earned. So, I made contact with congratulations and posted flowers on her FB page. It really felt good. I had come full circle.

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After sharing the news of my defeat with friends on Facebook, one replied, “Maybe sometimes we try too hard?” Burn!

I know I tried too hard. That’s one of the things I need to learn is, how to relax while I strive.

One of the other losing competitors and I consoled one another as we left the club on Wednesday. I said, “At least we competed.” She said, “Yes, it’s always good for the experience.” What a brilliant way of putting it. We did it. Yeah. Go, us.

As L. Frank Baum once said, ‘The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.’ What have you done lately despite being afraid?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating

Yvette K. Carol

“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself,” E.E. Cummings

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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC08zS1p4-H-y_xmMAuL41Eg

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My grandmother was a fairly formidable creature. Nan Hefferan was the only one of our English relatives who made the move to New Zealand. “And, she made the move at the age of 79!” as my father is fond of saying.

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Gran lived here for the last nine years of her life. For most of that time, I lived five minutes’ walk away. She was the only grandparent I had the privilege of getting to know.

I’ve always revered grandparents, I guess because I grew up far away from mine.

Where my older sisters had grown to the ages of seven and five in England, my brother and I were born here, and our only relationship with our grandparents had come through letters, and parcels at Christmas.

In person, Gran lived up to my every hope of what a grandmother would be. She was a truly exceptional, wonderful woman, who had achieved a great deal in her life.

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I enjoyed getting to know her.

Born in 1901, she had lived through the last World War. Her memories were revelations of another era, and therefore, truly fascinating.

We had lunch every week, on a Tuesday, just her and I.

Mostly, she would talk. I would listen to all of the family stories I had never heard before. Through this precious human conduit to our family’s heritage, I gained glimpses of a different life. Gran told of a lost world: that of the past, and all the amazing things that had happened there, to members of our own family, our shared ancestors.

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Being a writer, I had to ask questions. I wanted to know more: what else happened? Why? When? All she needed was a gentle prompt.

She had what they call, a “pre-nuclear age” memory, i.e. she could remember facts, figures, dates, and names with precision.

To my creative mind, her details painted pictures.

Gran was also a great cook. On every visit, there would be some humble, great lunch. Meat pie she’d made herself, right down to the pastry, served with gravy, potatoes, peas and carrots. Or her famous cheese and onion pie, so heavenly, her homemade short savoury pastry crust was divine. She would always make the dessert herself, a cake, or a sponge, or a steamed pudding. There would be custard or cream. And tea served in a teapot on a tray with china tea cups with matching saucers.

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She liked to feed me until I couldn’t eat another bite.

After our delicious lunch, we’d take our tea and shortbreads, or chocolates, over to the comfortable chairs in the living room. There, Gran would start to talk, about her life and the stories of her parents.

She would talk all afternoon, and I would listen.

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I could not leave my grandmother’s home without her saying something significant. It was to me, as if she lived so close to the veil, that any moment could be her last and she lived with that truth. No moment was to be wasted.

After giving her that final hug, I’d walk towards her front door, and Gran would say, “Remember, my dear, reach for that star and you will get there.”

Or,

“Remember, my dear, whatever happens in your life, if you look for the silver lining, you will find it.”

I’d walk home with those parting words. I took that sustaining, empowered, heartening feeling away from every visit.

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I’ll be ever grateful to Gran, for having the courage after her husband died, to move to the other side of the world. She wanted to be with the family for the last part of her life. Our lives were enriched.

This week, I’ll be delivering my tenth speech for Toastmasters. The project title I had to tackle this time round was “Research your Topic.”

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I decided to talk about my grandmother’s contribution to the war effort.

Gran inspires me to be a better person. It does bother me, that all the wonderful things she achieved during WWII boil down to a yellow newspaper clipping, which lives in a drawer at my father’s house. So, part of the theme for my speech, is to bring light to the lack of the female voice in history.

Have you ever asked your mother or your grandmother what she did in her life? The least we can do is to ask the questions and wait for the answers. Our daughters and granddaughters may ask us for the stories one day.

There is so much more to say. Talk to you later.

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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What you do when you don’t have to, determines what you’ll be when you can no longer help it. ~ Rudyard Kipling

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