How To Make People Keep Reading Part Two

Last week, I talked about how I was going to be diving into revisions and sharing the path I’m taking via hints.

The main element when we write a book is that we want our readers to keep reading. So,  I think I’m going to start what I like to call (Drumroll please) the Wednesday Writing Series About Hooking Your Reader.

I’ll be giving two hints a blog post. Let’s keep going!

TWO QUICK HINTS TO KEEP YOUR READER HOOKED ON YOUR BOOK

Make People Wonder

Not knowing what is going to happen is a big deal when someone is reading the story. Make them wonder what might happen.

One method to do this is to not tell them everything right off. Give some elements of what is happening, but not all.

So, in the NEED series, I have the main character see a man in the woods at the side of the road and also pointing at her plane as it takes off. The reader thinks: Wait. Who the heck is that man?

In Harr Potter, J.K. Rowling, introduces the Bo Who Lived, but what did he live through and how? The reader wonders and reads to find out…

Make them freaking worried

The reader needs to care about the character. We want Mr. Potter and Ron and Hermione to survive because those kids are lovable, but we also are worried that survival might not be an option. The stakes are high and those magical? These babies aren’t superheroes. Death is possible. Near death happens all the time. We obsess that the trio might not survive.

That’s a hook.

That high stakes conflict coupled with imperfect heroes who tr so hard? That’s the ke

Writing News

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

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

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

Writing Coach

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

Ebook on Sale for July

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

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Appearance

Carrie will be at The Books-A-Million in South Portland, Maine on August 8.

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How to Make People Keep Reading

I’m about to revise a lot of my own stories and in the next couple of months, I’m going to see if I can figure out how to self publish instead of continuing traditional publishing, so I’m trying to pretend that I won’t have a ton of editors helping me, no writing mentors, just me.

And that’s a little scary.

But it’s made me think more fully about my own stories and how I can apply the tools I use when I teach writing to my own darn writing.

I know! I know! That should be easy, right?

It’s not as easy as I thought because it requires stepping away from the book and thinking as a reader, as a writer, and as an editor, but mostly as a reader.

And the main element when we write a book is that we want our readers to keep reading. So,  I think I’m going to start what I like to call (Drumroll please) the Wednesday Writing Series About Hooking Your Reader.

I’ll be giving two hints a blog post. Let’s start!

TWO QUICK HINTS TO KEEP YOUR READER HOOKED ON YOUR BOOK

Hooking Your Readers - Wednesday Writing Series

Begin your story with the moment that will transform the main character or world.

Begin with the girl moving to Maine from Charleston and seeing something strange on the side of the road like I did with the NEED series.

Begin with the male member of the ‘class couple’ telling his girlfriend that he’s gay like I did in the TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (ex) BOYFRIEND books.

Have a really strong voice of the narrator.

The Martian’s first line is, “I’m pretty much f*cked.”

That combines the pivotal moment with a super strong narrative voice.

Or the Color Purple begins with, “You better not tell nobody but God.”

Which has a great voice and a mystery set in, too. What shouldn’t they tell?

Next week, I’ll have two more tips.

Do Good Wednesday

Puerto Rico still needs assistance and so does Guatemala. You can help by spreading the word or donating to the Hispanic Federation, a nonprofit involved with advocacy for Latino communities.

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The Hispanic Federation’s three big campaigns right now are:

Check it out. Think deeply. Care. That’s how you do good.  That’s how you make a difference in the world and your community. You’ve got this. Sparty the Rescued Dog believes in you.

 

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Sparty: I do! I believe in you.

 

Writing News

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

You should totally buy my book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun because it’s about Moe Berg and it’s a picture book. I’m heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

My Post copy 6

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

Writing Coach

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

WSS-Testimonial-Mountains-1-300x300

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

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Proof of the sale-nature of July.

 

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

 

Nena Has Seen Horrors

 

ANTIAGO, PANAMA — Nena has seen horrors. The wife of a member of a Santiago Rotary Club has seen it all and somehow the knowledge of human frailty and evil doesn’t diminish the light in her brilliant eyes or the passion in her advocacy.

When we enter a Santiago hospital and I ask her if she works here, she laughs.

“No,” she tells me. “I volunteer here. I volunteer everywhere. My husband. The man with the cane? He works here.”

Nena is from Mexico originally. She knows Spanish, English, Italian and Japanese. She is a Rotarian from birth, she says. Her father was a Rotarian. Her husband is a Rotarian. She is not an official part of the Santiago Rotary Club, which is about 26 members strong. Only one of those members is a woman.  She is still a Rotarian.

“There used to be five women.” She shrugs like this change in the membership dynamics is not much of a big deal.

She spends the day showing us the projects that the Santiago Rotarian men have accomplished, but also the projects that are propelled by the wives of the club, women who spend their times unofficially helping people while not being official Rotarians.

 One of those places she brings us is a home for children who are malnourished. Another is a home for children whose mothers are having difficulties. Some of them are orphans. Some of them are not officially orphans, but currently without parents. There are sisters whose father is their grandfather. There is Kimberly, 11, whose mother tried to kill her last year. Kimberly is sweet, perching on a coach, a desk, while the younger children frolic around her. She picks a multi-colored Beanie Baby bear and cradles it in her hands. She watches the Rotarians crowd in to meet her and the other children and hear how Rotary has helped them. She smiles shyly but quickly. I am instantly in love with her as she laughs as a Rotarian with spotty Spanish tries to figure out her age.

 “Her mother is in prison forever,” Nena says, voice quaking with anger. She tells us the story of another girl, eight years old, who she met in a hospital. “I saw her, saw the line on her belly and said, ‘This girl is pregnant.’”

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People scoffed.

But Nena persisted. “They said, ‘She hasn’t even had her first period yet.’ But I said, ‘She is.’”

They tested her and she was more than halfway through her pregnancy. Her mother couldn’t understand. It turned out that her grandfather watched her while her mother worked. Her grandfather had been raping her. He also sold her to his friends. He is in jail now.

“As far as I am concerned they should have cut off his balls,” Nena says.

Nena enters a home for children with troubles, children like Kimberly, those sisters, a little boy named Jesus, and Nena pauses to scoop up a baby, cradling him in her arms, cooing. She is justice and kindness. She is anger and action. She is love and grace and a million things all wrapped up in a small package of a woman that wears multiple pieces of jewelry at once.

The Bar Harbor and Ellsworth Maine Rotary Clubs and Nena visit schools and water towers that the Santiago Rotary Club has sponsored. We meet Jesus who folds his Ellsworth Blueberry Pancake Breakfast t-shirt into a precise rectangle, smiling at his colored pencils and coloring book. We meet school children who will have physical education class again simply because we have brought a few soccer balls. We meet Kimberly who smiles with love despite what her mother tried to do.

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 Ellsworth President David Wells hands out toys and t-shirts. Ellsworth High School student Josh Callnan inflates soccer balls with a pump that Dave Wheaton and Annette Higgins thought to bring. Retired professor, Sallie Boggs, is greeted by an eight-kindergartener simultaneous hug. Shaun Farrar is surrounded by children at each school he visits. The students gaze up and up at his 6 foot 6 inch frame with wonder, giggling as he asks their names.

“They think he is a giant,” one Santiago Rotarian laughs. “He is, actually.”

In a place where malnourishment is often an issue, growing so tall is rare. The Santiago Rotarians have made combatting malnourishment a priority creating five or six sites at schools where they hatch and raise chickens for six weeks, three times a year. The students then eat the chickens for lunch. Their parents take turns cooking, rotating throughout the year. The chickens that are not eaten are sold to buy more at an earlier stage in their life cycle.

Nourishment helps children have stronger minds and bodies. Rotarians, including former Santiago Club President Edwin Munoz, dispersed 10,000 dictionaries throughout Panama to give students access to words that will give them broader, stronger futures. `

Clean water is also important. Working with a Rotarian from Texas, the club has provided multiple water tanks to both residential areas and schools. The Texas Rotarian’s wife had died. When they were visiting Panama she had been saddened by the lack of running water in schools. School would have to be closed in the middle of the day so children could wash and get water off site.

“It was disruptive,” says their principal. “This is so much better.”

The Santiago Rotarians have even provided sewing machines to the local hospital so that workers could make hospital gowns and surgery garments for doctors and patients.

Hospital Director Doctor Rafael Andrade addressed the Rotarians and speaking both about the sewing machines and the wheelchairs that the Ellsworth and Bar Harbor Rotarians brought over said, “There is no word for this because it is something that comes from you’re heart. I hope that this visit is not your last time here.”

As the Rotarians visited the bowels of the hospital to see the industrial sewing machines, Nena said, “They have needs. The hospital – everyone – they have many needs. They want wheelchairs, too.”

 Rotary and Nena and the women like her keep picking away at those needs. When the home for malnourished children needed a physical therapy room, Rotarians from Panama and the United States stepped up.

“They needed a wall for the room. We built a wall. They needed another wall for a room. They built another wall. Piece by piece is how these things happen,” Nena says.

 And she’s right. It is piece by piece, volunteer by volunteer, wheelchair by wheelchair, water tower by water tower that change happens, that lives become a little bit better, that hope because reality. Change and hope, service and volunteerism are powerful things. It doesn’t matter if it’s little steps. All that matters is that it’s steps in the right direction. That direction is forward. That direction is to a better life. That direction is towards hope.

 

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

Rotary International Makes a Massive Difference One Person at a Time

The problems that Rotary International members tackle in the world and the local communities can seem massive and overwhelming, until you realize that Rotary has 1.2 million members fighting for good, piece by piece, moment by moment, person by person.

I was lucky enough to be a part of a few wheelchair projects. This is a piece about one of those projects. To find out more about Rotary, check out www.mdirotary.org or www.rotary.org

Writing News

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

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

My Post copy 6

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

Writing Coach

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

WSS-Testimonial-Mountains-1-300x300

What Makes A Story Awesome.

Yesterday on our podcast, Dogs are Smarter Than People, we talked about emotional pulls of stories and premises.

That’s a big key about what makes a story awesome, but there are a couple more important ingredients that you need to make your story shine bright like a diamond. Thanks Rhiannon.

It needs conflict.

There needs to be a want and obstacles to the want.

It needs to be fresh.

When I wrote Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, I was trying to understand a hate crime that I’d heard about, but I also was trying to write not from the point-of-view of the evil bully or the gay man. I decided to write from the point of view of the ex-girlfriend. It was a different angle. And it was picked up off the slush pile out of thousands of novels and published because it was fresh. And it won a IPPY award because of the same reason.

It needs emotion– See that podcast

 Dogs are Smarter Than People

It needs to be believable.

It may end up being a story about a boy wizard, but it needs to start somewhere real, like ‘What if there were magical people and one of them was evil and killed the parents of a boy. But what if he didn’t die because his mother’s love was the greatest, strongest magic of all? And what if he survived to fight that wizard, eventually?” The what-ifs are a writer’s best weapon. But the premise needs to be based in something we all understand (or want to), which in that case was love.

Do Good Wednesday

So, since I have a tendency to come on people in stress and duress and since it’s my stepdad’s death-i-versary and he died of a heart attack, here is my do good Wednesday idea.

Take a CPR class.

It’s important. It helps. It can buy people time until an ambulance arrives or a defibrillator is there.

This link takes you to CPR classes run by the Red Cross, but there are so many places you can take them.

Writing News

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

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

Writing Coach

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

 

There is Evil Out There And We All Need to Fight It

Real life can be more cruel than books.

It’s a hard truth.

Us writers often hear from editors, “Can you make the villain more understandable?”

We often hear, “Nobody would do something so horrible in real life.”

But sometimes villains aren’t understandable. Sometimes real life is full of horrors and cages. And it’s often only those of us who get to live safe lives, bubbled lives, who have problems understanding that such evil exists.

It exists.

Sometimes that evil is a person.

Sometimes that evil is a policy.

Sometimes that evil is both.

As a writer for kids and young adults, I get to know how brilliant and passionate and beautiful kids and teens are. As a writer for kids and young adults, I have a responsibility to speak for them when they can’t speak for themselves, but also to stand aside when they demand a place to speak their own truths.

I posted this on my Facebook yesterday because Gabby the Dog is wise and we have good conversations.

Cooking with a Writer Black Bean Soup Recipe
Gabby the Dog

Me: Gabby, when you meet people who are little or fragile or sick and they want to pet you, it’s like… Well, it’s like you become even more gentle and loving. Like the more fragile the people are, the kinder you become.

Gabby: Of course.

Me:

Gabby: What?

Me:

Gabby: Doesn’t everyone always act like that? You have to be more gentle with the people who need gentleness.

Me: No. People are not always like that.

Gabby:

Me:

Gabby: They should be.

 

 

Why This Matters

On April 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for a “zero-tolerance policy for criminal illegal entry.” Since then, most numbers show that the United States government took over 2,000 kids from their parents and/or legal guardians at the country’s border.

Kids are detained. They are no longer free.

Kids are separated from their parents. They have lost the people they know.

What is evil?

Evil is the opposite of good. This policy is not good. Hurting kids, detaining kids, pulling them away from their loved ones? None of it is good.

“This is a spectacularly cruel policy, where frightened children are being ripped from their parent’s arms and taken to overflowing detention centres, which are effectively cages. This is nothing short of torture. The severe mental suffering that officials have intentionally inflicted on these families for coercive purposes, means that these acts meet the definitions of torture under both US and international law,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas Director.

On a local social media page, a man I know decried the fact that the kids are ‘not in cages,’ and said all the families that were separated were separated because they had acted illegally.

According to Amnesty’s website, “Amnesty International recently interviewed 17 asylum-seeking parents who were forcibly separated from their children, and all but three of them had entered the USA legally to request asylum.”

Legally.

Of those interviewed, 14 out of 17 parents interviewed had entered legally.

“The claims of the Trump administration ring hollow. This cruel and unnecessary practice is being inflicted not only on families crossing irregularly, but also on those seeking protection at ports of entry. The majority of these families fled to the US to seek international protection from persecution and targeted violence in the Northern Triangle, where their governments are unwilling or unable to protect them,” said Guevara-Rosas.

This isn’t new, the man on social media said. The man I know. It started before, he said. Nobody cared before. If it even exists now, he said.

Back in January, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said, “We’re looking at a variety of ways to enforce our laws to discourage parents from bringing their children here.”

Former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, current chief of staff, talked about this separation policy back in early 2017.

It exists. It is evil.

And people are caring now because of multiple reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the policy (not the law) shifted, and another main reason is that people know about it now.

For background, check out Amnesty’s report from 2017 called Facing Walls. The first link is to the press release. This link is to the longer report.

Sometimes it feels impossible to battle evil policies, systemic racism, sexism, bigotry. Sometimes it feels impossible to even battle the evil within our own selves.

It’s not.

Good people, mediocre people, dogs, whatever. What we need to do is support the work of the people actively exposing evil and who are actively working against it. We need to amplify the voices of the children and parents who are suffering. We need to remember what it is that we as people stand for.

What do you stand for?

 

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

Families Belong Together “opposes the cruel, inhumane and unjustified separation of children from their parents along the U.S. border with Mexico and at other ports of entry into the U.S.  We protest the conditions in which these children are kept. We protest the irreversible trauma that has already been perpetrated on these children and their parents for the crime of seeking a better life.”

Check out its website here and find out what you can do to help.

The Poor People’s Campaign is “a national call for moral revival” in our country. The campaign follows in the path of Martin Luther King Jr., and calls for nonviolent civil disobedience.

Amnesty International is an organization, I focused on in the NEED books, and its aim is for a world where everyone has human rights. That shouldn’t be such a hard thing, but it is.

The children’s book community is also rallying. You can go here and donate to Kid Lit Says No Kids in Cages. 

Its statement reads:

As members of the children’s book industry who have built careers with teen and youth readers around the world, we jointly and strongly condemn the inhumane treatment of immigrant children evidenced by the United States Department of Justice in the past week. We believe that innocent children should not be separated from their parents. We believe the “Zero Tolerance” directive issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is cruel, immoral and outrageous. We believe the Department of Justice is engaging in practices that should be restricted to the pages of dystopian novels. We demand and expect better, and call on our readers to do the same.

You can also sign the petition here.

 

Writing News

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

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

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Professors I Have Hated and Loved

I only hated two professors in college. One because he was misogynist buttface who only liked guys and was openly derisive about women being incapable of creating art because we were busy “focusing on making babies.” I walked out of his class after yelling at him for a good three minutes.

Most people think I am mellow. I am not mellow. Sometimes, I have no chill. This was one of those times.

I was the only woman in that class. My boyfriend was in that class. Two other guys were in that class.  Nobody else walked out. Just me.

The other professor taught poetry and liked to tell students that they weren’t real enough or raw enough. She wanted pain. She wanted authenticity. She wanted confessional poetry and most of us just sort of wanted to write about white baseball caps, rainbows, and dolphins.

In retrospect, I sort of feel badly for her because I probably would have gotten frustrated about all those poems about white baseball caps, rainbows, and dolphins, too.

But still. It was what we were right then, a lot of us – baseball caps, rainbows, dolphins.

And the rest of the professors? They were amazing. I had really great professors in theater and poetry even though I was a political science major.

Here’s a letter I wrote to one of them recently when he retired from teaching. I was thinking about this a lot after I reposted my Seamus Heaney blog. 

Dear Professor Farnsworth,

I don’t think you will remember me, but I will always remember you because you, your class, and poetry helped save me in a time of my life when salvation seemed highly unlikely.

I spent most of my time at college sick with seizures caused by an Epstein Barr virus that had attacked my brain. I spent most of my time wondering who I was, how I could fit in, and what my voice could possibly be when my broken brain was no longer my own.

You helped me reclaim my voice, but more than that? You helped me expand it.

I was not much of a poet.

I am still not much of a poet.

And you?

You had such a voice.

Resonant, understanding, persistent, encouraging.

You read my poems, all our poems – even the ones about vampires, and taught us that even if we didn’t know our voice right then, our voice would find us if we gave it space and attention.

Space and attention.

Space and attention and intention.

Those very same things that you gave to us.

You are one of the best teachers we could ever know.

You taught us to build up ourselves and our poems, to construct our stories and our voice, piece by piece, word by word, symbol by beautiful symbol. You taught us to craft our poems and our lives with patience and love and strength.

Patience.

Love.

Strength.

Add insight? And that is what you, Robert Farnsworth, represent to me. Patience. Love. Strength. Insight.

Your legacy?

Your legacy is huge and important and ripples into so many other lives? So many lives…

You have helped us to become.

Thank you. May your next stanza of becoming be as beautiful as this one has been.

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DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

Write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life. Send it.

WRITING NEWS

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

Anyway…

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

CARRIE’S BOOKS

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

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

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

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

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

writing tips life tips carrie jones books

The Poet Who Saw Me – Wednesday Writing Wisdom

When I was a kid at Bates College, I spent a lot of my time feeling like less. My family had been kind of poor after my step-father died. My nana would stand in line to get us big orange blocks of commodity cheese for the week to supplement our $30 grocery budget Every  week my mom would yell at her that we didn’t need that. She always took it.

My mom didn’t answer the phone because she was so afraid of credit card companies calling.  She’d make me do it and lie that she wasn’t there.

I still hate answering the phone, even the cell phone, even when it has caller ID.

Anyway, when I went to college I wanted to forget all that. I wanted to be an intellectual like everyone else. I wanted to have gone to private school in Manhattan or Conneticut, have a summer home in the Hamptons and clothes that weren’t from K-Mart, which was sort of the WalMart equivalent back then, but worse.

I got over all that because I knew it was pretty shallow. What I had a harder time getting over was class issues that had less to do with materialism and more to do with hatred and intellectual history.

In one of my directing classes, one of the sexier straight guys actually announced about Beckett, “People who are not wealthy don’t care about this. A truck driver doesn’t watch public television or listen to NPR. They don’t care, they’re too busy humping and eating and drinking.”

My dad was a truck driver. He watched public television. He listened to NPR. I didn’t want to think about him humping. He ate food. He didn’t drink. His parents had been prohibitionists.

In one of my playwrighting classes the professor announced, “The working people of this country don’t give a shit about nuclear power. They don’t give a shit about a man of color.”

When I was in elementary school my dad would bring him with him to protest the same nuclear power plant that my step dad was helping to build. He helped me try to get New Hampshire to recognize Martin Luther King Day and do a hundred other civil rights things. He cared.

And one of my college friends would love to say, “Carrie is too poor to be pro intellectual.”

He’s a minister now. That still doesn’t make what he said right.

And one of my female poetry teachers told me over and over again, her voice trilling up with her patrician accent, “Carrie, you have the potential to be a poet, but your voice is too raw, not refined, not artistic enough.”

My voice was poor. My cadence was public school. I was not from rich. Every sentence I spoke showed that.

They still do.

Those are just four of the incidents that made me both angry and intimidated and focused, but in the back of my head it just inflamed my self doubt. I could never be a poet because I wasn’t wealthy, private-school educated, my parents weren’t intellectuals. I could never move people with words because my words were too stark and my sentences too short. I would never fit in because I didn’t have the background that most of the other students had.

And then two things happened. I read Sherman Alexie, a not-wealthy Spokane and Coeur d’Alene who despite his issues with women, impacted me positively. Maybe because I never met him.

And I met Seamus Heaney in real life.

Seamus Heaney came to our college at the invitation of Robert Farnsworth, who was an awesome poet and professor. He met with students, he gave a reading and we all got to hang out with him at a reception.

“I can’t go,” I told my boyfriend at the time.

He bit into his pizza. He was always eating pizza. “Why not?”

“Because it’s Seamus Heaney,” I answered staring at the little bits of sausage on the pizza before I plucked them off.

“So?”

“Seamus Heaney!”

“So?”

I didn’t know how to explain. Seamus Heaney was THE poet, the Nobel Prize winner. He was Irish for God’s sake. Those people were gifted with words. They had so many amazing poets… Heaney, Yeats, Wilde, Clarke, Moore. I was from New Hampshire. We had Robert Frost but pretty much every New England state tried to claim him.

Heaney wrote things like:

“A hunger-striker’s father

stands in the graveyard dumb.

The police widow in veils

faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don’t hope

on this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

the longed for tidal wave

of justice can rise up,

and hope and history rhyme.”

You will regret it if you don’t go,” my boyfriend said. “I’m going to just be playing Leisure Suit Larry anyway.”

So, I went, as anxious as if I was going on stage myself. Heaney transfixed me with his amazing baritone and bear-like presence. And his words… Of course his words… And when I met him afterwards, I was terrified until he grabbed my hand in his and said, “So you are a poet?”

And I said, “No.”

And all he did was nod and say, “Oh, yes you are.”

But in his eyes was this knowing, this connection, and maybe it wasn’t really there. Maybe I just saw it because I wanted him to understand me, because I wanted someone to get who I was and who I wanted to be. Or maybe not?

I don’t know, but one second later my professor said, “Oh, yes she is. I told you about her. She is like you.”

And then one of them said something about growing up not wealthy and I can’t remember the exact words, but what I do remember is that I finally felt understood. Later, I looked up Seamus Heaney’s past, about how his dad was a farmer and neither of his parents were big on words really, not in the intellectual way that everyone in college seemed to be. I found out that he was like me a little bit not because he was a poet and I was trying so desperately hard to write just one decent poem, but because we were both human, that we both came from humble places, that we both looked in people’s eyes when we said hello.

And that was enough for me. That was enough for me to believe in myself.

Seamus Heaney performed a miracle when I met him. He made me believe that I could be whatever the hell I wanted to be and that it didn’t matter how hard I had to fight or work or not fit in. What mattered was that I wanted the miracle of being a writer, of metamorphosis from Carrie the poor neurotic kid from Bedford, New Hampshire into Carrie Jones, the neurotic best-selling author who lives on the coast of Maine.

He gave hope and miracles in his poems and in his person and I am so thankful for his existence and so sorry for the world’s loss.

“The main thing is to write

for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust

that imagines its haven like your hands at night

dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast.

You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous.

Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest.”

 

I wrote this post back in 2013 when Seamus Heaney died, but in one of my student packet’s this week, I referenced Heaney and then yesterday I saw this Liam Neeson video (randomly) where he was talking about Heaney, so… there you go. I’ve reposted it.

Here’s Seamus Heaney reading his own poem, “Blackberry Picking.”

 

Do Good Wednesday

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Scary, right?

People are fixing it.

You can help with poetry and kids. These images are from Get Lit’s website and Get Lit is making a difference.

“Get Lit was founded in 2006 after Diane Luby Lane created a one-woman show about the power of words and toured colleges with iconic Chicano poet Jimmy Santiago Baca. After the show closed, she couldn’t bear the thought of cutting off the work completely. She started teaching classic and spoken word poetry in two high schools, Fairfax and Walt Whitman. When the semester ended… the students wouldn’t leave. They insisted on meeting after school. The rest is history. Today, the curriculum has expanded to almost 100 schools, and the Get Lit Players are the most watched poets on the internet. Curriculum requests flow in from Mexico to New Zealand.”

Get Lit “uses poetry to increase literacy, empower youth, and inspire communities.”

Get Lit works – 98% of Get Lit Players go to college, and 70% get scholarships!

Here are Get Lit’s specific needs and how you can get involved.

 

Writing News

Carrie’s  super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

CARRIE’S BOOKS

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

OUR PODCAST

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

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

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

Dogs are Smarter than People
Love

Why I Need A Bodyguard

So a couple of years ago, I went to Toronto to the INDIGO TEEN READS AWARDS, which were beyond awesome.

And I am traveling again to Book Expo America this week, so I’m rehashing how bad I am about these things.

FIRST PART OF CRAZINESS BEGINS NOW IN PRESENT TENSE EVEN THOUGH IT WAS AGES AGO

So I drive through the dark and fog to the Bangor, Maine airport. Thanks to the super MINI COOPER of AWESOME, I make it there alive despite all this crazy road construction and the fact that I’m technically still asleep because it’s before 6 a.m.  Anyone who knows me understands that I am technically asleep at any time before noon. I may talk to you. I may drive a car. I may get on an airplane, but I am still asleep.

Bangor is the home of Stephen King.
 This is his house of awesome creepy gateness.

Bangor is also really cute and the airport is adorable. One guy flying into it said in this great Southern accent, “Good Lord, the airport is a double wide!”
The whole plane laughed.
But that was later.

For right now you have to imagine a sleep-zombie Carrie shuffling and smiling through the airport.

NOTE: I am genetically wired to smile all the time. I swear, it is a sickness.

So anyways, I shuffle in and go through TSA and their xray machines. I take out my laptop. I take off my shoes. I smile. I grab my stuff and I go.

I decide to go to the restroom so I can comb my hair because it’s all tangled and still kind of wet.  Three minutes of trying to focus at the mirror and then I’m done. I shuffle outside. A TSA guy is coming round the corner.

He actually bounces up on his feet and points at me. “You!”

I stagger backwards and point at my heart. “Me?”

Another three guys come around corners and I think, “Oh my gosh! Am I some sort of high-powered terrorist and I didn’t even know? Is there a Carrie Jones out there who is on the no-fly list or something! Or maybe they actually noticed that my hair is still all wet and tangled and they don’t allow sleep zombies on the plane! Horror! Horror!”

But then I notice that one of the guys is holding my laptop like it’s a sacred object. He presents it to me saying, “You forgot this.”

And that is why the Bangor Airport is made of awesome. It’s awesome because the people in it are kind when you forget the only tool of your trade. It’s awesome because it’s not so massive and big that people forget you are human. It’s awesome because people know that being in an airport and out of your own comfort zone is a little scary sometimes and confusing sometimes and they don’t judge you for that; they almost love you for that.

I wish everywhere was like that.

I wish everyone was like those TSA guys.

I wish everyone had the privilege that I get because I am a really unthreatening white woman with a Muppet voice and whose default face is to smile at everyone.

But, yeah, I basically need a bodyguard so that she/he could:
  1. Tell me when I’m about to forget my computer.
  2. Tell me that the TSA agents are not coming after me because I’m getting in trouble.
  3. Help me untangle my hair, honestly.
If you would like to see me in unsuitable clothes, check out Book Expo America on Friday, June 1 from 11:30 to noon.  I’ll be there with a spy who was also a catcher. 🙂

WRITING NEWS

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

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

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

DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE

And finally, the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. There was a new episode yesterday all about weirdness, writing, living, and laughing too much while podcasting.

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

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

This website talks about state-level advocacy on immigration issues. You can get in touch with your state organizations and find out what you can do to help create the country you want.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO

1. Call your elected representatives.

2. Learn more about the actual law at  the Informed Immigrant website

3. Support ActBlue Charities initiative to Support Kids at the Border or Support The Young Center for Immigrant and Children’s RightsUnited We Dream, KIND: Kids in Need of Defense, Lutheran Immigration Services

4.Donate to the ACLU  and/or sign its petition to Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and US Border Protection.

Children Shouldn’t Be Lost

I am currently involved with this quote and I’m trying to think about how Zara (the main character in my NEED series) would react to it.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt, former U.S. President.

While I have very mixed feelings about Mr. Roosevelt, I am obsessed with this quote and it obviously can apply to any venture, writing, acting, working, relationships.

And it applies to our own lives, the ones we live every singe day.

And then I think about all the people in parts of the world, about all the people in my own country, the people who are often unseen, and the ones who are invisible, and how for some the act of living, the act of surviving,  is the biggest arena and triumph of all.

But maybe our biggest triumph of all? It would be to help them, to see them, to know what’s happening.

When I was a kid learning about the Holocaust, the scenes and stories that always broke my soul where the ones where kids were wrenched apart from their parents, their mothers, the fathers. The ache of that? The sudden shock of that? It was too much for my heart to handle just reading it. How does a heart handle it in real life.

And this is happening now in other places in the world.

And this is happening now in the U.S. with kids whose parents have immigrated here illegally.

There are links here and here.

Both those links are about children being abused by U.S. Border Agents. Here is one about the almost 1,500 missing children, lost by our government.

Yes, you can argue that in the United States when you break a law you don’t get to live with your kids anymore, that everyone in prison is separated from their family and children.

And I would argue that those children weren’t usually sent to strangers. And I would argue that those children don’t usually go missing because the individual states handle their cases.

And you might say ‘the law is the law.” And I would say that Hitler said that, too. The law is the law. But sometimes? Laws are unjust. And sometimes? Laws need to be changed. And sometimes we need to remember what it is to be human, to have hearts, and to care.

We are not perfect people, but we can’t afford to just criticize policy and behavior. We have to act valiantly, to promote our beliefs, and our ideals, and our morals. Doing good, caring, that is valiant.

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY ON A SATURDAY.

I was originally going to publish this on Wednesday, but I decided it can’t wait. I’ll repost it then, too. 

This website talks about state-level advocacy on immigration issues. You can get in touch with your state organizations and find out what you can do to help create the country you want.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO

1. Call your elected representatives.

2. Learn more about the actual law at  the Informed Immigrant website

3. Support ActBlue Charities initiative to Support Kids at the Border or Support The Young Center for Immigrant and Children’s RightsUnited We Dream, KIND: Kids in Need of Defense, Lutheran Immigration Services

4.Donate to the ACLU  and/or sign its petition to Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and US Border Protection.

 

Look. Lying is Bad for Your Health and Authors Stink At It, No Matter What “Experts” Say

Seriously.

I know people lie all the time. I know these people get powerful, get fame, get money, get whatever… I know that their lies are there to shelter them, protect them, because they are afraid that their past mistakes or inadequacies  will make people love them. Or just because they are ashamed of what they’ve done and who they are.

I know that we all do it.

That we all lie.

Sometimes.

I’m not talking about the white lies where you tell someone their butt looks good when it doesn’t.

I’m talking about the lies we create to try to dig ourselves out of humiliating experiences. You know what I mean right? When you mess up on your job. When you mess up in your book. When you mess up in your relationship.

Those kinds of lies.

Lying makes you sick. It makes your heart sick. It makes your body sick. I don’t want you to be sick.

I knew a man who was in an insufferable marriage. Before you judge, just know it was bad. He had an affair and then he had eczema, terrible eczema. He finally divorced his wife and the eczema was gone. Yes, correlation doesn’t always equal causation. I get that. But I also get that lying messes us up.

According to an article in the Atlantic, people lie about 11 times every week. It’s no wonder we as a society have forgotten what truth is, right? We lie an average of 572 times a year. And sometimes, telling the truth is seen as the act of the unsophisticated.

Yeah. I am not cool with that. I’m not cool with lying to get ahead or lying to get out of trouble or lying so that your public persona seems better than it is. Because I know that lying hurts your insides. I want your insides to feel good, darn it.

In Gunderman’s story for the Atlantic, he writes:

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame followed 110 people over a period of ten weeks. Half of the participants were asked to stop lying over this period of time, and the other half were not. Both groups took weekly polygraph tests to determine how many times they had lied in the previous week. Those who were able to reduce by three the number of lies they told had four fewer mental health complaints (such as feeling tense) and three fewer physical health complaints (such as headaches) than those who did not.

So how do you not lie?

  1. Sign an ethics agreement with yourself.
  2. Avoid conflicts of interest
  3. Realize that if you lose your job, or mess up big-time, people can and still love you. They’ll relate to you because it’s happened to them, too. And if they can’t? If your act of imperfection is unforgivable to them, then move on honestly. It will be better for you in the long run.
  4. For some people writing down the Ten Commandments or similar articles of behavior is a reminder to be honest and helps prevent dishonesty.
  5. Don’t pick a job or a lifestyle or a relationship that rewards dishonesty and encourages it. Here’s an old story about that with Wells Fargo.

Lying and Writing

The perception is that all writers are liars. We construct these fictional worlds that aren’t truth. Therefore we must be lying, right? We must be suffering from the same health effects that liars-in-real-life do.

Yeah. No.

Writers create entire worlds. Yes. We fabricate details. Yes. We make people up. Yes.

But we aren’t experts in lying. We’re experts in truth.

“Wait… What…?” you’re probably saying.

But here’s the thing. Writers create worlds. But we create worlds out of truths. We put in key details. We focus on being believable. But what we’re doing is using art to tell the truths of our own stories, of the world’s stories, which is the truth of people’s stories and existence.

The best writers are the best truth tellers because their story matters to them. The depth of what they’re writing about (grief, racism, oppression, love, justice) is the truth that needs to come out of their soul. That’s the opposite of lying.

So, go write. If you’re writing your inner truth? That’s only going to lift you up.

Do Good Wednesday

Make a pact with yourself to tell the truth as much as you can. It’s that simple.

 

WRITING NEWS

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

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

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

Write! Submit! Support! Begins Again in July!

 

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

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

Here is what current students are saying:

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