Tips on Not Going to Jail on a Friday

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1. When you say “hi” to a mean lady while perusing the turnips in the produce section and she TOTALLY ignores you, pretend she did not hear you. Do not decide she is rude. Do not throw a turnip at her. This counts as an assault, possibly with a deadly weapon, depending on the hardness of the turnip.
2. When the mean lady cuts in front of you at the fish counter at the grocery store and then asks what the difference between sea scallops and bay scallops are, then follows up that question with the comment on the price ($4.49/lb) and then asks if they’ll be fresh tomorrow, and then asks for a different amount than originally specified, and then once she’s finally done buying a pound of scallops, asks about whether it’s halibut season, not because she’s going to buy any, (“Gosh, aren’t they cheaper in late Spring?”) and then verifies that the price for the damn scallops was $4.49 not $4.41 Do not kill her, no matter how tempted you are. Dunking someone into the lobster tank is not a good idea either. This counts as murder. You go to jail for a long time for murder.3. When the fish man finally gets to you and finishes your order in 20 seconds do not ask him why he skipped you in the first place, or lecture him about it, because he has probaby had a hard day, plus he might give you bad fish in the future. Try to smile. It will be hard.

4. When the nice cashier lady asks you if you found everything okay and how your day is going do NOT get hysterical and tell her about the mean lady saga and then compare it to being invisible and unloved and unworthy and how maybe you should just have an all-dessert lunch to make up for it, so you can be sugar high and guilty feeling as well as depressed over your new invisible status because then the nice cashier lady might call the police who might take you in for disturbing the peace, especially if you stand on the check-out line and try to choreograph a dance in a mad attempt to prove that you are human and you are visible.

5. Just calmly walk out. Smile. Get in car. Do not run red light. Do not bash into mean lady’s car when she decides to stop at a GREEN LIGHT! Yes! Yes! I swear she did.

6. Just go home, crawl into bed. Vow to never go to grocery store again. Feel guilty for being so angry. Wonder if perhaps you need therapy. Wonder if you’ll see mean lady there.

BOOK APPEARANCES

I’ll be hanging out at the launch of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID on March 15th and having  a panel discussion with editor Erin Moulton, Aaluk Edwardson and Ella Andrews at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH. 7pm!

“How to describe the feeling of not being believed? It is the feeling of disappearing.” -Stephanie Oakes

PODCAST AND BOOK NEWS!

Moe Berg

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. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

Podcast

In my big writing news, the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is live!

My Post

LIVE!

Please go leave a comment, or a review, and pretend to listen, because I’ve been freaking out about this so hard. It’s on iTunes and Stitcher and Castos at the moment and the RSS feed is also here. The feed has bonus material and free things. It’ll be on GooglePlay if I can ever get the screen to validate to not be just a big webpage of blankness.

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Love is Um… Flying on an Airplane to Chicago for Rotary International?

Today, I’m in an airplane heading to a regional leader training for Rotary International, which is this global group of 1.2 million professionals who take action to make change int the world.

They have weekly meetings usually.

They make friends. Here are pictures of me with friends at Rotary.

They do good things with each other and for others. Sometimes we look like dorks doing it, but that’s okay.

I’m the public image coordinator for Zone 24 East, which is the eastern half of Canada and parts of the northern United Staes.

So, because I’m in a plane and don’t have a ton of time, here’s your do good Wednesday post:

Check out this video from Rotary. Check out its links. Thank a Rotarian for committing time to make a positive difference in the world. Even if you can’t join Rotary, your thanks will mean a lot to that Rotarian. I promise. And thank YOU for reading this blog.

 

PERSONAL APPEARANCES

I’ll be hanging out at the launch of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID on March 15th and having  a panel discussion with editor Erin Moulton, Aaluk Edwardson and Ella Andrews at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH. 7pm!

“How to describe the feeling of not being believed? It is the feeling of disappearing.” -Stephanie Oakes

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PODCAST AND BOOK NEWS!

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. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

In my big writing news, the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is live!

My Post

LIVE!

Please go leave a comment, or a review, and pretend to listen, because I’ve been freaking out about this so hard. It’s on iTunes and Stitcher and Castos at the moment and the RSS feed is also here. The feed has bonus material and free things. It’ll be on GooglePlay if I can ever get the screen to validate to not be just a big webpage of blankness.

 

Sticking Your Finger In A Bear’s Eye: Why We Don’t Believe People When They Talk About Bad Things

Maine Man Fends Off Bear Attack To Save His Puppy

This past week a guy who lives sort of near me fought off a bear who attacked his puppy.

The link is here, but if you don’t want to click through, the man stopped on the side of one of our bigger roads (for Maine) so that his puppy could go to the bathroom. It was an urgent dog need.

The dog owner was zoning out, gazing a different way. Maybe the puppy needed privacy. Scotty was like that. He couldn’t do his doggy business if you watched.  Plus, honestly, why watch?

 

Back to the story…. This guy and his puppy are on the side of the road. Man is admiring vista. Dog is doing dog business.

But then the leash was yanked out of this guy’s hand. He turned and a bear was attacking his puppy, so he did what any dog lover would do. He attacked the bear and stuck his finger in the bear’s eye. The bear ran off. The puppy went to the vet and should be okay.

The newspaper article spent a lot of time corroborating his story. They obviously assumed people wouldn’t think it was true. But the Maine wardens found a bear den close by the site. The vet confirmed that the dog had puncture wounds

But it made me wonder: 

Why do we have such a hard time believing people when they have experiences outside our own experience?

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One Of My Own Bear Encounters:

When my daughter Em was little, I had her in the LL Bean backpack carrier – because Maine and LL Bean is basically required gear – and we were tromping through the woods in our backyard when we came around a curve on the ATV trail and smelled this rank skunk odor and saw a bear.

Em said, “BIG DOGGIE! BIG BIG DOGGIE! Pet it?”

She liked dogs.

And I was like, “Shh…. baby. That’s a bear.”

The bear looked at me. I looked at the bear and we backed up and then booked it home where we promptly told the story and we were promptly greeted with…

“Seriously?”

And…

“Yeah, right.”

And…

“You did not see a bear.”

There have been so many time in my life that I’ve told stories of my experiences and been greeted with those phrases, with disbelief.

And it obviously isn’t a phenomenon isolated to me.

Here’s the thing About Experience and Truth: 

Our experience is never the only experience.

Our reality isn’t always other people’s realities.

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Just because it didn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Just because what happened doesn’t connect with your image of the people involved or even how the world works doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

None of us are all-knowing.

We are not omniscient gods who understand and have knowledge of all things. Sometimes we can’t even remember where we put our car keys or school id. How are we supposed to know the truth of other people’s experiences?

One of my friends once told a story on his Facebook page about a racist thing that happened to him and immediately people said, “You read the interaction wrong. There was probably another reason for that happening.”

No.

Just no.

When we were writing my dad’s obituary, I wrote that he was a truck driver, but my siblings said, “No. He was a mechanic.”

Because I am 14 years younger than my closest sibling, I only knew Dad as a trucker. Since my older siblings were gone from home and out in their own lives when that transition happened, they defined him as a mechanic. Same dad. Same family. Different perceptions. If that can happen within such a closed sphere, imagine what happens in the bigger world.

And the other thing is that none of us are perfect. People we love will do things that are wrong. We will do things that are wrong when it comes to things like understanding other people’s experiences, oppression, bigotry.   How we face these things, what we do, it’s part of what defines us.

We need to trust that our experience isn’t the only experience of anything or anyone out there, that our perception isn’t the only perception. Even when we write stories, we can’t have every single character react and think exactly the same way we do. If we did our readers would throw the book away.

This also applies to life.

If something as simple as a bear encounter has to be enthusiastically proven to be believed, then something is wrong with our society. Something deep.

Let’s start to figure out how to fix that, fix it on multiple levels, the levels of discrimination in all forms, but also in just easy simple truths. Let’s tell our truths and believe others’ truths, too, even when they are uncomfortable, even when they make us feel scared or guilty or conflicted or sad or envious or angry.

We don’t get to define other people’s realities or experiences. Life is not fiction. It’s stranger than that.

Top Five Ways To Channel Your Inner Cat and Get What You Want. 

So, a lot of times when I’m talking to other writers, they tell me that they are full of fear.

I’ve been a firefighter and a dispatcher and a gymnastics instructor and I’ve got to tell you that on a really fundamental life level, writing isn’t as scary as those things. You don’t usually die from typing. I mean, someone could put poison on the keyboard, but that’s pretty rare.

But the thing is that writing is scary because it makes you vulnerable. Communicating is an act of openness. Art is an act of sharing. The potential rejection and judgement that comes from that? It can be scary.

But we want it anyways, us writers. We want it so badly. We want to be published. We want to share our stories.

And that takes an act of bravery, of fierceness.

All of life takes that, really.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the world what you want.

So, I’ve solicited Marsie to help us with the Top Five Ways To Channel Your Inner Cat and Get What You Want In Your Writing Career and Regular Life.

Whew. That was long.

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  1. Tell People You Want Something – It feels pretty alpha, but it’s true. If you want people to pick you up and place you near your cat food, you have to meow at them. Marsie is an expert in this. She has me trained. You can do this, too. Ask people to like your blog, to subscribe, to share. Ask people to buy or read or talk about your book. Some people like to help you. Those people are good people.
  2. Don’t Apologize – Cats do not say sorry for their wants. Neither should you. Full disclaimer: I have no idea how to do this. Sorry. SEE! I just did it!
  3. When People Give You Things Be Cool With It – Does the cat turn down the cat nip? No. The cat does not. Why? Because she knows she deserve to get what she wants. You do too. You deserve good things. You deserve blog readers, book readers, gentle pats on the head. You’ve worked for it.
  4. Don’t Give Up – If you don’t give Marsie food when she first meows at you, does she give up? No. No she doesn’t. Cats ask and ask and ask and demand for what they want. So should you. Keep working on your story, your life, your goal. Don’t give up because someone doesn’t hear you meowing. Make yourself heard. Meow loud.
  5. Meow Loud – Really. Writers and a lot of us introverts and those of who have been oppressed or traumatized we aren’t seen. It’s okay to claim your space. Seriously. Meow loud.

For me? The hard asks are these right now: 

  1. Could you please LIKE and SUBSCRIBE to my blog and podcast?
  2. Could you spread the word about them if you get the chance?
  3. Could you leave positive reviews if you’ve liked my books?

That’s about it. It’s easy to make this author happy.

APPEARANCES

I’ll be hanging out at the launch of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID on March 15th and having  a panel discussion with editor Erin Moulton, Aaluk Edwardson and Ella Andrews at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH. 7pm!

“How to describe the feeling of not being believed? It is the feeling of disappearing.” -Stephanie Oakes

PODCAST AND BOOK NEWS!

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. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

In my big writing news, the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is live!

My Post

LIVE!

Please go leave a comment, or a review, and pretend to listen, because I’ve been freaking out about this so hard. It’s on iTunes and Stitcher and Castos at the moment and the RSS feed is also here. The feed has bonus material and free things. It’ll be on GooglePlay if I can ever get the screen to validate to not be just a big webpage of blankness.

Ten Writing Prompts for the Weird

I know that everyone in the entire writing universe loves writing prompts.

I do not love writing prompts. I know! Big admission there. Way to bring on the trolls.

The theory is that writing prompts help authors suffering from the dreaded writing block. I do not ever suffer from the dreaded writing block. I know! I’m hiding now.

Full disclosure: I don’t suffer from writer’s block because I have no internal censor, and also because I accept the fact that my first drafts will be terrible. It’s also because I come from the world of newspapers and poetry. In those worlds, you have big work ethics and are used to making no money at all. So, I refuse to have writer’s block because I am too busy realizing how freaking blessed I am to get to do this at all. So lucky. And I don’t want to be a newspaper reporter again.

I want you to be lucky, too. I want you to be a rockstar of writing, but a cool one without ego issues or substance abuse problems.

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But back to writing prompts.  They help people and people get unblocked.

I look at them, and I get… I get bored.  So, I decided to jazz up some really common ones with a weird twist. I live on an island in Maine, according to my friends that makes it okay for me to be this weird. My friends are liars.

The Ten PROMPTS OF WEIRDNESS

Outside the Window: What’s the monster outside your window doing right now? If that’s not inspiring, what’s the monster in your coffee mug? Oh, yeah. You know it’s there.

The Bloodfeud: Write about the conflict that has torn your family apart for generations. Bonus points for the use of the undead.

The Shuffle: You hear a shuffling noise. Is that from outside or in?

Food: Write a poem about the last time you were served for dinner.

Hamsters in Love: Two hamsters. One love. Separate cages. 

Enemies: Write about the person in real life or pretend life or undead life that you can’t stand. Make them your teacher or your parent. What would that be like?

Unicorn Time: There’s a unicorn. What’s she doing?

Done with You: Write a poem where the first line is “Done with you.”

The Found Poem: Find a blog. Print it out. Circle words. Make a poem out of those words.

The Cat: Write about what’s going on in this cat’s mind.

 

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There! Easy and weird. I hope they help!

 

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PODCAST AND BOOK NEWS!

In my big writing news, the podcast is live!

LIVE!

Please go leave a comment, or a review, and pretend to listen, because I’ve been freaking out about this so hard. It’s on iTunes and Stitcher and Castos at the moment and the RSS feed is also here. The feed has bonus material and free things. It’ll be on GooglePlay if I can ever get the screen to validate to not be just a big webpage of blankness.

 

I am so freaked out this that I actually made a video! And I will probably eventually make a contest or something.

But no matter what, it’s quirky and real, and so much random fun.

I think I’m so worried because it’s so authentic and because I was bullied mercilessly about my Muppet voice when I was a kid. So, yeah…. big vulnerability issues there, which is also why I had to do it. I had to face my fears. Right?

Someone say, “right.”

Please….?

Pausing To Try To Be Chill. Failing. 

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. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

Writing With Dogs Who Slobber: The Three Secrets to Awesome Characters

So, you’re probably looking at the blog post title up there and thinking, “What?”

Stay with me a second; I’ll explain, I swear. I’m going to boil down the basic elements of crafting a good story by using my rescue dog, Gabby.

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Gabby is the sort of dog who people love or hate.

Gabby is the sort of dog that lets children climb all over her and hug her and kiss her nose.

Gabby is also the sort of dog who judges people by smell.  If you have alcohol on your breath, she will sneeze and then bark at you. If you are male and have ever had a serious time taking cocaine and you are in my house? She’ll bark incessantly at you and never stop even if your cocaine use was over a decade ago.

So, why am I mentioning this? Gabby is a conflicted character. You want a character like Gabby in your story.

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A conflicted character is a dog or person with a goal. There is a motivation for that goal and a conflict.

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Gabby’s goal is to keep me safe. She is super focused on making sure nothing happens to me or her dog brother Sparty or her cat sister Marsie. Her motivation? Probably because I feed her or because she’s a Great Pyrenees, and that breed’s instinct and training is to keep her charges happy and safe. We are basically her sheep.

IMG_9899Marsie insists she is nobody’s sheep, but I have seen Gabby carry her around the house. She is totally a sheep. 

And it might be because Gabby was abused as a puppy and spent her first year chained to a tree, always chained to a tree, never off a tree. She came to us small, terrified, malformed and malnourished. This is her backstory. All characters have backstories, the what happened before we meet them, the what happened that made them who they are when the story begins.

When Em and I picked up Gabby in Cambridge, she was terrified. Every car was about to run her down. Every person was about to hit her. I sunk to her level and she pushed herself against me. Her ears were infected and full of pain. Everything about her was pain. But there was something else there. It was fear and want and need. She wanted to be loved so badly. She wanted to love back.1930658_10154095751489073_788625899982421964_n

The entire time we were in Cambridge she didn’t bark once.

The entire car ride back and the whole first week? She never barked.

“I have a miracle dog. It is a silent Great Pyrenees,” I told everyone.

The vet laughed.

The rescue organization people laughed.

I was so wrong.

Gabby started being able to sleep with both eyes closed. Gabby’s ears got better. We got her surgery on her hip. She took walks without being afraid that trees were going to fall on her, without thinking that every car held a monster inside of it that would hurt her.

She ate, but she would never fill out.

And she barked.

She barked at everyone who reminded her of where she used to be. She barked at dogs she didn’t know. She barked and jumped and tried to be as threatening looking as possible when she is easily the dog least likely to ever bite a human and most likely to snuggle. You know when experts say dogs hate hugs? Gabby would let you hug her all day.

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So, she’s got a lot of back story there?

What’s the conflict for Gabby or for your characters?

The conflict is the struggle. The conflict is how the reader engages with the character. It’s why the reader keeps reading. It’s how empathy is built. It’s how story is built.

So every character has this trifecta of things: 

Goal

Motivation

Conflict

As a writer, if you muck this up? You’re story will be flat.

As a dog friend/owner, if you don’t realize that your dog’s goal might conflict with a happy silence that comes with a life without barking? You’re going to have an unhappy dog.

So, Gabby’s trifecta of character is: Wants to stop threats by barking (goal) because she wants to keep her happy home and the creatures within it safe (motivation we all understand), but everyone gets a headache when she thinks squirrels are threats and barks too much at them (conflict).

Meg in Wrinkle in Time is: Wants to get her dad back (goal) because who doesn’t want to get someone awesome back (motivation that is pretty understandable if your dad rocks), but dude, she has to travel through time and deal with this great darkness, basically like all the evil in the universe because why not (conflict).

But what makes a character conflicted? Basically anything that stands in the way of her goal.

This can be herself (Gabby wonders if barking is her true calling and doubts herself – an internal conflict).

This can be others (The neighbors call the police because of Gabby’s barking – an external conflict).

This can be the environment (Gabby is in space and cannot bark because there is no sound. Horror! – a conflict caused by setting).

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Writing Tip – Make sure your  main character has that trifecta of conflict, motivation, goal.

Writing Prompts- 

Write about wanting to sing when you have to be quiet.

Write about wanting to tell a secret.

Write about being a zombie who is allergic to meat.

Do Good Wednesday – 

So, I wrote a lot about Gabby being a rescue dog. All my dogs have been. If you have the money, consider donating to a dog rescue. If you have the time and space and need and love, consider adopting. If you have the time, find a rescue near you and be a volunteer. I’ve done home visits and photos for rescues. If you don’t have any of these things, but have social media, share a rescue’s site or a post about a dog (or cat or gecko). You could be the step that helps bring a dog like Gabby to her forever home. Even the smallest things help.

Here are the rescues where I got Sparty the Dog and Gabby the Dog.

New England Lab Rescue

National Great Pyrenees Rescue

And this rescue is possibly my favorite one.

Big Fluffy Dog

 

Random Marketing 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. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is getting closer and closer to real. I’m terrified. Here is a video about it. Sort of.

How to Be a Fearless Writer… I Mean Cat… I Mean Writer…

Mentors and protectors are there to make sure the dogs don’t eat your face. Notice how your mentors live and survive those dogs. Take what lessons you can from them. Be you, but use other people’s strategies to push away that fear and protect yourself from it.

Marsie the Cat lives pretty fearlessly despite the fact that she is the smallest mammal in a house full of big mammals with really good jaw strength.

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Despite the fact that the big, white dog is really protective of her doggy toys, Marsie continues to claim her space and live fearlessly even in her sleep. Here’s proof:

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Yes, that is Marsie the Cat sleeping on the dog bed. And not only is she sleeping on the dog bed, she’s actually sleeping on the big, white dog’s favorite dog toy. Does Marsie care? No. She knows what she wants and she asserts her cat self and takes it.

Those of us who are sometimes overwhelmed by fear can learn a lot from the Mars Bars. Here are some things you can do.

  1. Find a cozy place if you can and claim it. Seek support if you have to. If your safe space is also the dog’s safe place, make sure that you have humans to back you up. That might be a coach, a counselor, or a really wise friend. Don’t let your fear keep you from going after what you really want.
  2. Be who you are and find people who will love you and protect you. Mentors and protectors are there to make sure the dogs don’t eat your face. Notice how your mentors live and survive those dogs. Take what lessons you can from them. Be you, but use other people’s strategies to push away that fear and protect yourself from it.
  3. Write – the best way to combat your fear of writing or being a failed, sucky writer is to actually write. Make a bargain with yourself and set a tiny goal if you’re feeling trapped by fear. Write 100 words if 1,000 seems daunting. Eventually it won’t.

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Why Are We Afraid

  1. We’re afraid of other people’s judgement. We’re afraid they’ll think less of us and judge us for not being perfect. Big hint: Those people (and dogs) aren’t worth it. Big secret: If they judge you for trying hard? They are basically a troll and so not worthy of your time. Ignore them. Come hang out with me.
  2. We’re afraid of failing because we think failure is a big deal. It isn’t. It’s super freaking normal.  But we get embarrassed about it. It’s okay. That embarrassment will pass. My skirt once fell off in front of a ritzy hotel in NYC. People saw my underwear. My underwear had hearts on it. The event was horrifying, but I totally survived and it didn’t go viral.
  3. Fear feels bad. For most of us, fear isn’t pleasant. It’s panic. It’s heart racing, sweaty, and just… it’s uncomfortable so we avoid it. Sometimes, we have to embrace it, to break through the terror and do what we are meant to do – write, live, create, connect. You can do this.

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We believe in you!

Writing Prompt:

Are you afraid of failing? Write 500 words about that.

Life Prompt:

How can you be brave this week. Try it out. Let me know.

Random website link is herewww.carriejonesbooks.com 

Where the podcast will be is here! 

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Full disclosure: I have never been afraid of anything as much as I am afraid of this podcast.

Writing Coach: I’m a writing coach sometimes. I am also teaching at the Writing Barn. It’s a lot of fun.

My next book, The Spy Who Played Baseball is coming out with Kar-Ben soon. Preorder Link   

The Spy Who Played Baseball

Three Ways To Create Characters W/ Epilepsy and Not Make Them Stereotypes

Don’t let one attribute define the character. An author can’t make a character’s one attribute be that she has seizures any more than the author can make that character’s one attribute be that she is only her race or only cranky or gay or hearing-impaired or short or really into ping-pong, so into ping-pong that she only refers to it as table tennis.

What did the nurse do when she saw that her patient was having a seizure in the bathtub?

She threw in the laundry.          

  -Common epilepsy joke on the Internet

Lovely, right?  Dehumanizing. Who cares if the patient drowns. The laundry is more important.

 

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Me being more than someone with epilepsy

 

  1. Don’t Let One Attribute Define an Entire Character

 It’s the same as creating any character. Don’t let one attribute define the character. An author can’t make a character’s one attribute be that she has seizures any more than the author can make that character’s one attribute be that she is only her race or only cranky or gay or hearing-impaired or short or really into ping-pong, so into ping-pong that she only refers to it as table tennis.

Some authors use sketches to create a full character, asking themselves questions such as: What does my character want? How old was she when she crawled? What was the worst thing that ever happened to her in kindergarten? Does she like hot dogs and if not, why?   

     

 Characters always need to be well rounded, whether they have epilepsy or not.

“A helpful concept to remember when developing characters for a story is that, as in real life, they should exhibit a mosaic of overlapping, sometimes contradictory traits.” (Epstein 56)

I was at my in-laws house and several teenage cousins were sitting in the living room watching television. Someone was dancing poorly on the sitcom they were watching.   

“Oh my God,” one of the girls said. “It’s like she’s having a freaking seizure… look at her.”   

“What a spaz,” another girl said.

She snorted.   

“Freaky.”   

“Super freak.”

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Me. The person they call freak. 

2. Be Aware of the Stereotypes

Writers can and should incorporate characters with epilepsy and disabilities into children’s fiction and they can do it without perpetuating negative biases against people with disabilities. To do so, authors must be aware of the stereotypes, write against the stereotypes, and create well-rounded characters.

Yeah, I’d like it if tv writers did it as well. But, right now, I’ll take what I can get.

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Em hugging a dog. She does that well. 

My daughter Emily snuggles into her bed. She stares at me, smiles, pulls me down into a hug and says, “Mommy, I wish you didn’t ever have seizures.”           

“Yeah, me too,” I say and smell her hair, which reminds me of bananas.           

“It’s not a big thing, though, right?”            

Her eyes are teddy bear sweet and her fingers twirl a piece of my hair.            

“Nope,” I say. “Not a big thing at all.”  

Do a web search on fictional children’s books dealing with epilepsy and you don’t come up with much. Even epilepsy foundations have meager resources for picture book fans. Epilepsy.com lists just eight books that deal with epilepsy in a fictional narrative. Yet, at least 300,000-plus American children with epilepsy have friends and schoolmates. Not many of those children connect with books that deal with the subject.            

A majority of books that do exist for children have their characters whose development comes from growing beyond a negative stereotype of someone with epilepsy.

What I’m wondering is why?

In her paper, “Portrayal of People with Disabilities in Children’s Literature: 1940s to 1980s” Maeleah Carlisle wrote, “Children’s literature often reflects the current society’s values and attitudes.” (1)           

That is true today.

It is no wonder that many authors use negative epileptic stereotypes for their protagonists. Most people have slight understanding of the disorder. Is this true about other conditions? Other disabilities?

In a paper about epilepsy and stigma printed in the Journal of Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology, the scientist’s conclusion was, “Stigma not only coexists with lack of information, but also with inappropriate behaviors .” (Fernandes 213)

Children’s authors have been unintentionally perpetuating those stigmas. But the lack of literature itself is also perpetuating the silence around conditions and disorders.  This is troubling because “Children’s literature can inform and influence children’s images of people with disabilities.” (Carlisle 5)

 Colin Barnes and researchers Biklen and Bogdan illustrated multiple ways in which literature and the media stereotypes people with disabilities. Those stereotypes also exist in children’s literature .

Those stereotypes include: 

  1. Person with disabilities is pitiable.
  2. Person with disabilitiesis the helpless victim of violence.
  3. Person with disabilities is evil.
  4. Person with disabilities is saintly, godly, a superhero. Some sort of extraordinary trait occurs to make the reader love the epileptic champion/hero.
  5. Person with disabilities is worthy of ridicule.
  6. Person with disabilities is “own worst enemy.” They could get better if they would just take their medicine, not drink, etc…
  7. Person with disabilities is a burden. They are a drain on their parents’ emotions, money, time.
  8. Person with disabilitiescan’t live a regular life with normal activities. (Biklen and Bogdan 6-9; Barnes 2-7)

 In examining the existing children’s literature, I found that in most books the protagonists’ character development hinged on breaking free of the stereotypes of epilepsy. This is also somewhat true of other disabilities, but not always. It’s the “not always” that gives me hope.

While at Vermont College in January 2006, I told fellow students my thesis topic.            

“Wow,” they said.

Then they’d usually nod and something would shift behind their eyes. They would pause, maybe bite their lips, maybe look to the side and then almost every single one of them asked. “Why are you so interested in epilepsy?”          

 “Because I have seizures,” I said.           

“Oh,” said one.           

“Really,” said another.           

My favorite person? She just nodded and said, “That’s cool.” 

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Me hiding behind a gnome. 

3. Do Whatever You Can To Understand Epilepsy

If you are writing about an experience outside of yourself and that experience is often used to ‘other’ people in a really bad way, you need to put in the work so that you don’t reduce your characters, so you can get your head into a space that is close to empathy and understanding.

What’s it like having seizures? It’s not really like anything for me. It just is. But my experience with epilepsy isn’t everyone’s experience with epilepsy and that’s important to remember. There’s no one way to have epilepsy or autism or diabetes or anything. There is no one way to be.

I sort of hate referencing my own life and books when I post about things, because it always seems so self-serving, but when I wrote TIPS and the sequel, LOVE AND OTHER USES FOR DUCT TAPE, I wrote them because I wanted to have REAL characters with complicated problems and complicated thoughts and complicated personalities. My daughter, Em, was begging for this. But something inside of me was begging for this too. I wanted to write a book where someone had seizures, but it wasn’t the end of the world, it wasn’t what defined them, it was just something about them, just like it was something about me.

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Author Rick Riordan said in our correspondence, “As far as why is it important to have characters with differences, again I had a very personal reason. I wanted my son to relate to the hero and feel better about the learning problems that were causing him trouble in school. It’s also real life to have lots of different kinds of people, and it can make for richer writing.”

That’s so important.  It’s something we’re still learning in so many ways. All of us.

Sources: 

Barnes, Colin. “Disabling imagery and the media.” <www.ncpedp.org/comm/commresrch.htm>.  January 17, 2006

Biklen, D. and R. Bogdan. “Media portrayals of disabled people: a study in stereotypes.” Interracial Books for Children Bulletin. 8: 1977, 4-9.

Carlisle, Maeleah. “Portrayal of People with Disabilities in Children’s Literature; 1940s to 1980s.” Beta Phi Mu — Chi Chapter. 1997. Indiana State University. 24 Jan. 2006 1987

Fernandes, Paula. “Stigma Scale of Epilepsy:Conceptual Issues.” Journal of Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology 3 Dec 2004. 21 Jan 2006 <http://www.epilepsia.org.br/epi2002/JEp213-218.pdf.

Jacoby, Ann. “Public Knowledge, Private Grief: A Study of Public Attitudes to Epilepsy in the United Kingdom and Implications for Stigma.” Epilepsia Nov 2004. 21 Jan 2006 <http://www.epilepsia.org.br/epi2002/JEp21http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.

Martin, Jenna. “Teens with Epilepsy: Living with Stigma.” Epilepsy.com. Epilepsy Therapy Development  Project.. 20 Jan. 2006 <http://www.epilepsy.com/articles/ar_1089388403.html>.

Mellon, C.A. “Evaluating the portrayal of disabled characters in juvenile fiction.” Journal of Youth Services in Libraries. 2(2): 1989, 143-150

 

Writing Prompt: 

What is it about you that you don’t feel like people don’t understand? That they make into a stereotype?

Life Prompt:

How can you show someone that you see them? What can you do to see them better?

 

Random Other Writing and Work News:

The pub date for THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID, is March? You can preorder it here or anywhere. It’s an anthology that I have a piece in.

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I’m starting a podcast. The landing page will be here and also on my website and in all those typical podcast places, hopefully. It will be raw. It will be quirky because seriously… look at me… I don’t know how to be normal.

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I am incredibly terrified about this podcast. So, please leave a review once you check it out.

Also, on my website are the stories of how my books like the NEED series or TIME STOPPERS came into being, how I paint to get more into my stories, or more info about me and all that stuff that’s supposed to be on websites.

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

The Spy Who Played Baseball

And there you go, Friday’s blog post. Please let me know here if you can (and not just on Facebook) if you’ve checked it out. I hope you have an amazing, wonderful weekend where you shout out who you are to the world and the world loves you for it.

CARRIE JONES DECIDES TO FINALLY ACT LIKE AN AUTHOR AND GIVE UP

31 January, Issue 1, Vol 1.

ELLSWORTH, MAINE –– Sitting at her Powerbook with the missing “Y” key and staring at the blank Word document on the screen, a young adult novelist gave it all up today and decided to act like a real novelist.  Surrounded by her agent, her editors and her dogs, she admitted that she might as well become one with the Hemingway.

“I always knew I was failing at being a writer,” she said while gulping down some boxed wine (red variety), “but I never understood what it was that I was missing. Now I know: it was misery. I was missing the whole misery element. But lately, I’ve been feeling really depressed and consequentially I feel like more of a writer. That rocks!”

“You are a rock star baby,” her agent agreed. “But you’ve got a little of that wine on your chin. Ew. So gross.”

img_1604 Right here? On my chin?

Her agent then whisked out her ancient Blackberry and texted the international rights agent about the philosophy of the Britney Spears and remembered fondly when this book sold to so many countries.

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After apologizing for using adverbs in her above quote, Jones explained that she’d always been a happy and productive writer and she used to shake her head at other writers who would moan a lot about missing muses and being blocked.

“I thought they were just being pretentious,” she admitted. “I mean… seriously… muses? Like in that old movie Xanadu or something? It seemed so hoity-toity.”

Now she understands.

Devastated by the thing people call winter, (“All those cold dark days,” she murmured), plus a cold that would not quit (“A woman can sniff in only so much before the snot affects the brain,” she added, sniffing in), Jones has decided that despite the fact that she writes children’s books she is no longer going to skip and happy dance in her kitchen, she is instead — going to embrace the misery.

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“I will wrap my arms around it and pull it to my heaving bosom,” she said and then added, “Oh. Was that too melodramatic? It was… It was… wasn’t it? Damn, can I do nothing right?”

Her editors pet her on the shoulder and offered more box wine (it’s cheaper) or at least green tea admonishing her to buck up and hit her deadline for the third book in the TIME STOPPERS series.

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“Her friends have already noticed a change. They have kindly inundated her with well meaning emails asking what is wrong,” said one editor who frantically pointed at the keyboard. “But that’s just making her procrastinate more.”

“But they’re writers,” Jones said sniffing some ModPodge because it usually makes her happy. “How do I know they aren’t just trying to get some sort of material for their own novels?”

Nobody responded to this question.

“Plus, the blogging. Why are all our YA and middle grade authors all about the blogging?” Jones wailed. “And the tweets. And they all seem to be friends with each other and promote each other’s books will living terribly exciting lives in coffee shops and Scotland. Everyone is always in Scotland!”

Jones added that her agent has called her multiple times for no reason in the last week.

“It’s my job to check in,” her agent said. “The well-being of my writers is very important to me.”

Her agent then started texting again. This time it was an appeal to add a certain someone’s name to the list of HOTTEST AGENTS IN CHILDREN”S LITERATURE.

“That John Green is always winning,” her agent mumbled. Then she turned her attention back to her client. “You know I love you, baby.”

“She’s just worried I won’t finish the third book,” Jones sighed. “Although… it is nice hearing a human voice occasionally. You know she is human. And when she calls I remember how dialogue is supposed to go. Plus,  I’m tired of talking to my computer.”

Jones then ate an entire carton of Edy’s Ice Cream Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough while the editors looked on and added, “Did I ever tell you that Steve Wedel said I was like a puppy? Or that Cynthia Leitich Smith said I was like a kitten? Yeah? Well, whatever, I’m telling you again. People used to pet my head and tell me what a good writer I was… Now… Now…”

She then started sobbing. “None of this would have happened if I had a writing group.”

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Writing Tip – Write a fake news story about yourself or your character. Look up there! It’s super easy. If you can’t think of a subject, write about Sparty the Dog wearing a tinfoil hat.

Do Good Wednesday – 

I’ve been talking a lot about big volunteer organizations and apps on Wednesdays, but you can also intentionally do good in smaller ways and that’s powerful.

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Small can be powerful!

So here are a couple ideas, but I bet you can make some of your own! 

  1. Write a thank you on paper and give it to somebody.
  2. Encourage someone that you don’t always remember to encourage.
  3. Thank three people for things in one day.
  4. Be patient.
  5. Think about the person you don’t like, that really super annoying horrible person of evil? Think of one good thing about them.
  6. Say ‘hi’ to someone.
  7. Give someone who never treats his/herself a treat. 

Random Marketing Thing – 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. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is getting closer and closer to real. I’m terrified.

Marsie the Cat and the Evil Necklace of Tangles

So much joy comes from just exploration, of touching the shiny things, of creating something bizarre like an ice carousel, of doing what you’ve never done before.

 Marsie the Cat: Human, you aren’t going to post about me getting my claw tangled in your Evil Necklace of Tangles are you?

Me: 

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Marsie: Seriously?

Me: Yeah, but it’s good, I promise!

Marsie: Do I come off like an idiot? Will the dogs make fun of me after I read it?

Me: You’re worried about the judgement of creatures that try to eat your poop, Marsie. Think about that.

Marsie: You’re so right, human. Blog away! But make me look awesome.

 

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So, yesterday Marsie saw a necklace that I’d just untangled and left on the table. Marsie thought something like, “Oh, bright! I must touch it.”

Her claw got snared in the necklace.

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There was about 30 seconds of cat panic and then both Marsie and the necklace fell on the floor. Marsie was TOTALLY okay. The necklace managed to re-tangle itself because that’s necklaces do.

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The dogs watched the whole thing and Marsie did the Cat-Blow-Off-Thing where you could tell she was super embarrassed and was trying to pretend nothing happened at all, but I was like, “Marsie, you are so cool!”

And the reason I though that – other than ALL cats are cool – was that she saw something shiny and she just went for it. She was brave.

This weekend, my friends made an ice carousel on a pond. They hauled out a hammock, a fire pit, a whole bunch of stuff, and had a party. Kids skated. Adults skated. People laughed and connected and there was community going on – this beautiful sharing of story and emotion and also crazy fun.

There’s a lot of risk involved in this.

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  1. It’s a party and there is always a risk that nobody will show.
  2. They used chainsaws and cut the ice.
  3. It’s ICE! You can fall through that and die. This little cutie fell in the crack, but luckily his human was right there and snatched him out like a hero human. He is absolutely okay. Don’t worry!

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4. It’s ICE! You can slip and break things.

But it was amazing and fun and joyous and nobody got hurt. See Thom and Nicole? They look joyous and unhurt!

IMG_0043And all of this, plus Marsie’s interaction with the NECKLACE OF EVIL TANGLES, made me realize that so much joy comes from just exploration, of touching the shiny things, of creating something bizarre like an ice carousel, of doing what you’ve never done before.

I hope that you all get the chance to do something amazing and new this week.

Writing Prompt: 

Write about something you’re character is afraid to try.

Life Prompt:

How can you do something new this week?

Random website link is herewww.carriejonesbooks.com 

Where the podcast will be is here! 

The Spy Who Played Baseball Preorder Link