Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

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

 

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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

 

‘Family is the most important thing in the world.’ ~ Princess Diana

Last weekend, I joined the extended Maori side of our family to celebrate the “unveiling ceremony” for a family matriarch. The unveiling is held a year after a person’s death, when the whanau (family) gather again at the marae – the general area outside their meeting house –  for a service and at the family cemetery to reveal the person’s headstone. It’s a time to bless the stone, to remember the loved one, to talk about them and sing to them, once more.

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I’d been invited to join my niece and nephews, to farewell their grandmother one last time at her “unveiling.” It was to be held at their family’s marae, on the banks of Lake Rotoma, which lies just beyond Rotorua. Lucky for me, I was able to coordinate my arrival with that of my niece, and I simply copied the protocol she displayed, so as not to do the wrong thing by mistake. I accompanied her when we entered the Te Waiiti Marae and followed in her wake, kissing the cheek of all those already there.

I felt out of my comfort zones, out of my element, and yet, it was okay. I was glad to be there.

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Outside the big kitchen where many women were busy preparing the food, there was a plastic bucket of Koura, or fresh water crayfish, which had been found in the nearby Waiiti stream.

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To the rear of the kitchen block, on a flat piece of lawn, the men were laying the hangi. They had dug the pit that morning. A bonfire had been lit much earlier and had burned down to coals. The rocks, which had been within the fire, were tipped into the bottom of the pit. Then the trays of prepared vegetables, pig, lamb and chicken were placed over the rocks.

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These were covered in sacks which had been soaked in water. Then, the men all pitched in to cover it in the soil. The hangi was then left to cook.

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An hour later, the ceremony began with the powhiri (welcome) when friends and family who had arrived were welcomed onto the marae.

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Everyone was seated outside the whare, (the house) where some of the women in the family sat with the photos of the deceased. The eldest male in the family then gave the mihi, or recitation of those family members who have passed, reminding everyone of the names of their ancestors.

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This was followed by waiata (song) and karakia (prayer), and then, the grandmother’s family lined up to greet the new arrivals. From there, everyone drove to the cemetery a mile or so down the road, where the gravesite had been prepared with decorations and the stone was covered by a traditional feathered cloak.

After more prayer, the headstone was unveiled and the inscription read aloud, before being blessed by the priest. There were readings, songs and everyone who wanted to speak was invited to speak, also known as ‘korero.’

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Finally, the whanau processed back to the marae in the afternoon, to dig up the hangi and eat a meal together (kai hakari).

I marvel at how lucky we’ve been in our family, that we have become forever connected – through marriage – to this Maori family. Because of this connection of whanau, we’ve been invited to attend a number of these traditional Maori events over the years, and have been fortunate enough to get a see a little bit of insight into their culture, which has been a real privilege.

At the same time, I still feel like an outsider looking in.

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I was very aware when I walked onto the marae, that morning, of being one of three other Europeans there. “Who’s that?” one of the aunties asked my nephew, indicating me. He said, “She’s my mum’s sister.”

Immediately, there were big smiles from the lady and all the other aunties sitting along the bench outside the dining room, and I went over to kiss her and each of the others on the cheek. I was welcomed with open arms.

The Maori culture is so rich and so steeped in tradition that it’s just a pleasure and an honour to bear witness and be a part of the lives of the indigenous people of this country. I loved every minute. It was a very special day to be part of, and it reminded me of everything that’s great about this country.

Te tangata, te tangata, te tangata! The people, the people, the people!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

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

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: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

I was seventeen when I began writing. Fresh out of school, I was a teenage mum with a newborn baby to care for. My boyfriend and I had moved out of home, away from our families into the city. In the early eighties, the days before personal cell phones and computers, this meant being totally isolated. It’s hard to imagine, now, isn’t it. But, we were on our own in the big, bad world. I studied for my bursary year by correspondence, while washing forty nappies every day by hand in the bathtub. As my boyfriend was in his first year as an apprentice photolithographer, he only made $96 a week and that was all we had. I bought bulk packs of macaroni and different powdered flavouring and made macaroni cheese with a different flavour added each night. We had one car, and we lived in a dingy apartment building. Our flat was infested with cockroaches, and at the front and back of the building it was nothing but tarmac, there was no view, no garden or green area of our own.

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That scenario was the perfect breeding ground for the artist to come forth. I had to escape somehow. The cheapest, simplest way to escape my life circumstances was to pick up a pen and write.

When my son was sleeping, I wrote children’s stories and let my imagination go wild. I didn’t ‘know how to write’ and the stories were pretty bad, looking back. I remember a well-known writer saying once, ‘Every writer has those first manuscripts lying in a bottom drawer that should never see the light of day.’ The writing was crap, and yet, I was trapped in a poor, isolated and uninspiring life, and writing stories gave me the hope I needed. It was like self therapy. Every day, I expressed myself creatively through the written word and by doing so experienced that new, more inspiring reality. This became my outlet, my sunlit garden, and the saving of me.

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Every day, whenever I got the chance, I’d pick up the story and write a little more. I’d climb through the green window into the meadow beyond, and there I’d be free.

As my son grew up, our life circumstances began to improve and have their own flowering.

My writing changed too. With each writing workshop, course, conference and lecture I attended, my understanding of the craft developed. My work gained more structure, more form and substance.

My first born son became an adult, and suddenly, I became more independent, I had more freedom. By the nineties, I had a job. I had money, and I was still writing in my spare time. There was the beautiful fruit of my stories developing into purer forms.

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Every day, whenever I got the chance, I’d pick up the story and write a little more. I was still drawing and painting my characters in tandem with writing the prose.

I remarried and had two more sons. We had a home with a lovely garden. As my life circumstances and finances settled, I didn’t have a desperate desire to escape my world anymore. In order to continue to work at a steady pace on my stories, I had to learn discipline. Just as I had to attend to the grown-up business of marriage, house maintenance and child-rearing, I also had to learn B.I.C. Butt In Chair is hard to do as it takes immense concentration. I accepted the challenge.

Every day, I’d sit and write a little more. I decided to stop drawing my own illustrations, and I focussed on the words.

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I gravitated to writing middle grade fiction twelve years ago, and it felt like I’d found my niche.

Writing has become an integral part of my life. I have come to love every step of the novel writing process. I don’t have an agent or a publisher. I’m my own boss and in the last three years, I’ve self published two books and had two short works included in two others.

My creativity in life has definitely evolved since I started writing? How about you, has yours?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

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

Today is Halloween in California where the youngest son continues his dream trip, ‘A Californian Adventure’ thanks to Koru Care NZ. The charitable trust is run by volunteers, who raise funds to send a group of seriously ill and disabled children on the trip of a lifetime to Disneyland each year.

When your child suffers so much due to ill health, as the parent, you want good things to happen to them.

Yet, as the parent, you’re also a bit jaded, and you tend to think, will this trip really be the ‘trip of a lifetime’ or will it be a series of disappointments? However, I’m happy to say the Californian Adventure has been all they promised and more.

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As was detailed in A California Adventure and Californian Adventure, Part 1, in the first week, the kids had been to meet the California Highway Patrol, to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to Universal Studios, and SeaWorld, and in the last blog post, the team were on their way to Disneyland. Imagine being a child at Disneyland for the first time, and you can stay all day through to the evening and go on as many rides as you can handle! Ha ha, I can hardly imagine the joy.

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The next day, they went to Knott’s Berry Farm, renamed “Knott’s Scary Farm” for the Day of the Dead. And, then, they visited Disney California Adventure Park.

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I love the fact that the kids aren’t being treated like kids. They aren’t expected to be in bed early every night. The team of adult carers have taken the kids out to see the sights in the evenings as well.

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They’ve given them a taste of the nightlife. They stayed at Disneyland, Knott’s Scary Farm and Disneyland California Adventure until after dark, so they got to watch the parades and ride the lighted roller coasters at night.

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They’ve dined in cool restaurants, seeing the bright lights along the way, and they’ve attended different dinner theatre, things most of these kids would never normally get to do.

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In the second week, they had another fun educational visit, this time to the LA Coast Guard and then a day at the San Diego Zoo.

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Today was a free day, and they’ve been at the beach all day. Tonight, they’ll have to fasten their seatbelts, because they’re going to a Halloween party! Then, the kids have one more day at Disneyland and California Adventure before they finally depart LAX for home.

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I expect the youngest son will come exhausted, satiated, and also, that his life will be forever enriched by this formative experience.

I’ve enjoyed watching on from afar and getting to live every minute vicariously through him, even the scary ones. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. The trip of a lifetime? It’s proving to be the trip of at least two!

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44877107_2379645158715632_414595559609860096_nI think one of the greatest things Korucare do with this trip is make it ‘device-free.’ The kids aren’t allowed to take phones or ipads or any sort of handheld gaming devices.

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They are thrown together for two weeks and without their phones and what-have-you, these kids are forced to communicate. And, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. You can see through the photos how close they’ve grown.

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These days, with the research done on the effects of the internet/personal phones/devices on our kids, the research has shown a decrease in the ability of children to hold a conversation.

What a brilliant idea, to make these vacations device-free. It really brings the group of kids together in a way they rarely get to experience, one-on-one, in the moment, and interacting with one another. It’s healthy for them and they need that reminder about how to function in real time with other people.

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At an event like this, where the kids are not allowed to bring their phones, you see them instantly revert to sitting in groups on the floor talking, and playing handgames, it’s the most heartwarming sight in the world. I’m so thrilled and pleased and honoured our family was one of those chosen for this special life-changing event.

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Thank you, once again, to all those who contribute to KoruCare NZ. We’ll never forget this.

Thank you!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal!” – P. Vaull Starr

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

A few months ago, our family got some great news. The youngest son had been chosen as a “heart kid” (a child who has undergone open heart surgery) to go along on this year’s ‘California Adventure.’ A trip to Disneyland is organized and run each year by Koru Care Charitable Trust NZ, ‘making dreams come true for seriously ill and disabled children.’

I overheard a conversation the youngest son was having yesterday with friends while playing Fortnite. One member of the squad asked, “Why do you get to go to Disneyland?” and another answered, “It’s his reward for surviving heart surgery.” That’s the truth and yet, my youngest felt bad about accepting the gift. He said he felt someone else should be going on the trip in his place because he ‘didn’t deserve it.’

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And so, I gently reminded him of the terrifying journey of the first five years of his life. It was an endlessly harrowing ride for me as his chief nurse and caregiver.

The youngest of my three boys was born in 2005, with complex congenital heart disorder (or CHD), although we did not know that at the time. The first clue came when he started coughing at three weeks old, though he had no other symptoms of ill health.

The cough would come and go from then on, however when he did contract the flu, then his health would plummet fast and the cough would become life threatening and continuous. It took me five years to figure out what was wrong, as we went down the road of misdiagnoses and educated guesses, and countless trial treatments.

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Finally, after trying everything, I told our doctor the whole story. She listened carefully to his chest. Her diagnosis of a heart murmur then led us on to the hospital tests, which finally confirmed the actual problem was a sizeable hole in his heart or atrial septal defect. The medical part of our journey began there.

In 2010, he underwent double bypass open heart surgery. The operation was later added to the “unusual casebook.” The “hole” in his heart was ‘more than just a hole, there was only a rim between the upper chambers,’ the surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Rumball, told us later, ‘and his heart had grown a single vein from the liver to the bottom of the heart,’ something she had never seen before. Dr. Rumball had to figure out how create an autologous pericardial patch to fix both issues.

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After six hours of surgery, my five-year-old woke up in Pediatric Intensive Care, with a gash down his chest, in a lot of pain. Only three days out from the surgery, he’d been moved to the high dependency unit and was already taking his first steps. Three days later, we were released to go home.

We’ve come a long way since those days. The youngest son starts high school, next year. One of the teachers asked me how having had the surgery affects him now. I said, he’s fine now, yet, he will always be that little bit “fragile,” and he won’t have quite the same stamina and energy levels as other kids. Child heart patients are also susceptible to emotional, developmental and behavioural problems. We haven’t had any issues there, so far.

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He has to take daily medications and rest a little more than other kids his own age. But, generally he is healthy, fit and well. He bikes to school each day. And, wonderfully, gone are the days and nights of coughing. He has quality of life and the prospect of a healthy future ahead.

With a bit of gentle prodding on my part, the youngest son had remembered his journey and accepted that maybe it was acceptable for him to go on the California Adventure.

After another month and a half, I started the process of medical clearance for him to take the trip. I started on doing the paperwork, and buying the things he would need to take with him. I borrowed luggage and we went to get some money changed into U.S currency.

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As the weeks have gone by, the pressure to have everything in order has increased. And in the last two weeks, I’ve been flat tack. Tonight, the bags are packed. The boy has had his nails trimmed, and he’s had a haircut.

Everything is done, at last.

On Saturday, he leaves on the California Adventure with twenty-four other lucky kids.

The youngest son said, “I don’t feel happy very much, but about this trip, I feel the happiest I’ve ever been.”

The joy! What parent doesn’t want to hear that?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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You don’t have favourites among your children but you do have allies. ~ Zadie Smith

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

 

 

(and save money going organic)

For years, I’d intended to “go organic” but, somehow, I’d never managed to get around to it. Yet, with both my parents dying in the last two years, I felt life was catching up with me. So, I decided this year, I’d make the effort to improve our diet and our health.

After multiple car trips around the neighbourhood, comparing prices and availability of organic produce, I found a good local wholefoods store. And, I’m proud to say, we have now made the move over to eating (nearly) all organic food and it feels wonderful. We also make a few things ourselves. It’s a matter of trial and error as we go along. The wonderful thing about being connected via the internet, as I have been for the last five years, is that you can share your developments and discoveries as you go along, and (hopefully) benefit other people. So, here goes…

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I used to buy pre-made dumplings. Now, we make our own. Simply buy a pack of dumpling wrappers, some lean, free-range, ethically raised pork mince, and add a few diced shrimps and herbs and chives from the garden, a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce. Mix and dumplify. Then drop in hot water and freeze in batches. The ultimate dream would be to make my own dumpling wrappers as well, using organic ingredients, but, hey, one has to take one amazing step forward at a time!

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The first time we made our own dumplings, they lasted for weeks. It was a saving and they were tastier and better for us.

*Top tip: make your children do all the work. My kids love making dumplings!

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I used to buy a bag of mesclun lettuce for the kids at $3.99 and a fancy lettuce for me at $3.99 each week. Now, I buy two packs of multiple organic seedlings for $3.95 each from a wholefoods store and we grow our own salad greens for months.

I used to buy bean sprouts. One pack of organic alfalfa at $3.95 and one organic broccoli sprouts or chickpea sprouts at $3.95 from the wholefood supermarket a week.

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Now, I buy 100gm packs of alfalfa and lentil sprouting seeds at $6.90 and $3.95 respectively, from BinnInn, and we make our own bean sprouts. The bags last for more than a month.

I thought I’d share the steps of how to do your own sprouting, to show how simple it is. My son says the homemade sprouts taste better. And they’re obviously fresher which means they’re better for you. It’s a win-win all round!

Here’s how to grow your own bean sprouts:

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Start with your pack of seed, a jar and a preserving jar lid with mesh glued around the inside. We made our own sprouting kit, using a 1 kg peanut butter jar and preserving lid, adding mesh we bought at the hardware store. However, you can buy starter kits with the seeds included in most wholefood stores. In New Zealand, you can get them at Binn Inn,  for a reasonable twenty-five dollars.

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With the alfalfa, I use a tablespoon and a half of seed. With the lentils, I use two tablespoons. Cover the seeds in separate containers with filtered water by at least an inch. Screw the lid on top of the jar. Leave the seeds to soak overnight.

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Drain off excess water the next morning. Roll the jar onto its side and spread the seeds out a bit by shaking so that they all get a bit of space and air can circulate.

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Each day, water them night and morning, and drain off water. Repeat until the sprouts are to the size you want them. The alfalfa takes about four days to reach a decent size.  The lentils only take a couple of days, or they get a little ‘tough.’ Then move the sprouts to the lidded container of your choosing and refrigerate.

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I like to wash the sprouting jar and lid, and give them a day and a half at least of non-use in between batches. After that, cover the next lot of seeds with water and start again. It makes enough sprouts for our family of three for a week.

You’re welcome. Enjoy! And let me know how you go with your bean sprouting adventures.

I do feel improvement in my health and overall wellbeing, and it feels so good to do this for my kids. I hope these tips are of use to you and your family!

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Talk to you later.

Keep Creating!

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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Beware the dreaded terror that is the read-aloud edit! Everything they say about it being a back-breaking labour is true. These days, you often hear the advice to read your own work aloud. This is primarily because, no matter how obvious it seems, the fact remains that stories were made to be told, to be heard by the reader’s inner ear, and to be shared with others. If a piece of prose can’t pass the read-aloud test, it’s dead in the water. And yet, reading aloud your own story, especially if it’s a full length novel, will crush your soul beneath its heel.

I’m currently three quarters of the way through a read-aloud edit of my next middle grade novel, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wanted to give up. Labours of Hercules, on steroids.

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You see, three weeks ago, after having edited my work-in-progress, The Last Tree, a gazillion times, I decided it was time to do the dreaded read aloud edit. By the end of the first hour of recording myself, I was drained of all energy and, by the end of the first day, the will to live.

Each weekend, that I’ve gotten to work on it again, I’ve been surprised afresh by how it makes me want to claw my own hair out by the roots. It’s tedious, arduous and gruelling. No part of reading aloud 67,634 words comes easy. In fact, I have discovered a whole new appreciation for voice artists and especially those who do the audio novels. It takes power and endurance and patience. You read page after page until you think you’re going to go mad. And, then you find you’ve only read one chapter and there are still fifty more ahead.

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The reason you keep going through this undeniable hard slog, is that there’s such a big payoff. You get this incredible transformation that starts to come over the work that no other editing technique can touch.

The reason you keep going despite the mental and physical anguish is that when you read aloud, you hear your story anew. When you listen to the recording to edit the story, you hear the prose in a new way again. This effectively brings to light every flaw. It is quite special and unique in its singular transparency.

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The reason you keep going is because you discover where the story doesn’t flow as well as it should, and you swiftly knock a lot of the bumps out.

The eleven rewards I’ve identified so far in reading aloud your own work:

  1. You notice extraneous words, when sentences are too long
  2. You hear the repetitions, the favoured ways of saying things, favoured words or ‘tics’
  3. You hear where the dialogue is popping and where it falls flat
  4. You hear where you need to name who is doing what to prevent the reader getting lost37536386_10155480627157212_1260027620918034432_n
  5. It shows up flaws in rhythm, words that when spoken in sequence trip up the tongue
  6. You become aware of leaps in states of consciousness, where you as the writer have made assumptions things are clear, yet you have failed to fill in the gaps. You see the spots where there are not enough words to paint the scene
  7. It brings out patterns in actions (like ‘nodded’ and ‘shook their head’ or ‘rolled their eyes’)
  8. You see where some parts of the story have heft, they’re meatier, while other parts are weaker and the material too thin
  9. You discover where you’ve put the cart before the horse and you have things out of sequence, so you have stated the decision first and the options and problem solving second40661154_1781118765330897_3490029191380860928_n
  10. You’ll hear where too many words have been used in a sentence. You’ll discover sentences so long and convoluted you can’t breathe, and they’ll make you hate your own writing with a passion
  11. You can feel the drag where some parts of the story are boring, or could be worded better, and sometimes, you can even hear where punctuation is missing

As you can see, it is well worth the sweat, blood and toil, as well as the inevitable midnight oil. Despite the fact it has been a painful, torturous process, so far, reading my book aloud has also been the most effective editing I’ve done. I might even be tempted to do it again, even though I quail at the thought!

Am I crazy? Yes, possibly.

What about you, have you ever tried the dreaded read aloud edit? Did you live to tell the tale?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.” -Harley King

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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. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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: What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

I’m going to answer both parts of that question. When I put out The Last Tree, the third book of the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, in 2019, I aim to self publish. But, that’s not to say going Indie is an easy option. I self published The Or’in of Tane Mahuta in 2015 and The Sasori Empire in 2017, and both journeys were equally back breaking.

Going Indie is a bit like having babies: the agony and hardship and gruelling aspect of self publishing your stories is epic. As you sweat your way through the nightmare of endless editing hell and the 101 jobs that need doing, you swear with a fist raised to the sky that once you’ve got this book out, that’s it, you’re done with going Indie.

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In more sober moments, you tell friends that the next time you publish a book you’ll get someone else to do the donkey work. You’re totally willing to go out on the streets to knock on the doors and basically stalk the gatekeepers again, submitting your manuscripts to editor after editor. You’re convinced you’d rather trudge the rounds of submission forever, than tackle self publishing again.

Then, your beautiful baby is born. You have the party, you hold your novel in your hands, sniff it, and you look at it adoringly. Sometime later, after the glow has worn off and a bit more time has gone past, you realize you want to do it all over again.

You dive back into being an Indie with your next work because:

 

  1. Despite the backbreaking hours of hard work, it’s really rewarding.
  2. Every single decision is in your hands which is overwhelming, yet you have control over the look of the whole package, which is exhilarating (hee hee, ha ha!)
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  4. Every single cent ever made goes to you.
  5. I once turned down a publishing offer because they wanted to change the name of the characters! As an Indie, you get to be the boss, and say how the story goes and no one else.
  6. Because you have to do the book launches and marketing yourself, it drives you to learn new skills and expand your repertoire.
  7. You have more to offer in terms of advice and knowhow when young authors come asking. I’ve been surprised in the last ten years how many up and coming writers have asked me questions. It’s helpful in those situations to have a clue.
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  9. For me, one of the big reasons for self publishing is no one wanted to publish my stories the way I wanted to read them. So, in order for me to put out my anthropomorphic fantasy adventure fiction for the upper middle grade market (9-13-year-olds), I had to do it myself. Sometimes, when the slice of the market you’re aiming at is so small, it just isn’t economically viable for a traditional publishing house to invest in a niche with such low returns. So, in order to stay true to the material, I had to produce it myself.

For me, this is vitally important, because my entire life is a quest for truth, for honesty, the essence of things. I aim to cleave to the material the muse gives me.

For me, the gut feeling is this: that my only job as the author is to produce the copy, buff and polish it with editing, and do my utmost not to wreck the original inspiration.

If the gatekeepers can’t get behind my vision or this particular creation, then so be it. I get to say, no matter, I’m publishing it anyway. And, I love that!

8. Ultimately, it feels good because it feels like investing in myself.

What about you, what publishing path will you take?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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I’ve been working on book three, The Last Tree, in my series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, for ten months. In the last two weeks, I have made some huge strides forward, which have entailed two joyous editing experiences, one weekend after another. It put me in mind of the fact that a lot of times, we writers hear about mistakes and pitfalls to avoid. I thought I’d like to share two of the delights of editing a novel.

I like to keep record of how many times I’ve done something—it’s the dad in me, what can I say?—so that’s how I know, I was on the twenty-ninth edit of The Last Tree, when I experienced that holy of holies, the ‘change of mind.’

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This mythical creature, the change of mind, or change of heart, is what happens when you disengage from your normal way of looking at your writing, and you get what is akin to a third-person perspective. It’s the moment when, if you’re lucky, as the writer you get to see and experience your work as if you were the reader. I had been editing for ten months and had done twenty-nine rounds of the material before I had my lightning strike and was able to read the copy in a whole new way.

Jimmy Braun, photo

Jimmy Braun, photo

That was two weeks ago. I really did feel lucky. I was changing swathes of the story from the second half to the end. I had been steadily bringing the word count down all year, from the overblown 90,845 I started with, to a neater 67,000 words. But that weekend, I was scything out pages of text, losing two whole chapters between Friday and Sunday. Then, at the same time, I couldn’t help myself adding new words, as I saw gaps that needed closing, so the copy ballooned again to over 68,000. And overarching it all was this brilliant feeling of being able to see clearly to the heart of the story, and really see what needed to be changed. The whole weekend was infused with creative imagination.

Then a week ago, when I went back to editing The Last Tree, the experience was completely different.

Last weekend, I’d hoped to taste that particular joy again, that elusive ethereal moment of magic. Every writer or artist knows this; it’s been called being touched by ‘the muse.’ There is an element to it of ‘otherness,’ when you’re immersed in your craft, of these magic moments, of being suspended from earth, of being delivered the ideas and words, of being able to weave worlds.

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But, last weekend it wasn’t to be. I could feel the difference as soon as I started working. This wasn’t about inspiration it was about the building blocks. The second half of The Last Tree had bothered me all year, yet, I just couldn’t seem to get my head around it. I knew something needed fixing. I had tried a few solutions: chopping the prose up a few times, rearranging the order, I took out scenes and added new ones, however a niggling feeling – “the little writer’s voice” – kept nagging me it still wasn’t right.

Last weekend, it was about getting the structure of these final scenes figured out, nailing down the nuts and bolts of the climactic scenes and the resolution of all the story threads. On the Friday night, I sat with a list of the marks I needed to hit, with regards structure, on one side of my computer, and a list of the general editing changes I needed to make, on the other side of my computer.

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By Sunday night, I had re-engineered the final acts of the story. I had welded and hammered them into a new shape. I had rebuilt it better than before. It was a thing of beauty. And, I knew that it was right this time, because of how I felt in my gut and the fact that the little writer’s voice had been silenced.

Only in the nick of time too, as my critique group, The Gang of Four, were nipping at my heels. The girls and I have been swapping chapters since February. Little did they know, I’d been sweating it all year because I knew the end scenes weren’t finalised. So I’m doubly glad to have had a couple of weekends like these, where the flow picked me up and carried me to the finish.

Yeeha! The old adage of B.I.C (Butt In Chair) really works.

Have you had any joyous writing experiences you want to share?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Haruki Murakami says, ‘The good thing about writing books is that you can dream while you are awake.’

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