Tell Our Stories (The Ghost Version)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Post-18

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“I don’t think so, honey.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Oh, I’m sure they were nice.”

 

“What happened to the house?” I asked.

 

“No idea.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

My Post-19

 

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

 

It was terrifying.

 

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

My Post-20

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone in class starts cackling as I say this.

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

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

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

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

This just makes him laugh more.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Words fail.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

“What?” I look around.

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

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

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

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

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

Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

            Tell our stories.

Ghost Stories! -2

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

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

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

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Moe Berg

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

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

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

Writing Coach

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

Ebook on Sale for October! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Apply Now!

 

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Mommy Fears (in Honor of the Emster)

In honor of the Emster being home on leave this week, I’ve conjured up this old blog post about my mommy fears and her innate Emster capabilities.

What I find interesting about this is: 

  1. How openly neurotic I have always been.

  2. How she has always been kick-butt.

 

Here you go: 

Okay. You know how when you’re a mom you have these certain levels of fear when it comes to your kid? Well, most moms do. Sorry to all you people who are not moms or aren’t neurotic. You will probably be bored with this blog post.

 So there’s the deepest level of Mom Fear, which is that:

1. Your child will be kidnapped on an airplane like in that Jodi Foster movie where she ends up blowing up the airplane in a feat of total mom awesomeness.
2. Your child will be assaulted or violated.
3. Your child will be murdered/seriously injured or threatened to be like in that Denzel Washington movie where he’s the bodyguard but he might as well be the dad because he is so amazing to Pita and she even names her teddy bear after him.
4. Your child will marry a ghoul:

Mommy Fears-2
Please do not marry him, Em, at least not when he’s like this.

But then I have what I call the Secondary Level of Mom Fear, which includes:

My child will starve because I have no income.

My child will become a heroin addict because I suck, etc…

My child will become a monster full of hate.

But also on this Mom fear level is this one:

My child will get on the wrong airplane at the airport.

And yep… It happened.

So the Emster was done with this super cool Fresh Film Program in New York City (thanks to amazing author and human Saundra Mitchell) and she was flying home to Maine. Em did everything right:

1. She got a car and had money to pay it. She got in the car at 8 a.m.
2. She told the driver she wanted to go to US Airways at Laguardia Airport.
3. She buckled her seat belt. Gold star, Em! Gold star!

But then things went wrong. There was an accident. Traffic stalled. She was stuck there for about an hour. But finally they move again. The driver drops her off at the airport, but wait — He drops her off at the United terminal. Em realizes this once she gets inside. She asks for help. Twice. She runs to the shuttle for the other terminal. The shuttle bus doors have just closed. She looks hopeless.

Em is the one smiling with teeth. 😉

Hopeless doesn’t work. So, instead she goes into Looking Cute mode. The shuttle bus doors magically open.  She asks the driver for help. He tells her to hop on. She does. There are a MILLION stops. They get to the terminal. She goes to the kiosk to get her boarding pass but she doesn’t have a credit card and can’t pay the $20 for her luggage. Someone else helps. She gives them cash. They don’t even make her weigh her suitcase. Score! (Note: Shoes are heavy. Em likes shoes).

She finds the Security Screening. She goes through. She finds her gate. It is 9:30. Her plane is supposed to leave at 10. There is nobody milling around like normal. Em being the astute little camper that she is, goes to the woman at the little podium/counter thing and asks if this is the gate for the Bangor, Maine flight.

Woman: That flight is closed.

Em: !!!!!

She decides to look cute again.

 Em is still the same one.

Woman (speaks into walkie-talkie): MUMBLE MUMBLE.

Em: ?????!!!!

Woman (to Em):
Okay. You can go out. The plane is on the tarmac.

They let her through the doors. She rushes to the airplane, climbs up the stairs, gets on, looks at her ticket and then says to the flight attendant:
Is this the plane to Bangor, Maine?
Flight attendant person: No. This is the plane to Buffalo.

Em:

Flight attendant person:
The Bangor plane is behind us, I think.

Em runs down the stairs, across the tarmac and towards a plane that was completely obscured by the Buffalo plane. She drops things on the tarmac. She picks things up. She runs. She scrambles up the flight of stairs and says, “Is this the plane to Bangor?”

It is.

But wait!

Her seat is gone. They have given it away because she is late.

“NO!!!!!!!!” Em screams.

But they let her sit in the exit row all by herself. She buckles up and makes it. Nobody kidnaps her. She does not fly to Buffalo. She flies home.

She is amazing.

And cute.

And resourceful as heck.

Me: You will write about this some day.

Em: I have already lived it once; I do not want to live it again.

Writing News

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

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun. She’s heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

My Post copy 6

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! (WSS) six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

WSS-Testimonial-Mountains-1-300x300

And finally, for the month of July, Carrie’s book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

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Proof of the sale-nature of July.

 

Thanks so much for reading my blog! Please comment or say ‘hi!’ if you feel like it!

 

xo

Carrie

Friday Writing Life – Save Yourself Today

“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself,” said E.E. Cummings. 

Unlearn who you are. It’s a tall order because it means rewriting all the false scripts in your brain telling you what you aren’t capable of; it’s silencing the internal editor critiquing your choices.

That’s hard.

It’s also worth it.

Sherwood Anderson said, “The object of art is not to make salable pictures. It is to save yourself.”

Save yourself today.

Make art.

Care about others.

Care.

Be kind.

Don’t put up with lies.

Listen to other people’s stories.

Make your own.

 

Writing News

I have a hard time writing about writing news on Do Good Wednesdays, but the third book in my middle grade TIME STOPPERS series comes out this August. It’s a really big adventure epic about kids fighting evil because apparently that’s what kids have to do. Actually, it’s what we all have to do.

Timestoppers3_005

And for more info about me, my books and podcast, check out my blog and website.

Writing Advice – Down on My Shins, Baby

Writing advice.

Everyone has it even if it’s as simple as, “Don’t listen to advice.”

But there is no one way to write the same way there’s no one way to live.

On my trip to the Indigo/Chapters Teen Choice Awards awhile ago, the first leg of my trip ends in the flight from Bangor to Philadelphia. I’m really psyched because:

1. I like Philadelphia even if it is just the airport.
2. I was in the first row of the plane so I was like the third one off. SCORE! That never happens.
3. I am easily psyched.

 

This t-shirt would be appropriate for me to wear all the time. You know, if I wore this kind of t-shirt.

It turns out that I have to get to another terminal in order to catch my next flight to Toronto. To get there you have to walk through one terminal and go to a place where it says SHUTTLE TO TERMINAL F.  To get to this magical shuttle place you have to go down an escalator. This should be nice and easy, except the space at the bottom of the escalator is not big enough to hold the bajillion people who want to go on the shuttle, so everyone has to turn immediately right and form a line that runs parallel to the escalator. This also should be easy, right? We are smart people who fly on airplanes, forming a line is easy-peasey.

But, apparently not all of us:


1. Like to form lines.
2. Understand how to form lines.
3. Like to follow the directions of the men yelling, “Go to the right! Form a line, people! Go to the right!”

When I come down the escalator there’s a flight attendant behind me and I figure that:


1. She is in a hurry.
2. She is a bit frustrated by people who fail to form lines.
3. She is moving on flight-attendant warp speed.

 

So, when I step off the escalator, she steps off right behind me. I wait for a second to see if the man in front of me understands the whole MOVE TO THE RIGHT AND FORM A LINE THING.

He doesn’t.

Flight attendant lady wants none of this, so she scoots around me, but when she does her luggage (on rollers) hits the back of both my knees — one, two — in this perfect way that makes me fall right down to the floor on my shins, so it looks like I am praying to the shuttle gods or something. Not that there are shuttle gods, obviously.

So you must picture me on the floor surrounded by people who can not form a line to the right.

And you must picture all those people staring at me with their mouths wide open.

And you must picture me laughing hysterically because (seriously) how funny is it that I got taken down by a flight attendant’s luggage.

And you must picture everyone thinking I’m a weirdo.

And then I bounce right back up and got in line, because that’s the way this writer rolls. 😉

Is there a point to this story?

Yes and no.

Every story we create out of our lives (or out of fiction) has underlying truths inside of it. I could have chosen to cry and sue the flight attendant, which would have made me wealthier, probably. I could have chosen not to tell this story about me falling down, which would make me seem cooler, probably.

Writing experts, blog experts, life experts, marketing experts, expert experts would probably have told me that my vulnerable story of darkness isn’t going to sell any books, which is what I’m supposed to do because it’s how I earn my living and buy dog food. They’d tell me to write not quite so conversationally. They’d tell me to make sure my SEO has words like ‘tips and hints’ in it to drive blog traffic.

But here’s the thing? For me, I’m going to form a line when I’m supposed to if it’s helping the greater good. And I’m usually going to laugh if I get knocked down because it’s better than crying – usually.

And I am going to explore the wonderings and the questions that are inside of me about life and writing and people’s love and people’s cruelty, their selfishness and selflessness in every way that I know how. And I am going to find meaning in little things and big things.

 

My only writing advice, my truest writing advice is this:

Expect that you are going to be stupid sometimes.

Expect that you will fall.

Expect that writing a story, just like a life, is a big adventure that you can’t always control.

Our job as humans and as writers isn’t to dictate belief sets to other people, but to give them possibilities, questions to bounce off of and explore, moments of ‘huh’ and ‘what ifs,’ seconds of laughter and failure and poignancy that they can use as a launch pad for their own explorations.

What are your ‘huh’ moments? When do you think, ‘what if?’

Writing News

I’m super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

This middle grade fantasy series happens in a secret, magical town in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids being awesome.

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal 

“A wild and fresh take on fantasy with an intriguing cast of characters. Dangerous and scary and fun all rolled into one. In the words of Eva the dwarf, I freaking loved it!” –  Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds series

“Effervescent, funny, and genuine.” –  Kirkus Reviews

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go buy the first two books now. 🙂

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out my website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

My Post Copy-2

 

 

Dealing With Failure – Part One

We talk so much about the lack of civility in current culture, but there is also this great thirst to help, to care, to make a difference. And that matters. It matters.

This week I failed at something in a business way and …. Well, it shook me.

To be fair, I am pretty raw and frayed right this second and my resilience isn’t at its peak. But for whatever reason, it shook me a lot.

I cried.

I didn’t wallow, but wow. I really wanted to wallow.

Instead, I posted on Facebook and asked people what they do when they feel like they’ve failed, when they are shook, when they are sad. How do they work their way out of it?

Note: My post wasn’t asking about depression, but a lot of people answered as if it was and those answers? They helped other people reading the post. That’s a big deal. And I am thankful for it.

People are giving. People want to help

I love that people were so incredibly willing to share their strategies for when they feel pointless, when failure seems too large. And I’m going to have a series of posts where I share these strategies because that’s the cool thing.

We talk so much about the lack of civility in current culture, but there is also this great thirst to help, to care, to make a difference. And that matters. It matters.

People want to help other people feel better, get through it. Remembering that matters, especially when you feel like you’re being annoying by not being perfectly happy. Nobody is always perfectly happy.

My friends’ and readers’ advice was beautifully varied, which only made it better because you could see the similarities and trends and differences in people’s coping mechanisms.

Some of those coping mechanisms involved apps.

“I’ve been there too this week if it makes you feel any better. My tips are to be gentle with yourself. Maybe take a long walk. I’ve downloaded a meditation app to my phone called Mind Space, and that helps me. A hot shower, some comfy pajamas and a cozy book. I like Rosemund Pilcher because she’s sort of soothing.” – Shannon Hitchcock, author

And another app was really popular. It’s called Calm.

“I use the app called Calm. It’s amazing and helps me with my insomnia and my anxiety. It’s got music and stories that help me relax and not stress out as much. It’s so awesome.” – Lindsey Schultz, photographer

 

And there with other people who deliberately moved their brains’ focus via distractions that were sound-based (like an app, but not), which was super interesting to me.

“I’m prone to having that feel like a failure reaction you describe. I turn on the tv or something that shuts my brain down for a couple of hours. That helps and It sounds ridiculous but I’ve noticed listening to people laughing on tv helps even if I’m not paying attention.” – Trish Madell, author

This sort of distraction and laughter is actually a thing that is often used to help with anxiety and depression. Yes! Yes! I know the trite saying that “laughter is the medicine” but there is truth behind that.

Laughter releases endorphins. Endorphins battle stress and make our immune systems tougher. Laughter connects us with others and makes us feel less alone. Laughter uses your brain’s whole cortex.

And for us creative people, humor actually makes us more innovative, we’re more apt to improv and make leaps in our thinking. How cool is that?

Do something that makes you laugh. For whatever reason, I always laugh at America’s funniest home videos. This seems stupid, and it’s a little embarrassing to even admit, but no matter how shitty I’m feeling, if I watch enough of them, I’ll laugh and pull myself out of the heaviness of the feeling of failure. On the other hand, I’ve learned to grieve some of my failures. Losing a book contract, for me, felt like such a failure. I tried so hard not to grieve it–to push through–but sometimes we need to grieve the loss and acknowledge the sadness. I’ve even had a friend send me a sympathy card for a book loss because it’s a valid loss, something worth crying about. Not every failure is, but sometimes I think we are too quick to assume we don’t deserve to feel bad.- Jody Sparks, author

So, for my first post in this series, here are the tips that came from my brilliant friends and readers

  1. Find a good app that makes you calm. Use it.
  2. Find the funny. Watch tv. Listen to laugher.

But what both of these things do is that they create a feeling of control.

When you turn on that app and use it to feel better? You are making the choice to feel better.

When you decide to watch something funny to feel better? You are making the choice again. You feel like you are in control, which is so incredibly different than feeling like a failure, isn’t it?

Writing News

I am super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.  And honestly, if you want to help me feel less stressed about failure and the writing world, leaving a review for the books and buying them? That is the best thing you can do for me.

Anyway…

This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town.

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal

 

“Sticks the landing . . . The world building is engaging . . . between the decidedly wonderful residents and the terrifying monsters who plague them.” –  BCCB

 

“Amid the magic, spells, adventure, and weirdness of this fantasy are embedded not-so-subtle life lessons about kindness, friendship, and cooperation.” –  Booklist

 

“A wild and fresh take on fantasy with an intriguing cast of characters. Dangerous and scary and fun all rolled into one. In the words of Eva the dwarf, I freaking loved it!” –  Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds series

 

“Effervescent, funny, and genuine.” –  Kirkus Reviews

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go by the first two books now. 🙂

 

 

 

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out my website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
The podcast of awesome

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

writing tips life tips carrie jones books
carrie jones books

The Time Security Got on my Airplane and I Accidentally Exit The Plane

So, the traveling to Toronto saga continues here. I’m so sorry it’s taking so long to tell! I am actually at Book Expo America in New York today and not in Toronto at all.

I miss Toronto.

 

 

 Grover says: Carrie is very long winded! 

Thanks, Grover. Nice. So, on the airplane from Philadelphia to Toronto I once again score a Row 1 seat! Yay! The flight attendant guy is made of awesome. He’s really nice and funny and kind of cute. His name was Ahmad, I think. Anyways Ahmad is totally rocking the flight and we’re almost there when I notice Ahmad seems a bit – how do I say this – stressed?

 Grover: This is what I look like when I am stressed.

Fortunately, he doesn’t look like that, Grover. He was still cute and in control. I want to ask him if he’s okay, but I don’t get the chance and so I do what any self-respecting writer would do. I watch him as he watches a very specific part of the airplane as we land. I watch him once we land and he picks up the phone and talks to the airport terminal.

And I hear snippets of the conversation because I am super snoopy…..

It was in her seatback.
She said it wasn’t hers.
She also wouldn’t put her seat back in the upright position. I asked multiple times. She refused.
7A

The guy next to me and I give each other big eyes. The guy next to me is nice. He also looks like he’d be good in a brawl. I suddenly like him very much and decide that nice man next to me is an asset on this flight.

So, then Ahmad says on the loudspeaker. “I am so sorry to inconvenience all of you, but we’re going to have to wait to disembark until Security comes on the plan to deal with one passenger.”

Some people moan. I think I may squee because I know something that most people don’t realize: The special TSA/Security airport guys are incredible hot. And Toronto seems to have the hottest of them all.  And I know this is a totally immature response because we could have been in trouble or something, but the lady probably was smuggling some pot or something, and you have to understand the hot-i-tude factor. Plus, I know Ahmed has things under control and he has nice-guy-next-to-me for back-up in case the Security/Whatever-TSA-is-called-in-Canada has issues.

 Grover: Were they as hot as I am when I dress up like a doctor and put on these glasses? 

Almost, Grover. Almost.

So, because of my PRIME SEAT in 1D, I get to stare at the Security guys and they smile at me! Swoon! And then they decide to let us disembark, but horrible 7A lady gets upset so I am the only one who actually gets to follow directions and scoot out of the plane, propelled forward by the hand of one of the hot Security guys. I scoot under his arm pit and head up the ramp all by myself! I was the only one who got off right away! How cool is that?

I am ridiculously lucky because:
1. I actually got off a plane first and that never happens
2. Hot man touched me
3. I got a whole story about it.

Yay!

The only thing that would be better was if she hadn’t had anything illegal and she got in so much trouble JUST FOR NOT PUTTING HER SEAT BACK INTO THE UPRIGHT POSITION. Seriously? How awesome would that be? Because I swear, every time I’m on an airplane, the person in front of me does that.

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page on my website carriejonesbooks.blog .  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE

And finally, the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
The podcast of awesome

 

So, you want to be a bad writer, come sit down.

Bad writers, gather around. I see that you’re already glaring at each other and/or looking at your phone in an attempt to avoid human contact.

Beautiful.

You’re off to such a terrific start.

Welcome to the five-stop HOW TO BE A BAD WRITER program. Yes, we have placed you in your natural environment, a coffee shop, because we couldn’t all fit on a bed or couch. I’m sorry if you aren’t comfy enough. Ready?

Let’s begin.

Easy Ways To Be A Bad Writer

Care Only About You

That’s right. Your readers don’t matter. Writing isn’t actual communication between the writer and reader. It’s just you. You are all that matters.

No empathy allowed.

Assume Everyone Thinks The Same Way You Do and Has The Same Experiences

That’s right. Every single character in your book and in the world in an ISTP on the Myers-Briggs personality scale just like you are. They react to things the same way you do. Mm-hm. So, if you reference a dooryard, they are just going to get it. If you never get harassed by the police because you are a white, wealthy guy, that’s how it always is. Mm…

Do not have empathy, bad writers! Again. No empathy allowed.

Expect Everyone to Give You Everything You Want.

The first time anyone reads your rough draft that you finished last night, they are going to give you:

  1. A book contract
  2. A movie contract
  3. A hug
  4. Unlimited praise and fan-mail
  5. A jet
  6. A fully paid worldwide publicity tour.

Bad writer, you deserve this. You shouldn’t have to revise. Revising is for wimps and good writers and people with empathy. To hell with that and them.

Rant at Every Opportunity.

Someone gives you a bad review? Who is this cretin? Does he not recognize genius? Immediately rant and escalate the situation and call your minions down upon he who dared to suggest your ending was not resonating enough and that you should learn the difference between your and you’re.

Unleash the Kraken. The Kraken has no empathy and no chill, either.

Blow Everyone Off

Social media is communication? Whatever. Not for you. Social media is just where you blast everyone with your book promotions and self-indulgent I AM AWESOME posts. Never say thank you. Never communicate back. You’re an author not a communicator, right?

Right.

Secret Superheroes

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page on my website carriejonesbooks.blog.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

 

Write! Submit! Support! Begins Again in July!

 

It’s not easy to create a thriving writing career in the children’s industry, but what if you didn’t have to do it alone? Write. Submit. Support is a six-month program designed by author and Writing Barn Founder Bethany Hegedus. Classes are led by top creatives in the children’s industry field; they’ll give you the tips and tools you need to take both your manuscripts and your developing career to the next level. Think of it as an MFA in craft with a certificate in discovering (or recovering) your writer joy! – Writing Barn 

More about the class I specifically teach? It is right here.

Here is what current students are saying:

Carrie is all strengths. Seriously. She’s compassionate, funny, zesty, zany, insightful, honest, nurturing, sharp, and…Wow, that’s a lot of adjectives. But really, I couldn’t praise Carrie enough as a mentor. I’ve long respected her writing, but being talented at something doesn’t automatically mean you will be a great mentor. Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching. Aside from the specific feedback she offers, she also writes letters in response to the process letter and analyses. These letters have been so impactful for me as I writer that I plan to print them and hang them up. Creepy? Maybe. But they are so inspiring. And that, in the most long-winded way possible, is how I would summarize Carrie as a mentor—inspiring.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People

And finally, the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
The podcast of awesome

 

Make Your Setting Kick Butt

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of writing where setting is just… Well, it’s missing.

You begin a chapter and there are just these talking heads and you’re not quite sure where they actually are.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

 

And the reader is like, “Cool. They have Coke. They are upset. But where are they? Are they floating in the ether? Are they in Newark? I just don’t know.”

So the first rule of creating a kick butt setting for chapters or scenes in your book is:

Actually have a setting.

I know! I know! This seems obvious.

It is not obvious.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John had in his dorm room.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Make the Setting Somewhere Cool if you can

A lot of stories have scenes around a dining room table.

There are places in the world that aren’t dining room tables. It’s okay to have a domestic scene in a bathroom, a bedroom, a basement. It’s okay to make the dining room cool. It’s okay to make the dining room a couch.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Think about Theme and Mood

If your book is about misery make your settings reflect that. If your book is about displacement, do that, too.

 

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper. It was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Remember Detail

Depth and intricacy aren’t swear words. The Belles, a newish YA novel does such a fantastic job of having setting become part of and enhance the story. J.K. Rowling? Same thing. Give yourself a moment to really breathe and live in the place that your characters are breathing and living in.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper. It was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said, shutting the door. There were stickers all over it, declaring, “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” or “FREE TIBET,” or “HEGEMONY NOW.” Some of the stickers were peeling off at the edges, like they were trying to escape the actual refrigerator door, but they couldn’t. They were stuck.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

 

Study Old Books

The Charles Dickens’ and Brontes of this world were masters at making you live inside the settings. Don’t copy them, but pull out one of those old books where time was spent creating the stage. Roots was a book that always felt real to me. Color Purple, too. The Bluest Eye.

Find a book where you feel like you live in the place and study a paragraph or two and try to determine how the authors make you see that world.

 

Use Your Senses and Your Symbols

Setting isn’t just visual. It’s smell. It’s the feel of the air on your skin. It’s a million things all combined. The symbols and objects that create your place also reflect the story. Think how Twilight was rainy and dark, foreboding with its trees as opposed to Bella’s original sunny south.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper and shut it fast. Broccoli smelled rolled into the air, sickening and heavy.

The mini fridge was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said, shutting the door. There were stickers all over it, declaring, “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” or “FREE TIBET,” or “HEGEMONY NOW.” Some of the stickers were peeling off at the edges, like they were trying to escape the actual refrigerator door, but they couldn’t. They were stuck.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.” I popped the top of the Coke. The click and fizz of it satisfied me more than this conversation ever could.

“Seriously.” John swallowed hard.

I met his eyes.

He looked away and slammed the door of the MINI shut before leaning across the top of it, hiding his head in his arms.

The rotten broccoli smell somehow got worse. Gagging, I took a swig of the Coke, forcing it down.

Now, go back up and read the first pretend excerpt again. It’s a totally different story, isn’t it? It’s weird because I’m weird, but it’s better.

My Post-40WRITING NEWS

I’ll be at Book Expo America on June 1 at the Lerner booth from 11:30-12.

There’s a free information and inspiration session from  Write! Submit! Support!, a six-month intensive program through the Writing Barn.

It’s a one-day only thing just to hang out and learn about the program. I swear! No weirdness involved at all. More info is here.

TIME STOPPERS THE MIDDLE GRADE SERIES OF AWESOME

Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.

51YDGwoXfXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
Time Stoppers Book Two! Out in paperback this August! 

Dogs Are Smarter Than People

And finally, the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

That Time I was in Glamour Magazine. No. Seriously. I was.

So, because I am a writer, something that I never imagined would happen, happened.

No, I did not suddenly learn how to fly.

This is Super Girl. She can fly, and rock a cape.

No, Grover did not propose.

Grover: Some day I will, Cawwie. 

Wow. I hope so, Grover, I’ve been waiting on that since first grade.

It wasn’t learning to fly or a Grover proposal.

Instead, I was in a real photo shoot with a real make-up artist and real stylist and real photo shoot coordinator and real photographer with assistant.

For Glamour Magazine.

Yes, seriously. Glamour Magazine.

And I wore make-up. And it was cold, but I still managed to not fall down or turn into an ice cube.

If you know me, you know that I am not a person who wears make-up.

cropped-My-Post-30.jpg

Look. Proof. The photo of myself that I tend to post is make-up free AND my hair is wet. That is how un-glam I am.

So… why? Why was I doing this? Why was I totally stepping outside of my comfort zone?

It was for the Dear Bully anthology that Megan Kelley Hall and I were doing with Harper Collins, so I couldn’t cop out or claim social anxiety disorder because it was for a good cause.

I am a sucker for good.

Unknown-1

Anyway, I was totally out of my previously-mentioned comfort zone and the whole time that I was panicking and thinking, “Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I have to wear make-up. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. People are going to see my picture. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I have to wear clothes that do not belong to me.”

Really, it’s true. You wear clothes that are not yours at these things. So, I was kind of thinking I’d get to wear something glammy because it is GLAMOUR MAGAZINE, and it was basically my one shot to be actually glamorous.

Yeah.

That didn’t happen.

Since they did the shoot in Maine, they wanted it to reflect Maine culture and I guess holding dead lobsters in our hands and swigging Allen’s Coffee Brandy while wearing moose hats was out of the question.

So the next best thing they could think of was…

Yeah,  it was basically …. um….

LL Bean.

Someday, I swear, I’ll be glammy. Really. I will. It’s on my bucket list.

Grover: I am on a cow. That was on the bucket list of me, Grover, and I managed to do it fabulously and glamorously, don’t I? 

Yes, I know Grover. You did.

But the point here is that if you are brave and you say ‘yes’ to things that are TOTALLY OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE? Well, good things could happen. You can wear make-up and random clothes from L.L. Bean. Or you can be on the radio at WERU like I was this week. I got to talk to the amazing Brook Mining, who is a rock star librarian and radio host. The hour-long show is archived here if you feel like listening to it.

AND IF YOU EVER have to do a photo shoot with Glamour, do NOT be scared because the people are so awesome and nice and kind and patient. It’s amazing. I fell in love with all of them. They were just that cool.

To find out more about DEAR BULLY check it out here.

 

And since it’s Mother’s Day in the U.S. this weekend and I am without a mother, here’s a quick shout-out to my mom who tried so hard in a world that was always pushing her down. She was amazing. I miss her.

577276

Writing News

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

 

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,

I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs

Easy First Steps to Marketing Your Books from Marvel and Me

It’s hard for a lot of traditionally-published writers to think of writing as a business.  Like self-published writers, we think of writing as craft. We’re compelled to create it, to tell stories, and then we’re inspired to share those stories. But the thing is that we sometimes forget that we need to make money to do things like have food, shelter, coffee products, and to pay medical bills.

This can be a problem.

We avoid marketing because marketing seems? Anti-craft somehow? I’m not sure. But it isn’t. Marketing is really just about getting people to read the books we’ve created. We write stories as communication. Marketing is making sure there is just someone out there to communicate with, right?

Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
big mountain!

I tell this story a lot because it really struck me. I was a speaker at a Rotary International training. There were a ton of wealthy, successful men in suits. I started to introduce myself and I cringed when I said, “I’m a NYT and internationally bestselling author. That always feels weird to say like I’m bragging.”

And this older gentlemen said, “There is no money in modesty, Carrie. Be proud of that.”

And I paused.

And my brain hiccuped.

Because that line is sort of antithetical to who I am. I don’t go out into the world trying to horde money like Smaug or raise massive amounts of money like certain politicians, but I am super psyched to sell books and be able to buy dinner and feed the dogs fake bacon.

But what really matters from that guy’s sentence is that I use my modesty and self-deprecation to my own detriment. Instead of allowing my story to be out there, I sort of hide from the moments of my success. Why is that? That’s the real question. Because it doesn’t just hold back me. It holds back my books and my ability to buy ice-cream cones for the dogs.

Here’s the thing: 

It’s okay to be glad to not be sleeping in a car. It’s okay to own your success. It’s even better when you use that success as a tool to help other people get there, too? Right? Modesty is lovely. I have big issues with braggarts. But it’s okay to know that you, yourself, have done some cool things. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do better or more or that other people can’t too.

Marketing is about one thing. It’s about caring.

cutie face Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
cutie face

 

So, Here are the First Three Tips on How to Successfully Market Your Book.

Spoiler alert: They have nothing to do with marketing.

 

Make the Best Product

That’s right. Your book is a product. It’s what you’re selling and/or your publisher is selling so you want to make the best book that you can. This is easier said than done.

You have to be willing to put in the work and not be inpatient to get it out there.

 

Let Trust-Worthy, Skilled People Help You

For some people that means editors at a publishing house, agents, critique groups. For some people that means teachers at MFA programs or places like The Writing Barn. But the key is trust – you have to trust their advice and you have to trust yourself to know when that advice isn’t all that.

 

Know What Has Worked in the Past, but Also Move Forward

There’s this weird trend in publishing called the “Writer, You’ve Done That Before” rejection, that as a business person? I can’t get my head around. If you’ve written a similar book, but your readers want more of that? Why not give it to them?

Marvel has this down, man. They have movie after movie about the same superheroes, expanding their universes, connecting them, but following a really similar pattern. One of the keys to the company’s success is that they know what their audience reacts to in their stories:

  1. Humor – deadpan, often flippant
  2. Big Fight Scenes
  3. Some emotional resonance
  4. High stakes
  5. Relatable protagonists.

So, know what your audience reacts to in your stories. Don’t be a big trope, but know what they like.

Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
cap

In an interview with Nina Pipkin of Entrepreneur Marvel’s director of content and character development, Sana Amanat says, “When you want to make content that is meaningful, I think you have to try to not look at the big statement, but try to go as small as possible. Try to go down to the nitty gritty of who that singular character is — what they want, what they’re afraid of and what their challenges are. What are the elements that really make them a human being? What are the elements that make them relatable? Or even, what are those elements that make the audience angry with them? You really need to make the audience connect with that character.”

The best marketing comes from writing the best stories and characters that you can.

The next steps for marketing your books?

Have a website. 

Pick a couple social media platforms and post on them.

Don’t just post READ MY BOOK/BUY MY BOOK. Post about whatever interests you other than your book.

  1. Do occasionally post READ MY BOOK/BUY MY BOOK. I totally forget to do this, honestly. I’m too busy posting about other people accidentally spitting into my mouth and my skirt falling down.
  2. Be visual.
  3. Do video if you can.

    Care about the people who communicate with you

    1. People don’t want to be ignored. If someone reaches out to you in an email, on social media, communicate back. Not only is it the nice thing to do, it helps you make friends. Readers are real people. Treat them like it.
    2. Seriously.
    3. Remember you aren’t God. You are a human with emotions and flaws and so are the people taking time out of their day to talk to you. Honor that. Honor them.

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,

I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.