The Two Main Keys to Hooking Your Readers: Curiosity and Care

Write Better Now Roundup

Have you ever been at a party and someone tells a story and you just don’t care?

Have you ever been that person telling the story and realized mid-story that everyone’s eyes have dulled over?

You feel trapped. You want the story to be over (especially if you’re the one telling it). You know something has gone wrong because you can feel it. The communication of failure is instant.

The problem with writing a novel is that you can’t see when that happens: when (Shakespeare help us all) the reader stops being hooked by the story, no longer cares about what happens.

That’s terrifying, right?

There are two major elements that keep a reader turning that page or scrolling down:

  1. Curiosity—the need to know what happens next
  2. Care—the connection and concern and emotion for the characters.

In Characters & Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card writes, “The intensity of the characters’ feeling, as long as it remains believable and bearable, will greatly intensify the reader’s feelings—whatever they are.”

So, be intense if you want your readers to care about what’s happening, but don’t be so intense that they can’t handle it.

To do that you want to give your character:

  1. A goal that the reader knows—something that matters to the character
  2. Choices that might hinder the character getting to that goal or help them
  3. Sacrifices that happen so that the reader sees that the character has an internal struggle getting to that goal.

When it comes to curiosity, that’s the hook that keeps us moving forward and wondering what will happen to the character in the story. The choices, the emotions that arrive with those choices, are what makes the reader curious about what will happen.

A MasterClass post says,

“Most techniques to hook a reader have one thing in common: They force the reader to ask questions. A good hook—whether it uses action, emotion, a strong statement, or another technique—will have your reader guessing about your characters’ motivations, backstories, and more. Maybe in high school, you learned to start an essay with a rhetorical question. Try that same technique now, but leave the actual question out of the finished piece. Instead, set up a scene that leads your reader to come up with the question on their own.”


Think of a scenario for your story (or just a scenario if you don’t have a story):

  • Zombie hamsters are coming down the street.
  • The tea mug your uncle gave you has a secret message on the bottom.
  • Your mom just told you she’s part oak tree.

Now, think of a question and write the scenario and scene toward that question.


Call for Submissions: Jewish

Deadline: Year-round

Jewish Fiction .net, a prestigious literary journal, invites submissions for its December 2023 issue. We are the only English-language journal devoted exclusively to publishing Jewish fiction, and we showcase the finest contemporary Jewish-themed writing (either written in, or translated into, English) from around the world. In our first 12 years we have published over 500 stories or novel excerpts, originally written in twenty languages and on five continents, and we have readers in 140 countries. We’ve published such eminent authors as Elie Wiesel, Savyon Liebrecht, and Aharon Appelfeld, alongside many excellent, lesser-known writers. For submission details, please visit our Submissions page at

Blink-Ink #53: Secrets

Deadline: July 15, 2023

State secrets, family secrets, trade secrets, secret sins and secret loves, entrusted secrets, cosmic secrets, childhood secrets, dark secrets taken to the grave—any sort of secret at all. Can’t keep a secret? Closely guarded treasure, or a bargaining chip. We are more interested in tales of mystery than everyday gossip. Send us your best unpublished stories of approximately 50 words about a Secret, or Secrets. Submissions are open June 1, 2023 through July 15, 2023. No attachments, poetry, bios, or AI generated content please. Send submissions in the body of an email to



Hooking Your Readers

So, this post, and way more writing tips are over on, Write Better Now! is a mostly self-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.


This one is about dogs

There’s a story I tell about our dog, Scotty, who was a rescue and a hero kind of dog. Em calls him “the best dog ever.” He had bullets still inside of him when we got him, shrapnel. He was kind and chill and super loving, protective when he had to be, but consistently a great lover of other dogs and strange people even though someone had once shot him.

One time, Scotty, Sparty, and I were walking in Glen Mary Woods (a tiny patch of woods in our town) when a golden retriever barreled over and tried to take out Sparty, teeth snapping, haunches raised.

Sparty dropped, submissive and shaking.

Scotty, instantly whipped into action. He pulled the other dog’s attention to him, got him off Sparty and then stood there sideways, body always between me and Sparty and this dog as the dog lunged and growled and feinted and lunged, hitting Scotty multiple times.

Scotty did the minimum he had to do aggressively to keep this dog away from us. We all survived with minimal physical damage. Psychological damage though? That was a bit different.

After that, Scotty always looked at approaching dogs that he didn’t know sideways, no longer just expecting them to be awesome and kind and ready to romp. He lost that bit of his happy go lucky.

I always tell that story because Scotty is so heroic in it. But lately I’ve realized that though Sparty didn’t have the doggy krav maga skills to fight off that other dog, he did something else heroic. He does it every day.

Sparty chooses not to be afraid. When we go out on walks, I never worry about Sparty being mean to humans or dogs. He’s not reactive. He’s the master of the chill.

So, while Scotty learned to be suspicious and a little wary of strange dogs, Sparty? He has chosen not to be. You can literally see him get excited (think full body wiggle) when he sees dogs, not as strangers, but potentially friends.

This happens even though he was the one who was attacked.

Our puppy Pogie is the opposite and we’re trying to work her through that, but I just keep thinking about Sparty and how he chooses not to judge, not to be afraid, until he has to.

That’s a pretty powerful way to be.

So, here’s to all the Spartys in this world who focus on seeing good.

And here’s to all the Scottys who sacrifice and take the hits so that the Spartys don’t have to.

And here’s to you if you’re a Scotty or a Sparty (photos below) or somewhere in between.

A painting I’m working on.

Living Happy and Write Better Now! is a mostly self-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.


We’re talking about hooks here.

So, last week I talked about hooking your readers. And I promised that I’d keep talking about it.

I am keeping that promise.

Hooking your reader might make you think of pirates and nasty horror movies, but it really just means keeping your readers actually reading your book. I’ve broken it down to two sections of two hints a piece and one section with just one lonely hook.

Let’s get started!



We like stories where we can quickly identify with the main character, or at least a character, pretty early on.

Think about all the BuzzFeed quizzes that ask, “Which Succession Character Are You?” “Which Buffy Character Are You?” “Who Are You In The Wire?” “What Disney Princess Are You?”

It goes on and on.

We humans like to identify with characters who are in the stories we read or the videos we watch. It’s like a nice pat on the back that says we aren’t alone, and it creates community.


  1. Start with dialogue on the first line. It’s hard to care about the person speaking if you haven’t met them yet.

“Wow,” he said. “That is really it.”

Huh, the reader said.

2. Tell us stuff we don’t need to know.

So, in 1870 or something like that I had this great great aunt who allegedly stepped on a nail or something, not that it matters. Although, maybe it mattered to her, but yeah. I don’t know why I’m telling you this.

Neither does the reader.

3. Introduce 18 characters in the first paragraphs. It’s hard to remember who is who and who is important.

As Belinda walked inside the Timberland RV Campground in Trenton, Maine, she waved hello to Lincoln, son-in-law of the owner, a retired man with a name like Jack or something, and then she waved to Debbie, Lincoln’s wife, who was riding on a golf cart with Charlene. Peggy was perched on the back with a blonde child whose name I think is Jackie…Or maybe Sam?

Enough said, right?

4. And finally don’t describe things just for the sake of describing them.

Timberland RV Campground descended into a slight hill, managing to split itself across two town lines. It was Trenton in the front and Ellsworth in the back and the back was where there were no trees surrounding the sites, just pull-in places for the giant RVs and motorhomes and campers and busses. I have no idea which is which. I’d never been in a campground before, but they had hook-ups at some of the sites for water and sewer, or just one, and electricity. There were metal fire rings and some people had fancied up their sites with flowers and decks and lobster buoys because … Maine.

So, those were the no-nos, right? Here’s the second tip.


If possible, make your situation not quite so run-of-the-mill. You have a love story. It’s set in Paris. Okay, great. Can it be set in a tattoo parlor in Paris? Or maybe a desk shop?

Readers like both the familiar and the unexpected, so take something typical like a love story and add in a little weirdness – a love story between a human and an aquatic being. That can keep them reading.



Nobody wants to read a story where the main character is always angry or always happy or always passionate or always mellow. There are ups and downs to people’s emotions in real life (WHAT? ATTACK ON TITAN ISN’T REAL LIFE?). There should be ups and downs in your character’s emotions, too.

Some writing coaches/teachers/whatever-word-you’d-like-to-use advocate changing emotions in every scene in big ways. I think this works sometimes and sometimes it sort of lulls the reader into expecting those shifts and therefore that makes those shifts less authentic.

Authentic emotion = good

Changing emotion = good

Forced emotion = bad


Not knowing what is going to happen is a big deal when someone is reading the story. Make them wonder what might happen.

One method to do this is to not tell them everything right off. Give some elements of what is happening, but not all.

So, in the NEED series, I have the main character see a man in the woods at the side of the road and also pointing at her plane as it takes off. The reader thinks, “Wait. Who the heck is that man?”

In Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, introduces the Boy Who Lived, but what did he live through and how? The reader wonders and reads to find out…



The reader needs to care about the character. We want Mr. Potter and Ron and Hermione to survive because those kids are lovable, but we also are worried that survival might not be an option. The stakes are high and those magical bad guys are powerful. These babies aren’t superheroes. Death is possible. Near death happens all the time. We obsess that the trio might not survive.

That’s a hook.

That high stakes conflict coupled with imperfect heroes who tyr so hard? That’s the key.

And there you go. Maybe some more next week, okay?

I hope your writing is happy and you are well!



It is always a little terrifying for me to put myself out there. I met a local man last night and he shook his head and said, “I like to fly under the radar, you know?” His suit coat was off. His tie was still on. He made a motion for an airplane with his hand. “Whoosh, right under it.”

I do, too.

And earlier this week, I talked to a woman who was telling me things they were going through at her company as they tried to do kind things.

“No good deed goes unpunished, right?” she said this with a half-frown and a half-smile.

Another woman said to me, “I know you are close to this man, but he is a snake. A snake!”

Full disclosure: I’m not close to this man, not in the way she meant. I’ve never even been to his house. He has never been to mine. We’ve never been in a hotel room together. Cough. But he has hugged me. A lot of people have hugged me. I’m good with that. I like hugs.

“Everyone in town,” she said, “knows this man is a snake.”

Another full disclosure: Once after a Rotary meeting, I held the door open for the governor who had just spoken. He engulfed me in a hug. We’re not close either. At all.

There are a lot of songs about small towns in country and rockabilly music, about life within them, about trying to breathe in them, about the goodness in community and everyone knowing your business, and about the bad apples that make you feel during politically divisive times that talking to someone might not hold your political views is a crime. That having a Facebook friend who holds alternative views on something like short-term rentals or cruise ship visitation is a crime. That when someone hugs you or fist-bumps you after a meeting, it means you are besties

It’s not. Not yet anyway.

Another day this week, a woman I know said, “I love this place, but sometimes I wish—I wish that I could just pull up my hood, put on some dark glasses, and be anonymous. But these people, they do. They find you.”

And another day this week, I talked to a woman who said almost the same exact thing, a lovely, amazing cool woman full of humor and goodness.

All these people who want to hide? They are good people. I don’t know everything about them. I don’t know what makes their hearts hurt, what keeps them up at night, what they’re proud of or ashamed of or what they yearn for, but I love them. I hardly know them. I love them anyway. Someone this week teased me and said, “Carrie, you pretty much love everyone.”

That’s true, I told them, until it isn’t.

Yesterday, a woman came up to me and told me that an event I’d just held was horrible. That’s how she started the conversation. “It was horrible.” I said I was sorry to hear that and asked her why and how I could have made it better. She gave me reasons that were the same exact reasons that other people had told me it was a great event.

What a cool lesson, right?

She offered me insight right there and showed me how different her take was. It hurt even though it was the opposite of so many other people’s views, but it was good to know who she was and how she felt. Here’s the thing I always have to make myself remember: People are always going to have their own likes and their own takes. People are always going to have their own logic and their own feelings. Even when you want to hide, go whoosh under the radar, huddle in your sweatshirt and sunglasses, some people are going to find you and tell you what they think and sometimes they will think awful things that are fiction about you or others or even themselves.

That’s especially true when I think of the three shiny people I mentioned before, the people who want to hide. The more you are out there, the more feedback you get: good and bad.

The other thing is that you can reach out when these things happen, talk it through, and remember you aren’t alone. Some really brilliant and kind people helped me with that last night. I was brave enough to reach out to them (something I have a hard time doing because I’m used to being the one who helps) and they were brave enough to reach right back and help me in mama bear and papa bear ways. How cool is that? It’s so cool! And that wouldn’t have happened without that lady. And for that? I am so grateful.

This painting might look vaguely familiar. I posted it last week I think, but I didn’t like it. There was something wrong. So, I started working on it some more–reframing it just like I’m reframing my experience last night. It’s rough and color is trying to break through and there is chaos and there is hope. And that’s what I’m working toward, too.

That’s all I have this Be Brave Friday. Maybe be brave with each other. Maybe be kind to each other. Maybe be kind to yourself, too.

And if you choose to fly under the radar or right through the turbulence? It doesn’t matter. Just freaking fly. Don’t let anyone stop you. Just fly.

You can get prints of my art here if you’re into it. No pressure.

All Body and No Beak: Should You Leave Social Media?

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
All Body and No Beak: Should You Leave Social Media?

This week we talk about Shaun’s potential Only Fans and whether or not we should be on social media and if not all, which ones should we be on.


Be consistent.

Do what makes you happy.


Medium article


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 “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! It’s taking a bit of a hiatus, but there are a ton of tips over there.

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Not Worrying About The Dog Fur On The Stair: My Baby Epiphany About How I’m Trapping Myself

Be Brave Friday (a little late and on a Sunday)

Sometimes you know that your life is a prison, but you can’t figure out why. Maybe something has made you trapped — responsibility, bad health, a pandemic, bad weather, anxiety.

That’s how I felt on Thursday when Shaun told me that the housing inspector was coming to our home that we live in, which also has a vacation rental permit for the years where I don’t make enough to make me feel safe enough to not rush off and live in a camper to rent our house to strangers.

That’s not happening this year. It hasn’t happened for a couple of years, but it lurks over me. A threat. A possibility I could return to only now there are two dogs, four cats, a snake, a kid, a husband.

So, when he said the inspector was coming to check on things — a totally nice guy — I panicked. And I felt trapped. There was no escape. I had a bunch of deadlines and a house that wasn’t perfect.

“The house is a sty,” I yelled.

“Baby girl, the house is not a sty.”

“A pig pen!”

“Baby girl — ”

“There is dust on the stairs. There is a paper towel on the counter. There is a ripped blanket on the sofa! I need to clean the toilets!”

“He is not going to look in the toil — ”

“Oh my banana bread! The kitty litter boxes!” Full disclosure: I did not yell “banana bread.” I yelled something else.

I frantically cleaned, mumbling, “It’s a mess. It’s a sty. It’s a mess.”

And Shaun said, “Baby, nobody would think this house is a sty but you.”

“I am slovenly!”

“No. No, you aren’t slovenly.” He stressed the word like he thought it was funny and then saw my glare apparently and paused. “Is that what matters? That you feel slovenly?”

Yes. Yes, it was. I felt like a slob and I needed to escape that feeling. I felt like I’d been too busy working and living and going biking with Em who was home for the week to notice the dust on the stairs. To be fair, it wasn’t dust. It was dog and cat fur that decides every day to collect like tumble weed and sit in wait on the stairs.

I grew up in a family where we cleaned as a family every Saturday and put away laundry and dishes and clutter every single day. Beds were made. Pillows fluffed. Clothes did not wait like Shaun’s shorts do, folded on top of the dresser. They were in the drawer. I am a relic of this past, of making sure that even though we weren’t rich, we weren’t filth. Those moments of control over our house’s cleanliness were sometimes the only bits of control we had.

My house would not have met my family’s inspection. I had a tea mug on my desk, for banana bread’s sake. The shed in the back has some sort of green stuff growing on it. Pollen maybe? Dirtying the sides.

The inspector came over. He did not lift up the toilet seats. And when he was gone, Shaun said, “He said we had a really nice house four times.”

“He did not.”

“He did.”

“You’re lying to make me feel better.”

“I swear. Four times.”

“You counted?”

“Of course.”

Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate what we have, you know? Sometimes, it’s really easy to slip into a space where you worry about being judged even by super nice people. Sometimes, it’s hard to move past the things that cut so quick and so deep — like being pretty poor in a town full of pretty rich.

My town is like that now, too. On my way back from a chamber event, I stopped and talked to a couple people who were running for office. There were funny and kind. They worked hard. One talked about all her jobs, about hoping to find a new room to live in, about hoping that soon seasonal workers wouldn’t have to crash in their cars and that more year round workers could find year round places, too. I fell instantly in love with both of them.

Today, I took a break in work to scrub at the pollen (or whatever) that was on the fence, on the shed in my backyard. I have pretty wimpy hands, so they ache about this sort of thing pretty quickly.

But I realized just then just how lucky I was to have a house, about how excited both of those cool women could potentially be to have a shed to wash, to have a place to call their own, to have that housing stability where you didn’t have to worry about a landlord. But also, how grateful I am that they have someplace at least. But damn, I want them to have somewhere better. I want them to be able to freak out about their house being too something or other. I want them to be able to paint walls, to make plans and improvements if they want — to have that stability if they want. Housing insecurity is big and it’s real and as property taxes increase, it’s happening to people on fixed incomes, too, or people like me who don’t have a set salary, who wonder if they’ll have to take off to a campground or a boat or a tent or something in the summer to make ends meet.

My house is not a prison. My house is a gift and a blessing that I worked really hard for and that I have to appreciate while I have it. What was a prison was my way of looking at it. I made that prison. Me. And I’m feeling that way about the painting below (that negative way), but I’m trying to push past that and post this anyway.

So, here’s to finding security when it comes to shelter and it comes to our own brains, and to breaking free from those prisons we construct for ourselves.

My real blogs are here and here.

Writing is About Facing Out and Facing In

Novelists Are Public Writers, Too, Plus exercise and place to submit May 2023

Raymond Peter Clark has a new writing book out, Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing, and Katherine Gammon has a piece about it in Poyntor.

There are a couple excerpts in there that I’ve fallen a bit in love with and I wanted to share it with you.

This book is for what they are calling public-facing writers, which seems to be a distinction that doesn’t include novelists, which I find pretty interesting.

Novelists are also public facing writers. All writing except diaries or personal journaling is. That’s because the act of writing is the act of communicating.

You are always communicating to someone else. That someone else is not your pinky toe. That someone else is the reader.

Anyway, she writes of Clark’s advice:

Repeat your key points, but in different forms

“Tell ’em what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them,” is an old adage in writing. Clark spruces it up with advice to vary the forms of repetition: The same information in a quote, a graph and an anecdote, for example, can reduce the feeling of redundancy.

Interpret what you see into themes and make connections

Part of the job of a public writer is not just to report but to interpret: What are the emerging contained in the news event or situation? How can we help readers make sense of the world? To do so, Clark says writers should continue to learn from multiple schools of thought — science, anthropology, political science, economics, literature and more — in order to find meaning in the news, and also to explore the deeper reasons why something is happening.

It’s fun to think of these bits of advice. Often novelists are told NOT to repeat information by their agents and editors, so we too have to mask the ways that we are actually repeating something to the reader. We show them that our character is insecure, let’s say, in how they react to situations. Then we show how they grow.

But as novelists, we also have to not just lay out the facts of the story, we have to interpret those bits and images and dialogues and moments of cause and effect to make an entire world that our reader makes sense of. There’s a real push and pull that happens in this communication.

A piece of writing — any kind of piece of writing — is a contract between us and the reader. There is a moment when you hit PUBLISH on an article or a moment where your book is picked up by a reader and all your control? It’s gone.

That’s kind of beautiful (though occasionally scary) because it’s a leap of faith and trust in ourselves as writers and our readers to get it, to have explained it well, to have created it well on the page and then for the reader to create it in their own brains and hearts.

That’s pretty damn beautiful.

That’s not an AI thing. That’s a human thing. That connection. And it’s important.


This comes from Joy Harjo’s MasterClass, which is a really lovely, energizing class.


Ploughshares — Emerging Writer’s Contest


May 15, 2023

Entry Fee:


Cash Prize:


E-mail address:


Three prizes of $2,000 each and publication in Ploughshares are given annually for a poem or group of poems, a short story, and an essay. Each winner also receives a consultation with the literary agency Aevitas Creative Management. Writers who have not published a book or a chapbook with a print run of over 300 copies are eligible. Using only the online submission system, submit three to five pages of poetry or up to 6,000 words of fiction or nonfiction with a $24 entry fee, which includes a subscription to Ploughshares (there is no entry fee for current subscribers), between March 1 and May 15. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Ploughshares, Emerging Writer’s Contest, Emerson College, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. (617) 824–3757. Ellen Duffer, Managing Editor.



How To Think About Chapter Transitions?

How Do You Begin and End a Chapter?

Thanks for hanging out here for a moment with me. And good luck with your story!

Fear the Dog? Embrace the Fear

Marsie the Cat: Let’s talk about fear, human.

Me: I’m just afraid of so much stuff.

Marsie: You’re afraid of failing, of being vulnerable, of exposing yourself to the world, am I right? Or worse — What if nobody even notices you? Or worse — What if there is suddenly no catnip in the house?

Marsie with one of her humans



Me: How do you know so much?

Marsie: I am a cat. Therefore, I know all things. Plus, I know about fear. But I don’t care. I live my life. Look at this photo. I am on the dog bed and right there — it is the evidence that the dogs destroy things! That was a perfectly good owl toy and it is dead now. That dog has jaws of steel and could eat me in a second for daring to be on her bed. But do I care? No! I still claim the dog bed. You, human, need to claim the dog bed.


Marsie doesn’t understand that sometimes it’s hard to claim the dog bed. I wrote about this on Instagram awhile ago because I was thinking about one of my grandmothers.

She wrote so many poems and made so many paintings that she never let anyone see.

She couldn’t handle the scorn. But she couldn’t NOT create things.

She was afraid of the ocean, thought it was this massive, beautiful deadly force.

Men can be like that too sometimes, she told me. I don’t know why we are expected to be so strong. Why must we be so strong and vulnerable?

I was like ten when she asked me that so I didn’t have an answer.

A blurry image. Sorry for the blur.

This painting is inspired by one of her paintings that she left unfinished. I don’t know if she had copied the original or if it was her own, but the woman walking across a realistic earth, approaching the sea all huddled and afraid and then reaching out for the unreal sky makes me think of her. Afraid but reaching out.

I am not an artist. I have absolutely no training at all except for a high school art class, but all I want to do is paint.

I am not a great philosopher, but still I’m compelled to share what I think.

I sound like a Muppet and slur my s’s, but still I’m making podcasts and I’m in charge of a really intensive online writing class that forces me to talk on video to 12 people every month. And the whole time I think — I am so afraid to do this. People will hear my voice and laugh (not in a good way).

All these things scare me so much.

And every time I write a book, I think:

  • What if nobody reads it?
  • What if nobody likes it?

But life and creating is all about vulnerability. It’s about saying yes to experiences even though it’s so scary. Yes, just writing a blog post is scary to me because it’s vulnerable. You can do that, too.

Really. I’m not very exceptional at all, but I try to become better. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I have to make my cat talk to have a blog post, but that’s okay. Because it’s something.

You are something, too.

So, maybe think for a second:

  • What is it that makes you vulnerable?
  • What is it that makes you scared to say ‘yes’ to things?

Because here’s the thing (cue meditative Stuart Smalley music from that ancient SNL skit): You are enough. You are good enough and real enough and authentic. Your story matters.

And if other people don’t see it? Their loss. What matters is that YOU see it.

Marsie is right about that. Not so right about the cat nip.

Seriously, this is what happens when you have too much cat nip.



Four Types of Energy You Can Manage to Live Life Better

Lambs and Community Theater and Resilience

Originally published at

My Mom And Hugging Away The Judgement

You Have To Believe in The Good–Living Happy Roundup

My mother spent a lifetime hugging other people. Meeting after meeting, interaction after interaction, for the entire time that she was alive, she would hug people when she saw them and hug them when they left.

Her hugs were many.

Her hugs were long.

She would open her arms wide, her eyes would twinkle, her dimples would show and it was almost impossible not to step toward that 5 foot 1 frame and hug. She’d often smell like vanilla and brown sugar on top of her perfume, a fancy kind that she’d ask for every Christmas. It came from Jordan Marsh, which was a big deal store decades ago. It was fancy, too.

She would open her arms and you would step into them.

My mom always wanted to be a teacher, but life got in the way. Love with my stepdad when she was still in high school became a big deal drama. He was run out of state. She was desperate to leave home. She married my little hobbit down and though she was brilliant—impeccable at math and grammar, the fastest typist anyone in Bedford, New Hampshire had ever seen—she settled for a life without college. She raised her children. Felt unloved. Unfulfilled. Had another child and a scandal. That child was me.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you are less, Carrie,” she’d tell me before I knew even what less meant. “You are good, so good.”

“You are too, Mommy,” I’d say back for years and years.

You are too.

My mom with her brothers

My mom often felt judged by people who were richer, who had less drama, who weren’t addicted to Marlboro Lights or canned tuna, who got to go to college, by ministers who cheated at bowling, by men who cheated on their wives but didn’t get caught, and women too. She’d dance around the house when she vacuumed or did dishes singing about the “Harper Valley PTA” a song about a women judged in her small town for loving wrong.

But even then. She would throw her arms open and let people hug her. She’d know everything about everyone—she became the town clerk, a real estate agent, an office manager, organized her class reunions—and people told her things.

“We all have secrets,” she’d tell me. “You have to hug your way through them.”

My mom died over a decade ago. On her hospital bed, two days before she left, she tried to share her hospital ice cream with all of her surviving kids. She insisted.

“Good,” she murmured, “it’s so good.”

Hugs come in different ways. My mom knew that. Sometimes, people have personal boundaries and didn’t want one. She always respected that, too, but she’d find other ways to give them. In the offer of ice cream, in listening without judgement, in a dimpled smile, or in words. Sometimes her strongest hugs were words. Words like “You are good, so good.”

Despite all the drama in her life, despite her missed opportunities, my mom lived her life with purpose. That purpose? It was to hug. It was to remind people they are loved. It is to remind them that they are good.

So, in honor of her this Monday, let me share her purpose for a hot second.

You are worthy of hugs. You deserve them.

You are worthy of love. You deserve that, too.

And the inside of you? That part that sometimes feels too raw to share? It is good. So full of good.


Four Ways Hugs Are Good For You, which I’ve retitled My Momma Was Right

Berkeley’s Purpose In Life quiz


I have another blog where I post this sort of thing more often than here on my writer website. It’s free, but it is a subscription model and I tend to post there on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays.

These are some recent links from there.

I’ve Been Talking to People I’m Scared of And It’s Turning Out Okay. And a Bit About Choice and Who You Are

Crawling Through The White House Fence And Let’s Get Stoic

I’ve Been Talking To People I’m Scared of and It’s Turning Out Okay

injustice often came from not taking care of the earth and then not taking care of each other.

This year, I’ve been talking to a lot of people that I used to be a little afraid of.

And it’s been?


It’s actually been lovely.

People that I was intimidated by, I now message on Facebook.

People that I would stress about seeing because they had no problem telling me uncomfortable truths? We talk on the phone.

People that were so beautiful and confident that I would sort of gawp at and run the other way? We smile and talk now. We make eye contact during meetings when other people are being dorks.

And this? It’s kind of a beautiful thing and a lucky thing. It’s all just because I stopped being a wimp and started just going into everything I’m afraid of with the goal of being nice no matter what.

Tomorrow is the tenth year anniversary of Richie Havens’ death. This man was a talent, an enhancing talent, but also someone who spent a lot of his life making the kind of music that preached love and kindness for each other and the environment.

Next week it will be the tenth anniversary of my little hobbit dad’s death. He was no Richie Havens, but he, too, dedicated so much of his time in love and kindness for other people, for the environment, breaking into song or whistling because the music of the world meant a lot to him and was a part of him.

And both of them seemed as if they could be skeptics; they were comfortable and familiar with unease.

And I think both of them believed (at least at some point in their lives) that injustice often came from not taking care of the earth and then not taking care of each other.

Today, I decided (again) that I need to rededicate myself to humanhood – to the hope that I can find a way to see everyone as part of a great, big human system that we are all in together.

There is magic in the earth. But it has to be tended to.

There is magic in humanity. But it has to be tended to, too.

I am tired of enemies. I am tired of thinking in a way that makes other people enemies or the earth, an enemy. I want a world that doesn’t have that, yet I still think that way sometimes. Recently, someone who has some issues and has been kind of mean to me, asked me, “How can you still be nice to me? I don’t understand how you can still be nice.”

It’s the only way I want to be. And, I TOTALLY fail at it sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I am going to stop trying. I want a world of nice, or magic, or tending to, a world where we celebrate each other being brave even when the result is sort of a mess (like my sketch below).

I can’t control anyone else, but I can at least partially control myself, so I’m going to try.

I’ll call it the Nice Experiment. It’s starting now. Fingers crossed that I’ll do okay with it. Fingers double crossed that people like Havens and my dad are still here, paying homage, creating music with words and thoughts and guitar riffs and hobbit voices (my dad, not Havens) that matter.

May be art

You can buy prints of some of my art if you’re into that.

And there’s more of this sort of content on Living Happy. It’s a Substack.

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