Posts Tagged ‘Reflections’

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

December 7 question – It’s holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?
Fall behind, way way behind. This is the time of year when – ooh, look, something sparkly – I can easily get distracted. There is a very small child inside of me who is all agog about coloured lights, baubles, and glitter. When December begins every year, I imagine I’ll carry on just the same way I have the rest of the year, that I’ll do all my writing jobs each week the same as normal. And every year, on the first weekend of December, I go to the Xmas market and start my gift shopping. Something gets ignited within, and from then on, for the rest of the month, my life turns into a whirlwind of Xmas-related things. I watch all the movies and cooking shows about how to make festive dishes. Working on my stories starts to take a back seat to list-making, shopping, catch-ups, get-togethers, and sparkles.

I have to-do lists as long as my arm. I make the annual greeting card and post them to family and friends. The boys and I bake the big Christmas cake (rich fruit cake). We go visit friends with food and gifts. We attend group lunches and end-of-year dinners. I go out shopping most days, to various carefully chosen stores to buy small gifts for family and friends. I wrap gifts. Wrapping gifts is one of the most universally hated jobs. Not for me. I make an evening out of it. I treat it like a craft project, getting out my boxes of ribbons, papers, and bows. It’s fun.

I still have the end-of-year maintenance jobs to do: washing the house and the windows, cleaning and repainting the three verandahs, and repainting the bathroom. I’ll add them to my “to-do” list. December is a juggling act. I intend to relish every moment of this wonderful season. The food, sunshine, time with family, and vacations. What’s not to love? Hello, Summer. (Yes, here in the southern hemisphere it is summer!)
Wherever you are for the month ahead, whatever you celebrate, I wish you every success. And I hope you do celebrate, make (or order) a big cake, light some candles, play beautiful music and enjoy the coloured lights. After the year we’ve had, we deserve a party. A big party.

Writing? What writing? LOL.
Happy Holidays!

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
*
Let it be easy. ~ Anon
*
Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

The launch of the Love App was a great success. In a previous post, The Love App, I shared the concept behind it. An initiative started by doctors, the baton was taken up by Dr. Mary Thomas, who spearheaded the project to make it a reality. “It’s just about getting people connected,” Dr. Mary explained. “In the middle of all this chaos, we are looking for love. We need to bring the world together. We want people to send virtual messages of support and virtual flowers to uplift others.”
l was so taken by the whole idea that I jumped to become involved when Dr. Mary invited me and a full panel of speakers from all over the world to speak about love at the launch. Quoting myself, “I was struck by the feeling this initiative can do a power of good in the world, and I wanted to be part of it.”

On November 11, 2 p.m. my time, we came together for three hours online and held our mini-summit where we talked and conjugated on all the many aspects of love. I was the second speaker and I am so glad to have spoken early on because my nerves were off the Richter. Naively, I had imagined that being a Toastmaster for eight years, the days of panicking were over. Oh, no. Apparently, it is still possible after 8 years of practicing public speaking, to experience out-and-out terror. It turns out that speaking in front of your club and speaking in front of a worldwide online audience for a live launch are two very different animals. Nevertheless, my Toastmasters training kicked in. I knew to keep breathing deeply and I managed to produce the words, like surfing a giant wave and managing to stay on the crest. An hour after the launch party finished, I was still zinging, still shaking. I had given my first international speech outside of Toastmasters. I had said what I wanted to say. Whew. I was happy with that.

Dr. Mary also invited me to participate in a monthly series of conversations over the next year called The Writer’s Bureau. We started with a panel discussion on Nov 22nd when Mary asked us about “The Love of Writing.” It was a hoot. The next session of the Writer’s Bureau will happen Dec 12, when we will continue to share more about the subject of writing fiction. All the interviews will be live-streamed on Facebook and available on YouTube.
And now, I get to be involved with this initiative going forward. Dr. Mary said, “The Love community is in service to show care for the betterment of humanity.” It reminds me of my grandmother, who used to say, “Give away a smile, it’s free” – even something as simple as smiling at someone can be a spirit lifter for that person. Yesterday, I paid for the person ahead of me in the queue at a shop and that felt great too. I love the thought of raising someone else’s spirits each day. That’s a good goal.
Why not download the free app and join The Love App Community!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
*


“When we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it also helps us to develop inner happiness and peace.” — H.H. 14th Dalai Lama


*


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

This is the final report from the local writers’ festival I attended in August. It took me a while to get through them all. The last session I attended at the festival was called Frankenstein’s Children. Acclaimed Kiwi Speculative Fiction writers, Elizabeth Knox & Lee Murray debated the influence of Frankenstein on modern literature. Knox is one of my favourite Kiwi authors. I’m a big fan of her Dreamhunter series, which I found transformative and compelling reading (reviewed long ago when I was a member of Goodreads). Knox has an ONZM, is an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate, and won the Prime Minister’s Award of Fiction in 2019. She teaches at Victoria University and lives in Wellington, New Zealand with her family.

Lee Murray is a New Zealand science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer and editor. She is a multiple winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a twelve-time winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award. She is a well-respected rising star.

It felt like a privilege to sit in on their live-streamed interview. I love hearing how other writers think and how they approach their craft.

Both authors were asked the same question about why they had chosen the spec. fiction genre. “From childhood, the things that most excited me had dragons and ghosts. My imagination went in that direction very early.” Elizabeth Knox said, “You have a reaction to the world, and you want to push against appearances and say, what if? How much do we live in the present; how much do we live in imagination? It’s a penetrating, all-time approach to the state of the human being.”
Lee Murray had done her research. “It was a term coined in the 1960s. It was called Speculative, and it’s developed over time. Ursula le Guin said, ‘It’s about possibilities.’ It’s also about myths and legends, asking what if, and looking at the human condition. It’s new perspectives. It’s changing all the time.”
What a great way of looking at it. Why did the two authors consider their work to be “Frankenstein’s Children”?

“Mary Shelley is considered the mother of spec fiction,” Murray explained. “She wrote Frankenstein at the age of 17 in the 1800s, writing about the resurrection of life with electricity before it was invented. It’s a book about othering. The monster wanted to belong. Shelley couldn’t be published because she was a woman. Spec Fiction is a place for women’s narratives. She was able to show she is intelligent.”
I found this thought-provoking.
Murray went on. “I wanted to write about what mattered to me and things that frighten me. It allowed me to write about things safely. Spec fiction is not this world. It’s not pointing at this person or thing. It gives us a little bit of distance.”
The author neatly skewered one of the reasons this genre drew me to it. I can tell my stories without having to worry about treading on any toes because it’s all make-believe. The genre is a forgiving umbrella. I’m fascinated to hear it is popular. Since the age of seventeen, I’ve been writing spec fiction, but whereas in the 80s publishers told me, ‘No one is interested in fantasy,’ now, suddenly, it’s cool. Or, as Murray said, “It’s the place to be.”

This reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s interview. When asked at a previous festival, did he expect to be where he is today in terms of career, Neil said he never expected to be famous. When he started, he worked in niche areas where no one in those days ever got famous. ‘You didn’t get famous in comic books, fantasy, or children’s writing—I thought I’d be out here with the weird kids. Then it spread out, and now we’re all the weird kids.’ That’s it exactly. Our strange little frowned-upon fantasy corner of the world is becoming more mainstream. Hey, it’s nice to have company.

I am also drawn to writing middle fiction, and maybe there’s a reason for that. Knox said, “There’s a period when young people are entering the world, and they’re refusing it.” I liked that. There’s an inherent kind of rebellion that comes naturally with being young or young-at-heart and trying things out, questioning the status quo. “I think we need fiction more than ever.”

Murray said, “Spec. fiction has a role in social change. It has real value. It’s the new black. It’s the place where the young people are.”
I agree. But you have to write with a lightness of touch. “As soon as you start hitting readers over the head with your message, they don’t want to read it.” Knox said, “I’m an avid reader. But I’m resistant to being told I have to do anything. You can’t step outside reality. Spec fiction is the world outside the consensual reality.”
That’s what makes it so exhilarating.
“I love fairies and Arthurian legends. Even a tragic ending can bring joy because of the shapeliness,” said Knox. “I’m changing my mind about hope. I think it belongs to the things that console us like fiction.”

Wow!
Do you see why Elizabeth Knox is one of my current writing heroes?
I’m proud to write Speculative Fiction or Frankenstein’s Children. It’s fun! How about you? Do you read it or write it?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

*

Good stories are dangerous. Dangerous, anarchic, seductive. They change you, often forever…they challenge our vocabularies and our history. Sometimes they challenge our comfortable morality. And sometimes…they challenge our most basic assumptions. ~ Jane Yolen

*

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

This is another report from the local writers’ festival I attended in August. My apologies that it’s taken me so long to report on it. The session was called Timeless Tales, with Hereaka & Jones. After this, I have one more session to review and hope to get on to writing it up soon.

I enjoy the live interviews or “conversations”. You get to see authors at the top of their games speaking about their books and answering thought-provoking questions. The theme of traditions of fable and myth drew me in to witness Timeless Tales, storytelling forms I find compelling and endeavour to utilize in my work.

Delayed leaving the house, unfortunately, I arrived at the event late. Bah humbug! It started everything off on the wrong note. I had missed the introduction and the opening questions, and I had to disturb others to find an empty seat. But, that hitch aside, I sat with my trusty pad and pen in my lap taking notes throughout.

Let me tell you, ‘contemporary writers at the height of their powers’ make fascinating conversation. Commonwealth Prize winner and Man Booker-shortlisted Lloyd Jones and 2022 Ockham NZ Book Awards Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize Fiction winner Whiti Hereaka spoke about their books, The Fish, and Kurangaituku, respectively. They were interviewed by Claire Mabey with a focus on the power of mythology and why each chose them for their stories.

Lloyd Jones put it this way. “The whole of literature is a rewrite. You can find threads in contemporary stories that go back to the beginning of time.” He was making the point that even when we don’t intend to write about mythology, we are inherently familiar with the old storytelling forms and resort to them unconsciously. “Stories are malleable from one generation to the next when they are told and told again.”
I agree with that 100%. That’s part of why I love to draw upon mythology because the stories are ours, and we’re allowed to retell them.
It reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s interview at last year’s writers’ festival. Gaiman said that writers who think their prose all comes from within them are not being honest. He likened it to there being a giant pot of stew bubbling. And we all take bits out and “along the way we get to add a potato or two to the stew pot or a bit of gristle.”

Neil Gaiman said, “I don’t think it’s always dishonesty by the authors. In a lot of cases, you write what comes to you and you do not realize that you are pulling archetypes and story tropes from a treasure trove of shared ancestral memories.” That explains why legends are always the first things to hand in whenever I start a new story. Jones said when he sits to write, he never knows what he’s going to write, but these time-honoured story templates come up readily because we already have the story forms within us.
Whiti Hereaka concurred and spoke about growing up with myths. They “had always been there” so were a natural resource. In her book, Kurangaituku, she is retelling the Māori myth of Hatupatu and the bird-woman Kurangaituku. “In the original story, Hatupatu is captured and finds the strength within him to trick the bird woman and escape from the clutches of Kurangaituku.”

Hereaka found the writing of her mythological story so profound, that she even began to feel taken over by her main character, who was talking to her and telling her the story all the time. Hereaka said she learned “to say a karakia (prayer) to create the space to write and then again to close it and step away” to separate herself from the character. Even so, she was driven to right the balance of male-centric mythology and present a female voice.
Lloyd Jones added, “Fables are at their core an imaginative risk.” And, he elaborated, “You gather stories just in living, and one day you use them. It becomes lodged in you and you never know when they’re going to bubble to the surface.”
What is it about ancient stories that hold us transfixed? I know for myself, that the older the story, the more I pay attention.
“There’s truthiness in fiction because of the lies,” Hereaka said, “There’s an emotional truth that holds us. We are creatures who need a story to figure ourselves out.”

You can say that again. It was a riveting afternoon, guys. Thanks for the brain food.

It’s a fact we all use these fables instinctively. Do you? Do you notice the echoes of mythology everywhere?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

*

“Someone said once when a person is being read to they inhale it and when they exhale it, they have made it their own.’ ~ Lloyd Jones


*

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

November 2’s optional question – November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?
No, I have never participated. Frankly, I resist the idea of inviting more pressure into my life than I have already. The thought puts me off and I must admit that I scratch my head over why NaNoWriMo is so popular. I tend to be a slow writer. While others produce thousands of words a day, I have to take my time. And, I have this ornery side that rebels against joining what everyone else is doing just because they are doing it.
Many friends do Nanowrimo and I always feel in awe of how hard they work. They have to maintain rigid discipline in their daily routine for the month to achieve it. One of my friends and fellow authors from The kiwi kids’ bookstore, Donna Blaber, wrote the first draft of her new series while on NaNoWriMo. Donna relishes the challenge. Me, not so much. I have plenty of mountains to scale in my life and try to keep my writing as a reward for getting everything else done. Setting myself a strict regime and then flogging myself every day for a month does not appeal at the moment. Maybe I’ll participate someday though. Never say never.

National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 with San Francisco-based writer Chris Baty. According to the website, the NaNoWriMo challenge is to write the first draft of a novel that’s at least 50,000 words, starting on November 1 and ending on November 30. ​In 2005, it gained nonprofit status. Now, when participants donate to NaNoWriMo, the number of writing programs and the availability of resources increases.
I think it’s a worthwhile initiative and applaud the great work.
There are other ways to participate for people like me who don’t wish to take part in NaNoWriMo. We can support other writers who are undertaking the challenge. I have two friends doing it this year, and I intend to encourage them through the grueling process. We can also donate to the cause. I get nervous for my buddies as the clock winds down. The tension is palpable. Rather them than me.


To all the 2022 participants, good luck!
Are you doing the NaNoWriMo challenge?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
*


Let it be easy. ~ Anon


*


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

Covid caused a lot of division in many ways. One of the ways it affected us was that our family split down the middle and the two sides stopped talking. We have operated in two camps throughout all the trials and tribulations of the last two years. It’s been so sad and unnecessary. We didn’t even come together for Christmases. We’ve missed celebrating one another’s birthdays and other milestone events. In 2020, I released my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, while we were scattered to the winds. It sucked when only five family members showed up.

This situation was at the forefront of my mind this week. My family has been split asunder for two years. Life has not been the same. In the diagram created by Abram Maslow, called the ‘Hierarchy of Needs,’ one of the levels of basic human requirements are the security needs followed by those of love and belonging. A well-functioning family fulfills those basic needs. There is nothing healthy about family battles. They fundamentally weaken us.
What changed the stalemate? We gathered together for a wedding recently, and it caused a thaw in relations between the factions. The door opened to a reunion, and it was because one member was brave enough to “just invite everybody and let them deal with it.” Everyone dolled up and gathered in one place for this glorious occasion. We hung out together for half a day and remembered, Oh, that’s right, it’s fun being together. Oh, that’s right, we’ve spent years of birthdays, Christmases, and parties together. Oh, that’s right, I love these people.

The next thing that happened was we started discussing a family vacation together this summer and even booked accommodation. How’s that for something to be grateful for? I have such good memories of holidays gone past. We used to travel most summers while my parents were alive to gather at their seaside cottage for Christmas and happily spend the summer break there till after New Year. We’d spend whole days at the beach. In the evenings, the parties used to go into the wee hours, with music, laughter and talking. There were card games, and rounds of Cribbage. Dad would tell a story and sing a ballad or two. Mum would do an interpretive dance, which always made us laugh. There were board games of scrabble and Trivial Pursuits. All the things.
The night skies in the Coromandel Peninsula are exceptionally clear and have a following among stargazers worldwide. At some stage during the evenings, we would go outside when it was dark and look at the stars. There is something otherworld and magical about seeing so much more of the Milky Way at a decent elevation.

Mum’s and dad’s log cabin was sold after dad died. Then Covid happened. The family went separate ways, vowing never to talk to one another again. Then two years of estrangement ended recently with the family wedding. This summer will be the first time we’ve gathered together as a family for a seaside vacation in years. I feel gratitude that the truce is in full effect. To think of our family coming back together again gives me a feeling of succour, strength, and stability.
All this made me realize how much we need our families. Sometimes it takes forgiveness. Sometimes it takes a willingness to let things go. Sometimes it takes preparedness to back away from the argument plus acceptance that that’s okay. But, whatever it takes, the effort is worth it. We need that family bonding time, that love and support. They call this ‘the age of anxiety.’ What a soothing balm it is to the harried modern soul to have one’s family intact and functioning.

A year or two ago I would never have thought this would be possible. Covid caused the division, but we’re not letting Covid have the last word. Even when sometimes family rifts seem unsurpassable, I have learned that all is not lost. Even the most torn-apart family can heal if both factions reach the point of wanting to heal. We needed to step back from our differences and remember the common ground we do share as a family. We needed to be prepared to let bygones be bygones. We needed to attain the point of saying, Life is too short for this. We’ll never be perfect but we are finally coming back together. So, now I know it can be done. Take heart.
Family time is important. Now, more than ever. What about you? Did you manage to stick together throughout the pandemic?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

*

Eventually, you will end up where you need to be, with who you’re meant to be with, and doing what you should be doing. ~ unknown


*

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

Spring. My vegetable seedlings are growing. Unfortunately, the season of pests is also well underway. There is more whitefly whizzing around, more butterflies, etc. So begins months of trying to stay ahead of the critters, birds, and greeblies seeking to feast on my crops. I tend to use a combination approach. I will set several traps and use a variety of sprays. It’s a matter of figuring out what works best for you. I try to keep the use of chemicals down to a minimum, but if you don’t mind using chemicals, you can buy everything you need from the store readymade.

I started gardening when I took over maintenance of this property about thirteen years ago (though I have lived here as an adult for over twenty years). It has been learning by trial and error, as I have figured out how to get nourishing things to grow while also controlling the noxious things. I started out using every chemical they sold. But over the years, I have figured out ways I can make products myself fairly easily.
The homemade spray I do for whitefly works a treat. Cut up two onions and a bunch of garlic and put them in a sealable jar. Fill with water before doing the lid up tight. Leave this pungent mixture outside or in the garage to cure for as long as possible. In spring, open the jar and strain the liquid. Spray this obnoxious liquid on the underside of the leaves of all the bushes and trees where whitefly is congregating. The smell is so strong that it scares them away. This spray has cut the whitefly population in our garden by as much as half. The smell seemed overwhelming for us, too, initially. But, never fear. Though it quickly faded away, it was enough to deter the pests for a long time.

Stickies are a store-bought alternative. The flies get trapped on the long sticky tapers. You can buy the strips at hardware stores and gardening outlets and hang the stickies in between the crops.
At present, our fruit trees have bloomed and are losing their petals by the day. The guava moth is the primary pest for stone fruit and feijoas where we are. The moth lays eggs in the unripe fruit which then develops into a small caterpillar greeblie that burrows its way through the fruit, ruining it. The guava moth came over to New Zealand from Australia. In Australia, they are predated by a particular type of bird. But the moths have no natural predators here and are laying waste to neighbouring fruit trees far and wide. When the first green fruit starts to appear in our yard, I spray it with Neem oil. It’s a purely natural bug repellant, which you warm up and then add to warm water. Spray in the early evening after most bees and things have settled down. Spray the fruit, the leaves, and lastly around the base of the tree even coating the ground beneath. And repeat two to three times throughout the growing season.

Tackling the guava moth successfully requires a two-pronged attack, the Neem oil sprayed on, and a moth trap. I’ve tried all sorts of store-bought traps to reduce the population of moths on my property, and there is one extremely effective trap – The Little Bugga. It works by radiating a little solar ultraviolet purple light and the moths drown in the oil held in a trough beneath. It works well, getting a far higher kill rate than other traps, but it costs $90 and only lasts for a year. The inventor lives in the far north of the country and does not supply replacement parts or batteries. So the device operates as long as the batteries last, then you have to buy a whole new trap. These days, unless I do both the Neem oil and the moth trap, nearly the entire crops of plums and feijoas will be potholed.

For caterpillars, aphids, and other pests, I use a homemade all-purpose spray. Mix five litres of water with one cup of cider vinegar and a squirt of dishwashing detergent. Spray onto your seedlings and leaves every two weeks or less. For my tips on how to make your own slug and snail traps, check out my earlier post, Backyard Gardening 3.
It’s the time of year for a ton of work, frankly, but it’s worth it. I enjoy every stage of growing our food. Once the crops and fruits start producing more food for our table it’s wonderful, and the therapy of getting your hands dirty ain’t half bad. I love spring!
Happy Gardening. More next time, green thumbs.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

*

Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe. ~ Thomas Berry

*

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

My friend said she soaked up the events at this year’s writers’ festival like a sponge. I know what she means. The “conversations,” the lectures, the workshops, and the performances that took place in August filled my cup to overfloweth. It’s worth putting aside a week each year for the festival. I’ve been attending for years and have a large old paper notebook spiral-bound that I have kept notes in since the first time. As promised, I will continue to report on the events I attended whenever I get the chance. The writers’ festival is a blast. The buzz of being around other scribophiles and learning more about the craft and the business is an intoxicating mix. As a card-carrying introvert, it takes a lot to drag me out of my cave, especially in winter. But events like that can do it. Then I go out and come home jazzed every single day. However, once it’s over, I must lie inside my cave for a while to recover.

The second session I attended was the Middle Fiction workshop with Kate de Goldi. I know! I am such a fangirl and have rabbited on about this much-lauded Kiwi author and tutor for years, and I got to attend another workshop with Kate herself! As soon as I saw her name on the agenda, I signed up. I’ve done several courses with Kate over the years, and they have always enriched, enlightened, and inspired me. Though I didn’t expect Kate to recognize me, I’ll admit I was chuffed when she did. We even had a quick chat about the workshops in the past, and Kate let me get an updated photo with her. Yay!
Kate is a passionate advocate of the middle fiction genre and maintains that ‘Much of the best writing for children can be found in the middle fiction space.’ I remember the first workshop I did with Kate in 2005. I was so excited about her perspective. “I don’t think you can say suitable for 9 – 13. I resist those divisions. It should be 9 – 99. Most of the great children’s books are read by adults.” This so mirrored my feeling about children’s literature that I felt at home, in the right place. “There is no difference between writing for children and adults, and there’s no difference in the level of craft.” My sentiments exactly.

This workshop with her was about exploring ‘language, voice, and characters of the form’ and was as brilliant as expected. Kate had some terrific advice on how to write at the middle fiction level. “If we bring the same armoury of craft to children’s fiction, we need to be observing. Polishing and excavating your sensory capacity is necessary. Seeing the world from a completely different point of view is essential.” Kate recommended we get in touch with the old child self. “Interview your 9, 10, and 11-year-old self. Your job is to practice noticing and to think about the emotional territory we occupied at that time.” The reason for that was simple. “Noticing, a sense of wonder, and being new in the world IS middle fiction.” I love it when a teacher can be reductive yet, at the same time, say everything.
As Kate doesn’t believe in rules for fiction or prohibitions, she has a free approach to teaching about writing, which I also appreciate. “Being in the world and thinking about your inner child self is a good place to start.” That, I can do.

And how do you learn how to write? “A plumber knows drains. Read your genre. Go to the library and read your genre across decades and authors.” That was how Kate had learned to write. She started as a reader. She said she was too underconfident in her writing to take a writing course and had learned by reading. Similarly, I was too shy to share my work for years, therefore I connected with that point. Usually, I feel daunted by the wealth of scholastic accomplishments achieved by my writing peers. At least now I can say I’m in good company.
How do you figure out what to write about? Kate said you should not come to the page wanting to write about X. “You should come with something you feel driven to say that you don’t fully understand yet. Interrogate your 11-year-old self. What were you puzzled by, conflicted by? A character propelled by something is a good place to start. After that, I get them walking and talking.” Easy, right?

While I’m busy fangirling, who are your favourite authors? Who would you love to meet in person?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

*

“I think of middle fiction as the body of work that has most influenced children.” ~ Kate de Goldi


*

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

This month’s question: What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?
Whittling it down to just one is a hard ask. My favourite genre is the one I write, fantasy fiction for middle-grade children. I remember in one of the writing courses I took twenty-odd years ago, the tutor exhorted us to do as Thoreau once said, to “know thy bone.” In other words, to circle your preoccupations, recurring motifs, to explore your particular palette, “bury it, dig it up, sniff it, gnaw on it” – know thy bone. Thankfully, many years ago, I discovered the right genre for me, and I’ve been circling it ever since, figuring out how to say what I want to say. The tutor advised us to “immerse ourselves in the genre” by reading as well. I don’t need any encouragement! This is why I write and read my favourite genre.
What is the best characteristic? Gee, still hard…

To make things easier, I might break the answer into two parts. Let’s start with the age group, middle-grade, or children between the ages of eight and twelve. This stage of life is magical because kids are strong enough to be somewhat independent while still being young enough to be starry-eyed. They are not too old for enchantment. Ava Duvernay said of this age group that ‘it is a time to discover who we are in our minds and our hearts. A time to listen and learn and think and wonder. A time to start to decide for ourselves how we want to walk through this world.’ That’s powerful stuff, right there.
Middle grade is a great age group to write for. The first time I ever saw Kate de Goldi speak in public was when she gave a keynote address at the Spinning Gold Children’s Writer’s Conference in 2009. Every point Kate made hit home when she spoke of why she chose to write Middle Fiction. “I don’t write about or for children, but I write for the once and always child in myself,” Kate said. “When I’m writing for children, I’m chasing down a lost Eden, that hopeful springtime, approximating the pleasure I had in those shaded places. The lost Eden of my childhood.”

Thank you for putting it into words, Kate. I am ever seeking to evoke the bewitching, magical heaven of my idyllic childhood when the joy of reading took hold of my heart and soul.
There is a deep secret fascination with that time of my life. In the years 8 – 12, I was an independent thinker, and I believed in the possibility of magical things, like leprechauns, tooth fairies, unicorns, and Santa Claus. When I was on a writing course with Kate de Goldi once, Kate told us, “Inside, I’m always twelve.” And I am the same. I feel I haven’t lost touch yet with my young life. The inner child who never stopped believing in the possibilities.
Middle Grade is a cool audience. They’re not reading with a sentimental nod back to those days when we used to believe in dragons; these readers can still be thrilled by the idea that such things might exist and aren’t afraid to let their imaginations run wild with it. I love that.

The fantasy fiction part of the genre is an equally important part of my bone. I started as a young reader of fairy tale anthologies, myths, and legends, Hans Christian Andersen, C.S.Lewis and Enid Blyton, and Tove Janssen. It was not that my life was something I sought to escape from as a child, but rather that fantasy fiction was so vivid, such a thrilling place to escape to. As Neil Gaiman said at last year’s writer’s festival, “Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been.” And that’s exciting.
Why do I write it? The common thinking about our draw towards fantasy fiction is that it’s about ‘fulfilling the heart’s desire.’ This usually means our longing for a better world, a better self, and a better life. I relate to that completely. They say that ‘Fantasy seeks to heal the wasteland.’ Almost every story aims towards the ultimate wish fulfillment, where everything works towards the greater good – the wasteland healed.
Saving the world is the deeper, philosophical view. I also write fantasy fiction because that’s what I read as a child. And, it keeps my inner child happy. Keeps hope alive. Feeds my sense of wonder. And, I gotta tell you, it is rewarding to learn how to trust my style, my voice, my way of adding another carrot to the stewpot. I adore my bone. It’s satisfying to bury, dig it up, sniff it, and give a good gnaw, before burying it again ready for the next time. It somehow feeds my soul, gnawing my bone.
Many people still look down their noses at the fantasy fiction genre. But, I love it. What’s wrong with that? What the heck is wrong with escapist literature?

I appreciated what Neil Gaiman said on this subject. “I hear the term bandied about as if it’s a bad thing. As if “escapist” fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or children, is mimetic, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds themself in.” I don’t get the prejudice. When the world outside my door appears to be on fire, why wouldn’t I escape to a fabulous place which is not on fire, where fantastic things are happening? Writing (and reading) fantasy fiction is a constant spirit lifter. And, I highly recommend it.
What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
*


When she is most lucky, the poet sees things as if for the first time, in their original radiance or darkness; a child does this too, for he has no choice. ~ Edwin Muir

*


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

I have finished reading my thirteenth novel for 2022, Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter, by Astrid Lindgren. I bought this novel because I had read Pippi Longstocking as a child, and I remember being utterly thrilled by the feisty wild protagonist. I’ll admit I was unaware the author had written other books. Bursting with curiosity, I raced home from the bookstore and started reading it straight away.

My first take on it would be that despite being published in 1985, Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter, has a timeless quality to the writing that makes it seem to come from another age. I guess this reflects the author, Astrid Lindgren, having been born in 1907 and quite literally belonging to another age. The story starts with a flourish and continues the same way. On the night that Ronia was born a thunderstorm was raging over the mountains, such a storm that all the goblinfolk in Matt’s Forest crept back in terror to their holes and hiding places.
The story is set in the past. There is no technology. The robbers milk their goats, churn their butter, and hunt for their meat. Ronia is born the only child of Matt, the robber chieftain who lives in his castle in the mountains with his band of twelve robbers and Lovis, his partner. The thieves rob the forest travellers for their goods and live a life of freedom. Ronia, the black-haired daughter, grows up to know every part of the forest so well she can find her way through it in the dark. Like Pippi, she is a free spirit who learns to dance and yell with the robbers.

Life goes on unchanged until the day Ronia meets Birk, the only son of Borka, the rival robber chieftain who lives in Borka’s Wood. Although the kids are initially wary, they also are immediately drawn to one another as children on their own are likely to do. The pair slowly fall in love, which I found a little odd considering their age. Nevertheless, fall in love they do, in utter secrecy as their fathers are arch-enemies. When Matt and Borka, the two rival chieftains, have a major clash, Ronia and Birk reveal their bond and run away into the forest to live by themselves, causing great distress to both families.
The story follows the harsh realities of life in a cave for the two youngsters, in which they grapple with growing up fast. They manage to survive through spring and summer, and finally, much to the reader’s relief, the pair are finally reunited with their families and allowed to return home before winter.

It’s a highly original tale. I had never read anything like it before and perhaps never will again. Ronia, as our protagonist, is described by her mother, Lovis, as “a storm-night child” and “a witch-night child, too.” The dialogue and the phrasing, everything about this tale is evocative of a bygone age. Ronia gasped with rage. Borka’s Keep! That was enough to choke you! What rogues they were, those Borka robbers! And that rascal grinning over there was one of them!
Perhaps the fact it is so unusual and different is why I found it so fascinating. I couldn’t stop reading because I couldn’t imagine what would happen next. And the funny thing is that nothing much does happen. Even so, the story is well told in a quaint fashion that could turn it into a classic. It was certainly enough to inspire Studio Ghibli’s series, Ronja the Robber’s Daughter!

Astrid Anna Emilia Lindgren, née Ericsson, was born in Sweden. She was a highly successful children’s book author and screenwriter whose novels have been translated into nearly eighty languages, from Arabic to Zulu. Lindgren has sold close to 165 million copies worldwide. She earned the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing in 1958. Though she published many titles in her lifetime, it is Pippi Longstocking that is her main legacy as Pippi became an international phenomenon. Lindgren is particularly beloved in her native Sweden, where she appears on the 20-kronor note.
Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter, won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award. While it is not in the same league as Pippi Longstocking in my humble opinion, it was an entertaining read.
My rating: Three stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol
*


Full of high adventure, hairbreadth escapes, droll earthy humor, and passionate, emotional energy. ~ Horn Book


*

Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line