Writing In The First Person? Quick Reasons Why It’s Okay.

On a listserv that I used to be on a lot of the talk was  about first person in YA lit.

Basically, everyone except for me said:

1. There’s too much of it.
2. It all sounds the same.
3. Why use it? It’s so darn limiting.

And because I am a woman of strong opinions who is contrary, I countered that:

1.There’s not too much of it if kids read it and love it.

2. M.T. Anderson and Angie Thomas and Meg Cabot and Kekla Magoon and John Green do not all sound the same. Yes, I know that list doesn’t cover the people who do sound the same. But why do we always focus on the negatives in our industry instead of the positives? Why are we so quick to degrade our value?
3. Everything writing choice we make is limiting really. That’s the nature of choices in life and in writing. We decide to do something one way, to be a certain way, to go to one place. That means that we can currently do the other option, be the other option, go to the other location. But choices also expand our horizons. When we make a choice, pick a path, we are taking a step towards follow through and commitment.

My Post-5

But my main point was mostly ignored. No offense to the writers in the group who probably don’t remember the conversation anymore. I’d ignore me, too. I wrote my response VERY early in the morning and it was a bit impassioned, as the brilliant Brent Hartinger said.

Throughout our history an integral part of civil rights for all groups has been giving voice to the voiceless. Angela Davis, Audre Lord, lots of people have spoken of this in terms of women’s rights and civil rights movements. The recognition that your voice is heard, that your voice matters is an essential part on the path to equality and liberation. It’s part of the need for intersectionality. For young adults this is also true.

My Post-5 copy

Teens don’t have the voice that adults have. They can’t vote. They tend to not have as much money and power. That’s hard.

But even in a nonpolitical sense, some teens are struggling with identity issues. The first-person voice is the perfect reflection of that struggle. Rather than having a third-person narrative, instead the books are in the voice of the people who are finding their voice, which is a tool towards empowerment. So, I argue that even though yes, there are a TON of first-person narratives, don’t there need to be? Shouldn’t there be more and more voices out there, giving power to more and more thoughts. And, yes, it comes down from an adult writer (usually) recreating the voice of youth, but even that mimicking shows a sign of respect for the voice of young adults. The mimic in us gives worth to the original voice that we are trying to recreate in our stories.

This is in NO WAY to say that third-person voice or narrative is bad or doesn’t have a place. It does. I love third person. When I was a kid I loved both, too. I think books in the third person are also important and empowering. Just by telling the stories of young adults we give value to them.

My point, though, is that first-person narratives shouldn’t constantly be pooped on as something unworthy or that there’s too much of it. I just would like it if we sometimes thought about the political choices that underpin our craft choices. I know some writers do. Maybe I mean, collectively, as a community.

I am cringing now, ready for someone to scream at me. That’s okay. Scream away. REMEMBER SCREAMING IS CONVEYED ON THE WEB WORLD BY DOING ALL CAPS AND LOTS OF THESE !!!! AND EVEN A FEW OF THESE @#$%.

Do Good Wednesday

Here’s a quick way to make a difference. Donate your old bike if you have one. Bikes for the World is an organization that helps provide bikes to people who are economically disadvantaged. Why? Because a bike can change a life. It can make you self-sufficient because it gives you a way to get around.


That’s a big deal.

Your old bike can be the key to someone’s better life.

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.



Four Gentle Ways To Raise (Write) A Good Book Like It’s A Dog

My Post-4 copy

Books and dogs have a lot in common. That’s why we have a podcast about dogs, life, and writing, right? Shameless podcast link is right here. Please listen.

Anyways, now that my shameless plug is over I can get to my point, which is that you can apply some of the lessons of training your dog to training your book. Really. Read on.

Find a space to write

Just like training a dog requires some dedicated space if you’re working on agility or sit/stay commands, your book can blossom if you have a dedicated place to write.

This space needs to be what works for you. Kid free? Kid friendly? Music? No music? Cozy? Standing? Surrounded by books? Surrounded by nothing?

Create a space where writing happens. Kindly boot out the old plates, the yelling kids, the  licking dogs if you need to. Or hoard them. There is no one right way to create your writing space.

Here’s the thing: 

Your book and your writing is important. Create a space for it.

More on that: Make the space for the book

I’m not just talking about the mechanics of writing the book. I’m talking about the space for it to breathe. Books can be brats. They need room to grow and breathe. Make sure you take time to step away from the actual physical writing of your book so that inspiration can hit, problem solving can happen.

Sometimes stepping away to give that baby some independence is exactly what it needs to grow.

Even dogs need a little quite time and not constant stimulation. There’s a reason for that. It lets them recharge. You and your book need to recharge, too.

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When we were kids, writing stories was play. It was fun. Now, a lot of us think of it as work. We think of work and play as two separate things.

They don’t have to be.

Play with your story. Enjoy it.

Dogs learn things and acquire new skills because they feel rewarded or because it’s fun or because bacon is involved. Doing work doesn’t have to be arduous. It’s okay to find joy.   I wouldn’t write novels if I didn’t love writing stories and making up characters. It’s one of my favorite things in the world, which is why I put up with all the horrible parts of it (bad reviews, trolls, stalkers, random pay checks, hoping for publication, the long wait between books).

Every year that goes by where I get to be a writer I think, “Whooo, boy. I am so freaking lucky. This is awesome. I love this.”

I wouldn’t feel that way if I didn’t think of it as fun, as play, and as work.

Be Okay With Your Book Messing Up

A book is like a kid or a dog. It’s not going to always be perfect. You might think it is the most brilliant, amazing, talented child… dog… book in the world, but sometimes it’s going to mess up a bit? That rambling thought? It doesn’t belong there. The subplot? It’s a bit junky.

That doesn’t mean the book is a failure.

That doesn’t mean you are a failure.

It just means that you have a place to tinker with.

Do Good Wednesday!


Gabby the Dog loves kids. She loves books. And she loves doing good. If you’re like her at all, you’ll love BOOKS BETWEEN KIDS, “a non-profit organization founded in 2012 to serve Houston’s at-risk children by providing them with books to build their own home libraries.”

That’s pretty cool. Check out its website to get involvedBBK-Banner-Book-Counter-2017-1006389-1.

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








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, had a new episode yesterday. It’s about dialogue. It’s pretty funny. Actually, it’s super funny. Check it out.

My Post-2 copy



How To Stay Motivated About Your Story Even When You Want to Cry

Sometimes, writers crash.

It happens to all of us. To some of us it happens all the time. It’s hard to stay motivated about your story when it gets rejected 8,000 times or you publish it and nobody reads it or you are still writing the draft and it feels more like drudgery than song.

And being a writer is weird. A lot of things mess with your head.

Once, one of my books was up for an award and it totally didn’t win.

One of my friends emailed me and he said, “Grrr…. I hate that your book loses anything.”

Which is SO funny because he’s so protective in a happy-good way and also funny because let’s face it: Books lose things all the time.

Not every book gets on the NYT Bestsellers list
Not every book gets a Printz or a National Book Award or a Cybils or a Caldecott or any of those big fancy prizes where you get to wear ball gowns and look all elegant.

But just getting a book published is really cool. And I am so okay with losing contests because I am really super lucky to get books published at all. There are so many stories that are brilliant and life-changing and funny that don’t get that chance. So I am SAVORING IT!

And it’s kind of like getting a significant other….

If you are like me you pine ALL THROUGH EIGHTH GRADE and hope for a boy to somehow eventually like you, and of course it isn’t just any boy it is… um….

But of course he’s like a British pop star who dates models and doesn’t hang out in New Hampshire and even if he did he’d get arrested for dating you because he is like way old.

And you pine…And you hope… And you send out your query (or yourself) to editors and people who aren’t British pop stars and EVENTUALLY someone who is NOT a BRITISH POP STAR (or Super Editor Celebrity) actually says


Hey Baby Let’s get together.

(Sorry. Check out the guy in the background! Is he a zombie? I think so!)

And you are all YAY!!!!
And you are published/in love and not eaten by the jealousy/the loneliness zombie. And it doesn’t matter that it’s not Super Celebrity Pop Star. It’s your significant other. It’s your editor. And they love your book. How cool is that?

It is AMAZINGLY COOL and you don’t want to spend all your time thinking, “I could have won a Printz” or “I could be dating a British Pop Star.” Instead you’ve got to savor what you have.
So, yeah. I’m okay with losing things. Because I have won already in SO many ways and I will lose again in SO many more. And I’m cool with that. And that’s what I have to remember when I feel stuck with my story or my career or anything.

Here are some quick tips on how to stay motivated about your story.

Dig Deep

I don’t mean dig deep about your story, but about why you are a writer. Who are you doing this for? You. Good. But add someone else. Are you doing this for your mom so she can be proud of you? Are you doing this for kids like you who have never had a story about them before?

Digging deep and finding your motivation to be a writer and to write this specific story helps. It helps a lot.

Sparty digs deep a lot. He is the most existential of dogs. And his point in being here? It’s to eat bacon.

Make Daily Story Goals

If you commit daily to making a word count goal or a revision goal for your story it helps. Make a goal every single day. Make those goals your own. Don’t let other people tell you to write 1,000 words a day or whatever. This is your story. You get to make the goals. You’re in charge.

Start Early

If you are a write every day kind of person, try to write earlier on in the day before all your daily chores and stress drain away your motivation. A lot of people won’t put their writing first if there is a house to clean, a kid to get to school, another job to work at. But remember, this is a job, too. You’ve got to work at it to be the best writer you can be. So, if it matters to you, write as early as you can. Being productive and hitting your goals actually helps you stay motivated. Weird, right?

Gabby and I both have a hard time starting early, but we know our days go so much better when we do.

When Writing, Focus On Your Story Not the Other Stuff

If your goal as a writer is to make money you’re not really going to be constantly motivated about your story. If your goal is to be the best writer you can be? To learn everything you can about craft? Yeah, you will probably be more motivated.

Try Not To Succumb to the Negative

It’s really easy for a lot of us to succumb to our negative thoughts. Don’t limit yourself with negative thoughts about how you suck. You don’t suck. Look at you, you’re so motivated to be a good writer, you’re reading this blog. Think about all the ways you’ve made yourself awesome.

You can do this.

You just have to work, to be persistent, and to believe.

Write down those negative thoughts. Do this a few times – not all in the same day. Sometimes by writing them down, we escape from them and realize that we don’t need them holding us back anymore.

Do Good Wednesday!

Lots of time people want to do good, but they don’t have the money to donate to a cause. The thing is that you don’t have to have money to do good. You just have to want to do good.

Here’s an example of a cool skills-based volunteer matching service. Catchafire lets you “give what you are good at.” How cool is that? You should check them out.

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

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

My Post copy 4

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.

My Post copy 6

Dogs Are Smarter Than People

And yesterday, I posted a new podcast about self doubt and how Shaun can make me believe almost anything because he is so confident about even the ingredients of a cocktail he’s never had.

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. Sort of like us.

My Post-2 copy
Dogs rule. Or they should. Please subscribe and give us a good review. It’s a great act of kindness.