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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Worst Case Scenarios are Bad For Your Heart and Good For Your Writing

Shaun used to call me, “WC,” because he is evil.

No. Really. He called me that because I’m always thinking up the worst case scenario for every situation and planning for that, which is not a particularly healthy way to live.

But. . . it’s a pretty good way to write. The ‘what if’ element of any situation in real life can be expanded into a story. Throw a ‘what if’ coupled with a ‘worst case scenario’ into your story idea and you have really high stakes.

For the full podcast episode, check out here. 

In the podcast, we talk about William Shatner in a hot tub, pauses, and all the stuff you’re reading right now – but better.

But let’s talk about inserting WORST CASE SCENARIOS INTO STORY.

Like when Carrie wrote the Need series, she thought, “What is the worst thing that can happen to this girl forced to move to Maine from Charleston? Oh. How about her biological father is a pixie king who is kidnapping people to feed off them because he can’t control his hunger and need. Ah. That’s not bad enough. How about we throw in an impending apocalypse and she has to turn pixie to stop it?”

Story ideas can come from anywhere. Your own life. The news. Random stories of friends. Country music videos. But the story ideas that are heart-stopping are the ones where there’s a worst case scenario involved. Take a situation in your life and think, “Whoah, what if those people were cannibals?” or “Whoah, what if that cat was a secret Russian agent?”

Those ‘what if’ stories are the stories that make high stakes and high action.

Don’t be afraid of the worst case scenarios.

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. 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. Moe Berg 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.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Expecting horrible things to happen isn’t healthy. Enough said. Eat bacon instead.

NO, SERIOUSLY, ASK YOURSELF THIS:

What do I need to change in order to get what I want? What do I have to change to make myself a better person? A more successful person? A person I want to be?

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Making horrible things happen in your story is TOTALLY happy. Enough said. Extra tip: Bacon is not good for you nor is it good for pigs.

The music in this podcast is “Check Them In” by Ema Grace and her site is here. We’re able to use this amazing music, thanks to Ema’s kindness and the Creative Commons.

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.

Timestoppers3_005

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 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.

Dealing With Failures, Quick Tips, Part Three

About 10 days ago, I posted on Facebook (Yes. I am still on Facebook. Don’t judge) about feeling like a failure.

It wasn’t a big depression or anything clinical, although a lot of people thought it was. It was more like a transitory moment caused by a career thing.

I actually bounce back pretty quickly from this stuff (the tiny glitches in life), but I know that everyone doesn’t and when I feel badly – Whew. I do feeling badly really well.

IMG_4811

Sparty Dog is my objective correlative here. 

One of the ways I deal with my own suckitude and my own sadness is that I try to figure out how to use my experience to help other people. I think my theory is, “If you are going to feel bad, do it for the better good.”

So, I posted about it. And I asked for tips about how people deal with those moments in their own lives, when they feel like they suck, like they are on the wrong path, when they are down.

So many people helped. So many people were beautifully willing to offer advice, and moments of their own lives.

It was awe inspiring honestly because they were just doing that because they wanted to help.

That’s a big deal.

They wanted to help.

They took the time to think and type and respond.

We are constantly barraged by bad news, by evil deeds, by acts that lack humanity and civility, and knowing about these things, these flaws in our society is important. But it’s also important to remember that so many people commit acts of kindness every day.

Always,  I’ve posted some of their advice here and here.

I’ve also posted it on our podcast and here.

But here are some more tidbits and advice and tips on how to feel better when you are having some down moments.

Just put one foot in front of the other and keep on keeping on. Help somebody else to.get out of your own smog. Pray. Ask for help and accept it gratefully. Reciprocate when you can. Don’t but telemarketed travel packages. (Trust me on this one.) Jeanne Bracken

My company uses the terms “fail forward” that I really enjoy. It’s essentially saying it’s okay to fail. We all do it. But you should try to fail forward and learn from your mistakes. Move past it by addressing it, resolving it and growing as an individual. – Michelle Ivall

And Matt Baya shared this fantastic infographic that he found on line.

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Failing is hard. We try to remember that it’s about the journey, about the joy of doing and existing and not about outside metrics of what it is to have ‘success,’ but sometimes even the most balanced of us falter. That’s okay. You’re okay.

 

Writing News

I’m 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.

Timestoppers3_005

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out her website.

And if you 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.

Moe Berg The Spy Who Played Baseball
Moe Berg

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

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

Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There will be a new episode tomorrow! Yay!

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.

Writing Advice – Down on My Shins, Baby

Writing advice.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

But, apparently not all of us:


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

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


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

 

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

He doesn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there a point to this story?

Yes and no.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Expect that you are going to be stupid sometimes.

Expect that you will fall.

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

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

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

Writing News

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

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

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

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

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

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

CARRIE’S BOOKS

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

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

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

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

My Post Copy-2

 

 

Cooking With a Writer – Migas (Portuguese style)

The Portuguese part of my family were great cooks. Brilliant cooks, honestly. And I think a reason for that was because for so long they had to learn to create goodness out of little; they had to feed many people out of not too much, right? And because they loved each other, they wanted what they shared to taste… Well, they wanted it to taste good. So, they developed ways to use up leftovers and ways to make simple things taste special.

You can compare this to my Nana Morse (totally not Portuguese) who had a tendency to put peanut butter inside a celery stick and call it good.  Sometimes she put in cream cheese instead. You avoided those sticks.

The family rule was to not eat anything Nana made if it had a dairy product in it because… Well, people in my family preferred not to vomit, basically.

Anyways, this recipe was cheap, filling, and its main ingredients were garlic, bread, and water. So… yeah… There you go!

 

Migas (Portuguese Style)

You have bread left. You’re poor. You need to eat it. The calories are totally an estimate. Sorry. 

You can add paprika, or onions. 

There are a ton of variations. I have seen it with mushrooms. I have seen black-eyed peas thrown in, but this is the most basic version that I had as a kid, most likely because it’s the cheapest. 🙂 

  • 1 lb crusty bread – old but not moldy because idk (cut up or torn up)
  • 6 TBSP olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic (peeled, hole)
  • 3.5 cups water – about, may need a bit more
  • 1 bunch coriander
  1. Find a saucepan. Boil water in it.

    Water should always be free, shouldn’t it? And clean? Think about how you are spending all your time writing blog posts instead of working for clean water. Feel guilt. 

  2. Find another saucepan. 

    Put oil in that saucepan on low heat. Put garlic in there, too. 

    Cook for three minutes, stirring it a bit. 

    Decide if you write about clean water needs you don’t need to feel guilty that  don’t have enough money to donate towards the cause. You’re a writer. It’s okay to write. Feel better.

  3. Add the bread to the second saucepan where the oil and garlic are hanging out.

    Imagine you’re hanging out with famous political activists at a party where there is an announcement about free, clean water available all around the world because of your inspiring blog post. 

  4. Gradually pour in the boiling water from the first saucepan and into the second. Let it mix and be warm. When the bread starts getting mushy and the water’s gone. You’re done cooking.

    Mourn the water. Realize how important water really is. Feel guilty again.

  5. Add coriander or kale to the top. Add salt and pepper. 

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 

“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 DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

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

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

My Post Copy-2

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.

Timestoppers3_005

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

Finding Direction Even When Life Seems Full of Failure

Editor Cheryl Klein talked about reading writer Dave Eggers’ interview in Harper Magazine. She talked about it during a time in her life where she felt like she was in a fog and had no direction. It was right after college. For those of us in the kid book world, it’s super hard to imagine someone as amazing as Cheryl lacking focus and direction. She graciously sent me her commencement speech where she details this and it was – It was eye opening. And comforting.

In the article Klein referenced, Eggers basically said he just said yes to possibilities and opportunities. According to Klein, he said, “There is only saying yes to opportunities whenever they come—Trying whatever makes your world larger, your experience greater, your life better— Sometimes just for the pleasure of trying new things, of saying yes.”

This is something Carrie tells kids at almost every single school visit that she does.

She talks about improv and tells them to just say yes to ideas and adventures. She is always asked for advice on how to be a writer and she always says, “Gulp up experiences. Live the biggest life you can live.”

The center of attention in your life? What is it?

What is it that you want to do? To be? It’s easy to feel superfluous, but you are not superfluous and when you understand your life’s work? That helps.

A lot of people tell you to find and/or refine your purpose  by making a sentence:

YOUR NAME + WHAT YOU DO + WHO YOU DO IT FOR +WHY YOU DO IT

So, Carrie’s would be:

I’m Carrie Jones and I write stories about kindness and bravery and connection for kids because they deserve those sort of stories to become the best humans they can be. and to feel less alone

Or that’s what she thought it would be until last week when she had a little bit of a crisis.

And her life’s mission statement became sort of –

Iam Carrie Jones and I write things for somebody because I don’t know how not to write and I’m sort of expected to so yeah. Wow. This sucks. 

On Carrie’s Facebook page last week, she asked people what they do when they’ve had a fail moment and can’t quite get over it, how do they find their way again?

One wonderful person, Rhonda Parrish, said this, “I got a tattoo. Right on my hand where I can see it all the time. It says, “Fail Better.”  Because I have often felt like a failure in the past, and I know I’ll feel that way in the future as well — but I don’t want fear of that feeling to stop me from doing things. The tattoo is there to remind me that not succeeding at something is not failure, but not trying it in the first place might be. And also that failing once! equals failure. I can always try again. And again. And again. It helps. It puts my neurosis right there on my hand for everyone in the world to see LOL But it helps.”

And then she used this quote:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” –Samuel Beckett

When you know that there are possibilities, when you remember one moment doesn’t forever define you, when you say yes to adventure, when you tattoo reminders? All of that… Every bit of it… It can help.

Dogs are Smarter than People
Love

 

Here’s the link to the latest podcast episode all about this!

Dog Tip for Life

You don’t need to look at yourself. You need to look for yourself – for revelation rather than reassurance.

Writer Tip of the Pod

Be yourself when you write. Don’t try to be John Green or J.K. Rowling. Be you. Write like you.

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

 

Here’s the link to the podcast again, because why not?

Being Nice: Who Do You Think You Are?

I spend almost all my time trying to be a nice person. It’s always been like this; I kid you not. Like in fifth grade I was voted MOST COURTEOUS like that was some kind of damn honor or something, right?

Carrie is polite.

Carrie is courteous.

Carrie is word-of-the day worthy.

That’s not who I thought I was.

“Most Courteous” wasn’t what I wanted to be, you know, right? Like I wanted to be “Smartest” or “Prettiest” or “Class Clown” or “Most Athletic” even though “Most Athletic” is something I could never be since I have zero hand-eye coordination. This is because I don’t use my left eye to see. They thought I was blind when I was born. I had an operation. I had glasses when I was one year old and kept them all the way until fifth grade when I prayed to God every night to not have to have glasses in middle school.

There was this stupid Dorothy Parker quote that says, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,” and that quote was like the word of God to me. I knew I would always be most courteous and not real superlative worthy unless I actually got rid of those damn glasses.

So I prayed.

At the doctor’s office, I sat in the chair and stared at the eye chart. It was all on my right eye, I knew. It had to perform at 100 % to get rid of those damn glasses.

The doctor was all, “Can you read this line?”

And I was all, “E.”

And he was all, “Can you read this line?”

And I was all, “T.O.Z.”

He made an interesting noise, like he was impressed. “Go down as low as you can. Just keep reading each line. Start at the top. How about that?”

“Okay.” I took a deep breath and started from the top. “E F P T P Z L P E D.”

I went on and on. I could see them all.

10298575_10152479050009073_1745305575127517871_o

Sadly, the magical return of my eyesight didn’t make me magically popular as one boy reminded me at a sixth-grade dance at St Joseph’s the one Catholic church in our town. We had one Catholic church, which was where some of the Irish and French Canadian kids went. We had Protestant church, which was Presbyterian. That’s it.

I wanted to be one of those church kids so badly. But one of my dads was an atheist. Another dad was a lapsed Catholic who believed that hell was where we were living right now, on Earth. And my mom gave up her Methodist Church in Manchester because she caught the minister cheating at bowling and called him out on it.

“He lied to my face, that man,” Mom would self-righteously retell us for decades. “Right. To. My. Face. And this man was supposed to be in charge of my spiritual growth? I’ll show him spiritual growth. He was always looking at my cleavage, too. Creep.”

Bowling mattered a lot to my mom. But I was just annoyed because her cleavage and insistence that you aren’t supposed to cheat in bowling meant I couldn’t go to church.

And I wanted to.

I wanted to belong, you know?

plot pacing and proms writing tips

So, when S. slow danced with me three times in a row at the CCD dance, I felt like I might actually belong.

But then he pulled away from me and said, “Carrie, let’s face it. Neither of us are lookers. So we might as well make do with each other.”

I stepped out of his arms and I said one word, “What?”

“I’m saying… I’m saying… We’re not tens so we might as well make do.”

I cried and I ran away and hid in the bathroom. I didn’t come out even when his mom, a freaking chaperone, came in to check on me. I didn’t come out until there wasn’t any music playing at all.

Only then did I run out to my mom’s old Chevy Monte Carlo, which was waiting in the parking lot. I wrenched open the door and slammed myself inside the car.

“What is it?” Her smile went into the anger place where her lips were just straight lines. This was how she looked when she talked about her little Methodist minister friend.

I blurted out what S. said. With my mother, there was no pretending something bad hadn’t happened. There were no secrets, unless they were hers.

“That bastard,” she said.

“I’m ugly.” I sobbed that out somehow.

“You aren’t ugly. That boy is ugly. His heart is ugly. He was working some line. He thinks he’s some actor. Some comedian. He’s a punk.”

But I knew in my heart that my mom was lying. I was ugly. I had to be.

I suddenly became someone I didn’t think I was.

And the thing is, no matter how many times I’ve heard people tell me I’m not, heard boys and girls call me cute or beautiful or lovely or pretty, I’ve never believed them. It’s S.S’s words that I hear in my head, over and over again.

Neither of us are lookers.

            We’re not tens.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Prom dog

I have this other friend who photographs well. She is the opposite of me because I photograph like poop.

She says to me sometimes, “I don’t know how so many guys like you. You and me? We’re alright looking, but we’re not beautiful like OTHER GIRL.”

And I smiled at her.

OTHER GIRL is skinny and blonde and full of acne scars and holes of anxiety that threaten to eat her insides away. And I worry for her all the time.

And I am?

Alright looking, I guess. I became who she said I was.

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Her words shouldn’t matter.

It freaking matters.

 

Other people’s words have echoed and echoed and shaped me until I don’t even want to be in a photograph anymore. I’m too afraid that the image of me that I see will be even worse than I imagine.

I had delusions of insignificance. Every time I felt badly about who I was it was because someone else had put me in a comparison situation.

You know how that is right?

Ah, I’m not as successful as Rick Riordan.

Ah, I’m not as beautiful as all these famous actresses and models or even that random police dispatcher in my town. 

Ah, I’m not as smart as…

Ah, I’m not as good a runner as…

But the thing is? That’s crap. You are magical as you. You don’t need to be compared to anyone else or compare yourself to others. Superlatives are bull. We are all superlative at being ourselves.

Your life is your message to this world.

And what is that message? The truth of you? The truth of me? It sure isn’t how we look. It’s how we are on the inside. For me that’s word-of-the-day Carrie, Courteous Carrie, Writer Carrie, Photographer Carrie, Hug Your Dogs All the Time Carrie.

That’s the truth of you, too.

And looking into mirrors? It’s about more than seeing what’s on the outside, about more than being defined and labeled by what’s on that same outside. It’s about the inner you. The real you and seeing it – really seeing it – and knowing how freaking magic you are just by being you, authentically and truly you.

img_1604

That’s not saying you don’t have flaws, that you won’t mess up. We all mess up. We mess up constantly.

Some people are afraid of the #metoo movement, of making their own mistakes when it comes to racial issues, religious issues, sexuality, identity, ability.

That fear? It’s good. It makes us better. We are all heading straight into truth; burning it out of ourselves, all the ugly things that we don’t want to see. We can’t let our fear slow us down. We can’t let other people’s visions of us control us. We can’t be afraid to look into the mirrors that see deep inside of us.

Social media brings out trolls. That’s so true, but it also gives us a voice, a hope. We have a new template for telling our stories, for making our lives and for sharing them in a world where our voices often didn’t matter. We can share our magic in so many ways.

And it’s intoxicating and terrifying. People are interested in other people. People are sharing with other people. People are even interested in us. In us.

And that’s power.

And that’s magic.

Use it wisely. I know I will try to. I know I make mistakes. I know that I am human. But the thing is? I love being human. I love growing and evolving and changing. I hope you do, too.

Writing News

 

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.

The next book coming out with Bloomsbury in August is this one! More on the series here.

Timestoppers3_005

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE – New episode tomorrow!

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

Dealing With Failure – Part One

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

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

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

I cried.

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

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

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

People are giving. People want to help

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

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

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

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

Some of those coping mechanisms involved apps.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing News

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

Anyway…

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

CARRIE’S BOOKS

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

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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

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

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

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

writing tips life tips carrie jones books
carrie jones books

Rabanadas (Portuguese Fried Toast Recipe) and Open Table MDI

On a Facebook post yesterday, I was basically begging people for advice, to tell me what they do when they are sad, when they feel like they’ve failed. So many people poured out their advice, this beautiful act of generosity and kindness that renewed my faith in people and good.

On Thursdays, I usually write a quippy, sort-of-satiric Cooking With a Writer recipe. It’s always vegetarian because I’m trying to convince the meat eaters in my life to eat less meat. I then share the results.

Spoiler alert: I haven’t convinced them.

Visual aid: This is them.

 

Anyway, on my post one of my friends said, “We don’t have anything to prove-just live, cook good food and be nice.”

And that really resonated with me.

Live.

Cook good food.

Be nice.

Last Tuesday, we went to Open Table MDI at the Bar Harbor Congregational Church and all three of these things happened. The weekly community supper was something we’d never been to, but I braved myself up to go and I’m so glad I did.

Why?

It was all vegetarian food. Seriously. So much vegetarian food. It was brilliant. The dogs didn’t go, but the meat-loving man in my life was so impressed that he wanted to go back to the volunteers in the kitchen.

He said to our friend, Z, “Do you think it’s okay if I go back and tell them how good it is?”

Z said, “Yeah. Oh definitely. When I’ve volunteered we loved that.”

So, the man went back to the kitchen and thanked the cooks, shaking their hands and saying things like, “This food was amazing. This … I could eat like this all the time.”

Yep.

He could eat like this all the time.

In one half hour, these amazing volunteers made way more progress in the conversion of the man than I ever could. I think it’s because the food was super good, yes, but I also think it’s because these people are making all this good food for the community. Why?

Because they are kind.

Because they are nice.

Because they are motivated to do good.

Open Table MDI is this beautiful, free, weekly supper and according to its website, “was born out of the desire to inspire a strong and inclusive community through sharing a meal and connecting people to real food. Our community dinner program provides healthy and delicious meals produced from organic and local sources when possible. This program is FREE and OPEN TO ALL.”

That’s pretty beautiful. That’s full of hope. And it reminded me of one of my grandmothers and how she would comfort me when I was small and sad. She would make me this.

I hope you find comfort when you are feeling small and sad and even when you don’t.

Fried Toast

My avó used to make these rabanadas, which is basically Portuguese French Toast, but not French, because… Portuguese. 

Also, the calorie count might be a bit off. 

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP Cinnamon
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 cups milk – 2% (You can actually use red wine for this or port. )
  • 1 loaf bread (better if it's stale – make 16 slices)
  • some oil – to fry it in
  1. Mix the sugar and cinnamon until blended. Smell it. It smells like home. Start writing a poem about home. Spill the sugar on the counter. Resist the urge to lick it. You are not a dog. You are a writer. But wow… yeah… sugar.

  2. So, in something shallow like a pie plate, whisk the eggs and milk together. Realize you have no desire to lick this. Wonder why you didn’t use wine instead. Hemingway would be so disappointed in you. Damn it, so would your avó. Wonder if you should start over. Realize that would be wasting milk and eggs. You have not sold enough books to waste milk and eggs. Why can’t you actually be Hemingway? He would not mess up like this.

    Cry.

  3. Dip the bread in the milk (or port or wine) and egg mixture. Soak it lightly. 

  4. Find a skillet. Heat an inch of oil. Yes, an inch. I know! I know! Get it to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  5. Take bread slice out of wet mixture. Shake off the extra liquid. 

  6. Fry bread about 2 minutes on each side, maybe 3. It should be golden brown. Now dip it in the sugar/cinnamon. Be careful, the bread will be super hot. USE UTENSILS LIKE TONGS! Do not try to be stupid-tough like a nature writer or a Hemingway. Writers burn.

  7. Repeat with all your slices.

  8. There are variations here. 

    You can have the milk/wine/port and egg mixtures as separate dips and not mixed together. People in my family are just sort of lazy, honestly. If you do it this way, then soak it in milk and then dip in the egg. Again, try to get rid of the excess back in the bowl.

    You can make a sugar-syrup type mix and drizzle or coat the toast with that. To do this take honey or maple syrup and the same amount of water. Heat it up. Then dip the bread into the hot syrup.  

There are variations to this recipe. Probably as many variations as there are grandmothers. So, please don’t get all angry if this is the one you didn’t grow up with. I only know my own family. BUT I would love to hear about yours, and their variations! 

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 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.