The Battle For Word Count

 I am having a hard time writing today.

John Wayne in My Head: Understatement of the year, right there, Little Lady.

Thanks Mr. Wayne, dead movie star, and inner Carrie Jones critic aka internal editor aka mean voice in my head. Nice of you to show up. Your eyes look VERY blue in that picture.

JW: Well, I was alive then.

True. Anyway. I’m having some issues. What kind of issues? I’m worried about female stereotypes in the middle grade I’m writing. All of a sudden on word 20,667 I’m thinking, “Is Lily strong enough? She likes math. How do I keep her from being a stereotype of a girl who likes math?”

Oh no, am I oppressing my co-women? Crud. 

JW: You’re just supposed to write. It’s your first draft. Don’t make me have to threaten ya.

I know! I am, but it’s hard. I have issues.
JW: Issues don’t bring home the bacon.

Do you mean, bread, Mr. Wayne?
JW: No, I mean bacon.

Why do I think you mean bread?
JW: Because your brain is on strike because you aren’t writing. Now get a move on.

Fine. Fine. It’s all going to be garbage.
JW: True, but it’ll be your garbage.

In a stereotypical heterosexual American relationship, the man takes out the garbage, you know. That’s your role.

JW: What do you think I’m doing right now?
Talking to me?

JW: No, I’m trying to take out the garbage also known as self-doubt in your little writer brain.
Oh! Oh. That’s so nice of you. Stereotypical, but nice.

JW: Little Lady, I aim to please.

For all of you doing, National Novel Writing Month right now, good luck! You’ve got this! Battle for that word count and stomp down the stereotypes and that self doubt. They don’t get to control you, right? You control you.

Cough. Off to listen to my own advice.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Keeping Our Communities From Burning

This blog speaks about a violent event in my community where a kid was badly hurt.

A few years ago, I was a newspaper editor, working out at the local gym, when my phone went off.

Before COVID-19, the school system my daughter went to had a dress-up costume day.

This is what happened one time.

I’m sharing it again because:

  1. It’s important to remember.
  2. I was a reporter and editor then and it’s important to remember that despite everyone’s hate and rantings, reporters are people to and a part of your community.
  3. Love is important.
  4. Em (my daughter) is wise.
  5. Community is important too, and that’s a good thing to remember right now in these scary-weird times.
  6. We’ve got to remember we can bounce back and love each other and make something better. Sometimes story helps us remember that.

The Call


“You have to get to the high school quick,” Bobbi, my office manager at the Ellsworth Weekly said. “Something horrible’s happened.”

I’d been working out at the Y. The high school was down the road a bit and across a main route through our town.

Bobbi sounded worried. Bobbi never sounded worried.

I ran over in my gym clothes. It was about 40 degrees out, but the sky was clear and blue and beautiful.

The alarms were screaming off in the school and students, crying students, were streaming out of the building.

Teachers hollered at them, “Get into the parking lots. Keep moving. Keep moving.”

Some of the teachers were crying, too.

Everything inside of me fell. I hated being a newspaper person because I hated these kind of stories, the tragedy stories.

“He was on fire,” one guy who played soccer told me.

I didn’t ask him. I didn’t ask anyone anything because they were in pain. I just waited.

The boy crumpled. He pressed his hands to his face. “Jesus. He was on fire.”

I hugged him. Then his friends, mostly other jocks, came and hugged him, too.

It wasn’t the only group hug going on. The kids huddled together. Some paced. Others cried, squatted down, stood up. One girl was praying.

The fire trucks arrived, an ambulance, a TV news crew, more newspaper people, a Lifeflight helicopter.


We waited and stared at the high school’s blank, brick facade. We waited and waited and the TV news people started putting microphones in students’ faces. The school superintendent came out. He was crying. He looked at me and cried some more. He was a chubby, jokey guy with ruddy, Irish cheeks. He wore a maroon Ellsworth-lettermen jacket.

He shook his head at me. I didn’t ask him any questions. I could tell by his face that he didn’t know the answers.

I started turning blue from the cold. A TV camera guy gave me his jacket.


“I don’t want to be here,” he said.
I shook my head. “Me either.”

What Happened

That day, Donny, a boy I knew a bit, a boy who hung out with one of my best friend’s sons, had gone to school in costume for their Halloween celebration. He had made the costume himself with some help from his family. It was a sniper outfit with leaves and camouflage stuff. The boy sitting behind him during assembly allegedly kept flicking his lighter. People told him to cut it out.

The guy with the flame supposedly said something threatening like, “I’ll bet you’ll burn.”


The boy allegedly flicked the lighter up one more time and lit the edge of Donny’s costume on fire.

It was flammable.

Donny ran down the bleachers. Somehow people got him to drop and roll in the middle of the gym floor. Others screamed. Others thought it was a stunt. Others didn’t know what was going on. It’s the same gym where graduation happens. It’s the same gym where all the basketball games are played. It’s a place of community, a place people get together. A place of celebration and connection.

But not then.

The school nurse saved his life. So did the assistant principal. Everyone agrees about that. Donny was Lifeflighted to Boston. He missed months and months of school. He had terrible, terrible burns. When he finally came home, there were parades and balloons and articles. He rode in a limo. He could barely walk out of it and get to his house, but he did.

Donny is a hero for surviving.
So is the community.

And we’ll survive again and again, no matter what the universe throws at us. No matter what we throw at each other.

That’s because we’ll hug each other in parking lots, put out the fires burning in each other’s bodies, sob together, and work hard to make things right even (and especially when) we don’t know how.

We will argue over rainbow sidewalks in town and then make them on school property. We will protest and then make cookies for the people who support the opposite politicians that we do. We will go to local Facebook groups and create communities within community where we will bring food to people quarantining because of COVID, read library stories together, share jokes, share possibilities.

After that incident at the high school, a lot of kids had nightmares, a lot of kids’ lives were affected, especially Donny’s, especially the boy who set Donny’s costume on fire. But gradually, that gym has lost its horror feel, and pre COVID-19, we walked in there for events and games and every time something good happens, our community gets a little tighter, a little stronger.

The gym isn’t being used now because of COVID.

That’s okay. Because it will eventually be used again, reclaimed one more time by a community that evolves, hopes, and persists.

Three years after Donny was burned, my daughter, Em, was dressed up as a penguin for Halloween. Her middle school is having that same costume day, the celebration. So was the high school. If you bring in a can of food you get to wear a costume to school, which was cool.

She was bringing in extra cans in case any of her friends forget.

I asked her why.

And she said, “Because when people need help you give it to them. I like to be prepared.”

Right now, as we face divisiveness, elections and COVID-19, it’s a time when choosing to promote kindness, community, and simple steps like wearing a mask are easy ways to be prepared, to help the people who need it.

Much love to all of you.


CARRIE’S TEACHABLE CLASS!

I have a quick, pre-recorded Teachable class designed to make you a killer scene writer in just one day. It’s fun. It’s fast. And you get to become a better writer for just $25, which is an amazing deal.

HEY! I LIKE YOU! LET’S HANG OUT!

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.


HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

My Patreon site I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD.

I also share some writing tips that are also going to be on Teachable as the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME and send people art.

It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.

And I’m starting up a brand new, adult paranormal set at a Maine campground. You can read the first chapter here.

The World Needs More Lew Barnards

My dad died in 2013. It was his birthday yesterday.

How It Went

It is Thursday and an oncologist whose last name is Snow has just told my father that he has a few weeks to live. Sometimes poets use snow to signify death. This seems appropriate, like all those poets were psychic somehow.

As I wander through the tiny patch of woods off the Glen Mary Road in Bar Harbor, I think that this is actually appropriate in a bad way though I’ve been trying to spin it into something poetic, something that makes sense.

The doctor’s name is Snow.

Snow.

A lone crow alights from one pine tree bough to another, leading me down the trail. There are superstitions about crows. One crow is meant to signify death.

“I already know,” I tell the bird as he lifts his shiny wings, “but thanks.”

And about five hours away from me and the crow, Doctor Snow leaves my dad’s hospital room and my sister hands my dad the hospital phone so that I can say hi.

“Carriekins,” he says to me and his voice is cheerful somehow.

“Hey Dad! I love you!” This is the only thing I can think to say. I try to make my voice cheerful, too, but it isn’t strong like pine boughs and it can’t hold up the weight of me or even a crow right now or even a dusting of snow.

I try again and manage to sound chipper. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” he says. “How is your day going?”

The first thing he asks, moments after he finds out that he is about to die, is how my day is going. This is how my dad works. He asks people questions. He wants to know how they are doing, what they’ve done, what they think, why they think it. His favorite thing to say is, “I don’t know enough about you. What can you tell me?”

And I never know what to say. I never feel like I have anything to tell. He’s known me all my life. How can he not know enough?

“My day kind of stinks, Dad,” I tell him, stepping on a fallen pine cone. Crushing it  will help to scatter its seed, make new pinecones, but I still feel badly about breaking its form. “I mean, it does stink because of what the doctor just said, but it’s good because I get to hear your voice and talk to you.”

It is the last time I have a real conversation with my dad.

The next day they fill him with morphine and move him to a hospice center. He can’t talk because of the drugs. That is Friday. On Saturday, he can only wheeze into the phone.  I tell him he sounds like Darth Vader and that I will be there Monday after a wedding I have to go to and after I drop my daughter, Em, off at college.

He dies that night or really early Sunday morning right after the sunrise. He loves sunrises.

Doctor Snow had given him weeks. He lasts two days because of a fast moving, wildly spreading small cell cancer that has already officially claimed the area around one of his lungs.

Before we knew he had cancer, he said, “You know I would go down on my knees and kiss the ground and praise God if I could breathe again. Isn’t that something? Isn’t that something you’d never expect to hear from me?”

And it was.

My dad was a hobbit kind of man. He believed in breakfast and laughing. He believed in second breakfast and laughing even more. He believed in dancing and smiling and telling stories and listening and a third breakfast that included cake. He believed in life and people. He was capable of looking straight into someone’s soul and getting right to the core of what made them special and because he had that gift, he forgave everyone everything. He forgave people all the time and he loved them just as much as he did no matter what they put him through.

Backing Up Ten Days

Right after the Boston Marathon bombings, I am sitting in a Cambridge, Massachusetts restaurant with my daughter, Em. People are eating, but mostly everyone is craning their heads, watching the television screen that displays what little information exists about the attacks. My cell phone vibrates and I learn that my dad, who has gone into the hospital three days earlier because he couldn’t breath has tumors. They don’t know if the tumors are cancer. They just know they are there.

On the screen above my head are news people trying to make sense of a tragedy that I have just personally witnessed because I had been at the marathon. I don’t need the television to see the blood and the pain, the hope of people helping, the determination of doctors and civilians and paramedics and cops.

Tumors and Hate

People before me have compared hate to cancerous tumors, compared the way hate metastasizes and invades a society, taking it over the same way cancer takes over a body. It is not new to think about this, but I do.  The hate isn’t in the restaurant this night though. In the restaurant, the patrons and servers are still trying to understand how things like bombs can happen in their city, trying to isolate the type of hate that this cancer was, trying to understand it.

Some things are hard to understand. You can label all different types of cancers (lymphoblastic, Kapoki sarcoma, fibrous histiocytoma, ovarian, oropharyngeal), and you can label all different kinds of hate (misogyny, domestic terrorism, international terrorism, fear, self-righteousness, homophobic, racist, religious, ethnic, sociopathic) but those labels are just labels, they don’t get at the core of the hate, the essential interwoven elements of it.

“Grandpa Barnard has some sort of tumors,” I tell Emily, “and fluid around his lung.”

“It is cancer?” she asks.

“They don’t know yet.”

It isn’t for another ten days that they tell him that it is definitely cancer, and a bad kind. In those ten days, I spew out a blog post about the goodness I saw at the marathon; I talk to librarians; I attend a wedding full of love.  The doctors aren’t sure where the cancer originated. They just know that it is. My uncle who is in his late eighties immediately starts citing statistics about Raydon. My dad was a firefighter for decades, the volunteer kind. They didn’t have great personal protection equipment. He inhaled a lot of things.

My family has never been a family that has cancer. My uncle wants to find a reason. He wants to understand.

But we won’t ever understand exactly what made my dad’s body become cancerous or where that cancer first struck or even where else in his body that it is.

“There is no point in doing scans,” Dr. Snow says on this Thursday, my dad’s last Thursday. “The only point is that we have to keep him comfortable, manage his pain.”

And this is where cancer and violence part ways. Because as a society we always have to do the scans, always have to figure out where the hate started, what tools it uses to kill others, what elements it needs to thrive. Because as a society, we need to feel safe and we need to be a place where nobody wants to destroy innocent runners or spectators or children or each other. We have to be a place that understands hatred and actively works to try to stop it, to turn it into something good and peaceful.

When my dad finds out about the Boston Marathon he says, “Humans can be so horrible to each other, can’t they Carriekins?”

And I say that they could, but I add, remembering what I had seen at the marathon, “They can be good too, Dad.”

“Yes, they can.” He sighs. “I would have liked to been a locksmith. I would have liked to have a nice, simple job just helping people.”

“You helped people all the time, Dad,” I tell him. “You are a good, sweet man.”

“I wasn’t a great success.”

“Yes, you were. You were a success because you made people laugh,” I tell him. “You were a success because you try so hard every day to be good.”

And it is true. Even at the hospital as he is dying, he is flirting with nurses in a non-creepy way, complimenting their bright orange pants, asking them how they were.

Even when he finds out he has less than a month to live, he asks me, “How was your day?”

That is what good is. That is what gives me hope when cancer tries to infect our country or even our own souls with blame and anger and bigotry. People like my dad give me hope. It is the hobbits of the world, the ones who find the beauty in breakfast or a nurse’s fluorescent pants, who find the love inside a angry person’s heart, who find the kindness and joy and laughter inside a hospital room, these are the people who make our world good.  We need more hobbits like my dad. He may have not have been a famous man or a ‘successful’ one, but he was good. Severely dyslexic, he never made it past second grade, always thought he was “stupid” especially compared to his parents and siblings and even me.

But he was the opposite of stupid. He was brilliant. He embodied empathy and kindness. He was unrelentingly good and I miss him. The world needs more Lew Barnards in it. I do, too.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

My Patreon site I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD.

I also share some writing tips that are also going to be on Teachable as the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME and send people art.

It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.

And I’m starting up a brand new, adult paranormal set at a Maine campground. You can read the first chapter here.

CARRIE’S TEACHABLE CLASS!

I have a quick, pre-recorded Teachable class designed to make you a killer scene writer in just one day. It’s fun. It’s fast. And you get to become a better writer for just $25, which is an amazing deal.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Thrill Me, Baby. Thrill Me. Let’s Talk About Story Tension.

My first three books are hardly suspenseful in that Marvel movie way. There are no car chases. There are no end-of-the-world scenarios. They’re stories about identity and love with a little angst thrown in the side. They aren’t even in the typical story’s narrative arc.

So, you’re probably wondering why I’m blogging about suspense.

Because I like it.

I’m one of those writers who likes to try new things… ALL THE TIME. I am very easily bored, so back in 2008, I thought about what one of the hardest things for me to do would be. The answer was easy: WRITE SOMETHING SUSPENSEFUL.

And because of that? It’s why my NEED series was created.

It was hard. It was SO hard. But worth it. My first attempt (while not up at the suspense level of Stephen King or that guy who writes those books that become Tom Cruise movies) came out with Bloomsbury. It’s called NEED.

So when I was trying to figure out to do, I found a great article by Carol Davis Luce called WRITING SUSPENSE THAT’LL KILL YOUR READERS. For a couple of weeks, I’m going to talk about Carol’s points and hopefully expand on them.

And I’m inserting some old photos of my daughter, Em, and our old dog Tala to make it fun.

So, how do we write something suspenseful? 



The first part is tension.


Tension is what keeps us reading.

Tension is what keeps us reading at 3 a.m. when we have to get up at 6 a.m. and go to school or work.

Tension is what makes us read a book while walking between classes. It makes us ignore the hottie across the cafeteria or even in our own bedroom. It makes us ignore the cute doggy next to us, the one who really wants to get walked.

Tala the Big, White Dog says, “I am the cute dog she’s talking about.”

Poor Tala.

Tension.

Without it, a book gets put back on the shelf, abandoned on the kitchen counter, forgotten in a locker, or possibly flushed down the toilet. Without it, dogs get walked.

According to Luce, “Tension is the act of building or prolonging a crisis. It’s the bump in the night, the ticking bomb; it’s making readers aware of peril.”

Or it’s what William J Reynolds calls, “I gotta know!”

Why Do Readers Keep Reading?

Your readers keep reading because the need to know what happens next is there. The tension is there. He calls a story without suspense “like coffee without caffeine – no kick and not very addicting.”

So, that’s what we’re going to be talking about for a couple of blog posts: Tension. Suspense. How to turn nice, normal readers into addicts who will open that door in your book (I mean turn the page) no matter what horrors might be there or what dogs might resent it.

The next few entries will be about techniques to put the tension back into your love life… Oops, I mean your stories. Your written down stories! Geesh. I’m sorry I couldn’t find anything to read last night and I had to read some book about love and relationships by the guy who started Eharmony. I have no idea how it got in my house, but it’s obviously impacted me.

Anyway, stay with me, and we’ll interview horror novelist Steven Wedel and some others. It should be a fun, tension-filled couple of posts.


Carrie: So tell me Tala, what do you think about suspense?
Tala: Woof.

Carrie: You think it’s over-rated?
Tala: Woof. Woof! Snort. Kashow. Yip. Woof!

Carrie: You think that a dog’s life is hard enough and that the suspense of when we are going to actually take a walk… that suspense… that suspense is killing you and therefore I should stop blogging about how to put suspense in stories? 
Tala: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..

Carrie: Okay. Um, where’s your leash?

Tala: Good human. Good. Finally you get it.

*One of the biggest tensions may be whether or not I get all these posts up and posted.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

OCTOBER FIRST IS TOMORROW! IT IS ALMOST TODAY!

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Random Plea For You To Vote For Local People, Too.

Seriously. I know that we all care so much about the national election (Well, except for those of us who have thrown up our hands and started glutting ourselves on strudel because we can’t take it any more.) but local races? They matter.

Why?

1. It’s the local races that often start the candidate pool that leads up to the big races. Not always obviously. Our current president didn’t do this, but most politicians do.

 

Sheep: Dude? Why do we all look the same? We are not all the same!

2. Local issues matter. No. Really. They do.


Gabby the Dog says: The only issue I care about is tongue length and cookies for all canines? Will you vote with me? 

No matter what your political leanings are, it’s easy to get all huffy and upset over what presidents do, but local issues matter too.

It’s stuff like school funding, energy programs, how high your property taxes are, what kind of development goes into your town, whether you have a playground or not, whether or not you can put a sign on your business that doesn’t have to be pre-approved, fire and police budgets, if you can put a fence in your backyard.

It sounds silly, but the consequences of local decisions (for example sprawl due to lack of regional planning leading to higher childhood obesity rates leading to higher costs of health care) are really far reaching.

Sparty the Dog: The only issue I care about is One Dog = Eighteen Daily Walks. Is that local enough?

I’ve met a couple people when I’ve knocked on doors who have told me that they probably aren’t going to vote because they don’t like either of the main parties’ presidential candidates.

That kills me. Seriously. I can understand not liking any presidential candidates. It has happened to me almost every four years, but there are other races. There are U.S. senators and city councils and people going onto library boards who might want to ban books. Honestly… a woman in Texas once got to be constable because she was the only one who showed up?!? That kills me, too.

3. You Have A Responsibility

People fought and protested to get the right to vote in this country. We didn’t all just magically have it the moment the country started. People risked their health, their lives to be able to participate in the decisions that impact them and their lives. People still do.

Imagine if someone told you that you couldn’t vote because of your gender, your race, your economic status, your sexuality, your level of physical ability, because you were too poor? That’s what used to happen. Do you know how you keep that from happening again? You vote.

Here’s a handy site that tells you where to do that in your state or district.

And sometimes people still don’t get to vote. If you can do it, please do.

Insert Begging Here.

VOTE!!! Vote for all parts of the ticket not just president. It’s so much cooler than not voting at all.


PREORDER MY NEW NOVEL!

It’s a little book baby and it’s out October 1. It’s sparse and stark and makes me cry. I hope you’ll preorder it for .99. So cheap! So cheap for tears. After Oct.1, the cost goes up to $2.99.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

TIPS ON SURVIVING BANNED BOOKS WEEK

posted this back in 2006 when maybe fifteen people were reading my blog and I knew them all in person, I think. But I thought it might be good for this week, too.

The official Banned Books Week is Coming Up! Are you ready?

Sparty Dog Inspiration
Sparty Dog Approves These Tips



TIPS ON SURVIVING BANNED BOOKS WEEK


1. Remember, it’s okay to get ridiculously mad that people ban George by Alex Gino or Captain Underpants or Judy Blume’s Forever or Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club or The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas or anything by Carrie Jones (Okay. I added this last one in.)

2. Remember, it’s okay to think that it’s stupid for people to think kids (and adults) are so weak of mind that reading about a boy being a wizard will make them become Satan worshipers or that ready about potty mouths will make them about potty mouth and etc…

3. Wonder if you’ve ever met a satan worshiper. You know you’ve met a potty mouth.

4. Decide to google (YOUR STATE) Satan worshipers. Then decide not to, because it’s too freaky.

5. Go back to being angry about Banned Books.

6. Why do this? So you can be intelligent while you’re angry read: Kathi Appelt’s exceptional essay about the interplay of fear and banned books. If you can’t find it (Okay. I can’t right now), read someone else’s. 

7. Tell your friends about the essays you’ve read.

8. Argue with someone who thinks it’s okay to ban books. Try not to swear at them and to not go all potty mouthed. It may be hard. Try not to lose your temper. That may be harder.

9. Think about how my favorite line from Kathi Appelt’s essay is “Fear, of course, has a twin: hatred.” Then go all fan girl over Kathi Appelt.

10. Go check out the always the important and insightful American Library Association’s banned and challenged book news and information.

11. Read a banned book. Do better than that. Read three. Buy one. That’ll show them. Who is them? The book banners. That’s who.

My Scary Story Is About To Be Theater!

Very soon a little ghost story that I wrote will be performed and available via the magic of the InterHell (I mean internet) via the Penobscot Theater and I’ll post about that as soon as it happens because I’m super excited about it!

But it made me think of all the random ghost stories that have happened in my life that I tend to be pretty chill about. I’ve mentioned some here, but not a ton because I don’t want to be known as CARRIE JONES, THE AUTHOR WHO HAS TOO MANY GHOST STORIES.

Anyway, the quick one I want to talk about was when Em and I were in the living room gathering up her stuff for school and the TV just switched on all by itself. Seriously. Both the remotes were in full view. Nobody was anywhere near the TV or the remotes. No cats. No dog. No humans. 

And it flipped onto this video of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley all in black and white singing a duet . I’ve embedded it here. But to make it even freakier these were the lyrics they were on:

FOR MY DARLING, I LOVE YOU AND I ALWAYS WILL. 

Am I Klutzy? No? Yes? What Are The Truths About Ourselves, Really?

A long time ago, my now-dead mom called and the first thing she said on the phone was not:

1. Hello.

2. Hi. This is Mom.

3. Yo.

4. Pant. Pant. Pant.

No, the first thing she said was:

“Well, now I guess I know where my klutzy daughter got it from.”

my mom

I had no idea who she was talking about. My brain just blanked. It was kind of like when you’re going through an internet wormhole and a page has a hard time loading and you get that page where it says there’s a server problem and the site can’t be viewed. Or you get that little sand glass thing to indicate the program is thinking, thinking, thinking but there’s a good possibility it just won’t connect and it’ll probably freeze.

Finally, I thought,

“Klutzy? Me? I’m the klutzy daughter? Not Debbie?”

Carrie the confused.

I asked everyone else I knew, who know the Carrie Jones I am now, and they all said, “What?”

With genuine shock.

Which was cool because I like to think of myself as a graceful queen of the house,home and kayak.

But what’s really got me going is how different people can have totally different perceptions of who we are? And who is right? Are we who we perceive ourselves to be? Or are we who the consensus thinks we are? Both? None?

Apparently, C.S. Lewis tackles this in his book, Till We Have Faces, which I have not read because I’m not really a big Lewis fan. Gasp! I know!

But it all intrigues me so much.

When I was a little kid, there was a girl who thought she was a fantastic singer and had perfect pitch. She was not. People cringed when she sang and she sang a lot. But it didn’t matter to her. She believed that she was amazing.

I was always so afraid that I was like her. That I would believe something about myself that was the opposite of the truth.

There are people out there who believe they are the epitome of good and there are people who think those same people who are the epitome of evil.

One of my daughters has a dad who thinks she is clumsy while I think she is the least clumsy person I’ve ever met.

And I guess it’s perspective. And I guess figuring it all calls for a definition of truth. But those things — perspective, truth — those are big things that are somehow no longer all that easy to define.

Continue reading “Am I Klutzy? No? Yes? What Are The Truths About Ourselves, Really?”

Imaginary Land and The Parallel Zone

A long time ago, the awesome Megan Crew posted about this imaginary world she created with her friend in fifth grade. It involved unicorns and stuff. It made me wonder how many of us do this? How many writers? How many people who are not writers?

When my best friend, Jackie, and I were in seventh and eighth and (a-hem) ninth grades we created two entirely imaginary worlds and very complicated love stories that went with them. We would expand on these on the telephone every night and I’d be all, “And then Bruce looked at you in that way.

And she’d go, “What way?”

And I’d say, “You know that way.”

The Bruce she was talking about was him:


I, strangely enough, had this guy for my major love interest in the Parrallel Zone (PZ for short)



And this guy in Imaginary Land (IL for short)


How embarrassing is that? I mean, seriously, I liked a guy with striped pants. He was a Doctor Who.

Actually, Jackie and I were so embarrassed by our secret addiction to IL and PZ (We added to the story EVERY single day.) that we swore we would never EVER tell anyone we did this. 

Yep. I told. She did too though, really! 

Did you do this? Do you do it now? Is this a writer thing or a people thing, do you think? 

Did yours involve going through metal detectors at Logan Airport at the EXACT same time as Bruce Springsteen and Paul Young and therefore being zapped into a parallel universe where they totally loved you and thought you were hot? 

Not that ours did or anything. 🙂


 

Continue reading “Imaginary Land and The Parallel Zone”

When Children’s Book Writers Are Supposed To Dance Things Might Not Be Pretty

Back before COVID-19, I went to my first big writing conference (as a speaker) in L.A. (California) and I learned that there was a big gala thing and all of us children’s book writers (published and prepublished) were supposed to dance and schmooze there.

Despite the fact that my aunt owned a dance studio and I started dancing when I was two and despite the fact that author/poet/musician/playwright Ozzie Jones once gave me the best compliment about my dancing ever at a Bates College party and despite the fact that I’ve been in far too many musical theater productions, I get uptight about dancing.

Cough.

This is awkward to admit.

And I was supposed to hang out in a group of 900 children’s book writers who were going to be dancing? It was already super obvious who the extraverts are in the children’s book world and let me tell you? It’s the dancers. It’s the schmoozes. It’s the people who introduce themselves to you and aren’t awkward about it.

It is not me.

I thought children’s book writers were my people. Apparently, I was wrong. The whole situation was a lot more like a middle school dance than I thought it would be.

What I learned

1. Some writers can actually dance. I mean, they bend backwards. They throw off shoes. They are not me.

Get your boogie on and shuck off those ukeleles, authors!

2. Author John Green blushes and sort of crumples in half when kids tell them they’ve read Looking for Alaska‘s scene that involves a penis.

I am not spoiling here, but… I’m sure you can guess the scene. The truth is that scene has a bit of the Judy Blume phenom going for it. Kids I knew flipped to it, shared it with friends, even before or after they’ve read the whole book and I could go on for awhile about this and how it’s a very okay thing, but that would be a much longer post for later in the week. 

Also, despite a lot of lady writers asking him to dance, John Green managed to not dance. I envied him.

See, John. This is almost as steamy as your scene, and Raintree County is ancient, although steamy. 

3. It is hard to find people you know in a crowd of 900 and sometimes you just have to give it all up and hang with people you barely know. When doing this, try not to talk about the positive beauty of fleece TOO much. They will run away. 

4. Holding a beer makes dancing easier. I did not do this, but I should have. Thanks for the tip, Lisa Yee!

5. Once you tell people that you’re running off to get someone else to come dance it is REALLY REALLY hard to find those people again. Try not to worry that they think you were blowing them off and you are an evil mean girl or something.

I’m so sorry I lost you! I was busy dying inside from social anxiety.

6. Author Lisa Yee tells amazing stories. Many include peeps. Some include pee. Does there seem to be a connection?

I found this photo on Pinterest. Thank you, Pinterest!

Rock on, Little Peep. Rock on!

7. It’s okay to stand in the big grass circle by the taco makings instead of dancing because there will be other people there who aren’t drunk enough to dance either. These are some of your fellow introverts. Embrace them. Ask first though because not everyone likes embracing.

8. Even when there’s lots of room to spread out people will clump up to dance. I am not sure if this is because it is fun getting elbowed in the head or just for the hiding-your-dance-skills in a bunch of other people factor. Or maybe it’s just the hope for getting lucky is greater the closer you are to other bodies. Does anyone know? Is this an extrovert thing or an introvert thing?

9. Sometimes people can do amazing things with aluminum foil. Sometimes people can’t. This can be dangerous when the foil is used to make clothing. No. I am not posting a picture of this here. But also foil-clothing and dancing can lead to some NSFW photos of writers. Don’t enthusiastically dance if you’re only wearing aluminum-foil clothing unless you’re okay with other writers seeing body parts that are usually covered up and stuff.

10. Writer Cecil C (BEIGE) can hold while dancing:
    1. Plate of food.
    2. Eating utensil
    3. Massive funky-cool bag/purse
    4. Video camera
    All at the same time with a still-healing wrist, which obviously qualifies her for this status

 Yes, she is the dynamic force of both Wonderwoman and Superman combined! That’s super power.

And there you go. Helpful hints for when you go to a conference and there are a bunch of children’s book writers dancing.

Continue reading “When Children’s Book Writers Are Supposed To Dance Things Might Not Be Pretty”