After the Hurricane, Oysters, Kindness, and Survival

Apalachicola is a town that remembers its ghosts and welcomes them. This town on Florida’s panhandle, is a town of oysters and celebrations, proud of its history. It’s a town where the locals have pamphlets at the cemetery explaining who is reposed in more than 40 graves.

In this town of roughly 2,500 people, the friendliness is obvious in every interaction. Even one month after Hurricane Michael ripped through it and devastated neighboring communities, Apalachicola seems – wet, but lovely.

Things aren’t right.

This town on the bay, the second oldest European settlement in Florida, is usually full of tourists spending money in the small restaurants and art galleries, going on fishing trips, filling up the rooms in hotels, inns and weekly rentals, but not this year. Even the man who comes from Maine to sell his blueberries every November is a no show.

 Dan, one of the owners of Hole in the Wall Seafood, tells us this with a shake of his head. “I don’t know what happened to him. He just hasn’t shown.”

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A lot of visitors haven’t shown. Maybe they are afraid of what they’ll see, Dan wonders. Some buildings look permanently shut down. Floors are buckled. Windows are holes. Squeegees and bleach can’t fix everything, but sometimes you can still get a whiff of the bleach, which is better than the stench of mold, which emanates from some of the buildings closer to the water. The storm surge was about 9.5 feet here. That’s a lot of water that sloshed through the two lower streets that run parallel to the water.

 

The workers at the Hole in the Wall Seafood catalogue their friends’ losses to the group of diners that come in and sit at a high table. Normally, this time of year you can’t find a spot to sit in this cozy, friendly restaurant that features oysters (of course) and cajun grouper. But nothing is normal and it’s evident by their conversation. One friend has lost a porch. Another lost their oyster building. Another lost half their roof. Someone lost a car to a tree. Someone and someone else and someone else lost their house.

“You were in Spain for the storm?” Dan asks from his station behind the bar as a woman arrives, joining her friends at that back table.

“Mm-hmm,” she says.

“Yeah,” one of them teases. “You missed a good time.”

“She just got the evacuation notice and kept on goin’. All the way to Spain,” they tease and there’s laughter all around until someone else adds, “Was a good idea.”

A month later and the words and people are still brave, but the emotion is still raw.

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Oysters

 

Apalachicola has been Florida’s oyster capitol for a long while, but the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 created a disaster for the oyster industry and its workers. A bay becoming increasingly salty has also allowed sea predators to suck out the oysters and leave just empty shells. It’s a double-whammy that has slammed the industry and its people.

 

The reason for the bay’s saltiness has even created a legal battle between Florida and Georgia with Florida claiming that Georgia is hogging up the water. Florida receives less fresh water and the bay becomes more and more salty. This allows sea predators like oyster drills to hang out in the estuary and eat the oysters, plundering at will in the increased salinity.

 

Apalachicola oysters used to be 90% of Florida’s wild supply and 10% of the United States’. That  isn’t true anymore. Farm-raised oysters have taken over the industry.

 

The grandfathers and fathers of Apalachicola’s modern-day oystermen used to use tongs to lick up 50 or so oysters a pop. Now it takes 50 tong licks to get just a couple oysters. Instead, oyster men are trying to rebuild the oyster beds that were devastated after the oil spill and now after the hurricane.

 

“I don’t know what will happen,” one man announced at the bar, laughing in that bitter way that happens. “Maybe we’ll all go to Maine and lobster.”

 

“Freeze your balls off,” a waitress announced.

 

“Yeah. Forget that.” He laughed and took a swig of his beer.

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Hurricane Michael

 

And then came Michael.

 

They’ve had hurricanes before. There are tall stakes in the ground to estimate storm surge by hurricane category. One is right by the playground. Another waits closer to the center of town. Warnings. Memories. Ghosts of hurricanes past measured in feet and fears of hurricanes yet to come.

 

“Waves were breaking in my front yard,” the man at the Hole in the Wall tells us. “It came in around 2:30. I had five or six people with me on the patio. The roof sheet metal? It just started peeling off. That’s some sharp stuff. I hustled everyone in. I think my patio’s down by the raw bar now.”

 

He faired better than his neighbors, only losing a patio and bins full of clothes and other items. He jokes that a seaweed berm probably saved his house, shakes his head about his luck, the randomness of hurricane winds and waves.

 

The rest of the customers and staff go back to cataloguing their losses, their neighbors’ losses, a seemingly never-ending litany of damage. Floods took the 13-Mile processing plant, which lost its roof because the walls blew off. The two downtown streets, Commerce and Water, flooded.  The neighboring town of Port Saint Joe was hit even harder than Apalachicola. But the McDonald’s there is open again even though the building was flooded out, windows are still being repaired and the toilets are in a trailer in the parking lot. Driving through the town, you see holes that shoot all the way through a house, houses moved 50 feet of their sites, sailboats jetting up towards the sky, the bottom submersed. You see mounds of debris on both sides of the roads, moldy sheet rock pulled from houses, broken trees, couches, mattresses, waiting to be disposed of.

Just driving down a street makes you a witness to destruction.

 

The loss of homes, of personal items, is horrific. But there’s also a loss of revenue. The Hole in the Wall estimates that it lost $30,000 in revenue for the two weeks it was closed. The second two weeks, the owners made about a quarter of what they usually make because the people just aren’t here.

 

Dan’s wife, our waitress, sighs and tells everyone that they could have opened sooner, but it didn’t feel right. They were busy feeding volunteers. From the Thursday after the storm through the Sunday, restaurantauers, volunteers, teachers, banned together to feed everyone, serving thousands of meals while waiting for electricity to come back to the town.

 

“It wouldn’t have felt right to open before that,” she says. “That would have – it just wouldn’t have been right.”

 

So, they helped the feed the town instead, for free.

 

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Survival

Apalachicola seems like a town that reinvents itself to survive. Before it was Apalachicola, it was a British trading post, Cottonton. Before it was Cottonton it was a settlement of a subgroup of the Seminoles. The name Apalchicola is a combination of Hitchiti words, apalahchi and okli.

 

During the Civil War, the USS Sagamore captured the town, occupying it for most of the fighting.

 

Before the railroad was popular, Apalachicola was the third biggest seaport on the Gulf. But then railroads came. So that changed. Thanks to Greek immigrants, the sponge trade was a major economic driver. But then that changed, too.

 

Back in 1837, the town allegedly had 600 meters of one brick store after another on the main street, a testament to its prosperity and health. Most of those buildings were three stories high and 25 meters deep. Granite pillars adorned every one of them. It doesn’t look like that now, time and industry, hurricanes and people, have changed the landscape and the economy over and over again.

 

Before the oysters, it was lumber.  It was sponges. It was a port city full of trade. What will it be next? That’s really the question.

 

And it’s a question for a lot of us and our towns, our cities. What do we become when our main industry dies? How do we reinvent ourselves, support our families and way of life when fisheries die off, when paper is no longer made, when Amazon goes under, or when climates change, when war comes? The act of reinvention, of survival, seems primary and so essential, but we never really focus enough on it, not in our daily lives, and not for our communities.

Apalachicola is impressive, not just because of the kindness of its people, but because of its capacity to change, to survive, to transform.

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Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

 

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When Women Come Together Things Get A Little Bad Ass

BAR HARBOR, Maine — “I love that you are doing this,” Erica Brooks, associate broker at the Swan Agency, announces as she approaches a table where Nicole Ouellette, owner of Breaking Even and Anchorspace, sits as she creates a computerized map of women-owned businesses on Mount Desert Island. The women are just two of many at the Women-Owned-Business Expo in the old gym at the MDI YWCA.

Behind them are various tables all featuring women-owned businesses. The range from financial planning to real estate, arts to mortgage services. Marketing materials, art work, drums, examples of their work decorate the tables.

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The women here will tell you that business ownership changes you. Every interaction, every solicitation, every success and failure, brings with it an experience, a toughness, a life lesson. And these women? They leave an impact on their clients, their students, their community. Those impacts? They matter. The sounds of the women are joyous and insightful as they talk and help each other set up.

Ouellette asks Brooks to sign up for a raffle of business books. All the books are written by women and stacked on the table, right behind an entry form and sign-up sheet. Brooks happily adds her name.

“I think this event attracts women who want a book with the word, ‘badass,'” Ouellette says, lifting one up that has that exact word in the title.

Brooks agrees, laughing, and then even as the other women continue to set up, Brooks segues into something pretty poignant for early on a Saturday morning in a small coastal Maine town of only about 5,000 year-round residents. She starts talking about how real estate is her passion and how part of that is empowering women, two ideas which most people don’t immediately hook together. But after a negative life event, when she was able to buy her own house, she felt incredibly empowered.

“Financial freedom… equity in real estate,” she says. It means something to her.

Ouellette agrees, “I spent my entire twenties trying to get my friends to open an IRA.”

Owning a business for many of the women is about doing something they enjoy, a passion, a love, but it’s also about making money, supporting themselves, making connections and empowerment.

One of Ouellette’s businesses, Anchorspace, is cohosting the event with the MDI YWCA. Her business’s tagline is, “Where Downeast Maine gets to work,” where she hopes people will work smarter, healthier and together. One of her many passions is apparent at the Expo, it’s bringing people together so that they can support each other, shout out each other’s successes and hook them into new revenue streams and friendships.

“I’m meeting so many women, really cool women,” Elise Frank of Edward Jones says.

Surely that kind of joy and connection is both important for the women themselves as well as the community they work with. Maybe networking and friendship skills should be taught in schools as well as at home. Maybe learning to listen to a new friend should be learned when you’re learning your ABC’s and then again with a refresher course in high school. The world would probably be a better place.

That’s what is happening here.

The event is held at the MDI YWCA, whose mission is empowering women and promoting diversity. Throughout the three hours there’s a lot of happy networking happening. Women keep adding more and more names to the map of local women-owned businesses, trying to remember everyone and not leave anyone out.

“That seems impossible. There are so many… so many women,” one lady murmurs. “It’s pretty incredible.”

At the same time, new clients are potentially met, and friendships solidify.

The talk keeps turning back to certain themes. Mothers. Potential. Abilities. The desire to become something, to create something, and to reach their own best potentials. Liz Cutler, owner of ArtWaves. talks about her mother’s brilliance in mathematics and how she gave up a promising career when she became a mother.

“She was wonderful,” Liz says, but she also has to wonder how hard that was.

Becky Carroll talks about her desire to become more artistic like other members of her family, about exploring new talents . Women murmur about fitting in, striking out, holding each other up even while remembering their relatives who may not have had those same opportunities.

After three hours, the business owners say goodbye to Ouellette. Sherri Dyer of MDI Mortgage offers to help Cutler carry her paintings and easels out to her car. But before they leave, they join in a chorus of women thanking Ouellette for the opportunity.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you.”

It’s a chorus of appreciation for a kindness and an event meant to empower women, create friendships and promote each other. It’s a litany of thanks for an event the world needs more of, an event that’s about lifting each other up instead of pulling each other down, about community and opportunity, about learning more about your neighbors than you knew before.

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Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

 

Wednesday Writing Tips – Writing Stream of Consciousness.

Yesterday on the podcast, we talked about writing stream of consciousness, and I’m going to continue that discussion today.

The whole point of stream of consciousness in your writing is to make it feel like you are directly putting the thoughts of the character onto the page. There are lots of ideas and theories about whether the perception of thought as flow versus choppiness is even correct, but in order to touch that topic, it would take me about 5,000 words.

That’s a bit too long.

So, we’re just going to go with the literary concept of flowing thoughts. One of the masters of the literary device wrote this:

“Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semitransparent envelop surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible?”

Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction” In: McNeille, Andrew, Ed. The Essays of Virginia

So, how do we as writers use Stream of Consciousness in our narrative.

Stream of Consciousness is not an internal monologue or expressing a tiny bit of the character’s thoughts in your story. It’s a full-on immersion. Style. Grammar. Structure? Those things don’t really matter that much. Plot can be lost. Stream-of-Consciousness writing can confuse the reader. But it’s also, so incredibly cool if you can pull it off.

According to the New World Encyclopedia:

Stream-of-consciousness writing is usually regarded as a special form of interior monologue and is characterized by associative (and at times dissociative) leaps in syntax and punctuation that can make the prose difficult to follow, tracing a character’s fragmentary thoughts and sensory feelings.

That’s hard for some of us to do. In writing, we pressure our thoughts to be linear so that we can communicate with the readers. We focus on making words and story make sense, shaping our (and our characters’) random thoughts into a logical, emotionally resonating story.

The best way to get into the understanding of stream of consciousness writing is to do this really simple exercise, but really get into it.

  1. Get something to write with, computer, pen, blood, whatever.
  2. Set a timer for more than five minutes.
  3. Write everything that comes into your head. Don’t try to be an awesome writer, just write your thoughts.
  4. Read it.
  5. Realize that you have just written a stream of consciousness.
  6. Look at books where stream of consciousness is the narrative.
  7. Try it yourself.

Here is my example that I just did with no editing. It should make you feel better about your own thoughts, honestly.

So in order to make people realize how goofy thoughts can be I’m totally writing my own thoughts down for five minutes. But I think I’m still putting in punctuation, but whatever. Does that still count? I mean, I am writer. I think in punctuation, right? Unlesss I don’t. Ugh. Thoughts are so weird. They are like dreams because you have to piece them together

Piece

Together

Peace

Together

Peace to gather

And I am still freaked out about my dream the other night with the black adder that then sort of flowed into the other dream about the tree of life only it was a black ash tree and my dream voice kept telling me that the fact that it was an ash tree was so important and the tree was on a hill and there was this one squirrel running on the hill and then my dream voice was all – it is black ash – remember black ash – it is holding us all together and then the next day there is a massacre of hate at the synagogue Tree of Life and that is a little frustrating because what is the point of randomly symbolic dreams when I can’t use them to stop hate or maybe it’s not all connected and I am just trying to piece it together because when you piece things together it’s like you’re not so powerless and I am so tired of being powerless

Violence and hate

Hate and violence

Powerlessness

Dear God, how many freaking minutes have I been writing. Did I even really set the damn timer? Oh, there it goes.

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEEDis on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

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I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

 

Stream of Consciousness Writing, Baby, Dogs are Smarter Than People Podcast

Shaun: Two weeks ago we were hanging out at a friend’s house and Carrie met a woman who was talking about writing, and how it helped her through some tough times and how she loved writing, but didn’t think she could ever be one.

“It’s all stream of consciousness,” she said as if it was a bad thing.

This of course broke Carrie’s heart.

Carrie: To be fair, my heart is easily broken. Like last week, when one of our friends said that Shaun is the best part of the podcast because he’s funny and I’m trying to be informative. Heart broken for me. Happy for the Shaun.

Anyway, since I’m informative, stream of consciousness is a term that William James created a little over a century ago and it means

“… it is nothing joined; it flows. A ‘river’ or a ‘stream’ is the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let’s call it the stream of thought, consciousness, or subjectivelife.”

That’s taken from Literary Devices Net,which was quoting Mr. James.

Toni Morrison, Jose Saramago, Beckett, Joyce all use stream-of-consciousness as a narrative construct in their stories.

Shaun:Honestly, our entire podcast is pretty much a stream-of-consciousness narrative.  Tomorrow on Carrie’s regular blog, she’ll have some writing tips about using stream of consciousness.

Dog Tip for Life:

Live in your moment, go with your river of thought.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD:

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that your literary constructs or devices or voice isn’t cool. You do you.

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 IS THE PODCAST? WHERE WE HEAR ABOUT THE LADY WHO JUST TOLD CARRIE TO DUMP SHAUN AND HOW PSYCHED SHAUN IS TO GO FISHING?

It’s right here. 

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

“We help ourselves through it.” Surviving Darkness

Normally on Mondays, I write about life and things that I’ve observed, things that are happening. Sometimes, I use actual citations.

Gasp!

I know! I know! Citations.

But this Monday,  my blog is going to be a little raw. That’s because I think my heart is a little raw.

I spent the weekend in Houston, Texas, hanging out with the amazing crew at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston. I went there shortly after what is being called as the worst attack against Jews in our country.

On the way to the event, I rode over with this brilliant, beautiful woman, her 10-year-old daughter and author and awesome human Ethan Berlin. The driver’s daughter told me about the last time she saw our hotel, which was a year ago.

“It was during Harvey,” her mom added. “We came over in a tank.”

“Did you get to go inside the tank?” I asked.

The girl’s eyes lit up. She did. The hotel room was nice, too.

“It was pretty,” she said, but I could tell from her expression that it was all scary, too. Really scary.

Then the mother-daughter duo told us about how sometimes when it rains really hard, they get scared again, remembering the 49-inches of rain and devastation that Hurricane Harvey brought to their home, their community center, and their neighborhood.

“We help ourselves through it,” the mom said. “I taught her how to deal with it, but last week? She was the one who helped me remember how to cope.”

And I honestly almost lost it in the back seat of their car, hugging my backpack that held a puppet of Moe Berg, sitting next to this beautiful, brilliant kid. Because their love, their pain, and their pride in each other was so poignant and real.

It was so real.

We gathered around before the events started and talked about getting through things again. It was just tiny snippets of conversation, but this beautiful rabbi took it all in as everyone quickly connected with their trauma, their pains, the moments in their lives that were so big and catastrophic that they come back again and again, a refrain in a song that echoes.

“We all have those moments,” she said.

We do.

Later in the day, we were signing books in the most amazing pop-up bookstore ever, and a balloon broke, making that horrible snap that reminds so many people of gun shots and there was this moment – this absolute second immediately afterwards – where everyone paused, silent, trying to figure out what that noise was.

And then everything went back to normal, kids singing songs, grabbing books, moms and dads herding them around to authors and events, spending their Sunday celebrating kids, books, literacy and each other.

And it was beautiful. It was so beautiful.

This center serves 1,000 people every day. This time-lapse video shows how 12 feet of water ended up filling the 35,000-square-feet center. And they rebuilt. It is beautiful. People and kids filled that building again this past weekend. The community survived. The building survived. But it’s more than that. They thrived.

They helped themselves through it.

In this community are so many families, so many stories of good times, of bad, of helping themselves through things and coming out the other side as beautiful moments of light, connection, of poetry, of souls. And there is so much that this country, that this world, can learn about the act of coming together, of community, of connection, of helping each other through it.

If you haven’t voted yet, please vote tomorrow. Please vote on the ideas and ideas that resonate with you. Politics is more than attack ads. Politicians shape and create the laws and tenor of our nation. They support or deconstruct what our government and its branches actually are and what they can be.

And even after you’ve voted, please try to choose paths and actions that create goodness, equality, not disenfranchisement and hate. When we come together as communities, especially as intersectional communities, that’s when we evolve both as individuals and as a nation. Respect for difference and discourse goes a long way. But what doesn’t go along way? Killing each other. Oppressing each other.

We shouldn’t all be terrified when a balloon pops. We should be people who rebuild and thrive. We should be people who go to places of worship, walk in parking lots, go to schools and yoga studios and our own homes without being afraid, without being vulnerable.

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

 

SaveSave

Tell Our Stories (The Ghost Version)

So, I think it’s seventh grade, I’m trying to be a theater kid, but I’m not actually talented enough to be a theater kid. My dad died last year. My mom’s working like a crazy woman and I’m living in Bedford, New Hampshire where it seems like everyone else in the world is rich except for us.

 

I manage to go to theater camp at school for the summer. I’m not sure who is actually paying for this. I’m guessing my nana maybe?

 

Anyways, I’ve got a tiny bit of a reputation for being sort of weird. This is because:

 

  1. I am weird.
  2. People tend to die on the highway outside my house.
  3. I sometimes know things I shouldn’t know.
  4. The whole automatic writing thing.

 

My Post-18

Back in fourth grade, I read this book that talked about automatic writing. So, I tried it. Grabbed a pen and my notebook and didn’t pay attention to the words that were coming out while my stepdad and I watched a Chargers game on tv in the family room. Our family room used to be a garage. Then it was my brother’s bedroom and then my stepsister’s bedroom, but she was long gone by the time I hit fourth grade.

 

During a commercial break, I decided to read the five pages in my notebook. It was first person narrative of a girl who came over on a boat and lived where my house used to be. She was hurt and scared and hated it there. Then her house caught fire and she died.

 

I was little. The story scared me, mostly because it was actually a story written in cursive in a handwriting that didn’t look much like mine and because at the end it said, “Tell my story.”

 

“Daddy?” I asked. “Was there ever another house here?”

 

“I don’t think so, honey.”

 

It wasn’t a good enough answer. I ripped the papers out of my notebook and threw them in the woodstove and Mom called us to dinner.

 

I tried again. “Mom? Was there ever another house here?”

 

“Yes. A long time ago. If you look in the book we have about our town you can see in one of the old maps that there used to be a house here. Your father found pieces of the foundation when he built our house,” she said this all like it was the most normal thing in the world.

 

“What kind of people lived here?” I asked, remembering the story.

 

“Oh, I’m sure they were nice.”

 

“What happened to the house?” I asked.

 

“No idea.”

 

Two seconds later, I saw a weird orange glow on the snow outside the picture window. My mom asked me what I was staring at. I told her and my dad jumped up from the table, running outside and shouting back, “Betty! Call the fire department. Our roof is on fire.”

 

They put out the fire. It could have totally been a coincidence. But when my mom researched what had happened to the last house, it really did burn down.

 

It was the sort of place where the piano would play by itself, where you walked by the windows and were certain that someone was outside in the dark staring in at you. When I told people where I lived they’d say, “The creepy brown house? You live there?”

 

Yep. I lived there. I loved it there, actually, because of the woods and the big hill to sled down and the giant boulder in the background that I used to pretend was an island.

My Post-19

 

In seventh grade, we decided to have a séance. A bunch of the theater kids from camp went to my house. My mom was working. We did automatic writing in that same family room. The drapes across the living room closed by themselves. A pencil caught fire. One of the boys acted possessed. I’m not sure if he was really possessed, because… theater kid.

 

It was terrifying.

 

One of the things that was written down was, Tell our stories.

My Post-20

 

It’s years later and I try so hard to be normal, but obviously constantly fail.

 

My high schoolwriting teacher, Mr. Sullivan, has this laugh where his tongue darts out between his lips and his mouth hangs wide open and I swear, his tongue looks like a freaking lizard tongue. It’s creepy and hysterical all at once and everyone in class points and starts laughing at him whenever he laughs this way. He doesn’t even care. He just laughs harder.

But this day? He just stops abruptly, right in the middle of a laugh.

So, Mr. Sullivan? He looks at me and says, “Carrie Barnard. What is going through your head right now?”

And my mouth opens and no sound comes out. No words. Not even adverbs.

He cocks an eyebrow, which is white and gray and black with old-man extra hairs squiggling out everywhere. “Well….? I would have called your look inquisitive.”

“I was just staring at your tongue when you laugh.”

Everyone in class starts cackling as I say this.

“Because…” Mr. Sullivan prompts, leaning back against his desk. Papers crumple under the edge of his butt.

“Because you look like a lizard when you laugh?” I offer and instantly feel bad about saying this.

“A lizard?” He stares at me for a second. Another second passes. “I look like a lizard when I laugh?”

I shrug, which will hopefully end this conversation and keep doodling, not looking down at my notebook. “Pretty much. But… um not in a bad way?”

This just makes him laugh more.

One of my friends announces, “Carrie thinks lizards are cute.”

“Which is why she liked you, right?” another friend says.

Everyone just cackles more and my first friend bows. “Perfect setup. I gave you the perfect setup.”

 

And that’s when I start thinking that maybe people aren’t just people. Maybe we all have angels and demons stuck inside of us and the reason that good doesn’t last and good people die is because the angel people are being wiped out by the demon people in some sort of eternal, perpetual war. But then I just realize that these are symbols that I’m making up to distract myself from the fact that people suck so badly.

I’m not going to tell Mr. Sullivan all that. If there is one thing I know about this life, it’s that when people ask you what you’re thinking, they only want to know the top surface level of it, not the muck and mud and layers, not the way your thoughts spiral out in a million directions. People only want the tiny truths, not the complexities, which basically means they want nothing at all.

 

I shouldn’t write basically because Mr. Sullivan hates adverbs. He insists they are weak ways of writing, but I think they have purpose, right? Because people are weak. People created adverbs specifically because we are weak and have a hard time expressing ourselves in strong enough verbs all the damn time.

Words fail.

Words fail constantly. . . all the time… a lot. So, you have to grab the best ones you’ve got, right? But sometimes… sometimes… there are no words at all and the big ass pit inside of you stays huge and horrible and threatens to swallow you whole, which is not an original image, but whatever.

 

 

“Write!” Mr. Sullivan tells us as he gesticulates wildly with Sharpie-smudged hands and frayed-cuff khakis. He paces the front of the room like a baseball coach. “Free write! Tell us about lizard-tongue people. Tell us what the brilliant Carrie Barnard observed.”

But I have already told him and I have nothing else to say.

I just stare at the ceiling and then this whisper comes into my right ear – just the right one and it says, “Tell our stories.”

I jerk so hard that my chair legs scrape against the floor.

“What?” I look around.

Mr. Sullivan sits at his desk now. He meets my eyes. I can’t tell what his eyes are thinking.

Nobody else is even looking up. They are all being good students, worker bees.

“Barnard? Are you all set?” Mr. Sullivan’s voice isn’t mean. It’s just a question.

“Yes,” I lie, yanking my hair back into a ponytail, gathering it up into a cheap, black elastic. It must look as wild as Mr. Sullivan’s. “Yes, I’m fine.”

I  look down at my notebook, full of doodles, but it’s not full of doodles. There’s just one sentence, written over and over again, in every font ever – obscure and weird and traditional, messy and neat, capitalized and not.

Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

Ghost Stories! -2

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEEDis on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.56.50 PM

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

Cooking With a Writer – Ghostly Pizza

As you know, I’m trying desperately to make the family vegetarian and I am TOTALLY failing.
But here is my recipe for Halloween pizza. Halloween is a frantic night for us because we get about 800 – 1,000 trick-or-treaters. So, I tend to make things that are fast and easy like calzone snakes or mummy Stromboli, but this… this, my friends, is the ultimate in easy. It’s sort of embarrassingly easy. Stay tuned below for the story of my first-ever ghost sighting.

Ghostly Pizza

So, sometimes I cheat because on Halloween things get hectic here. 

Course dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword ghost
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 338 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Frozen Pizza Doug do not judge
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • .75 cup pizza sauce
  • .5 lb mozarella slices
  • some little capers for the eyes

Instructions

  1. Realize that you have no time to make food that isn't candy.

  2. Preheat oven to 475ºF. 

    Spray bottom of a 16-by-11-inch rimmed baking sheet with the stuff that makes things not stick. Or use olive oil, but olive oil is expensive, so maybe don't. I mean olive oil is awesome, but we're already using pre-made pizza dough here so pretension is gone, right? 

    Spray the darn sheet.

    Celebrate by eating candy.

  3. Stretch that dough evenly to cover bottom of sheet. 

    This is a lot like stretching your 20,000-word story into a 50,000-word novel. You might have to take a couple of rounds, and rest in between to get this stretched.

    Do not give up.

    Celebrate by eating candy.

  4. Open the jar of sauce. 

    Cry because you have no wrist strength.

    Celebrate when you finally open the jar. Celebrate by eating candy.

    Spread that sauce over the dough. Try to make it even. Leave a border on all sides of the rectangle. Try to make that border a 1-inch border. 

    Celebrate with candy.

    Set a timer. Put it in the oven.

  5. Bake about 15 minutes. 

    Celebrate that. Celebrate that with candy.

    Now, you get to have fun! Yay, fun! Remember fun?

    Scrounge up a ghost-shaped cookie cutter and cut ghosts out of cheese. 

    That is so cool.

    Put the ghosts on the pizza. It is hot. Be careful. Obviously these ghosts have been hanging out in hell. The sauce is like red flames. And the whole scene is hot. 

    Celebrate liberating the ghosts from hell with candy.

    Hide the candy wrappers in the garbage during the final five minutes of baking.

  6. Take the pizza out. Look how cool that is! 

    Put caper eyes on each ghost.

    Let is stand for five minutes. Eat it. Eat it with a celebratory side dish of candy.

Man Verdict: It needs meat and more cheese.
My Verdict: Seriously? I’m so full from the candy.
Dogs’ Verdict: We agree with the man. If you’re going to dress us up, the least you can do is add more meat.

GHOST STORY TIME!

This is the story about the first ghost that I ever saw. . . Or the first possible-ghost I ever saw for you nonbelievers.

I grew up in what used to be rural Bedford, New Hampshire and I lived up on a hill on the corner of Hardy Road and Route 101, which was then a little two-lane highway that led from Manchester, New Hampshire (a thriving metropolis former mill town) to points west. People thought my house, a dark brown ranch with red shutters, perched up on the hill was creepy. It was the kind of house people would dare each other to go to. On a positive note, we didn’t get a ton of  door-to-door solicitations.

I remember when I met a girl in second grade and told her where I lived she said, “Oh. But you’re so normal. You’re not creepy at all.”

And I was like, “Huh?”

“Your house,” she said. “Your house looks scary.”

My house was scary, but my house was also home, which is sort of this weird concept for some people, a dichotomy that doesn’t make a ton of sense. How can your home be scary but also comforting? They have created entire entertainment enterprises out of this concept – things like the Addams Family where the macabre is comforting. Or the vampire family in Twilight where their vampyric nature is hidden by the clean, modern lines of wealth and big windows and good hair.

In the last ten years, I’ve incorporated a lot of the scarier things that have happened to me into books. That’s because they seem more presentable and understandable when they are fiction instead of shouting to the world, “Hey! My house was weird. Maybe haunted. Who knows?” Or, “Yeah… this happened at a seance I had in fifth grade.”

And the stories?
They add up.
You can only hear so many footsteps in so many houses before people start to think that you’re either lying or a freak. I spent a lot of time trying to quash the differences inside of me – of being poor, of slurring my s’s, of being the freak with the haunted house, the person who sometimes knew things she shouldn’t logically know.

So, yeah, I grew up in this house my dad built in Bedford, NH. It was on a hill. There’d been another house there about 100 years before but it had burned down.  And after that some people from Connecticut built a camp in the woods and would come there in the summer. That was in the early 1900s, I think. But those were the only known houses before ours.

Anyway, we had this great big picture window in the living room. My dad and mom were arguing at the kitchen table, so I toddled off and went into the living room. It was night time. I was really little, probably somewhere between three and five, because my parents were still married enough to be living in the same house.

I really hated them fighting so I waddled over to the picture window and decided to blow on it, so I could make those hand footprints in the mist that comes from your breath.

So, I started to blow on the window to see if it would frost up, but then I noticed something outside on our front lawn. Our front lawn was a big, grassy hill that sloped down to the road. I cupped my hands around my eyes so I could see better and peered out because it was getting dark. There was a woman wearing a long, white dress walking across the lawn, from left to right.

That was weird. Nobody ever walked across our lawn at almost night. We were really rural then, up a long, dirt driveway, up a hill.

I was little, but I knew it was funky.

But something else was wrong, too.

She was walking right above the hole for the septic tank. It was a big hole about three feet deep that was covered with two granite slabs. I knew it was there because my mom was always warning me about falling in and breaking an ankle. My mom was really, really worried about my ankles. I grew up thinking pretty much anything could break my ankle — holes, bikes, skis, horses, soccer….

So, anyway, even though there was a hole there, the lady walked right over it.

“Mommy!”

I yelled for her but they kept arguing. The woman kept walking. She lifted her arm and waved. She seemed nice.

“Mommy!”

“What?”

“There’s a lady in the lawn.”

“What?”

“There’s a lady…”

My mom and dad both rushed to the picture window.

“There’s nothing,” my dad said.

“I thought I saw something…” Mom interrupted. She turned me around to look at her. “What did the lady look like?”

“She was a lady… she was wearing white… you could see through her dress…”

My mom put me to bed, right away, but my parents stopped arguing, at least for that night.

Writing News

Last Time Stoppers Book

I love this book baby and you can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

Three Tips to Writing Scary Things

I almost never think that what I’m writing is scary, but I am also an author who has occasionally had people put their books in the freezer in order to ‘stay safe.’ So, apparently I’m not the best judge of scary. I watched both Haunting of Hill House and Hereditary and nothing happened. No scary dreams, lingering horror, or even many jump scares. And these are movies/shows that are awesome and other people rave about.

So, obviously something is wrong with me.

But the truth is that I find books way more scary than movies and that’s because my mind gets to fill in the gaps and I’m able to put myself in the character’s space and live it through them in a way that works for me more than it does in a movie.

Advice about adding resonance and cohesion to your story
Bob? Yuri? Scary?

 

So, how do we scare people in books? Here are three quick tips.

Find the Horror in Skiing

Think about what scares people. What scares you might not scare other people.

I am going to try to ski today. Last time, I fell and broke my ankle. The time before that, I fell and broke my arm.

That’s truth, but it’s not terrifying to other people, right?

So, for me, I’m scared of downhill skiing. That’s really pretty damn specific and isn’t going to make people frightened unless like me they lack depth perception, grace, and strong ankles.

But if I make skiing the setting for losing control and someone sabotages ski binders or some evil creature lurks in the woods while people are skiing? And then kills them and hangs their broken skis in creepy patterns in the woods? It gets better and scarier.

Take what your frightened of, and then think about why you’re frightened of it, and then make it bigger and creepier and more relatable. Bingo – you’ve got scary.

Do not make your character toilet paper.

Make us care about your characters.

We don’t care about tissues when horrible things happen to them. Or toilet paper. And really horrible things happen to toilet paper and tissues.

There’s a reason for our lack of horror and concern over their fate. They are just toilet paper. They are just tissues. Whatever.

It’s works the same way for characters. We care about the characters that have been built up, that have emotions, dimension, feelings. We get frightened for them and with them.

The toilet paper was ripped from its roll and used. Horribly. Flushed down the toilet and into a swirling dark pipe full of water, chemicals and impossible smells. It was gone.

We don’t really care that much and we aren’t scared. We know that our fate is not the toilet paper’s fate and can’t put ourselves in its position. At least… Well, I hope we can’t.

SHORT SENTENCE IT UP

When things get scary and full of action, you can use short sentences to show the fast-paced terror of your character.

He froze right outside the closet door. 

Someone was humming on the other side.

No, he thought. I just pulled the last bin of toys out of there two minutes ago and shut the door.

Nothing could be in there.

The humming kept up, louder now, and closer to a tune. Some kind of childhood lullaby.

He would not open the door. 

Something kept humming. 

“No,” he said.

Humming. 

Dude. Do not open that door.

Happy Halloween and happy scary writing, everyone!

12132620_10153806073894073_5162852288847828385_o

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEED is on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.56.50 PM

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

The Woman in the Wave

When I first saw her, she stood on a granite walk that jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean, holding onto a railing that tourists lean against in better weather. They stand, listening to the calmer waves sweep into a carved-out place in the rock called Thunder Hole. The ocean was crashing over her, obscuring her from my vision.

Someone screamed.

People had stopped their cars to watch the waves the storm made, but instead they saw a woman standing on the roped-off platform, her back to them, facing the sea as it smashed itself against her. I was one of those people, the people who watches.

She survived the wave that swept over her head and waited for another to come, to engulf her and the platform. The waves were so large, they splashed over my hiking boots and I was standing above her by fifteen feet. The echoes they made as the crashed against rocks hurt some of the children’s ears. One little boy stood near me with his hands pressed against his head, crying.

“She’s going to get swept right in,” a man next to me yelled to anyone and everyone. “She’s crazy. She’s going to get swept right in an bashed against those ledges.”

People murmured their agreement.

“It’s not going to be pretty,” he added.

This was true.

“You going to get her?” He asked me, zipping up his LL Bean anorak to his neck.

“Me?”

I looked around for a park ranger, a cop, someone official. There wasn’t anyone there. Just tourists in expensive cars with their kids and dogs beside them. And of course her, the woman in the waves, standing there, defying one of the strongest forces of nature.

Just then the woman buckled as another wave crashed against her. I expected when the crest dropped to see her gone, to just view the soaked granite of the platform and a vacant place where she used to be.

And then it hit me – the guilt of the bystander, the one who watches and witnesses. The guilt overwhelmed me.

She made it through. Her back was bent as if she was ancient.

“Jesus! She made it!” someone yelled. A few people cheered.

“What a freak,” some college-aged guy standing on the other side of me said. “She must be totally psycho.”

They didn’t know her. They didn’t know why she was there, what she’d done, who she was, what she’d been through, or even what emotions she was feeling right then. They just stood there watching, judging, not helping. And just like that, I knew… I didn’t want to be one of them.

“Okay,” I grumbled aloud and started down the wet rock steps, trying to pump myself up for what I was about to do. “Okay.”

Lifting one leg over the rope with the “closed” sign shining on it, I slipped a bit, heading down, but somehow she knew and turned herself, facing me now, grabbing onto the railing with both hands, she pulled her way back up towards me before the next wave hit. Her eyes were brilliant. The gray Maine ocean was so dull in comparison.

I reached my hand out for her.

She took it, smile, and came up to where I was.

“Thank you,” she said, laughing, alive, still holding my hand as she hopped over the rope and glided from one granite step towards the land, towards the bystanders, judging, watching.

And that’s when I realized where she was…? Down there in the waves? It was a less dangerous place then where we were heading back to. You know the violence to expect from the sea, from nature. You brace yourself for it. You move with it. But people? We expect more from each other. We expect hands and help, guidance and love. But too often, what we get is inaction, judgement.

When we got back up, most of the people had left. She survived. They weren’t interested any longer. The moment for them had passed, a story to tell, even though they didn’t know her, her motivation, or her name.

Sometimes I think that woman is all of us. Sometimes when things go down in this country that are just ridiculously bad, I think about that woman, standing there, a force in herself, bending but not breaking, refusing to be swept away, silently taking it as everyone watches. And when I think about her, I’m amazed.

“Are you okay?” I asked her as she shook out her hair and started to actually wring out the sleeves of her shirt.

“I am,” she said. “I am now.”

She took four steps forward and disappeared.

 

Note:

This happened when I first came to the island and a long time before the accident that took a child’s life close to this area. I was working dispatch at the police department when they recovered that little girl and this story has absolutely nothing to do with that horrible event. 

 

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

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Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

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Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEEDis on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

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I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

 

 

The Podcast is up and It’s Advice About Writing Scary Stories and the Levels of Terror

Hey! Another podcast is up and in honor of Halloween, it’s about writing scary stories. We tell a couple of our own and we talk about the man currently standing outside the house staring at a tree.

Seriously.

He is absolutely still and just… staring.

Here’s the link to the podcast. I hope you’ll check it out.

And here’s the link to the words that go with the podcast.