Posts Tagged ‘Introspection’

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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Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?)

I have a frightening tale to tell…

For many years, I’ve thought about trying my hand at short fiction. Joe Bunting inspired me on his terrific blog, The Write Practice, when he was blogging about making the shift from novel writing to short stories. But, unlike the youthful abandon with which Joe leaped, I held back, feeling daunted by the concept. I felt afraid at the thought of having to minimise word count while at the same time freighting every word – much in the same way as poets do – as truth to tell, that just wasn’t me. I’ve always been the talker in the family. My books always make a good thick doorstop.

I felt challenged by the discipline needed for penning short stories and, I was too green at the time. I’m not a much better writer now, but I’m more willing to give things a go and fall flat on my face than I used to be when I was young. I’m more willing to get things wrong.

Daniel Jose Older

Last year, I signed up for a writing workshop with Daniel Jose Older, on writing short fiction. Daniel Jose Older was as informative and inspiring as expected. I felt electrified.

When he set us loose to write a short story, I had no preconceived agenda, no thought in my mind as to subject. We were given as broad a set of parameters as you could imagine, in that we could write about any subject.

I write for children and persons who are young at heart. I have always done so, since the day I began writing my first children’s story at the age of seventeen. That was my automatic go-to. As I moved the pen across the page, I was writing for children. And yet, the story which came to me on the ether was different, bustling and rustling. It wrapped me up and rushed me headlong on its dark wind. I particularly love when it’s like that, when the muse is speaking loud and strong and the ride is the most beautiful exceptional rush of creativity.

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Imagine my surprise! I looked up later and found that instead of the usual adventure/quest type stories I like to write, I had written my first ever spooky tale! I’m still not sure how that happened, or where I veered off the path.

Birdy is  set in a modern Kiwi suburb. It’s a story about an old Maori woman, who the neighbourhood kids believe is a legendary water demon, and the creepy way that Birdy preys upon the weaknesses of her neighbour’s child. The story takes place over one hour in the victim’s life, with the clock ticking.

This story is dark, macabre, tense, unlike anything I’ve written before.

Horror is a genre I tend to shy away from in all its forms. I far prefer fantasy that is uplifting. Even so, I had surrendered to the process and this chilling tale was the result.

The horrible thing is, I’m not sure if the story is any good. I have no idea. In fact, I sincerely doubt it is. While I might be unsure if I will ever go that way again, you can be sure my hands are clammy. I’m looking at every granny sideways, and hearing twigs creak in the night, and shadows slide out of the corner of my eye!

How about you, have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘I’d rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it, than live a thousand years watching my digestion and being afraid of the wet.’ ~ Jack London

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

insecurewriterssupportgroup

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

May Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

A colleague from Toastmasters referred to the series I’m writing as “magical realism” the other day, which I thought was a good description. I like to write of other worlds which are nevertheless based on Earth. For the upper middle grade series I’m writing currently, the Chronicles of Aden Weaver, the characters are shape shifting insects. For this, I did research on the insect world, read up on some Maori and Japanese myths, and I read about Albatrosses, and I loved every minute of it.

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When I first started out as a young writer, I used to be embarrassed of my “talking animals stories” because most people, especially publishers at the time, disregarded them. However, the popularity of fantasies about animals can be traced back to Aesop’s fables and beyond. Our fascination with them goes through Greek literature and can be seen echoed in fables from other cultures such as India, through the “beasts as spokespeople” of medieval writers, to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, to The Jungle Book and The Wind in the Willows. It’s a “live” sub-genre of fantasy.

“As a critical term, ‘fantasy’ has been applied rather indiscriminately to any literature which does not give priority to realistic representation: myths, legends, folk and fairy tales, utopian allegories, dream visions, surrealist texts, science fiction horror stories…” ~ Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy, The Literature of Subversion

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As they say in The Ultimate Encyclopaedia of Fantasy, “One of the problems in any discussion of fantasy is to decide just where ‘realistic’ ends and fantasy begins.” In the “variously fashionable sub-type” of magical realism, which is the strange grayish area of literature I inhabit, the realistic aspect of the story is balanced by the fantastical.

English comedian and writer, David Walliams said, “The only limits in a children’s book are your imagination.” This is exactly what I love about writing for children and the magical realism genre; they’re both about that freedom of spirit. I feel the sky’s the limit and that’s the way I want to feel when I write.

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To achieve “realism,” I always do a bit of research for every book. So for this story about insect shape shifters, I read books, articles, watched documentaries about insects. My dragonfly characters have six legs and four wings. I feel that being able to include the facts gives credibility to the world we’re creating for our readers. Realism adds depth and complexity. It locks the reader in so that they can fly with us on our leaps of imagination. They feels safe with us to explore further.

Once your reader knows the facts, you can then build on that basis to amp up the tension when the norm breaks down.

For instance, there are albatross in this series. The albatross is a sea bird and I discovered it nests right on the coast when it comes ashore at all. Armed with this information, I was able to use this one simple fact to anchor and skew part of the story.

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Because I write for children, who may not be aware of certain things, I needed to drop in a line of dialogue or two prior to this scene, to clue the young reader in to the way things should be, e.g. “Albatross should never nest far from the sea.” Then, by placing the enemy chief’s colony of albatross deep inland, far from water, this one simple anomaly gave the enemy compound an eerie, other-worldly, slightly “off-kilter” ambience that permeates the reader’s perception of the place from then on.

Without a doubt, the coolest thing about research so far has been the research itself, learning new things and supplying good sturdy foundations to the fantasy stories I write. It’s part of the work of being a writer and it’s fun!

How about you, what is your favourite part of what you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Fantasy is the fiction of the heart’s desire. ~ Unknown

 

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

insecurewriterssupportgroup

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.

November’s Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Everything!

But mainly, this thing of nourishing oneself and others through the medium of the written art.

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Recently, our famous movie director, kiwi icon Peter Jackson, announced his next project which will be based on the Philip Reeve debut, Mortal Engines.

This week, I got hold of a copy of Reeve’s book.

First published in 2001, it received rave reviews. The Daily Telegraph said, ‘Philip Reeve’s debut novel, Mortal Engines, seems to have leapt fully formed from a startling imagination…a gripping yarn.’

Let me tell you, Engines lives up to the hype. The pace gallops along. You don’t have time to stop and think. You don’t have time to question. You don’t know what the heck is going on or what’s going to happen next, you’re in for the ride. From the first page, there was never any question of putting the book down without finishing it. This is the sort of book you read by flashlight after you’re supposed to be asleep, because you need to know what happens next. It’s almost a visceral experience, it’s that good. An instant lesson in effortless style and storytelling heft, it’s a wonder to behold.

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

Being a writer means constantly learning, or as Ernest Hemmingway put it so eloquently, ‘For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment.’

Mortal Engines takes your mind out to a new universe where you find yourself looking back upon humanity and our modern world with a different view.

The delight of reading a story is an individual experience. Unlike seeing a movie, or something on TV, where the imagery is offered to you, and you adopt someone else’s vision, the singular action between the written word and the brain when you read a book, stirs up the imagination, and you conjure your own unique and beautiful or terrible worlds.

A book can change your world view.

Reading fiction serves to break you out of your box of living, and remind you of the greater truth and vision. What a wonderful, freeing, fabulous thing, to be freed of the oppression of our minds for a while.

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Why do I love to write? There is intense joy in heeding the call of the muse and following the dappled trails of my daydreaming.

To recapture the ‘lost Eden of childhood,’  is the way my writing teacher and hero, Kate de Goldi  described it in her oft-repeated speech, given at the Spinning Gold, children’s writers and illustrators conference, of 2009.

‘I believe the compulsion to write comes from a deeper place,’ said Kate, ‘I don’t write about or for children, but I write for the once and always child in myself. When I’m writing for children, I’m chasing down a lost Eden, that hopeful springtime, to approximate the pleasure I had in those shaded, imaginative places. The lost Eden of my childhood.’

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With effective fiction, a happy cycle gets instigated between writer and reader. I believe the restorative power of the writer’s bliss goes around and translates to the reader and everyone benefits.

I am captivated by the delightfully dark Mortal Engines so far, and have decided to start reading it to the boys. The story is so powerful maybe it has the juju to jumpstart my youngest son’s reluctance to read for pleasure.

What greater fortune could there be than this, to be employed in seeking my own lost Eden on a daily basis? Then, through the alchemy of capturing it in words, I can share stories and hopefully inspire others with their own giddy escapes from this insane and toxic world. It really is a blessing in so many ways.

Therefore, in summary, my favourite aspect of being a writer is everything!

How about you, what is your favourite part of what you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘When you’re a writer, you’re never quite like other people — you’re doing a job that other people don’t know you’re doing and you can’t talk about it, really, and you’re just always finding your way in the secret world and then you’re doing something else in the “normal” world.’ ~ Alice Munro

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You just have to accept that it takes a phenomenal amount of perseverance. —J. K. Rowling

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*Feel Resistance

Back in 2015, I projected I’d have the second book in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, out by Christmas, 2016.

By mid-September of this year, I began to worry. ‘The Sasori Empire’ would not be ready for Christmas. I knew I hadn’t sweated over the story enough, yet. It hadn’t caused me to lose a few pounds in sheer, gruelling, nose-to-the-grindstone, all-hours-of-the-day-and-night hardship, yet.

The story still had a long way to go.

‘The Sasori Empire’ needed to continue to battle through the torture chamber of editing at my kitchen table, and to undergo at least one or two more journeys through “the grinder” of critique.

At first, I felt intense resistance to the thought of admitting defeat, if I delayed publication. Essentially, it meant I’d have to admit I was wrong. The ego resists being diminished like the dickens.

*Step Back, Breathe

Looking back, I realize, my head must have gotten a bit swelled over self-publishing my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta.’ After thirty years of writing fiction and ten years creating this series, it’s not so surprising. In my enthusiasm at becoming a published writer, I imagined my pace of production would somehow magically increase. I’d be pumping out the novels at the rate of one a year, like the greats. But, no.

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http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I

 I had to eat a dose of humble pie and admit that the sequel would not be out in time for Christmas. Using the initial artwork supplied by my nephew, Si, I made up a poster to announce the delayed date for publication, on social media.

*The Theory of Randomness

Recently, a friend drew my attention to quotes from The Drunkard’s Walk, a book by Leonard Mlodinow. The wonderful quotes reminded me to look at the bigger picture.

‘There exists a vast gulf of randomness and uncertainty between the creation of a great novel and the presence of huge stacks of that novel at the front of thousands of retail outlets (paraphrased). A lot of what happens to us – success in our careers, in our investments, and in our life decisions both major and minor – is as much the result of random factors as the result of skill, preparedness, and hard work.’

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https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2278900

This theory reminded me that there is no need to rush anywhere with my writing and my stories. Hard work alone, will not influence the outcome. I should savour the scenery along the way. It helped me to take the foot off the accelerator.

*Release

Once I decided to let go of this year’s publication date, I felt better. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew that in terms of well-being, it was the best thing I could have done. I was ‘back on track’ with my own timing again. Whew.

I settled back into more reasonable writing hours. I began to sleep better. I was “nice mama” again, and able to be pleasant to other shoppers at the supermarket.

It was as simple as giving myself permission to quit pursuing an unrealistic goal. Despite my initial resistance, I embraced a new goal. I can do the work that needs to be done, on my own terms, in my own timing, while enjoying life along the way. Imagine that!

cover artist, Simon Kingi

(Me, with cover artist, SK)

*The “Mission Statement”

One of my writing mentors, Jill Mitchell, is a big fan of “mission statements” for staying on track with our goals.

This is mine:

I always strive to create story in some form. I flow with life as much as possible – therefore, I can change, my goals can change. However, I’m essentially always moving forward with my evolution, learning my craft, becoming a better writer, delivering a better story experience, and as long as I stay true to the creative muse flowing through my fingertips, I’m on track. I am successful.

*Persist!

My goal of putting out the second book in the series will happen, when the time is right. The goal is still there, it’s just farther in the distance. That’s okay.

Leonard Mlodinow posits that random factors act in our lives. ‘That’s why successful people are almost universally members of a certain set – the set of people who don’t give up.’

This adds weight to the wisdom in the idea of persistence.

I persist. What a great mantra – I’m adding that to the list.

When your goal’s a moving target, the best thing you can do is stay the course! 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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To write simply is as difficult as to be good. – W. Somerset Maugham

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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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My youngest son asked me a new question on the drive home from golf, yesterday.

He asked, “Are you happy?”

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I sat stunned for a moment or two. I thought, my boy’s growing up. This was the first time, as far as I knew, that his perception had gone beyond himself to thinking of other people. Then, I felt sorry for him. He’s the little worrier in the family.

Next, I felt incredulous that anyone close to me could think I was unhappy. I get to bring up my lovely boys, be with family and friends sometimes, and then I get to write, and be alone. What could be better than that?

To walk the path of the writer is not easy sometimes, because a lot of people just don’t get it.

I can see how in the “world’s” eyes, I might be miserable. I’m divorced. Single. A stay-at-home mum. A writer (the loneliest profession of them all!) and a “card-carrying” introvert!

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In fact, there are more single women these days than ever before, in the U.S, single women account for half the female vote, 56 million, up from 45 million last year, and in Australia, single women make up 42% of the adult female population. Yet, there’s still social stigma around doing certain things on your own, like going to the movies or eating alone. The writer, Christina Ling, wrote a fantastic piece for the Huffington Post, Don’t Feel Bad For Me Because I Do Things Alone. It echoes my feelings exactly. I rejuvenate through time alone, that’s how I recoup my energy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-ling/the-stigma-of-doing-things-alone_b_9239900.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

As Christina puts it, ‘Being alone with your mind, however, is one of the best things for your soul. More importantly, I think we are perfectly entitled to simply not be in the mood to entertain someone throughout an activity or socialize, in general.’

 

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After being mama to two rambunctious boys for five days of the week, I look forward to my 48 hours break, when the boys spend time with their father. Even though I work alone, I still crave that solitary time, in which to recuperate fully.

Carol Bainbridge, the Gifted Child Expert explains the need of introverts to withdraw, ‘Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective.’

http://giftedkids.about.com/bio/Carol-Bainbridge-19284.html

The lucky thing is, my job is directly suited to the introvert. And, I can’t imagine a job I could enjoy more than I do mine. I get to write fiction for young persons and those of the eternally youthful mind. It’s so fun, it’s the best job on the planet, hands-down.

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Murphy’s Law and the laws of randomness usually apply to most of us, and therefore, there may never be more than a penny or two in it for me. I may never build up a fan base beyond that of my family and pet fish. But that’s not the point. Doing what you love is the point, and as long as I get to write, then I shall still be the happiest mama within a five-mile radius of my son at all times!

I understand how my eleven-year-old looks at me, and he probably feels I must be miserable. Introverts only make up about 25-40% of the general population. There are not exactly a lot of introverted role models to look up to.

I had to assure him, “Yes, I am happy.” I don’t know whether it’s a “boy thing” or whether it’s the age, but that answer was enough. He took me at my word and carried on to the next subject.

I was still fascinated with the subject of happiness and what it means. He’d brought it up and I wanted to talk about it. However, I could see he’d already moved on. I let him take the lead, and we talked nonsense the rest of the way to his father’s house.

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After dropping my son off, I drove home to my weekly respite, and I pondered further on this delightful question my son had asked, Are you happy?

No one is happy 100% of the time, that’s just not natural, however, would I say I was predominantly happy? Yes.

What I was left with, was the sensation that my son cared. It takes emotional health and depth to ask another person how they are feeling. Therefore, I had a sense of my son’s developing emotional wellness, and his humanity.

It was a lovely, poignant, parenting moment. One of those, ‘he may act banana-pants crazy half the time, however, he’s going to turn out all right’ moments. It was one of those reward moments, when all the hard work of parenting is blissfully worth it.

What about you, what great questions have your kids asked you? Would you say you’re predominantly happy? 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom. ~ J. G. Ballard

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

‘In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. Now, I know when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth…Pursue relationships, perhaps art, perhaps a dream from younger days.’ ~ Steve Jobs (last words)

Steve Jobs

Here in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the 24th of December, Christmas and the end of the year are mere days away.

 

In the past, when we were an agricultural society, the 25th December determined the point when the sun started to move again, and thus, it bore the promise of planting and reaping the crops. This serves to remind us even today of the passing of time, the cycles of nature.

 

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With the coming of the Romans, and then the Christians each utilizing different calendars, New Year’s Day was a “moveable feast” back in those eras. After the Gregorian Year was introduced to modern thinking, however, 1 January was generally accepted in most places as New Year’s Day. And that’s the way it remains to the present.

 

From Christmas to New Year’s Day, this is traditionally a period of introspection, a time for reflection, and a time to refresh one’s spirits before moving forward again.

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At present, a dear old friend of mine is dying of liver cancer. She has decided to die at home rather than stay at hospice. This dire situation has given me a lot more to think about during this festive season.

 

On the way home from visiting her last week, I noticed there was a marked difference in attitude and body language between the kids and I. My boys sat in the back seat, singing. I, meanwhile, drove along tense and upset, completely fraught about the fact my pal was soon to be entering the dark forest and leaving us behind. And the difference between my kids’ chirpiness and my somber contemplation was “time.” My kids have the “blissful ignorance of youth.”

 

I, meanwhile, am a lot older than they are. My mother died this year. My father thinks he’s losing his memory. I know that time is running out. I wrote to my critique partner, Maria Cisneros-Toth, about this dark night of the soul I was walking through, and about my dying friend.

 

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With Maria’s kind permission, I will relay our email conversation:

Maria CT: ‘I am so sorry about your friend. When these things happen, whether I know the person or not, it’s a reminder to me to get done with the writing project I want to complete.

‘Life is so precious; there isn’t a moment to waste. It’s so cliché, but very true. And this is your first Christmas without you mum. That’s tough, too.’

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Yvette C: ‘Yes, it has been a big year, 2015. You’re so right! With Ma’s passing, I decided to draw a line in the sand. The finish line is here. I wanted dad to be alive to see me launch my first book, and, indeed, by pushing ahead to professional proof-reading and self-publication, I did achieve that goal this year.

 

‘Dad was there at the launch of ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ and he gave a speech about how proud he was. It was a wonderful, emotion-filled moment for me. Ma didn’t get to be there in physical form but she was there, nevertheless.
 

‘Sometimes, you get a reminder that life is short. Your mother dies suddenly of stroke in the night. Your friend is dying of cancer. Your husband has a heart attack, right? That’s when you realize our dreams need to be put into action. Now. Today. There is no tomorrow!

 

‘Then it came to me, I understood what my friend, and mentor, Erin Lees was trying to tell us, when she said last year, that we should ‘live as if death were always at our shoulder.’ Aha!’ mum

 

With this perspective, I need to take clear, focused, heart-motivated action towards my goals in 2016. Remember, that Steve Jobs, one of the most successful men in the world said we should ‘pursue relationships, perhaps art, perhaps a dream from younger days.’

 

While I remain heartbroken for my friend who is sick, I am realigned with my purpose and my willpower to strive towards my dreams.

 

What does the essence of this Yuletide and New Year distil for you? Any revelations to share?

 

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Talk to you later…

…in 2016!

Yvette K. Carol

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This was me on my way home from an audition for King Kong where I was told I was too “ugly” for the part. This was a pivotal moment for me. This one rogue opinion could derail my dreams of becoming an actress or force me to pull myself up by the boot straps and believe in myself. ~ Meryl Streep