Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

I have finished reading my first novel for 2022, Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman. It felt exciting to reach a tally of nineteen books read in 2021, compared to thirteen in 2020. We’ll see if I can do better this year. And what a way to begin! After seeing British author, Neil Gaiman interviewed live last year, as part of the New Zealand Readers & Writer’s Festival, I bought his book, Norse Mythology. A big fan of myths and legends, the title drew me in.

Norse mythology refers to the Scandinavian mythological worldview that was commonplace during the time of the Viking Age (c. 790- c. 1100 CE). In 2017, Neil Gaiman released his version in a collection of short stories. Though neither original nor new to most of us, Neil reimagines the time-honoured tales in a way that recaptures our attention all over again. In reality, the old Viking myths are gory, tragic, and sometimes incomprehensible. You need a strong stomach. Even so, Gaiman makes them approachable to a new generation. He presents these raw, brutal, bloody tales and makes them cool.
The novel way the author gets around the oral tradition of Scandanavian storytelling is by presenting most of the stories from the point of view of an unnamed narrator. Through frequent addresses to the audience, the narration evokes that feeling of listening. Clever stuff.
In the “Introduction,” Neil Gaiman explains three things: the cultural and literary significance of Norse mythology; the difference between the traditional representations of these gods and the way they have been reinterpreted in popular culture; and the sources used. He also explains how he fell in love with the legends and his passion for the subject matter comes through loud and clear. “The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place,” concludes Gaiman, “with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them.”

Gaiman explains that long before the Middle Ages, the Germanic people believed in two types of Gods, the Aesir and the Vanir. Complete with a creation myth that has the early gods killing a giant and turning his body parts into the world, arrayed beneath the World Tree Yggdrasil, and the eventual end of the known world in the Ragnarök, the Nordic mythological world is complex and mysterious.
Given the timeless quality of Gaiman’s writing, he seems to be the perfect fit for a book of Norse mythology. With its influence on Marvel’s movies, heavy metal music, and J.R.R. Tolkien, the references to the mighty Gods of Asgard, who came complete with their doomsday, have become a part of daily life. It’s instructive and fascinating to have a popular author unpack the mythology for a modern audience, already familiar with the main players.

“Many gods and goddesses are named in Norse mythology,” Gaiman informs us at the beginning of his book. “Most of the stories we have, however, concern two gods, Odin and his son Thor, and Odin’s blood brother, a giant’s son called Loki, who lives with the Aesir in Asgard.”
The author fashions these ancient stories into an overall story arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. It is a truly unique worldview and an alternative perspective to modern religions. Okay, you could learn all the same information through reading it on Wikipedia but where’s the fun in that? You’d miss Gaiman’s deft turn of phrase and fairytale flair.

Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman is an author of novels, short stories, graphic novels, comic books, and films. The first author to win the Newbery and Carnegie medals for the same work – The Graveyard Book – Gaiman has so far authored classics in almost each of the genres he’s interested in, primarily being fantasy, horror, and science fiction. For example, the comic book series The Sandman was one of the first graphic novels ever to be on the New York Times Best Seller list. In addition, several of Gaiman’s novels – such as Stardust, American Gods, and Coraline – have been adapted into successful movies or TV series. How many books has Neil Gaiman written in his illustrious career? A fan had stacked them up, and apparently, the pile reached over 7 feet. In other words, his output has been prodigious. Long may he write!
This book, dare I say it, is deserving of becoming yet another Neil Gaiman classic.
My rating: Four out of five stars.

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
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Before the beginning, there was nothing – no earth, no heavens, no stars, no sky: only the mist world, formless and shapeless, and the fire world, always burning. ~ Norse Mythology


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It is New Year’s Eve when it is customary to look back at the year behind us and attempt to look at the twelve months ahead. Some people like to make resolutions or set goals about what they want to achieve in the coming year. I have always kept a journal in which I make a list of “Intentions” every New Year’s Eve. It’s an opportunity to get the glitter and stickers out and let myself dream about my aspirations. I also do a “message in a bottle” to myself. It is a wish list for the year ahead. For instance, I wrote a wish list for 2021, and today I read through the list. Then I’ll replace it with the new message I have compiled for 2022.
What a strange year, though!

At the end of 2020, I remember everyone saying how much they were looking forward to New Year’s Eve because people wanted to put their first experience of a pandemic behind them. There were hopeful memes on Facebook about looking forward to starting a brand new experience. Of course, none of us knew what lay ahead. 2021 has been just as tough in some cases, even tougher. As the virus has changed shape and name, we have learned new ways of coping. We have found new ways of staying sane and healthy.
And a great many of us have and are still suffering the repercussions of the anxiety. I have been under a great deal of stress. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas probably more than I should. However, it brings a s..t-ton of work with it. Life gets intense throughout December, having to plan things, visit people, send cards and letters, and battle to do the Xmas shopping in the insane traffic.

It does get overwhelming.

On top of all that, in early December, 18 of my trees became infected with Myrtle Rust, a fungal infection currently sweeping New Zealand. I had to trim every infected leaf and bag carefully then spray the fronts and backs of the remaining leaves. I got the trees done and organized Xmas, it’s true, but this week, I developed shingles. When the doctor said the chickenpox virus reactivates if you are under undue stress or overdoing it, I thought, oops, guilty as charged, on both counts. I have burned the candle. Yet for a good reason, people. We had a s..t year, and I wanted to celebrate the heck out of Christmas. So I overdid it in every direction. Do you know I got so stressed, there were three or four times this month when I woke in the morning with my fists clenched? And that’s a big part of how I became so run down. I let things get on top of me.
We have been through a lot in the last two years and now that we have reached the end of 2021, people are weary and a lot more subdued about what to expect.
The problem is mental/emotional stress is a killer.

The shingles have forced me to slow down and it has been an unexpected blessing. This week, I employed my youngest son and his friends to wash the exterior of the house and the windows and repaint all three verandahs. And I didn’t have to lift a finger. Not that I could have. I am on a week’s total physical and mental rest, doctor’s orders. I thought this is nice. Thing is, I’ve always walked and talked too fast. At my age, perhaps I should stop rushing around all the time, being a superwoman. Now that I’m doing everything more slowly, I find I’m enjoying each moment more. What a revelation. Being ill has given me some much-needed perspective.
N.Y.E? Okay, we might not be quite so enthusiastic about the twelve months ahead. There seems to be a general feeling of trepidation around the New Year.

Yet, I like to only plan for the positive preferred outcome. Readers of this blog may remember a post I wrote, sharing my Gran’s wisdom, Thinking the Right Thoughts. This is the method I am employing today. I will write in my journal, The theme for 2021 was …. What I noticed was… What didn’t work was… I am letting go of …. What I want for 2022 is … and I am willing to embrace… I shall say, “Thank you, 2021.” And, I will write Intentions and put a new message in my bottle aspiring to peace, relaxation, joy, abundance, good health, and rapture in 2022.
Remember, whatever comes, we can deal with it day by day, one day at a time, together. We have managed the same way for the last two years. I have never felt more bonded to the people in my life, whether in person or online than I have done since the pandemic started in 2020. I think the challenge has brought us all closer together. I feel I am part of a global family. My darling Gran would say, that’s the silver lining.
Going forward, let’s be positive and think the right thoughts. DARE TO WISH FOR BLISS.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Don’t let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace.” ~ K. Jones

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Every year around this time I have two mammoth jobs that need to be done. My sons and I bake the massive Christmas Cake, which is a rich fruit cake to feed about sixty-four. We also do the photoshoot of my two young victims sons, whom I make dress up in festive gear at the start of December. Then I pick the best photo from the shoot and make our Christmas card for friends and family. We did the photoshoot this weekend. The boys get a bit grumpy about it these days, which I think is quite cute. I had fun making the cards all day. It’s creative, it’s fun and it involves glitter. What more do you need to know?

When I first started this blog, my middle son – who was born with Down Syndrome – featured by himself on the card. Three years later, his little brother came along and the pair got to feature on the next family card and so it has gone on.

Here is how you can make your family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Once you have your photo, reduce it to a small size. Figure out how many people you are making cards for. Print out the photos on regular A4 paper and cut them out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the thrift store) and cut them down in size. I use the same “guides” for the layers which I made myself out of cardboard, so they are all the same dimensions. Start with a guide for the size of the card. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper and iron them towards the following year’s cards. Make a guide for the interesting saved paper, or any fun paper you like, as your next layer. It must be smaller than the card and larger than the photo.

Now you have the items you need for your cards: a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible), the rectangles of saved wrapping paper, and a stack of your cut-out photos.

My next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix” which is a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product where you are. The fibres come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper then iron on a low heat until the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly material. I cut out small rectangles of Hot Fix, one for each of my cards.

Begin construction by gluing the saved wrapping paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends.

Then glue the photo on the top.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile weights on top.

The best part is adding the embellishments! It is time to decorate the front of each card with glitter and crystals and stickers to your heart’s delight.

Inside each card, I include a surprise, usually gift tags, or I also have a set of miniature antique postcards which I bought in a thrift store once, and I’ll include a couple of those with each one. Match your card as closely as possible to the size of the envelope. It looks better that way. Write a special message inside each card and post it to family and friends.
It’s homemade. It’s personal. It’s crafty fun. What’s not to love?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


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I confess. I like reading children’s literature. For years I’ve said, I have to read middle-grade fantasy fiction because I’m “reading within my genre.” Yes, if I want to have an idea of what’s going on in the world of children’s literature, then I have to read what my contemporaries are doing. If I want to add to the body of that literature, I need to read everything in my genre. Most writers know that. But the truth is the last 35+ years I have learned I prefer reading middle-grade fantasy fiction to adult fiction. Uh-huh.

Now and then someone forces me to read adult fiction and I always regret it. The only adult fiction I enjoy is the classic mysteries like those by Agatha Christie. I would say my taste is eclectic. My sister usually buys me adult literary fiction for gifts. Some of the nonfiction books she has bought me over the years have been a hit. But I confess I am not a fan of literary fiction. There has been more than one occasion where I have opened one of these books, then closed the cover, and never looked at them again. Sorry fans of the art. I just can’t.

As I turn into the crone my interest in middle-grade fantasy fiction is far from dimming. On the contrary. It has grown. Here write my favourite authors of all time, Brian Jacques, Beverly Cleary, C.S. Lewis, Tove Jansson, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, Maggie Stiefvater, Philip Reeve, and J.K Rowling. What I love about these stories, apart from the comforting point of view of innocence, is the way the stories move forward and then something special or magical or unusual happens. As the reader, it’s like lifting off into outer space. You are transported somewhere different. In children’s literature, it is a smooth transition, there is no strain or effort. Children are there already, living in the Twilight zone. They accept what happens in cartoons and animations.

It feels to me with this style of fiction as if ‘anything can happen’ and I like the creative freedom that affords me as a writer and a reader. It’s like happy juice.

It transports me to childhood. As one of my favourite teachers, Kiwi, Kate de Goldi, once put it, she ‘wrote children’s fiction to recreate the shaded places of childhood.’ I’ve thought about my writing that way ever since. Reading middle-grade literature is about childhood and it helps me to reconnect with that innocent wide-eyed part of myself, which I cherish. It helps me to connect with my target audience and better understand my readers. The benefits, I tell you, are multifold.


At least, that’s what I tell myself.


What do you like to read and why?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Reading is dreaming with your eyes open. ~ Unknown


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Do you have a garden bed that is in a difficult spot in your garden? Our rockery in the backyard is in a challenging position. Located behind the house, it offers drought and flood and full shadow for most of the day. Previously, we had had a dragon tree in the rockery and a young native tree that was already much too large. The job of transforming the rockery became my “lockdown project.” Change it. I would. And, here’s what I did.
The first casualty was the young tree. With the potential to grow into a grand chieftain, I removed it from the rockery, leaving a long oval-shaped dry bed featuring a lone dragon tree at one end and a spindly sapling at the other. The proposition of making this awkward bed into ‘something’ was daunting. With gardening, you have to attempt to forecast into the future how plants will grow and envisage the potential outcome. In the end, you throw the dice and leave it up to nature. Who dares, wins, right?

I started by simply clearing the weeds and scraping off years of detritus to reduce the bed to a blank canvas. The old bricks which had formed the edging had sunk into the ground over time, nearly disappearing in the mud. I dug these out, cleaning them as I went. Then I packed soil around the edges of the bed, putting the bricks back on top, thereby lifting the edging clear.
There are a few ways to go about laying the foundations of a garden bed. You can plant intensely and not worry about weeds. Or you can set down weed matting, adding bark. Or you can do what the landscapers do, lay a layer of bark at least 400 mm deep so the weeds can not grow.

In the case of the rockery, when I tried to lift the top layer of weed matting, I discovered another, even older layer of matting much farther down. So rather than excavating, I opted to leave the matting in place. If you use a weed mat, you will need to add blood and bone to the soil to correct the PH balance of the soil before adding the mat and the bark on top. So I treated every plant with a good dose of blood and bone mixed in with the potting mix.
My father built the rockery wall out of bluestone in the early 1960s. He needed a retaining wall to create a flatter area in our sloping back garden. The wall was higher than it is now, but over the years, the top tier of bluestone had been robbed out and used elsewhere.

One of my first jobs was to hunt out the rogue bluestones from every corner of the property. Then I lay the stones across the bed to create a stepping stone path, imagining my grandchildren hopping from stone to stone one day.
The rockery is a raised bed. Therefore, it’s helpful to use drought-tolerant plants. Cacti and succulents are ideal. Being situated in the lee of the house, I also needed plants that could handle shade. Ask at your local garden centre for suitable plants for the conditions in your bed. In our case, I planted a line of Buxus hedge trees, which are hardy. Along the front of the rockery bed, I dug in yellow grasses for colour and contrast.
To square off with the lone dragon tree in one corner, I moved my ponytail palm from the front bed into the rockery. Being at the other end of the bed to the lone dragon tree, it makes sense. Huzzah!

Then I planted a dwarf apricot tree. My sister donated a hydrangea, and I planted a few of my mother’s orchids. If you choose to plant an orchid, use the proper potting mix (similar to bark). They do well in the shade.
I still had a gnarly stump in the rockery and an unwieldy section of the tree trunk that was too big to cut with a chainsaw. In the case of immovable obstacles, why not turn them into features? Beneath the dragon tree, I set the section of the trunk upright. Then I turned both the stump and the trunk into wood sculptures by decorating them with my father’s aerophytes (air plants) and rocks.

The last stage of the transformation was to spread bark in between the plants and the stones. I think it looks great. Yesterday, my three-year-old granddaughter came over to visit. When we took a walk in “Nana’s garden,” she automatically dashed over and hopped from stone to stone across the rockery bed. It was a wonderful moment.
I hope you have gained some inspiration for your difficult garden beds. Let me know your stories.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

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Currently, we are in lockdown level 4 in New Zealand. I have been watching the news (I normally do not watch it at all). It is easy to spend time worrying about businesses trying to pay staff during the lockdown, all the overworked essential workers, and our healthcare system under pressure. You feel for the parents working from home, especially the solo parents, those with small children, the lonely old folk, and the teachers trying to teach online. It is not an easy time. However, I have noticed a heartening difference in the way people in my neighbourhood behave. The first time we went into Level 4 lockdown in 2020, when out walking, other walkers and runners would look down or away while crossing the street to avoid you. This time around we are still keeping our distance, but the other people out exercising have looked at me and waved, calling cheery hellos, and smiling behind their masks. I think there is a collective understanding that we have been through this before, and we will get through it again given the right attitude.
There also seems to be a realization we need each other, and we are more aware that we miss those human interactions when we are confined to our bubbles.

A lot of people get swept up by the fear and stressed out. I rang the doctor this morning, and the receptionist said Kia ora like she would bite my head off in one gulp. The stress is real. We have to find coping mechanisms that work for us. I always tell my friends to shut off all the devices in the house and pick up a good book. Looking back, I realized that apart from taking long breaks from the news, it was writing and reading that really helped me through the lockdown in 2020. The same coping mechanisms will help get me through the lockdowns in 2021. I have a few excellent books on the go at the moment. I’m reading, Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman, Spirit Animals Fire, and Ice, by Shannon Hale, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare (thanks to fellow writer Susan Baury Rouchard for sending me that one).

If I find myself panicking, I turn off the devices, then do something I love, whether it be reading, gardening, walking, painting, or just watching a movie eating bon-bons.

Yesterday, a friend said, It looks like things are going to be turbulent for a while. I replied, We have to hold onto our joy more tightly. There is nothing we can do to alter what is going on out there. But we do have control over how we react and act while we are in isolation. There are a few tricks I have learned since 2020 about how to keep my family’s spirits up while we’re in isolation.
My Top Tips:
Limit news updates/turn off your devices
Paint your toenails (and your kids’ toenails – my boys think it is hilarious)
Sleep in! (For a lifelong early riser like myself, this has been a revelation!)
Wear bright colours. (I have shelved all the grey and black in my wardrobe. It is a simple trick, but it makes me feel happier to wear all the brightest clothes I own)
Bake!

Read! (Maybe I will make progress through my tower of to-be-read novels)
Coloured lights! (Drag out your fairy lights, or any twinkle lights and have them on all day as well as at night)
Flowers. (I pick flowers daily on my morning walk along the verges and alleyways and set out mini posies around the house)
Music! (Play your favourite tunes, sing-along, and dance like nobody is watching)
Talk! (Phone your loved ones. Talk across the fence to your neighbours. Sit and talk with the family members in your household). Check on the people you know.
Work in the garden
Dress up in crazy clothes (it makes the boys and I laugh to wear silly hats)

Exercise
Do something creative (my friend said she has started writing limericks because they make her think and make her laugh)
Do a jigsaw (My father’s favourite pastime is fun and calming)
Meditate
Write a gratitude journal
Be kind
We will get through this, just like we have done before. Stay calm and carry on and remember to hold onto your joy tightly!
What are your top tips for staying positive during lockdown?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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As we traverse this very unstable time, it is so important that we keep track of our real joy and our vitality. ~ Jai Dev Singh
 


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Recently I went to see the award-winning play Te Po with my friends, and to say I felt blown away would be a giant understatement. I consider myself a total Luddite compared to my friends. Right from the start, when I met my girlfriends in high school, they invited me to do such cultured things as take grapes to the park and read poetry. They fascinated, enlightened, and challenged me in many ways. As adults, they have coerced me into going to art galleries, shows, and performances I would never attend on my own. I have been to one other play in my life, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off. I was twelve. I felt a twinge of resistance when my friends suggested we attend a play together. But that is why these ladies are so good for me because they force me out of my low-brow comfort zone.

We met early in the evening for minestrone and then made our way to our local events center. Te Po, they told me, was part of the centenary celebration of New Zealand playwright Bruce Mason’s birth. The performers would appear in a theatre named after the playwright, and it was only on for two nights. Like a pop-up store, it was a pop-up theatre. Blink, and you would miss it. Luckily, I let my friends twist my arm, and we attended this lightning in a jar. Te Po, written by Carl Bland, is a comedy, as told by a policeman, a blind man, and a priest, about missing playwright Bruce Mason. And it is laugh-out-loud funny. Though sometimes, we wept.
Te Po is Maori for The Great Darkness, a destination for the dead. It is a place where the dead can revisit their potential and attain knowledge. The elderly Maori character anchors the piece, sings the songs, speaking melodic Maori and English, as the wise man who knows all. He bridges the gap between the worlds and brings spiritual depth.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Te Po. Live theatre is an enlivening experience. Who knew? The combination of a great story, plus fascinating human beings in 3-D, with lights, music, and special effects, was immersive, transformative, and captivating. I felt drawn further and further into the world they created. The mystery deepened in the first acts, and strange things happened, like, the furniture shifted unaided across the stage, giving us a visceral sense of being unsettled. At times, they closed the curtains, plunging us into darkness and playing the sounds of a wild crashing storm. The stage was incredible, with a writer’s office with windows that opened and bookshelves and chairs that moved across the stage. Towards the story apex, the colors deepened to sepia tones, and the whole set began to slide backwards, making the scene appear to dwindle. The effects were well done. Special mention must go to the puppeteer, who created a believable seagull and a captivating giraffe head that took our breath away.

It was interesting to compare how the script for a play follows similar conventions to writing fiction. The writer asked a question then withheld the answer. There was foreshadowing going on and red herrings that became important later. There were expectations set up then dashed. Though somewhat truncated, the characters each had an arc. And the rules changed most refreshingly as the story went along until we finally caught up to speed with the surreal nature of the piece. By then, we had abandoned ourselves to the ride anyway and didn’t care anymore. In the end, when the priest finally gives his last sermon, as promised, it provoked belly laughter from start to finish. We laughed till we cried. It was glorious.
I walked out energized, excited, and with a slightly altered view of the world (the whole intention of art). Now I understand why people around these parts have raved about this play. I am a convert to the wonders of live theatre. It is like a whole new world. Woohoo!

What about you, have you been to a live show lately?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Be at peace with where you’ve been and where you are. That’s how you win the battlefield of the mind. ~ Andrena Sawyer


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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 on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG, and the hashtag is #IWSG.

August 4th optional question – What is your favorite craft writing book? And why?
My pick has to be the wonderful Into the Woods, How Stories Work And Why We Tell Them, by John Yorke. This book falls squarely into the category of learning something new every time I read it. ‘Terrifyingly clever’ was one reviewer’s comment which I thought apt. My eldest sister, the bookworm of the family (who still reads a book a week), gave me Into the Woods one year as a Christmas present. Knowing my sister, I figured she had spent a long time in a small independent bookstore somewhere, carefully studying each title until she found just the right book for me and for my penchant in life. Therefore, always respectful of the eldest’s taste, I started reading her gift on Boxing Day.
Gut reaction: big sister got it right, as usual.

Into the Woods is ostensibly a novel about the dramatic structure inherent in plays, films, TV drama, and all works of fiction, and yet it delivers so much more. Born of Yorkes’ intellectual need to understand the tenets of story structure, I admired how he distilled his findings to help us see the bones of stories. Yorke discovered there was a unifying shape to all fiction. He likened it to the fairytale journey into the woods, which works for me as an excellent analogy. The stories I’ve written so far have been literal journeys into the woods, coincidentally, so the analogy worked on all levels. It’s like poetry. However, Yorke can say it better than I can.

“In stories throughout the ages, there is one motif that continually recurs – the journey into the woods to find the dark but life-giving secret within. This book attempts to find what lurks at the heart of the forest. All stories begin here…”

I read this book slowly, going back and re-reading many times to make sure I understood. My copy has post-it flags sticking up from a dozen pages. There are passages I’ve highlighted in fluorescent yellow and pencil notes in the margins. I found there was so much helpful information about story structure, character, and dialogue, that I knew at once it was information I would refer to again. And so it has been. I sometimes refer to it as I write new stories. I’ve presented some of the information in the form of a speech for Toastmasters. And I’ve also included excerpts and quotes from Into the Woods in numerous posts over the last seven years of blogging.


The book has become something of a touchstone.

The material takes multiple re-readings for people of ‘small brain’ like me to take the information on board. Therefore, Into the Woods enjoys pride of place on my desk rather than being relegated to the bookshelf.

John Yorke, a creator of the BBC Writers Academy and managing director of Company Pictures, used to work for the BBC in television and radio, and today is also a visiting professor of English Language and Literature. He writes non-fiction with authority, and it’s the heft of the research he has done on the subject of story structure that lends weight to Into the Woods. In my opinion, it should become a future classic.


‘First, learn to be a craftsman; it won’t keep you from being a genius.’ A Delacroix quote which features in the Introduction. How cool is that?


What about you, which book do you refer to the most?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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“The best book on the subject I’ve read.” ~ Tony Jordan


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

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

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be.”
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

I’ve tried other genres each time a teacher has called me upon to write something new for writing courses, however, somehow I always end up penning fantasy for children by default. It has always come the most naturally to me, ever since I started writing this genre of fiction as a seventeen-year-old.

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I think that’s because fantasy is what I loved to read as a child. And reading books is one of the most vividly remembered aspects of my young life. When I was at my most voracious reading stage, at twelve, I had to take a stack of twenty books with me whenever we went on holiday. I couldn’t bear to be without a book to read. I was still young enough to believe in the unbelievable and to look at things out of the corner of my eye, still naïve enough to believe in the possibility of fairies and witches and magic. The stories I read were actual worlds to me, and I escaped into their dappled places with abandon. That was where my imagination lit up.

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When I wrote stories as a bored seventeen-year-old stay-at-home-mum, my imagination immediately took off into the never-never I had relished as a child, and I was writing fantasy adventure for 6-8-year-olds in my first story out of the gate. That’s the way it’s been ever since.

In my early twenties, I read in the newspaper about the New Zealand author, Jill Mitchell, creator of the Zip and Mack books (which they later made into an animated TV series). Jill was writing and illustrating and publishing her own picture books, under the imprint Wild Daisies Publications, an Indie long before it was fashionable. I contacted Jill, and she invited me out to her home to meet.

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Jill Mitchell was the ultimate artist. She had a delightfully wacky country house, in which she had painted vivid nature scenes on every wall, and she had a wild garden filled with every kind of plant and flower. How I envied her the studio she had built out of her garden shed. It was open to the air, and as she sat at the high bench and wrote or painted, her many pets could wander through and say hello, including her donkey.

Jill showed me all her wonderful brightly coloured books, and I showed her some of my picture book stories. At that stage in my writing career, I had heard the words “fantasy doesn’t sell” so many times from so many publishers I was desperate to write something a child would read. So I had penned five “normal” adventure stories and illustrated them. I showed them to Jill. She thought they showed promise. And I can remember she praised my style as “wholesome.”

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I said, yeah, they’re okay, but what I love to write is fantasy, especially about anthropomorphic critters (think, the Redwall series or Finn Family Moomintroll). Jill said, if that’s what you want to write, then you must follow your heart. It was one of those key moments in my life. Later, in 2005, when my two youngest boys were still babies, I attended two weekend writing courses with award-winning Kiwi writer and tutor, Kate De Goldi. Kate looked at my fantasy manuscripts and said she didn’t know why I had a predilection for writing about insects, but if I did, then I should follow that because there had to be a reason for it. Fortified once again, I continued to write the stories that gave me joy and made my heart sing, and you guessed it, I’m still writing anthropomorphic fantasy for children. Huzzah! Did I “choose” the genre, no, it definitely chose me.

What about you, are you doing what gives you the most joy, what makes your heart sing? I highly recommend it.

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. – Eleanor Roosevelt

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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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May 6 question – Do you have any rituals you use when you need help to get into the ZONE? Care to share?

The first thing I always do when I write the rough draft, is to go through the techniques we learnt in Tiffany Lawson Inman’s writing class, Method to Madness*, in 2012. I won a grand prize through commenting on a blog that year, and the prize was a writing workshop with Tiffany at the Lawson Writer’s Academy. As a trained actor, Tiffany applied the techniques actors used to relax and get into character as a way for writers to get into the zone and let the inspiration flow to write “Oscar-worthy” moments.

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Tiffany taught the workshop based on the principles she’d learned as a Method actor. She was inspiring. She told us Method acting helps actors tap into deep sensory memories and draw from actual life, bringing memories to life, and that a writer can use the same techniques to tap into their own memories and create more vivid fiction. We learnt to use relaxation techniques and exercise as the key ways to access our native creativity.

Tiffany set us a daily assignment of relaxation exercises we had to do before writing. We could not do the routine after a meal but on an empty stomach. We were to wear comfortable clothes and no heavy jewelry. We had to do the routine in a quiet, dim room with only natural light.

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Then we had to lie on the floor, not a bed or a couch, and breathe deeply. Slowly tense and release each muscle group of the body working from the toes to the head, holding each contraction for five seconds, mentally releasing the tension in each muscle group. We moved onto head rolls from side to side and consciously releasing each muscle group in the face by making funny faces, poking out the tongue, frowning and smiling and so on.

We returned to the deep breathing to a count of five or ten, on each out-breath letting out an AAH or an OOH sound. When standing up the body needed to be floppy, and we had to roll up the spine until the head came up last.

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The entire routine takes about twenty minutes.

“Tension is a creator’s worst enemy,” said Tiffany. “Can I persuade you that physical tension paralyzes our whole capacity for action, our dynamism, how muscular tension is connected to our minds,” said the acting teacher Konstantin Stanislavski.

The other part of the technique was to exercise daily. The combination of moving the body to get the blood flowing and then relaxing completely was the magic formula. It must work because it’s the one I still use today, eight years later. You know when something is a valuable tool and when a tip is worth keeping. These things helped me and still help me whenever I need to get into the zone to write.

I hope they help you, too. 

p.s. I highly recommend Lawson Writer’s Academy, the courses are short, high intensity and well priced.

*Copyright©2012 by Tiffany Lawson Inman, All Rights Reserved

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“An actor’s instrument is his whole self, it is his body, mind and being, complete with thoughts, emotions, sensitivity, imagination, honesty and awareness.” ~ E.D. Easty