Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

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

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

If I could pick one place in the world to sit and write my next story, it would be the top of the mountain behind my parents’ house, in the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand. My connection with the mountain goes way back to my earliest memories. My parents bought the property in 1964, for ‘the equivalent of a whole year’s wages, $900,’ as dad used to say. We went there every school holidays and long weekend from then on. I have fond memories of trekking up the mountain on the old dirt track and racing my brother and sisters down the other side on flattened boxes.

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Every time we arrived at our land for a holiday, our family would play “the 100 stem game” – something mum and dad had concocted – we would start at the bottom of the section and the whole family would work our way up the property in a long line, pulling stems of bracken until we reached a hundred. It was only when we’d pulled out a hundred bracken, we were allowed to run off and explore the forest. We tamed the section of land and the land helped us go a little wild. The countryside was full of wild life, as well as many colourful species of birds: tui, fantail, finches, swifts, wax eyes, kingfishers, pheasants, quail, wood pigeons, hawks, moreporks, kiwi, oyster catchers, sand pipers, herons, and many more. Our holidays there were carefree, swimming, fishing, and exploring the forest and the enigmatic mountain. The 360 degree view of the surrounding area from the top was breathtakingly beautiful.

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Later on, when my parents retired to live on the property permanently, I lived with them on occasion. If I wasn’t living there, I was visiting on a regular basis. Each day, I would walk up the mountain for exercise. I learned to always take a small notebook and a pen in my pocket, because so often, the simple act of walking through the forest, up the sacred way through the trees, would feel like a meditation. This caused lots of ideas to fizz and pop, so I would often have to sit on different boulders here and there along the track, to catch the thoughts in my notebook. Sitting in the shaded stretch of forest, the ideas felt endless.

I’ve told this story many times before, however it’s a precious memory of a really special time in my life. While my parents were still newly retired, they still felt strong and capable and used to do a lot of travelling. I would housesit and pet-sit for them whenever they were away.

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One of the times my parents were away travelling on a five week tour of Australia, I happened to be in the “genesis period” of working on my next book – in other words, I was just starting a new novel. It was astonishing. I found all I needed to do was walk up the mountain each day, then return to my computer and start to write, and the words would flow like a river. I didn’t have to apply any effort to the story at all. It got so that the characters took on a life of their own and for those five weeks, it was as if they hovered somewhere above me, among the exposed wooden beams of the ceiling, as they narrated the story. It was one of the most satisfying creative experiences of my life.

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From that time on, I thought of my parents’ land and their mountain as my ‘creative wellspring.’ That’s the best way I have of describing it. Inspiration fills me every visit, and the mountain gives her blessing. I’m currently nearly finished writing my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. It means it’s nearly time to make the pilgrimage to the family mountain. I need to breathe the fresh air and humbly walk through the forest for another story.

What about you, where would you choose to write your next story, or to create your next work of art?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. ~ Roald Dahl

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The first week back at school, the youngest son and his friends organized a game of laser tag on the Friday night. The group of nine kids arranged their parental transport and played laser tag from 6-7 p.m. It was all good clean fun, and the kids had a ball. This week, they’ve organised to play Call of Duty together at one of the boys’ houses.

I thought, wow, we’ve come a long way from the earlier despair over having no friends.

His social life is definitely waxing. However, for the time being, the youngest still seems mostly content to be at home playing C.O.D, Minecraft or Fortnite on his X-box, or watching anime on his phone. Sometimes, he even reverts back to playing Roblox on his laptop. I still have a buddy a while longer, yet.

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We were talking the other night at bedtime. I’ve mentioned this before. My son does his own version of The 10 p.m. Question like the protagonist, Frankie, in Kate de Goldi’s brilliant book, who comes to the door of his parents room every night with a deep, thought-provoking question. On one of the writing courses I did with Kate, she told us that the character sprang directly from her son and his ‘nightly questions about the universe and everything.’ My youngest does his own version: every night, after we’ve all done some reading, cleaned our teeth, and said our prayers, when I go to close the door and say goodnight, the youngest son suddenly says, “Why do people get depressed?” (last night’s question) or something similarly deep and reflective and requiring a long considered conversation. He says he gets most of his ideas at night.

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As a fourteen-year-old, I had my head in a book, to the extent that I remember taking twenty books with me, when our family went on holiday to the Coromandel. I suffered frequent headaches throughout the vacation. When my parents had my eyes tested upon our return home, they were told I had 20/20 vision. So they put my headaches down to ‘too much reading’! As if.

I carried on reading regardless, of course, as you do when you’re a teenager.

My youngest son is headstrong in the way of being in his own dreamworld at times. Tonight, he was due at soccer practice at 5.15 p.m. “Finish your food.” “Put your phone down.” “You still have your exercises to do.” Why is he still sitting there watching anime on his phone and eating with one hand, when it’s 4.55? “Put your phone down.” “Hurry up and finish your food.”

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Result: we arrived at practice ten minutes late, which is disrespectful to the coach. Next week, I will renew my efforts to coral this long-limbed, gangly, phone-watching teenager and get him to soccer practice on time.

We have had one success story, so far. This year, I forced the youngest son into a new routine of nightly reading. He was consistently getting his lowest marks in English. He’d always enjoyed a bedtime story, but never spent time reading on his own. So this year, while I have continued with the usual bedtime stories for his brother, the youngest son chooses his own books and reads alone. His goal is two pages a night. Sometimes, I have to make him stop after four, or he’ll be late to bed. And he’s now getting better marks in English.

The other night, as I went to say goodnight, the youngest said, “Mum, I have to write an essay for social studies about early life in New Zealand, all about the pioneers. I need pictures and maps. I mean where do you find that sort of stuff?” “I’d go to the library and ask the librarian.” “The library? Thanks, mum, I never thought of that.”

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He needed more than Google could provide, yet he never thought of going to the library? That’s sad. The school library would have been my first port of call when I was a kid.

By the way, the youngest loved the idea and went to the school library with a few of his friends this morning. “Did you get any books out to help with your essay?” “No, I got chatting with my friends and forgot to get any books out.”

He promises me, he will remember to actually look for books next time.

I believe in the value of libraries. Well known author, Margaret Mahy said, “I’m here to assert that librarians stand dancing on that tenuous ridge that separates chaos from order. That dancing librarian makes so much of the world accessible to others.”

I’ll be expecting more 10 p.m. questions soon…

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(Kate de Goldi and I, 2008)

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Leave the libraries alone. You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after. It is too precious to destroy.’ ~ Philip Pullman

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As I enter the final stages of editing my third book, The Last Tree, I find I’m often asked the question, “What are you going to write next?” The answer is, I don’t know. This is the third and last volume in my middle grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, and it has so engrossed every moment, I haven’t had the chance to look beyond it.

When I do look beyond it, I feel this irrational fear, which I believe is commonly felt among other writers. Will I ever write another story?

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For the last fourteen years, I’ve been fitting in writing the Chronicles around raising my two youngest sons. As a solo mum, with a house and garden to care for, and elderly parents, I enjoyed every chance I had to escape into my imaginary world on the planet of Chiron, whenever I was writing. It’s hard to imagine moving on. The thought of starting a new plot, a new world, a new dilemma, and new characters terrifies me.

It’s not me who writes the genesis draft anyway. Elizabeth Gilbert calls the process of inspiration, the ‘other’ energy that comes from nowhere and brings the stories with it, the muse; some call it a “genius.” The stories arrive from elsewhere as if they come on the wind. You have to be fleet of mind to grab them when they whistle by or you might miss out.

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I guess that’s part of the fun also of being a writer, living on the knife edge while you wait to be the instrument of the creative ferment. Once you start the process of formulating a story, you open your mind to ideas and wait for lightning to strike.

I haven’t had to do that in a long time. I’m nervous. Last night, I had a few nightmares. Thinking about them upon waking up, I could see the common denominator was fear. I decided, as we approach the winter solstice, that I would let go of all fear around writing the next book.

Every writer goes through this same anxiety at some point. Will I ever write again? Every writer has a different way of handling the period of not knowing that follows finishing a project and before starting the next.

My method is to craft notebooks for each potential project.

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This began back in the 1980’s, when I was writing my series, The Great Adventures of Splat the Wonder Dog. I put effort into creating a notebook of every background detail. The act of crafting images, making lists of story details and background and focusing in on the tale seemed to bring it to life in a whole new way.

The notebook also helped corral my thoughts and world-building.

In 2005, when I started writing The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, my notebook was a pad of old paper on the nightstand, on which I jotted down details of background, history, geography, characters, setting, mythology, religion, and plot each time I passed. There were no sketches or pictures pulled from magazines. I had two sons under the age of ten. I didn’t have time to shower or clip my own fingernails, let alone make works of art. Simple or not, the creative process was still seeded and propagated through the power of that notebook.

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This afternoon, I was doing the housework when an idea for a story setting popped into my head. It was a simple notion about an island I had read about years ago, in one of the old hardbacks in my parents’ home library. A few more ideas flashed by. I grabbed for my trusty moleskin and jotted them down. The muse was in flight.

The next logical step for me is to start collating these ideas into one place – a notebook. It’s so exciting! Whether it turns out to be a series or stand alone novel, that humble repository is where it will come together. While I’m still hard at work on publishing my third novel, the fourth will have time to develop.

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New Zealand author, Joy Cowley, said that she ‘baits the hook, drops it in the water and then waits for three to four years for each story idea to gather more ideas.’

I see my notebook method as being very similar to this analogy. Maybe someday soon, I’ll have an answer to the question, “What are you going to write next?” and it all begins right here with a pen and paper.

I’m ready for a new adventure to begin. Bring it on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have yet to meet a writer who wouldn’t rather peel a banana than apply himself to a pen. – Alice Thomas Ellis

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I was watching a terrific program on the National Geographic channel the other night about the rise of interest in Cryonics. Apparently there’s great interest in the idea of preserving the body (or sometimes, just the head) after death by low temperature freezing, with the hope that science progresses far enough to bring the person back to life in the future. Many people have already paid good money and booked in to have their bodies preserved in this way.

This sort of preoccupation is nothing new.

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There are myths that have grown up around the idea of eternal life like that of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Of the plot, according to Wikipedia, ‘Newly understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul, to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied amoral experiences while staying young and beautiful; all the while, his portrait ages and records every sin.[6]

Myths like this were very much cautionary tales, warning us about the folly of chasing immortality. Yet, the quest continued.

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People still sought to extend their lives by whatever means possible. There were mythological places like the legendary island of Bimini in the Bahamas where the Fountain of Youth gave everlasting life to all who drank from it. Over the centuries, the fountain was much sought after but never found. The famous Spanish explorer Ponce de León reportedly set out to find the Fountain of Youth in the early 1500’s, although modern historians say that too is a myth.

Yet Wikipedia says, ‘There were longevity myths in the bible mentioning individuals with lifespans up to the 969 years of Methuselah. The ancient Greek author Lucian is the presumed author of Macrobii (long-livers), a work devoted to longevity. Most of the examples Lucian gives are what would be regarded as normal long lifespans (80–100 years)’. So, people still believed in the real possibility of prolonging life.

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In Medieval times Nicolas Flamel was reputed to have created a “sorcerer’s stone” that was then used to produce a potion, the elixir of life, said to make the drinker immortal. The idea so captured the public imagination of the 1300’s that other well known scientists – even the esteemed Sir Isaac Newton – attempted to replicate the results, without any luck. People have been obsessed with the idea of immortality and living forever for centuries.

According to Adam Gollner in The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever, ‘The twenty-five-year old Emperor Ai of Jin died in 365 CE, after overdosing on longevity drugs. He wasn’t the last leader to die trying to live forever. The fascination with chemical immortality reached an ironic apogee centuries later, during the T’ang dynasty (618-907 CE), when elixirs poisoned those hoping for precisely the opposite effect.’

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Today, I celebrated the 101st birthday of a dear friend. Not only is he hale and hearty, he has a quicker sharper wit than anyone else in the room. And, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. I remember at his 100th birthday party someone in the crowd asked, “What is your secret?” He said “Well, the only thing I can say is I went vegetarian twenty-five years ago.” As a friend, I would say his secret is his positive attitude. He’s still a member of a handful of clubs, he has many times more friends than I do, and his attitude is always positive. It’s been proved that those who have a good attitude about aging lived more than seven years longer than those with negative attitudes, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, something I read about over on the blog of Karen Salmansohn.

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This is very much in line with something I’ve always believed, that a healthy long life is all in the attitude. I saw the magnificent Sophia Loren interviewed once, when she was in her glorious 80’s. The admiring interviewer asked her, “You are truly ageless. What is your secret?” Loren replied, “I always have something to look forward to.” I’ve remembered that great advice ever since and I employ that idea in my life. I’ve also seen it called “plan de vida” or “reason to live.” Plan de vida, says blogger, Karen Salmansohn, ‘is a common practice of peppy elders living in Nicoya, Costa Rica, a famed centenarian hotspot. In Nicoya, residents credit their longevity to living with a purpose.’

The Quest for Immortality Continues…

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Sophia Loren, 2014

Talk to you later!

Yvette K. Carol

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“I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.” – Virginia Woolf

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At the moment, my eldest son is painting the exterior of the house for us. It’s been great. Because not only is the job getting done, but I get to see him regularly and sometimes he brings my granddaughter with him. At first, the idea was for my teenage boys to help me babysit her while the eldest carried on with the painting. But, after a couple of hours on the first day, the youngest son said, “Mum, I don’t think I’m responsible enough to be babysitting.” I had to laugh. At thirteen, he’s not quite ready to be a caregiver. He realized it takes constant vigilance to look after babies.

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He went back to his online game. My sixteen-year-old went back to watching YouTube. And I went back to following the path of her adventures. My nephew, who boards here, said to her, “Is it you who’s been pulling things out all over the house?” She just looked at them with those big blue peepers and we all laughed.

For me, as the grandparent, babysitting is a joyful vigilance. I’ve been absorbed in watching her and singing nursery rhymes, and reading baby books. It’s been a lot of fun and a wonderful bonding time with my granddaughter getting to see her for whole days at a time.

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Prior to my granddaughter’s birth, I was looking forward to being around a such a young child again. Even so, I had forgotten how special they are. When you’ve been here less than a year, the world is a vast and truly fascinating place. Everything is new waiting to be explored.

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They want to know what lies on top of every table and cabinet.

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They want to know what it is about these gadgets we find so fascinating, my granddaughter is never more animated than when she manages to get hold of a phone, or a tablet or a remote for a minute. They’re attracted to things they feel they probably shouldn’t be playing with.

There is one feature here at my house I had hoped to keep the baby away from, a Jade tree on the front porch which features little tiny pebbles and smallish glass butterflies.

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The jade tree was the first thing the baby noticed and she made a beeline for it. Babies are uncanny that way. They hone in on what you don’t want them to find. We played a fun game of Nana saying no, ‘you can’t eat that’ until I could distract her to something else.

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Luckily, we have loads of toys and everything a child could want here because I saved so much of the boys’ stuff, from their best baby toys and the best of everything over the years since then. Baby and I have a lot of fun playing with the musical instruments, playing with a bucket of water outside, blowing bubbles, reading picture books, stacking blocks and rolling a ball. But, what she’s really motivated to do is explore her world.

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One minute we’re playing the next minute she’s off, crawling at great speed to see what’s around the next corner. She wants to go into every room of the house, and pull herself up on the chairs and tables to see more.

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Every item she can get her hands on needs to be carefully examined and then sucked on. ‘Everything is intrinsically interesting’ as Shaun Tan said. This is the viewpoint of babies. I love how babies and little kids have to physically engage with their environment in a thorough way. It makes me see these same things anew.

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If there are stairs or different levels under fives have to go up and down and around and if possible through. They engage with things in every possible way. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is tested and known completely. It’s not enough to take things out of the drawer; one must get in the drawer.

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So far, I have found this window into early childhood absorbing. Now that my two youngest boys are teenagers, life is different for us at home. I don’t have to have everything out of reach or locked up tight. Whereas, when there’s a baby around, anything you don’t want lost or broken, or that might be a potential hazard, has to be out of sight. We’re rediscovering the delights and dangers of the world again through her adventuring.

I’d always heard being a grandparent is fabulous, now I can attest to the fact. It’s the love for family enhanced by the benefit of time.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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On the seventh day, God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town. ~ Gene Perret

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The benefits of reading for the writer are multi-fold. I knew that. Yet, there were a lot of years in the middle of my life where I wasn’t reading modern fiction.

I discovered the joy of reading, as a little kid. A trip to the library each week was a part of our pre-school and early school life. I can remember eagerly choosing books and taking them home to savour. Then somewhere along the way I lost the habit. I felt guilty. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t reading.

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Anyone who follows this blog will have heard me talk about the wonderful writer, Kate de Goldi, our award winning kiwi writer. I admire her work and she is a great teacher, too. When I did Kate’s Writing for Children workshop, in 2005, she was emphatic about how important it was for us to read. In the very first lecture she gave, Kate said, ‘Read the genre constantly, get immersed in the form.’ She finished the lecture with the exhortation to, ‘Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Write, write, write.’

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At the time, my two youngest boys were one and three, and I was trying to work on my stories, and be a good wife and run the household, and I was busy. I was too busy and exhausted to read. Then, I became complacent.

Last Christmas, however, I decided enough was enough.

At the start of this year, I made a private resolution that I was going to start reading again.

So far, it has been incredible. Every time I find myself at a second hand bookstore, or a book fair, I buy every middle grade book I see that looks interesting. I have built quite a library. And, I’ve started happily working my way through my collection.

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I’ve read all sorts of novels: Margaret Mahy’s Raging Robots & Unruly Uncles, Jane Bloomfield’s excellent Lily Max, Satin, Scissors, Frock, Joy Cowley’s The Wild West Gang, and Emily Rodda’s The City of Rats, averaging one book a week.

It has been more than entertaining; it has more than reminded me why I love to read. It’s been an education.

I understand now why Kate specified reading in one’s genre. You begin to realize what’s out there, and how people are writing to “tweens” these days, you start to see more modern structure to the stories. I’ve been inspired and encouraged to refresh my own approach to fiction. Becoming ‘immersed in the form’ helps me better understand how to emulate it. Reading is teaching me how to write.

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I cannot tell you how greatly I’ve felt revolutionized by reading again. Reading, as a writer, is entertaining and informative. Blogger, Laura Thomas, said, “When you read, you experience the power of writing. You learn what words work together and how they can be used to convey emotions.” You see which techniques and approaches to writing modern fiction are the most effective, what sort of storylines are drawing people back for more. Most of the articles I’ve read on the subject of ‘reading to improve writing skills’ recommend reading traditionally published, successful authors in your genre.

You can study good writing by reading the most popular books.

 

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According to a report on the benefits of reading in the Health Fitness Revolution blog, reading ‘sharpens writing skills.’ They attribute this improvement to the ‘expansion of your vocabulary.’ “Exposure to published, well-written work has a positive effect on one’s own writing. Observing the various styles of other authors, journalists, poets and writers will eventually be reflected in your own writing style.”

I believe that to be true. I see my style changing. I notice that when I’m thinking on my feet as well, for instance in Toastmasters, I have more words available than I used to. It’s wonderful.

I like to hear also, how reading influences other artists, because the impact crosses all forms. I had the great pleasure of hearing artist/author Shaun Tan speak at one of New Zealand’s Storylines Children’s Literature festivals, a few years ago. He’s such a genius.

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Of reading, Shaun said, “As well as visual sources, many ideas for the illustrations emerged from my reading history. I’m often thinking of different things I’ve read, or particular words, while I draw and paint which best express the poetry of colour, line and form I’m after.”

I found that thought uplifting.

Reading a great story is universally beneficial. How cool is that.

I aim to continue to read my way through my library of novels and when the time comes, I shall take great pleasure in starting to frequent my own local library again. I can’t wait.

What about you, do you read books? Have you been to your local library lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Reading!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write.” ~ Samuel Johnson

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This week, at Toastmasters, I attempted to pull off my first ever roast. ‘A roast’ is a speech that relies on wit, humour and satire to ‘poke fun at a person in a good natured way.’ Can you imagine? I can’t think of too many speeches that would be harder to pull off. However, in the Toastmasters system, you choose your projects and most come in bundled sets, so when you take on a certain manual or a pathway you take on every challenge in that bundle. I chose Special Occasions Speeches (from the old paper manual system), not realizing that one of the projects therein was “The Roast.”

I have a terrible track record with humorous speeches, having bombed abominably once or twice.

In conversation, I can raise a laugh, but I still don’t know how to use humour in speeches. In my nervousness, I over do it. I’m just not that funny. So, I avoid the humorous speech contests each year like the plague, and I never attempt comedic speeches. I know my strengths and humour is definitely not one of them.

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When I discovered there was a roast among the projects in Special Occasions, I was quaking in my boots. I wanted to put the manual back, but it was too late, I was already three speeches in. So I’m going to tell you a little secret. I repeated project 2, five times over a period of five months. I couldn’t bear to do the roast. So I put it off by repeating the project I preferred, “Speaking in Praise.”  At first, I wondered if I could get away with it, because surely people would notice I was doing the same project.

Strangest thing. No one noticed.

I spoke in praise of Charlotte’s Stitches, I spoke in praise of my father, I spoke in praise of Korucare New Zealand, I spoke in praise of Sam (my son with Downs’ syndrome), and I spoke in praise of my grandmother. No one said a thing!

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I could have gotten away with it longer probably, but I made the mistake of mentioning to one of the other members, last week, that I was scared of doing the roast.

He said, “You can’t not do a project just because it’s hard. You’ve got to do it anyway!”

The gauntlet was down. I was determined I was going to write a funny speech. I would ‘do it anyway!’ I determined that this week, I would roast our most senior member and club treasurer, at our Toastmasters’ meeting.

Did I roast him? Yes. Was I successful? I don’t know. I can’t seem to do funny conversational. I go immediately to clown and cartoon, and it often falls flat. My first two jokes didn’t get much of a response and I already had that sinking feeling. Various audience members told me afterwards they enjoyed my roast. I did raise a few laughs, but not anywhere near what I’d expected. Now, I know for sure that I’m not that funny.

However, what I do know is that I am brave.

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I am so proud of myself for doing that roast.

That’s a good feeling to have about yourself.

I don’t like to stretch my neck out any more than the next person, but I notice that when I do take a risk sometimes it reaps dividends. So, accepting a challenge is worth the effort, once in a while.

I was petrified of trying to roast someone. I did not want to do it. I would have procrastinated forever, if I hadn’t been hustled out of my cave. Roasting someone was something so far out of my comfort zone it was a new frontier. Yet, I accepted the challenge and went and did it anyway. Sure it wasn’t perfect. Sure, I didn’t captivate everyone, one guy looked down the whole time I was speaking and didn’t look up till the end. Sure, I didn’t bring the house down. But I did go out on the “stage,” into the bright lights, and deliver a bloody roast.

I think that’s pretty cool.

What about you? Have you ever thought of joining Toastmasters, or some other club? Have you stepped outside of your comfort zones lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Failures I consider valuable negative information – Dr. Goddard

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

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

When I started writing my present series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, prior to 2008, I had only penned the protagonist’s story. Then, I took a writing course with New Zealand writer, Lindsey Dawson. I stayed behind after class one day. Lindsey drew a diagram of a single vertical line. “This is the main thread of your story, the protagonist’s point of view.” Then, she drew a number of other lines snaking up around the vertical line, spiralling around it and crossing back and forth. “These are your antagonistic forces. Sometimes they cross and create havoc. You need all these elements to write a story.”

Lindsay-Dawson

I had never thought about writing the antagonist’s story before then. Lindsey’s words opened my eyes. The more I looked at rogues in fiction and in film, the more I realized how vital it is to portray them convincingly. In fact, you could go so far as to argue, that crafting a credible, powerful enough villain is the most important part of crafting a narrative.

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.”

The idea of fleshing out the antagonist gave me licence to explore what was going on in the bad guys’ camp. And, when I finally did put out the first book in the chronicles, The Or’in of Tane Mahuta, it was presented from both Aden’s and Chief Wako’s point of view, and sometimes with Wako’s henchmen taking over the bad guys’ point of view.

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Which did I enjoy writing more? Writing Aden’s story was fun, however writing about the bad guys was much more fun. Why? I think it’s because Wako could do and say whatever the hell he liked, pardon my French. Antagonists do not have to tiptoe around the “P.C. brigade,” by definition they don’t care whether they’ve said the wrong thing or offended anyone. Antagonists don’t need to think of the repercussions. They can act first think later because they don’t care about the consequences of their actions. They’re rebels, they don’t need to play by the rules.

It reminds me of actors/actresses saying they like the bad guy roles best because they get to really go wild. Similarly, in writing the antagonistic elements of my story, I could let my imagination run rampant, conjuring Chief Wako and his evil minions, imagining what over-the-top thing he was going to say or do next.

It was a liberating feeling. Whenever I wrote the bad guys parts, I felt so free. So energized. Antagonists are famous for not following the norms of society or adhering to the moral codes that bind the rest of us. It was nice to take a break from the sanctioned code of conduct and ride along with a character who makes up his own rules.

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Bad guys are typically self-serving. We’re taught from a very young age to share, and that being selfish is the worst thing you can do. When I write the baddies, I can be as selfish as the little kid in me always wanted to be! Whoopee. That’s satisfying, let me tell you.

Although my rogue was a nasty guy at times, I grew to love him, because he was bold and brave, and an iconoclast. In fact, it was so much fun writing Chief Wako’s part that I had to tone it down at times for fear he would outshine the hero.

For the subsequent books, I followed the advice of my critique group and changed the books to a single point of view. I stopped writing the bad guys because I was advised that young readers find head hopping very hard to follow.

I missed writing the bad guys so much that I think in the next story I write, I’ll revert to multiple points of view again. I miss the villain too much.

Which do you prefer to write, hero or villain?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.’ ~ PD James

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Last year, I finished one round of editing my book, The Last Tree, with the help of my critique group, the Gang of Four. This year, I am working with the same group on the final edit of the material.

As the Gang of Four has kindly agreed to critique four chapters a week, I will hopefully be able to achieve my goal of completing the polishing process by the middle of the year.

The goal at this stage is to self publish The Last Tree, third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver in spring.

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However, due to finances going in other directions, this year (namely, painting the house and things for the kids), I won’t be able to throw money at my product, this time. So, instead of lavishing $5000 upon my creation, I will be tapping the same resources my nephew uses to publish his books at University, and I will put The Last Tree out “on the cheap.” Most people buy e-books anyway, so as long as the formatting and layout is professional, it’ll be fine.

I feel ready to finish writing this series, now. I began this epic adventure, writing rough draft in 2005, and I’ve loved every minute. Writing has given me a much needed escape from the humdrum of my life and duties as single parent to two young boys. Now, fourteen years later, the kids are teenagers, and The Chronicles of Aden Weaver are nearing completion. I want to wrap the series up. It’s time to move onto fresh pastures and see what wants to be written.

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People often ask me, “What are you going to write next?” “What’s the next project?” Truthfully, I don’t know. I’m neither a plotter nor a planner. I feel I’m not the one in charge of the creative inspirational thought. I’m one of those pantser types, who sits on the edge of their chair hoping the muse will strike. I pace the house quite a lot in between bouts of “corpse pose” (yoga pose that requires lying flat and peaceful) on the floor. I do relaxation methods to unhinge myself enough from the rush of daily life, so that I can be receptive to the inspired thoughts. I never know ‘what’s next’ until I get there.

For now, I’m driven to round off this trilogy to the best of my ability and put a suitably satisfying conclusion to my debut as a published author.

I’m glad I bit the bullet and decided to go Indie. However, it is challenging. I’ve found it takes a lot of courage it takes to self publish. The self doubt I have experienced since publishing my books has been enormous to the point of being overwhelming at times.

People already can buy and read my stories. I’m exposed. I’m out there on the page. And, I have to learn to be okay with that.

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I guess this is all part of the process of being a published author – learning to present your work and then, more importantly, to stand by it.

The next task is to put pen to paper (fingers to keys) and start a new story.

At present, I’m approaching the halfway mark editing The Last Tree. The inner writing voices that had been nagging me about structure and plot have gone silent. I feel the story is cohesive now, and all the story threads have been tied off, the questions have been answered. If we keep going at this rate, we’ll conclude the editing stage in late April.

After that, the hard graft of the self publishing mill – the slog that stands between the polished manuscript and the novel – shall begin in earnest.

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The jobs for an Indie seem deceptively simple: proofreading, copyediting, layout, book design, cover, blurbs, promos and accompanying launch material. ‘It’ll only take a few weeks,’ I used to naively think.

But no, it takes months of sustained effort. I’ve been there twice before, and at this stage, I’m under no illusions about the labour that lies ahead.

Similarly, I also know that it can be done. The Herculean tasks can be fulfilled and in the end we get to do a victory dance.

The triumph one feels on the day of the book launch is euphoric.

So that’s the carrot I dangle at the end of the pole before me as I start the march into the final stretch: I tell myself, you can do it, just keep going. Wish me luck!

 

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Talk to you later,

Keep Creating!

Yvette Carol

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Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. ~ Confucius

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I got caught on the hop this week. I discovered on Tuesday that I was due to give a speech at Toastmasters the following day, and I had to come up with something in a hurry. I thought about Sam, my sixteen-year-old with Downs’ syndrome. In the four years I’d been in Toastmasters, I had not tackled the big issues. I’d spoken about all kinds of major things, but, I hadn’t had the courage to talk about Sam, and Downs’ syndrome, or anything about my life as a “special” mum. I still haven’t had the courage to talk about about my youngest son, who has Congenital Heart Defect, and the life and death surgery he went through twice at the tender age age of five. Similarly, I have yet to give a speech about my grandmother’s death, or those of my parents (both deceased within the last four years). I didn’t feel I could do them justice.

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But, when Toastmasters asked me to do my first speech of the year, I decided the time had come to delve a little deeper and share more of my personal stories. In Toastmasters, they say that personal stories are the most powerful, they are the speeches people remember. I decided I would share the story of Sam’s arrival in my life and being a parent of a special needs kid. The speech title, ‘The Road Less Travelled,’ comes from the last verse of one of my favourite poems, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I opened my speech by recounting the story of Sam’s birth, in more or less these words:

When I was pregnant with my second child, I was thirty-six. My doctor recommended I take an amniocentesis test, which tests for any abnormalities in the child. I agreed and booked in for the test.

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But, the night before I was due to go into the hospital, I woke up at exactly 11 o’clock at night, with an epiphany. I sat up in bed and asked myself,

‘What would you do if there was something wrong with the baby?’

I knew I could not go against my moral code and abort it. So, literally at the eleventh hour, I cancelled the test.

Some months later, after a difficult birth, my midwife handed the baby to me with the words, “I’m sorry, but I believe your son has Downs’ syndrome.”

My world, my life as I knew it up to that point, ended, and a whole new life began in a whole new world. It was one I knew nothing about, and I had a lot to learn!

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Downs’ syndrome is a genetic condition which results from a third copy of the 21st chromosome.

One in six hundred babies are born with Downs’ syndrome every year in New Zealand. The condition entails delayed development, low muscle tone, and this combined with a large tongue makes it very difficult for many Downs’ syndrome kids to talk clearly. 70% of girls with the syndrome will be understood by anyone outside their immediate family and that figure drops to 40-50% for the boys.

The things that our normal babies take for granted, like sitting up, standing, walking, none of these things come easy for a special kid. Every step is hard won. Sam was three-years-old before he could crawl, five before he could walk, eleven before he was potty trained during the day and thirteen before he was dry through the night.

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We special parents say, ‘it’s like taking one step forward, two steps back.’

Therefore every milestone achieved, every hurdle crossed, with these kids is such a triumph. You feel so proud of them you could burst. I know how hard Sam has worked to learn how to do every little thing.

Being a special needs parent has enriched my life. Sam has taught me so much; I have gained so much from his example. He’s taught me humility, patience, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and how to care for the underdog. I would say most of all, he has taught me how to be present. For Sam, there is no future. He doesn’t have the ability to look ahead and imagine outcomes, there is only right now.

Sam is always present. That lesson in itself has been a gift.

The road less travelled by continues to reap dividends, and I am so grateful I accepted the challenge.

Thank goodness. Imagine what I would have missed out on!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“There’s not one path. There’s not even the right path. There is only your path.” – Nietzsche

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