Posts Tagged ‘learning’

I’m in a general state of panic at the moment. And it’s not to do with Covid, although maybe it should be. I gathered with my sister and nieces for a walk on the beach last week, and they asked me how things are going with my books. I’m in the last stages of putting out my middle-grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. I replied, “I’m freaking out!” And then I said, “My good friend should never have asked me, ‘what do you really want with your books?’” because I answered that I want more people to read them.
The problem with asking for more is you have to be more.

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My friend seemed to think I needed a gentle push with my writing career. When we talked about it I said I was happy tootling along with no one reading my work because some of us writers are terrible introverts and suffer self-doubt. She said, “If you want to sell more, you will have to up your game.”
I felt conflicted. I don’t want to push my books on everyone and start marketing big time and trying to sell, sell, sell. Every time a writing “friend” I’ve gained on social media turns around and asks me to vote for them in an online contest or “like” something for more media exposure, my heart drops.

I know self-marketing on social media is a necessary evil these days, but I can’t stand that stuff.


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Still, I couldn’t ignore the fact the gauntlet was down. Also, my friend offered to connect me with two successful women for advice. The literary agent and the publicist I spoke to were wonderful and let me ask them 200 questions about the business.
Top of the list of recommendations from both women was to get a publicist. I took the leap of faith and hired one. Last week my new publicist sent me the press release she’d put together for the trilogy, and that was when the nerves really kicked in.

The words, ‘Yvette is available for interview. Contact her publicist.’ Stood out in bold type. Am I really doing this?
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My sister and nieces have encouraged me to keep going, despite my fear. So I have restrained myself from cancelling the whole PR thing and fleeing for the hills.
Today an email arrived from the company, showing the literary publications and bloggers who have requested copies of my books for review. In my career I have stayed so far under the radar that I have never had a review. This is a strange confession to make because I write book reviews, but I’ve never been on the receiving end. The thought of all these reputable outfits (like Magpies magazine, for goodness sakes) critiquing my books is absolutely terrifying. I am convinced they will throw my stories in the rubbish.

Old, buried feelings of not being good enough resurface. I’m freaking out.

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In times of need, I turn to mentors. I read some of my favourite quotes from the kick-ass “WanaMama,” Kristen Lamb. She said, “If we never fail, we never learn. Show me a person who never fails and I’ll show you someone who’s done nothing interesting. Publishing involves… humans. Humans who screw up, make mistakes, etc. Even better? Now that we’re in the digital age? Humans can screw up much FASTER and INSTANTLY. Successful people don’t avoid stress, they learn to manage it… often the hard way. Yay!” *my bold type
A few years ago, worried about putting my story out there, I mentioned my fear to Kristen. She sent me this brilliant poem by Edmund Vance Cooke, How Did You Die? The stirring call to courage included this great passage:

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You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there — that’s disgrace.
The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts,
It’s how did you fight — and why?

I needed that. Thanks, Edmund! Thanks, Kristen.

I re-read the letter from my publicist, listing all the literary types asking for copies of my books to review. My youngest son asked me what I was going to do. I was reminded of Anne Lamott’s words in Plan B, about her teenage son, But most of all he needs me to be alive in a way that makes him feel he will be able to bear adulthood. I turned to my youngest and said, “I’m going to be brave.” And I will.

What about you? Have you had to up your game recently? How did you survive?

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Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette K. Carol
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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. ~ E. E. Cummings

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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!!!

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June 3 question – Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

Fascinating question. I’ve got an excellent secret. It’s one of those weird, walking a thin line type of techniques a creative person uses to move the muse into responding. It’s a method I use when I get writer’s block. I’ll explain how it works. I act the story out. I get my butt off chair (the opposite to butt-in-chair, as recommended) and I act out the scene, saying aloud the dialogue and embodying the emotions.

Several times working on my latest book, The Last Tree, there were parts of the story that just wouldn’t work. I’d written them, torn them down, rebuilt them, sandblasted them, destroyed them, rewritten them and hacked them to pieces again and again. But I had no joy. The little inner writer’s voice kept nagging, ‘it’s still not right, it’s still not right.’ Then I tried the acting-it-out technique and ironed out the kinks. It got the story flowing again every time.

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This is how it works. *Note: for this technique I need to be home alone!  I set a pad and a pen on the counter, ready and waiting for the words of inspiration. Then I pace the house and start talking aloud.

I find it best to keep moving. I walk about around the rooms and put myself in the hero, Aden’s shoes. I say something like “I’m Aden. I’m a boy, thirteen-years-old. The enemy has recaptured me. I’m sore, I’m tired. I’m homesick. The hours are going past. What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What happens next?” and I talk it out with myself until I find the answers. As soon as ideas form, I write them down.

I’ve fixed every problem that way. It really is an effective tool. Yet if anyone had been a fly on the wall, I’m sure they’d have carted me off by the men in white suits. Lock her up, the neighbours would say, she’s ready for the loony bin.

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Another great secret from my past is that when I was in my twenties I used to work as “Barbie” for the Mattel toy company. They sent me to malls during the holidays, where I had to don my pink polyester suits, white high heels and an enormous blonde wig, and walk around handing out autographs. The funny thing was every time I entered a mall I expected to stand around twiddling my thumbs, but something about the whole Barbie magic would make the girls come running. They swamped me every time. I carried a stack of my own head shots, and would ask the kids’ names, write them on a postcard and then sign Barbie in a big flourish at the bottom. The girls loved it! Come to think of it, the job paid pretty well, and it was a cool gig for a junior writer.

And I’ll finish with the revelation that I like to watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I have a circle of rather wonderful friends whom I’ve known since high school. What they don’t know is that they’re all more high-brow than I am. They like to do things like going to the art gallery, poetry readings, listening to lectures and so on. I go along because we’re friends, or I try to join them mostly for the lunches and dinners.

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One time we were all out at dinner, the nine of us, and one friend was telling me about someone she was having difficulties with. As if indicative of this person’s low character, she said, “She even watches KUWTK.” I had to bite my tongue, thinking, ah, so do I. I confess I like reality shows, trashy magazines, big budget movies, rap and R&B, and my favourite treat on my nights off is eating a big bag of crisps with a glass of cold, full-cream milk. I can happily solely watch the E channel night and day. I’m sure it would horrify my friends if they knew. They’d probably disown me. But that’s why these are secrets.

Shh! Don’t tell. What about you, do you have an interesting revelation to share?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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Choose happiness. It’s the ultimate act of rebellion. ~ Piper Bayard

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

Yesterday, I left Toastmasters. The send-off my friends gave me was so loving, so generous, so kind, so full of good cheer and heartfelt comments, I think I wept the whole time. Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it was not a decision taken lightly. I had wrestled with it for more than a year. I knew I needed to put the hours I’d been putting into the club and my speeches into writing my stories and books.

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I knew I wasn’t achieving enough real B.I.C (butt-in-chair) hours to make the progress I wanted to make with my series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. That the boys still required the same amount of my input as teenagers as they had when they were little frustrated me. There weren’t enough hours in the day. Something had to give. To leave the club would seem obvious, and yet it wasn’t. A lot of self talk went on in my decision to quit Toastmasters. I love my friends there and the weekly get-togethers are fun.

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I joined a local club in June 2015, with the plan to stay for four months, hoping I would learn how to give a decent speech so I didn’t suck at my first ever book launch. September 15th arrived, and I launched my book and gave a speech my family were proud of. I knew the effort I had put into months of Toastmasters’ speeches to get to that point, and I felt proud of myself which was a lovely new feeling. The weekly meetings were stimulating and informative. I enjoyed my circle of inspirational, intelligent, interesting and funny friends. The book launch came and went, and I said, “I’ll just stay another month.”

I stayed another month for five years.

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With each year I learned more, I gained more strength; I discovered an unexpected facility for public speaking. And all in the company of some of the most wonderful folks I have ever met. In my parting speech yesterday, I said the people you meet in Toastmasters are the greatest people you’ll meet anywhere in the world. You make firm bonds with others in a speaker’s club. Through the fires of facing down knee-knocking, heart-pounding challenges together you forge friendships that can last a lifetime. You have been comrades, side-by-side, daring yourselves to compete in the many speech competitions the organisation runs each year, and you have shivered together before going on stage, daring each other to grow. It creates closeness between the members and real empathy for one another.

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It was during the last five years that both of my parents died, my mother passed away in her sleep within a few weeks of my joining the club, and my father died in hospital after a heart attack a few years later. Toastmasters proved a lifeline throughout my grief. I had the comfort of friends to care about me and a creative outlet in which to express my feelings. I was grateful for the gift of being able to speak in public because this empowered me to speak about my great love for my parents at both their funerals. Prior to Toastmasters, I would have been shaking in a corner, too paralyzed by fear to step up to the lectern and do them justice. Though I wobbled at the start giving Dad’s eulogy, I recovered using my training and delivered a tribute speech I still feel good about today.

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The older members sometimes say “the system works” and that’s because it does. The Toastmasters educational program is transformative. It is an honour to guide the terrified newbies who join the club and mentor them through their journey of self development, as they turn up and do the work and find their voices, and develop self confidence, new strengths, and open their wings.

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It was Dr. Ralph Smedley who founded the Toastmasters organisation on March 24, 1905. His brainchild, the idea was to foster potential in others by teaching interpersonal skills, to do with communication, management and leadership in the community, all by teaching the art of public speaking. From humble beginnings in a room at the YMCA, today it is an international speaking organisation with over 352,000 members in 141 countries. Why? Because the system works, it develops individuals into better versions of themselves. I’ll always be grateful to Toastmasters and sing its praises to anyone who will listen. You haven’t joined yet? Why not?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Whatever your grade or position, if you know how and when to speak, and when to remain silent, your chances of success are proportionately increased.” ~ Dr. Ralph C. Smedley

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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. Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

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

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: February 5 question – Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

In a word, no. However, as luck would have it, my friend, author Donatien Moisdon asked a question the other day in an email which I think would make an excellent question of the month.

Donatien: In your latest newsletter, I was very interested to read about your thoughts and those of your friends regarding the question: What makes a good novel?

For me, a writer of popular fiction, a good book entails the perfect marriage of a riveting story line and great characters. I have to feel a connection with the main character; I want to feel drawn to them and want to know what happens to them next.

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So when I’m writing a new story, I strive to know the characters first. I am a fan of the “story bible” or “book journal” which means I write the details of the characters, and setting, background, longhand in a special notebook. By this method, I develop my characters well before I ever start writing the story. The hope is to convey real characters who have depth.

I prefer a small cast. Donatien’s advice is to deal with only a limited number of characters and make sure that readers will recognize them easily.

I agree. I finished reading The Warlock by Michael Scott a few months ago. It boggled me for half the book, trying to remember the vast catalogue of players. For the second half of the book I had a handle on the enormous cast but I still got confused. Even the professional writers get it wrong.

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Donatien recommends keeping things clear in the reader’s mind especially in dialogue. It is very important for readers to know exactly who is saying what. Thus the importance of perfect punctuation.

So for a good book, you need a manageable number of characters. You need to hone good dialogue and pay attention to punctuation.

You also need a rivetting story line. I prefer adventure stories, and I have done since I first discovered the joy of reading as a young girl. And in writing popular or genre fiction for children, the goal is to take readers on a fabulous ride they won’t want to get off. In a story worth its salt the protagonist/s have to win fire (or the elixir) and bring it back to the tribe, but to get there, keep upping the pace, worsening the conflict for the protagonist and deepening the stakes.

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There is an infectious pace that kicks in on a brilliant story. You can’t stop turning the page. Donatien says, Rhythm is very important. Can each sentence be read in a loud voice for the first time by a newcomer without hesitation? If the reader stumbles, chances are the sentence needs work. To bring your writing alive in the reader’s mind, he suggests remembering to use all the senses. Place the reader at the very center of the action, but also at the center of the environment through the use of the five senses. Add a sixth sense: the sense of a dream.

For me, there’s also an X factor that marks a good book, that singular thing of being able to drift away with the words. It’s the fairy circle where you enter and the more you read the more you lose time. I like stories that take me away somewhere. My goal with every story I write is to return the reader to the shaded places of youth where they remember magic can happen, to inspire a sense of wonder. That is the holy grail.

How do you instill wonder? I’m always trying to figure it out! Do you know?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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Storytelling is really one of the most wonderful things about human beings. And some of us get to be lucky enough to also be the storytellers. ~ Bryan Cranston

I will call what happened “an intervention.” A close friend took me by the hand and gave me a kind little shake up, a gentle push in the right direction. When she heard my intention was to soft launch my next book, The Last Tree, on Amazon, she was aghast. ‘But if you do the same things, you’ll only sell to the same number of people.’ It’s a privilege when someone gets real with you, because it means they care about you enough to intervene.

She asked me, ‘What do you want?’

‘To inspire more readers.’

‘If you want to reach more readers, you must do more.’

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My friend introduced me via email to two people in the business. And over the last fortnight I have met with these two wonderful successful business women, one a traditionally published author of sixteen books and a publicist, and the other a well-connected and respected literary agent. Both women generously gave their time as mentors.

I thought I should share some insights I have gained through this enlightening process.

The first advice was to use my time more wisely.

‘You have too many toes in social media. These things are time wasters.’

I think I sucked in a horrified breath. I’ve spent the last ten years working extensively on my brand, by maintaining ten social media accounts: going around the sites, liking, sharing, commenting, and by making status updates, posting photos and quotes. I thought I was building a social network of contacts, which was important for Indies. It never occurred to me I was wasting my time. Admittedly, sometimes I ran myself ragged keeping up with it all.

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In life you learn and learn, then you course correct, then you learn and learn and change more. It’s a constant process, isn’t it? I remember hearing, ‘Margaret Mahy doesn’t have any social media accounts. She doesn’t even have a website.’ I remember being surprised by that. And I remember my writing buddy,James Preller, joking that he didn’t go near sites like Goodreads because they scared him. I had always felt I needed to be present in as many social media spheres as possible to build my brand as a writer. Yet, maybe that’s why Mahy published hundreds of titles and Preller is on his 85th and I’m on my third….

A week ago, I deleted half my social media accounts, reducing my activity to this blog and my Facebook Fan Page for writing. The monthly newsletter, Pinterest, and my personal Facebook page get to stick around for a while because I can’t bring myself to release them.

The next advice was to amalgamate my blog and website.  To do what I do online better, they suggested I study what the greats are doing with their Internet presence and do likewise.

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I circled the internet and noticed the bestsellers usually have one official site which has a blog and website combined along with a few pages to read: about the author, coming soon/what’s new and links/downloads, that sort of thing.

I did the same. I shut my old website down and amalgamated my blog and website, so it is now a journal blog plus a few pages about me and my work.

The next advice was to expand my author branding. I changed my title from ‘Children’s Writer’ to ‘Author’ as the former might become limiting in future if I want to branch into other genres.

The next advice was to get out of my comfort zone. I shall start submitting to publishers, however if I do self publish, then I’ll spend the money to bring a publicist and a distributor on board, to get the book into stores and libraries and get media attention.

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Admittedly, I shall have to summon all my courage to submit to publishers again. I had gotten to the stage where I was sick of the rejections, and that was one joy of going Indie was I didn’t have to worry.

However, I will send the query letters. I will go to the Publishers Association New Zealand website and look up the member directory for publishers and then follow the guidelines on how to submit.

The last advice they gave me was to be professional. They said ‘if you want to be taken seriously in this business, have your manuscript checked by a proofreader and a copy editor. Pay the money.’

The Last Tree is with a proof reader now.

I’m taking notes. You live and learn, boy. What about you, what have you discovered lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.” ~ Les Brown

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