How to Survive Stupid Writing Advice

I (Carrie) apologize for sounding so sick in this podcast. It’s because I am super sick.

This week I got an Instagram message from a man selling his copyediting services and there were five incredibly obvious typos in his pitch. I’m talking about two words combined, misspelled words. Double punctuation at the end of a sentence.

It was sad.

So, there’s another guy on the internet who makes a ton of money helping other people be writers and I’m sure he’s lovely, but I find him incredibly frustrating.

Why?

He has a page all about writing advice and in that advice he has bullet points to make things simple because apparently people who want to be writers need things simple? Who knows.

But in those ten bullet points he has contradictory advice. In one bullet point he says,

Don’t be lazy. Don’t sound stupid.

In another he says,

Don’t worry about being good. Just write.

Hm.

In yet another he says,

Don’t be a perfectionist.

Yeah.

Look. I’m sure he’s helped a ton of people and his bullet points must have deeper meaning and insight, but here’s the thing. Writing isn’t about bullet points. Writing is about soul and depth. Writing is about communication and building worlds through words that create image and resonance.

How To Survive Stupid Writing Advice

1. Sort the good from the bad

Remember a lot of people are just trying to make money off you. Sad, but true. And some of these people are amazing and professionals and some aren’t. You have to sort the good from the bad.

2. One Size Does Not Fit All

Does your brain work exactly like your BFF’s? Your mom’s? You’re dog’s? No. It doesn’t. All advice doesn’t work for everyone. It’s okay to be the writer who works in spurts, who doesn’t outline, who writes every day. There’s no one right way to write anymore than there is one right way to human.

3. Believe in Yourself

When you get really crap advice at your writing critique group, or workshop or from your mentor or even your agent? And it just feels wrong?

That probably means it is. Don’t let group think or even an expert sway you from the truth of your story.

4. Try not to compare

Here’s the thing. If one writer publishes 100,00 copies? That doesn’t make them a better writer than the one who publishes 10. There’s a lot of stuff called marketing that goes on behind the scenes that makes one author have high sales. If one author always gets invited to conferences and you don’t? It doesn’t mean you suck. It might be that other author is good at schmoozing. Be proud of who you are and be who you are. Don’t try to emulate the people who you think are successful. Emulate yourself.

5. Blow it off And dig deep

Seriously. Blow off the comparisons, the advice that doesn’t work. Study the craft, the books YOU love, notice sentence structure, discover why you like the stories you like and then think about why YOU want to write your story, dig deep into why it matters to you.

Writing Tip of the Pod

If you’re going to pay people to help you, please do it with someone reputable. Please do it with someone who can spell. And please do it with someone who gives you consistent advice that resonates.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Some people suck and just want to use you for money or cute Instagram pictures. Avoid those people.

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast 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!

ART

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here. 


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Irene and Living Love to Fight Hate

Irene is a singer. She’ll be 93 this October. She radiates happiness and energy and brilliance. She is a woman who takes it all in and loves everyone with the kind of love that knows you are flawed, but doesn’t care because we are all flawed. 

“People ask me what my secret is,” she laughs. “I say I have no secret. I just am me.”

She is so much her. 

She sings soprano in the church choir. She has sung for God for years, decades. 

“Is that your secret?” I ask.

She just laughs. 

“I still go to church,” she says. “I still go to the center.”

She uses a cane that her neighbor gave her. The cane is solid, black, nice, but not enough to keep her steady all the time. Her house is neat and clean. Her caregiver sits at a table watching as Deb and Scott Hammond, two Maine Rotarians, fit Irene to a wheelchair. 

Irene is an easy fit, gracious and kind. It’s hard not to stay inside her house and hang out forever, to maybe beg her to sing hymns, to share her secret that is no secret. 

Outside flowers surround her home. Birds of Paradise and Bougainvilleas flourish, blooming everywhere, reaching out of the lush green leaves and up to towards the sky. 

Bar Harbor/MDI Rotary ClubRotary Club of Ellsworth,Maine and Dawson Creek Rotary Club members raised funds to purchase, ship and fit wheelchairs to people like Irene. Club members were helped by a Rotary District 7790 grant and nine Rotary clubs in Belize. 

It’s a collaborative effort that crosses three countries and creates lifelong friendships for everyone involved.

The Angry Man

I once had an angry local man ask me why our Rotary club goes to other countries when we should be doing work here, in our own county. He was the kind of man who believes in taking care of needs at home first, I guess? Which I get.

But the thing is we do.

Local Rotary clubs in Maine help local organizations in Maine all the time. Our club alone raises thousands of dollars that we give to local nonprofits every year. But the beauty of Rotary is that it’s more than that. It’s about building international friendships, too. It’s about Rotarians from Belize also coming to Maine or Canada and helping us with projects. It’s about making connections and building stronger friendships, not just with the woman next door who needs her driveway shoveled out, but with people like Irene.

I told this to the angry man. I said, “You can help people at home, and people far away. They aren’t mutually exclusive.”

And he said, “No you can’t.”

And I said, “You know that playground? By the Y? Rotarians helped build that? You know our hospital? Every year, Rotarians raise thousands to help local cancer patients who go there.”

He sputtered and turned away.

There will always be people who are threatened by love and friendship. Don’t let them make you doubt yourself.

Stay shiny even as they try to dull you down.

EVERYTHING ISN’t AN “EITHER OR”

There is too much anger and hate in this world. We need to hold each other close and offer support on all levels. And good work? It doesn’t have to be an either-or situation.

You can help people in your community. You can help people across the world.

You can have friends next door. You can have friends in another hemisphere.

Good things don’t need to exclude other good things. Dichotomies don’t need to be worshiped.

LIVING LOVE TO FIGHT HATE

When people kill other people, shout hate, hurt their bodies, their souls because they’ve created a hierarchy of worth and decided that some of us are ‘other.’ When people refuse to see the beauty in difference or accept the responsibility that comes when you are lucky enough to be part of a dominant culture, hate festers and becomes violence. Not always, but too often.

And it’s easy to feel powerless against that.

What can you do against that?

Support organizations and people that are working for peace and supporting empathy. Work within yourself to support empathy and acceptance and peace. Make friends. Spread love. Spread knowledge. Be brave.

Meet people like Irene, deal with people like the angry man. Do like Rotary asks you to – build goodwill and friendships. Be a part of a movement towards change.

And don’t give up.

Never give up.

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast 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!

ART

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here. 

Potato Tacos of Awesome

Print Recipe
Potato Tacos of Awesome
This recipe is adapted from shelikesfood.com
Cuisine american
Servings
humans
Cuisine american
Servings
humans
Instructions
  1. You need to find a knife. Do not think about suicidal confessional poets from the 1960s. Just find a knife.
  2. Use the knife to cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Don’t ponder about what ‘bite-sized’ means. Don’t riff on how different people have different mouth sizes and therefore different bite sizes. Just cut the potatoes. Cut them on a cutting board!
  3. Get a large pot. Put the cut-up potatoes in the pot. Fill the pot with water. Think about this. Are these the characters in your story, perculating under your subconscious? Ready to make something happen in your plot? Yes. Yes. They are.
  4. Boil those characters for 15-20 minutes. They should be fork tender. What does that even mean fork tender? Aren’t we all fork tender, us humans? So easily hurt.
  5. Cry.
  6. Drain the potatoes, those poor tender potatoes. Pause to write a poem. Make sure when you come back that those little sweet potatoes are pretty dry.
  7. Cast aside your feelings. It’s time to get serious. Find a skillet. Do not comtemplate the last time you used a skillet as a prop device in your murder-mystery staring your ex boss. Instead, turn the stove burner on to medium heat. Put that skillet on the burner. Yes, the same burner that you’ve turned on.
  8. In the skillet, put olive oil, potatoes, and spices. Double up the spices if you aren’t afraid. You want depth to your story. I mean recipe.
  9. Stir it up like it’s a good plot.
  10. Cook it for 3-5 minutes. Flip it. Cook it on that side for 3-5 more minutes. You want it crisp, but not burnt. Use your own judgement about what constitutes crisp. You can do it! I believe in you!
  11. Find the corn tortillas. Put potatoes in them. Put the other toppings in them. Hope for good reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. I mean, hope your family likes them.

Everyone always talks about writing being like cooking.

Clarification: By everyone, I mean writers. Writers like to talk about themselves.

https://carriejonesbooks.blog Recipes with a Writer. Cooking With a Writer

Anyways, there are a million blogs about how writing is like cooking, but not really anything about cooking like a writer. So, our Thursday segment is COOKING LIKE A WRITER. And it’s been like this for a year.

What does this mean?

It means I’m going to share one recipe with you each Thursday and it’s not going to be shiny and pretty and slick. It’s going to be real, people, because writers of kidlit are authentic AF.

It’s also going to be vegetarian because I’m not about death of animals even though EVERYONE else in my family is about animals as food. So part of this is my quest to convince them to go the vegetarian way. Not the vegan way. They are so not ready for that.

carriejonesbooks.blog
He did not really eat the potato! I promise!

I started this whole series off easily with Crispy Potato Tacos. I found the recipe on shelikesfood.com, which is possibly the most authentic name of a website ever. I’m sort of jealous.

She said it was a ‘super and easy weeknight dinner that’s also really flavorful and delicious!’

She used an exclamation point. I was good to go. I’m a writer. I know all about punctuation and life and I want to live my life as an exclamation point. I changed the amounts of the ingredients, however, because we are a household that needs a lot of flavor. So. Much. Flavor. And also, I converted the instructions for ‘writers,’ because this is… um… about cooking with a writer.

The Video! Yes! A Video!

And we are revisiting this recipe because I’m trying to be brave and make videos. It’s taken my five weeks to be brave enough to post this video and I have lost 25 pounds since I made it. The Man lost 30. He’s such a show-off. But here it is.

The Man’s Rating: This is not enough food for dinner but it is delicious. How many of these can I eat and not be a glutton.

My Rating: This is more than enough food for dinner, but I had to peel potatoes. I don’t like peeling potatoes.

Look! Potatoes were peeled.

The dogs were not impressed because there was no bacon involved. But look! Here it is! Note the giant man hand. Is it any wonder he was all, “NEED MORE FOOD?”

carreiejonesbooks.blog

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast 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!

ART

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here. 

Potato Tacos of Awesome


Print Recipe


Potato Tacos of Awesome

This recipe is adapted from shelikesfood.com

Cuisine american

Servings
humans

Cuisine american

Servings
humans


Instructions
  1. You need to find a knife. Do not think about suicidal confessional poets from the 1960s. Just find a knife.

  2. Use the knife to cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Don’t ponder about what ‘bite-sized’ means. Don’t riff on how different people have different mouth sizes and therefore different bite sizes. Just cut the potatoes. Cut them on a cutting board!

  3. Get a large pot. Put the cut-up potatoes in the pot. Fill the pot with water. Think about this. Are these the characters in your story, perculating under your subconscious? Ready to make something happen in your plot? Yes. Yes. They are.

  4. Boil those characters for 15-20 minutes. They should be fork tender. What does that even mean fork tender? Aren’t we all fork tender, us humans? So easily hurt.

  5. Cry.

  6. Drain the potatoes, those poor tender potatoes. Pause to write a poem. Make sure when you come back that those little sweet potatoes are pretty dry.

  7. Cast aside your feelings. It’s time to get serious. Find a skillet. Do not comtemplate the last time you used a skillet as a prop device in your murder-mystery staring your ex boss. Instead, turn the stove burner on to medium heat. Put that skillet on the burner. Yes, the same burner that you’ve turned on.

  8. In the skillet, put olive oil, potatoes, and spices. Double up the spices if you aren’t afraid. You want depth to your story. I mean recipe.

  9. Stir it up like it’s a good plot.

  10. Cook it for 3-5 minutes. Flip it. Cook it on that side for 3-5 more minutes. You want it crisp, but not burnt. Use your own judgement about what constitutes crisp. You can do it! I believe in you!

  11. Find the corn tortillas. Put potatoes in them. Put the other toppings in them. Hope for good reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. I mean, hope your family likes them.

Seven Cool Things About Being A Writer

Okay. There’s like a trillion million things but here’s a short list OF WHy it’s cool to be a writer.

I am making this list a non-serious post, because I had TWO serious posts on Monday and I need some lightness, you know?

Okay. Here goes for real. Cool Things About Being A Writer



1. You do NOT have to get up early in the morning to go to work. Score! 

2. You get to go to the bookstore and look at books in your genre and stay stuff like, “Gwenda Bond. I went to school with her. Tiffany Trent. I slept with her. John Green. He is so nice. Tim Wynne-Jones. I have seen him dance. Varian Johnson. I love Varian. Etc….”

3. You get invited to high schools and they expect you to just talk about yourself and writing. Instant therapy anyone? Plus, sometimes you get to flirt with the librarians. I LOVE flirting with librarians. 

4. You get to know awesome writers and sometimes read their stuff before they are even published. God, how cool is that?

5. You get fan mail. Seriously? How many professions get actual fan mail? Okay. You also get the occasional review that’s made of evil but whatever… Honestly every time I get a piece of fan mail I freak out like, “What the heck? This is to me? Because of my book?” It is really the best feeling and if you are about to be a published author get ready BECAUSE THIS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU!!!!!

6. Did I mention the whole not-having-to-get-up-early to go to work thing? 

7. When cool stuff happens to your author friends and/or mentors or Twitter friends or whatever you want to scream and happy dance all around your kitchen AND YOU CAN because nobody expects writers to act sane. Score!

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast 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!

Art

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here.

Roombas, Shaun Talks About Robbing Houses, and Random Mashed Potatoes in Jackson, Mississippi

The city of Jackson, Mississippi is having a weird situation.

To be fair, Jackson has had weird situations before. People left Christmas trees in potholes. They decorate road signs in ways road signs aren’t supposed to be decorated.

But now what’s happening in Jackson is about something sacred.

It’s about the mashed potato.

People are leaving bowls of mashed potatoes in all sorts of random places.

According to a Huffington Post piece, a resident is quoted as saying, “So we don’t know if someone is just playing a prank or if someone just had a lot of leftovers.”

Nobody knows what it’s about. That’s sort of creepy. Also, it’s a great base for a story. The best stories come from unexpected details and places. The best stories involve mysteries to be solved and motivation to solve them.

Writing Tip of the Cast

Don’t be afraid to take something beautiful like a potato and turn it into something creepy and evil. Keto certainly wasn’t afraid to do that.

Dog tip for Life

Always sniff things before you eat them.

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.


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast 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!

The Good That Happens Even In the Middle of Evil: The Boston Marathon

It’s been six years since the Boston Marathon. This is what I posted that day. It’s about what I saw and heard and felt.

So, I was at the Boston Marathon today to take pictures of my friend, Lori, running and then crossing the finish line. Before the marathon I had lunch with my daughter Em. She was nervous.

“I have a bad feeling,” she said. “You need to be careful.”

“You have no faith in me. I am a perfectly capable person.”

“I just am worried.”

“I will be fine,” I told her. I insisted it, actually.

But I did several things that I don’t normally do. I didn’t take the T. I chose to walk from Cambridge to mile 25.5 or so of the race route. I figured out the T route and everything, but I just didn’t want to go on it. Walking was healthier, I figured. I was going to watch a marathon.

So, I walked and set up for taking pictures. I didn’t expect to see Lori for an hour, so I hung out with some people from New Jersey, talked to some cops. I took some pictures and kept wondering if I should walk the rest of the route to get ready for when Lori crossed the finish line. Logically, I knew I should, but my gut kept me back. I moved up a bit, but not as much as I should have. One of my friends called, and as we talked the first explosion went off.

About 15 seconds after the explosion, .25 mile away or so.

“What was that?” he said.

“That was bad,” I answered. “It was an explosion. It was absolutely an explosion.”

The Second Detonation

Then the second explosion happened. And I hung up. And I looked at the cops. And the cops both lifted up their portable radios to their ears. That was not a good sign. Then they began to run towards the finish line along a parallel road. That was a worse sign, especially since one of the cops looked like he never ran. Ever.  

I followed them. It smelled of smoke. It smelled of fear and confusion. Cops and medics and volunteers swarmed the area. Blood pooled on clothing and the ground. Debris was everywhere. People were crying and hysterical.

The police turned me around. So, I turned around. I regret that now. I don’t know how I could have helped. I am not a trained emergency medical technician. I regret that, too. There were cops and medics everywhere. Their shiny, reflective yellow vests were like pieces of good and brave in a smoky land of pain. I wanted to tell each of them how heroic they were. There was no time for that. They were busy saving people.

The timing of these runners put them right about the finish line when the explosions happened.

Runners

So, I went back to where I had been taking pictures. Runners were wandering around still, confused, cold. They had a combination of runner’s fatigue and shock. Shivering and stunned, they were desperately trying to contact family members. Some walked in circles because they didn’t know how not to keep moving, but they also didn’t know where to go. They had spent 25 miles moving forward, towards this one destination called the finish line and now they were stuck, aimless. Their ultimate goal was suddenly gone, devastated by two bombs. Those of us who were there to watch, gave them our cell phones so they could call family members who were waiting for them. They were waiting for them right by the bombs. We gave the runners money so they could get on the T when it worked again. We gave them our coats.

“How will I give it back to you?” one runner asked as she shrugged on a dark green fleece.

“You don’t need to. You never need to,” a man next to me told her.

“I have to,” she murmured. “I have to.”

I gave away my coat. I passed around my phone. The service was in and out.

One woman said, “Please tell me it wasn’t the subway. My kids are on the subway.”

“It wasn’t the subway,” I tell her. “It was the finish line.”

She cocked her head. “What? No? How?”

How?

That was the question: How? We knew by then that it was probably a bomb, and the hows of making a bomb are easy, but the ‘how could you” is a harder question. How could someone kill runners and spectators? How could humans ever think it’s okay to hurt each other? How could anyone commit violence in big acts with bombs or small acts with fists.

How could we? How could humanity?

“How?” she kept saying. “How?”

And then the police moved the runners out, detouring them down another street. And then they told us, the watchers, to go. So, we left, a massive exodus towards the bridge and Massachusetts Avenue. People were still sobbing. A man on a corner was reading from Boston.com on his iPhone trying to find out exactly what happened. People stood around him, strangers listening to him say the words, “explosions… injuries…”

Three girls were crying, young and scared and broken inside.

“They are so hurt. They hurt them. They are so hurt,” one girl kept repeating. We kept walking.

Connections

As I walked across the bridge, a woman on the phone sobbed to her friend, “It was so big. The explosion was so big. I dropped everything in my hands. I dropped my lens cap. I dropped my purse. I dropped it all. I called my sister. I called my friend. I called everyone. I just need to talk to someone. I feel so alone. It was awful. People were missing their legs. It was awful.”

And then she saw me, this talking woman, and I nodded at her and I grabbed her hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back. We kept walking.

A leather-jacket guy next to me was telling another guy in plaid that he had no way home. I gave him my cell. We kept walking.

I made sure that Lori’s husband and daughter were okay even though they’d been waiting right across the street from where the bomb exploded. They were. I knew Lori was okay already because I’d been tracking her route. I’d never been so happy that she was running hurt and that was making her slower than normal.

The Sobbing Man

As I was feeling thankful, a man in front of me went down on his knees on the sidewalk. It looked like he was praying, but he was really sobbing. We all stopped walking. People pat his back. People murmured things. He stood up and we kept walking again. We walked and walked and gradually the crowd thinned, and gradually the sobs lessoned. But the sirens? The sirens grew louder and more continuous. They were forever sirens. They did not stop.

And so many people will not be able to walk ever again. And at least three people are dead. And so many people have had their hearts and bodies broken at this marathon that should be a celebration of human endurance and spirit and will.

And so many people helped others, making tourniquets out of yarn, carrying the injured, soothing the shocked, giving away their clothes to keep runners warm. And so many people have hearts of goodness. We can’t forget that. Not ever. Not today. Not in Boston. Not ever. Because that is exactly what the Boston Marathon is about: It’s about not giving up, not giving in to pain. It’s about that celebration of surviving and enduring against all odds, against everything. It’s about humanity. No bomber can take that away. Not ever.

After the Marathon

That same night, I was sitting in a restaurant in Cambridge with my daughter and we learned that my dad (a volunteer firefighter) had tumors surrounding his lungs. He died 13 days later.

That week, I was besieged by internet trolls who insisted that my daughter’s gut feeling meant that she was part of a giant conspiracy or that I was part of the same giant conspiracy about an event that ‘totally didn’t happen.’

It happened.

I’ll post this thread, this memory, to make sure that I never forget that it happened.

Sometimes, we spend too much time forgetting, not letting the good and the horrific inspire and motivate us to make change in ourselves, our community, our world.

Violence kills people every day. In big ways that make the news. In quieter ways that we rarely hear about.

And good happens, too. In big ways that make the news. In quieter ways that we rarely hear about.

Three Years Later

I became a volunteer firefighter for our town. I was terrible at it and it’s not my way to help save the world. But I helped our town a little bit for a little while. I did it because I was tired of not being able to help, to respond. I did it because I wanted to pay tribute somehow to the people who were hurt at the marathon and my dad, my little hobbit dad, who spent his whole life trying in big and little ways to try to make this world a better place.

Writing News

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

READ MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

Art

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here.

Finding Hope Despite Everything

The clunky sound of metal hitting metal makes all the customers at The Wilderness turn to look out the restaurant’s big front glass windows and onto the Main Street of Colebrook, New Hampshire.

The waitress sprints out the front door, runs to one of the vehicle, which had been backing out of a parking space and into the path of a big, black truck that resembles almost all the big, black trucks people drive here in the northern tip of New Hampshire’s Great White Woods.

A driver’s getting out of the car. The waitress sprints back inside, clutching a young boy – less than a year old – to her chest. Her entire body’s shaking as she holds him, kissing his forehead, once, twice, too many times to count as his tiny bare feet dangle in the air, bumping against her waist.

“He was in the car. He was in the car.” Her words rush out so quickly as she walks in circles around the restaurant that’s really a diner. “He’s okay.”

“Is he okay?” An older man asks even though she just said it.

“He’s okay.” She says it like a mantra, repeating it over and over to make it true. “He’s okay.”

“It’ll all be okay,” the older woman with the older man says, warming the baby boy’s foot in her hands.

“Some day.” The server kisses her baby boy’s head one more time. “You got to have hope, right?”

“Soon,” the lady tells her. “Some day soon.”

It takes the server a half hour to stop shaking. She apologizes as she carries her baby around, taking orders, refilling water, bringing out food with her free hand. Even in that moment of extreme duress, this mom doesn’t stop. She won’t ever stop.

The Great North Woods

The Great North Woods of New Hampshire demands that you don’t stop. It’s a landscape carved in and out of mountains that requires grit to survive. It’s not a land of perfect white churches and 1950s-style New England movies featuring sleigh rides. It’s beautiful, yes, but the beauty is more rugged. The beauty is in the survival.

Presidential hopefuls come to the state, hoping to get a boost. But the state itself is pretty divided between the southern wealthier parts where I grew up and areas like here where houses put up their own make-shift billboards begging for change, struggling for hope.

As a kid in southern New Hampshire, I grew up poor in a town with rapidly increasing wealth. I had teachers tell me that there was no hope for me because my voice was ‘ridiculous.’ I had other teachers tell me that I could do anything.

I was never sure who to believe.

When credit card companies called my mom, I had to pretend she wasn’t home. When we sold our house, I had to pretend it was because we wanted to. When my nana stood in line for us and brought us government cheese, I had to pretend it was real cheese, special cheese from France, when a friend opened our fridge and saw it there.

I was ashamed of being poor, of my voice, of our circumstance.

I was stupid.

There’s nothing shameful about being poor. There’s nothing shameful about circumstances that you can’t control.

Drugs and Shame

While I’m up there, 17 North County residents are arrested in a drug trafficking sweep. Some are arrested outside the Wilderness. Most of the drugs arrests involve Suboxone and meth. At a classroom where I’m teaching for the week, we’re not allowed to talk about the bust because one of the kids is connected. Maybe more than one.

These kids? I’ve talked to thousands of kids, but these kids? They are my favorites.

There is nothing shameful in the mistakes your family members make. They aren’t your mistakes. They are theirs.

I want to somehow explain all that to them. I don’t know how.

Pittsburg is a tiny town without a grocery store and it’s about a half hour from Colebrook. The town has a library, but it’s inside the school and only open on Saturdays to the residents.

“We can’t take out enough books,” one student complains. “It’s so hard.”

Hard Possibilities

Lots of life is hard up here, where an entire eighth and seventh grade class combined is only eight students, where you’re in class with your cousin and everyone knows, as one student tells me, “everything about your life since you were born 25 weeks early.”

That hardness doesn’t mean you should pity them though. These kids are some of the liveliest individuals I’ve ever met, free and comfortable in asserting who they are, grit and all, and still striving for futures and hopes that are still possible.

They are still possible.

They write stories, act out scenes, share their own stories without the slightest bit of hesitation. Whether it’s the UFO sighting above Beaver Falls or the grandmother who had the best restaurant in the area, unless you didn’t finish your meal and then she’d sit on you, it’s all about connections and community and laughter.

Different Worlds

The northern parts of New Hampshire aren’t similar to southern New Hampshire. It’s not just about the geography. It’s also about the economy. The unemployment rate is higher, but the people are underemployed, working below their educations and skill sets. Stores are shuttered. There are no Starbucks or an easy to find McDonalds.

There are good things happening too. Robotech is about to hire 25 people at its new facility. There’s a proposal to make a community college in a place where there was once a mill. Snowmobilers come and so do summer tourists on ATVs.

But as one student tells me, “Sometimes it gets so lonely. It’s like the world forgets us.”

Another one nods, “I just can’t wait to get out.”

“Where will you go?” I ask.

“Anywhere. Anywhere.” She sits back in her chair, arms crossed, eyes toward the ceiling. Her face loses its hope.

“Maybe you could take that UFO over Beaver Falls,” another kid tells her.

They dissolve into teasing, giggles, and more stories. Kids again. Just kids. Momentarily not worrying about drug trafficking busts, the economy, getting away, but just laughing. The way it’s supposed to be. A way free of other people’s verdicts and edicts, no shame, no fear, just existing, just being who they are meant to be right now – kids.

READ MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

Blog Break, Art, and Being Brave

This week, I’m taking a bit of a blog break. I’ll be in New Hampshire teaching students at two schools about writing and I’ll also be reviewing packets for the Writing Barn, where I teach a six-month Write! Submit! Support! class and I need to focus on those things and recharge.

There will still be a podcast tomorrow and I’ll be putting out another chapter on THE LAST GODS on Patreon.

Being Brave

Every week on Facebook, I post a painting that I’ve made. That’s really hard for me because I feel super vulnerable posting any art. This is probably because of my mom declaring that nobody in our family had an artistic bone in our body.

But I have to be brave because to not be brave means hiding parts of me, right? Every book I try to write is an act of bravery, too, of vulnerability.

For Be Brave Friday on Facebook, I posted this little painting that I sent to one of my patrons.

On my Patreon (link below), certain levels of support get random things in the mail. Sometimes that’s books. Sometimes that’s art.

Asking for Support

And that brings me to the other part of being brave. It’s really hard for me to ask for things and that includes support. Although a lot of writers and artists and podcasters use Patreon, it’s still a bit unknown. And while I totally want everyone to sign up for mine, I don’t know how to ask for that.

It comes down to two essential question:

How Do I Ask People For Support When It Feels Horrifying to Ask? Why am I afraid to ask?  

Patreon lets people support (become patrons) for their favorite creators. On mine you can pay anywhere between $1 to $100 a month. All patrons get to either hear or read a story that will never be available anywhere else. I release a chapter a week. It’s a bit like a Kickstarter if you make Kickstarter feel like a community. And it allows you to directly support the writer or artist or whoever. It’s really cool. 

Other levels get commercial-free podcast, writing coaching, book raffles and art in the mail and books in the mail.

So, if my content (dog posts on Facebook & Twitter, books, podcasts, blog posts) are worth a $1 of your time, I hope you’ll think of supporting me there (if you have an extra $1 a month or more). 

And I’m going to make the first chapter of the book available on Patreon so you can see what it’s about. 

Thank you so much. I hope you’re all feeling brave in a million ways today. I’m rooting for you.

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

TIPS ON MAKING DEVILED EGGS – Cooking With a Writer

Okay. I’m still talking about deviled eggs because? Well, you’ll see.

Tips on Making Deviled Eggs

1. Here’s a hint: They are called devilled eggs for a reason.


2. And, no, it is not because of the little hint of jalepeno that gives them a kick.


3. It’s because you have to HARD BOIL the little suckers first, and there are all these rules about boiling them. 


Yes, rules about boiling an egg. 


4. Boiling an egg should be simple.


5. It isn’t. 


6. It really isn’t simple if you get distracted by the fact that the 90-second rice pouch you put in the microwave just exploded.


7. But this is about eggs, not exploding rice pouches.


8. So, if you manage to boil the egg, then plunge the poor thing in cold, cold water, you must then PEEL THE EGG!


9. Eggs are not meant to be peeled. This is why they are eggs. Not bananas.

10. If you have happy, young fresh eggs they are harder to peel. The old buggers are better. 


11. Be prepared to sacrifice many, many eggs in your egg peeling quest for the perfect egg to devil.


11. Once, eggs are peeled, halved, and stuffed do not be offended when people in house say, “Holy crud. It’s like the egg has acne pits or something.”


12. Do not be offended when people in the house say, “Um? Are you sure this is a devilled egg? Should it be all wobbly like this? And gooey? It’s kind of gooey.”


13. Do not be offended when people in the house say, “Next time, can we just buy the premade kind in the grocery store.”


14. And do not have hurt feelings when they do not celebrate with you because you keep saying, “But look at the yolk. It isn’t green. That’s a big achievement, not to have green yolks.”


15. Do not throw eggs at them.


16. Or men in banana suits.


17 Just accept that you are not a gifted devilled egg maker. We can not be gifted in all things eggy. You are a good scrambler. Be happy with this.

WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg