It means that you must set your standards high and create what I call a grinder. You must set up a system that holds your writing feet to the fire, and makes you get better at your craft. ~ James Scott Bell

The journey of a book, from genesis to garden of inspiration takes us through the valley of many sorrows, aka the editing. The time spent refining and rewriting our original work is a long, seemingly never-ending road. As an author friend said the other day, with her work-in-progress, it took her two months to write it and so far, it’s taken her nine months to edit, and she’s ‘still not finished.’

As the famous meme which went around Facebook showed, as new authors, we start out imagining ourselves spending our days in throes of inspirational wonder, running through fields of daisies with stories in our heads. However, the reality is we spend 15% of our time writing genesis draft and the rest of our time editing the beast, trying to tame this monster we’ve created into something presentable we can show the world.

13178056_529419690594043_2087520405195087640_n

Stephen King said, ‘what separates the talented from the successful is a lot of hard work.’

Writers need to be prepared to a) get the copy written, and b) amend and polish their words until they can see their faces in them.

I recently finished working on my work-in-progress, ‘The Sasori Empire.’ My critique partners and I had done all that we could do. I sent the story to editor, Donna Blaber, of Lighthouse Media Group (info@LMG.co.nz). I had worked with Donna on my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ in 2015 * http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I, and knew she was quick and on top of her game. Nine days later, Donna had sent the fully edited paper version of the manuscript back. It really did feel joyous to work with professional tweaks and changes.

Donna Blaber

Over the following few days, I transcribed the edits into the manuscript. I liked that sometimes instead of taking words out, Donna had linked sentences together and made them longer. Using James Scott Bell’s analogy of critique being “the grinder,” these edits were buffing those last few rough edges off.

The next step in the process, I sent the new version of ‘The Sasori Empire’ to the proof-reader.

This last round of professional editing will take a few weeks. When I have transcribed those edits, it will be time to submit to Createspace for book design, production and printing.

029

But, in the meantime, at this stage in the journey of a book, the work of organizing the launch needs to be done. Peer reviews need to come in for inclusion on the back cover, the artwork finalised, the publishing/printing and cover design lined up. A media page is helpful and can be used across platforms to update all social media sites. For the launch party, there’s the venue, the helpers, the speech, catering, the invitation, and the guest list to organize. This stuff can be a lot of fun, and also a lot of work!

One bit of advice I’d give after having published one book, is to be humble enough to ask for feedback on a sample of your work, tapping into the wisdom of friends who are successful authors.

Prior to launching my first book, last year, I asked a friend who is an established author, if he would read the first page and give me honest feedback. He did. Just those few words from a seasoned author’s perspective helped so much. I made a couple of subtle changes that altered the tone and set the first chapter of my debut novel over the edge.

014

I wanted to touch the lucky stone again, as it were. I asked, would you read the first page? He very kindly said, send the first chapter. His response came in this morning; again he made a couple of on point suggestions. He said I was giving too much information too soon, and suggested I let the reader get closer to the hero, Aden. I made a couple of tweaks along these lines and voila, it has transformed the all-important opening chapter to a shade above the level it was on before.

They say it takes many a village to raise a child, well, it takes a small town to produce a good book. My advice?

In the final stages of preparing your baby for the world, get as many eyes upon it and voices involved as you possibly can. It makes a world of difference. Good luck!

023

Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

+

Writing is always this: an adaptation of the sacred into smut. Dragging the divine out of his Sky Chariot and into the human dirt. ~ Chuck Wendig

+

 

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

 

Kids are visual creatures. They like to be entertained in every respect. As a child, I loved books with illustrations. When I morphed into reading chapter books as a young person I wanted the more complex stories, but I still wanted the imagery. I can remember really appreciating the authors who put ink illustrations in their chapter books. I have fond memories of poring over the minute squiggles and flourishes on the pages of Tove Jansson’s books.

059

Last year, I prepared to release my first book, my novel, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’ The first book from The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I realized there was no way the budget would stretch to illustrations, so I came up with an easy solution.

Here’s  a guide to creating your own pen and ink book illustrations:

Step One: Start with your characters.

First, you must have some form of cover art for your book which you have either paid for or otherwise have liberty to use. For my debut novel, I had the two main characters rendered artistically in digital form by my nephew.

I simply copied the character with a pencil.

013

Second attempt on Aden, for b&w illustration0002I wanted to introduce a new face. I took a photo of a statue of a giant which I found in a 1970’s magazine and copied the basic outline.

*Hot Tip: I use an automatic pencil, as they have the super fine leads. You want to do all the early stages on tracing paper.

009

I already had my protagonist, Aden Weaver, rendered in pencil from last year, but I needed to change his position for this book so I lifted him into the air. This gave me a new image to work with. As I pinned down the character’s positions, I switched from pencil to a fine permanent marker pen.

*Hot Tip: You’ll need to see every line. A fine nib is necessary. I use a Staedtler “Triplus fineliner.” Every line needs to be carefully but clearly distinct.

008

Step Two: Create the background and foreground

For this image, I decided to use one of a few special backdrops. A dear friend, Lyall Gardiner, had gifted me four of his ink/colour pencil backdrops before he passed. In A3, they’re enormous, so I selected elements from one image, the moon and wispy clouds and some of the looming shapes and traced them onto a more compacted A4 page.

You could use whatever you have to hand, interesting segments of your kids’ artwork, pieces of your own from childhood, or you could go wild and cut segments of out-of-date magazine pictures to create a montage/mosaic effect, etc. Use your imagination.

6365793_orig

*Hot Tip: Take care not to tread on rights to intellectual property.

011

Step Three: Combine and Trace

The next part is to employ your artistic eye with placement. Arrange your characters on the background in a way that fits the “story” you want to tell. The great thing about using tracing paper is you can flip the characters over. I decided to “tell the story” of the Oni looming. However, I needed to flip our hero to have him face the giant. To do this, I simply turned the paper over and re-defined all the lines with pen on the reverse of the paper!

001

Step Four: Fill it in!

I took my taped-together tracing paper image and copied it onto thick art paper. I used permanent markers and filled in the picture. I thought in terms of light and shadow, silhouette, of how things look in the dark, not drawing to be realistic but to create pattern – effect through contrast. I left certain patches: one or two to be left white and at least a few to be painted black. They added impact.

009

The resulting image will be one of the two illustration plates for inside ‘The Sasori Empire.’ On Facebook, I shared it with the caption, ‘The horned face of the Oni appeared in the trunk, even more hideous than before, and a head of bark grew.’

Step Five: Copyright!

Make sure to add your name the copyright symbol and the year somewhere on your picture.

With a bit of effort, anyone can create at least a couple of illustrations to go inside their own book. These simple pen and inks are relatively easy, quick, and they’re super fun to do. You have the satisfaction of having made it yourself.

Have you ever tried your hand at your own illustrations?

021

Talk to you later

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

+

 

The Holy Grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it. ~ Banksy

+

 

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

 

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.

16865039_1031172490360300_8095633693441939928_n

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.

001

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.

003

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.

006

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.

011

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

002

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.

014

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

022

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?

010

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

+

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

+

 

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

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here. ~ Sue Monk Kidd

006-3

In the last week, I’ve had a revelation, thanks to a little help from a dear friend. I realised I’m spending way too much time on social media, at the expense of my writing.

I started out with the internet and social media about five years ago. At first, I had it all in balance, but somewhere along the line, the balance started to shift.

My friend pointed out that while I’ve been able to keep my blog and newsletter and Facebook and YouTube updated regularly  -‘You’re everywhere’ – I failed to finish and produce my second book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ as I’d promised readers, last year.

kristen-lamb

Self-defence is the knee-jerk. I explained I’ve long adhered to Kristen Lamb’s excellent social media advice for writers. I was under the impression keeping up with the social media gambit was a necessity for all artists these days.

Yet, when I really looked hard at myself and my output, I knew my friend was right. I’ve maintained social media religiously, and let the writing of my sequel to *’The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ slide. *http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I

I really do appreciate my subscribers!

While I feel an obligation to continue to provide output, I also have had to admit that if I continue at this rate, I’m not going to produce ‘The Sasori Empire’ this year, either. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. I spend a day at a time writing and producing my blog posts. I spend at least three days, even longer sometimes, writing and collating my fortnightly newsletter.

My friend said, ‘You do all of your social media well. Now imagine if you put more of that time into this book instead of rushing through it.’

Yes. Imagine!

010

Between raising my two youngest boys, and being on the committee of two different groups, something’s gotta give. Therefore, I’ve decided to take at least a month’s hiatus from social media (although I may pop onto Facie in the mornings while I have my first cup of tea).

My ultimate dream would be to publish ‘The Sasori Empire’ this winter and make a start on the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series in time for spring in the southern hemisphere. But, to do that will require a lot of work.

Therefore, I’ll be taking a writer’s hiatus for a month, or so.

After I have put nose-to-the-grindstone, I shall return! Hopefully, with the second book well in hand. Sometimes you’ve got to make the hard calls, and this is one of those times.

Thanks, for your patience!

dsc_1091

Talk to you later.

Meantime, keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

+

 

A young writer is an explorer. She knows she wants to get somewhere, but she doesn’t even know if the somewhere even exists yet. It is there to be created. In the process of creating it we find out how varied and complex we are. ~ Colum McCann

 

 

 

 

When creating your own brand, my advice is to keep your brand consistent. For instance, my brand is Kristen Lamb. ~ We Are Not Alone.

002

At some point, each new writer must make a decision about which name is going to appear on the front cover of their books and stories.

These days, once you commit to a name, this becomes synonymous with your brand. Every little digital step we take these days gets linked to and adds incrementally to our brand. This is why we need to choose wisely where our writer’s names are concerned.

We don’t want to have to do the spadework all over again to build a new brand if we have to change name somewhere along the way.

For many years, I couldn’t decide which moniker I was going to use as a writer. Luckily, I was on Facebook, and I stumbled across Kristen Lamb. She had written a book in 2010 on social media for writers, We Are Not Alone, ‘The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.’ This book is no longer available in the original format, as it needed updating. I believe the updated version Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World  is available now.

kristen-lamb

It was 2011. I was new to the net. I was simply a full time mother who wrote part time. I was everyone’s poor cousin. Unpublished, at the time, I had neither a blog, nor a newsletter, website, or any of the must-haves for the modern writer. I was just starting out into the jungle of the strange and mysterious world of social media, and the whole thing seemed rather intimidating and scary.

After purchasing a copy of We Are Not Alone, Lamb’s short yet impactful book, I read it in one gulp. I must admit, I went rather “Shelton” and adhered to Lamb’s principles to the letter.

With regards the subject of author names, pen names, and author brand, Lamb advocated thinking in a broad fashion across one’s social media platforms, and seeing for oneself the value in having one name, one brand, across all platforms. ‘Just because Twitter allows you to have multiple identities doesn’t mean it is a good idea, especially if you are unpublished.’

24537059372_7e5f947733_n

This felt like a wise decision and the simplest, to choose a writer’s name that I would use across every social media platform.

I considered the idea of letting go of my surname and using Yvette Carol, my first and middle names. I remembered a conversation I had had about this subject with my grandmother about a decade before. At the time, I had asked Nan for her opinion on which pseudonym I should choose.

Nan said, “While I would love to see the family name on the spine of a book, up on the shelf, I think ‘Yvette Carol’ sounds more like an author.”

I felt the same way. It fitted the criteria in Lamb’s book, and most importantly, it felt like me.

I changed my name by deed poll and committed to it across all genres and all areas of my life. It really felt like taking control. Being bold. And making a statement on the internet, as in, ‘This is my name. This is my claim.’

front cover dragonfly stories - Copy

When it comes to choosing your writer’s name, what criteria can you use?

Make sure the words are punchy and memorable. Usually, you want to test how it sounds by saying it aloud a few times to find out how it flows.

As Lamb said, ‘In order to maximise sales, your goal is to become a brand. Brand=Big Sales.’ You want to think catchy. However, shorter isn’t necessarily better. Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger! He stayed true to his name.’

Kristen Lamb put it perfectly, when she said, ‘The internet has valuable real estate that you will want to command. How you claim that digital real estate is by using your name.’

041 (2)

Lamb’s second key bit of advice re choosing the name to go by for an author was to consider what product or genre or style they wanted their name to be associated with. Then, you market yourself that way from then on. Hence, the reason my blog and website are titled, Yvette Carol, Children’s Writer.

Thank you, Kristen for the great advice!

*

In a nutshell, your writer’s name is designed to be pithy and memorable

It’s designed to reflect you and your brand.

It’s designed to be flexible, so you can ‘be consistent across all platforms’

It’s designed to be classic, to last forever.

*

How did you find your writer’s name or do you use your given birth name?

026 (5)

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

+

Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that. ~ Lewis Carroll

+

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

 

When we start out as lowly newbie writers, knowing no one and nothing, we tap away at our stories in our towers of isolation and let the stories flow. We dream of being picked up by traditional publishing houses that will put on a full media blitz into trumpeting our shiny debut novel the length and breadth of the land. We go on to make scads of money, have our books in libraries and on bookshelves. We live forever. We conquer death.

1343194161

We get our book handed to Peter Jackson, the famous New Zealand movie producer. He reads it and decides to make a movie out of it with Weta Studios. We go to the theatre with our family. We see our world and our story played out on the big screen under the glittering lights.

We make enough money to buy our own island, to which we retreat purely to write and paint. We make enough money to pay for the kids’ education and then to buy houses for our grown-up children.

j__k__rowling_2010

Then we wake up one day and realize, that in reality, we’ve run out of money, we’re eating beans for dinner every night, the rent’s overdue, and there are bills to be paid. We move back home to live with our parents. We resign ourselves to using the public transport system and to being a bottom-feeder, again.

We console ourself, it’s okay. We’ll re-start the editing cycle. We’ll join a new critique group.

We drag the dream out of the dirt, dust it off and revive it again. We go back to work on the book in earnest.

We resolve we’ll work on this story, make it the best we can do, and it will be discovered by a traditional publishing house, and it’ll go on to become a bestseller.

Picture 059

The dream’s still alive.

We finish the book and submit our precious baby. We get rejected. This gets repeated ad nauseum.

We wake up one day, thirty years later, and realize, the original dream isn’t going to happen the way we thought it would. One of our parents has passed over already, two lots of our friends have divorced, and our kids have turned into teenagers as if by magic, seemingly overnight. As the song lyrics go, ‘my children are getting older, I’m getting older, too.’

Only when we’ve exhausted all hope, and run down every street to find only dead-ends, do we consider the mountainous obstacle of self-publishing.

The bitter reality is that going Indie is a ton of work, and only a select few authors get to live the first tier of the dream: getting that golden deal, hitting the bestseller status, and signing a book-to-movie deal. Not everyone will be the next Hugh Howey.

dsc00091

The rest of us get to evolve.

Isn’t that wonderful?

What’s the alternative? To give up? To abandon the dream that has warmed our nights and sustained our days through the long hours of typing? No, of course not. We are indomitable. We are writer.

We write. We learn. We observe. We write. We learn.

And now, whether we like it or not, we are going to be a publisher, as well. We’ll get to wear many hats: to don the apparel of book producer, promoter, like an old-fashioned hawker of your own goods. “Roll up! Roll up! Hot off the presses. Get your copy quick!” and to bash people over the head with a verbal press release about our book at every social (media) occasion.

It’s either go Indie, or go home.

book signing table

We can see by the veritable tsunami of self-published books flooding the market these days that we are doing these things ourselves. We adapt and survive and thrive. And, some Indie authors are climbing to the top of the literary mountain and attaining the first tier of the dream, under their own steam. So, it can be done!

The immutable truth however, as stated in The Drunkard’s walk, by Leonard Mlodinow, is that there is a certain random element in who gets to make the bestseller list. ‘There exists a vast gulf of randomness and uncertainty between the creation of a great novel and the presence of huge stacks of that novel at the front of thousands of retail outlets. That’s why successful people are almost universally members of a certain set – the set of people who don’t give up.’

In other words, while hitting the big time may be a game of numbers, there’s one way of getting there and that is to write and continue to write.

026 (5)

Keep on creating…

Yvette K. Carol

@yvettecarol1

±

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell

+

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

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.

ursula_k_le_guin

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.

Picture 059

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.

Writers'_Week_Kate_de_Goldi_Adelaide_Festival_medium

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.

009

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?

055

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

+

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

+

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

 

 

After months mostly spent indoors at the computer, my boys and I headed to the coast to spend Christmas with family.

It was a lot of fun. We stayed a whole week, with the boys going back with their father to the city for one day and night, to kayak with their other cousins. I surprised myself by swimming every day, sometimes twice. It was great.

img_0211

While there, I went from feeling the stress of Christmas to relaxing. My brother arrived with injuries, hardly able to move. Yet, by the time they left, he was looking like his old self. His partner suffers from an ongoing illness, and yet, while on holiday with us she had more “good days” than ever.

I pondered this as I holidayed, and I realized there is therapy in travel…in being somewhere ‘different’

img_0242

In fossicking about in rock-pools

012

In connecting with the earth – actually touching it

016

In making new friends

020

In risking a little discomfort for the adventure

049

In spending quality time with your cuzzies

img_0234

In hanging out with your siblings

015

In being outdoors in the fresh air, sometimes doing nothing, sometimes climbing a mountain

img_0212

In fishing

img_0247

And swimming

15747463_10154902082393000_8155898755393435327_n

In snatching one last dip with the kids and nephews before the sun goes down

15781084_10154902082133000_6520529383132732749_n

There is therapeutic value in spending time with family. Full stop. Gathering under the same roof, especially during a festive time, helps to build and maintain those bonds. All the feasting and partying also expands the waistline! Never mind, the worry and guilt can wait till next year.

037

These festive celebrations deepen the important connections in our lives. We feel the love. We feel plugged back into our families again.

I’ve returned to the city feeling refreshed, invigorated, calm and peaceful. I’m ready to work! I look forward with optimism to the year ahead. Bring on 2017!

img_0226

Talk to you later.

Happy New Year!

Yvette K. Carol

+

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

+

 

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

 

sam-freaks-santa-6

The week before last, my eleven-year-old son asked the dreaded question, ‘Is there really a Santa Claus?’

A friend of his at school had said he didn’t believe in Father Christmas because ‘it’s just your parents bringing you presents.’

My boy looked up at me. ‘It’s not you bringing us the presents, is it?’

I stared into his eyes.

christmas-2010-005

I explained I was doing my bit to uphold a tradition in our family which dated back in time. The original mythology of the big guy delivering ‘small gifts to good children’ comes from St. Nicholas or “Bishop Nicholas.” He was one of the most popular saints in all Christendom, especially in the East. He is said to have been a bishop of Myra (Lycia) in the early 4th century. He was related to doing good works.

Bishop Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a starving family, so the story goes, and the story of his kindness (one of many in his lifetime) spread. People everywhere grabbed onto the idea and began to hang stockings by the fire; in the hope Bishop Nicholas would visit them with his “magical gifts” in the night. Something about this idea caught hold in the human consciousness and took root.

As Brian Conway said, “A true hero of the people, St. Nicholas still delivers his magical gifts each year at Christmastime. The gifts Santa Claus delivers, gifts of hope and joy, bring the joy of giving to all the children of the world.”

sam-meets-santa-6

I thought this is the key time to talk about magic and those things that are beyond our ability to explain, before his facility to grasp the ethereal, the subtle is lost. The whole magic of Christmas, to me, lies in the power of possibility thinking. Anything can happen and probably will. That’s where the magic lives, in that gap we create with our minds, by saying, ‘what if?’

I asked, ‘Have you heard of the famous letter, ‘Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus?

‘No.’

dsc00105

There’s a famous post from the column of Francis P. Church, who wrote for The Sun, in 1897.

The story goes that a girl called Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor. She said, “Dear Editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?”

Francis Church wrote in reply ~

“Dear Virginia,

Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be seen which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.”

“In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

“He exists as truly as love and generosity and devotion exist.

christmas-magic-via-tracey-henderson

(photography, Tracey Henderson)

“How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.

“There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

“Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe in fairies! The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

“Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in this entire world there is nothing else more real and abiding.

“A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

~

My son smiled. He asked, ‘Was it you bringing our gifts all these years?’

‘Yes.’

‘I still believe.’

‘Me, too.’

002-copy

Talk to you later.

Happy Holidays!

Yvette K. Carol

+

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

 

 

+

 

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

 

sam-first-xmas-card0002

Ever since the first year my son Sam-the-man was able to sit unaided, I have photographed him and made a Christmas card for our family.

sam-first-xmas-card-result0002

Sam was born with Down’s syndrome. The card began as a way of celebrating him and his achievements. It created a small yet meaningful tradition for our family. Once his little brother came along, the card featured the two boys and it became another way to chronicle their lives.

picture-193

I think people gravitate towards things which are home-made. Those are always the favourite gifts from the kids. I send a parcel to the boys’ grandfather every year at this time. I send him gifts and the boys’ artwork, their calendars, stories they’ve written, as well as our Xmas card.  This is what the older generation, grandparents especially, live for.

picture-197

The card is simple, easy to make, creative, fun.

The Photo:

Any parent can tell you, the first and hardest step in any Xmas photo is the child-wrangling.

*Tip: Don’t leave it till December. Try to get the photo taken before the festive season.

I aim to get the photo taken in the last couple of weeks of November, as this gives me a leeway of time up my sleeve if the boys prove resistant to having their photo taken. Ha ha. *evil laugh, rubs hands together!*

halloween-christmas-10-006

Once I’ve managed to coral them into one room with the box of Christmas get-up, then they must be persuaded with promises of treats, to dress up. After that, I snap as many shots as I can take before they start begging to be let out.

picture-336

The boys are fourteen and eleven respectively, this year, and it’s getting harder and harder to coerce them into the festive shoot. You’d think it’d be getting easier, but, no!

007

The Construction:

Picture chosen, print up a dozen pictures at 10 cm x 7 cm, and trim them. I like to keep them to a small size because some people like to hang the cards on their tree.

012

Then, I choose which cardboard to use. Originally, I used to recycle old cardboard. We have a saying in New Zealand, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle,’ which we try to adhere to as much as possible. Some years, I cut old Christmas cards down to size. This year, however, I sourced a small box from the Hospice shop which were the right size which was a great option as they came supplied with their own envelopes.

130

Glue a sheet of paper cut to a couple of centimetres shorter than the card to the front of the card stock. This will form an edging like a frame for the picture. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. I like to see a little of the construction in crafts.

022-2

*Tip: Every year, on Boxing Day, I do a ritual of taking the discarded gift-wrap and cutting up the beautiful or unusual wrap into small, clean pieces for later craft projects. In this case, I have some rather special rescued reindeer, snowflake, and red-chequered print paper.

My mother used to buy me a crafting material called “Hot Fuzz,” coloured synthetic fibres which bond together under the heat of a warm iron (through paper). I cut a dozen rectangular wedges of a sheet of Hot Fuzz, for the dazzle. You could use holographic cellophane just as well for this.

132

Stick the photograph on top of the recycled paper, trapping a wedge of Hot Fuzz/cellophane between the layers.

*Tip: use a glue stick as “wet” glue can stain the paper. Press the cards under something flat and heavy between each glued layer as it creates a flatter, more pleasing finish. Make sure each layer is fully dry before you add another.

This year, I bought a “Card Kit” of decorations at the Hospice Shop. It included diamante leaves, silver stars, silver bows and transparent beads. I also sourced some finer glitter.

135

*Tip: When you add the glitter, make sure to place the card on a small tray as it’s really hard to collect and re-use the left-over sparkles otherwise.

On top of the photo, in the same corner as the Hot Fuzz, apply embellishment, be it a delicate bow or a star. In the lower right corner, on a sweep of glue, drizzle more glitter and add beads or stickers.

140

The last step is to write a personal message inside. Then, post it, yes, via snail mail. It still exists.

I posted ours to the lucky recipients. One Facebook friend – who had requested a card – responded, she ‘couldn’t take her eyes off it.’ Yay!

A Christmas craft project completed feels wonderful. This year, I even had enough left to put one on our own shelf. Joy.

Do you have a festive family tradition? Do you enjoy crafting? Do share in the comments below!

049-2

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

+

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. ~ Albert Einstein