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.

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

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

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

She threw in the laundry.          

  -Common epilepsy joke on the Internet

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

 

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Me being more than someone with epilepsy

 

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

“What a spaz,” another girl said.

She snorted.   

“Freaky.”   

“Super freak.”

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Me. The person they call freak. 

2. Be Aware of the Stereotypes

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

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

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Em hugging a dog. She does that well. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m wondering is why?

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

That is true today.

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

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

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

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

Those stereotypes include: 

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

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

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

“Wow,” they said.

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

 “Because I have seizures,” I said.           

“Oh,” said one.           

“Really,” said another.           

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

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Me hiding behind a gnome. 

3. Do Whatever You Can To Understand Epilepsy

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Writing Prompt: 

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

Life Prompt:

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

 

Random Other Writing and Work News:

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

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

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

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

welcometomagic

 

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

The Spy Who Played Baseball

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

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

31 January, Issue 1, Vol 1.

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

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

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

img_1604 Right here? On my chin?

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

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

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

Now she understands.

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody responded to this question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Good Wednesday – 

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

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Small can be powerful!

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

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

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

The Spy Who Played Baseball

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

Marsie the Cat and the Evil Necklace of Tangles

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

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

Me: 

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Marsie: Seriously?

Me: Yeah, but it’s good, I promise!

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

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

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

 

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

Her claw got snared in the necklace.

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

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

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

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

There’s a lot of risk involved in this.

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Prompt: 

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

Life Prompt:

How can you do something new this week?

Random website link is herewww.carriejonesbooks.com 

Where the podcast will be is here! 

The Spy Who Played Baseball Preorder Link   

 

 

Things We Haven’t Said – Things I Haven’t Said Either

There are a lot of things I haven’t said in my life.

That’s true for almost everyone, I think.

I’ve been tweeting a lot of pictures of my animals and trying to be motivating and uplifting and let people tell their stories. All stories matter. Yours matters. If there is anything I could do in this weird world, I wish I could convince everyone that their stories matter, that other people matter, that we all matter.

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YOU MATTER! 

I’m in a new anthology that’s coming out and it was hard for me to write the piece that I donated.  I’m not used to writing being hard. I’m used to writing being easy, being an escape from the bad things, a place where I can make my own world and control what happens in that world in a way that I can’t control what happens in my own.

But sometimes you have to write the hard things even when you don’t want to.

This was one of those times.

All net proceeds from Things We Haven’t Said will be donated to support survivor services.

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“This book will save hearts.
This book will save minds.
This book will save lives.”
–A.S. King, author of Still Life with Tornado and I Crawl Through It

“Powerful, important and timely, this is a collection of voices that tell, in their own words, what it means to be a survivor–a message of hope and healing that belongs on every young person’s bookshelf.”
–Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be and The Last to Let Go

“Challenging, heartbreaking and ultimately healing…a beautiful firsthand account from rape survivors about the impact of sexual assault on their lives.”
–Christa Desir, author of Fault Line, Bleed Like Me, and Other Broken Things

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This is me before the thing that I hadn’t said happened. This was my boyfriend, Joe. He’s a good human.  Remember how I blogged about when I got epilepsy. This is how I got epilepsy. 

Silence is a powerful thing. And breaking silence, around heavily stigmatized issues such as sexual violence, can sometimes seem impossible, especially for those who find themselves on the inside. This is particularly true for young people. Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out  features a lot of talented contributors,  and is literally giving voice to those who need help speaking up and getting help. The book — made up of essays, poems, letters, vignettes, interviews, and concrete information — breaks the silence and verbalizes the experiences of these victims and, in doing so, creates a chorus of hope for children and young adults who have experienced similar abuse.

The book comes out Feb. 6. You can preorder it here or anywhere.

Writing Prompt: 

What haven’t you said? What are you afraid to say?

Random Other Writing and Work News:

I handed back my first three packets to my students at the Writing Barn today and I am so amazed by them and how awesome they are. They are gifts to this world.

I’m starting a podcast. The landing page will be on my website. What do you like about podcasts? What do you hate? I’ll try not to do the hate things.

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

welcometomagic

RAINN is an organization that helps survivors of sexual violence if you need help and you want to start looking for resources.