Be Brave Friday

Over the years, I’ve talked about the time my dark-skinned dad and I were fishing at a stream in New Hampshire and white men surrounded us, got aggressive, and called my dad the N-word. I was eight or so. I am very white and I had never seen overt racism before. When I was a couple years older, I volunteered for Jesse Jackson and saw it again and again and again, so much so that they wouldn’t let me do doors with the other workers because they were protecting me, the random, little, white kid.

I have always been shocked at my white friends’ shock that racism exists in big ways and small, in our society and ourselves.

That’s it. Because this is not about me and it damn well shouldn’t be. It’s about learning, growing, and doing what we can do to be active allies in making our communities and our selves better, united, equitable, and just.


It’s Be Brave Friday and here is a work in progress because aren’t we all works in progress?

Be brave, friends. I am so sorry when you are forced to be brave and proud of you when you choose to be.

Here are some links where you can help, many of which come from Inside the Kandish (linked below)

Donate: 

If you’d like to help the families and people who loved George FloydAhmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor

Organizations doing good work: 

The Bail Project

The Minnesota Freedom Fund,

The Florence Project

the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Communities United Against Police Brutality,

The American Civil Liberties Union

Protest:

Vice has a great list of the  following precautions that you might want to check out if you’re protesting.

Places To Learn:

The Brown Bookshelf.

The Brown Bookshelf’s Anti-Racist Resources for KidLit Rally 4 Black Lives.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

The Racial Equity Institute

Bowtie Leadership founded by Dr. Todd Jenkins

Dr. Jenkins’s motto is inspired by St. Augustine. 

“The world is like a book… those who do not engage, unravel, and connect to better one’s self and others, only read one page.”

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Writing Goals

I talk a lot about goals when I talk to the writer-students that I mentor or work with. A lot of time these goals they create are beautiful, concrete, actionable steps.

Write 500 words every day.

Revise two chapters this month.

Submit to five agents before July.

And today I found this post from June 2007 where I had the least specific goals ever.

I’m pasting it in here:

Last night in a massive spasm of insomnia I wrote out my lifetime writing goals in the dark.

The first one is: Write a book that means something to someone other than me.

The second one is: Write a book that’s just fun.

Do you all have writing goals? Are they sales-based (as in selling a book, or making a best-seller list?) Are they different than that?

Sometimes I feel like I’m crouching down at the edge of this great, big cavern, looking, looking, looking for meaning down there, and the clouds are looking with me, trying to figure out where the stories are, where the meaning is, in the world. 

Sometimes I feel like I should get some good sleep. 

Me in 2007 obviously a little depressed

And I realized that my goals haven’t changed. Only now I want to help other people get those goals too.

Also, I still can’t sleep, but that’s because I’m a bit worried about my friends, about the world, about you.


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 233,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

Last week’s episode.

Finding Strength in Words: How to Write Strong Sentences

Finding Strength in Words: How to Write Strong Sentences

 
 
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As we do this podcast, the United States is full of protests and pain, Covid-19 is still happening, people are being hurt, people are dying. So, it’s a lot to take in and a lot to process and worry about so for this podcast we’re going to focus on a simple writing tip. 

Ready?

Story is made up of sentences. You want your sentences to be strong. Strong sentences stem from their beginnings. When the beginning sucks, the whole foundation can suck. 

It sounds like a metaphor for a government, doesn’t it? 

Anyways, in English, you want the strongest words on the left-hand side of the sentence. 

Strength comes from the beginning of the sentences and the rest of the words branch out from there. So what are the strongest words you want to put on the left side? 

Nouns and verbs. They are our friends, our battle weapons. Nouns and verbs ignite the fires of imagination. 

Here’s an example of a sentence that’s pretty long, but strong because it begins with solid words: 

Reporters collapsed after cops in riot gear shot rubber pellets directly at their cameraman and on-scene correspondent last night in Louisville, making them understand a little bit more the systemic violence and dehumanization that can happen when power is in the hands of few elements of society. White people weren’t used to that especially not reporters used to watching as others lose their rights, are crushed beneath knees and vehicle wheels and arrested without cause. 

Random nonpolitical sentence.

Sentences don’t always have to branch. Sentences pack powerful punches even when shortened if they begin with a subject-verb one-two punch.

When we put a lot of distance between the subject and verb, we can confuse the reader. 

When we hide the subject underneath layers of clauses? We show the reader how unimportant the subject is to us. The subject of the sentence is important and should matter. 

I feel like that’s a not too heavily cloaked way of saying people matter. Rage happens when injustices never stop. Rage happens when the punishments don’t fit the crime and when nobody hears your voice. 

We hope your voice is heard. We hope you get to be the subject of a lot of sentences and not buried under purple prose and wordage. Make your sentences strong, but make other people’s sentences strong too.   

Writing Tip of the Pod

Look at your writing. Where are your verbs? Where are your nouns/subjects? Are they in powerful places together? Put them there, damn it. 

Dog Tip for Life

Remember the structures that make your life, your community, your family. Are your subjects next to the verbs? How can you make them stronger?


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 230,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

Last week’s episode.


SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

How to Write A Good First Page

Let’s just face it. First pages in our culture are a bit terrifying because we have to entice the reader (or the agent or potential editor) to read beyond the first page and not delete the file, send a rejection letter, or refuse to buy a book.

That’s a lot of pressure for something that’s so subjective.

The first page sets the tone, right?

Here is an example of my same WIP with two completely different first pages and tones.

That up there was the first one.

Here’s the next one.

The two are ridiculously different, right? Same story. Same characters. Totally different approach.

QUICK Tips About First Pages

  1. People will tell you never to have a prologue. You can choose not to listen to them. But when you submit your book when querying an agent (if trying traditional publishing), you might want to think it over.
  2. Show the reader where your characters are. It doesn’t need to be a lot of grounding and setting, but just don’t have them floating around in the ether.
  3. Show the reader who your character is. This is your speed-dating moment. Make the impression you want to make so you can get the reader to turn the page and go on the second date.
  4. Make it tense. Even though it doesn’t see super tense in either of these excerpts, one is about the conflict about spitting into a vial. The other is about a fear of the ocean and being fatherless and the difference between the narrator and her best friend. Not James Patterson stakes, but still stakes.
  5. Make it clear. Unless you’re James Joyce, don’t mire your reader in a world or world building or ultra complex sentences structures with hidden subject-verb combinations right off the bat. You don’t want to be clunky.

Random Exercise:

Go find a book you love and a book you started but didn’t quite read past a few pages. Shh… Don’t pretend. We all have books we don’t finish. It’s okay! It just means that book isn’t for you or maybe it means that the first pages weren’t sparkling.

Now check for those five things. Is it clear and tense? Is there a prologue? Did you read the prologue? Do you know about the main character’s personality and do you know where they/she/he are?

Now look at your own story’s first page. How’s it looking? If you weren’t the writer, would you know what’s going on? Would you be compelled to read more?


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 232,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

This week’s episode.

Last week’s bonus episode with Anne Marie Pace, author of Vampirina Ballerina.

COME WRITE WITH ME! 

I coach, have a class, and edit things. 

Interview with the amazing author Anne Marie Pace – Bonus Podcast Episode

Interview with the amazing author Anne Marie Pace – Bonus Podcast Episode

 
 
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Hey! Welcome to a bonus interview episode of Dogs are Smarter Than People, the usually quirky podcast that gives writing tips and life tips. I’m Carrie Jones and with me today is Anne Marie Pace

Anne Marie Pace!

Anne Marie is an authenticity rock star. She’s the author of Vamperina Ballerina, Pigloo, Sonny’s Tow-truck, human-parent to animals and humans. She likes to read, cook, do some fine choral singing and be an all-around great friend. Anne Marie, it is so great for you to be here. 

We talk about the inspiration for Vampirina Ballerina, a vampire who wants to take ballet lessons, cats who throw up and dogs who eat it, openness and mental health and being authentic even on social media.

I hope you’ll give it a listen and support one of the coolest writers around.

Find out more about Anne Marie at her website.

Okay, well, my website is annemariepace.com, her Twitter is AnneMariePace, and her Vampirina page is http://www.facebook.com/VampirinaBallerina


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 230,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

This week’s episode.

Why Do I Smell Like A Dog

Let me preface this by saying that even before Covid-19, I was one of those people who wash their hands all the time and also one of those people who floss.

My flossing at the campground restroom last summer inspired someone to scoff in disbelief. I’ve repressed most of the incident because I repress all bad things, but basically she said something like, “I didn’t think people actually did that.” Or maybe it was, “You’re one of those kind of people.”

Spoiler alert: I am one of those people who are pro dental hygiene and anti bad breath.

That was a heck of a lot of lead up to this.

My point:

I have been awake merely one hour today, washed my hands three times and they still smell like a dog.

Mostly, they smell like this dog:

my hands smell like dogs
She isn’t even that smelly.

Can someone please explain why?

Oh! Also, the wonderful humans at 88 Cups of Tea hosted me for a guest blog about work and life balance. They are all wonderful and you should check them out.


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 222,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

This week’s episode.

Continue reading “Why Do I Smell Like A Dog”

Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story

Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story

 
 
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A lot of writing coaches talk about story structure and plots and inciting incidents, which is all well and good but Carrie is burnt-out this week. 


Carrie: I have worked too hard and my brain is broken. 

So, instead we are going to tell you what NOT to do. We are going to be the story police and harsh out the rules. 

Carrie: I don’t like rules or broken brains, but let’s do this. 

What Not To Do According To Conventional Wisdom Right Now

Do not start with dialogue.

This used to be super popular, but MySpace also used to be super popular. Things go out of style and it is not super popular anymore. 

Here’s an example: 

             “I like elephants.”

                        “Awesome. Me too.”

                        “No way?”

                        “Actually, I am lying.” 

EXAMPLE OF AWESOME

You’ve no clue who is talking, where they are or why they do or don’t like elephants and you probably don’t care. We want readers to care from the very beginning of the story.

An alarm clock buzzing. 

Who even has an alarm clock anymore, actually? But no alarm clocks or cell phone alarms or whatever. Waking up is dull. 

            My alarm buzzed and I groaned. 

                        “Another day, another dollar,” I said to my cat, Muffin. 

                        Muffin hit me in the nose with her paw. She’s tired of my clichés. 

Another Example of Awesome

The whole IT WAS ALL A DREAM start.

Unless this is a paranormal or fantasy where the dream is a key part of the power or the threat? Then it’s okay even if people say ‘never ever.’

Cough. You don’t want to be super invested in a story and then find out that it was all crap and not real even to the character. 

Amazing thing happens. More amazing things happen. More amazing things happen for five pages. Oops. It’s all a dream. 

Example of dreamy

Being dorky without meaning to. 

This is when you accidentally make a super silly mistake or state something obvious in the very beginning of your story. Gasp! I know! You would never do that, right?

Spoiler alert: We all do this.

She knew she had to wear a mask in a pubic place.

Try to avoid the typos.

“I love to love you,” I think to myself.

This is an example. We all think to ourselves. Cut the ‘to myself.’

All narrative all the time. 

There is no dialogue anywhere in the first ten pages of this story and instead everything is just a solid block of text in which I, the author, tells you exciting things – well at least they are exciting to me – about the story, but honestly it’s just a lot of navel gazing. Did you know that people get lint in their navels? Did you know that a lot of that lint is actually random fibers from your clothes, if you wear clothes, and dead skin, and then it gets stuck there and mixes all up together. I wonder if you care. I wonder if you care that I care. And so on.

Agh. Did you even read this example? It ruined our SEO readability score.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Don’t start off on the wrong writer foot. 

Dog Tip for Life

It’s okay to start over.

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 222,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

This week’s episode.

Continue reading “Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story”

Why Do Politicians Hug Me and Other Weird Facts & Questions

I’ve been working super hard creating things and helping other people create things and I’ve been ridiculously stressed worrying about people’s health and systemic inequalities in our health care system and even about my income because of Covid-19 and I don’t have it in me for a serious blog post today. I hope that’s cool with everyone. Instead, I’m going to give you random tidbits about me.

  1. My debut novel TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (ex) BOYFRIEND has the word gay in it, which made some people squeamish.

2. That makes me lose my chill, but in a chill-inspiring way my ex-boyfriend from high school has a really lovely, very religious, very Catholic mom who BOUGHT IT. Yes, her son is gay. She proudly showed the book off to all her friends and that? Well, that made my heart sing. I’m so glad he has her for a mom.

3. I used to be the youngest female city councilor ever elected in my city and I never EVER dated any other city councilors, or politicians although ex presidential candidate Gary Hart once winked at me and I’ve been hugged by Jesse Jackson and Jerry Brown and George W. Bush and Mike Michaud and Paul Lepage and Susan Collins and John Glenn and too many NYC mayors to list. Politicians apparently hug across parties. Also, I’ve been hugged by a lot more male politicians than women. This does not seem fair.

4. I have one ex-boyfriend who is now a writer. He published before he was 30 and wrote for the NYT and Village Voice. I try not to hate him. Just kidding! I don’t try. No! No! I don’t actually hate him at all. I’m super happy for him actually.

5. I have one ex-boyfriend who was in TIGER BEAT MAGAZINE because he was on a Nickelodean TV show before college.  And I find this hysterical.

6. I have one ex boyfriend from fifth grade whose name was Bertram, but he wanted to change it to Steve. He was so sad about his name. He also wanted to be a knight. I hope he at least got to change his name.

7. I have one ex boyfriend who chewed tobacco and spit it into a Pepsi can and thought nobody knew. EVERYBODY knew.

8. I just realized I will never have another new ex-boyfriend, which is weird, just weird…And I also realized that because of Covid-19 politicians won’t be hugging people as much this year, which has a lot of weird ramifications, too.

How about you? Do you have random facts that you never share? It feels weirdly good to remember and share them.

Continue reading “Why Do Politicians Hug Me and Other Weird Facts & Questions”

Super Noses, Stuffed Teddies, and Being Awesome, an Interview with YA Author, Ronni Davis

Super Noses, Stuffed Teddies, and Being Awesome, an Interview with YA Author, Ronni Davis

 
 
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Hey! Welcome to a bonus interview episode of Dogs are Smarter Than People, the usually quirky podcast that gives writing tips and life tips.

With me (Carrie) today is Ronni Davis for our special bonus interview edition.

Ronni is one of the best humans around. She graduated Ohio State with a degree in psychology. And she has an amazing debut novel WHEN THE STARS LEAD TO YOU, which you can buy here at IndieBound.

Ronni’s website states she’s a writer, dreamer, wanderer. Have you met any authors who weren’t who are just buttheads?

We talk about that, fitting in, and super noses. We also talk about how it’s cool to sleep with the teddy bears you had as a child. And do not fight us on this.

When the Stars Lead to You is a powerful debut about reaching for the stars and how to put yourself back together after falling apart. Deftly blending the complications of first love with an exploration of mental illness, Ronni Davis is a bright new voice in YA that readers of today and the future are lucky to have.

Debut author Davis provides a new take on the archetypal first love novel by tackling the impact of mental health, race, and class wars. A moving love story, timely given the pervasiveness of mental health crises.”

KirkusReviews

Check out more about Ronni at her website. Her twitter. Her Instagram. And her Goodreads page.

And here’s a quick link to Ronni’s interview!


SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 222,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.


And here’s a quick link to Ronni’s interview! Super Noses, Stuffed Teddies, and Being Awesome

Link to Jose’s bonus interview. Jokes, Stuffies, And Using Your Weirdness for Good, An Interview with Jose De La Roca

Link to Caitlyn’s bonus episode. Books, Law School during Covid-19 and just being Kick Butt – Using Law to Create Lasting Change – Interview with Caitlyn Vanover

Link to this week’s episode of awesome.

Last week’s episode. Money Is Not the Enemy and the Habits of the Rich

Continue reading “Super Noses, Stuffed Teddies, and Being Awesome, an Interview with YA Author, Ronni Davis”

Tips on Attending a Writing Conference for Children’s Writers When It Isn’t the Time of Covid-19

I am an optimist and I believe that people will be someday at writing conferences again feeling awkward and so in preparation for that, I’m giving all you all some tips. You ready?

Tips on Attending a Writing Conference for Children’s Writers When It Isn’t the Time of Covid-19

Understand that people will hug you.

A lot. They will hug you a lot. This is cool if you like hugs (I do).

If you don’t like hugs you may want to not use your deodorant that day or wear something prickly around your neck like a porcupine. That’s about all that will dissuade children’s writers set for a hug.

Do not feel like a big loser because everyone else seems like they know everyone else and they are all best friends.

They are just pretending.

Pretend too. Go stand by people. Nod.

Realize that pretending works because they all think you are a social media friend who has an icon or avatar that is not their actual face but a giant toenail or perfected carbonized version of themselves.

If they ask you if you are another writer who is cooler than you are? Nod.

If they catch you because you did not remember that the other author has a dog named Fluffy who tends to bite school bus drivers in the elbow, just nod again and say, “I was pretending. I was doing research on a YA character who is a compulsive liar and adopts the identities of total strangers as a way to deal with weight issues.”

They are writers. They will understand.

Realize that they will possibly hug you again in solidarity over the fact that you are so into your writing that you do compulsive liar reasearch at conferences.

Open your arms. Hug them back.

Seriously though, when you are at a conference or convention, remember to embrace and include other people. Don’t talk over them. Listen to their words. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak, to interact, to be included. When you don’t? You’re oppressing them and you’re losing the possibility of meeting a new friend or at least hearing a new take on things, or a perspective from someone’s mouth that isn’t yours. That’s what writing and communication is all about. It goes both ways.

Continue reading “Tips on Attending a Writing Conference for Children’s Writers When It Isn’t the Time of Covid-19”