Posts Tagged ‘Reflections’

This week, I took the boys down country and met my brother with his son. We stayed with grandpa for four days, as we do each school break.

Here’s the thing about visiting parents when they’re aging, there’s always a slight tension that never quite goes away. It’s like the prickle in your finger you can’t stop thinking about.

In between our visits, I worry about my father. He’s on his own now, mum having died nearly two years ago. I love his independence. He’s a potter-er. He has his aches and pains but he soldiers on. He makes his own meals and does his own laundry. I know he can take care of himself. I know he’s happy. I know he has a good life between his church, friends, bowls, volunteer work, clubs, and meetings.

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The last few get-togethers dad started complaining of memory loss. The last holiday or two, we have noticed changes. Some little instances of his not recognizing people he should have known, and so on. Since then, the normal mild tension one feels with a parent in their 80’s, became greater concern for his well-being. We’ve been keeping an eye on him. And now, each time we go, I’m hyped with stress, how is he going to be this time? Is he going to be worse? Will the decline be slow or steep?

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This visit was a relief for my brother and I because dad was fine. He showed no displays of memory loss beyond the ordinary things you or I would do. He was great. However, he is still different, more turned inward. When we saw a family friend on the last day, she asked my brother and I, how was your trip, and we both replied, “Interesting” in the same breath.

This holiday, dad, who is famous for his telling of jokes, and the offer of “a story,” had been silent. He didn’t tell a single joke in four days. That, in itself, set the tone for the difference. Dad also has his favourite things he likes to say, like how he was blessed with a lovely wife, a happy family and finding the land he lives on, and the story of how he found it. None of these stones were touched upon. And, that was unsettling.

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In the evenings, the boys would be playing cards (and dad joined in on many games), Sam would be playing his psp, and I’d be writing. I’d look up at dad and think, why isn’t he talking? He was busy with his Sudoku or he was working on his crossword, or he was reading the paper. If I asked a question, he’d answer and then go back to his crossword. He seemed deeply intensely absorbed in his routines and his things he likes to do.

Then on the last day we were there, I thought, I need to have a talk with dad.

I got up early. The instant I heard a footstep above, I rushed upstairs. I caught him before he could get started on his paper and I started him talking.

I engaged him, told him things about us and asked him questions. We had a conversation.

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He said, “I’ve been blessed with…” and I can’t tell you the relief I felt as he told me his familiar saying. He said, “And this place had only been open for development five days when we first saw it. I’ve told you the story, have I?” I said, “Yes, but tell me again!” I was so overjoyed he was back. There you are, dad. Whew!

Dad is simply aging naturally and as well as you can. He’s at the age and stage in life where he’s becoming more introverted. He’s looking inward which is the normal thing to do in the final stage of life. He’s got his routines and his set ways of doing things and he concentrates on them more so now than he did before as is natural. All is well with grandpa.

Yet, still I worry.

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The kids love to visit. My son with Downs’ syndrome loves grandpa, and Sam did spend a fair bit of time just staring at his face. Bless him, dad didn’t react but carried on as usual. I treasured him more than ever. I came home happy to report to the rest of the family (and Facebook!) that grandpa is going strong.

Now, how to manage the stress of worrying about him. What do you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius

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Or, Editing Woes Noone Warned you About ~

The word “edit” in the dictionary means “to prepare for publication.”

For the author in the last stages of editing their book, the sheer hours spent bum-in-chair can become numbing at both ends of the spectrum.

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You see, no one tells you the truth about the writer’s life, either at school or in the way it’s rendered via popular media. As a kind of public service announcement, I’m happy to give you a “heads up” about the possible woes that lie ahead, if you’re thinking of turning that story in the bottom drawer into a viable commodity.

Here’s what to expect:

Editing Woes #1: Temporary Blindness

Stephen King once said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” There’s a good reason for keeping that office door open. Besides getting other people’s eyes upon your fiction, you need ventilation. You can succumb to writer’s fatigue. After sitting in a room on your own, staring at those dark marching ants across the screen for hours, you stop seeing the words.

Cure: Get some oxygen, head outdoors, look at nature.

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Editing Woes #2: Temporary Book Hate

“The first draft of everything is shit,” so said Ernest Hemmingway. However, given enough exposure to your own work, every other draft of your own precious story will start to annoy you, too. This is a temporary phase.

Top tip: Try not to throw the entire file in the rubbish bin.

Cure: Keep going. Do not give up!

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Editing Woes #3: Temporary Loss of Will to Live

There comes a moment, when you’ve just finished your hundredth edit of your story, and you realize you’re going to have to go back to the beginning and start again, that the apple begins to slide off the cherry.

I had a deadline to reach this weekend, my book needed to be submitted to createspace by April 15th. The material had been worked over so many times, but it still wasn’t done. When I found myself at 6.30 in the evening yesterday, and it wasn’t finished and I still I had to keep editing, I felt weak with stress.

The last yards to publication when you’re an Indie are soul destroying. Every time you think you’ve carved off the last word and discovered the last ill-placed comma, you find yet another error.

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On the fifth “final edit” I just wanted to put down the laptop lid, walk away and pretend none of it ever happened. I felt I could not read those words again.

Top Tip: This is normal. You will want to give up. You will want to curl in the fetal position. Don’t worry; it happens to all of us. It’s like childbirth or passing a kidney stone, it doesn’t matter how bad it becomes, you will get through it.

Cure: Eat treats. I took “feijoa breaks.”

Editing Woes #4: Temporarily Losing Touch with Reality

Yes, this is a common problem they don’t warn you about in writing class. When those sixth and seventh “final edits” take place, usually late at night, and you’re keeping yourself going by drinking coffee and eating sweets, the hours start to blend. One friend said, “it’s like a black hole that sucks time into it.”

This is true. The further you dive into your nitty-gritty polishes, the more hours disappear. When I finally lifted my head last night, I looked around and it was dark outside. The whole day had vanished. I was blinking like a mole, saying, where is everyone?

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Cure: Go be with human people. Exercise. Eat. Drink. Sleep.

The reward is that this really is the last hurdle.

Top Tip: just as with childbirth, it’s all worth it in the end. When the proud author gets to see their story presented in book form for the first time, it makes all the pain of editing worthwhile. The secret is to keep going through the gnarly last part!

At midnight, I had the manuscript, the cover art, a professional headshot, the back cover blurb and three great peer reviews ready to go, and I submitted the whole package to Createspace. I felt immediate relief and joy. Now, I await the first “proof” which is exciting.

But here’s the thing, no work of art is ever truly finished.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.”

I had to choose the point at which to let go. When do you let go? When do you say enough’s enough?

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Talk to you later.

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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“This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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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. 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!!!

April IWSG Day Question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

Answer: No.

Truth is, I suck at marketing. I remember scoffing a few years back over a writer’s comment on LinkedIn, when he said he wouldn’t be doing any of his own marketing, he was ‘the talent.’ But, since then, I’ve barely done any marketing myself, so who am I to talk? It’s a big failing so I am outing myself, right here.

The reality for all of us as writers in today’s world is that more people are writing and publishing books than ever before in history, and fewer people are reading them. This from John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan: “There are fewer and fewer newspapers out there, and their audiences are shrinking. Discovery is an ever-growing problem. Big titles get bigger, and everything else gets harder and harder to find and sells fewer and fewer copies.”

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Every writer, actor, model, artist, dancer, and musician in the current environment has to sell themselves through social media. We understand how it works and we do our bit to tweet things and share for our friends. Yet, I still have a visceral reaction when someone I’ve been talking to on sm for a while turns around and asks me to buy their book. Just this week, a friend I’ve been talking to and liking posts with, etc, for a year sent me a private message on Facebook asking me to buy her book, and help her book get off the ground by participating in a thunderclap campaign. There’s a part of me that wants to help her as a good person should, and there’s a part of me that’s pissed off with her now. It’s like; she’s betrayed my trust, so I won’t view her connection with me the same way again. I can’t quite get over that feeling of betrayal, and I don’t want to do it to other people.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to tackle marketing.

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Five years ago, I read books on how to market myself as a new author. I started the blog. Tick. I set up my own website. Tick. I joined a bunch of social media sites and started chatting. Tick. I started compiling an email list and writing a regular newsletter. Tick. I made friends with everyone I met and traded details. Tick.

Yet, when my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ came out in 2015, not only did I not ask my friends to buy my book, I actually bought sixty copies and gave the books away. I posted packages to the really special friends I’d made on the net, all around the world. I thought I’m not going to make a penny out of this. And, I didn’t.

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*This is not something I would advocate for those writers starting out, who are hoping to make a living out of their work, by the way.

This trait means I can’t quite seem to get over the hump between me as the writer and the speed bump of selling my book to my friends. Lucky for me, profit is not as high on my list of priorities. I go by the adage, when you realize you have enough there’s always plenty. I run a tight ship and I have enough so I don’t need more. I like to measure my success by my personal growth and the good friendships I have made along the way. The online writers community is amazing. My friends are so sustaining and caring. Right now, that’s more important.

I love this life of being a writer, and creating books. I’m editing my second book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ and the message that comes through towards the end is how important his friendships are becoming to the hero, Aden. Interesting how life and one’s fiction often parallels, isn’t it?

How about you, what marketing do you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“If you don’t make mistakes you won’t make anything.” ~ Anon

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

I saw a picture on Facebook the other day of Neil Gaiman. After a Nick Cave concert, the author was sitting in his chair scribbling in a notebook. And, the image really captured my imagination.

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The accompanying article was about creating healthy limits in order to get the writing done, Embrace Your Boundaries

http://writerunboxed.com/2017/02/24/embrace-your-boundaries/

Author Dan Blank, says, ‘I want to share what I have experienced recently in allowing boundaries to be a part of my own creative work. How boundaries have helped the work, instead of hindering it.’

That’s exactly where my thoughts have been. As a writer, I simply wasn’t producing enough copy. In these times of distraction, we have to carve out our own cave.

Towards the end of January, after blogging non-stop for a few years, I took a writer’s hiatus. It really worked for me. I took a break from my blog, Newsletter, and every form of social media (except for a tiny bit of stalking Facebook). I was immediately productive, at least doubling, if not tripling my former output. On the very first weekend I stopped social media, I completely finished an exhaustive edit. I then finished transcribing the edits of my editor and critique partner, Maria Cisneros-Toth.

In fact, it was so successful, I’ve decided to experiment from now on with blogging and putting out the Newsletter less often. I’ll try blogging fortnightly and putting out the Newsletter monthly. We’ll see how that goes.

Maria said at this stage with her books, she always reads them in different media, on her phone, her ipad and so on. Then, she prints out a copy and reads it on paper.

She said, “You’ll pick up lots of errors you hadn’t seen that way.” The funny thing is, in my thirty five years of writing, I’ve never allowed myself luxuries like spending $20 on a copy of a book just to edit it one time. So, this was a complete novelty to me.

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Do you know what? Printing it out was a time saver. It brought many inconsistencies to the surface. That one edit on paper probably saved me three edits on the computer.

It seems everything becomes clear when you read a story on paper. It’s as if the brain processes the material in a different way. I easily noticed repeated words, favoured ways of saying things and errors in sequence of logic.

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Reading aloud is another effective tool in the editing kit.

With my first book, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ (http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I) I recorded myself reading to camera. I knew that listening to the prose was a step not to be missed.

For this story, I used a hand-held Sony IC recorder. I read the entire book over three days.

What an incredible tool for editing! It really shows you what’s working and what’s not.

For instance, with dialogue tags, the general rule-of-thumb is you can use ‘said, asked, whispered,’ and, sometimes, ‘added.’ In a number of places in my second book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ my young hero, Aden ‘added’ something to a conversation. It looked fine on paper, but what a tongue-twister to read! So, if you haven’t read your story aloud yet, you must do so.

When you think about it, this is the litmus test of a story, if you can’t read a story to someone, you’ve failed out of the starting gate.

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At this point, I’d edited the book eight times, Maria, once. Yet, after going through the wringer of printing out and reading aloud, the pages of my paper manuscript were covered in red pen. I was floored by how many changes needed to be made.

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Next job was to sit at the computer and transcribe the changes into Word.

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I had the stack of 227 pages of my corrections as well as a rather wonderful list, ‘things to watch for’ about general issues raised. It helped me ensure I had introduced certain characters properly and had events happening in the right order.

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It requires attention to detail and many hours of dedication to create a book!

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Meanwhile, I’d sounded out my sister, Jag, about being my first beta reader. She agreed, and bless her, two days later the manuscript was returned. This weekend, my job is to transcribe Jag’s edits into the book.

After that, I get to send it to the second beta reader. And so, the process goes on.

I’m more productive by creating social media limits. How about you? Any experiences or advice to share?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘Don’t worry about genius and don’t worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination.’ ~ Sir Frederick Treves, 1903

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

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here. ~ Sue Monk Kidd

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In the last week, I’ve had a revelation, thanks to a little help from a dear friend. I realised I’m spending way too much time on social media, at the expense of my writing.

I started out with the internet and social media about five years ago. At first, I had it all in balance, but somewhere along the line, the balance started to shift.

My friend pointed out that while I’ve been able to keep my blog and newsletter and Facebook and YouTube updated regularly  -‘You’re everywhere’ – I failed to finish and produce my second book, ‘The Sasori Empire,’ as I’d promised readers, last year.

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Self-defence is the knee-jerk. I explained I’ve long adhered to Kristen Lamb’s excellent social media advice for writers. I was under the impression keeping up with the social media gambit was a necessity for all artists these days.

Yet, when I really looked hard at myself and my output, I knew my friend was right. I’ve maintained social media religiously, and let the writing of my sequel to *’The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ slide. *http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I

I really do appreciate my subscribers!

While I feel an obligation to continue to provide output, I also have had to admit that if I continue at this rate, I’m not going to produce ‘The Sasori Empire’ this year, either. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. I spend a day at a time writing and producing my blog posts. I spend at least three days, even longer sometimes, writing and collating my fortnightly newsletter.

My friend said, ‘You do all of your social media well. Now imagine if you put more of that time into this book instead of rushing through it.’

Yes. Imagine!

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Between raising my two youngest boys, and being on the committee of two different groups, something’s gotta give. Therefore, I’ve decided to take at least a month’s hiatus from social media (although I may pop onto Facie in the mornings while I have my first cup of tea).

My ultimate dream would be to publish ‘The Sasori Empire’ this winter and make a start on the third book in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series in time for spring in the southern hemisphere. But, to do that will require a lot of work.

Therefore, I’ll be taking a writer’s hiatus for a month, or so.

After I have put nose-to-the-grindstone, I shall return! Hopefully, with the second book well in hand. Sometimes you’ve got to make the hard calls, and this is one of those times.

Thanks, for your patience!

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Talk to you later.

Meantime, keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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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

 

 

 

 

When we start out as lowly newbie writers, knowing no one and nothing, we tap away at our stories in our towers of isolation and let the stories flow. We dream of being picked up by traditional publishing houses that will put on a full media blitz into trumpeting our shiny debut novel the length and breadth of the land. We go on to make scads of money, have our books in libraries and on bookshelves. We live forever. We conquer death.

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We get our book handed to Peter Jackson, the famous New Zealand movie producer. He reads it and decides to make a movie out of it with Weta Studios. We go to the theatre with our family. We see our world and our story played out on the big screen under the glittering lights.

We make enough money to buy our own island, to which we retreat purely to write and paint. We make enough money to pay for the kids’ education and then to buy houses for our grown-up children.

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Then we wake up one day and realize, that in reality, we’ve run out of money, we’re eating beans for dinner every night, the rent’s overdue, and there are bills to be paid. We move back home to live with our parents. We resign ourselves to using the public transport system and to being a bottom-feeder, again.

We console ourself, it’s okay. We’ll re-start the editing cycle. We’ll join a new critique group.

We drag the dream out of the dirt, dust it off and revive it again. We go back to work on the book in earnest.

We resolve we’ll work on this story, make it the best we can do, and it will be discovered by a traditional publishing house, and it’ll go on to become a bestseller.

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The dream’s still alive.

We finish the book and submit our precious baby. We get rejected. This gets repeated ad nauseum.

We wake up one day, thirty years later, and realize, the original dream isn’t going to happen the way we thought it would. One of our parents has passed over already, two lots of our friends have divorced, and our kids have turned into teenagers as if by magic, seemingly overnight. As the song lyrics go, ‘my children are getting older, I’m getting older, too.’

Only when we’ve exhausted all hope, and run down every street to find only dead-ends, do we consider the mountainous obstacle of self-publishing.

The bitter reality is that going Indie is a ton of work, and only a select few authors get to live the first tier of the dream: getting that golden deal, hitting the bestseller status, and signing a book-to-movie deal. Not everyone will be the next Hugh Howey.

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The rest of us get to evolve.

Isn’t that wonderful?

What’s the alternative? To give up? To abandon the dream that has warmed our nights and sustained our days through the long hours of typing? No, of course not. We are indomitable. We are writer.

We write. We learn. We observe. We write. We learn.

And now, whether we like it or not, we are going to be a publisher, as well. We’ll get to wear many hats: to don the apparel of book producer, promoter, like an old-fashioned hawker of your own goods. “Roll up! Roll up! Hot off the presses. Get your copy quick!” and to bash people over the head with a verbal press release about our book at every social (media) occasion.

It’s either go Indie, or go home.

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We can see by the veritable tsunami of self-published books flooding the market these days that we are doing these things ourselves. We adapt and survive and thrive. And, some Indie authors are climbing to the top of the literary mountain and attaining the first tier of the dream, under their own steam. So, it can be done!

The immutable truth however, as stated in The Drunkard’s walk, by Leonard Mlodinow, is that there is a certain random element in who gets to make the bestseller list. ‘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. That’s why successful people are almost universally members of a certain set – the set of people who don’t give up.’

In other words, while hitting the big time may be a game of numbers, there’s one way of getting there and that is to write and continue to write.

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Keep on creating…

Yvette K. Carol

@yvettecarol1

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Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell

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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. 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!

The January 4 Question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

I have a love/hate relationship with the writing rules.

I was jagged up by the rule “show don’t tell” for years. I see this as a great cautionary tale for up-and-coming writers. Don’t let the rules limit you. As they say, learn the rules then forget them or else the writing can become stilted.

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The great writer, Ursula Le Guin said, ‘Thanks to “show don’t tell,” I find writers in my workshops who think exposition is wicked. They’re afraid to describe the world they’ve invented.’

When I was coming up as a writer, I took on board every rule I heard until my writing had turned into literary cardboard.

Other control freaks will understand. We take the rules to heart. I followed the rules to the extent that all creative spark in me became squashed. I didn’t have any fresh material for stories. I felt blocked. I wasn’t enjoying the creative process anymore.

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One critique partner at the time said my sentences had no flow and were the rhythmic equivalent of ‘riding over cobblestones on a horse.’

I had a very kind old Indian writer patiently explain that ‘a story is like a room in need of decoration.’ He said, “While your stories are good there isn’t enough furniture.’

Part of my coming up and finding my feet as a writer came from letting go of the rules or at least holding them at a decent arm’s length. I had to give myself permission to experiment again, in order to free up again and feel the inspired feelings take over.

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My writing hero, Kate de Goldi, has said the reason she writes is to chase her lost childhood Eden.

Exactly.

Childhood is eternally enshrined in my mind as the time in my life when I was the most wild and free. It is to that state I seek to return through my writing, and to help the reader see, feel and experience. It is that place I sought to go in the books I read as a child. It is to those ‘special shaded places’ I return to in the books I read as an adult.

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Can I find the secret shaded places through the window of the rules? No. Though it’s helpful to know what’s what when it comes to editing! I think this is what Stephen King meant when he said, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” For me, my initial writing process, or what Joy Cowley calls ‘the genesis project,’ happens best when I shut out what the world has to say, via rules or otherwise, and surrender to wherever the muse wants to go.

If I have writing resolutions for 2017, it is to get my second book finished! And, to let myself be even more free with my writing this year, to be more wild. I want to feel I can explore, unfettered, the unique way of writing fiction which works best for me. And, I love that this particular process is an ever-unfolding road. It will never be finished. I’ll never reach the end of learning how to write.

The goal is ever to find my stories in my way, on my own terms.

What is your New Year’s Writing Resolution?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

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

 

 

After months mostly spent indoors at the computer, my boys and I headed to the coast to spend Christmas with family.

It was a lot of fun. We stayed a whole week, with the boys going back with their father to the city for one day and night, to kayak with their other cousins. I surprised myself by swimming every day, sometimes twice. It was great.

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While there, I went from feeling the stress of Christmas to relaxing. My brother arrived with injuries, hardly able to move. Yet, by the time they left, he was looking like his old self. His partner suffers from an ongoing illness, and yet, while on holiday with us she had more “good days” than ever.

I pondered this as I holidayed, and I realized there is therapy in travel…in being somewhere ‘different’

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In fossicking about in rock-pools

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In connecting with the earth – actually touching it

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In making new friends

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In risking a little discomfort for the adventure

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In spending quality time with your cuzzies

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In hanging out with your siblings

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In being outdoors in the fresh air, sometimes doing nothing, sometimes climbing a mountain

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In fishing

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And swimming

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In snatching one last dip with the kids and nephews before the sun goes down

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There is therapeutic value in spending time with family. Full stop. Gathering under the same roof, especially during a festive time, helps to build and maintain those bonds. All the feasting and partying also expands the waistline! Never mind, the worry and guilt can wait till next year.

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These festive celebrations deepen the important connections in our lives. We feel the love. We feel plugged back into our families again.

I’ve returned to the city feeling refreshed, invigorated, calm and peaceful. I’m ready to work! I look forward with optimism to the year ahead. Bring on 2017!

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Talk to you later.

Happy New Year!

Yvette K. Carol

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“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself.” ~ 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

 

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The week before last, my eleven-year-old son asked the dreaded question, ‘Is there really a Santa Claus?’

A friend of his at school had said he didn’t believe in Father Christmas because ‘it’s just your parents bringing you presents.’

My boy looked up at me. ‘It’s not you bringing us the presents, is it?’

I stared into his eyes.

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I explained I was doing my bit to uphold a tradition in our family which dated back in time. The original mythology of the big guy delivering ‘small gifts to good children’ comes from St. Nicholas or “Bishop Nicholas.” He was one of the most popular saints in all Christendom, especially in the East. He is said to have been a bishop of Myra (Lycia) in the early 4th century. He was related to doing good works.

Bishop Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a starving family, so the story goes, and the story of his kindness (one of many in his lifetime) spread. People everywhere grabbed onto the idea and began to hang stockings by the fire; in the hope Bishop Nicholas would visit them with his “magical gifts” in the night. Something about this idea caught hold in the human consciousness and took root.

As Brian Conway said, “A true hero of the people, St. Nicholas still delivers his magical gifts each year at Christmastime. The gifts Santa Claus delivers, gifts of hope and joy, bring the joy of giving to all the children of the world.”

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I thought this is the key time to talk about magic and those things that are beyond our ability to explain, before his facility to grasp the ethereal, the subtle is lost. The whole magic of Christmas, to me, lies in the power of possibility thinking. Anything can happen and probably will. That’s where the magic lives, in that gap we create with our minds, by saying, ‘what if?’

I asked, ‘Have you heard of the famous letter, ‘Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus?

‘No.’

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There’s a famous post from the column of Francis P. Church, who wrote for The Sun, in 1897.

The story goes that a girl called Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor. She said, “Dear Editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?”

Francis Church wrote in reply ~

“Dear Virginia,

Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be seen which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.”

“In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

“He exists as truly as love and generosity and devotion exist.

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(photography, Tracey Henderson)

“How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.

“There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

“Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe in fairies! The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

“Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in this entire world there is nothing else more real and abiding.

“A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

~

My son smiled. He asked, ‘Was it you bringing our gifts all these years?’

‘Yes.’

‘I still believe.’

‘Me, too.’

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Talk to you later.

Happy Holidays!

Yvette K. Carol

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Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

 

 

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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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Ever since the first year my son Sam-the-man was able to sit unaided, I have photographed him and made a Christmas card for our family.

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Sam was born with Down’s syndrome. The card began as a way of celebrating him and his achievements. It created a small yet meaningful tradition for our family. Once his little brother came along, the card featured the two boys and it became another way to chronicle their lives.

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I think people gravitate towards things which are home-made. Those are always the favourite gifts from the kids. I send a parcel to the boys’ grandfather every year at this time. I send him gifts and the boys’ artwork, their calendars, stories they’ve written, as well as our Xmas card.  This is what the older generation, grandparents especially, live for.

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The card is simple, easy to make, creative, fun.

The Photo:

Any parent can tell you, the first and hardest step in any Xmas photo is the child-wrangling.

*Tip: Don’t leave it till December. Try to get the photo taken before the festive season.

I aim to get the photo taken in the last couple of weeks of November, as this gives me a leeway of time up my sleeve if the boys prove resistant to having their photo taken. Ha ha. *evil laugh, rubs hands together!*

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Once I’ve managed to coral them into one room with the box of Christmas get-up, then they must be persuaded with promises of treats, to dress up. After that, I snap as many shots as I can take before they start begging to be let out.

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The boys are fourteen and eleven respectively, this year, and it’s getting harder and harder to coerce them into the festive shoot. You’d think it’d be getting easier, but, no!

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The Construction:

Picture chosen, print up a dozen pictures at 10 cm x 7 cm, and trim them. I like to keep them to a small size because some people like to hang the cards on their tree.

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Then, I choose which cardboard to use. Originally, I used to recycle old cardboard. We have a saying in New Zealand, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle,’ which we try to adhere to as much as possible. Some years, I cut old Christmas cards down to size. This year, however, I sourced a small box from the Hospice shop which were the right size which was a great option as they came supplied with their own envelopes.

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Glue a sheet of paper cut to a couple of centimetres shorter than the card to the front of the card stock. This will form an edging like a frame for the picture. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. I like to see a little of the construction in crafts.

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*Tip: Every year, on Boxing Day, I do a ritual of taking the discarded gift-wrap and cutting up the beautiful or unusual wrap into small, clean pieces for later craft projects. In this case, I have some rather special rescued reindeer, snowflake, and red-chequered print paper.

My mother used to buy me a crafting material called “Hot Fuzz,” coloured synthetic fibres which bond together under the heat of a warm iron (through paper). I cut a dozen rectangular wedges of a sheet of Hot Fuzz, for the dazzle. You could use holographic cellophane just as well for this.

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Stick the photograph on top of the recycled paper, trapping a wedge of Hot Fuzz/cellophane between the layers.

*Tip: use a glue stick as “wet” glue can stain the paper. Press the cards under something flat and heavy between each glued layer as it creates a flatter, more pleasing finish. Make sure each layer is fully dry before you add another.

This year, I bought a “Card Kit” of decorations at the Hospice Shop. It included diamante leaves, silver stars, silver bows and transparent beads. I also sourced some finer glitter.

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*Tip: When you add the glitter, make sure to place the card on a small tray as it’s really hard to collect and re-use the left-over sparkles otherwise.

On top of the photo, in the same corner as the Hot Fuzz, apply embellishment, be it a delicate bow or a star. In the lower right corner, on a sweep of glue, drizzle more glitter and add beads or stickers.

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The last step is to write a personal message inside. Then, post it, yes, via snail mail. It still exists.

I posted ours to the lucky recipients. One Facebook friend – who had requested a card – responded, she ‘couldn’t take her eyes off it.’ Yay!

A Christmas craft project completed feels wonderful. This year, I even had enough left to put one on our own shelf. Joy.

Do you have a festive family tradition? Do you enjoy crafting? Do share in the comments below!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. ~ Albert Einstein