Why Manuscript Critiques are Like First Dates and What Exactly is an Editorial Letter

I am a firm believer that humans should help other humans. A couple of people have asked me about manuscript critiques.

So, I’m going to take a quick moment and explain about manuscript critiques and how it relates to dating.

BIG QUESTION NUMBER ONE: 

What tip can you give to best approach another writer’s manuscript in critique?

Here’s the thing: Critiques are like mini-relationships. 

If you go in there and look at that piece of work (be it a person or a manuscript) with an insecure attitude, you are going to do harm even if you don’t mean to do harm. 

I’ve broken up with critique groups because members would make one published (former bestselling) author cry every single time they met. It wasn’t because she was the one who was insecure. It was because they attacked her writing over and over again.

Yes, I yelled at them before I quit. Yes, I was a little drama queen about it. I was a new author back then and like now, I get a bit self-righteous.

2. Since critiques are like mini-relationships, try to present your best self as a critiquer. Do not go in there with an attitude. Do not go in there insecure and hoping to cut someone down in the guise of helping. So not cool.

If you’re on a first-date do you really want to be snarky? Do you really want to spend the whole time showing off how smart you are about narrative arcs or quotation mark punctuation? 

I hope not. If so? You and me? Not dating. 

I think the best dates and the best critiquers talk about specifics (good and bad) but also listen to intention. It isn’t about them showing off. It isn’t about them being jealous about how hot their date (or their date’s manuscript) is. Instead, it’s a connection. It’s a communication. It’s about making the real world or the writing world (in the form of the manuscript) a slightly better place. 

3. If you’re in a critique group or a workshop, beware of the group mind mentality. This goes for dates too.

Have you ever gone on a date and felt like the person you were talking to wasn’t just presenting his/her opinion but the opinion of:


a. Mom.
b. Best friend.
c. Stephen King.
d. Everyone they went to high school with.
e. A president (past or present).

Sometimes group critiques can be like this with everyone’s individual opinions melding into the opinion of OH GREAT ONE.

OH GREAT ONE can be:


a. The tenured professor
b. The alpha female 
c. The alpha male
d. The super-published author
e. A muppet with a butcher knife

If this starts to happen, please PLEASE please do not be a lemming. It’s sometimes so hard, but remember your opinion is just as worthy as the alpha’s opinion, and the award winners and presidents.

And the person who is being critiqued NEEDS TO HEAR YOUR OPINION, too. Don’t be afraid to have a different opinion. It’s totally allowed and needs to be heard. 

BIG QUESTION NUMBER TWO: 

What’s an editorial letter like?  


For all you non-writers out there or my friend, William, an editorial letter is what you get after the miracle happens.


The miracle is called: MY BOOK HAS BEEN ACCEPTED BY A PUBLISHER CAN WE HAPPY DANCE IN THE KITCHEN FOREVER?

The editorial letter is typically suggestions from the editor about how to make your book made of awesome.

Let me give you a quick run-down of some of my editors.


Editor #1 has not given me any editorial letter. He is a very mysterious man. He simply told my agent, “I don’t think we need to do anything.”


This makes me nervous.

Editor #2 has given me multiple editorial letters on a single work, which is NEED!

Anyway this editor who may or may not be Michelle Nagler? She mails them. They are full of suggestions like, “Carrie, you have said the word ‘hands,’ 5,342 times in this manuscript. Would you mind changing that?” 

Or, “Um … the entire middle is a bit … It sags. It needs a tummy tuck. Can we speed up the pace?”

Her letters were amazing because they were so detailed and structure oriented.  I loved them because they gave me ideas about revision. Occasionally, I would read a comment and have a panic attack, but then within 20 minutes I was always ready to fix things. 

Editor #3 gave me editorial letters on the phone. They weren’t letters. This editor who may or may not be Andrew Karre? He would talk, reading off his notes about the book. I would take my own notes while he talked. They were often about theme and character and he would say things like, “I think it’s about longing.” Or sometimes he’d say, “You know. There are no details about the physical world. How would those details show where the heck she is and longing?” 

Then I would get 1,004 amazing ideas and be all jazzed up to write. 

This would happen a couple times during the process for some books. In one book it only happened once. 

Once, my editorial letter (on the phone) was: Carrie! You changed EVERYONE’S name. Is there a… Is there a reason for this?

I also know that this editor does not always work that way. He emails letters. He snail mails letters. He’ll do anything his author needs.

Here’s the thing: Just like dating, critiquing is a relationship and there’s a lot of trust involved whether the critiques is another writer or a reader or an editor. All good relationships? Well, they are about respect and communication. The intentions should always be about making the strongest book ever and encouraging the author to do just that.

THIS WEEK’S PODCAST LINK!

WRITING NEWS

LEARN WITH ME AT THE WRITING BARN!

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here! 

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s 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!

Order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_9486.jpg

PATREON OF AWESOME

Get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

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. 

LAST WEEK’S PODCAST! 

THIS WEEK’S PODCAST LINK!

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Writing Schedule as Envisioned Through Sparty the Dog

Someone cool named A. asked me what my writing schedule is. She is a writer too.

This is what I do:

1. Wake up.

You can’t be serious. You expect me to work? To move? To make full sentences? It’s not even 9 a.m!!!

But also, I will never get a walk today.

2. Try to live without coffee

JUST GIVE IT TO ME NOW! START AN IV DRIP! I DON’T CARE!

3. Sit at computer. SIT AND STARE AND SIT.

Hey! Wake up!

4. Stare at computer. REALIZE WRITING IS NOT THE LIFE FOR ME.

Really, WAKE UP!!! I have work to do and walks to take and bushes to smell.

5. Type for five pages or revise for 20. Think up things. FEEL POWERFUL AND HAPPY.

6. Get up and exercise for a mile OR TWO.

It is so miraculous when the writer finally moves! Also miraculous? This squirrel in the tree over there. Also miraculous? The way this pile of ancient dog poop left by a visiting Pomeranian 18 days ago smells. She ate Cheetos!

7. Type Again and Cuddle With Characters WHILE WHIMPERING ABOUT STORY STRUCTURE AND SUBPLOTS

8. Continue throughout morning until I look semi-human again.

Oh, come on. What did you expect? A normal picture? She is a writer after all.

Any other writers out there want to offer up how they write so much or get a lot done? I could probably use some help.

WRITING NEWS

COOL CONTEST OF SPOOKY AWESOMENESS!

Um. MacMillan is having a super cool sweepstakes where you can win the book I wrote with Steve (IN THE WOODS) and four other scary books. 
Go enter! Go win! I’m rooting for you! 

IN THE PAPER, BABY

I was just in the newspaper and I think the photo of my head is actually larger than my real-life head. Go figure. It was super kind of them to notice me and to write about me. Here is the link.

LEARN WITH ME AT THE WRITING BARN! 

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here! 

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s 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! 

Order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

Get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

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. 

LAST WEEK’S PODCAST

THIS WEEK’S PODCAST!

Hello, I’m Super Medicated and Writer Flow

I’m currently super medicated thanks to surgery, and my inability to metabolically react to even simple drugs well. So, I decided rather than try to be coherent or babble incessantly about how I hurt, I would share this podcast from January.

Why?

  1. I don’t trust my medicated self
  2. One of my writing students needs to hear it.
  3. Although this is from New Years, a lot of us think of New Years as fall, or we’re about to start National Novel Writing Month and it still pertains.
  4. Did I mention that medicated thing?

So here goes.

Sometimes it’s hard to be super positive when you’re starting s project or thinking about new beginnings and a new year.

That’s because it’s all about goals and new starts. And you know, every day should be about that, right? And then you’re like, “Crap, I failed in my goals. Crap, I need new goals. Crap, why is this New Year’s party boring? Crap, should my new goal to be to never attend a party?”

And so on.

But that pressure? To be Instagram-worthy, to be super achiever goal person, to be extra? That’s what makes New Years suck. At this house, we like to just celebrate that we’re still alive, not bankrupt, and not in jail. It’s way better that way because there’s not as much pressure.

A long time ago – back in the 1980s – this guy Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was studying happiness. He gave people pagers. Remember this was in the 1980s. Then he and his research assistants would send the people messages at random times and ask how they were doing, feeling, what they were doing, etc. It sounds a bit like when your mom texts you, honestly.

And he discovered flow. People were happy when they were super engaged in the task they were doing. People weren’t happy when they were doing nothing. They were happy when they were involved in something. 

Minds were blown.

When people were in the ‘flow,’ they forgot about time, space, all the other detritus in their lives. They were focused on the now, on what they were doing. What they were doing might be writing, sports, hanging out with other humans, art, and so on… But for them the involvement was so intense that they became engaged and absorbed into it and were happy.

Writing should do that for you.

WRITING NEWS

THE NETHERLANDS IS AWESOME

Steve Wedel and I wrote a super creepy book a few years back called After Obsession and it’s making a big freaking splash in the amazing Netherlands thanks to Dutch Venture Publishing and its leader Jen Minkman. 

Check out this spread in a Dutch magazine. I met a whole bunch of Dutch readers last Friday and let me tell you? They are the best. 

LEARN WITH ME AT THE WRITING BARN! 

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here! 

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s 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 order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

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. 

Yesterday’s podcast

Why We Don’t Use Real Life Dialogue in Our Books

This is from when Em was super young and I wrote it all out and saved it because that’s what I do.

There is a Halloween Sleep Over at my house. There are six 14-year-olds. They are making cheesy ghosts with olive faces. This is the dialogue. It is verbatim. 

This is the reason why we don’t have perfectly accurate dialogue in our stories.

DIRECT CONVERSATION BEGINS NOW

Didn’t H — make show choir?

She didn’t make it. She tried it again in the spring and she emailed Mrs. Wright and asked her what to work on but she used all these big words so then X —  didn’t try out because she was mad.

Oh no … Big words

She told her she needed to work on her voice and stuff.

No offense, but she does

Abby keeps singing.

Guys do not be mean.

I don’t want to be mean.

Did you hear her solo?

It was good, but she got mad after awhile.

She got sick of it after awhile because Ben told her to do something on her solo.

Is Ben the guy who runs the band thing with the saxophones.

No, he does the drama.

I’m so mad.

Can we do it?

Guys we would be amazing.

I would do the choreography. I’m so tough.

The three of us. No, the four of us.

What about me. You guys hate me!

No… You don’t do musical stuff.

No! All of us can do it.

Oh! I’m so foolish…

I don’t know how to shape the ghost.

You have a hard butt.

Look! It has a belly button.

I got bored, so I put more olives on it.

All of my cheese fell-off.

Abby keeps singing.

Abby will you shut up!

Mallory joins Abby in singing.

Oh my God, you guys. Emily’s ghost looks like a Pac-Man.

It is a Pac-Man.

Oh.

I decided to announce my geekiness to the world via a Pac-Man cheesy ghost.

Why This DIALOGUE WOULDn’t Work In A Story

It’s pretty simple.

  1. It’s all talking heads. We don’t know who is talking or responding until the end.
  2. It’s a lot of filler. Would the real point be Emily announcing her geekiness to the world of her friends or would it be someone being excluded and then included or would it be about X not making show choir?
  3. Dialogue needs to keep up the pace, move the story forward and reveal something about the characters.

Don’t get me wrong. We can tweak this dialogue and make it work. We can add in some tags, physical reactions and actions, setting, backstory and it could be pretty snazzy. But right now? Right now, it’s a bit of a talking-heads mess.

More Posts About Dialogue Are Here

Camper Wisdom and Dialogue Hints.

Mushy Dialogue Sucks

Talk to Me Baby! Dialogue Help

WRITING NEWS

THE NETHERLANDS IS AWESOME

Steve Wedel and I wrote a super creepy book a few years back called After Obsession and it’s making a big freaking splash in the amazing Netherlands thanks to Dutch Venture Publishing and its leader Jen Minkman. 

Check out this spread in a Dutch magazine. I met a whole bunch of Dutch readers last Friday and let me tell you? They are the best. 

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s 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 order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

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. 


Risking being bruised and misunderstood. Audre Lord and writing

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.

Audre Lord wrote that in a paper she delivered at Modern Language Association’s “Lesbian and Literature Panel,” Chicago, Illinois, December 28, 1977. It was first published in Sinister Wisdom 6 (1978) and The Cancer Journals (Spinsters, Ink, San Francisco, 1980). It also appeared in Lord’s book, Sister Outsider (  Freedom, California: Crossing Press, 1984 ).  


I wonder how often writers self-censor for fear of being ‘bruised or misunderstood.’ I’m thinking not just of books and thinking of how scary it is for me to read random reviews. Even though they are almost all great reviews, there’s still that wound that comes sometimes.

But I’m also thinking about how the best books resonate with an author’s truths. The best books have something underneath the surface and that something is what an author believes.

So, basically, this has also made me think about what is most important to me.


There’s so many things that are important to me, but I think one of them is what Lord calls “barriers to loving.” She calls racism, sexism, heterosexism and homophobia types of human blindness. Human blindness is the “inability to recognize the notion of difference as a dynamic human force, one which is enriching rather than threatening to the defined self.” **

I love that quote. I mean, I really, really love it. 

I’m sure she’d include classism in that mix as well. But how about the differences in political thought? In abstinence education? In forgiveness theories? There are so many kinds of differences. There are so many different belief systems, not just within our country or in the world, but just in our county, just in our town. I’m not sure if I’m always as upfront as I could be about what I believe, and it’s got to be fear that holds me back sometimes. 


What about you? 

What do you believe?

Do you write your truths? If you aren’t a writer, do you live your truths? Speak them? Or are you afraid?

** First published in The Black Scholar, vol. 9, no. 7 (1978) and later in Sister Outsider

WRITING NEWS

THE NETHERLANDS IS AWESOME

Steve Wedel and I wrote a super creepy book a few years back called After Obsession and it’s making a big freaking splash in the amazing Netherlands thanks to Dutch Venture Publishing and its leader Jen Minkman. 

Check out this spread in a Dutch magazine. I met a whole bunch of Dutch readers last Friday and let me tell you? They are the best. 

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s 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 order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

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. 

Never Give Up Hope. How I Got Published Even When I Did Everything Wrong

I was trying to think of something cool and pithy to write here today, but I can’t think of anything.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by a reporter who is writing an article about me for our paper and she reminded me of how I did absolutely everything wrong when I was submitting my first book. So, I thought that maybe if I shared that story with you all, it would ease up some of the pressure you put on yourselves and your writing to be perfect. 

how did carrie get published?

It begins as all good things do with an email announcing the creation of Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn. Flux was accepting YA novels. Hhm? I thought to myself. I just wrote a YA novel. Sure, I hadn’t shown it to my advisor at Vermont College’s MFA in Writing Program. Sure, I hadn’t let ANYONE read it. Sure, I only just wrote it in the last month and it was rough, rough, rough. But I sent it in. I chugged out a cover letter. I found some stamps. I mailed it.

Here is what followed, taken from my Livejournal entries.

Sweet Editor Man called me within a week of me mailing the manuscript. Seriously. It was wild.

the 30th, 2006

Okay. Here’s the big question of the day: Why am I so stupid?

I will work on the self esteem exercises tomorrow… but today! Today! Today I am allowed to realize the full extent of my idiotness.

Here’s why.

I sent out some manuscript queries on Thursday.

I get a phone call this morning, from a real live editor who says, “Um, is this C.C. Jones?”

“Yes,” I say while pouring out cat food on the table.

He then proceeds to tell me he got my query, wants to see more of my manuscript, but his email requesting it bounced back.

“Really?” I say. “That’s weird.”

“Let me tell you the address,” he says. “cjonese at…”

“Oh,” I say. “Oh. Oh. Oh.”

“What?” he says.

“There’s no e on the end of Jones.”

“I didn’t think so,” he says.

I then apologize and berate myself for not even being able to spell my own last name! What an idiot. He gives me an email address. I send him the rest of the manuscript.

Yeah, that baby’s going somewhere. Not.

Although, he was kind and he did say, “It’s the manuscript I care about, not your inability to spell your own name.”

What a nice man. Even when he rejects the manuscript. He’s still a darn nice guy.

This means now that MY BOOK has been requested. The JOHN WAYNE LETTERS has been requested (by agent and house). And another book, which was crucified at workshop, has been requested. Will anyone actually buy anything? No…. And if they did, will they be able to contact me? Not unless I can remember to get my email address right. Geesh.

the 31st, 2006

So, despite the fact that I can’t spell, the nice editor man called me back yesterday and talked to me for 40 minutes and told me all the good stuff about my book and what he thinks could get better. It was like talking to a Vermont College mentor. It was really cool. He was brilliant and really, really nice.

And he’s starting the book through the acquisitions process at his imprint, which is really cool… But, I’m not getting my hopes up about it, until papers are signed.

Still, he had the best insight on the piece and I am so excited about working on it. So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go work on it. He only wants another 10,000 words. Geesh. Piece of cake. Ha.

the 4th, 2006

Well, here’s a quick update on the sweet editor man. He sent me an email, which I can not quote verbatim, because it’s somehow infringing on copyright. HOWEVER, he said that he wanted to let me know what’s going on, that the piece is heading to the acquisitions committee on Thursday and he’ll call me when they’re done.

That is so sweet of him.

But now I’m going to be a nervous wreck until Friday and I’m already hyper and neurotic enough as it is. I think everyone in my family will soon disown me.

On a positive note, I wrote 15,000 more words on it this week and I’m really happy with it. It’s done the Sarah A. rubbing thing, where the characters work off each other. I’ve put more setting in, which is good because I’m weak with setting. I’ve also changed the ending and added a couple of conflict scenes. Oh, and sweet editor man said he hopes I’d have a great weekend. Is he crazy? As I told Emily Wing Smith, no matter what happens I’ve made the piece better already, so I can’t complain when he dumps my butt. So, yeah… Now, back to revising my critical thesis.

the 9th, 2006

Um, okay… Sweet Editor man called and he continues to be Sweet Editor Man.

He talked to the acquisitions committee today and wanted to call me about it before he battled the snowstorm and drove home. He said they were all “very enthusiastic about it.” They liked the writing, especially the details and he said even the people who don’t like YA were hooked.

YIPPPEEEE!!!!

So, he’s calling me in the morning to give me contract details, etc… which is great except I know absolutely nothing about contracts because I never thought I’d get offered one. Oh, the stupidity of me continues….

the 3rd, 2006

Well, today was a happy fine day because today the JOHN WAYNE LETTERS (title soon to be changed I am sure) passed an acquisitions committee and is now officially wanted with an offer on the table.

Yippee!!!

What karma gods did I appease? Was it when I helped the little old lady at the grocery store heft her 20-lb bag of kitty litter on to the checkout thing? Was it when I agreed to help run the middle school civil rights team or the drama club?

Was it simply when I refused to succumb to road rage when the guy in the Subaru refused to yield and almost t-boned me? Instead of succumbing to road rage, I thought, ‘Oh, perhaps I’ll get a new car out of this. I hope there’s no major injuries involved.’

I don’t know why. I’m just happy. That’s two YA books now. Now I need to find someone who’ll like my middle grade.

AND my birthday was good despite the fact that I am now old, old, old because I am the same age my mother was when she had me. That is just horrifying. Sigh.

No, wait. I am happy, happy, happy. So happy, in fact, that I’ll even spell check this.

I am not an officially published author yet, because no contracts have been signed but I AM SO CLOSE!

Now in 2019

That book was published here and in Canada (French and English). Some bookstores did not carry it because it had the word ‘gay’ in the title. It won a Maine Literary award. It won an Independent Book Publishers award, but it also made me a writer and started me off on the weird journey that I’m on. 

All that happened despite the absolute lack of perfection.

So have hope. No matter what your dreams. You can do this even if you can’t spell your own last name.

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s 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 order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

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. 

Let’s Talk About Setting

Setting is where your story happens. It’s the time period. It’s the physical place. You can have more than one setting.

There. That’s the definition. We’re all good, right?

Wrong.

Let’s really talk about setting.

What Setting Does

Setting is the foundation of your story. It is the ModPodge that has an addictive smell (Cough. Not addicted to ModPodge. Look away.) and glues all the story together.

What Happens Without Setting

Your characters float around in nothingness.

Your plot makes no sense. You can’t have hamsters taking over the world if there is no world.

You have no theme. You can’t care about the kindness of strangers if there is no reason for the strangers to need to be kind.

You have no atmosphere. Atmosphere is sexy. It’s the feeling of the story. The ambience.

How Do You Make Setting?

Go in slow. Don’t overwhelm us with details about the Hamster World of Ham-Ham-Ster and its 87 leaders of the Teddy Bear Nation. Establish it. Move on and sprinkle in important details as you go. Be sparing. Only add to overall story.

Figure out what pieces of the setting matter the most. Is it the claustrophobic trees? The swarms of tourists disembarking cruiseships. The smell of blood coming from the old, wooden floorboards? Use those details. Not the kind of coffee your heroine puts in her Keurig.

Make it active. The setting matters as the characters see it, move through it, react to it. Whatever is weird about that place and how your characters interact with it? Focus on that.

Don’t be afraid to go places, to use Google maps, the internet. Do everything you can to get fully into that place.

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s 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 order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

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. 

Don’t Do the Living Alone

While most people know me as a young adult author thanks to the NEED series, I wrote  TIME STOPPERS, a middle-grade series published with Bloomsbury and before my time at Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA program, I was a newspaper columnist, editor, and poet.

Write Across Genres

I think it is super cool how writers can write across platforms and how their work can change as the world changes, their understandings change, and their own needs change.

The take away here is:  don’t be hemmed in by just writing one thing! Write what you want. 

More info on all the different things I’ve written, plus writing tips are on my website.

This is a photo of me after receiving VCFA’s distinguished alum award. You can tell I acting in a super distinguished manner right after that. Kekla Magoon also received one. She was way more poised. 

So, to harken back to that era of writing, here’s a column that was in a paper a few years ago. It ran alongside an article about drug use in Maine and the lack of care for transients with alcohol and/or drug dependencies. 

Dying Alone

It wasn’t until well into the afternoon that we found him, dead beneath a shed on Water Street. Then he was only spotted because an oil spill into the Union River brought firefighters and reporters close by.

We noticed his naked feet first. Then we saw him stretched out between car tires and a garage door.

 The Bangor Daily News reporter I was with told the firefighters who were still down by the river trying to mop up oil.

“Guys, there’s a body up here,” he said. His voice was quiet, still, a nothing voice and the words fell out into the world and for a moment nobody moved.

 “A body?”

But Kenneth Butler was more than a body. He was a man.

According to Ellsworth police, Kenny Butler had a long history of medical problems, including heart trouble. No one’s quite sure where he was living before he died by abandoned car tires last week.

On a normal day, people go missing. Sometimes that gets noticed. Sometimes it doesn’t. On a normal day, people die. Sometimes that gets noticed. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I noticed Kenny Butler’s death. So did that Bangor Daily News reporter. So did his family.

Kenny Butler drank a lot. He did drugs. He couldn’t go to our county’s only shelter on cold winter days because they don’t allow people who are using drugs or who are drunk. Sometimes when people detox, they have seizures. Sometimes, they get violent. So, Kenny crawled beneath the basement of a shed, wedged himself between an old door and some tires. Then he died, in the cold, alone.

The police came, put on their purple latex gloves, strung up yellow tape to cordon off the area. As they took over, I thought about who Kenny Butler might be. I thought too about people who go missing from our lives by inches every day. The phone calls we fail to return. The smiles we are sometimes afraid to give.

I didn’t work anymore that Friday. My little girl, Em, stood close by all afternoon. She tugged on my sleeve.

 “I don’t want to die alone,” she said.

Her eyes filled and just underneath that edge of sadness, awakening floated.

“I don’t want you to die alone either,” she added.

The wind whipping up off the Union River grew even colder that Friday afternoon. I knew what she meant. She looked up at a treehouse we were working on. It’s high among four trees. We could have stood on the platform, but there weren’t any walls yet, only tree trunks and branches separating us from falling, sheltering us from the sky.

“It’s the living you don’t want to do alone,” I told her. “That’s more important than the dying.”

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s 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 order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

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. 

Shaun Reveals Why People Divorce. Plus, Hippies and Rotarians.

  00:00 / 00:23:561X

Cat Butt Sabotage

All those fitness-trainer-guru people talk about the perils of your family ruining your quest for fitness.

I never realized my family was like that until this morning. I was doing push-up sets.

In between sets, I sat up because honestly my floor was sooooo dirty it was kind of grossing me out and making my nose all twitchy from the dust. This is when it all went wrong, because the moment I sat up who should appear?

No! Not Santa! But look even Santa is running and getting all health-i-fied now! It must be because of all that Bill Maher fat-shaming stuff.

But, no, it wasn’t Santa. It was actually my cat.

Marsie, the cat

“Marsie, baby,” I told her as she settled in and took up ALL my push-up space. “You need to move. I need to build up my upper body strength.

Marsie:

“Honey, could you move? My minute has passed. I need to do my last set.”

Marsie:

So, knowing I was defeated, I moved backwards and started my next set. What did she do? She got up too and walked over to me and then showed me her kitty bottom! Okay. She didn’t show me. She SHOVED it in my face! 

Sigh. 

I’m going to have to do my push-ups in the bedroom and lock the door from now on.

Marsie: Lock the door? Don’t make me laugh! Locks do not stop me! Not with these monster kitty claws. These monster kitty claws can knock down a door. You don’t KNOW what these monster kitty claws are capable of. 

Marsie the cat

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s 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 order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

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. 

Remembering the Good Even on September 11th

This is what I post around Sept. 11 of every year. I am so sorry if you’ve read it before. A lot of things have changed in my life in eighteen years. I went from being a newspaper reporter and city councilor to a newspaper editor to unemployed to a New York Times (and internationally) bestselling novelist. My baby girl grew up into a butt-kicking, brilliant Harvard graduate and field artillery officer in the army.

But how I feel about heroes will never change.

Ben died in 2016, after years and years of being a hero to the people of Shelter Island, New York, years and years of being a paramedic (one of the oldest in the country) and not only just saving people, but being the last one to comfort and touch the living.

The picture here is the one that ran with his obituary. I am not sure who took it and if you did and you want me to take the photo down, I will! Just let me know. It’s a great photo.

++++ +++++++ ++++++++ ++++++++

It’s hard not to think about September 11 without thinking about loss.

That’s how it should be. But I do know that so many heroes that we never hear about worked hard on that day. It’s important to remember them too, because they are, I think, what it truly means to be an ideal American and an ideal person.

My former uncle, Charlie, who lives in Maplewood, NJ was just across the shore when he saw the plane go into one of the tall towers in New York City. He was over 80 and a doctor. He was in World War II. He hates war.

He told me when he saw that plane full of people go into that tower full of people he said, “Jesus Christ … Jesus Christ …”

He mumbled it for a second, a prayer, a plea, a name, a hope. He said his heart sank right into the bottom of his feet as he stood there watching. He said like he felt like he stood there on the shore forever. He didn’t. He moved after a second. He went right over towards the towers, towards the death and the hurt and the terror and the screaming, and the whole time in his head he kept repeating those words, that name …. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ.

He started to help people. He was over 80 breathing in all kinds of horrible things into lungs that were already tired and aged, but that didn’t stop him. He’d helped people all his life. He had served his country all his life. Nobody would have thought anything if he had turned around, walked away, got in his car and drove back to Maplewood.

But Charlie would have thought something though if he did that.
He could have never done that.

My former father-in-law, Ben, also over eighty, is an EMT. He became one when he was sixty-five. After years of being an executive, he wanted to feel like he did something good in his life, something helpful. He was part of the Red Cross disaster team. He went over to the site too, got grit out of people’s eyes, helped them breathe, helped them cope.


You ask him what it was like and he shakes his head slowly and says in his deep/hoarse voice, “God, that was an awful scene. Just an awful scene.”

Charlie and Ben weren’t firemen on duty or police officers like so many heroes that day were. They weren’t official first responders.

What I love about them is that they made the choice. They chose to go. They chose to help and they didn’t give a poop about how old they were, about how many people they’d already helped. They didn’t care about the ache in their bones or the fact that both their hearts were starting to fail. They cared about something else. They cared about people. So they went.

They will always be my heroes. They are just two of many, many stories that happened on that day and on other days. People can do awful things. We can hurt our loves, bomb each other, scream words of hate, glorify ignorance with bats and cars, ignore a smile of a cashier, be too busy to pay attention to a child.

But we can do beautiful things, too. We can love, and heal; we can put others first, rush to a scene of mayhem, put ourselves in peril on the off chance that we might be able to save a life, get grit out of an eye, give comfort, give a hug. And that… that is what makes people worth it. That is what makes people magic. That is what makes people heroes over and over again.

So, I will remember Ben and Charlie and so many others today. I won’t ignore the hate and pain and sorrow that happens on Sept. 11 or on any day of war or violence, but I choose to remember the good, too. I choose to remember the heroes. And it’s their names that I will say over and over again. Ben Jones. Charles Crandall. Ben. Charlie. And so many others.