How Do You Become? Meeting Secret Superheroes

I used to sleep in a car.

That’s not as big a deal as you would think it was. Yes, it was Maine, but I had a really furry dog who was warm and cuddly.

Nobody knew I did this. Not my friends. Not the people I worked with. Not even my own family.

And I realized one morning as I was rolling up my sleeping bag and hiding the evidence, “Do I want to define myself as the woman who sleeps in a car with her dog?”

And the answer was no. Beds are warmer and cozier and they don’t give you a crick in your back.

Yesterday, I was at a Rotary International District Conference in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. There were these beautiful people all around me. Every one of them volunteers, defining themselves as people of action, people who make change in their community and all around the world.

While they were voting on their budgets, the man next to me gave me a save-the-date card. He was unassuming, thin and over 60, I think.

But this man? This man was a secret superhero. volunteering countless hours to help his community and the world. And then I realized – everyone in this room was the same – they were all changing the world, saving the world, pretty quietly, one teaspoon at a time.

Secret Superheroes

The card the secret superhero man gave me was for a Rotary conference. I have seen a million Rotary International cards, but this one was different.

It had a hashtag on top, which is such a big deal for Rotarians because they aren’t hashtag people. But it was the content of the hashtag that mattered to me:


“Oh,” I think I may have made a sharp inhale.

“Look at the back. There are quotes on the back.”


“I love this,” I told him.

He smiled.

As writers and humans we cling to our definitions of who we are.

The first questions people usually ask me when we meet (and it’s not on book tour) is what I do and where I am from as if my job and location define me. It’s  kind of them to ask. I do the same thing.  But who we are isn’t our location and our occupation. It’s so much more. It’s what we decide it to be.

So become what you want to become. Let go of the things that define you. Easier said than done, right?

But you have to try. Let go of the labels that keep you in place and grab the ones you want to own, the ones that will expand you (not in a gassy way, but a uplifting way).

The first step?

Find your passion.

The second step?

Go after it.

When I started writing novels, I was a full-time editor for a small local newspaper sleeping in my car a lot. I wrote on notecards in my car while I waited to pick my daughter up from school. I wrote on the backs of state high school basketball programs during halftime when I was taking photos of a game. I wrote on a laptop balanced on my knee as I covered a planning board meeting. I wrote everywhere. That first story became this.

I just got the first pass proof pages this week for the last book in the series. Many thanks to Bloomsbury for publishing it.


When I was writing these books back in 2006, I realized that I loved making up stories. So I thought, how can I do this well enough to do this for a living?

I sent a piece of that story and applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts. I got in. I freaked out. I worked ridiculously hard, producing three times the normal amount of work the other students produced.


Because I felt so lucky to be there, I didn’t want to screw it up.

Here’s the key though: I wanted to do it so much that my fear of failing? It wasn’t as strong as my want. I was willing to work tirelessly and becoming something.

That something wasn’t necessarily being a writer.

That something was becoming better.

I wanted to evolve, to become, to learn, to grow, to be better.

So, that’s the first step, defining your want, your passion, your need and going for it.

So, I’m asking you: What do you want to become?

It’s okay to take a moment to think about that. Sometimes we get so busy fulfilling our obligations and helping family and friends and just surviving, that we forget what we’re surviving for, what we’re aiming to become. And we even feel guilty for taking three extra minutes to actually think about our own selves and who we are.

It’s okay to spend a minute to think. You’ve got this.


I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,  I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

To find out more about my books, there are links in the header. And if you buy one? Thank you so much. Let me know if you want me to send you a bookplate.


The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. If you want to help us out, please subscribe to it, share it, or tell us that you like it.


I’ve started a tongue-in-spoon subgroup in my blog all about cooking vegetarian recipes as a writer. It is silly. The recipes still work though. Check it out here.

Black Bean Soup Recipe. Cooking with a Writer
There are white beans in this image. Try to pretend they aren’t there, okay?


The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn classthat they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support!is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.


Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.



Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.


These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.

What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking actionSchool Library Journal


Get Thee Behind Me, Satan

This post about Friday Writing Life is basically about me almost dying thanks to the devil and an ankle brace.

I go through most of my life feeling pretty lucky. I have a place to live. I have food. I’m not under constant threat of violence. That’s all pretty sweet and it hasn’t always been that way for me.

And part of the way that it’s happened is that I just keep working and doing and going after things, but not in a despot way, but in an “Everyone let’s make this world better together!” kind of way.

Part of determining what you’re passionate about is asking yourself if you’d do what you’re doing even if you made no money at all. For me, being a writer, is just something I do. I can’t imagine not doing it. And I feel lucky and blessed that I get to do it for a living and also help other people do it, too.

I like that so freaking much.

I like it when I get to witness  other people shine.

And it impacts me way too much when they suffer, or make mistakes, and recently a scam call made such a horrible mistake that I thought I’d share it with you.

This week, I got this phone call from “headquarters” about how I had “four complaints against me” and the “local cops” would come get me unless I called a specific number back in 24 hours.

And here’s the thing – people in positions of power who are threatening you with jail time for ‘four complaints,’ don’t call the local authorities, ‘cops.’ They call them police. Or law enforcement. But not ‘cops.’ Word choice matters. That’s your writing lesson of the post.


The call made me think of the other interesting and randomly threatening phone calls that have happened in my life.  I think my favorite ones are where I am threatened not by ‘local cops,’ but by the actual devil himself. Because honestly? If you’re going to get threatened why not by the ultimate in evil, am I right?

Crank Calls from the Devil. The writing life.
Or just a devil duck?

So, anyway, those of you who are my friends on Facebook heard how I got this crank call on another Monday night awhile ago.

That time, the caller said, “Prepare to die, Satan claims you, Carrie.”

And I was all, “Hm. Wait! Can you not hang up so quickly, creepy-voiced man, because I would like to try to discuss this and maybe argue Satan out of it!”

But he hung up.

Apparently, Satan does not like to argue with random children’s book writers? Who knew?

And I was all, “Man, that was so creepy it was kind of funny.”

This is pretty much my response to everything creepy. Floating apparition? I laugh. Possible UFO? I laugh. Weird man running away after ringing my doorbell? Hold on, while I giggle. It’s sort of my defense mechanism for all bad things; I fight them with humor. It’s either that or screaming and screaming hurts your throat if you do it for too long.

I have other defense mechanisms. These are called dogs.

So, for the whole night I was basically all,  “Dogs. Come Velcro yourselves to my sides.”

Gabby: Carrie, we are always Velcroed to your sides. Geesh. *shakes doggy head*

And then because I had no attention span I kind of forgot about the call from the devil because I was busy writing and living and writing more.

But two days later, I almost died.


I was driving to this cool conference of librarians in Maine and I was on the turnpike and wearing the ankle brace from hell. That point of origin is just like the devil I guess, although originally he was from heaven.

The brace, which was on my left foot, suddenly flopped onto the brake. Now, basically the ankle brace from hell was so heavy and thick I could stand on a puppy and not notice. So, when the car lurched and lost 40 mph (like I was going 70 and then was going 30)  JUST AS I WAS PASSING A LOGGING TRUCK (because – Maine), and the car’s tires made this weird noise AND the car behind me wiggled all around to avoid the collision (Nice Driving, Mr. Car Driving Guy, btw), I realized that something was going on.

Fortunately, the brace was not on a poor little puppy.

Unfortunately, it was on my brake.

This is a brace about 1/4 the size of my monster. 

And I yelled, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” because obviously all the Friday nights that the Albertsons brought me to Pioneer Girls at Calvary Baptist Church in New Hampshire had conditioned me more than I realized. They were trying so hard to save my first-grade self’s soul. Apparently, Satan thought they failed.

Anyways, I moved the brace and kept going and then got to Augusta (where the conference was) and totally cried. I mean, I sobbed.

Seriously. I was a total wuss because:

1. I did not want that crank caller to be right.
2. I did not want to die because of my stupid ankle brace from hell.
3. I almost got the people in the car behind me hurt, too, and that’s something I couldn’t have lived with.

So, yeah. If you feel like someone is about to crank you and tell you that you’re about to die and that the devil has claimed your soul: DO NOT PICK UP THE PHONE!

That’s my brilliant life lesson here. Don’t pick up the phone if the devil is calling, or even if you just think it’s a scam caller who is going to send the ‘local cops’ after you. Life is too short to have the evil beside you or in front of you or blabbering on into your ear. Put it behind you where it belongs.



Okay. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this, but I earned out my picture book biography of Sara Emma Edmonds!!!!

This is such a huge thing for me that I can’t begin to tell you how cool it feels especially since it’s with this picture book. Sara was this cool woman who dressed like a man so she could fight in the U.S. Civil War, but then her superiors asked her to dress like a woman and spy on the other side. So, she was a woman dressed like a man dressed like a woman and taking names the entire time. So amazing. Thank you so much to everyone who bought it!




The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support!is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.


“Carrie has the fantastic gift as a mentor to give you honest feedback on what needs work in your manuscript without making you question your ability as a writer. She goes through the strengths and weaknesses of your submissions with thought, care and encouragement.”

I swear, I did not pay anyone to say that. I didn’t even ask them to say it. The Writing Barn just told me that the feedback had intensely kind things like that.


These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.

What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking actionSchool Library Journal


Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.


Dogs Are Smarter Than People – the podcast.

Shaun and I are total dorks in really different ways. You can tell when you listen to the podcasts, which come out every Tuesday.

We give writing tips, life tips, random thoughts. Occasionally, the dogs bark. Thank you so much to the thousands of people who have listened already. You guys are really amazing and our minds are basically blown by all of your support.





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.


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.

“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.


“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.”


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.


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.

Monday Motivation by Marsie!


So, it’s Monday again and Marsie wants you to know that you can do this.

You’ve got this week.

Whatever choices you need to make, whatever actions you have to take?

You can do this.

It’s okay to be the small spoon, to snuggle with a different species, to shout out your story or to hold it close to your chest.

Live like your life is important. It is. You matter. Your words matter.

And if you feel worried, remember Sparty’s got your back.



I Totally Forgot to Title This Post, but let’s call it Giving Tuesday even when you think you suck and you aren’t doing anything at all that’s helpful in this world

1. One of my blogging friends was feeling sad yesterday even though he is published because, basically, he’s worried about being a mediocre writer.

2. It is easy to worry about this.

3. There’s that essential sense of horror when you’re a writer (in such a subjective field) about never being good enough, never making a difference, never being on a NYT bestseller list or being nominated for a National Book Award, or any award, or never getting published, or never having people notice your book exists.

4. That’s not what writing is all about. (Note: I forget this a lot.)

Spartacus: Believe me, she forgets this ALL THE TIME.

5. One of my friends who is not a writer wrote me this in an email a long time ago when I was worrying about not doing enough good in the world because I am just a writer (He does good all the time). He wrote this:

“You never know what kind of positive effect you are having in someone’s life as an author. Even if it is just that someone can escape for an hour from their life, that may be the best part of their day. Think of the kid who doesn’t like their home life or maybe their school life or maybe both. When they pick up a book by Carrie E. Jones, they get to escape the realities of their life and lose themselves in somebody else’s for a while. How cool is that?”

If you are a published writer and having a bad day you can just substitute your name in there because it’s true for everyone.

If you are unpublished writer and having a bad day you can do the same thing because you are writing, you are creating, you are escaping and thinking and plotting and feeling and that is a positive for you – FOR YOU! AND YOU MATTER! – and hopefully for other people too some day.

Insert picture description
There’s been a lot of articles about how reading builds empathy. And in this world? Empathy is important. Acting kindly, not making jokes about political opponents, not disrespecting other people, other cultures, other genders, other ways of being? That happens when empathy happens.

So, if you are a writer or an artist or a reader or just a person who cares, who feels like you aren’t doing enough in this world, like you don’t have any money to give on #givingtuesday, it’s okay. Give your thoughts. Give your time. Give your kindness. Don’t pull yourself down because you feel like you aren’t making a difference. Just keep going, keep doing, keep surviving, keep shouting/singing/whispering/loving/keening your story out there into the world. Try to treat people with love. You’ve got this. Thank you for being made of star dust and empathy. Thank you for being you.

Writing News: You can still get the ebook version of Time Stoppers on sale until tomorrow? The link to it is here.

My book.

Authors are Really Actors Playing All the Roles

I come from a theater background – sort of. Basically, I spent a lot of my time singing and dancing and acting (badly) when I was growing up and then in college I spent a lot of my time directing and acting (badly) while I was getting my political science degree.

I’ve always talked about how using the basics of improv helps writers get over things like writer’s block, etc., and at Vermont College, I focused my graduation presentation on using those tools to help kids write.

Lately though, I’ve been thinking more about how authors are really using all the roles of theater when they create novels. We have to be actors because we have to live inside the characters and make them three-dimensional representations of people. We have to be directors because we put the story together and tell the characters where to go, and determine the viewpoint that we’re seeing the character. We have to be set designers as we create setting. We’re stage crew bringing props in and out. We’re producers because we’re putting the whole production together. We’re writers because… Well, we’re writing.

But right now, I just want to focus on how authors are really actors playing every single role in the story. That’s a lot of effort, honestly.

Method Authors – Method acting is when you immerse yourself in the role; you become someone other than yourself. Do writers do this? Sometimes, but not often. Usually we spend a lot of time researching things our characters like but not becoming the characters and/or pretending to be them. I wonder why.

Living In Another World – Actors live in the world of the moment, of the world that they are acting in. Novelists need to do this too. We have to immerse ourselves in the world that we’ve created, to envision the details, see the events, feel the feels. The best novels use concrete details to show character and place. To find concrete details, we have to see concrete details. We have to build worlds piece by piece and symbol by symbol until they are believable.

Back Story – When I was training in theater with Paul Kuritz and Pope,L, and Marty Andrecki, they all focused on the back story of the roles we played. To understand the character in the moment, we had to understand the moments that came before, what brought our character to this place to react this specific way in the play. And we didn’t need to know just the history of the character, but the history of the world and the cultural implications that influenced that character. Authors sometimes do this, too, but I think some of us could do it more.

Study Real People – To understand nuance and tics and behavior, actors often study real people and model a character on that person, or at least model a behavior of a character on that person. Writers often do that, too.

Acting and writing require empathy. You have to move outside yourself and envision how someone else will react, feel, think, instigate. That’s important when trying to create a world of civility and positive change.

Random Exercise That’s Supposed To Be Helpful

A lot of the time at school visits, I talk about the weirdest places I’ve gotten ideas and how some of those ideas are so bizarre that a sane human would just thrust them out of their mind. I talk about how you have to ‘say yes’ to your ideas no matter how weird they are, no matter how much we doubt them.

I talk about how the idea for the NEED series came from seeing a strange smelling man on my way into a fair. He had a tail wrapped in fabric. He had silver eyes. Enough said, right? While other people might have thought he was a random guy doing cosplay, my brain jumped to “human-sized pixie about to cause an apocalypse.” Since, I didn’t reject that idea and wrote about it, I ended up getting a book series that was an international bestselling.

So, what I do is have kids stand up with me and one of them has to say ‘no,’ to everything we throw out. So it goes like,

“Hey, let’s write a story about human-sized pixies?”


“And they have to save the world?”


“Gerbils who fall in love?”


“People who climb a mountain and find a rainbow unicorn?”


And it goes on like this for a minute and when I stop them, I ask, “So what happened?”

Usually, everyone says, “Nothing. Nothing happened.”

I ask if we got a story. And the answer is always, “No.” We laughed, but we did not get a story.

Writers do this to ourselves all the time. Actually, people do this all the time. We reject ideas for being too weird, too overdone, too normal, too abnormal, too anything. The secret is to go with the idea, to say yes and see what happens. That’s how stories are made.


Signs of Author Sell-out or Authors Being Desperate

You’ve started having all your characters drink Coke Zero in every scene in hopes of a sponsorship.
ie: “Mmm, this Coke Zero is yummy,” Chloe said, quenching her thirst and then staring at Brad as the realization sunk in. “What do you mean, my dad is a gorilla?”
“He’s a primate, I swear. I saw him drinking a Coke Zero with Principal Johnson,” Brad said, sipping his own Coke Zero. “They were using bananas for straws.”
“Liar!” Chloe threw her Coke Zero at Brad. Precious Coke Zero spilled over the floor. Cola, the dog, quickly lapped it up.
2. You’ve started signing on your picture book query letters MADONNA or BEYOND or even IVANKA in the hopes that someone will read it.
Note: This is likely to be more successful if you also dress up like Madonna and send a photo of yourself in that pointy bra thing she used to wear in the 1980s. This works for both men and women.
Hint: Try not to send audio files of yourself signing “Material Girl.” Only your mom finds that cute. Really. This is also true for both men and women.
You agree to put full page ads for diet pills in your tween novel about girls in cliques who like hair products and spas. Just for the heck of it, you put in hair product advertising spreads on pages 229 and 123-124.
You post a mantra on your computer: IT’S NOT SELLING OUT. IT’S JUST ENSURING FISCAL SUCCESS.
You give in to what you know you shouldn’t do and regret it, regret it, regret it. This is explained in this sad and brilliant, honest post by author Eric J. Adams.
This almost happened to me twice when artists put guns on my cover even though there were no guns in those books. I am conflict averse, but this is mostly because I am like the hulk and have no chill. I stood firm on the no gun thing. My editors agreed. The guns were gone. I am forever grateful for those fantastic editors for caring and supporting me. I wish that had also happened to the author in the linked post.
In writer news, TIME STOPPERS, is on sale for $1.99 in November in ebook form so go buy it! My publisher says that people have to buy my books in order for me to be a professional author. Hold on, I’m rethinking that Coke Zero thing. Here’s the link.