Dogs Are Smarter Than People Podcast – First Drafts Suck, But It’s Okay

Hard writer truth time:

First drafts suck.

Almost everything stinks the first time you do it. That’s because it’s THE FIRST time you do it. But, we tend to expect to have our writing be perfect somehow.

Why?

Guitarists don’t expect to be Mark Knopffler the moment they pick up a guitar. Singers don’t expect to be Norah Jones the first time they sing. Sculptors don’t expect to be Michelangelo.

Here’s the Thing:

Being good takes practice.

And even if you’ve written 100 novels already? There is a high likelihood that your first draft of your next novel? It’s going to suck.

But it’s not the end of the world. The end of the world is when you give up.

So, how do you make your sucky first draft better?

Think about it.

 

How to Get Past Your crappy first draft. Three secret ways to write better
You can do it

WRITER TIP OF THE POD

You want to make that first draft a better second draft? Think of these three things to start off right.

  1. Think about what your character wants more than anything in the world. Make sure you have that in your story.
  2. Think about what your character would never do – not ever. Revise your story so that this becomes a high moment of tension, of possibility.
  3. Add tension to every page. EVERY PAGE!

DOG TIP FOR LIFE!

Sometimes, it’s hard to catch the ball in your mouth, especially the first time. Try again anyways. Once you do it right, you get the ball… in your mouth! Score!

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

 

Dogs Are Smarter Than People Podcast – First Drafts Suck, But It’s Okay

 
 
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My Nana’s Funeral Was Awful – Seriously Awful

Because my family is a bit – um – all over the place, I ended up having multiple grandmothers when I was growing up. I had a Nana, a Grammy, and a Avó or Vovó. And every single one of these women was eccentric and radically different from each other.

One had the worst funeral ever. Unless you count the funeral where my aunt passed out and everyone thought she died.

I’m not counting that one.

Or the one where I had a complete #metoo moment. That was my dad’s funeral actually.

I’m not counting that one either.

Anyway, about my grandmothers.

One grandmother was the chairwoman of the Republican women’s party in our state. She believed in manners, in propriety and responsibility, and all that stiff-upper lip stuff.  She drank alcohol once every five years or so, on Christmas. She wrote one poem.

One grandmother was an artist and poet who never let the world see her art, who cried over the beauty of a ripe tomato. She believed in prohibition, probably because her husband forced her to believe in prohibition. She also believed in Julia Child.

One grandmother was a collector of all things ceramic, lover of all things Bingo, and could not care about ‘propriety’ at all. She drank.  She never wrote a poem. She lived one. Some of the lines were flawed, but it was real and raw and authentic.

These ladies didn’t interact much. They are all dead now, but the one I’m thinking about is my nana and what writing lessons I can get from the life she lived and the funeral she had.

My nana basically had the worst funeral in all of history. Or… well… she’s in the top three for my family funeral disasters.

Why?

Oh, let me count the ways. Learn from this, writers, okay? 

The setting was bad

They put all of us closer relatives in a family grieving room before the funeral started, but the room was the kindergarten room for church school and so the whole thing was filled with a giant table and church muppets. People sort of had to stand with their backs flat up against the walls like a police line-up. When new people came into the room, everyone would have to do this sideways shuffle scooch along the walls to make room.

The church muppets were all flopped on top of each other and it looked really naughty. My nana would not have approved. I made Jesus muppet hold hands with Minister muppet because they looked lonely.

It wasn’t a place or setting where emotional resonance could happen. It’s hard to comfort other people or even be super introspective when your back is to the wall and you are staring at puppets who look like they might be trying to make muppet babies.

Know Your Main Character

My nana was 100 when she died. She was a really smart woman. You’d go to her house and she’d have a newspaper clipping for you and she’d be like, “Have you seen this censorship issue that the American Library Association is lobbying against?”

Or she’d be like, “Did you know that Medicare is (Insert large word)?”

She went to this same church that her funeral was at for about 8,000 years.

But the minister’s sermon was all, “Think of the things Rena saw change in her 100 years,” which is nice, but it was like a history lesson.

A history lesson! Ugh. And I kind of wanted it to be personal, not a eulogy you can use for anyone over 98. But that’s what it was.

In a book, you have to know your main character inside and out or else their story doesn’t mean anything. That’s what happened here, too.

Instead of hearing about my nana and her life and her interactions with everyone and with the church, it was a sermon about… history? Full of random dates and events but with no actual human content. Her life as told in his sermon didn’t exist.

Our lives and our characters’ lives have purpose. We aren’t just meant to be a backdrop for a history lesson.

Random Characters Thrown In For Effect 

Part of my family looks like they belong in the Jersey Shore. Seriously, my nephew Brooks saw someone and screamed, “OMG! It’s Snooki!”

Funerals are often places where families see branches that they forgot about or have deliberately avoided for years. That’s okay in a funeral, but in a book? Characters need to have a purpose.

Lack of Emotion

Nobody sobbed. There should be sobbing at a funeral, but I guess since it was History Lesson Funeral, people just took notes, worrying about the test later or something.

People loved my nana. They missed my nana. My family is a high-drama, emotional family that sobs at anything. But here? It didn’t happen.

In life and in books, you have to be able to have the space for sorrow, you have to have an emotional aspect to a story, to understand their worries, their drives, to know that their departure would leave a gaping hole.

That doesn’t happen with bad writing or bad preaching.

The only time emotional resonance happens during a history test is when you realize you’re going to fail it, honestly.

Don’t make your life or your book a history text.

Sometimes Following The Rules Isn’t Healthy

I had to sit in the front row so the minister kept looking at me, which meant that I had to pay attention to the history lesson and nod appropriately, which would have made my nana proud I’m sure.

But following the rules and doing the proper expected thing isn’t always healthy for you. Crying can be good even if it isn’t at the ‘socially acceptable’ time.

And I guess that’s why I’m sad. I wanted my nana’s funeral to make her proud of the life she lived and of all of us people she left behind. I wanted to feel some sort of closure, but I didn’t. I just sort of felt like someone had forgotten to pick her up and give her a ride over.

My nana loved for people to give her rides. She also loved to food poison people with dairy products, talk politics, play cards, get angry at you for beating her at cards, talk on the telephone, and hang out with her friends. She was smart and lively and stubborn and an absolutely horrible cook.

When I asked her why she was so involved in politics she said, “Because I remember what it was like to not even be able to vote.”

She was ten when women got the right to vote.

“It meant something. Women are just as good as men,” she said. “If not better. Stronger. They didn’t let us use our minds.”

She was the valedictorian of her little class in Weare, New Hampshire. She wrote a poem in her yearbook. She was proud of it, but (unlike one of my other grandmothers) it was pretty much the only poem she ever wrote. She didn’t have time for that, she’d said.

When I asked her why she was so smart, why she spent so much time learning and understanding things, she’d said, “Women can’t afford not to be intelligent. Not in this world.”

And another time she said, “It’s our responsibility to learn everything we can learn, to make good decisions, informed decisions.”

A farm girl, she’d married a jazz drummer who played in big bands and toured the country. One time he didn’t come back. He remarried. She never did. I don’t think she ever even dated anyone, but she did think Ronald Reagan was a ‘looker.’

She raised her kids as a single mom back in the 1940s and 1950s. Her oldest son went on to desegregate the fraternity system at UNH and though they were desperately poor, he ended up a valedictorian at his high school, at UNH, and then went on to Harvard Law.

She was so proud of him. Why?

“Because he is a gentleman and because he can think,” she said once when we were sitting on her couch and I was trying to avoid eating any of her food because – food poisoning. And then she said it again, “He can think. So can you. Use your brain, Carrie. Use it. Don’t be afraid of it.”

My nana was pretty cool, and worth way more than a history lesson. She was an epic, a woman of resilience and persistence in a time that was hard.

“All times are hard,” she’d say.

And this, also, is true.

But all times also have beauty and good and resonance. Don’t be afraid to embrace that, too.


 This is my nana. She is 100 here. She would hate this picture. 😉

Do Good Wednesday

I have had seizures.

It started when I was in college and I had Mono. The Epstein Barr virus that causes Mono attacked my brain as well. Eventually, the virus left, the seizures lessened, but it made my brain less resistant to future seizures.

There are all kinds of seizures and all types of triggers for people and all sorts of degrees of severity. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological condition and in the United States, 3.4 million people have epilepsy.

That’s a lot of people and yet there is a ton of stigma about it. So, my Do Good Wednesday call is just this. Go check out this website. Learn a little about epilepsy. Don’t be afraid when someone has a seizure. If you are a parent or a loved one, don’t make it all about you if a loved one has a seizure.

That’s all.

xo

Carrie

Lessons I learned at my grandmother's awful funeral
Dance

Writing News

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

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

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’m being interviewed live on WERU radio on Thursday, May 10 at 10 a.m. You can call in and ask questions and be on the air with me! The livestream for the station is here. 

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!

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!

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

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

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

Bright Girls – Don’t Give Up! Stay Shiny

“She found that Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls’ IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel.”

So, there was an old blog  post on the Huffington Post by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D that references Carol Dweck’s studies in the 1980s on how smart girls and smart boys dealt with material that was new and challenging.

Halvorson wrote:

She found that Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls’ IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts rather than give up.

Why does this happen? What makes smart girls more vulnerable and less confident when they should be the most confident kids in the room? At the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So there were no differences between these boys and girls in ability, nor in past history of success. The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty — what it meant to them when material seemed hard to learn. Bright Girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective learners as a result.

She thought it was about how parents deal with their kids. She wrote:

More often than not, Bright Girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.

How do girls and boys develop these different views? Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children. Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their “goodness.” When we do well in school, we are told that we are “so smart,” “so clever, ” or “such a good student.” This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness and goodness are qualities you either have or you don’t.

Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., “If you would just pay attention you could learn this,” “If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.”) The net result: When learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren’t “good” and “smart,” and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.

 

I was thinking about this specifically as an author. You hear a lot of horror stories about people trying for decades to get published, and you hear a lot of stories about how authors even when they are published don’t feel like they are good enough, or are afraid to go for big author goals. You hear and read a lot of blog posts about people who just don’t think they are good enough and they give up sometimes.

My Post-24

When I get fan letters from yet-to-be-published writers, a lot of it asks for writing advice and I usually tell them this:

Don’t just expect to be amazing. Writing is a craft. The more you do it, the better you get at it. People don’t expect to be brilliant guitar players or sculptors the first time they tackle a guitar or a piece of marble. But writers expect to be stunning with their very first story.

In a way, I think that’s kind of like to what Halvorson and Dweck were saying. To succeed in anything, you have to be willing to think that it’s cool to overcome challenges (in plot, or character development) and BELIEVE that you can. You sort of have to look at life and writing and problems as something that’s a cool adventure, and not think you are a miserable and total failure if you don’t get it perfect the first time.

It’s time to stop being hard on ourselves.

Seriously.

You are allowed to stink.

If you fail 8,000 times it doesn’t mean you are dumb or not worthy. It just means you are on an adventure. But you have to chose to allow yourself to be on that adventure, chose to not think you are the epitome of suckitude every time you get rejected or a bad review, or don’t instantly understand AP Computer Science or some new grammatical construction in a language you’re learning. It doesn’t mean you are any less worthy, any less awesome.

I swear.

What do you think? Are these researchers onto something? Are you female and do you think you give up on tasks too easily? Are you a guy and you do the same thing? Do you think people in the arts (no matter what his/her gender) do this more than people do in other fields?

My Post-23

So How Do You Not Give Up. How Do You Cultivate Your Shiny?

Give yourself room to not be perfect.

Realize that perfection isn’t attainable, but being better/doing better? That is.

Let Your Goal Motivate You

Whatever you want? Want it really, really bad.

Cultivate Your Inner Cheerleader

Let the voice inside you lift you up the way you want to lift up others. Be as encouraging to yourself as you are to your partner, your kids, your students, your friends.

Give Yourself Time

Things that are worth it can take awhile? Think about the writing of Harry Potter, the making of a bouillabaisse, of sculpture. Skills have to be worked on. Thoughts have to be thought. Actions have to occur in order to get to what you want to understand or create or be. So, allow yourself the time to make it happen.

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Writing News

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

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

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

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!

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!

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

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

Easy First Steps to Marketing Your Books from Marvel and Me

It’s hard for a lot of traditionally-published writers to think of writing as a business.  Like self-published writers, we think of writing as craft. We’re compelled to create it, to tell stories, and then we’re inspired to share those stories. But the thing is that we sometimes forget that we need to make money to do things like have food, shelter, coffee products, and to pay medical bills.

This can be a problem.

We avoid marketing because marketing seems? Anti-craft somehow? I’m not sure. But it isn’t. Marketing is really just about getting people to read the books we’ve created. We write stories as communication. Marketing is making sure there is just someone out there to communicate with, right?

Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
big mountain!

I tell this story a lot because it really struck me. I was a speaker at a Rotary International training. There were a ton of wealthy, successful men in suits. I started to introduce myself and I cringed when I said, “I’m a NYT and internationally bestselling author. That always feels weird to say like I’m bragging.”

And this older gentlemen said, “There is no money in modesty, Carrie. Be proud of that.”

And I paused.

And my brain hiccuped.

Because that line is sort of antithetical to who I am. I don’t go out into the world trying to horde money like Smaug or raise massive amounts of money like certain politicians, but I am super psyched to sell books and be able to buy dinner and feed the dogs fake bacon.

But what really matters from that guy’s sentence is that I use my modesty and self-deprecation to my own detriment. Instead of allowing my story to be out there, I sort of hide from the moments of my success. Why is that? That’s the real question. Because it doesn’t just hold back me. It holds back my books and my ability to buy ice-cream cones for the dogs.

Here’s the thing: 

It’s okay to be glad to not be sleeping in a car. It’s okay to own your success. It’s even better when you use that success as a tool to help other people get there, too? Right? Modesty is lovely. I have big issues with braggarts. But it’s okay to know that you, yourself, have done some cool things. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do better or more or that other people can’t too.

Marketing is about one thing. It’s about caring.

cutie face Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
cutie face

 

So, Here are the First Three Tips on How to Successfully Market Your Book.

Spoiler alert: They have nothing to do with marketing.

 

Make the Best Product

That’s right. Your book is a product. It’s what you’re selling and/or your publisher is selling so you want to make the best book that you can. This is easier said than done.

You have to be willing to put in the work and not be inpatient to get it out there.

 

Let Trust-Worthy, Skilled People Help You

For some people that means editors at a publishing house, agents, critique groups. For some people that means teachers at MFA programs or places like The Writing Barn. But the key is trust – you have to trust their advice and you have to trust yourself to know when that advice isn’t all that.

 

Know What Has Worked in the Past, but Also Move Forward

There’s this weird trend in publishing called the “Writer, You’ve Done That Before” rejection, that as a business person? I can’t get my head around. If you’ve written a similar book, but your readers want more of that? Why not give it to them?

Marvel has this down, man. They have movie after movie about the same superheroes, expanding their universes, connecting them, but following a really similar pattern. One of the keys to the company’s success is that they know what their audience reacts to in their stories:

  1. Humor – deadpan, often flippant
  2. Big Fight Scenes
  3. Some emotional resonance
  4. High stakes
  5. Relatable protagonists.

So, know what your audience reacts to in your stories. Don’t be a big trope, but know what they like.

Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
cap

In an interview with Nina Pipkin of Entrepreneur Marvel’s director of content and character development, Sana Amanat says, “When you want to make content that is meaningful, I think you have to try to not look at the big statement, but try to go as small as possible. Try to go down to the nitty gritty of who that singular character is — what they want, what they’re afraid of and what their challenges are. What are the elements that really make them a human being? What are the elements that make them relatable? Or even, what are those elements that make the audience angry with them? You really need to make the audience connect with that character.”

The best marketing comes from writing the best stories and characters that you can.

The next steps for marketing your books?

Have a website. 

Pick a couple social media platforms and post on them.

Don’t just post READ MY BOOK/BUY MY BOOK. Post about whatever interests you other than your book.

  1. Do occasionally post READ MY BOOK/BUY MY BOOK. I totally forget to do this, honestly. I’m too busy posting about other people accidentally spitting into my mouth and my skirt falling down.
  2. Be visual.
  3. Do video if you can.

    Care about the people who communicate with you

    1. People don’t want to be ignored. If someone reaches out to you in an email, on social media, communicate back. Not only is it the nice thing to do, it helps you make friends. Readers are real people. Treat them like it.
    2. Seriously.
    3. Remember you aren’t God. You are a human with emotions and flaws and so are the people taking time out of their day to talk to you. Honor that. Honor them.

WRITING NEWS

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

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

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

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!

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!

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

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

Cooking With A Writer Pasta with Broccoli

Okay.

Let’s be honest.

I picked this recipe because I thought it might be cheap and I, my friends, am a writer and I used to be a journalist and we are almost always cheap.

What I failed to notice is that almonds are expensive.

I splurged and made it anyways.

As writers we’re always hoping to provide the right mix of elements in our story – a strong main character (protagonist), an awesome plot to hold it all together, a theme. And I was like – LOOK AT THIS RECIPE! Maybe the almonds are the surprise that will be the breakthrough element that makes this story/recipe fantastic! I will buy them. Look at me splurge!

The broccoli is totally meant to be the hero here and the pasta is the plot and the sauce, which isn’t actually a sauce, is like the theme, tiny bits of bread crumbs and almonds and olives holding it all together, making it all resonate.

But, it didn’t work that way for me.

It was like a not-quite-good story where all the elements are there, but… it just didn’t pop. Shaun, the husband, and star of the podcast “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” found this glee worthy.

Shaun: We are doing this because you are the former vegetarian trying to convince me, Captain Meat, that vegetarian cooking is awesome.

Me: Yeah. You just called yourself Captain Meat. You know that, right?

Shaun: Whatever. The point is that  you are the one who didn’t like the last two recipes and I loved them.

Me:

Shaun begins dancing merrily around the kitchen like a 6-6 hobbit.

Me: Um.

Shaun continues dancing.

Me: That means my plan is working, right. YOU are the one loving them.

Shaun: 

Me: 

Shaun: Oh.

Pasta with Broccoli

This is a modified recipe, heavily inspired by Truly Madly Pasta. The calorie count is TOTALLY an estimate. The portion size is for four Carries or two Shauns. Yes, Shaun is my husband's name. He eats a lot. 

Course entree
Cuisine vegetarian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people or 2 Shauns
Calories 280 kcal

Ingredients

  • 14 oz short macaroni Ditali is its official name; it does not exist at my grocery store
  • 26 oz broccoli
  • 4 oz green olives that lack pits
  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic all chopped up
  • 2/3 cup almonds blanched and magically ground
  • 6 TBS bread crumbs toasted recently
  • whatever seriously parmesan cheese to taste is a nicer way to say 'whatever'
  • to taste agan olive oil extra virgin because it's getting sacrificed

Instructions

  1. Put a burner on HIGH heat. Put water in a big pot that can hold the pasta. Boil the water. Add pasta. Add salt to boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes or al dente. 

  2. Do not let the water boil over. This makes a big mess. Do not let anyone else be in charge of the boiling water. This is your story... I mean water. You own this. You get to be in charge. 

  3. Step away. Let someone else be in charge. Water boils over and makes a huge mess. Realize this is what it's like to give up control of your manuscript. Cry. Clean up the mess with your tears. 


  4. While you are crying and the pasta is boiling, steam broccoli for six minutes. Do this in a different pot! Sing the "Chopping Broccoli" song from old SNL. Feel a bit better. 

  5. Chop olives while all this other stuff is happening. Think about how good books come from having multiple elements weaving together. Decide that the pasta is the plot. The broccoli is the characters. The olives are... um.... What are olives, really? 

  6. Heat olive oil in pan, a frying pan. Add garlic. Cook one minute. DO THIS GENTLY! Add olives and ground olives. Add a TB or more of water randomly. Take it out of the pasta pot if you can. It is better for sticking, plus less wasting of water. 

  7. Feel good about how eco-friendly you are. Gloat. 

  8. Drain the pasta. Try not to think about the water. 

  9. Mix the pasta, the broccoli , the olive/almonds/garlic mix, the bread crumbs. Drizzle extra oil on top. Bring out the cheese. 

Dog Verdict: We liked it!

Man Verdict: I loved it!

Carrie Verdict: Um…. yeah…. Are there red pepper flakes anywhere?

https://carriejonesbooks.bloghttps://carriejonesbooks.blog
Cooking With a Writer

WRITING NEWS

TIME STOPPERS THE MIDDLE GRADE SERIES OF AWESOME

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.

 

And finally, the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

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

The Space Where Our Power is At

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Victor Frankl

Heidegger said that “being” is always in relation to something else. Human life is “da sein,” which is often translated into “being in the world.”

That’s a pretty cool phrase – being in the world.

How we experience our nows is part of what is necessary to live fully and presently as possible. Experience is part of being. (Gendlin, 1996).

But the thing is that so many of us forget to experience our existence, our being, our space in this world. Why should we do this?

It helps center us.

Focusing on our experience helps make us remember who we are in the moment and it makes us feel better.

Where is the space that our power is at? It’s in that focus, that attention to experience.

A pretty mellow exercise to do this is as follows:

  1. Pay attention to your body.
  2. How does it feel?
  3. Are your feet on the floor? Does it feel right to be touching the ground?
  4. Move on to your legs. How are you standing, walking, sitting in this world?
  5. You have a back. It’s supporting you. How is it doing that?
  6. Your arms, your hands, your fingers. Your fingers are pretty magical. They are sense magicians, bringing information from the outside into your brain. How cool is that?
  7. How does the light or darkness feel against your skin? Do you smell things? Is there wind?
  8. Now think about you in this space and say, “I am.”
  9. You are.
  10. I am.
  11. Did you see anything? Feel anything? Release anything?
  12. Now say, “I am here.”

You are. You are in this world.

Creating resonance and cohesion in your life and your story. Tips on how to make life better.
Resonate

Dog Tip for Life: Dogs are always in this world, vitally connected to it. They know that their existence is part of everything. I am here pretty much oozes off a dog’s every moment.

Writing Tip of the Pod: Just like we have to fully feel our own existence, we have to feel our characters’ existence, what is like to be them, interacting with the world we’ve created for them. Imagine yourself as your character. Imagine yourself as your character doing that exercise. Now write down a paragraph as them, first person.

Carrie Jones Books NYT bestselling author's writing tips and life tips. Plus, dogs.
This is a happy dog

WRITING NEWS

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

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

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

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

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!

The Podcast

Dogs are Smarter Than People, the podcast
Look, Mom! It’s a podcast.

And please subscribe to and like our podcast if you listen and spread the word. It’s kind of you and it makes us feel happy. The RSS feed is here.

The Space Where Our Power is At

 
 
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Finding Success Even After You Make Mistakes

So, Carrie’s been thinking a lot about success lately and if you check out her blog you’ll see she’s had a heck of a last two weeks trying to define success and come to terms with it and all that.

But here’s the thing. Nobody wants to fail. You can talk about loving the process and that’s important, but striving for success is also important. For authors, getting a mindset for success can be… well, almost impossible.

Three hot tips for success when you mess up

Three Hot Tips For Success After Screwing Up

Look for Inspiration – Spend 10 minutes with things that inspire you. For some people that’s music, poetry, dogs, being outside, listening to an awesome podcast.

Don’t be Rigid – Understand that no matter how well you plan, life is chaos. If your plan has a glitch, a swerve? Don’t let that freak you out so much that you stop. Be flexible like you do yoga all the time or something.

When you Mess Up Learn From It – Dwelling in mistakes and failures keeps you in those places mentally. Stepping back and wondering, “What can I learn from this so next time I rock it?” That’s what makes a success mindset.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Dog kissing helps

Dog Tip for Life: When you meet people who suck, thank them in your head for teaching you whatever they taught you. Write down how you are a better dog because you learned something from them. Yes, that ‘something’ might be to stay away from men who smell like asparagus and like to kick, but it’s still a life lesson. You’ve learned it.

Dogs are Smarter Than People, the podcast
Look, Mom! It’s a podcast.

Writing Tip of the Pod: Mistakes happens. That’s okay. It’s how you recover from mistakes, from bad plots, crappy sales, rejections  – that is what makes the difference. Question your story constantly. Ask other people who are honest to check it out.

We all make mistakes, but what makes some people a still a success is that after they realize that they’ve made a mistake that’s hurt other people or themselves or their organization, they acknowledge it, apologize for it, and try to do better.

That’s it. Three steps.

Acknowledge it.

Apologize for it.

Educate yourself and do better.

That’s important in relationships, too. Saying you’re sorry is a promise to try to not repeat the hurt you’ve caused and/or the mistake you made.

 

The link to the podcast episode about this is right here. Be warned, we talk about toilet paper during our random thought time and we’re in a car. So things are a bit . . . punchy.

 

Carrie’s Writing News

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.

PODCAST

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. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

COOKING WITH A WRITER

Carrie has started a tongue-in-spoon subgroup in her 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 CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome six-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let Carrie 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.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

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 action School Library Journal

Finding Success Even After You Make Mistakes

 
 
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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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.