Writing In The First Person? Quick Reasons Why It’s Okay.

On a listserv that I used to be on a lot of the talk was  about first person in YA lit.

Basically, everyone except for me said:

1. There’s too much of it.
2. It all sounds the same.
3. Why use it? It’s so darn limiting.

And because I am a woman of strong opinions who is contrary, I countered that:

1.There’s not too much of it if kids read it and love it.

2. M.T. Anderson and Angie Thomas and Meg Cabot and Kekla Magoon and John Green do not all sound the same. Yes, I know that list doesn’t cover the people who do sound the same. But why do we always focus on the negatives in our industry instead of the positives? Why are we so quick to degrade our value?
3. Everything writing choice we make is limiting really. That’s the nature of choices in life and in writing. We decide to do something one way, to be a certain way, to go to one place. That means that we can currently do the other option, be the other option, go to the other location. But choices also expand our horizons. When we make a choice, pick a path, we are taking a step towards follow through and commitment.

My Post-5

But my main point was mostly ignored. No offense to the writers in the group who probably don’t remember the conversation anymore. I’d ignore me, too. I wrote my response VERY early in the morning and it was a bit impassioned, as the brilliant Brent Hartinger said.

Throughout our history an integral part of civil rights for all groups has been giving voice to the voiceless. Angela Davis, Audre Lord, lots of people have spoken of this in terms of women’s rights and civil rights movements. The recognition that your voice is heard, that your voice matters is an essential part on the path to equality and liberation. It’s part of the need for intersectionality. For young adults this is also true.

My Post-5 copy

Teens don’t have the voice that adults have. They can’t vote. They tend to not have as much money and power. That’s hard.

But even in a nonpolitical sense, some teens are struggling with identity issues. The first-person voice is the perfect reflection of that struggle. Rather than having a third-person narrative, instead the books are in the voice of the people who are finding their voice, which is a tool towards empowerment. So, I argue that even though yes, there are a TON of first-person narratives, don’t there need to be? Shouldn’t there be more and more voices out there, giving power to more and more thoughts. And, yes, it comes down from an adult writer (usually) recreating the voice of youth, but even that mimicking shows a sign of respect for the voice of young adults. The mimic in us gives worth to the original voice that we are trying to recreate in our stories.

This is in NO WAY to say that third-person voice or narrative is bad or doesn’t have a place. It does. I love third person. When I was a kid I loved both, too. I think books in the third person are also important and empowering. Just by telling the stories of young adults we give value to them.

My point, though, is that first-person narratives shouldn’t constantly be pooped on as something unworthy or that there’s too much of it. I just would like it if we sometimes thought about the political choices that underpin our craft choices. I know some writers do. Maybe I mean, collectively, as a community.

I am cringing now, ready for someone to scream at me. That’s okay. Scream away. REMEMBER SCREAMING IS CONVEYED ON THE WEB WORLD BY DOING ALL CAPS AND LOTS OF THESE !!!! AND EVEN A FEW OF THESE @#$%.

Do Good Wednesday

Here’s a quick way to make a difference. Donate your old bike if you have one. Bikes for the World is an organization that helps provide bikes to people who are economically disadvantaged. Why? Because a bike can change a life. It can make you self-sufficient because it gives you a way to get around.

bfw-logo

That’s a big deal.

Your old bike can be the key to someone’s better life.

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, has a new episode Tuesday. Check it out.

My Post-2 copy

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image
 
And finally, this is my middle grade series, TIME STOPPERS. I love this series. Allegedly it’s like HARRY POTTER meets PERCY JACKSON but with even more heart? Weird, but I’ll take it. It’s the story I wrote a long time ago. It’s the story that I submitted when I applied to Vermont College.  More about it is here.
I owe it.
I owe it a lot.

 

Advertisements

Surviving a MFA Program? You can do it even if you’re a scared wimp like me. I swear.

If you guys don’t know there is a smattering of master’s program specifically for writing for children. This is a very cool thing. I went to Vermont College of Fine Arts. V.C.F.A offers a master’s in writing for children and young adults.

What was it like?

Um…. It was great. No plots were stolen.

My Post-5 copy 3

But when I first got there it was a little scary.

You know how when you go into the cafeteria and realize that you know absolutely nobody. No, seriously, and everyone else looks like they know everybody else and so you just stand there with your tray… wondering how you can go into the kitchen and eat with the cooks because they seem really nice… the cooks. Not the students.

That’s what it was like.

And then you meet all the other people in your class and it feels like everyone is SOOOOOOOOO much cooler than you are and they all sort of have roles and personas already.

There’s HE WHO WRITES SEX SCENES and SHE OF THE PEACEFUL POETRY and MAGICAL URBAN FANTASY WOMAN and PICTURE BOOK GURU and I AM FLUFFY and then of course, THE ONE OTHER MAN WHO MIGHT BE CREEPY. This is a children’s writer’s program after all. So, most of the amazing writers will be women.

Anyway, I felt like I didn’t fit in because everyone else was so cool, and here I was a newspaper editor, a woman with a voice like a muppet, a girl from poor, a person who had been sleeping in her car two years ago, a person who had seizures and cognitive degeneration from those seizures.

And I was supposed to hang out with these brilliant people?

And basically I almost had the biggest case of imposter syndrome ever and a complete  breakdown the first residency until Lisa Jahn Clough talked me down and said, “Carrie, writers never feel like they fit in. That’s why we’re writers.”

And I said, “But I’m from Maine. I’m not used to all these people talking everywhere about writing. Actually, I’m not used to people, which is part of why I wear a parka inside buildings at all times.”


And she said, “I know. I’m from Maine too, but it’s good. Really. It’s sometimes overwhelming, but it’s good. And parkas are fine.”

“How about cardigans? And sweaters?” I asked. “I gave birth to my daughter during a July heatwave and I wore a sweater.”

“Carrie, you can wear anything or nothing and still be a writer,” she said.

And it turned out she was right.

www.carriejonesbooks.blog
Marsie: None of us could believe it either.

I stuck it out and after a year a story I wrote during National Novel Writing Month was picked up off an editor’s slush pile. More on that is here.

The thing is: Everyone in my class at Vermont helped each other and HE WHO WRITES SEX SCENES eventually WROTE PEACEFUL POETRY occasionally, and MAGICAL URBAN FANTASY WOMAN wrote an occasional picture book, and everyone in my class just basically loved each other, creating a happy ending much better than any 1980s teen movie and we eventually all crunched up together and looked all emotional and dramatic but right together.

And I kind of miss it because as Molly Ringwald (1980s actress always wearing pink or black) said in the movie, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, “Us loners got to stick together.”

And you know, writers wrote that line. And they also wrote that movie. Which is why we all need to support each other because sometimes… well… we writers stink.

We do not have to support each other when we are creepy, however, or when we are being cruel to other groups (bloggers, librarians, races, religions, genders, identities, different physical and mental abilities), but it’s nice to support each other when we feel sad or bad or when we feel like we can’t be a writer at all.

Anyway, I really miss learning about craft and becoming an exponentially better writer because of amazing writer/teachers/fellow students.

And I really miss throwing cookies at people in the cafeteria and then looking all happy-faced.

Us loners got to stick together, baby, and that counts for writers and readers both, and writing programs give us writers a place to do it. So congratulations to all my friends who are starting programs, and to all my friends who aren’t. Because, basically, we all have our own paths and they are all cool.

Well, almost all of them are cool.

Remember opening spaces for people who might not have entrance into those spaces historically is the coolest thing of all.

So, let that be your motivation! In life and in writing you don’t have to be the culturally created ‘norm’ to be awesome. You go out there and tell your story and live your truth no matter how much you don’t feel like you fit in or how much you feel like you do fit in.

That doesn’t matter.

You.

You are what matters.

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, has a new episode Tuesday. Check it out.

My Post-2 copy

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image
 
And finally, this is my middle grade series, TIME STOPPERS. I love this series. Allegedly it’s like HARRY POTTER meets PERCY JACKSON but with even more heart? Weird, but I’ll take it. It’s the story I wrote a long time ago. It’s the story that I submitted when I applied to Vermont College.  More about it is here.
I owe it.
I owe it a lot.

 

Writing Is Sometimes Not So Glam, Even When You Win an Award.

Welcome Back to the Glam World of Children’s Book Writing! Not! 

Many of you have heard about the time my skirt fell down to the ground in New  York City during a major book event.

Many of you have heard about the time a reader bit someone else in line trying to grab After Obsession, my  book I wrote with Steve Wedel.

Many of you have heard about the 5 million times I said the wrong thing.

But that’s not all of it.

My Post-6


So I won a few awards for Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, my debut novel. Sometimes these awards ceremonies were hard to survive.

Yes, I did just write survive.

One of these times was when I won a Maine Literary Award.

The people at the awards ceremony were incredibly nice and kind. Grape-eating abounded. Brie-eating abounded. There was wine. But more importantly there was sparkling cider. The awards were held in a dark room on the seventh floor of a library. Yes, there are buildings with over three floors in Maine, thank you very much.

But I expected to be like this:
(Image from solar navigator)

Instead, I was like this:
(image from the Times)
Why?

Well, a woman who is very nice read pieces of the award winners and then presented them with the award. There were awards for poetry, published fiction, published non-fiction, published children’s book (THIS IS WHAT I WON!) and then there were awards for teen writers, which is super ultra-cool, because let me tell you that winning an award looks SOOOOOOOO good on college applications.
(Dakota Fanning right here knows that she is going to get into every college she wants.)

Anyway, I went up. I received my award. I smiled. I hugged. I went back to my seat while people applauded. I did not fall down. My skirt did not fall down. I did not say any swear words or call anyone by the wrong name.

I thought I had made it through.

I thought I was safe.

I thought wrong.

Then an ultra-cute teen went up and received her award. She went back to her seat, then the host called the teen’s name into the darkness and asked what high school the ultra-cute, ultra-good-writer teen went to.

“Scarborough,” the teen replied. Her voice flitted through the darkness.

Then the host said INTO THE MICROPHONE (!), “Carrie. What high school do you go to?”

Me:

Everyone in the audience turned their heads to stare at me.

Me:

Super cool administrator of the program started saying, “No! Carrie — Carrie — wrote –“

Me (finally capable of speech): No! I’m —  I’m old.

People began laughing.

People began laughing somewhat hysterically, snorting wine out their noses.

People could not stop laughing.

Emily, my super lovable kid, pet my back, and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. They won’t remember.”

Sigh.

I remember.

And this is why I remind myself that I’m not a writer for the potential glory. I’m a writer because I love story, I love writing, and I write for kids because kids and teens are awesome.

Kate DiCamillo said, “Stories are light. And light is precious in a world so dark.”

That light makes the embarrassment worth it.

My Post-5 copy

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, had a new episode Tuesday. It’s about dialogue. It’s pretty funny. Actually, it’s super funny. Check it out.

My Post-2 copy

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image
 

 

Four Gentle Ways To Raise (Write) A Good Book Like It’s A Dog

My Post-4 copy

Books and dogs have a lot in common. That’s why we have a podcast about dogs, life, and writing, right? Shameless podcast link is right here. Please listen.

Anyways, now that my shameless plug is over I can get to my point, which is that you can apply some of the lessons of training your dog to training your book. Really. Read on.

Find a space to write

Just like training a dog requires some dedicated space if you’re working on agility or sit/stay commands, your book can blossom if you have a dedicated place to write.

This space needs to be what works for you. Kid free? Kid friendly? Music? No music? Cozy? Standing? Surrounded by books? Surrounded by nothing?

Create a space where writing happens. Kindly boot out the old plates, the yelling kids, the  licking dogs if you need to. Or hoard them. There is no one right way to create your writing space.

Here’s the thing: 

Your book and your writing is important. Create a space for it.

More on that: Make the space for the book

I’m not just talking about the mechanics of writing the book. I’m talking about the space for it to breathe. Books can be brats. They need room to grow and breathe. Make sure you take time to step away from the actual physical writing of your book so that inspiration can hit, problem solving can happen.

Sometimes stepping away to give that baby some independence is exactly what it needs to grow.

Even dogs need a little quite time and not constant stimulation. There’s a reason for that. It lets them recharge. You and your book need to recharge, too.

My Post-4 copy 2

Play

When we were kids, writing stories was play. It was fun. Now, a lot of us think of it as work. We think of work and play as two separate things.

They don’t have to be.

Play with your story. Enjoy it.

Dogs learn things and acquire new skills because they feel rewarded or because it’s fun or because bacon is involved. Doing work doesn’t have to be arduous. It’s okay to find joy.   I wouldn’t write novels if I didn’t love writing stories and making up characters. It’s one of my favorite things in the world, which is why I put up with all the horrible parts of it (bad reviews, trolls, stalkers, random pay checks, hoping for publication, the long wait between books).

Every year that goes by where I get to be a writer I think, “Whooo, boy. I am so freaking lucky. This is awesome. I love this.”

I wouldn’t feel that way if I didn’t think of it as fun, as play, and as work.

Be Okay With Your Book Messing Up

A book is like a kid or a dog. It’s not going to always be perfect. You might think it is the most brilliant, amazing, talented child… dog… book in the world, but sometimes it’s going to mess up a bit? That rambling thought? It doesn’t belong there. The subplot? It’s a bit junky.

That doesn’t mean the book is a failure.

That doesn’t mean you are a failure.

It just means that you have a place to tinker with.

Do Good Wednesday!

16426121_10155070666704073_3105547545269219495_n

Gabby the Dog loves kids. She loves books. And she loves doing good. If you’re like her at all, you’ll love BOOKS BETWEEN KIDS, “a non-profit organization founded in 2012 to serve Houston’s at-risk children by providing them with books to build their own home libraries.”

That’s pretty cool. Check out its website to get involvedBBK-Banner-Book-Counter-2017-1006389-1.

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image
 

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, had a new episode yesterday. It’s about dialogue. It’s pretty funny. Actually, it’s super funny. Check it out.

My Post-2 copy

 

 

Local Author Gets Kicked Out of Coffee Shop

RANDOM PLACE, MAINE — Local author Carrie Jones was kicked out of the town’s one and only coffee shop today when she ordered a decaffeinated tea rather than a super mocha ultra caffinated coffee thingy.

“Can you believe it?” asked shop owner, Leslie LongIhavewrittenstoryaboutloveandsexinthesuburbs. “Everyone knows you can NOT be an author without coffee. It’s like being a Disney star without having big bright shiny teeth and an occasional sordid scandal. I mean, come on. . . Hello? Green tea?”

Ms. Jones was promptly booted to the street. She took her laptop with her and was seen hunkering down in a bush near a window of the establishment.

“I can still get wi-fi here.” She sniffed. “Thank God.”

Her agent then called on her cell phone and told her not to comment. In a written statement from her agency, Ms. Jones’ agent expressed her assuredness that Ms. Jones can indeed be an author who does not drink coffee.

“No, she is not a Mormon,” she said. “And she’s not all straight-edged. Or pregnant. She can’t have much caffeine because it gives her seizures. Yes, I swear, she is still an author. Really. An author. ”

The one-star-reviewer IHATECARRIEJONES on Good Reads obviously disagreed.

“Real authors are caffeinated. Or at least drunk,” he wrote. “She is dead to me.”

Leslie also disagreed. “She’s a poser. I don’t care how many books she’s published. Her last book was a picture book biography. That doesn’t even count.”

Jones vowed never to leave the house again.

“Or, I’m going to pretend to drink coffee. I’ll like get coffee scented tea or something. There’s got to be a way to fight this,” she said, pretending that she wasn’t crying, you’re crying, while wiping tears from her face.

www.carriejonesbooks.blog

Marsie the Cat’s Monday Motivation

IMG_9899

Look. Be you. Don’t let any haters tell you that you stink. You don’t. They do. People who yank each other down aren’t worth your time. Any cat knows that. You need to know it, too.

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image
 

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog.

 

Four Simple Ways To Build Charismatic Characters and a More Charismatic You

When I was little I tried to hide.

I was this kid who talked like a Muppet. Everyone made fun of me so I didn’t talk at all in first grade. I was known as THE QUIET KID WHO GIVES HER SNACKS AWAY – SO DO NOT BEAT HER UP. This was an effective strategy against bullying, honestly.

The teachers couldn’t figure me out. I wasn’t intellectually challenged, but I never actually said anything. Teachers tend to like kids who raise their hand and talk.

But talking meant people noticing me. If people noticed me, they might make fun of my voice. It was way better (in my six-year-old wisdom) to be nothing. Quiet. Just there. This is not terribly charismatic.

Then, I wrote a haiku in September of second grade. I had all the syllables right (a big requirement). It was all one sentence (another requirement). It wasn’t about Tonka trucks (against the teacher’s rules). It was about nature. I was the only one who did it right, so the teacher, Mrs. Snierson, posted it in big letters on the wall and decided I was gifted. Whew. Did I fool her.

The poem was:

Spring is fun you see
Because flowers grow with rain
And robins come home.

This is how I learned that teachers are important to writers’ egos.

That one poem got me into gifted programs.
That one poem got me noticed.
That one poem put my life on a trajectory that didn’t have to do with silence.

And I used all that time watching people to learn about the kids who had the ‘it’ factor. Charisma. They were kids like Sarah Silverman and Steven Sills and Julie Zito and Andrea Henrichon. These shiny, golden people. I watched what they did and longed so much to be like them. That poem was my first step.

Let’s face it. Not all of us writers are super charismatic. Some of us prefer hiding in a reading nook to going out and talking to actual living people.

That’s not the rule, obviously. There are some super charismatic authors out there.

So, what does that mean when we’re writing characters who are supposed to be charismatic? What even is charisma any way?

Charisma is when you or your character is so darn compelling or attractive that people become devoted to you.

22089979_10155867045509073_3828046520746204844_n
This dog is charismatic even when flopped down.

I’ve met and interacted with a lot of authors with a lot of big followings and most of them build those massive followings with a lot of social media confidence, and a lot of that confidence that I’ve seen is false. They create an online presence that is full of flaunting and preening. They call their readers cute fan club names even when they only have two readers. And that way works. Being super confident works to build charisma.

But I can’t do that. Why? Because I prefer to be authentically me. And authentically me is sometimes sort of confident, but most of the time I am self deprecating and I doubt. This is totally evidenced in Dogs Are Smarter Than People’s Tuesday podcast where my husband almost convinces me that I am wrong about the ingredients in a white Russian.

Sidenote: My husband is a super confident man even when he’s wrong and I actually appreciate that about him because it makes me feel safe. When do I not appreciate it? Um.. when he’s confident that I’m wrong when I’m actually right.

There are a lot of blogs out there talking about charisma and almost all of them are talking about being confident. So you automatically think that if you aren’t confident, you aren’t charismatic, right?

Wrong.

Those blogs aren’t talking about personal charisma. They are talking about charismatic leadership. Those are two different things.

According to Ronald Riggio, PHD, “Personal charisma is a constellation of complex and sophisticated social and emotional skills. They allow charismatic individuals to affect and influence others at a deep emotional level, to communicate effectively with them, and to make strong interpersonal connections.”

So what is this special constellation of skills? Can’t you just believe you’re awesome and be charismatic?

Not really.

We all know the blowhard who saunters around thinking how awesome they are. We write them into our stories and movies. They are almost always a big, white dude who ends up getting beaten up by the hero at the end of the movie.

So how do we make a charismatic character without making someone who is annoyingly over confident? We make someone likable.

My Post-3 copy

Charismatic people don’t think the world revolves around them.

We’ve all met the people who only talk about themselves. You can be standing in front of them bleeding profusely and they will look at you and say, “Hey, you know I once got this cut that bled like that for like hours. It was a paper cut. Man, that thing bled. You know my mom says I have always been a big bleeder, blah, blah, blah.”

That person is obviously not charismatic. Being into yourself so much to the exclusion of all others no matter what the situation is sort of an anti-charisma.

This goes for characters, too. The character that only thinks about their self when their friend has just lost a hamster, or their zombie girlfriend, or whatever, is an unlikeable and uncharismatic character.

So, how do you fix this? Two quick things: 

  1. Listen to other people when they talk to you. Have your character listen to other characters.
  2. Don’t make a conversation all about you. Don’t make the internal monologue about your character all about your character all the time.

Own Your Space

When you go somewhere, own that somewhere. When your charismatic character enters the wizarding tournament, don’t have him shirk off to the side. Have her swagger onto the court. Have him stride to the field. You can do this, too. You might be a writer, but own your writing space. This is yours. You deserve it.

My Post-3 copy 2

Be Kind

When I go the grocery store, people wave to me. Why? I think it’s because I try to be kind and open. I like to hear about their days and connect with them because they are cool people. I never realized this was a weird thing until one of my friends went with me.

We walked through those sliding front doors, a whole bunch of awesome cashiers waved, smiling, and my friend grabbed my arm and scurried over to produce whispering madly, “Those people love you.”

I said, “They are nice.”

And she said, “Carrie, they don’t love everyone. They love you. They aren’t waving to everyone. I bet some of them even know your name.”

She was totally flabbergasted and I was flabbergasted by her being flabbergasted, but then I realized that my normal isn’t everyone else’s normal. The awesome people at my grocery store don’t think I’m better than anyone else because I’m not. But they might think that I treat them better than most other people.

That is actually sad.

Everyone should treat each other with a bit more kindness and openness, honestly. A charismatic person and character, is comfortable enough with who they are that they can treat others well and want to know their stories and connect with them.

How do you do that? 

  1. Be enthusiastic if other people take the time to try to connect with you. This goes for characters, too.
  2. Be optimistic when you can be optimistic. Lift up other people and their goals instead of trying to drag them down.
  3. Don’t be afraid to smile or laugh when you feel like smiling or laughing.  the

Be Expressive

My Post-4

A charismatic person (and character) isn’t afraid to express her genuine emotions. A lot of time, I tell my students that something emotionally huge just happened for their character, but they aren’t showing that on the page and so the important scene falls flat.

So, they’ll write something like this:

Ezra leaned forward and kissed me. I kissed him back. After a moment, he broke away. 

There is no emotional investment in those three sentences, right? It’s just actions. You know what happened, but you aren’t invested in that scene. There is no charisma in the character right there, right? Compare that to:

Ezra leaned forward like he was going to kiss me. That couldn’t be right. Ezra Jones would never want to kiss me. Swallowing hard, my lips trembled. I almost looked away, but his lips met mine before I actually could.

Ezra Jones’ lips were touching my lips!

And my lips were touching his lips right back. 

 The cat screeched in the other room and we broke away, laughing. My hand fluttered up to my mouth. Ezra Jones had kissed me. Me. 

So, my point here is not about Ezra Jones’ kiss, but about emotion and expressing that on the page or in your own life. We all walk around broken and pieced back together. People are fragile, inside and out. And it’s natural sometimes to try to hold in our emotions.

Charismatic people are genuine people. They let their emotions be out there for the world to see, but they don’t usually make scenes. They are genuine, but they know the impact that their emotions have on other people and they care about that impact, so they do control their emotions when interacting with others in what could be perceived as a potentially negative way.

That ability to care about others? That expressive empathy? That’s charismatic.

So, to recap. How do you make characters charismatic? 

  1. They don’t think the world revolves around them.
  2. They own their space.
  3. They are kind.
  4. They are expressive. 

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say. Also, I can be concise! Most of my friends don’t believe this.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image
 

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog.

Yesterday’s podcast was about how I can’t have a donkey farm or be Bono, but it’s also about character and blocking and how dogs are smarter than people.

 

 

How To Stay Motivated About Your Story Even When You Want to Cry

Sometimes, writers crash.

It happens to all of us. To some of us it happens all the time. It’s hard to stay motivated about your story when it gets rejected 8,000 times or you publish it and nobody reads it or you are still writing the draft and it feels more like drudgery than song.

And being a writer is weird. A lot of things mess with your head.

Once, one of my books was up for an award and it totally didn’t win.

One of my friends emailed me and he said, “Grrr…. I hate that your book loses anything.”

Which is SO funny because he’s so protective in a happy-good way and also funny because let’s face it: Books lose things all the time.

Not every book gets on the NYT Bestsellers list
Not every book gets a Printz or a National Book Award or a Cybils or a Caldecott or any of those big fancy prizes where you get to wear ball gowns and look all elegant.

But just getting a book published is really cool. And I am so okay with losing contests because I am really super lucky to get books published at all. There are so many stories that are brilliant and life-changing and funny that don’t get that chance. So I am SAVORING IT!

And it’s kind of like getting a significant other….

If you are like me you pine ALL THROUGH EIGHTH GRADE and hope for a boy to somehow eventually like you, and of course it isn’t just any boy it is… um….

But of course he’s like a British pop star who dates models and doesn’t hang out in New Hampshire and even if he did he’d get arrested for dating you because he is like way old.

And you pine…And you hope… And you send out your query (or yourself) to editors and people who aren’t British pop stars and EVENTUALLY someone who is NOT a BRITISH POP STAR (or Super Editor Celebrity) actually says

83555_320

Hey Baby Let’s get together.

(Sorry. Check out the guy in the background! Is he a zombie? I think so!)

And you are all YAY!!!!
And you are published/in love and not eaten by the jealousy/the loneliness zombie. And it doesn’t matter that it’s not Super Celebrity Pop Star. It’s your significant other. It’s your editor. And they love your book. How cool is that?

It is AMAZINGLY COOL and you don’t want to spend all your time thinking, “I could have won a Printz” or “I could be dating a British Pop Star.” Instead you’ve got to savor what you have.
So, yeah. I’m okay with losing things. Because I have won already in SO many ways and I will lose again in SO many more. And I’m cool with that. And that’s what I have to remember when I feel stuck with my story or my career or anything.

Here are some quick tips on how to stay motivated about your story.

Dig Deep

I don’t mean dig deep about your story, but about why you are a writer. Who are you doing this for? You. Good. But add someone else. Are you doing this for your mom so she can be proud of you? Are you doing this for kids like you who have never had a story about them before?

Digging deep and finding your motivation to be a writer and to write this specific story helps. It helps a lot.

18121369_10155332151894073_1308235272026403517_o
Sparty digs deep a lot. He is the most existential of dogs. And his point in being here? It’s to eat bacon.

Make Daily Story Goals

If you commit daily to making a word count goal or a revision goal for your story it helps. Make a goal every single day. Make those goals your own. Don’t let other people tell you to write 1,000 words a day or whatever. This is your story. You get to make the goals. You’re in charge.

Start Early

If you are a write every day kind of person, try to write earlier on in the day before all your daily chores and stress drain away your motivation. A lot of people won’t put their writing first if there is a house to clean, a kid to get to school, another job to work at. But remember, this is a job, too. You’ve got to work at it to be the best writer you can be. So, if it matters to you, write as early as you can. Being productive and hitting your goals actually helps you stay motivated. Weird, right?

18359094_10155364037679073_5212980447374871853_o
Gabby and I both have a hard time starting early, but we know our days go so much better when we do.

When Writing, Focus On Your Story Not the Other Stuff

If your goal as a writer is to make money you’re not really going to be constantly motivated about your story. If your goal is to be the best writer you can be? To learn everything you can about craft? Yeah, you will probably be more motivated.

Try Not To Succumb to the Negative

It’s really easy for a lot of us to succumb to our negative thoughts. Don’t limit yourself with negative thoughts about how you suck. You don’t suck. Look at you, you’re so motivated to be a good writer, you’re reading this blog. Think about all the ways you’ve made yourself awesome.

You can do this.

You just have to work, to be persistent, and to believe.

Write down those negative thoughts. Do this a few times – not all in the same day. Sometimes by writing them down, we escape from them and realize that we don’t need them holding us back anymore.

Do Good Wednesday!

Lots of time people want to do good, but they don’t have the money to donate to a cause. The thing is that you don’t have to have money to do good. You just have to want to do good.

Here’s an example of a cool skills-based volunteer matching service. Catchafire lets you “give what you are good at.” How cool is that? You should check them out.

My Post-4 copy 3

MY BOOK COMES OUT TOMORROW! 

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1.  I’m still super psyched about it. You can order it. 

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

My Post copy 4

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say.

My Post copy 6

Dogs Are Smarter Than People

And yesterday, I posted a new podcast about self doubt and how Shaun can make me believe almost anything because he is so confident about even the ingredients of a cocktail he’s never had.

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog. It’s um – cough – different. Sort of like us.

My Post-2 copy
Dogs rule. Or they should. Please subscribe and give us a good review. It’s a great act of kindness.

 

 

 

 

 

Five Things To Do When You Are Stuck As A Writer

 

A long time ago, I had to write the NEED sequel, CAPTIVATE, on deadline and I was pretty terrified the entire time. I knew I had to get it done but I was full of doubts the entire time. So much doubt.

need-large-202x300

And when I finally turned it in, I was still terrified and stuck.

Is there a phobia name for FEAR YOUR EDITOR WILL SCREAM THAT YOU STINK AND RETROACTIVELY PULL ALL YOUR BOOKS FROM THE SHELVES BECAUSE YOUR SEQUEL IS REALLY JUST THAT BAD?

There should be.

Maybe we should just make a list of writer phobias. But anyway, that time really made me think a lot about what makes me feel stuck and how I will possibly do anything in the world to avoid that feeling. This is what I’ve learned.

So here is my:

Five Things To Do When You Are Stuck As A Writer

KILL YOUR INTERNAL EDITOR

With my students, I talk a lot about how there are these internal critics or editors inside our heads, and this critic basically tells us everything that we could do wrong, all the ways we can fail, all the ways we might suck.

And it tells it to us with authority. A lot of authority.

Mine basically is John Wayne. He’s always squinting at me and telling me how much I fail. This voice? It’s a strong voice, but it’s full of lies. And when we listen to it too much, we get stuck. We can’t write our story. We can’t live our life, because that voice is so strong in our head telling us how much we fail.

So how do you fight that?

I imagine an internal cheerleader. Mine is – cough – Grover, the Muppet from Sesame Street. Every time my inner critic derides me, Grover counterbalances it.

My Post-4 copy

Like today, inner critic said, “The circulation librarian can never remember your last name even though you live in a tiny town and she hates you because you are stupid.”

And Grover was like, “You aren’t stupid, Carrie! Your IQ is actually high. Remember you got it tested?”

It’s good to fight your inner critic with facts when you have them.

With writing, it’s more like:

Inner Critic John Wayne, “Dear god, little missy. Why would you possibly try to write a time travel story? Stick to your little pixie books.”

Grover the Awesome Inner Cheerleader would say, “Do not listen to him, Cawwie. He thought writing about pixies was a terrible idea, too! He thinks everything is terrible.”

Don’t let your doubt stop you from writing. Just bundle up and do it.

32986_320

THINK ABOUT WHY YOU ARE WRITING THE STORY YOU ARE WRITING

If you are writing a nonfiction book about the history of guinea pigs in North America and you don’t actually care about guinea pigs in North America? Well, yeah, you’re going to probably get stuck.

Ask yourself:

What books do you love? 

What stories make you happy?

Write that kind of story. To heck with the guinea pigs. 

My Post-3

DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE

Sometimes, when writers are stuck, it’s because we’ve been sitting too long and focused on our story. Our mind is giving us a hint that we actually are not cats and we need to move.

So, I clean something when I am vaguely stuck. I think of it as a sign that my subconscious is giving me that if I sit at the laptop any longer, I will turn to salt.

When you step away, you give yourself space to grow and move. When you step away, you give yourself some space and your story some space to percolate.

LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE AND TAKE STOCK OF YOUR GOALS

Sometimes (cough – all the time) I feel like I’m not getting anything accomplished or a lot of my students feel like writing an entire novel is too huge a goal.

So, what I do is I set small incremental goals. If a story feels stuck, I tell myself to write 250 words four times a day to make a 1,000 word-count for the day. I also write the starting number of my word count and mark it off in 250-word increments as I go along. This helps make me realize that:

  1. I am writing
  2. I am not really as stuck as I thought.
  3. Makes the writing feel really manageable.
Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 3.39.02 PM
This is seriously what I do. It helps. 250-word increments on top. Day totals on bottom.

TRY WRITING SOMETHING DIFFERENT

I know! I know! All the writing advice people tell you to stick to your story. Don’t ever give up on your story. They say, “you will never get a book done if you don’t do the following things:”

  1. Write one book at a time.
  2. Write one book until it’s done.

That’s crap, honestly. Sorry for my language, but it’s just not true. Yes, there are people who will hop from project to project and in 20 years never finish a story. But whatever. Those people are rare. They are even more rare when it comes to people who want to be published. Everyone knows that to get a novel published, you have to write an entire story. That ‘write one book until it’s done’ edict irritates me. A lot.

My Post-4 copy 2

Here’s the truth: 

  1. You can work on as many projects as your brain can handle.
  2. You can put down a story that you are working on and finish it years later when you are ready.

But the biggest truth is this: 

There is no one way to be a writer. There is no one process that will always work for you or for everyone. Part of the adventure is finding things that work, triumphing in the moments when you stop being stuck.

Let’s say you’re reading this and you aren’t an author. How does this work for you as a non writing person who feels stuck in their life?

It’s like this: 

  1. There is no one way to succeed, no one path. If you feel stuck, try something else.
  2. If you hate everything in your life, try to remember something you once loved. Do that again.
  3. Be proud of the things you’ve done and make small goals. Reward yourself for forward motion – any forward motion.
  4. Simplify and organize your life. Press pause with intention. If you feel stuck, organize your thoughts, your desk, your kitchen, your closet. Getting rid of the clutter can help you understand what you need to do to move forward.
  5. Don’t fill yourself with negative thoughts if you can help it. Sometimes we can’t, honestly. But every time that inner critic berates you, consciously work to counter it with something positive.

When my dog Scotty couldn’t open the door by hitting the bottom of it over and over again with his paw, he didn’t give up. He came and got me to open the door for him. When that didn’t work because I was kneading dough and didn’t want to stop, you know what he did? He grabbed the doorknob in his mouth and turned. I’ve never seen anything like it. But the thing isn’t how awesome he was. The thing is that he found a way to succeed. He tried a new way.

photo

When Sparty feels sad because it’s raining too hard to take a walk, he will go cuddle up with a stuffed animal. He finds something else he loves to make him feel less stuck.

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 11.12.12 AM

We can learn a lot from dogs.

 

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m still super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog. It’s um – cough – different.

 

Three Quick Ways to Make A Good Book Better – and also my nana said I was different. Not in a nice way.

Before she died, I heard my Nana Morse say to my sister, “Well, you know Carrie has always been a little… different.”

My sister nodded pretty emphatically in agreement.

“She’s just so different,” she said.

She said this ALL throughout my growing up.

29461_320
She wasn’t wrong

Nana Morse was worried about this – about me being different. She also worried that I didn’t get enough protein. Or why I dressed so ‘differently.’

And honestly, I was so used to not fitting into my family by then that my only reaction was, “She just used the word ‘different’ to describe me twice. That’s not really creative of her. I wish I could edit her word choice a bit.”

So, yeah, she was obviously right.

When I was little, my Avó Palreiro took me aside and said, “You be you. To hell with everyone else.”

And then she glared at my nana.

25348443_10156105701064073_4065840768994633168_n
Only one of my grandmothers would approve of this picture. 

The thing is that different is okay. Different is good. Different can be stigmatic and incite bullies and all sorts of negative things, but different is also innovative.  Different people who take action? They make changes in this world. This world needs positive change. So, if you feel a bit different or if your family or others are mocking you for it? Well, they suck, honestly.  Ignore the suck. Be you.

 

HOW TO MAKE A GOOD BOOK BETTER (WHILE BEING DIFFERENT)

Here are some things I (should) think about when I’m revising. Hopefully, they’ll help you out, too. I’ve taken them from James Plath’s article “Twenty-One Tweaks to a Better Tale,” but adapted them to fit me.  Why? Because I’m different like that.

1. Does the beginning need to be an ending?

Sometimes our beginnings stink.

Beginnings need to be:

powerful
witty
stunning

How do you do that? You could use a powerful piece of dialogue, a witty description, or a stunning scene.

Sometimes we writers have to amp up, sort of rev our engines before we start the race of the story.

My engine is revving. Shh…..
Sidenote: Some of us never get started.

It’s okay to cross entire paragraphs or a chapter out.  It’s okay to do what it takes to make your beginning awesome.

2. Check Out How It Ends

Just like a beginning needs to be powerful or witty or stunning to draw us in like a really good appetizer, the ending has to linger (not in the way heartburn lingers). The ending has to resonate. Is there a way to echo earlier images or words or a phrase so that it has that extra kick, making the reader realize that there are deeper things going on, that there is a deeper meaning, that this story or poem somehow touches on the truth that is life?

3. Make Love to the Image

Have an image that resonates throughout the story. In the movie Brokeback Mountain it’s when one guy is hugging the other guy from behind him or it’s when he says, “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

Think about a book like Carolyn Coman’s MANY STONES or THE HOBBIT or CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS. There are central images in there. Do that. Use an image. A strong image will keep your story in readers’ memories.

19059937_10155503940174073_8046077922293186764_n
Gabby’s central image for her life is basically this. 

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m still super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog. It’s um – cough – different.

My Love Affair With Big Foot and Why I Write Books About Girls Saving People (and hairy creatures)

When I was a kid, I played alone most of the time.

Yes, this is VERY- VERY sad.

My siblings are way older than I am. We lived out in the country. There was a lot of woods and a lot of swamp. My parents worked. So after school I would be all alone.

This meant that most of the time:

1. I read library books
2. I wrote stories when I ran out of library books.
3. I looked for Bigfoot when I got writer’s cramp.

I looked for Bigfoot a lot actually.

Bigfoot_Rescue_Kit_3_large

This book cover is pretty much what I wanted to happen. I wanted Bigfoot to come and steal me away and I would save him from evil scientists who wanted to kill him. We’d take care of each other and potentially fall in love.

It was a lot like the Disney plot of Harry and the Hendersons...

Only in my version there was no John Lithgow and the Bigfoot was a lot – um – sexier? Yes, it is possible for Bigfoot to be sexy. DO NOT DOUBT!

So, thinking about this today made me feel kind of lonely. I just read about some other authors who had these great memories of playing with people and siblings. My memories of play are these solo made-up stories of me searching for Bigfoot or sitting alone on a rock by the highway writing Star Trek fan fiction for my brother in a little college-lined notebook.

And occasionally I would hang out at Debbie Muir or Kathy Albertson’s house where their moms would feed me things.

Is it no wonder I lost when I ran for office?

So, it’s funny too, when I was thinking about this. It made me realize that my stories all have this large theme running through them about saving people and being heroic and standing it up for what you believe in. I think this whole theme started up with the whole me saving Bigfoot theme in my early play. Weird. I think I’ve grown up so much and then I’m all like  DUDE. I AM STILL WRITING ABOUT HAIRY, HOT GUYS WHO AREN’T QUITE HUMAN AND THE GIRLS WHO SAVE THEM.

Yes, that is a spoiler about pretty much every single fiction book I ever write, ever. Sh. Don’t tell.

When you write books, the things you care about, the things that make you the person you are? They come through. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice. Sometimes it isn’t. A woman once asked me in an angry way, “Why are all your books about strong girls having horrible things happen to them?”

She was trying to get me to not visit her school.

And I was like, “Because horrible things do happen to strong girls.”

But the real truth is that I write books about friendship, about girls saving themselves and the ones they love, and often the world because I needed stories like that when I was a kid. I write those stories because I don’t know how to not let my own inner self leak onto the page. I write those stories because kids need to be lifted up not pushed down, to be told to shut up, to be silenced, because they some adults don’t like what they are saying.

I write those books because teens matter. I write those books because girls and women matter. I write those books because people have to have the courage to save themselves over and over again in one lifetime.

Do Good Wednesday

According to a story on NBC news, suicide rates are spiking in Puerto Rico right now. The relief effort is still happening. A simple thing you can do to help (and get something in return) is buy the salsa remix of Almost Like Praying. This effort is organized by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a bunch of amazing musicians. Your proceeds go directly to help Puerto Rico.

Note: I made that link super large to try to convince you to do it.

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog.

Yesterday’s podcast was about how I can’t have a donkey farm or be Bono, but it’s also about character and blocking and how dogs are smarter than people.