Posts Tagged ‘reading’

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 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: October reflective question: It’s been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand how can you expect other people to want to read your writing if you don’t enjoy reading yourself? What are your thoughts?

While parenthood and other strains have sometimes prevented me from reading nevertheless books have always played a major part in my life. From listening to mum and dad reading us stories from babyhood, to being given my first book of legends, my first book of poems, fairy stories, and so on, as a special Christmas gift each year, I grew up surrounded and encouraged by literature. There were lots of books in our house. My parents sometimes even allowed me to borrow from my sisters’ library, which was considered a special treat.

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We grew up with a nightly ritual of our father reading us bedtime stories. From the time we were babies right through to young adolescents, in reward for getting ready for bed dad would come and read a few pages to us. He read slowly in his deep voice and it was wondrous to hear all the classics, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and so on.

You’ve heard the saying, you are what you eat. I believe it’s also true to say; you are what you read.

The wonderful Kate De Goldi put it best when she said, ‘I’m someone who’s been constructed by books, my sense of self, how to think about other people, how to understand other people’s realities is largely down to reading.’

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Having been an avid bookworm since the age of seven, I feel I’ve been steeped in the cultures and stories of every novel I’d ever dragged home from the library and pored through every night.

I am not sure how you would separate me from the stories I’ve heard and told and read.

So I must accept that there’s no getting away from the literature I’ve imbibed. Those books are part of my DNA. I’m re-reading the Redwall series from the beginning. I got a shock the other day, when I read a character refer to death/the afterlife as being ‘the dark gates’ because in my Chronicles of Aden Weaver series, I called death ‘the black gates.’ I must have subconsciously recalled the phrase from those wonderful books by Brian Jacques and made it my own. I’d completely forgotten the term until I read it recently.

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Do the best you can to be as scrupulous as possible, but sometimes these things happen. Does it mean I should stop reading to avoid such clashes? No.

Every writer has heard that they should read to write. The theory being if you don’t read the best in your genre, how do you know what those readers are interested in reading? It’s vital research to every author worth their salt, to know their genre.

When I was a younger writer I used to exist in a bubble of solitude. It was the 80’s before the internet and personal computers. I was a young mother at home and I did not understand what the marketing of books was about in those days.

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I hadn’t read in my genre (of children’s fiction) since I had been a child. I wrote about whatever I liked. The resulting epic, The Scrifs and the Stirrits, was fantasy adventure for 6- 9–year-old readers with a tale of furry little critters on a quest.

In the 80’s absolutely no one was publishing anthropomorphic, off-world fantasy adventures for 6- 9–year-old readers. They weren’t popular, but I had no way of knowing as I was not reading in my genre. There wasn’t a single publisher in New Zealand who would look at my manuscript. Those were the days before self publishing when the traditional gatekeepers really did stand between the writer and the goal of publication. It was a tough lesson.

Point taken: you have to read to write. What do you think?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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 “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R. R. Martin. A Dance with Dragons

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Subscribe to my Newsletter at www.yvettecarol.com

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The first week back at school, the youngest son and his friends organized a game of laser tag on the Friday night. The group of nine kids arranged their parental transport and played laser tag from 6-7 p.m. It was all good clean fun, and the kids had a ball. This week, they’ve organised to play Call of Duty together at one of the boys’ houses.

I thought, wow, we’ve come a long way from the earlier despair over having no friends.

His social life is definitely waxing. However, for the time being, the youngest still seems mostly content to be at home playing C.O.D, Minecraft or Fortnite on his X-box, or watching anime on his phone. Sometimes, he even reverts back to playing Roblox on his laptop. I still have a buddy a while longer, yet.

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We were talking the other night at bedtime. I’ve mentioned this before. My son does his own version of The 10 p.m. Question like the protagonist, Frankie, in Kate de Goldi’s brilliant book, who comes to the door of his parents room every night with a deep, thought-provoking question. On one of the writing courses I did with Kate, she told us that the character sprang directly from her son and his ‘nightly questions about the universe and everything.’ My youngest does his own version: every night, after we’ve all done some reading, cleaned our teeth, and said our prayers, when I go to close the door and say goodnight, the youngest son suddenly says, “Why do people get depressed?” (last night’s question) or something similarly deep and reflective and requiring a long considered conversation. He says he gets most of his ideas at night.

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As a fourteen-year-old, I had my head in a book, to the extent that I remember taking twenty books with me, when our family went on holiday to the Coromandel. I suffered frequent headaches throughout the vacation. When my parents had my eyes tested upon our return home, they were told I had 20/20 vision. So they put my headaches down to ‘too much reading’! As if.

I carried on reading regardless, of course, as you do when you’re a teenager.

My youngest son is headstrong in the way of being in his own dreamworld at times. Tonight, he was due at soccer practice at 5.15 p.m. “Finish your food.” “Put your phone down.” “You still have your exercises to do.” Why is he still sitting there watching anime on his phone and eating with one hand, when it’s 4.55? “Put your phone down.” “Hurry up and finish your food.”

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Result: we arrived at practice ten minutes late, which is disrespectful to the coach. Next week, I will renew my efforts to coral this long-limbed, gangly, phone-watching teenager and get him to soccer practice on time.

We have had one success story, so far. This year, I forced the youngest son into a new routine of nightly reading. He was consistently getting his lowest marks in English. He’d always enjoyed a bedtime story, but never spent time reading on his own. So this year, while I have continued with the usual bedtime stories for his brother, the youngest son chooses his own books and reads alone. His goal is two pages a night. Sometimes, I have to make him stop after four, or he’ll be late to bed. And he’s now getting better marks in English.

The other night, as I went to say goodnight, the youngest said, “Mum, I have to write an essay for social studies about early life in New Zealand, all about the pioneers. I need pictures and maps. I mean where do you find that sort of stuff?” “I’d go to the library and ask the librarian.” “The library? Thanks, mum, I never thought of that.”

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He needed more than Google could provide, yet he never thought of going to the library? That’s sad. The school library would have been my first port of call when I was a kid.

By the way, the youngest loved the idea and went to the school library with a few of his friends this morning. “Did you get any books out to help with your essay?” “No, I got chatting with my friends and forgot to get any books out.”

He promises me, he will remember to actually look for books next time.

I believe in the value of libraries. Well known author, Margaret Mahy said, “I’m here to assert that librarians stand dancing on that tenuous ridge that separates chaos from order. That dancing librarian makes so much of the world accessible to others.”

I’ll be expecting more 10 p.m. questions soon…

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(Kate de Goldi and I, 2008)

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Leave the libraries alone. You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after. It is too precious to destroy.’ ~ Philip Pullman

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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 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: If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

If I had a wish to help me write just one chapter of my book, it would be the opening chapter. For me, as a reader, everything hinges on that first experience. If I’m not hooked by the time I get to chapter two, there is zero chance I will keep reading.

I remember clearly to this day when I first fell in love with books, and that was when – as a nine-year-old – I opened the first page of Tove Jansson’s classic tale, Finn Family Moomintroll and I read, Dear child!!!! When I first heard that the whole Finn Family Moomintroll was going abroad, I went to Moominpapa and asked if I should pack the usual things we carry with us on our wanderings around.

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I was enchanted! I had to know what happened next. And, my love affair with reading really began.

That’s the sort of reaction I’d like to elicit in the people who read my stories. I remember when J.K. Rowling was really getting big – and there was a huge kafuffle around the release of each new Harry Potter book – the thing I admired the most about her meteoric rise was that she had gotten kids reading again.

J.K. Rowling drew the kids away from their devices, and not only that, she’d reached that Holy Grail of getting the boys reading. 

Wow. I loved that. I don’t dream of the sort of massive success Rowling had – I think it’d be hideous to have the world’s attention on you 24/7 – I dream of turning non-readers into readers. How cool!

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I did a children’s writing workshop with Kiwi author, Joy Cowley, in 2010. Joy said the opening sentence ‘has to have huge energy. It’s the bait on the hook to catch the reader.’

Perhaps I could use my wish to ask for help with the first line? My good friend, author, Cat Clayton, posted on Facebook this week, ‘How many times can you edit the same sentence? Countless.’ And, it’s true. I can’t fathom how many times I edit and rewrite the opening lines of my books. With my work-in-progress, The Last Tree, I may have rewritten upwards of forty times.

The way Larry Brooks puts it, Somewhere in the first 30 to 50 pages your reader needs to realize they are as intrigued by the characters – often both the protagonist and the bad guy, though the latter may not have shown up yet – as they are by the conceptual “what if?’ hook you’ve sunk into their skull.’

So, no pressure.

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I always remember friend and successful Kiwi author, Donna Blaber, telling me to edit the heck out of the first ten to twenty pages of each book. She said she always spent more time on those crucial pages than any other part of her story. I’ve followed Donna’s advice ever since. And, with the first sentence, especially, I can’t rest until I feel I have it right.

I spend agonizingly long periods in front of my computer until I go nearly cross-eyed. I examine each word carefully. Put it this way, if I did get my wish granted, to have help with the first chapter of my book, it would free up a lot more of my time!

Do you over-edit your first page, first chapter? Do you choose your books to read by the back cover blurb or by reading the opening lines?

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Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 years or 20 years, every day, not counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.’ ~ Anne Enright

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

The benefits of reading for the writer are multi-fold. I knew that. Yet, there were a lot of years in the middle of my life where I wasn’t reading modern fiction.

I discovered the joy of reading, as a little kid. A trip to the library each week was a part of our pre-school and early school life. I can remember eagerly choosing books and taking them home to savour. Then somewhere along the way I lost the habit. I felt guilty. I was embarrassed that I wasn’t reading.

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Anyone who follows this blog will have heard me talk about the wonderful writer, Kate de Goldi, our award winning kiwi writer. I admire her work and she is a great teacher, too. When I did Kate’s Writing for Children workshop, in 2005, she was emphatic about how important it was for us to read. In the very first lecture she gave, Kate said, ‘Read the genre constantly, get immersed in the form.’ She finished the lecture with the exhortation to, ‘Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Write, write, write.’

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At the time, my two youngest boys were one and three, and I was trying to work on my stories, and be a good wife and run the household, and I was busy. I was too busy and exhausted to read. Then, I became complacent.

Last Christmas, however, I decided enough was enough.

At the start of this year, I made a private resolution that I was going to start reading again.

So far, it has been incredible. Every time I find myself at a second hand bookstore, or a book fair, I buy every middle grade book I see that looks interesting. I have built quite a library. And, I’ve started happily working my way through my collection.

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I’ve read all sorts of novels: Margaret Mahy’s Raging Robots & Unruly Uncles, Jane Bloomfield’s excellent Lily Max, Satin, Scissors, Frock, Joy Cowley’s The Wild West Gang, and Emily Rodda’s The City of Rats, averaging one book a week.

It has been more than entertaining; it has more than reminded me why I love to read. It’s been an education.

I understand now why Kate specified reading in one’s genre. You begin to realize what’s out there, and how people are writing to “tweens” these days, you start to see more modern structure to the stories. I’ve been inspired and encouraged to refresh my own approach to fiction. Becoming ‘immersed in the form’ helps me better understand how to emulate it. Reading is teaching me how to write.

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I cannot tell you how greatly I’ve felt revolutionized by reading again. Reading, as a writer, is entertaining and informative. Blogger, Laura Thomas, said, “When you read, you experience the power of writing. You learn what words work together and how they can be used to convey emotions.” You see which techniques and approaches to writing modern fiction are the most effective, what sort of storylines are drawing people back for more. Most of the articles I’ve read on the subject of ‘reading to improve writing skills’ recommend reading traditionally published, successful authors in your genre.

You can study good writing by reading the most popular books.

 

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According to a report on the benefits of reading in the Health Fitness Revolution blog, reading ‘sharpens writing skills.’ They attribute this improvement to the ‘expansion of your vocabulary.’ “Exposure to published, well-written work has a positive effect on one’s own writing. Observing the various styles of other authors, journalists, poets and writers will eventually be reflected in your own writing style.”

I believe that to be true. I see my style changing. I notice that when I’m thinking on my feet as well, for instance in Toastmasters, I have more words available than I used to. It’s wonderful.

I like to hear also, how reading influences other artists, because the impact crosses all forms. I had the great pleasure of hearing artist/author Shaun Tan speak at one of New Zealand’s Storylines Children’s Literature festivals, a few years ago. He’s such a genius.

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Of reading, Shaun said, “As well as visual sources, many ideas for the illustrations emerged from my reading history. I’m often thinking of different things I’ve read, or particular words, while I draw and paint which best express the poetry of colour, line and form I’m after.”

I found that thought uplifting.

Reading a great story is universally beneficial. How cool is that.

I aim to continue to read my way through my library of novels and when the time comes, I shall take great pleasure in starting to frequent my own local library again. I can’t wait.

What about you, do you read books? Have you been to your local library lately?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Reading!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write.” ~ Samuel Johnson

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