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.

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

RANDOM DIATRIBE ON A SUNDAY – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A WRITER? Or WHY DO I SUCK SO MUCH?

What does it mean to be a writer?

I don’t know.

This year, I accidentally saw a family deal with the murder of their daughter. And their pain was raw and poignant. I wrote about it. I’m used to writing about things I don’t understand, things that make the world seem wrong. When I wrote it,  I wanted to extol our community, to be kind to them during their pain. I wanted to get reporters to step back while they grieved.

It was the wrong thing to do.

And I cried for hours when I realized it.

I made a mistake.

I make mistakes all the time.

Creative nonfiction is hard because it is so incredibly real and every time you write a story (as a reporter or blogger or public image person or whatever) you create ripples that you can’t control, which is why I give a lot of leeway to the press and what they try to do.

I try hard to find the humanity in horror. When the Boston Marathon bombing happened. I wrote about it. When I found a dead body. I wrote about it. When I was hurt by other people, I wrote about it… eventually.

I write to find a way through pain and I think… I think a lot of writers do that.

But people don’t always want us to. I used to think I was a good person, particularly because I kind of love almost everyone I meet. Even if they suck. Even if they hurt me. I still love them.

My ex-husband said to me once, “I don’t understand why you are still kind to me.”

I said, “Why wouldn’t I be?”

But sometimes. Sometimes? In my quest for understanding through writing, I think I might fail to be kind because I don’t think of all the potential repercussions. I go after life like some sort of weird no-chill terror, especially when I don’t understand why people are being violent or cruel. When I wrote about one of the best guys I know, a drug-addict, a felon, a guy who risked his life by going into a house on fire to save other people? I knew that other people had different opinions of him and would deride me. It didn’t matter. When I wrote about volunteer firefighters in my town, I knew that some people would deride me and say that what I was writing was schmaltz. That didn’t matter either.

I still wrote.

I don’t know how not to celebrate other people’s bravery, success, heroism. That doesn’t make them perfect. It makes what they did in that moment – exceptional.

And I have a really hard time asking for things in return. Or accepting praise.

“You should be a public speaker like a motivational speaker,” people keep telling me.

And what do I say back?

I say, “Oh gosh. That’s so nice. But have you heard my s’s? I sound like a Muppet.”

That’s self-sabotage right there. DO NOT DO THIS! Do not be like me.

Recently, one of my books was released, and I watched as all these beautiful people that I didn’t know at all (except through social media) retweet and share this, but my actual real-life friends? Only three of them shared my news and that… it hurt.

I had to dig deep and figure out why it hurt and I realized it’s because I try really hard to share people’s triumphs and companies and need and nonprofits and fundraisers. And  none of those people shared mine. And I have a hard time asking them to share, to review, to subscribe, to like.

Why is it that I think that they deserve it, but I have such a hard time asking for the same things myself?

That’s the question.

But that doesn’t mean that good has to be reciprocated. It doesn’t mean that they have to care about me, too. I get that.

But in this weird social media world where I have to sell books to stay an author, it kind of makes me panic. How do I get people to buy and read and review my books?

I don’t know.

I’m an internationally and NYT-bestselling author. I know I’m a great writing coach and mentor. I know that as an author I’m getting better all the time.

It isn’t enough.

And all of us writers? We live on this weird edge, this precipice that we’re afraid to fall off. Will we sell enough books? Will anyone notice us? Will they only notice us enough to angry tweet at us?  How the hell do we even tweet? Will people even know we exist?

And our amazing readers eat our stories rare; they fill them with their own love (or not), their own care (or not). Writing a book is this weird two-way communication where us authors aren’t sure that anyone is hearing what we’re saying. But they do. In quiet rooms, in libraries, on subways, on kindles, in real-life books… they read us.

That’s scary AF.

I don’t know if it’s enough to survive financially. That’s scary AF, too.

Erotic novels, romance, pain, they sell like crazy. We writers thicken our plots with so many sauces like apocalypse, and dystopian, and love. We hurl around our websites and tweets and hope that they stick.

But do they?

I don’t know.

This world of writing is so intimidating. But I know – I am positive, that even if nobody reads my stories, I will keep writing.

 

Cooking With a Writer – RAH! MAN! Ramen with Miso and Roasted Vegetables

Sometimes, I have days when I want to scream, “RAH!!!” Today is like that.

This is for a bunch of reasons including someone saying, “Wow. You look tired.”

Me:

Me: Thanks? I am?

Anyway, as you know, I’m trying to convince the household to eat less meat. The household is stubborn.

Me: Hey! We’re having Ramen tonight.

The Man: RAH! MAN! RAH! I MAN! I EAT RAMEN!

Me: 

Dogs run off.

Man beats chest.

Me: Who even are you?

Man: I ate ramen forever. I was raised on ramen. I love ramen. Where are the spice packs?

Me: No! No! We aren’t using the spice packs. Those have animal byproducts.

Man: Why must you ruin all that is holy?

Ramen

I was sad when I was making this recipe. You can tell.

Course dinner
Cuisine vegetarian
Keyword miso, ramen, vegetables
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 4 Carrie people
Calories 80000 kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 whole onion any color, but yellow is best here
  • 1 big leek
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped or minced
  • 1 3-inch ginger peeled, chopped
  • 1 oz dried mushrooms preferably shiitake
  • 1 lb sweet potato peeled, chopped
  • 1 whole head garlic NO VAMPIRES HERE, BABY
  • 1 lb shitake mushroom cleaned, sliced
  • soy or tamari sauce to taste
  • 1.5 lb ramen noodles fresh if possible
  • .25 cup miso white or yellow kind
  • 5 green onions chopped to look pretty

Instructions

  1. Find a large saucepan, empty it of your tears and put it on medium-high heat.

  2. Put 2 tablespoons of oil in that saucepan. Get it so it isn't cold, like the heart of villain.

  3. Realize it's really your heart that's cold. 

  4. Add the onions. Put some salt on top. DO NOT TOUCH THE ONIONS. Leave them there for 5 minutes until they are brown.

  5. Realize the onions are the book that you've been working on for 27 years and still doesn't feel done. Realize that tweaking your book is like stirring the onions. You can't resist. Wait for five minutes to pass.


  6. YOU CAN STIR THINGS NOW! Add leek, garlic, dried mushrooms, ginger, 6 cups of water. This will deglaze the pan if you stir and scrape up the bits. Do that. 

  7. Turn the heat down. It's too intense here, just like your plot. 

    Put the heat on medium-low. 

    Realize you feel medium low. 

    Partially cover the pan and let it be for an hour. A WHOLE HOUR! 

  8. Procrastinate for an hour. 

  9. Don't do any real work or revision or anything else. 

    Really.


  10. Preheat oven to 400 F. 

  11. Put sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle oil on them. Toss them so the oil is distributed. 

    Find a head of garlic. Cut off the top of its head. Imagine he's a writing expert telling you to kill your darlings. Drizzle oil on it and wrap it up in foil. Put it on the pan.

    Put the pan in the oven and close the door. Stir it once in awhile. Cook until it's tender. 

  12. BACK TO THE STOVE! An hour has passed! You've got this.

    Strain the broth through a sieve and get rid of all the solid bits. KEEP THE BROTH! 

    Realize this is like 'killing your darlings' like all those writing experts always say. Wonder if writing experts know that they are annoying.

  13. Find a blender. Free it of left over smoothie. Instead squeeze the garlic cloves into that bad boy.

    Add 1/3 cup of sweet potatoes.

    Add 1/2 cup broth that you saved.

    Puree until it's smooth.

    Add it to the big bunch of broth.


  14. Find a saucepan and put it on medium heat. 

    Add oil that's left.

    Add mushrooms. Cook them for about five minutes or until tender.

    Add broth.

    Season to your liking.

    Add tamari or soy sauce.

    Simmer.

    Reduce to low.

    Cover partially and cook until it's warm.

  15. Is it warm?

    Are you warm?

    Whisk in that miso of awesome.

  16. Take your noodles (cooked if dry!) Put them in bowls. Put the broth over it. 

    Top it with sweet potatoes. 

    Sprinkle with green onions.

    Breathe. 

    Marvel at your creation. 

    It wasn't that bad, was it? 

Recipe Notes

This is derived from a recipe from Cooking Light. 

Dog Verdict: WHERE IS THE BACON? We like sweet potato okay though. But… it’s not… you know… bacon.

Man Verdict: This would be better with bacon, honestly, or at least the spice packs full of MSG and other goodness.

Carrie Verdict: Writers need love. Ramen is love.

 

*P.S. My writer brain was too tired to do the actual math to count the calories for this. I am so sorry.

WRITING 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.

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

My Writing Goal is to be on a Doctor Who Episode. That makes total sense, right?

Writer Sara Zarr once gave a brilliant speech about how it is the process of writing that should give you the love feeling, not if you make it on a bestseller list or get a Printz Award – Because honestly, they only give one of those out a year, so the odds of getting one is pretty rare.

I was okay with that, sort of, because I LOVE THE PROCESS OF WRITING.

But, let’s face it: Even though I’m not a perfectionist, I am a goal-oriented writer and human. So, I’m going to share my top five writing goals and life goals and if you could please, please share yours in the comments? That would make me ridiculously happy.

 This is Gabby, Carrie’s dog, asking you to please do this. Carrie gives more treats when she is happy. 

Warning: My goals are weird. They aren’t the nice MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE or BE A GOOD PERSON goals cause those are sort of givens, right? Right. (I love when I answer myself).

Five WRITING GOALS (also known as “I will feel successful if this happens” goals):

1. To meet Chris Evans and not have him pepper spray me but be like, “Hey, Carrie. You would look good in a tiara. Your dogs are so cute. Let’s make your book Girl, Hero into a movie.”
2. To write a really good poem that I can actually memorize myself. This is a big deal because I can never remember my own poems but I can ramble off Anne Sexton poems like a wild woman.
3. To actually have a rock group make a song about my book that isn’t a parody. Weird Al and SNL skits do not count. It has to be cool and not satire…. Like THE ALARM did with Stephen King’s THE STAND. Do you not love their 1980s hair? Peter Gabriel also wrote a song based on an Anne Sexton poem.

The hair is awesome sauce. You know it is! 

4. To go on book tour in Europe because …. um… .EUROPE! There are croissants there. Real croissants. Not supermarket kind. Plus, I am sort of in love with all my European fans/readers.
5. To be one of those cool writer people who makes enough money to buy a second home someplace warm where you do not have to shovel snow. Or, um, just have someone update the Wikipedia entry on me so it’s accurate. It’s not currently accurate, but I feel weird going in there and fixing it myself.

FIVE CONCRETE LIFE GOALS (also known as “This isn’t a bucket list because I’m not dying soon” goals):

1. To not fall in the slushy grocery store parking lot or get hit by a car for two years in a row. Cars tend to hit me, luckily this is always at super low speeds and in parking lots.
2. To not go bankrupt because that would be poopy. But honestly? Not end of the world.
3. To sing karaoke because even though I used to get PAID to sing, I still cannot do karaoke.
4. To be able to say things like, “Yes, my books are bestsellers” and not feel like a noodle, but strong and confident.
5.  To be in a Dr. Who episode because I am a geek like that. And she is cute. Or just having a teleport would be okay.

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

So, I’ve been spending this past week amplifying the fact that the Abbe Museum’s Indian Market  is happening in my town (Bar Harbor) this week from May 18-20. It’s our first one. There will be 70 artists and performers. There will be a film festival. There will be comedians at the Criterion Theatre.

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Why have I been so incessant about this?

There are a couple of reasons.

  1. I’m super pumped about the market happening because it’s going to be amazing. It’s 70 artists and performers and it will be downtown and that’s a lovely economic driver for our town, but more importantly it’s good for the artists.
  2. Art matters.
  3. The art of people who have been oppressed matters and systemic oppression of art is still happening.  Native American Art won’t even be in the American wing of the Met in NYC until later this year. Yeah. It’s been in  The Met’s Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.
  4. Amplifying artists is good. Art is good. Shouting out goodness is pretty freaking good.

So, I’m not going to talk about my own writing news in this post. Instead I’m going to share a couple pictures of some of the amazing artists coming to Bar Harbor this week.

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And if you want to do good this Wednesday, you can give a shout-out to people who deserve one and whose voices might not be amplified right now. Amplify them. Spread the love. Spread the knowledge.

My Nana’s Funeral Was Awful – Seriously Awful

Because my family is a bit – um – all over the place, I ended up having multiple grandmothers when I was growing up. I had a Nana, a Grammy, and a Avó or Vovó. And every single one of these women was eccentric and radically different from each other.

One had the worst funeral ever. Unless you count the funeral where my aunt passed out and everyone thought she died.

I’m not counting that one.

Or the one where I had a complete #metoo moment. That was my dad’s funeral actually.

I’m not counting that one either.

Anyway, about my grandmothers.

One grandmother was the chairwoman of the Republican women’s party in our state. She believed in manners, in propriety and responsibility, and all that stiff-upper lip stuff.  She drank alcohol once every five years or so, on Christmas. She wrote one poem.

One grandmother was an artist and poet who never let the world see her art, who cried over the beauty of a ripe tomato. She believed in prohibition, probably because her husband forced her to believe in prohibition. She also believed in Julia Child.

One grandmother was a collector of all things ceramic, lover of all things Bingo, and could not care about ‘propriety’ at all. She drank.  She never wrote a poem. She lived one. Some of the lines were flawed, but it was real and raw and authentic.

These ladies didn’t interact much. They are all dead now, but the one I’m thinking about is my nana and what writing lessons I can get from the life she lived and the funeral she had.

My nana basically had the worst funeral in all of history. Or… well… she’s in the top three for my family funeral disasters.

Why?

Oh, let me count the ways. Learn from this, writers, okay? 

The setting was bad

They put all of us closer relatives in a family grieving room before the funeral started, but the room was the kindergarten room for church school and so the whole thing was filled with a giant table and church muppets. People sort of had to stand with their backs flat up against the walls like a police line-up. When new people came into the room, everyone would have to do this sideways shuffle scooch along the walls to make room.

The church muppets were all flopped on top of each other and it looked really naughty. My nana would not have approved. I made Jesus muppet hold hands with Minister muppet because they looked lonely.

It wasn’t a place or setting where emotional resonance could happen. It’s hard to comfort other people or even be super introspective when your back is to the wall and you are staring at puppets who look like they might be trying to make muppet babies.

Know Your Main Character

My nana was 100 when she died. She was a really smart woman. You’d go to her house and she’d have a newspaper clipping for you and she’d be like, “Have you seen this censorship issue that the American Library Association is lobbying against?”

Or she’d be like, “Did you know that Medicare is (Insert large word)?”

She went to this same church that her funeral was at for about 8,000 years.

But the minister’s sermon was all, “Think of the things Rena saw change in her 100 years,” which is nice, but it was like a history lesson.

A history lesson! Ugh. And I kind of wanted it to be personal, not a eulogy you can use for anyone over 98. But that’s what it was.

In a book, you have to know your main character inside and out or else their story doesn’t mean anything. That’s what happened here, too.

Instead of hearing about my nana and her life and her interactions with everyone and with the church, it was a sermon about… history? Full of random dates and events but with no actual human content. Her life as told in his sermon didn’t exist.

Our lives and our characters’ lives have purpose. We aren’t just meant to be a backdrop for a history lesson.

Random Characters Thrown In For Effect 

Part of my family looks like they belong in the Jersey Shore. Seriously, my nephew Brooks saw someone and screamed, “OMG! It’s Snooki!”

Funerals are often places where families see branches that they forgot about or have deliberately avoided for years. That’s okay in a funeral, but in a book? Characters need to have a purpose.

Lack of Emotion

Nobody sobbed. There should be sobbing at a funeral, but I guess since it was History Lesson Funeral, people just took notes, worrying about the test later or something.

People loved my nana. They missed my nana. My family is a high-drama, emotional family that sobs at anything. But here? It didn’t happen.

In life and in books, you have to be able to have the space for sorrow, you have to have an emotional aspect to a story, to understand their worries, their drives, to know that their departure would leave a gaping hole.

That doesn’t happen with bad writing or bad preaching.

The only time emotional resonance happens during a history test is when you realize you’re going to fail it, honestly.

Don’t make your life or your book a history text.

Sometimes Following The Rules Isn’t Healthy

I had to sit in the front row so the minister kept looking at me, which meant that I had to pay attention to the history lesson and nod appropriately, which would have made my nana proud I’m sure.

But following the rules and doing the proper expected thing isn’t always healthy for you. Crying can be good even if it isn’t at the ‘socially acceptable’ time.

And I guess that’s why I’m sad. I wanted my nana’s funeral to make her proud of the life she lived and of all of us people she left behind. I wanted to feel some sort of closure, but I didn’t. I just sort of felt like someone had forgotten to pick her up and give her a ride over.

My nana loved for people to give her rides. She also loved to food poison people with dairy products, talk politics, play cards, get angry at you for beating her at cards, talk on the telephone, and hang out with her friends. She was smart and lively and stubborn and an absolutely horrible cook.

When I asked her why she was so involved in politics she said, “Because I remember what it was like to not even be able to vote.”

She was ten when women got the right to vote.

“It meant something. Women are just as good as men,” she said. “If not better. Stronger. They didn’t let us use our minds.”

She was the valedictorian of her little class in Weare, New Hampshire. She wrote a poem in her yearbook. She was proud of it, but (unlike one of my other grandmothers) it was pretty much the only poem she ever wrote. She didn’t have time for that, she’d said.

When I asked her why she was so smart, why she spent so much time learning and understanding things, she’d said, “Women can’t afford not to be intelligent. Not in this world.”

And another time she said, “It’s our responsibility to learn everything we can learn, to make good decisions, informed decisions.”

A farm girl, she’d married a jazz drummer who played in big bands and toured the country. One time he didn’t come back. He remarried. She never did. I don’t think she ever even dated anyone, but she did think Ronald Reagan was a ‘looker.’

She raised her kids as a single mom back in the 1940s and 1950s. Her oldest son went on to desegregate the fraternity system at UNH and though they were desperately poor, he ended up a valedictorian at his high school, at UNH, and then went on to Harvard Law.

She was so proud of him. Why?

“Because he is a gentleman and because he can think,” she said once when we were sitting on her couch and I was trying to avoid eating any of her food because – food poisoning. And then she said it again, “He can think. So can you. Use your brain, Carrie. Use it. Don’t be afraid of it.”

My nana was pretty cool, and worth way more than a history lesson. She was an epic, a woman of resilience and persistence in a time that was hard.

“All times are hard,” she’d say.

And this, also, is true.

But all times also have beauty and good and resonance. Don’t be afraid to embrace that, too.


 This is my nana. She is 100 here. She would hate this picture. 😉

Do Good Wednesday

I have had seizures.

It started when I was in college and I had Mono. The Epstein Barr virus that causes Mono attacked my brain as well. Eventually, the virus left, the seizures lessened, but it made my brain less resistant to future seizures.

There are all kinds of seizures and all types of triggers for people and all sorts of degrees of severity. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological condition and in the United States, 3.4 million people have epilepsy.

That’s a lot of people and yet there is a ton of stigma about it. So, my Do Good Wednesday call is just this. Go check out this website. Learn a little about epilepsy. Don’t be afraid when someone has a seizure. If you are a parent or a loved one, don’t make it all about you if a loved one has a seizure.

That’s all.

xo

Carrie

Lessons I learned at my grandmother's awful funeral
Dance

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’m being interviewed live on WERU radio on Thursday, May 10 at 10 a.m. You can call in and ask questions and be on the air with me! The livestream for the station is here. 

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
The podcast of awesome

How To Be Happy Even if You’re a Writer – Yes, even you.

A lot of writers and artists spend a lot of time doubting and feeling unhappy. Why? That’s the question. Part of it is that we’re creative people. Creative people tend to feel big feelings. We live in feelings and interpretations and expression.

That can be hard on a heart.

My Post-25

It’s hard to believe in yourself when the industry makes it so hard for you not to believe.

Writing is hard on hearts. Rejections come fast and easily and the whole field is so subjective. Outside validation can be hard to come by.

We Expect to be Perfect

We are not perfect.

We apologize when we are normal. We apologize for being human. We apologize for who we are as if who we are is supposed to beyond human.

We see our books, our arts, our blogs as perfect, idealized, finished products and that level of perfection is hard to get to in real life. So….

We Tear Ourselves Down

For some of us, we’re so used to other people tearing us down for being weird, daydreaming, quirky, different that we try to do it before they do – that way it doesn’t seem to hurt that much? But it’s not good for us to do that.

My Post-27

So how do we get happy?

Create

Keep working and creating. There is power in persistence, in not giving up. There is happiness in losing yourself to the process.

Let Forgiveness Happen

You can call it grace if you prefer, but allow yourself to be human. Don’t be so harsh  on yourself when you fail or make a mistake. Embrace that failure because it allows you to know you are human. Not God.

Realize That You Are Absolutely Good Enough

When people praise you, let them. When people come to see you, embrace that. When they listen to you speak, read your work, buy your painting, tell you something awesome, let them. Don’t ignore the good to hold onto the bad.

When people love you or praise you? They are giving you a gift. It’s not cool to turn that away. You don’t want to be an arrogant butt face, but allow people to be kind to you if they are moved to do so.

Dog Tip for Life: Accept the treats that life brings you, man.

Writing Tip of the Cast: A really good way to be a better writer is to think outside of yourself and imagine you as your character. But a really good way to be a confident writer is to allow yourself to be human, to rejoice in the fact that your story isn’t perfect at the first try and/or draft. Forgive yourself when you use the word ‘feel’ 572 times in an 50-page story. Forgive yourself when you accidentally have everyone fall in love with the main character or you forget to have a setting. It’s okay. Acknowledge it. Fix it. Love yourself anyway.

 

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’m being interviewed live on WERU radio on Thursday, May 10 at 10 a.m. You can call in and ask questions and be on the air with me! The livestream for the station is here. 

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
The podcast of awesome

How To Be Happy Even if You’re a Writer – Yes, even you.

 
 
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1X
 

Bright Girls – Don’t Give Up! Stay Shiny

“She found that Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls’ IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel.”

So, there was an old blog  post on the Huffington Post by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D that references Carol Dweck’s studies in the 1980s on how smart girls and smart boys dealt with material that was new and challenging.

Halvorson wrote:

She found that Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls’ IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts rather than give up.

Why does this happen? What makes smart girls more vulnerable and less confident when they should be the most confident kids in the room? At the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So there were no differences between these boys and girls in ability, nor in past history of success. The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty — what it meant to them when material seemed hard to learn. Bright Girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective learners as a result.

She thought it was about how parents deal with their kids. She wrote:

More often than not, Bright Girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.

How do girls and boys develop these different views? Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children. Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their “goodness.” When we do well in school, we are told that we are “so smart,” “so clever, ” or “such a good student.” This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness and goodness are qualities you either have or you don’t.

Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., “If you would just pay attention you could learn this,” “If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.”) The net result: When learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren’t “good” and “smart,” and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.

 

I was thinking about this specifically as an author. You hear a lot of horror stories about people trying for decades to get published, and you hear a lot of stories about how authors even when they are published don’t feel like they are good enough, or are afraid to go for big author goals. You hear and read a lot of blog posts about people who just don’t think they are good enough and they give up sometimes.

My Post-24

When I get fan letters from yet-to-be-published writers, a lot of it asks for writing advice and I usually tell them this:

Don’t just expect to be amazing. Writing is a craft. The more you do it, the better you get at it. People don’t expect to be brilliant guitar players or sculptors the first time they tackle a guitar or a piece of marble. But writers expect to be stunning with their very first story.

In a way, I think that’s kind of like to what Halvorson and Dweck were saying. To succeed in anything, you have to be willing to think that it’s cool to overcome challenges (in plot, or character development) and BELIEVE that you can. You sort of have to look at life and writing and problems as something that’s a cool adventure, and not think you are a miserable and total failure if you don’t get it perfect the first time.

It’s time to stop being hard on ourselves.

Seriously.

You are allowed to stink.

If you fail 8,000 times it doesn’t mean you are dumb or not worthy. It just means you are on an adventure. But you have to chose to allow yourself to be on that adventure, chose to not think you are the epitome of suckitude every time you get rejected or a bad review, or don’t instantly understand AP Computer Science or some new grammatical construction in a language you’re learning. It doesn’t mean you are any less worthy, any less awesome.

I swear.

What do you think? Are these researchers onto something? Are you female and do you think you give up on tasks too easily? Are you a guy and you do the same thing? Do you think people in the arts (no matter what his/her gender) do this more than people do in other fields?

My Post-23

So How Do You Not Give Up. How Do You Cultivate Your Shiny?

Give yourself room to not be perfect.

Realize that perfection isn’t attainable, but being better/doing better? That is.

Let Your Goal Motivate You

Whatever you want? Want it really, really bad.

Cultivate Your Inner Cheerleader

Let the voice inside you lift you up the way you want to lift up others. Be as encouraging to yourself as you are to your partner, your kids, your students, your friends.

Give Yourself Time

Things that are worth it can take awhile? Think about the writing of Harry Potter, the making of a bouillabaisse, of sculpture. Skills have to be worked on. Thoughts have to be thought. Actions have to occur in order to get to what you want to understand or create or be. So, allow yourself the time to make it happen.

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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.

Finding Success Even After You Make Mistakes

So, Carrie’s been thinking a lot about success lately and if you check out her blog you’ll see she’s had a heck of a last two weeks trying to define success and come to terms with it and all that.

But here’s the thing. Nobody wants to fail. You can talk about loving the process and that’s important, but striving for success is also important. For authors, getting a mindset for success can be… well, almost impossible.

Three hot tips for success when you mess up

Three Hot Tips For Success After Screwing Up

Look for Inspiration – Spend 10 minutes with things that inspire you. For some people that’s music, poetry, dogs, being outside, listening to an awesome podcast.

Don’t be Rigid – Understand that no matter how well you plan, life is chaos. If your plan has a glitch, a swerve? Don’t let that freak you out so much that you stop. Be flexible like you do yoga all the time or something.

When you Mess Up Learn From It – Dwelling in mistakes and failures keeps you in those places mentally. Stepping back and wondering, “What can I learn from this so next time I rock it?” That’s what makes a success mindset.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Dog kissing helps

Dog Tip for Life: When you meet people who suck, thank them in your head for teaching you whatever they taught you. Write down how you are a better dog because you learned something from them. Yes, that ‘something’ might be to stay away from men who smell like asparagus and like to kick, but it’s still a life lesson. You’ve learned it.

Dogs are Smarter Than People, the podcast
Look, Mom! It’s a podcast.

Writing Tip of the Pod: Mistakes happens. That’s okay. It’s how you recover from mistakes, from bad plots, crappy sales, rejections  – that is what makes the difference. Question your story constantly. Ask other people who are honest to check it out.

We all make mistakes, but what makes some people a still a success is that after they realize that they’ve made a mistake that’s hurt other people or themselves or their organization, they acknowledge it, apologize for it, and try to do better.

That’s it. Three steps.

Acknowledge it.

Apologize for it.

Educate yourself and do better.

That’s important in relationships, too. Saying you’re sorry is a promise to try to not repeat the hurt you’ve caused and/or the mistake you made.

 

The link to the podcast episode about this is right here. Be warned, we talk about toilet paper during our random thought time and we’re in a car. So things are a bit . . . punchy.

 

Carrie’s Writing News

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!

To find out more about my books, there are links in the header. And if you buy one? Thank you so much. Let me know if you want me to send you a bookplate.

PODCAST

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. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

COOKING WITH A WRITER

Carrie has started a tongue-in-spoon subgroup in her blog all about cooking vegetarian recipes as a writer. It is silly. The recipes still work though. Check it out here.

Black Bean Soup Recipe. Cooking with a Writer
There are white beans in this image. Try to pretend they aren’t there, okay?

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome six-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let Carrie be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.

Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.

What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking action School Library Journal

Finding Success Even After You Make Mistakes

 
 
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