The Why? Also HOLY CRUD, my book is coming out tomorrow and I am legit freaking out and having a total existential crisis post.

Maybe since I have a book coming out tomorrow, I’ve been thinking a lot about success and happiness because I think too much, honestly, but I recently found a TedTalk by a guy who was thinking about things in a way that I was.

To be fair, he was talking about what makes a good leader and not specifically about personal success and/or happiness.

But to me, that’s all part of the same thing.

We all have to be leaders in our own life, the protagonists of our story, right? So our success and happiness comes from how we lead and live our lives.

And this guy, Simon Sinek, talks about the “why.” Great leaders know the why of their brand or their company or their cause, he says. They communicate and motivate from the inside out.

In his Ted Talk, he says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.”

And he cites a whole bunch of examples to back his theory up. So, you should check it out, but before you do, I’m hoping you’ll think about yourself. What do you believe?

Why do you do what you do?

Why do you write books? Why do you sing songs? Why do you caretake houses? Why do you watch the shows you watch or geek out over the things you geek out about?

IMG-5852

Sparty the Dog: How about you, Carrie?

Oh, Sparty. Seriously? You’re going to ask me this right now.

Sparty: Of course. That is the point of dog. Our ‘why’ is to make humans happy, think deeply, and also to make them feel loved and score some bacon out of the deal.

Okay. I write books because I believe in kids and the power of empathy. I write books because I believe that we have to escape into goodness and magic for awhile. I write books because I want to be heard and to inspire others about friendship and love and goodness.

Dogs are Smarter Than People
Hmm… Let me think about that.

Sparty: What about that Rotary thing you’re always volunteering for? You’re always running off places to run meetings and train people about public image and let me tell you, those times do not involve bacon for me. So, I kind of resent them.

I am so sorry, buddy! But bacon is not everything in life.

Sparty: Yes, it is.

Cough. Okay, I’m in Rotary because I believe that people can make a difference in other people’s lives, that we can make communities stronger, that we can change things – eradicate the bad and lift up the good. Rotary is a global network of leaders who commit to making a difference and creating good in their community and the world.

When I was talking to a friend last week about all the kids Rotary has immunized against Polio, he couldn’t believe it.

“That’s not possible,” he said. “2.5 billion kids isn’t possible.”

But it is. It’s true. It’s possible. Why do that? Because why wouldn’t you save a kids’ life? That’s why.

And books (maybe not mine) can save kids lives too. They make possibilities, places to escape to when you’re world is too bad to deal with. They are information wrapped up in empathy and we as a world? We need that.

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s almost out! You can pre-order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere. The official release date is August 7! THAT IS TOMORROW!!! ACK!!!! 

37584945_10156714893329073_1974569355584733184_n

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

This is the link to my blooper reel where I’m trying to read a chapter of my book like a normal, non-weird, non-dorky writer would. Be warned. It is horrifying. Legit horrifying.

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Appearances

Carrie will be at The Books-A-Million in South Portland, Maine on August 8. She’ll be at the Maine Literacy Volunteers Festival on September 8.

DiLAZJkXkAAHOHC

 

Advertisements

Writers, Go With Your Gut and Bring Out the Big Emotion

A lot of the times that Carrie works with writers, she notices that they are pulling back from the emotion that is happening in the story. Instead of allowing the reader to feel the terror of being kidnapped or the anxiety of moving to a new place or the desperate sorrow of losing a loved one, the writer skims over these emotional times with a simple moment of telling like, “John was sad that his dog died.” Or worse. “The dog died. John went to school.”

These are lost opportunities. They are also places where the story goes flat or in writer speak, “fails to resonate.”

A lot of writers, especially children’s book writers, are kind people and by default they don’t want to hurt their characters or dwell in any negative emotions. They are trying to protect their characters and the readers.

But those good intentions don’t actually help anyone.

The real world has pain. Our stories have pain, too.

We have to learn to deal with hardships. Our characters do, too.

And the emotion of stories, the ups and downs, are the ride that our readers are signing up for. They want to feel with us, be transported into others’ lives.

For example, Harry Potter had hardship after hardship and so did his friends. J.K. Rowling didn’t shy away from the hard emotions and hard times. She’d add in beats, moments of dwelling in those big moments of joy and sorrow. What Harry felt, the reader felt.

The premise of your story needs to do this, too. It has to have an emotional hook that makes you wonder and care right away. Again, think of Harry Potter – the story of the boy who lived, a lonely orphan who must overcome the evil wizard who killed his parents. Just thinking about the premise fills you with thoughts and wonder and worry and so many questions. The emotional stakes are so high.

Dog Tip For Life

Embrace your emotions. Think about what makes you snarl, yelp, wag your tail. Go after the ball. Go after the moments that make you feel good.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Um… again… embrace your emotions. Don’t be afraid to express real emotion. It feels safer to hide your emotion, but passion makes better life and better stories. Be passionate about what you’re writing and about how your living.

Dogs are Smarter Than People

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Shout-Out

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

Writers, Go With Your Gut and Bring Out the Big Emotion

 
 
00:00 / 00:24:27
 
1X
 

Writers, Be Simple

We’ve all heard the statistics:

  1. Writers take ten years to get their first novel published, on average
  2. The average children’s book writer makes 5k a year, if she’s lucky.
  3. If you are a writer for a living, you will starve.

Some writers will sell you their books about how you can be a thriving artist versus a starving artist as if there is this dichotomy between the two, an either or situation.

Life isn’t that simple.

Here are the Three First Steps To Being A Writer, MADE AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE

You write the story you want to write.

You hone it and craft it until it’s the best story you can make it.

You send it to agents and editors or self publish it.

That’s it.

That’s how you become published.

You might make a ton of money. You might not. One book might make $500. One book might make $100,000.

It’s not the easiest thing to control, but what you can control is whether or not you’re lonely.

That you can battle.

You can create an in-person writing group or an online group, but if you are lonely in your writing life, YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY make friends, form a pack.

Writers. Loneliness. Tips to make a writing group

Writing Tip of the Pod

How do you form a writing group?
Here’s four easy steps:

 

  1. Decide the goal of your writing group – Support? Accountability? Critique
  2. Figure out when, where, and how often you want to meet.
  3. Invite a few people. Three to five is a good starting number.
  4. Find a way to communicate in between meetings that works for everyone. Facebook? Email? You get to decide.

Dog Tip for life

It’s okay to want a pack to roam with, to howl with.

Writers, Be Simple

 
 
00:00 / 00:14:54
 
1X
 

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

 
 
00:00 / 00:14:56
 
1X
 

First Drafts Suck But So Do A Ton of Other Things

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

First Drafts Suck But So Do A Ton of Other Things

 
 
00:00 / 00:14:56
 
1X
 

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

How to Be Happy Even If You Are a Writer

When people love you or praise you? They are giving you a gift. It’s not cool to turn that away. You don’t want to be an arrogant butt face, but allow people to be kind to you if they are moved to do so.

A lot of writers and artists spend a lot of time doubting and feeling unhappy. Why? That’s the question. Part of it is that we’re creative people. Creative people tend to feel big feelings. We live in feelings and interpretations and expression.

That can be hard on a heart.

My Post-25

It’s hard to believe in yourself when the industry makes it so hard for you not to believe.

Writing is hard on hearts. Rejections come fast and easily and the whole field is so subjective. Outside validation can be hard to come by.

We Expect to be Perfect

We are not perfect.

We apologize when we are normal. We apologize for being human. We apologize for who we are as if who we are is supposed to beyond human.

We see our books, our arts, our blogs as perfect, idealized, finished products and that level of perfection is hard to get to in real life. So….

We Tear Ourselves Down

For some of us, we’re so used to other people tearing us down for being weird, daydreaming, quirky, different that we try to do it before they do – that way it doesn’t seem to hurt that much? But it’s not good for us to do that.

My Post-27

So how do we get happy?

Create

Keep working and creating. There is power in persistence, in not giving up. There is happiness in losing yourself to the process.

Let Forgiveness Happen

You can call it grace if you prefer, but allow yourself to be human. Don’t be so harsh  on yourself when you fail or make a mistake. Embrace that failure because it allows you to know you are human. Not God.

Realize That You Are Absolutely Good Enough

When people praise you, let them. When people come to see you, embrace that. When they listen to you speak, read your work, buy your painting, tell you something awesome, let them. Don’t ignore the good to hold onto the bad.

When people love you or praise you? They are giving you a gift. It’s not cool to turn that away. You don’t want to be an arrogant butt face, but allow people to be kind to you if they are moved to do so.

Dog Tip for Life: Accept the treats that life brings you, man.

Writing Tip of the Cast: A really good way to be a better writer is to think outside of yourself and imagine you as your character. But a really good way to be a confident writer is to allow yourself to be human, to rejoice in the fact that your story isn’t perfect at the first try and/or draft. Forgive yourself when you use the word ‘feel’ 572 times in an 50-page story. Forgive yourself when you accidentally have everyone fall in love with the main character or you forget to have a setting. It’s okay. Acknowledge it. Fix it. Love yourself anyway.

 

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

How to Be Happy Even If You Are a Writer

 
 
00:00 / 00:17:31
 
1X
 

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.

18359094_10155364037679073_5212980447374871853_o

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