Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

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.”

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

 

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

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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Tuesday the twelfth of February marked the first anniversary of my father’s death. It was a year ago on a Monday that I got the phone call you dread, that someone you love has died. It was my elder sister, who was ringing from the Waikato Hospital.

I think it was seven o’clock in the morning – too early to be good news – “Dad passed away last night.”

I felt sucker punched.

My sister said the hospital then the funeral home was taking dad’s body to do the final things that needed to be done; he would be sent home to us in a day or so.

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I started packing our bags. I spoke to all the people I needed to speak to, excused the boys from school for the week, and we were on the road to my father’s log cabin within the hour.

I’ll never forget the scene, when we drove into dad’s seaside town and neared the mountain he lived on, we found the peak was completely hidden within its own private cloud. It was so unusual I had to stop and take a photo.

I felt the land and the sea surrounding us were speaking directly to our sorrow.

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When we arrived at the empty house that was when the tears flowed. I couldn’t believe dad wouldn’t be there, as he always had been there: reading the paper, watching the 6 o’clock news, doing the crossword, feeding his birds, working in the garden, making food in the kitchen, playing cribbage with us in the evenings. Dad would never be there again.

I looked at my two youngest boys and they looked at me, and I knew I had to be strong for them. Though dad had only been gone a day, certain doors had closed, and a new one had opened, that of my stepping up in rank in our family.

Now, it was my turn to begin the walk of the kaumatua (elder).

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I unpacked our bags, and started preparing food for my sisters, who were driving to Thames Hospital to sort out paperwork, and would then make the trip to us. It all felt surreal. The reality arrived when the funeral home brought dad’s casket to the house a day and a half later.

The funeral director said, ‘the hardest moments for the families are when the lid is first removed and when the lid of the casket is put back on.’

Both moments were heart wrenching. Yet, my father himself looked like he was sleeping, and he was dressed in his very best Sunday suit. We took it in turns after the initial outpouring of grief to sit with him. We didn’t leave dad alone, apart from when we were sleeping.

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Dad spent two and a half days with us at home. We sat with him, held his hands, stroked his hair, sang and talked to him. More family arrived until we were all present. Friends came by, bringing food, neighbours baked cakes and lasagnes.

In the evenings, we siblings sat around the dining table, spending hour after hour going through the old photos. There were boxes to view and sort and distribute between us. Each day, we selected another room of the house to clear out and sort through. The contents of our parents’ lives spread before us.

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Although it almost felt disrespectful to touch their belongings, two people’s lives and a house full of possessions needed to be resolved.

After dad had been moved to his beloved church and had been given a beautiful, moving ceremony, we laid him to rest, alongside mum in the town’s cemetery.

Tuesday 12th 2019 marked the first anniversary of dad’s death. My sister and I travelled to mum’s and dad’s hometown in order to pay our respects.

We visited the cemetery and cleaned the headstone; we put in fresh flowers and solar lights. We spoke to dad and said some prayers and sang a song. We told him and mum that they’re not forgotten. It was sad but it felt like the right thing to do.

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I came home to the city and my kids musing on the fact sometimes growing up can be hard. I felt sorry for my teenagers and their travails.

In the last two weeks, my youngest son has started high school. He’s made several commitments to teams and groups, at the same time undertaking more chores at home. Tonight, when I asked him to do the ‘umpteenth thing,’ he said, “GROWING UP SUCKS!”

It does, man, there’s no other way of putting it. Yet, the tragedies and the hardships we go through, as we get older and lose more people, are what also shape and craft us into better, deeper, more empathetic human beings.

Sometimes, it sucks, yet, that’s okay. It means another phase of life begins.

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Talk to you later.

Yvette K. Carol

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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.e. Cummings

 

 

There is something therapeutic about doing nothing, isn’t there. And there’s a real art to it. Some are better at it than others. I have friends for instance, who declare when they’re on holiday, that they’re ‘very good at doing nothing at all.’ Whereas I’m a bit more on your tightly wound scale of things, I like to have things to do or I end up inventing things to do.

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I find myself longing for more stillness. In an article by Colleen Long, Psy.D. over on Pyschology Today, The Art of Doing Nothing Why Italians, Not Americans, Get This One Right, Colleen argues for the benefits of relaxation, citing the Italian term, “La Dolce Far Niente,” which means- the sweetness of doing nothing. Colleen asks the pertinent question of us, when we get home at the end of the day, ‘instead of checking your email one last time to see if anyone else is needing you to do something, instead of using your free time to check your bank accounts or pay that cell phone bill- What if you just did nothing?’ Provocative question isn’t it!

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What gets me confused is that on the one hand, I want to take the foot off the pedal. On the other hand, summer is ideal for achieving things and making progress with plans and careers. When I’m warm day and night, there is lightness in that. Instead of having to brace against the chill and either do things to provide heating or layer up the clothing to become the Michelin man, I feel more at ease, I’m comfortable and with less material between me and life. I feel things are more immediate. I feel more ready to respond to the demands of every day. I feel more energy, and the days are long enough in which to go on adventures, or travel long distances, or to get more done.

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I find it hard to do nothing. I  always remember my gran at the end of her life, the change she found the bitterest pill of all, in her words, was ‘not being useful.’ She couldn’t bear having all the jobs slowly taken away from her as she grew older and became frailer. She’d prided herself her entire life on being the busiest woman in her community, a lady who could be relied upon to get stuff done, and doing less as she aged made her feel “useless.” I’m cut of her stock. I like to be productive. I am also my father’s daughter, a man who was busy serving his church and community in whatever ways he could into his dying days. It’s a challenge for me, each year in the holidays, to put down my pen – that’s the hardest wrench of all – to put away my gardening tools – I worry about my garden while I’m away – and this year, with my boys in the South Island – I worried about them, too – I got to take off my parenting hat, as well.

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This summer, I was child free for a ten whole days, and in that time, despite myself, I slowed right down to “island time.” I enjoyed it so much! Every day was a study in bliss with my eldest son and his family and my nephew, either swimming or visiting friends, or eating somewhere special every day. After that, I came home to the city so rejuvenated, I thought this slowing down, this art of doing nothing is an art I need to learn more about.

I gather the best place to start is with meditation. In his article, Why Should You Meditate? Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka relates how Harvard clinical studies have proven meditation to have physical, mental and emotional benefits.

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Recent studies from Harvard University found that long-term meditators have increased amounts of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, and the auditory and sensory cortex,’ said Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka. ‘When you meditate, you enter a space of internal expansiveness, calm, and joy. The result is feelings of expansiveness, calm, and joy in waking life, which has an effect on our interactions with others and the world around us.

There seem to be many benefits of meditation, and since it’s all about doing nothing, I feel challenged, and yet, I’m in!

Here are the links to some recommended resources:

How to Meditate for Beginners – 30 Tips, Tricks and Tools

Guided Meditations – Our 12 Best Meditations Now Free on Youtube

These are on my list of goals for the year ahead. In 2019, I intend to meditate! I want to do more nothing! And to have fun!

What about you, how good are you at doing nothing? Have you tried meditation? Tell me more!

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Talk to you later

Yvette K. Carol

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“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence. ~ Herman Melville

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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. I usually start my posts apologizing for being a day late. This month, I apologize for being a week late. Sorry! I’m putting it down to the holidaze.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

Oh, this is a good one. Believe it or not, I’m most often asked about my income. I don’t know why, but people seem to think its okay to ask writers about their pay rates when it’s not a question normally asked of other professions. I guess people are fascinated by the idea of writing books. I’ve heard many authors say, that in making school visits, the question they get asked the most often is, ‘How much money do you make?’

I think of Jack Nicholson’s famous movie rant, “You can’t handle the truth!”

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People imagine they will be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers. People see the blinding success stories of people who write a book and sell millions and become famous. Whereas the truth is those elite writers who make the most money are in the top 5%. The rest of us need to keep our day jobs.

Whenever I talk about authors and making money on social media, I drag out a beloved quote by one of my fellow authors on the children’s collaboration, Kissed By An Angel. Ellen Warach Leventhal said her favourite response from a fourth grader was, “You work hard, you don’t know if you’ll ever get paid for it, and you aren’t rich? Man, not sure I want to do that.”

That’s right. The reality is not very romantic.

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In essence, that’s why millions of people try their hand at penning their first novel every year and why only a small percentage of them will ever attempt a second. They quickly realize the truth all long time writers know; there is no money in it. Think of an author as like being a musician or an artist, or an actor. You do the work for the love of it, because you can’t NOT do it, despite the fact the recompense is uncertain. You supplement your income with other things. You find ingenious ways to save your pennies, you grow your own fruit and vegetables, you shop at thrift stores, you recycle things, and you make life work.

You don’t do this job for the money.

When people ask what my yearly income looks like, I go pink. I can’t answer the question in any way that comes off making me look good. I can’t say, ‘I don’t make very much money from my books, and yet, I keep publishing them,’ or I’d look like a prize idiot. It’s hard to reply to this question in social settings. It’s a lose-lose situation, folks, so please don’t ask authors this question.

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My discomfort with this stinker is swiftly followed in second place by those who ask, ‘How many books have you sold?’

Now, come on people, do I ask you how much product you moved today? Do I ask you, how many lives you’ve changed? Or anything remotely in that vicinity. This question always makes me feel like being grilled on a hot plate. Just back away, now.

However, if we’re talking about my favourite questions to be asked, they would definitely be, ‘What inspired you to write your book?’ with ‘What’s your book about?’ Because then I’m being asked about my inner process and the creative life, which is my passion and my bliss. I can soar away into these higher thoughts and let my imaginative life come to the fore.

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Chasing the muse is always exhilarating to think about. I feel this sort of information is far more valuable to share, and is of greater service, because those who are truly called to write will take positive juice from it and use that to fuel their own writing endeavours. Then, one feels one is being of service. I would far rather speak to that than the money, because the only answer I have is, ‘I write for the love of it and make income in other ways.’ Hardly motivating.

What about you? What are your favourite and least favourite questions?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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There is no other feeling like that.
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with
fire. Charles Bukowski

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At this time of year, it’s the homemade touches I relish.

Every year at the beginning of December, I always make our own greeting cards. They are a firm favourite with friends and family, and I always get requests for more. I’ve shared my creative process here before, but for those who are new to the blog, here’s how you can make your own greeting cards the old fashioned way for next to nothing. And, it’s fun!

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I love any excuse for crafting. In early December, I usually work on getting the kids to dress up in festive wear, and I take a ‘cover photo.’ This year, I asked my two youngest sons to pose with my granddaughter for the cover image. At the same time, I also got a photo of all the kids in the family for the inside flap.

Method:

Start by printing out your chosen photographs in miniature. Why so small you ask? Because they’re cute. If you prefer full size cards, you can still use the same technique.

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Next, cut up your cards. I buy a big pack of greeting cards from the Salvation Army shop for two dollars and cut them down to size, making sure to include the message inside.

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For the cover, I create a layered effect. I make up a few standard cardboard guides to keep the layers consistent and to make the scale of the decorative layers progressively get smaller to the photo image on the top. You can add as many layers as you like of contrasting patterns and colours. I like to do two.

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For the first layer, I cut up interesting festive paper to the largest size of the cardboard guides.

Each year, I recycle wrapping paper. I like to sit down on Boxing Day and cut all the relatively flat, usable pieces from the discarded wrapping paper of the day before. I save the ‘good bits’ in a cellophane folder and then reuse them for wrapping stocking gifts and for making greeting cards the following year. Waste not, want not, as my father always used to say.

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For the second layer of my card, I cut out the photos, using the smaller size guide. Last but not least, I snip up a few squares of glittery stuff. You can use tinsel or whatever you have. I make my own glittery sheets of “hot fuzz” by ironing synthetic fibres between paper. Then I divide the sheets into segments and use them to add a glint of light to the cover. These are the elements. All you need is craft glue and a few books or something weighty for ‘flattening.’

Now comes the fun part, when you get to put the whole thing together.

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I glue the first layer – the wrapping paper pieces – onto the outer cover. You need to be quick, because paper likes to bulge and ripple when adhesive is applied. So glue the paper on, and then put the card directly beneath a sheet of paper and something weighty to flatten it. Continue until they’re all done. Once they’ve dried somewhat, you can add the next part.

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The cover photo goes on top. Make sure to sandwich a wedge of glitter stuff in between the layers so it protrudes into the air like a glam flag. Again, as with the first sheets of paper, you need to act fast and weight each one down immediately that it’s glued, to attain a flat, polished looking finish. Also, be careful when dealing with glue and your cover image. I’ve made the mistake before of getting it near the underside of the faces – it completely ruins the photo. So your cover photo must have the people centrally placed to keep their faces clear of the adhesive around the edges.

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I attach the portrait of the children in our family onto the inside page. And because I’m a big kid myself at this time of year and love to collect all things to do with crafting, I have lots of holiday themed stickers and embellishments which I liberally apply in to the cover and the interior at this stage. I add my initials on the back cover, with the words, ‘homemade with love.’

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I bought a pack of old fashioned gift tags at the Hospice shop for one dollar and included a few tags in each envelope as a gift. And there you have it, a creative way to personalize your greeting cards!

Have you ever tried making your own? If so, please share! 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large. ~ Confucius

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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!!!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: What are five objects we’d find in your writing space?

Optional IWSG Day Answer: A laptop, a pad of paper and a pen, a Penguin Pocket Thesaurus, and a small lamp.

A laptop

I used to say, back in the day, that I’d never write a story on a keyboard. I was a purist about the old fashioned way of writing on paper, as it had a feeling to it, and there was less interruption between my brain and the page. But, then, I finished writing a 300,000 word story longhand, and there were a heck of a lot of words to be transcribed into digital form.

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In fact, the job exhausted me, my sister, my friend’s daughter and my sister-in-law as well, before we finally got the behemoth manuscript typed out. And, after that experience, I swore I’d never write the old-fashioned way again. Far better, to just get over myself and put thoughts straight into digital form – to get over all the clanking technology between me and the words and simply concentrate on putting them on the page.

A pen and a pad of paper

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ve given up on my beloved pen  and paper. It’s just they’ve taken second place in the hierarchy of things. I still work out all my plot steps and character niggles on a pad of paper with a pen, as well as my shopping lists and to-do lists. I don’t like gadgets too much. I distrust them somehow. I don’t do apps or smartphones, and I just don’t want to spend my life staring at my phone. I keep things simple as possible. And that’s where I function best.

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When I’m writing, I hop up every now and then to consult my pen and paper, as to what I intend to get done that day. As I go through the edits submitted by my critique buddies, I’ll jot down any comments made about overall story issues on another pad. These sorts of notes I keep close by the computer, and I’ll refer to them as I’m editing.

A Penguin Pocket Thesaurus

Again, I prefer the paper over the digital versions. Over the years, I’ve bought myself many different kinds of Thesaurus, as other writers will attest. These days, you can buy versions for writing every genre and even for all the emotions as well. I’ve bought myself some whopping Thesaurus/Dictionary tomes too, thinking ‘the more words the better.’ Yet, it never seemed to matter how much money I spent or how big and glossy the books were, I’d always end up reaching for the Penguin. I guess it comes down to being creatures of habit, and this works best for me.

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My Penguin Pocket Thesaurus is getting pretty yellowed and we’ll ‘thumbed’ now. And no matter how often I think ‘it’s probably not worth looking for a better verb,’ every time I look it up in the Thesaurus, I’ll always find a better choice. It helps keep my language lively and interesting, less repetitive.

A small lamp

I thought I was smart getting the latest LED lights put in throughout our old ’60’s style house. Very attractive and modern, I thought. Then, a few months ago, I read a scientific article put up on social media, by a very well respected friend of mine, that LED lighting is actually bad for your health in a number of ways.

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It instantly reminded me of my grandmother, who said, ‘they’re always saying something new gives you cancer. I say all things in moderation.’ Well, that’s as maybe, but I still don’t want to sit under an LED light the entire weekend that I’m working on my book. So, I bought a $10 lamp at the local shop which takes an incandescent light bulb, and I use that at the weekends instead.

Those are five things that are in my writing space.

What about you? What are your five objects?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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We need to embody our inner awareness. To walk them out into the world. Express them through our choices and through our actions. – Terri Morehu

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