Writing Tip Wednesday Scene Structure is Sexy

A lot of times we fiction writers get a little (cough) a lot obsessed with character, which makes sense, right? Characters are sexy. They’re these fake humans that we get to do our biding in a plot of our choosing. It’s a very dominant place for us writers to be.

But sometimes we get so obsessed with our characters and their emotions and dialogue and action and setting that we forget the very basics of writing, which is…

Scenes.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot from people about their scene worries, which includes the all-star lineup of questions:

  • Is this a scene?
  • Where does my scene end?
  • What the heck even is a freaking scene?

For theater people, a scene is when the story’s action happens in one setting. Theater people have it easy that way.

The best way to think of it is to remember that scenes

  • Can be super long or incredibly short.
  • Can actually shift settings, but this is complicated.
  • Have no real rules.

Sorry! Sorry! Those lack of rules, don’t help sometimes. It might be better to look at it this way?

What is the purpose of a scene?

According to the Novelist’s Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld:

  • Helps the plot journey on.
  • Shows conflict
  • “Develop a particular character by highlighting a specific trait or action.”
  • “Create Suspense.”

We all know that sexy rockstar scenes do more than one of those things at a time. These scenes become ‘moments’ that we remember. Elliot and ET on the bicycle riding up the hill on the dark night. Luke fighting Darth Vadar and the line, “I am your father.” Spock and Kirk when Spock is in that chamber and Kirk is on the other side and Spock’s about to die in a sacrifice to save the crew but Kirk can’t hold him or do anything for him and it’s so sad!

Sorry. That one gets me.

Jack and Rose at the front of the Titanic, arms open to the wind. Maria singing in the field in the Sound of Music. Dorothy telling Toto that she doesn’t think they’re in Kansas anymore.

Those moments? They matter.

When it comes to scene length

Obstfeld has great advice about scene length, which I’m going to paraphrase here.

Go Short When:

You’re dumping information that is about plot or about technical world-building stuff.

Setting is the point

It’s erotic

Go Long When

It’s a conversation that shows character.

It’s emotional.

Suspense is what’s going on.

Last Advice

Don’t forget the power of moment in your story. It’s one of the key things that makes a book break-out and transcend the others. That’s because of the power of the scene, where character, plot, emotion, image and setting combine to make something truly pop.

*Pop in a good way, not like a tick. Although, I guess when ticks pop that’s sort of good, right?


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

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

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

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

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I’m going to launch my Patreon site where I’ll be reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more.

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

WHAT IS PATREON? 

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

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


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

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


BE A PART OF THE PODCAST!

Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!

No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?

Here is the link to the mobile app and our bonus podcast below.

ART.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

Bar Harbor Art Carrie Jones Welcome to Magic
Bar Harbor Art Carrie Jones Welcome to Magic

TIME STOPPERS!

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.

Time Stoppers Carrie Jones Middle grade fantasy

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is My-Post-copy-6.jpg

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere. It’s fun, accessible science fiction. Who knew there was such a thing?

31702754 copy
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Seven funky ways to start your novel

I’m super lucky to not only be writing my own stories, but I’m mentoring a high school student right now who is an awesome human. This week, we talked a lot about how we get blocked when we’re starting a story, which got me thinking.

Spoiler: Me thinking is not necessarily a good thing.

Darcy Pattison has some great tips on her blog, but because I am easily bored I like to take things and switch them around. You should definitely check out her blog, but before you do, here are my evil takes on the ways to start a novel.

And instead I am giving you my hot takes from an excellent article from Jacob Appel for Writers Digest.

Grand Philosophical B.S.

This is a big philosophical statement that your novel eventually will affirm. Like Jane Hamilton’s The Book of Ruth: “What it begins with, I know finally, is the kernel of meanness in people’s hearts.”

Or, you know…

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a bag of Doritos must be in want of a napkin or at least a paper towel.

Thank you, Tolstoy

Stating a Fact Like You are the Goddess of Facts

Klems explains this as, “The entire weight of the narrative can sometimes be conveyed in a single statement” and shows us the lovely example via Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, “It was a pleasure to burn”

Or, you know. . .

Dogs like to poop.

Carrie Jones

Making a Nice Little Fact Couple

Put two facts together for a one-two punch.

“In our town there were two bags of Doritos, and they were always hanging together near some dog poop.”

Thank you, Carson McCullers and Me

A Fact That Gets All Self-Important

Yes, a fact can become significant later on and you the author show that in your opening line. Like if I was doing this for my next book IN THE WOODS, I’d write:

Chrystal spent every summer with her dad looking for monsters that weren’t supposed to exist.

Me again because it’s my blog

Being All About Voice Like You’re Singers or Something

Jacob M. Appel writes, “Stories that begin with a highly unusual voice often withhold other craft elements for a few sentences—a reasonable choice, as the reader may need to adjust to a new form of language before being able to absorb much in the way of content.”

“Dude, if you touch those Doritos prepare to die.”

Me because I am hungry right now.

Something sexy that creates a mood

This is sometimes a big world view. It can be a line that sounds like a poem. It resonates through its word choice and sound. Plath is a good example, so let me ruin it.

It was a cold, frozen winter, the winter they poisoned all the Doritos, and I didn’t know what I was doing still in America eating processed snack food.

I apologize Sylvia

Being Super Obvious

Sometimes storytellers start their stories by saying that they are telling a story. I guess this happens if they feel like the person that’s reading a book forgets that it’s actually a book? Maybe? I’m not sure. Experts call this ‘framing a story.’ I call it ‘speaking down to the reader.’

Yo, reader, let me inform you that you are about to read a story entitled I AM WRITING A DAMN FINE STORY, written by me, a damn fine writer.

I now sort of want to write this story. STOP ME!


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

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

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

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

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I’m going to launch my Patreon site where I’ll be reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more.

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

WHAT IS PATREON? 

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

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


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

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


BE A PART OF THE PODCAST!

Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!

No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?

Here is the link to the mobile app and our bonus podcast below.

ART.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

Bar Harbor Art Carrie Jones Welcome to Magic
Bar Harbor Art Carrie Jones Welcome to Magic

TIME STOPPERS!

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.

Time Stoppers Carrie Jones Middle grade fantasy

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is My-Post-copy-6.jpg

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere. It’s fun, accessible science fiction. Who knew there was such a thing?

31702754 copy

Big Foot and Me and Being Afraid of Success

I wanted to find him.


Every day, I’d rush through my homework, gobble up left-over stuffing and head to the woods in my backyard.

Then I’d be incredibly quiet.

I was hunting. I didn’t have a gun. I was one of those kids who read Charlotte’s Web and became a vegetarian because well, how could you eat Wilbur? My vegetarianism was strict, and I knew when my mom tried to pass off Ragu’s meat sauce as the green pepper and onion variety. 

“You need protein!” She’d throw up her hands in disgust. “Protein!”

I scoffed at protein. I was Super Carrie, Vegetarian Girl. No mere mortal, was I. I ate no meat, propelled by 10-year-old righteous indignation, moral outrage, and a love for all pigs and cows and various other barnyard animals, like my Uncle Kilton. 

My vegetarianism was only lifted for my daily nibble of Stove Top Stuffing. You know the slogan, It’s better than potatoes. It was. It was! Sure, it had chicken flavoring in it, but I reasoned that the chicken flavoring couldn’t possibly come from real chickens.

Right?

Fortified by stuffing, I’d head to the woods, trying to walk with quiet, rolling my feet inwards as I stepped in a straight line like a fox. The wind whipped my hair. The maple leaves fell down. The cars on the highway zipped by. I ignored them all. I was on a quest.

I was hunting Big Foot. 

Yes, Big Foot, the man-beast of the Washington woods, solitary hirsute Sasquatch. I, Carrie Barnard, would find him in my backyard in Bedford, N.H. I would find him and … and … and… 

Then what? I wondered.

Then, we would be friends. 

Coming back from Pioneer Girls at the Calvary Baptist Church with Katie Henderson and her mom one Friday night, we turned into my driveway, just as something big and covered with fur slipped into the woods by the garage.


“Did you see that?” I whispered to Katie.


“What?” She sat upright, pigtails whipping her face. “Was it Jesus?”

Katie always hoped to spot Jesus. She wanted the second coming to come already. She was tired of homework and was positive there was no homework in Heaven.


I wasn’t that optimistic. If Jesus did come down would it get me out of my book report on Witch of Blackbird Pond? God would probably make me do that book report, and a character study for added fun. 


“No,” I hissed. “It wasn’t Jesus. I think I saw Big Foot.”

Katie rolled her eyes, and scratched at her hand. “Yeah, right.”

“No. Really. He jumped in the woods.”

Mrs. Henderson parked. 

“Yeah, you saw Big Foot. Just like you saw that U.F.O,” Katie snickered. 

Pow! She struck low, Katie did. 

I shuddered and thought, Oh, not the U.F.O. mention!

One tiny mistake and I was forever known as the Girl Who Thinks Airplanes With Light Up Banners Advertising Radio Stations Are U.F.O.’s. 

“This wasn’t an airplane,” I said, opening the station wagon door.

“It was probably your stepfather,” Katie said.

“He’s not that hairy.”

Mrs. Henderson rolled down her window and I thanked her for the ride. 

“Remember to pray tonight, and that’s all the thanks I need,” she said.

She tooted the horn. I steamed. How dare that woman? She was scaring my Big Foot. 

I will prove them Wrong!

Determined to prove Katie wrong, I searched daily. I prowled secret short-cuts, climbed trees for better views, searched for tracks. I’d creep, hoping to sneak up on him. I’d sprint, leaping over dead falls, slopping through muck, hoping to startle him out. Mud slopped on the bottom of my corduroys. Water seeped into my Adidas sneakers. 

Far ahead of me in the murky forest, trees beckoned, taunting me. The teasing fee-bee-bee-bee of the Eastern Phoebe broke the air. Then …a snuffling noise, a lower growl. Something primal rumbled in front of me. It was not the noise of a hoppity rabbit, or a sweet deer who’d lost his mother.

It was not the noise of a Disney movie.

Another growl broke the air and I did what every fearless explorer does when faced with the possible object of pursuit. I ran.

I will forever regret this decision.

I was so close to potentially seeing Big Foot or at least a black bear, but what did I do? I ran away. And I think I’ve (cough) done this with multiple things in my life.

Sometimes we run away from success and there’s a reason why that is. Success means change. Failure means more of the same. Change is the unknown. It is the growl in the woods. It can be scary not knowing what will happen in our lives.

When we succeed we influence more people. There’s a responsibility that goes along with that.

When we succeed there are new pressures to deal with. Some are societal. Some might be financial. Some might just be how our personalities shift to deal with this new situation. That can be scary.

But the thing is? If Big Foot is out there, we have to step forward to meet her/him.


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

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

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

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

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I’m going to launch my Patreon site where I’ll be reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more.

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

WHAT IS PATREON? 

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

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


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

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


BE A PART OF THE PODCAST!

Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!

No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?

Here is the link to the mobile app and our bonus podcast below.

ART.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

Bar Harbor Art Carrie Jones Welcome to Magic
Bar Harbor Art Carrie Jones Welcome to Magic

TIME STOPPERS!

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.

Time Stoppers Carrie Jones Middle grade fantasy

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is My-Post-copy-6.jpg

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere. It’s fun, accessible science fiction. Who knew there was such a thing?

31702754 copy

Mushy Dialogue Sucks

There. I said it.

Mushy dialogue sucks. It’s nothing space in your story and sometimes it’s nothing space in your life. You know what I’m talking about, right? You meet some cool human at a coffee house and talk to them and it goes like this:

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“How’s it shaking?”

“It’s shaking well, thank you.”

“Yeah. Weather is nice, right?”

“It’s quite sunny.”

“Cool.”

“Yes, it’s lovely.”

Random bad dialogue that I just made up

One of my writers in the Writing Barn class that I’m teaching for the next six months, directed me to a blog post about the Five Biggest Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them and one of those mistakes according to James Scott Bell is marshmallow dialogue.

Bell believes that dialogue is one of the best ways to make a story better or make it absolute trash. He advocates fast-paced dialogue full of tension. Blah dialogue he says is ‘puffy,’ and ‘overly sweet,’ and everyone sounds the same no matter who is speaking.

Bell kindly gives hints about how to make characters sound different from one another.

Those include:

  • Making documents written solely in one character’s voice.
  • Keep working on it until every character sounds different and you can distinguish them at a glance (I added that)
  • Make sure there is tension going on. What do people want? Why are they talking? Do they want the same thing?
  • Make your dialogue simpler. Get rid of extra words. You can cut and copy dialogue into another document and then hack away at it.

He uses the following example of compressed dialogue.

“Mary, are you angry with me?” John asked.

“You’re damn straight I’m mad at you,” Mary said.

“But why? You’ve got absolutely no reason to be!”

“Oh but I do, I do. And you can see it in my face, can’t you?”

The alternative:

“You angry with me?” John asked.

“Damn straight,” Mary said.

“You got no reason to be!”

Mary felt her hands curling into fists.

Bell’s example

I’m annoying and I send my apologies to Mr. Bell, but that example is wonderful at compressing dialogue, but those people? They still sound the same to me. In the first example, they both sound like middle class people who are having a hard time expressing their feelings. In the second example, they sound like people who are expressing their feelings in exactly the same way and are probably are still the same social/economic/education background.

Look at what happens if you keep one character’s original lines and one character’s new lines.

“Mary, are you angry with me?” John asked.
“Damn straight,” Mary said.
“But why? You’ve got absolutely no reason to be!”
Mary’s hands curled into fists.

Or….

“You angry with me?” John asked.

“You’re damn straight I’m mad at you,” Mary said.

“But why? You have absolutely no reason to be?”


Mary’s hands curled into fists.

Revision

I’d argue that’s even better. For more about how language and dialogue changes with the speakers, check out our Dogs are Smarter than People podcast from last year. And good luck with your dialogue!

Links that go with the podcast (the important words are here and here.




HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

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


BE A PART OF THE PODCAST!

Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!

No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?

Here is the link to the mobile app and our bonus podcast below.

WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

ART.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

Bar Harbor Painting Schooner
Bar Harbor Painting Schooner

TIME STOPPERS!

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.

Time Stoppers Carrie Jones Middle grade fantasy

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is My-Post-copy-6.jpg

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere.

31702754 copy

Miso Mushroom Soup of Magic

Print Recipe
Miso Mushroom Soup of Happiness
This is delicious. #theend
Magic Miso Mushroom Soup Recipe
Course Main Dish, soup
Cuisine vegetarian
Keyword miso
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 0 minutes
Servings
normal people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish, soup
Cuisine vegetarian
Keyword miso
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 0 minutes
Servings
normal people
Ingredients
Magic Miso Mushroom Soup Recipe
Instructions
  1. Put that broth in a saucepan and boil it.
  2. Realize you call it saucepain instead of sauce pan. There are deep reasons for this, aren't there? I mean YOU BOIL THINGS IN THERE! That seems violent. So does chopping things. Why is cooking so violent? When will the broth boil so you can stop thinking and start doing? AGHHHHH!!!!
  3. Once the broth boils, stop thinking and start doing! Feel relieved and add the mushrooms. Turn it to low. Thank the mushrooms for their service and sacrifice.
  4. Simmer four minutes. Try not to think about books, plots, reviews, agents who don't email back, other writers, or anything.
  5. Do not cry because the mushrooms gave their life to be your soup. Do not make this into a picture book or a poem. Just cook.
  6. Stir miso paste and soy sauce together so it's mixed and then add it to the sauce of pain. Add the tofu too. Cook one more minute
  7. You are done! What? THAT WAS SO FAST! Celebrate by pouring the soup into something you eat out of. Add the green onions.

I found this recipe on All Recipes by someone mysteriously known only as Claudia. I owe a lot to the mysterious Claudia because this is my new favorite recipe.

Man Verdict: I thought this was going to be disgusting, but this is one of my favorite soups ever.

My Verdict: Me too!

Dog Verdict: WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO EAT THIS! LIFE IS SO UNFAIR! PLEASE PASS THE DOG BISCUITS, STAT!

Help Us and Do An Awesome Good Deed

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!

WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

ART.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mockup-8408a5d6.jpg

TIME STOPPERS!

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.

Time Stoppers Carrie Jones Middle grade fantasy

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is My-Post-copy-6.jpg

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them hereor anywhere.

31702754 copy

WRITING COACH

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

Changing the World. You can do it, too. How Rotary and Writers Make Stories for Good

What does it mean to find story? And what are the key elements to success as a writer and Rotarian?

This is the speech I give to Rotarians when they ask me for an inspiring speech versus straight-up public image training. 

I’m sharing it here because:

  1. I think more than Rotarians should hear it.
  2. I don’t know how often I’ll get to give it.
  3. It’s important to me.

Since 2007, I’ve traditionally published about 15 books, including an anti-bullying anthology, an internationally and NYT bestselling series, and medal-winners. I’ve learned a few things about story since then and I’ve learned a lot of things about people. One of the things I’ve learned is that:

Rotary and Writing Kids Books Have a Lot in Common. 

Why?

Because we are both telling stories and we are both using those stories to make a better world, to build connection and community

So how did I get published? How does anyone get published? That’s a big question people always ask. I quit my job as the editor of the Ellsworth Weekly, went to VCFA to get a master’s degree, a year later submitted my first book to an editor I knew nothing about other than he seemed super cool, and got lucky. 

But it’s about more than that.

It’s about content, craft and contacts

Content is what you want to say

Craft is how well you say it

Contacts are the final step of getting it out there in the world. And everyone is hyper focused on that step, but it’s the least important one. What matters is Character, Plot, Theme, Process, Beginnings, Middles and Ends. 

And that’s pretty much it. Have something to say. Work on saying it well. Send it out into the world. Cross your fingers. 

But writing is truly bigger than that, and deeper than that and it reminds me a lot of Rotary. 

The purpose of writing is to tell a story for motivation and engagement. It’s your purpose as a Rotarian

You look into this world, the one we are living in now,

Beyond our walls, beyond our borders

Within our walls, within our borders

And you know that the incredible exists

Incredible hate

Incredible love.

Incredible need.

And we sit here, the creations of this world of love, this world of pain and hate, of guns and bombs, of poets and artists and Rotarians

And our hearts scream for goodness

And our brains long for logic

And ours and others bodies break and mend and break again.

We are the creation of the world of stories around us, a world of the incredible.

And our children are too.

And This leads to more questions and wonderings about both the people we work with and About ourselves

What does it mean to find story when you are the one who is oppressed?

What does it mean to find story when you are the one who is barely surviving in your own life?

When your mother cries to sleep every night because she can’t find a job, pay bills, fix the furnace. 

What does it mean to find a story full of magic when you are dying for magic in your own life?

When your body doesn’t work the way other kids’ bodies work? When your body gets used in ways it is not supposed to be used? 

When people make fun of your clothes, your sex, your gender, the way you say your s’s, the shade of your skin, the curl in your hair, your last name, your first name, the way you see letters backwards, the way you see or don’t see at all, the way you learn, the way you love?

What does it mean when there are these stories out there – these magical truths – these enchanted people and places when you are just barely managing to survive? 

It means there are tiny life lines. 

It means there are little pieces of help. 

That’s what Rotary’s story is and that is what children’s books are about. 

Story is powerful. We’ve know that for forever.

Books are burned and banned because people fear them. 

Books are powerful because they are (as Ben Howard sings) information wrapped up in empathy, they are reflections of our world as it is, how it was and how it should be.

And people fear that. 

The world of fantasy is a world within books and without and the evil creatures that kids meet in these books? 

The only difference for some of them? 

The only difference is one is on the page and one is in their house. 

The only difference is one is in a book and one is in their street, their church, their classroom, their playground.

Monsters and heroes are everywhere. Fantasy novels just make those monsters and heroes bigger, the stakes seem higher when you are fighting a dark wizard or the god of war. 

Books and Rotary offers hope. They show us that there are other ways of living. There are lives and worlds greater than our own and if these lives can imagined, what does it mean about our own lives? It means we can reimagine our lives, too. 

My father was the truck driving son of a communist stock broker.

As a toddler, my father stood on the streets of Staten Island passing out political pamphlets that he couldn’t read. People spat on him for views he could not even read. They threw his pamphlets in puddles, in horse excrement in his face.

He never made it past fourth grade.

He was the smartest man I ever knew. 

He could read people’s souls, understand their stories, their sorrows and explain to you about quantum mechanics.

But he thought he was dumb.

All his life.

Because he couldn’t read. 

Sometimes, I get so sad because I think of all the things he could have become if he could read a bit better.

Knowledge Empowers Us to Want to Help

That knowledge only makes me want to work harder for all the kids I write for. I want them to have the ability and story that my dad didn’t get to enjoy

And that knowledge, I know, does the same to you. 

The thing about Rotarians and writers is that we can’t be “contained.”

We have to sing out our stories, sing out our advocacy, give voice to the powerless, because our hearts… our hearts won’t let us be quiet.

We are the people who protect the enchanted, until they can protect themselves. 

We are the ones who say – You are the girl in the story who will one day save this world. We say –  you are the boy who will rid us of the monster beneath the bed. 

It’s our responsibility. We must lift as we climb. We must lift as we teach. We must lift as we write and as we live and as we flip pancakes.

It doesn’t always happen that way

I was in the 7th grade, when a teacher told me,

“Carrie, you will never become anything with those s’s. Nobody will ever take you seriously because of those s’s. Nobody will ever hire. Nor love a girl who sounds like you.”

He made me afraid of my own voice.

He took away my heart. He took away my story.

A writer’s job is to build worlds for children that reflect possibility and magic. We are to make the best worlds we possibly can, piece by piece, word by word, symbol by symbol.

We are to put our souls in them. So that the kids can grab on and soar. If the boy wizard can survive. So can I. If the girl can stop time. So can I. 

So can I. 

Kids need to know that there is darkness around them, that this world is incredible, but that they are enchanted. That they can overcome what they need to overcome. That they can not only survive, but that they can light up the world with their magic. 

So can I.

So can they.

So can you.

Stories create potential outcomes. 

We have to expand worlds, not shrink them. We have to include and empower. We have to open our mind and our hearts as writers and teachers so that there are possibilities and hope. 

Let me tell you why I am a writer. I write because I want to make connections. I write to try to understand the world and help kids or adults understand it too. 

The Marathon

I went to the Boston Marathon to cheer on my friend Lori who was running to raise money to fight cancer the year of the bomb. I walked and set up for taking pictures. I didn’t expect to see Lori for an hour, so I hung out with some people from New Jersey, talked to some cops. I took some pictures and kept wondering if I should walk the rest of the route to get ready for when Lori crossed the finish line. Logically, I knew I should, but my gut kept me back. One of my friends called, and as we talked the first explosion went off.

“What was that?” he said.

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

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

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

So, I turned around. I regret that now. I don’t know how I could have helped. I am not a trained emergency medical technician. I regret that, too.

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

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

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

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

I gave away my coat. I passed around my phone.

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

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

She cocked her head. “What? No? How?”

That was the question: How? We knew by then that it was probably a bomb, and the hows of making a bomb are easy, but the ‘how could you” is a harder question. 

“How?” she kept saying. “How?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I was feeling thankful, a man in front of me went down on his knees on the sidewalk. It looked like he was praying, but he was really sobbing. We all stopped walking. People pat his back. People murmured things. He stood up and we kept walking again. We walked and walked and gradually the crowd thinned, and gradually the sobs lessened.

Life is about connections. 

As writers, we know that we have to connect with our readers. We have to make them care about the characters’ stories. 

And Rotary was built on that need for connection and the need to do good together. 

But the question is, how do we make those connections, those positive connections? Talking about Polio isn’t going to work for everyone.

We make connections by embracing and protecting the enchanted.  We do it by taking chances, by caring, by looking into the eyes of our readers or the people we’re giving wheelchairs to and seeing that spark, that magic, that hope that is there despite this world of the incredible.

We do it by giving ourselves to other Rotarians, readers, people we’re helping, over and over again and expecting nothing in return. 

But we always get something in return – We get connections.

It’s because of those connections and hope that I’m a Rotarian and why I am a writer. It is the only reason that I don’t quit either of those things. 

Content is what you want to say. What does Rotary want to say? What do the clubs want to say?

Craft is how well you say it. How do we help them to say these things? In Toronto, it’s about billboards. In small town Maine? Not so much. It’s about local people and friends inspiring others locally and doing good. 

Contacts are the final step of getting it out there in the world and here we can improve too. But not via email streams and unmotivating newsletters. Not if we want millennials. Not if we want young professionals. 

Our job is to tell the stories, make the stories, protect the Enchanted and realize that the Enchanted our sometimes ourselves.

We can’t give up. Why? Because the world needs good stories when all it hears is bad.


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!


BE A PART OF THE PODCAST!

Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!

No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?

Here is the link to the mobile app.

WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

ART.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

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TIME STOPPERS!

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.

Time Stoppers Carrie Jones Middle grade fantasy

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.

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FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them hereor anywhere.

31702754 copy

WRITING COACH

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

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

THERE ARE ONLY TWO SPOTS LEFT AND SIGN-UP ENDS JANUARY 18TH.

So 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.

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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

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People Laugh At Me. All the time. Writing and Structure and MINI Coopers and Big Packages

Sometimes you have to be flexible.

All my adult life I had wanted a MINI Cooper and I totally got one in 2009, which was awesome and amazing. The MINI itself was cute and small and huggable. Yes, my car was huggable. I hugged it a lot. Do not judge.

However, one day at the post office right around this time of year, I realized that there are certain issues that come with buying a MINI Cooper. I got my mail out of my po box and found a yellow slip that said I had a package.

I thought, “YAY PACKAGE!”

Okay, I actually said, “Yay package!” 

And some guy near me murmured, “That’s what she said.” 

Then he laughed and laughed and laughed. 

Moving on.

I was hoping that it was some sort of present for me, because I am like that. I like presents. A lot. Kind of like the kids in CHRISTMAS STORY. I am like that. Out of all the famous fictional characters out there, I am ashamed to admit that I am the most like Ralphie.  

Anyway, I went to the counter and the post office lady who was super nice said, “Oh, Carrie. You have a huge package. Can you come to the side door?”

So I squeed and people laughed and I went to the side door. And there was a package that was as big as me. 

“What is it?” I asked, thinking it was maybe a leg lamp or something. 

“It’s from Amazon,” she said. “Do you think you can carry it?”

And then I said, “Um….”

And then I said it again, “Um…”

And then she said to another nice post office lady who was pretty strapping looking, “Why don’t you bring it to door 4?”


This was the point where I realized:

  •  That it wasn’t a present for me. Inside the package were presents for this family that I heard about on the radio who needed help this winter. So, it was a couple comforters (Transformers and Disney) and dolls and Wow Wee Cubs, and an electric razor.
  •  That it definitely wasn’t a leg lamp.
  •  That it wasn’t food from Harry and David, which nobody sends me anymore. Sadness.
  • That it wasn’t going to be easy fitting it into my MINI.

So, I hopped out of the post office, into my MINI, drove the MINI to the back cargo door. The lady at the door started laughing.

“Oh man…” She grabbed her stomach. “Oh man… How are you going to fit that? Oh man…”

And the thing is… I already had the gear of my daughter Em and her best friend Belle who were both on the swim team crammed in the backseat and I had groceries in the trunk.

“Don’t laugh,” I ordered Laughing Post office Lady. People in the parking lot had now joined her. 

“No,” I begged, “Seriously…”

“It’s so ridiculous. Oh my gosh, honey. Hahahahaha,” she said.

Everyone just kept laughing, which was nice because they were happy, but it wasn’t really helping me out. 

And then I said, “Hey? Does anyone have a knife?”

At this point everyone stopped laughing because you can’t talk about weapons in public, but some wild-eyed, knife-owning man gave me his knife. I did not turn it on the laughers, I swear. Instead, I slit open the box, took out all the contents and crammed them into my back seat, earning semi-respectful glances from the laughers.

Problem Solved. 

This is why if someone wants to send me a leg lamp, it would be much better to send it to my home address.

Tying it all together. 

So that story reminded me of us writers drafting our stories. We think we’ve got it all figured out, that we have all the scenes ready and the plot perfect and then we realize that it doesn’t all fit. That we have to rethink things, jam them around, squish them together in different ways and sometimes dismantle things. 

Dismantling things can be scary, but sometimes it’s the only way to get everything to fit, right? Don’t be afraid to dismantle, to build something stronger. 


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

ART.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

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TIME STOPPERS!

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.

This book looks really large. 

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?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is My-Post-copy-6-300x300.jpg

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere.

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.

WRITING BARN

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 786d9806-f7ed-494b-83a4-a5c0d4d0ddee-300x300.jpg

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

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APPLY NOW!

The Guy Who Spat on Me & Why We Should Think

Today, I wrote on a friend’s Facebook page:  I am so sad.

And a man, who considers himself an ally wrote: I’m not sad. I’m angry.

Honestly? It made me so angry. His comment just basically pushed me to the edge because no matter what his intent, it was like he was one-upping my sorrow by expressing his man anger.

Yes, he is a liberal man. I tend to be liberal too, especially about social issues. And that’s part of what bothered me. I prefer it when people who think they are on my side don’t negate my sorrow with their anger. But I also prefer it when people think and speak in context and with empathy.

I’m editing this to add here that he didn’t intend to do this. I respect him a lot for saying that and appreciate it and his apology an incredible amount. So often results aren’t the same as intentions. Believe me. I know this personally and none of us are always perfect in how and when we state things or how and when we receive them. And when we mess up and hurt someone unintentionally? If you’re a good person, it hurts us so much, too. So much.

The times when I’ve hurt the most in my life have been when I’ve unintentionally hurt other people, but I always want to know when I’ve done that because that’s what helps me grow and hopefully not make that same mistake again.

Anyway, that seemingly small moment? It made me remember when I last ran for office and why I will never run for office again and the truth of it is this – People don’t think like I do. And even though I’m cool with that, it’s frustrating. Because I don’t believe in negating other people’s emotions in favor of my own. I don’t believe in creating a hierarchy of emotions or ‘correct responses.’ That’s not exactly what he did but as a survivor of violence, it’s what it felt like. He was trying to express solidarity, I think, but instead it made my voice/emotion feel unheard with that simple phrasing of “I’m not (what you are). I am this more powerful emotion.”

It is such a small thing. I know that.

Still, I am often voiceless and I felt like that again. It made me think of this:

Here’s a story about what happened to me back in 2008 when I was foolishly running for office.  I feel pretty naive about what I wrote then, but I’m posting it anyways. Because I feel foolishly naive today too, especially when I look at my Facebook feed and see community members screaming at each other in ALL CAPS and berating each other’s views.

Today I went to a house and the man put down his chainsaw ( I kid you not) and I gave him my material and said who I was and that I was running.

He looked at the card and said, “What party are you?”

I said, “My husband has always been a Republican and I’m a Democrat and we tend — ”

He stepped up to where he was three inches away from my face and shouted, “Get out of my NAUGHTY WORD driveway you NAUGHTY WORD democrat. You’ve NAUGHTY WORDED everything up.”

He was really close. His fists were clenched. His face was red. He looked like he was about to hit me.

Then he spat in my face. It went in my nostril. Seriously. I now have the worst case of cooties ever.

Plus, you know, the shakes.

Oh, he also threw my brochure at me. It hit me in the head. I used it to wipe away the spittle.

But mostly I was amazed by the hate. I truly believe that not all Democrats are the same, that not all Republicans or Greens or Libertarians are the same. I also truly believe that to assume all members of a political party have the exact same beliefs with the exact same intentions and the exact same nuances is a bigotry. There’s a lot of bigotry out there. I think this is one, too.

Mostly, though, I’m stunned that a man in my city (pop: 6,000) thinks it’s okay to swear at someone and spit at them just because of their political party.

Plus, one of my biggest wants is for their to be more bipartisanship and cooperation in our state legislature. You know… We all have the same goal, don’t we? To have a strong state, strong communities, good economies and good lives?

There is a lot of talk about what teen culture was like in the 1980s compared to now. There is a lot of talk about how hate is given free reign now. But the thing is? The hate has always been there. It was obviously there in 2008.

It was also there in 1992 when Pat Buchanan was running for the Republican nomination for president. At one of his rallies in Manchester, N.H., the men were tallying how many men each women in attendance would have to have sex with in order for every man to get laid. His campaign workers drove down the main drag of Manchester with bull horns and chanted, “We are the gay bashers. We bash gays.”

A date had brought me to the rally so I could “see what his candidate was like.” The same guy told me I’d be a good breeder because my skin is fair and my eyes are blue, but he was concerned by the narrowness of my hips.

I called my mom and she brought me home.

And the hate and the degragation of women and the disenfranchised continues now, obviously. It continues and continues and continues.

I’ve read a lot of comments about ‘boys will be boys’ and how the ‘culture of the 1980s’ was different, but I was talking to one of my favorite straight male friends yesterday and he said, “Yeah. No.”

“What do you mean? ‘Yeah. No?'”

And he said, “Look, I partied pretty hard right after high school and it was the 80s. This high school girl hung around with us for awhile and would get really drunk.”

I didn’t want to hear his story. I admit it. But I didn’t stop him. I listened.

And he told me that one night the girl was so drunk that she basically couldn’t stand up. He and his best friend carried her into a bedroom. She tried to get naked. She made passes at each of them. They wouldn’t touch her sexually. Instead, one of them slept on one side of the bed on the floor. The other one slept on the floor at the bottom of the bed.

“Why’d you do that?” I asked.

“Because we wanted to be good men. We wanted her to be safe, But we… we wanted to be good.”

Two white guys. The 1980s.

“I know everyone’s talking about ‘Sixteen Candles’ and using that scene as some sort of evidence that it was totally fine to rape your friends if they were drunk. It wasn’t,” he said. He sighed. “It’s ridiculous. There are scenes like that now in movies and books, comedy specials. But the thing is that if you are a good person, you know what’s right or what’s wrong. That’s always going to be wrong.”

I’ve just heard a similar story about a woman and two guys in their 20s. It happened just this summer. They were all wasted but they didn’t touch her and she didn’t touch them.

Why?

Because that’s what it is to be good.

No. We can’t all be perfect all the time, but there are some things, some important things, that we have to realize as a society aren’t right.

We don’t deserve to be spat on.

We don’t deserve to be told that our emotions don’t matter or to be one-upped on emotional responses.

We all deserve to be safe, to have rights, to be treated with kindness, to be with our loved ones whenever we can, to be respected for the things we do.

We all deserve to have the opportunity to try to be good.

None of us deserve to be afraid of cops, of men, of going to school or our religious institutions, or our own home. But to get there? We have to march into where we are different, where we don’t all think alike or act alike. We have to explore our own wounds and listen to others when they tell their stories.

Being sad, crying, feeling emotions isn’t a weakness. It’s a gift and a strength. And we’ve got to use it to embrace others and to look into the corners of ourselves where we can grow and evolve. All of us.

Sadness is just as valid an emotion as anger and vice versa. But you know what my favorite emotion is? It’s love. And hope? It’s first runner-up. Let’s all try to remember those things to even as we feel our sorrow and anger and pain.

 

Writing Tip Wednesday: Objective Correlatives. Show me. Don’t tell me, baby.

How do you write emotions without showing?

It’s hard not to just write:

Her heart sped up.

She felt scared. 

Her stomach clenched.

Because that’s a pretty easy and simple way to do it, right? And you are a writer, trying to hold an entire world together, why not occasionally let yourself be simple?

Well, because you want to be the best writer you can be. That’s why.

One of the tools authors like us can use is the magical Objective Correlative, which is a super fancy name, honestly. So just using it at a writer’s conference is going to give you pretentious writer points. Score!

But what actually is it?

It’s “a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”

That’s according to Washington Allston, who along with T.S. Eliot gets most of the credit for the term. If you can somehow splice that into your conversation, you’ll get even more pretentious points, I kid you not.

So, the object or the event shows the characters’ feelings to the reader. Instead of the character herself announcing loudly to the world, “I feel like poop.”

There are four main ways that you can use the objective correlative.

1. It’s an actual object.

You’re watching the Glass Menagerie and you’re like – “Oh. That represents something to the main character and her psychological state.”

In  To The Lighthouse, it’s the lighthouse.

Here’s an example I just made up: 

I perch on the edge of the picnic table by the camper, staring at the dirt splashed up against the cooler from the last rain storm, marring the blue plastic with a big, brown splatter. I can’t stare at it without remembering Tala. Somebody’s big black diesel truck rumbles by on the gravel campground road, not faster than 5 mph because those are the rules. It takes so long for anyone to get anywhere at all.

2. It’s a metaphor.

Martine Leavitt used the forest in Keturah and Lord Death to show Keturah’s feelings and psychological state.

3. It’s a description of the world that shows your character’s mood.

That’s pretty self explanatory, right? Here’s an example from a story that I haven’t published yet.

The birds tap at the kitchen window with tiny beaks. They hover there above the azalea bush and the still-to-bloom tiger lilies, wings wide open, eyes staring inside at where my mom and I bustle around the kitchen. They smack and caw and coo. There are seagulls, pigeons, crows, a couple of hummingbirds, a few owls, robins, blue jays, finches, doves and a random eagle tonight. All of them coexisting in some sort of peaceful bird truce. All of them watching us.

4. It’s a whole chain of events that set the feelings of the characters without actually saying the feelings of the character.

This one is a bit harder to explain. Here’s an example from one of my unpublished stories (yet).

The ocean is a little choppy, the dark blue of it capped by white waves that rush to shore like trains determined to get to a destination no matter what is in their way. The clouds sparkle above the water, puffy promises of happy things, but under the surface?

I lean forward, staring at those white caps, and for a second it almost seems as if I can see bodies just beneath the surface, hands reaching up and out of the water for help. There’s a man. There’s…It looks like me.

So, I don’t say how she’s feeling during this sequence of events and observations, but by the end of it,  it’s pretty obvious that she’s a bit freaked out.

WRITING NEWS

I’m in Montreal this week and then, Freeport, Maine Sept. 28 and then Houston and Virginia Beach pretty soon to promote my picture book biography of Moe Berg. It’s called The Spy Who Played Baseball. 

My Post copy 6

 

ENHANCED, the follow-up to FLYINGis here! And it’s out of this world.

 

The last TIME STOPPERS BOOKis out and I love it. You should buy it.

Timestoppers3_005

How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

Art Stuff

You can buy prints of my art here. Thank you so much for supporting my books and me. I hope you have an amazing day.

I was Nominated for Woman of the Year and My Heart is Hitching All Over the Place

My heart hitched yesterday.

This email came that I was nominated for the local YWCA’s woman of the year. I stared at it.

And stared at it.

And stared.

I know this might not be a big deal to some people, but me? I flipped out.

It had been a weird rollercoaster day. I signed with a new agent of awesome. I traced down the smell of dog poop to Gabby’s front paw and managed to pry the smooshed and stuck poop out of those giant doggy paw pads five minutes before I had to go lead a Rotary club meeting.

It was disgusting. I had to bleach floors.

I made a resume.

I ran a meeting.

I did all my writing work.

I figured out what I was going to say at a breakfast Rotary meeting the next day that started at 7 a.m. and was three hours away.

I cleaned a toilet.

But that email? It kept resonating.

That email meant something big inside of me – something so big that I couldn’t even talk about it for 24 hours.

“People can nominate women of all ages who make a difference in this community,” said Jackie Davidson, executive director of YWCA MDI. “You can nominate anonymously as well. We want as many women as possible to be recognized for what they do to make our community a better place.”

Make the community a better place.

That email made my heart hitch, the same way that selling my first piece of art made my heart hitch. I know I won’t win and that’s totally fine. Someone awesome will. But the thing is.. someone thought I deserved this.

That means so much to me.

Why it means so much

I grew up poor.

There’s no getting around that.

My mom tried really hard to pretend we weren’t poor. She tried to hide it from everyone, including my much older brother and sister who grew up 15 years earlier than me in a  much nicer working class reality. But when I came around we were poor.

My nana stood in food lines to get us commodity cheese because my mom wouldn’t do it herself because she was too ashamed. Credit card companies and collection agencies would call constantly. I was taught early on to lie on the phone when I answered it and say my mom wasn’t home if it wasn’t my sister or one of my aunts calling.

We had a typewriter, not a word processor, not a computer. Every time I had to get clothes, I’d feel full of guilt. It didn’t help when one of my older siblings taunted me for my quirky style. Goodwill sometimes makes you have a quirky style.

As a child, we would go to my wealthy uncle and aunt’s house for gatherings with their friends. Their friends were senators and doctors, people who worked for WHO, people who helped create the measles vaccine, documentary filmmakers who headed AIDS awareness efforts. I remember looking at their fancy clothes and listening to them and being both inspired and terrified.  They placed napkins in their laps. They kissed people on both cheeks. They made eye contact when they talked, and they used different forks for different things.

They were all kind to me. That wasn’t it. But I knew that I didn’t know how to play by their rules. I went to a window seat that looked out on Lake Winnipesaukee. There was a bookshelf at the end of the seat and in that bookshelf was an etiquette book full of how to eat at the table, what manners were, how to write ‘thank you cards,’ exchange greetings, and so on. It was a beautiful summer day. All the other kids were swimming and playing tag. I was reading and memorizing and trying to learn how to be like the others.

Getting Called Out

Eventually my Aunt Maxine noticed that I was sitting there, reading.

“Carrie. What are you doing? Go out and play,” she said. She liked to use people’s names a lot. She also was sort of bossy in a nice way.

I was afraid of bossy, but I also loved my aunt so I said as bravely as possible, “I’m reading.”

“Don’t you want to go swim with the other children? They’re all outside getting sun, having fun.”

They were. They were splashing around in the water, doing cannonballs off the dock, or perfect dives. They had perfect bathing suits from L.L. Bean and every single one of them seemed to know how to play tennis.

She took the book from me and read the title. After a second, she sat down on the bench next to me. “What are you reading this for, Carrie?”

And I said, “Because I want to be better.”

“Be better! That’s ridiculous. You’re wonderful as who you are.”

“I want… I want to fit in.” I looked her right in the eyes and she got it. I knew she got it. She understood all the things that I couldn’t figure out how to say.

She handed me back the book. “I will make a deal with you. You read this for another half hour and I’ll set the kitchen timer. When it goes off, you go play with the other children and get some exercise.”

Nodding, I thought this was okay. “But I might not finish the book.”

“You can finish it after dinner and games.” She pet me on the top of the head. “I’ll bring you the timer.”

I was five.

That book changed my life and so did my aunt and uncle. They realized that there was a social code and a way of being that wasn’t easily accessible for me no matter how hard my mom tried. I was a poor kid in a wealthy town. I was a latchkey kid who was awkward and driven and terrified of failure. Paying for acting lessons, to play on the soccer team, to play piano were huge stretches for us. Sometimes they happened. Sometimes they didn’t.

I want to be better

My aunt and uncle understood my situation and my want because my uncle was the same way. He was the oldest son of a single mom. He pushed himself hard to succeed, to learn the social code of success and wealth. He went to UNH because it was the only place he could afford and he was valedictorian there, desegregating the fraternity system while he was class president. He eventually went to Harvard Law, married Maxine who had so much intellectual stock and prowess it was just ridiculous. He ended up being the head of an international law association, head of a law firm, chairman of the board of trustees at UNH and so many other things.

My little five-year-old self was trying to do the same things as he did. I wanted to make a difference in the world, to make it better.

Somehow. I took the first and only step I could think of taking – reading that book, trying to crack the social codes of behavior that made his friends and him so different from me.

You Aren’t Death

I was in college when he was dying. We had all gathered for one last Thanksgiving. There were tons of people there, the same kind of brilliant, world-changing people that were there when I was five and when I was ten and when I was 15. My mother and my nana were barely able to sit still because they were so overwhelmed with Dick’s impeding death. They’d have to leave the room every time someone mentioned his name.

During dinner, Maxine called them into his bedroom with her. They stayed for about two minutes and left sobbing.

“He’s too tired,” Maxine said at the threshold of the hallway that led to those bedrooms. “He needed them to go.”

But then, a minute later, she called for me. “Dick wants to see you, Carrie.”

I remember pointing at my chest. “Me?”

“Yes.”

“He’s not too tired?”

“No,” she said. “Not for you.”

There was a bit of a murmur at the table because Uncle Dick wasn’t really calling for anyone to come see him. He was barely holding on.

She ushered me into a back bedroom that wasn’t their normal place to sleep. The wooden walls were dark because the shades were drawn. There was only one bedside light on. My uncle was thin and his breathing was so heavy. It seemed like there were a million blankets layered on top of him.

He met my eyes as I came to his bed and sat on the edge of it, ignoring the chair.

“Everyone sits in the chair,” he rasped out.

“I wanted to be close to you.” I grabbed his hand.

“Nobody wants to be close to death.”

“You aren’t death. You’re my uncle.”

We were quiet. The weight of his hand in mine seemed like nothing and everything all at once. I think he might have fallen asleep, but I sat there thinking about how beautiful he was, how elegant, how he changed systems of injustice one at a time, as best he could, how he taught himself Japanese, how to play the organ, how to be wealthy, how to fit in with an entire class of successful people that he wasn’t born to, and how he and my aunt Maxine both tried to lift other people up into that class with them.

He opened his eyes. “Carrie, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Will you pick it up?”

There was only one answer.

“Yes,” I told him. “Yes.”

It was the last thing he said to me. He fell asleep again. We left for home. I left for college. And since then, I have spent years trying to figure out how to make my words to my uncle not be a lie. How to meet the challenge of his life so well lived.

How to pick up that damn gauntlet.

And I know I’m not doing enough.  It’s hard to motivate other people. Sometimes it’s hard to even motivate myself.

I have a friend who recently said to me, “You do so much volunteering. I don’t. I can’t. I’m a selfish person. I want to make money.”

And I didn’t know what to say.

I still don’t.

I have only succeeded as much as I have because people were willing to let me read a book, to be examples of goodness, to give me the opportunity to interact with senators, opera singers, doctors who have saved thousands of lives. Humiliation and exclusion are not what we should aspire to. Inclusion and praise are not things to be afraid of giving to other people. Enjoying other people’s successes and happiness doesn’t make you any less likely to succeed.

That’s why a nomination for making a difference means so much to me. And to have it be at a YWCA event? The YWCA that’s all about empowering women and fighting oppression? That means even more.

Aunt Maxine and Uncle Dick told me throughout my childhood that intelligence was a privilege I was born with. It could be cultivated and expanded on, but what was the most important thing was finding a way (or many ways) of using that privilege (intelligence, class, race, gender, being physically fit, and so on) and using it to better other people’s lives, your own life, the world not in a way that makes you a hero but in a way that makes you a friend.

Yes, we need to take care of ourselves (thus being selfish), but we also need to not live in bubbles – to see where our language and our rules, our so-called ‘cultural norms’ can be a code that even five-year-olds realize doesn’t include them.

I don’t know how to fix this, but I know we all have to try. I was so lucky to have an Uncle Dick and Aunt Maxine. Not everyone is. And when you feel excluded because of economic, racial, gender, religious codes? How can you not hurt?

I’ve tried to pick up the gauntlet by being friends, writing books, and I’ve even tried to be a politician. I’ve tried by how I raised my daughter, by being on boards, on fighting against bullying, for literacy, against domestic violence, by promoting diversity in children’s literature.

It doesn’t feel like enough.

Honestly, it feels like nothing, like I am barely touching the surface of need, of change.

Part of why I’m in Rotary International, and even why I decided to be the volunteer Public Image Chair for a huge part of Canada and the United States is because this organization of 1.2 million people are picking up the gauntlet, over and over again. From helping to eradicate polio (one vaccine and one fundraiser at a time) to building a local playground or a creating a book festival, Rotary grabs that gauntlet. The only difference is, they do it together.

How are you picking up the gauntlet? How do you feel excluded? Included? I’d love to know.

If you could nominate one of your friends for helping her community, who would you nominate as a woman of distinction? Tell her. It will mean everything. I promise you.

 

*I’ve posted pieces of this before, I think. I’m not sure. But it’s my story and I want to make sure I remind myself of it a lot – of how grateful I am to have a story and for the people in my life who have been so good to me. I hope you have those people too.

Writing News

31702754 copy

ENHANCED PAPERBACK RELEASE!

This is the book that I forgot was coming out. I am so sorry, little book!

Carrie Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Flying, presents another science fiction adventure of cheerleader-turned-alien-hunter Mana in Enhanced.

Seventeen-year-old Mana has found and rescued her mother, but her work isn’t done yet. Her mother may be out of alien hands, but she’s in a coma, unable to tell anyone what she knows.

Mana is ready to take action. The only problem? Nobody will let her. Lyle, her best friend and almost-boyfriend (for a minute there, anyway), seems to want nothing to do with hunting aliens, despite his love of Doctor Who. Bestie Seppie is so desperate to stay out of it, she’s actually leaving town. And her mom’s hot but arrogant alien-hunting partner, China, is ignoring Mana’s texts, cutting her out of the mission entirely.

They all know the alien threat won’t stay quiet for long. It’s up to Mana to fight her way back in.

“Witty dialogue and flawless action.”—VOYA
“YA readers, you’re in for a treat this week. Hilarious and action-packed, this novel is sure to be the perfect summer read.”—Bookish 

“Funny and playful, with a diverse cast of characters and a bit of romance and adventure, Flying is the perfect light summer read.”—BookPage

Order Your Copy:

amazon bn booksamillion  indiebound

 

I made a video about copy editing my next book, co-written with Steve Wedel. It’s called IN THE WOODS and its scary self arrives in 2019. BUT HERE IS THE GOOFY VIDEO!

Our 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 Final Time Stoppers Book

What is it? It’s the third TIME STOPPERS book! It’s also one of the reasons that I forgot about ENHANCED’s release.

Time Stopper Annie’s newfound home, the enchanted town Aurora, is in danger. The vicious Raiff will stop at nothing to steal the town’s magic, and Annie is the only one who can defeat him–even though it’s prophesied that she’ll “fall with evil.”

Alongside her loyal band of friends Eva, Bloom, SalGoud, and Jamie, who still isn’t quite sure whether he’s a troll or not, Annie journeys deep into the Raiff’s realm, the Badlands. The group will face everything from ruthless monsters to their own deepest fears. Can Annie find the courage to confront the Raiff and save everyone, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice?
What People are Saying About The Books:
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
“The characters show welcome kindness and poignant insecurity, and the text sprinkles in humor . . . and an abundance of magical creatures.” Kirkus Reviews 

“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 
How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.com and let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!