How to Make People Keep Reading

I’m about to revise a lot of my own stories and in the next couple of months, I’m going to see if I can figure out how to self publish instead of continuing traditional publishing, so I’m trying to pretend that I won’t have a ton of editors helping me, no writing mentors, just me.

And that’s a little scary.

But it’s made me think more fully about my own stories and how I can apply the tools I use when I teach writing to my own darn writing.

I know! I know! That should be easy, right?

It’s not as easy as I thought because it requires stepping away from the book and thinking as a reader, as a writer, and as an editor, but mostly as a reader.

And the main element when we write a book is that we want our readers to keep reading. So,  I think I’m going to start what I like to call (Drumroll please) the Wednesday Writing Series About Hooking Your Reader.

I’ll be giving two hints a blog post. Let’s start!

TWO QUICK HINTS TO KEEP YOUR READER HOOKED ON YOUR BOOK

Hooking Your Readers - Wednesday Writing Series

Begin your story with the moment that will transform the main character or world.

Begin with the girl moving to Maine from Charleston and seeing something strange on the side of the road like I did with the NEED series.

Begin with the male member of the ‘class couple’ telling his girlfriend that he’s gay like I did in the TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (ex) BOYFRIEND books.

Have a really strong voice of the narrator.

The Martian’s first line is, “I’m pretty much f*cked.”

That combines the pivotal moment with a super strong narrative voice.

Or the Color Purple begins with, “You better not tell nobody but God.”

Which has a great voice and a mystery set in, too. What shouldn’t they tell?

Next week, I’ll have two more tips.

Do Good Wednesday

Puerto Rico still needs assistance and so does Guatemala. You can help by spreading the word or donating to the Hispanic Federation, a nonprofit involved with advocacy for Latino communities.

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The Hispanic Federation’s three big campaigns right now are:

Check it out. Think deeply. Care. That’s how you do good.  That’s how you make a difference in the world and your community. You’ve got this. Sparty the Rescued Dog believes in you.

 

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Sparty: I do! I believe in you.

 

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 my book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun because it’s about Moe Berg and it’s a picture book. I’m heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

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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

I offer solo writing coach services, but I’m also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! (WSS) six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

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And finally, for the month of July, my book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

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Proof of the sale-nature of July.

 

Thanks so much for reading my blog! Please comment or say ‘hi!’ if you feel like it!

 

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There is Evil Out There And We All Need to Fight It

Real life can be more cruel than books.

It’s a hard truth.

Us writers often hear from editors, “Can you make the villain more understandable?”

We often hear, “Nobody would do something so horrible in real life.”

But sometimes villains aren’t understandable. Sometimes real life is full of horrors and cages. And it’s often only those of us who get to live safe lives, bubbled lives, who have problems understanding that such evil exists.

It exists.

Sometimes that evil is a person.

Sometimes that evil is a policy.

Sometimes that evil is both.

As a writer for kids and young adults, I get to know how brilliant and passionate and beautiful kids and teens are. As a writer for kids and young adults, I have a responsibility to speak for them when they can’t speak for themselves, but also to stand aside when they demand a place to speak their own truths.

I posted this on my Facebook yesterday because Gabby the Dog is wise and we have good conversations.

Cooking with a Writer Black Bean Soup Recipe
Gabby the Dog

Me: Gabby, when you meet people who are little or fragile or sick and they want to pet you, it’s like… Well, it’s like you become even more gentle and loving. Like the more fragile the people are, the kinder you become.

Gabby: Of course.

Me:

Gabby: What?

Me:

Gabby: Doesn’t everyone always act like that? You have to be more gentle with the people who need gentleness.

Me: No. People are not always like that.

Gabby:

Me:

Gabby: They should be.

 

 

Why This Matters

On April 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for a “zero-tolerance policy for criminal illegal entry.” Since then, most numbers show that the United States government took over 2,000 kids from their parents and/or legal guardians at the country’s border.

Kids are detained. They are no longer free.

Kids are separated from their parents. They have lost the people they know.

What is evil?

Evil is the opposite of good. This policy is not good. Hurting kids, detaining kids, pulling them away from their loved ones? None of it is good.

“This is a spectacularly cruel policy, where frightened children are being ripped from their parent’s arms and taken to overflowing detention centres, which are effectively cages. This is nothing short of torture. The severe mental suffering that officials have intentionally inflicted on these families for coercive purposes, means that these acts meet the definitions of torture under both US and international law,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas Director.

On a local social media page, a man I know decried the fact that the kids are ‘not in cages,’ and said all the families that were separated were separated because they had acted illegally.

According to Amnesty’s website, “Amnesty International recently interviewed 17 asylum-seeking parents who were forcibly separated from their children, and all but three of them had entered the USA legally to request asylum.”

Legally.

Of those interviewed, 14 out of 17 parents interviewed had entered legally.

“The claims of the Trump administration ring hollow. This cruel and unnecessary practice is being inflicted not only on families crossing irregularly, but also on those seeking protection at ports of entry. The majority of these families fled to the US to seek international protection from persecution and targeted violence in the Northern Triangle, where their governments are unwilling or unable to protect them,” said Guevara-Rosas.

This isn’t new, the man on social media said. The man I know. It started before, he said. Nobody cared before. If it even exists now, he said.

Back in January, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said, “We’re looking at a variety of ways to enforce our laws to discourage parents from bringing their children here.”

Former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, current chief of staff, talked about this separation policy back in early 2017.

It exists. It is evil.

And people are caring now because of multiple reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the policy (not the law) shifted, and another main reason is that people know about it now.

For background, check out Amnesty’s report from 2017 called Facing Walls. The first link is to the press release. This link is to the longer report.

Sometimes it feels impossible to battle evil policies, systemic racism, sexism, bigotry. Sometimes it feels impossible to even battle the evil within our own selves.

It’s not.

Good people, mediocre people, dogs, whatever. What we need to do is support the work of the people actively exposing evil and who are actively working against it. We need to amplify the voices of the children and parents who are suffering. We need to remember what it is that we as people stand for.

What do you stand for?

 

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

Families Belong Together “opposes the cruel, inhumane and unjustified separation of children from their parents along the U.S. border with Mexico and at other ports of entry into the U.S.  We protest the conditions in which these children are kept. We protest the irreversible trauma that has already been perpetrated on these children and their parents for the crime of seeking a better life.”

Check out its website here and find out what you can do to help.

The Poor People’s Campaign is “a national call for moral revival” in our country. The campaign follows in the path of Martin Luther King Jr., and calls for nonviolent civil disobedience.

Amnesty International is an organization, I focused on in the NEED books, and its aim is for a world where everyone has human rights. That shouldn’t be such a hard thing, but it is.

The children’s book community is also rallying. You can go here and donate to Kid Lit Says No Kids in Cages. 

Its statement reads:

As members of the children’s book industry who have built careers with teen and youth readers around the world, we jointly and strongly condemn the inhumane treatment of immigrant children evidenced by the United States Department of Justice in the past week. We believe that innocent children should not be separated from their parents. We believe the “Zero Tolerance” directive issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is cruel, immoral and outrageous. We believe the Department of Justice is engaging in practices that should be restricted to the pages of dystopian novels. We demand and expect better, and call on our readers to do the same.

You can also sign the petition here.

 

Writing News

I have a hard time writing about writing news on Do Good Wednesdays, but the third book in my middle grade TIME STOPPERS series comes out this August. It’s a really big adventure epic about kids fighting evil because apparently that’s what kids have to do. Actually, it’s what we all have to do.

And for more info about me, my books and podcast, check out my blog and website.

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The Poet Who Saw Me – Wednesday Writing Wisdom

When I was a kid at Bates College, I spent a lot of my time feeling like less. My family had been kind of poor after my step-father died. My nana would stand in line to get us big orange blocks of commodity cheese for the week to supplement our $30 grocery budget Every  week my mom would yell at her that we didn’t need that. She always took it.

My mom didn’t answer the phone because she was so afraid of credit card companies calling.  She’d make me do it and lie that she wasn’t there.

I still hate answering the phone, even the cell phone, even when it has caller ID.

Anyway, when I went to college I wanted to forget all that. I wanted to be an intellectual like everyone else. I wanted to have gone to private school in Manhattan or Conneticut, have a summer home in the Hamptons and clothes that weren’t from K-Mart, which was sort of the WalMart equivalent back then, but worse.

I got over all that because I knew it was pretty shallow. What I had a harder time getting over was class issues that had less to do with materialism and more to do with hatred and intellectual history.

In one of my directing classes, one of the sexier straight guys actually announced about Beckett, “People who are not wealthy don’t care about this. A truck driver doesn’t watch public television or listen to NPR. They don’t care, they’re too busy humping and eating and drinking.”

My dad was a truck driver. He watched public television. He listened to NPR. I didn’t want to think about him humping. He ate food. He didn’t drink. His parents had been prohibitionists.

In one of my playwrighting classes the professor announced, “The working people of this country don’t give a shit about nuclear power. They don’t give a shit about a man of color.”

When I was in elementary school my dad would bring him with him to protest the same nuclear power plant that my step dad was helping to build. He helped me try to get New Hampshire to recognize Martin Luther King Day and do a hundred other civil rights things. He cared.

And one of my college friends would love to say, “Carrie is too poor to be pro intellectual.”

He’s a minister now. That still doesn’t make what he said right.

And one of my female poetry teachers told me over and over again, her voice trilling up with her patrician accent, “Carrie, you have the potential to be a poet, but your voice is too raw, not refined, not artistic enough.”

My voice was poor. My cadence was public school. I was not from rich. Every sentence I spoke showed that.

They still do.

Those are just four of the incidents that made me both angry and intimidated and focused, but in the back of my head it just inflamed my self doubt. I could never be a poet because I wasn’t wealthy, private-school educated, my parents weren’t intellectuals. I could never move people with words because my words were too stark and my sentences too short. I would never fit in because I didn’t have the background that most of the other students had.

And then two things happened. I read Sherman Alexie, a not-wealthy Spokane and Coeur d’Alene who despite his issues with women, impacted me positively. Maybe because I never met him.

And I met Seamus Heaney in real life.

Seamus Heaney came to our college at the invitation of Robert Farnsworth, who was an awesome poet and professor. He met with students, he gave a reading and we all got to hang out with him at a reception.

“I can’t go,” I told my boyfriend at the time.

He bit into his pizza. He was always eating pizza. “Why not?”

“Because it’s Seamus Heaney,” I answered staring at the little bits of sausage on the pizza before I plucked them off.

“So?”

“Seamus Heaney!”

“So?”

I didn’t know how to explain. Seamus Heaney was THE poet, the Nobel Prize winner. He was Irish for God’s sake. Those people were gifted with words. They had so many amazing poets… Heaney, Yeats, Wilde, Clarke, Moore. I was from New Hampshire. We had Robert Frost but pretty much every New England state tried to claim him.

Heaney wrote things like:

“A hunger-striker’s father

stands in the graveyard dumb.

The police widow in veils

faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don’t hope

on this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

the longed for tidal wave

of justice can rise up,

and hope and history rhyme.”

You will regret it if you don’t go,” my boyfriend said. “I’m going to just be playing Leisure Suit Larry anyway.”

So, I went, as anxious as if I was going on stage myself. Heaney transfixed me with his amazing baritone and bear-like presence. And his words… Of course his words… And when I met him afterwards, I was terrified until he grabbed my hand in his and said, “So you are a poet?”

And I said, “No.”

And all he did was nod and say, “Oh, yes you are.”

But in his eyes was this knowing, this connection, and maybe it wasn’t really there. Maybe I just saw it because I wanted him to understand me, because I wanted someone to get who I was and who I wanted to be. Or maybe not?

I don’t know, but one second later my professor said, “Oh, yes she is. I told you about her. She is like you.”

And then one of them said something about growing up not wealthy and I can’t remember the exact words, but what I do remember is that I finally felt understood. Later, I looked up Seamus Heaney’s past, about how his dad was a farmer and neither of his parents were big on words really, not in the intellectual way that everyone in college seemed to be. I found out that he was like me a little bit not because he was a poet and I was trying so desperately hard to write just one decent poem, but because we were both human, that we both came from humble places, that we both looked in people’s eyes when we said hello.

And that was enough for me. That was enough for me to believe in myself.

Seamus Heaney performed a miracle when I met him. He made me believe that I could be whatever the hell I wanted to be and that it didn’t matter how hard I had to fight or work or not fit in. What mattered was that I wanted the miracle of being a writer, of metamorphosis from Carrie the poor neurotic kid from Bedford, New Hampshire into Carrie Jones, the neurotic best-selling author who lives on the coast of Maine.

He gave hope and miracles in his poems and in his person and I am so thankful for his existence and so sorry for the world’s loss.

“The main thing is to write

for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust

that imagines its haven like your hands at night

dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast.

You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous.

Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest.”

 

I wrote this post back in 2013 when Seamus Heaney died, but in one of my student packet’s this week, I referenced Heaney and then yesterday I saw this Liam Neeson video (randomly) where he was talking about Heaney, so… there you go. I’ve reposted it.

Here’s Seamus Heaney reading his own poem, “Blackberry Picking.”

 

Do Good Wednesday

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Scary, right?

People are fixing it.

You can help with poetry and kids. These images are from Get Lit’s website and Get Lit is making a difference.

“Get Lit was founded in 2006 after Diane Luby Lane created a one-woman show about the power of words and toured colleges with iconic Chicano poet Jimmy Santiago Baca. After the show closed, she couldn’t bear the thought of cutting off the work completely. She started teaching classic and spoken word poetry in two high schools, Fairfax and Walt Whitman. When the semester ended… the students wouldn’t leave. They insisted on meeting after school. The rest is history. Today, the curriculum has expanded to almost 100 schools, and the Get Lit Players are the most watched poets on the internet. Curriculum requests flow in from Mexico to New Zealand.”

Get Lit “uses poetry to increase literacy, empower youth, and inspire communities.”

Get Lit works – 98% of Get Lit Players go to college, and 70% get scholarships!

Here are Get Lit’s specific needs and how you can get involved.

 

Writing News

Carrie’s  super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town.

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal

 

“Sticks the landing . . . The world building is engaging . . . between the decidedly wonderful residents and the terrifying monsters who plague them.” –  BCCB

 

“Amid the magic, spells, adventure, and weirdness of this fantasy are embedded not-so-subtle life lessons about kindness, friendship, and cooperation.” –  Booklist

 

“A wild and fresh take on fantasy with an intriguing cast of characters. Dangerous and scary and fun all rolled into one. In the words of Eva the dwarf, I freaking loved it!” –  Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds series

 

“Effervescent, funny, and genuine.” –  Kirkus Reviews

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go by the first two books now. 🙂

 

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of Carrie’s 16-or-so books, check out her website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST

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
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Children Shouldn’t Be Lost

I am currently involved with this quote and I’m trying to think about how Zara (the main character in my NEED series) would react to it.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt, former U.S. President.

While I have very mixed feelings about Mr. Roosevelt, I am obsessed with this quote and it obviously can apply to any venture, writing, acting, working, relationships.

And it applies to our own lives, the ones we live every singe day.

And then I think about all the people in parts of the world, about all the people in my own country, the people who are often unseen, and the ones who are invisible, and how for some the act of living, the act of surviving,  is the biggest arena and triumph of all.

But maybe our biggest triumph of all? It would be to help them, to see them, to know what’s happening.

When I was a kid learning about the Holocaust, the scenes and stories that always broke my soul where the ones where kids were wrenched apart from their parents, their mothers, the fathers. The ache of that? The sudden shock of that? It was too much for my heart to handle just reading it. How does a heart handle it in real life.

And this is happening now in other places in the world.

And this is happening now in the U.S. with kids whose parents have immigrated here illegally.

There are links here and here.

Both those links are about children being abused by U.S. Border Agents. Here is one about the almost 1,500 missing children, lost by our government.

Yes, you can argue that in the United States when you break a law you don’t get to live with your kids anymore, that everyone in prison is separated from their family and children.

And I would argue that those children weren’t usually sent to strangers. And I would argue that those children don’t usually go missing because the individual states handle their cases.

And you might say ‘the law is the law.” And I would say that Hitler said that, too. The law is the law. But sometimes? Laws are unjust. And sometimes? Laws need to be changed. And sometimes we need to remember what it is to be human, to have hearts, and to care.

We are not perfect people, but we can’t afford to just criticize policy and behavior. We have to act valiantly, to promote our beliefs, and our ideals, and our morals. Doing good, caring, that is valiant.

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY ON A SATURDAY.

I was originally going to publish this on Wednesday, but I decided it can’t wait. I’ll repost it then, too. 

This website talks about state-level advocacy on immigration issues. You can get in touch with your state organizations and find out what you can do to help create the country you want.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO

1. Call your elected representatives.

2. Learn more about the actual law at  the Informed Immigrant website

3. Support ActBlue Charities initiative to Support Kids at the Border or Support The Young Center for Immigrant and Children’s RightsUnited We Dream, KIND: Kids in Need of Defense, Lutheran Immigration Services

4.Donate to the ACLU  and/or sign its petition to Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and US Border Protection.

 

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 Write Sucky YA Novels

So, you want to write a young adult novel and you want it to be bad? I hear you. You’re tired of trying to write good novels for kids. Writing something awful? Well, it’s freeing and everyone cares too much about kids anyway, right?

My Post-19

Here are my tips for writing the worst YA novel you can.

Write like an 88-year old man from a wealthy neighborhood in Connecticut. 

You once had a teenager perspective inside you back a few decades ago. That’s over now. You’re a full-fledged curmudgeon. Write like it.

Make sure that the whole book is written like you’re observing things from an ancient, judgmental difference.

Like a total fool, Brandon failed to put money in his IRA or notice that his skin’s taut nature. I laughed at him. 

 

Make sure there is no emotional truth in anything.

You don’t want the readers to identify with any of your characters. What better way to do that than to make sure that they can’t. How do you do that? Make everything bland. Make everything completely lack intensity. Imagine Spock from Star Trek when he’s not in love with Kirk. Channel that.

I fell in love. No metaphors. It happened. Maybe it was gas. I had burritos for breakfast that morning, which always impacts my digestion.

Avoid any real teenagers. Wait. You can yell at them to get off your lawn, but that’s it.

You want a sucky book, right? Make sure you have no current pop references, write in a bubble and have no clue what teenagers care about or even look like. They’re all blue, right?

I wanted to be one of those people who are just there but not. I liked the smell of Metamucil. When Grampa visited I thought, “Cool.” Same thing as I thought when the love of my life showed up. Intensity is overrated. 

Use a lot of slang!

Nothing makes an awful book like using slang from the 1940s in a present-day time period. Put in as many as possible.

Good ones include:

Armored heifer – Canned milk

Bust your chops – Yell at someone for being a dork

What’s buzzin’ cousin? – How are you doing?

He had high-tailed it out of there, and I did not have moxie to flap my gums to him about how she was a bearcat or not to take any wooden nickels from the other one, who was such a cancelled stamp.

Have No Plot

Seriously. Just have everything be stagnant. Have there be no immediacy. Have it be like a town planning board meeting discussing the land use ordinance’s shoreline setback for 5.7 hours.

We sat there. The others talked. Time passed. We sat some more. I stared at the ceiling fan. It seemed bored, too. We sat some more. 

Have No Hope

Life is dark. Life has no hope. Why not teach the kids that right now, right? They will one day have to sit in a town planning board meeting so they might as well get used to life with no light at the end of the tunnel where someone busts their chops all day and they have to drink armored heifers.

Make them hate their existence as much as possible.

Everything sucked, but not in an intense way. Just a mellow suck – sort of a droning on of suckitude for years. Then I died after 80 years of almost-but-not-quite existential worries and moments. The end.

 

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Do Good Wednesday!

A lot of abuse happens at home. Know the signs of abuse and help your friends or yourself. Nobody deserves pain.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
Staffed 24 hours a day by trained counselors

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

National Sexual Assault Hotline

1.800.656.HOPE

rainn.org

The National Domestic Violence Hotline asks these questions to help you understand if something is abuse.

Does it….Does he/she/they…?

  • Insult, demean or embarrass you with put-downs?
  • Control what you do, who you talk to or where you go?
  • Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
  • Push you, slap you, choke you or hit you?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Control the money in the relationship? Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all of the decisions without your input or consideration of your needs?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, deny the abuse or tell you it’s your own fault?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Attempt to force you to drop criminal charges?
  • Threaten to commit suicide, or threaten to kill you?

 

You can volunteer for organizations locally and nationally. A good place to start is here.

Every time you do something good, you make an impact. It might not seem like a lot but moment after moment, tiny bits of help after tiny bits of help add up to change.

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.

 

Carrie Jones Books blog, NYT bestselling children's book author and podcaster and teacher
This is what I look like. Well, with wet hair.

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.

Why You Should be Vulnerable in a World of Trolls

Last week, I got the first pass proofs of ESCAPE FROM THE BADLANDS, the third book in the TIME STOPPERS series.

I am afraid of pass proofs.

But they are still super cool.

Why am I afraid of them?

Well, they come after the copy edits, so even if you suddenly realize that having your main character fall in love with a bottle of ALL NATURAL SNAPPLE ICED TEA was important to the plot of the book, you can not magically make this happen now. It is too late!!!!

 SnappleIs it ever really too late to make SNAPPLE an important plot choice/love interest? I doubt it.

Yes, Snapple! It is too late.

Why is it too late?

Well, the first pass proofs are really what the book is going to look like on the page. It’s sort of all set and ready to go.

And that’s scary. Your book baby is ready to go off into the world of anonymous reviews and bookstore shelves, and there is nothing you can do now to toughen her up, make her street smart. She will be out there on her own very very soon and you just have to pray she won’t be a train wreck and become the kind of book that the paparazzi take pictures of because she’s always forgetting to wear her underwear when she gets out of cars.

And all of this made me think about vulnerability.

Because writing a blog, a book, a podcast, creating art, any type of true communication and art is an act of expression and it makes you vulnerable. And this world? This world is currently full of people who attack others. Some of those attacks are horrific and visible. Some are hidden.

So, why do it? Why do anything?

Because if you don’t, the trolls win.

Because if you don’t, fear wins.

Because for every troll attacking you, there is someone who needs your story and your voice. That’s why.

This is why you should still be vulnerable despite the evil in this world. Ready?

Vulnerable People are Leaders

People who lead need to connect to others. Vulnerability and authenticity are ways of connection, ways that we break out of our comfort zones and reach for bigger, better things.

Vulnerability Helps Others

Almost every time I blog or post about something that isn’t considered cool, (Having epilepsy, growing up poor, sleeping in a car, being assaulted), people tell me that I’m inspiring. I sure don’t ever feel inspiring. At all. And I have a hard time accepting that compliment, but… I appreciate that kindness because it means that it means those people are getting something positive out of my life or what I’m saying.

Plus, how cool is it that they took the time out of their lives to deliberately say something kind and supportive.

Honestly?

Can there be a bigger gift than hearing that you’ve helped someone else? Somehow? Even though you were just being you.

 

Vulnerability Is Contagious

Being brave and exposing yourself and your truth? It helps others be brave. Sure, it can backfire. When I first posted about my daughter being worried about me going to the Boston Marathon, trolls said my daughter (who is a Lt in the Army) must be a terrorist and have known about it or else why would she be worried about me. Yep… They actually went there.

And that’s the thing. You never know when someone is going to attack you or what for, but you can’t let that fear of evil suppress your voice, your story, your thoughts or your truths.

Silence is oppressive.

But vulnerability? It’s contagious.

Telling your story gives strength to others who haven’t been able to tell theirs yet. Facing your demons helps others to face their own. Isn’t that the kind of infection we want? Instead of a lack of civility and a parade of trolls, how about we work towards authenticity and vulnerability and truth?

A vulnerability contagion…I think that would be pretty cool. So, today’s Wednesday Writing Wisdom is to be vulnerable. No art is any good without it.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Do Good Wednesday!

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

The Human Utility has a water assistance project in Detroit, Michigan, USA, and other cities around the country.

From its website:

Water companies are turning off the tap in cities across the U.S., forcing low-income families, seniors and single parents to live without basic necessities.

Families without water are forced to go elsewhere to take showers, clean dishes and get a drink. Your donation can help turn the water back on.

You can give money, provide services or partner with 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.

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

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!

I’ll be at Sherman’s Bookstore in Bar Harbor on April 28 from 1-2.

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

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

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

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome six-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money. We’ll be having a Zoom class to learn more about it and I’ll share the details as soon as they are official.

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

Boobs, Awards and How to Face Your Fears in front of Katherine Paterson

Sometimes our fear of failure gets so super big that it keeps us from going towards our goals.

Do you know what I mean?

Like sometimes that fear keeps us from going after what it is we really want to do or be or experience? That’s how it is for me sometimes at least.

It almost kept me from getting an award

One time, fear almost held me back from experiencing what was probably one of the biggest moments in my little life. This is because I have social anxiety. It’s almost like stage fright. I’m so good when I’m at someone’s house or an event or a meeting, but before I get there? I spend most of my time thinking, “I do not want to go here. How do I not go here? Agh… Maybe they will cancel.”

But it isn’t because I don’t enjoy myself when I’m at my friend’s house or at an event. I love being at friends’ houses and events. I present as an extrovert and I love people.

Honesty moment: Sometimes I totally don’t enjoy myself at a meeting and my anxiety makes sense because being bored is not fun.

Anyways, my ahead-of-time anxiety comes from this weird fear of failure – that I won’t be good enough, that I will be too awkward, that people will make fun of me.

It’s all pretty second grade.

How To Face Your Fear of Failure
Wednesday Writing Wisdoma

A couple of years ago this fear almost kept me from a really cool life event. I was in D.C. for some American Library Association conference. And there was a  Vermont College of Fine Arts party that I was so stressed about. It was at Tami Lewis Brown’s House.  Katherine Paterson was going to be there.

Yes, that Katherine Paterson. Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson!

I totally didn’t want to go. I was stressed about making a fool of myself in front of Katherine Paterson.

And to make it worse, I was totally freaked out about how I could avoid M. T. Anderson because he’s so tall I found it intimidating. And his book FEED was why I even applied to Vermont College. He taught there then.

And I was worried about what I was wearing because my social anxiety sends me right back into a spiral of awkward worries about superficial things.

To be fair, it was summer. So people wore dresses and sleeveless dresses. I am from Maine. I am used to fleece and flannel.

How To Face Your Fear of Failure - tips from NYT bestselling children's book author Carrie Jones
I am basically this sheep.

And I ended up having to wear my cardigan the whole time because my dress was way too cleavage-y.

How do I know this? I know this because the doorman at the hotel  stared at it and asked if I wanted to “hang out.”

Really.

And I am a children’s book author! I am supposed to be not the type of person people can ask out. Wait. Am I??

Or the type that is supposed to have their boobs hang out?

I mean, either meaning of ‘hang out?’ It wasn’t a good thing.

Anyways, I think part of the problem was I told the doorman that I loved him when he ran after the shuttle bus for me. Bad Carrie! Bad!

So, I sat on the shuttle bus, buttoning my cardigan, almost hyperventilating.

I resisted the urge to scream, “STOP THE SHUTTLE BUS!”

I resisted the urge to slip out of the shuttle when it stopped and call a cab that could take me back to the hotel.

I resisted and resisted.

And I went to the party and my hair was flat and I had a cardigan on (and buttoned) even though it was 98 degrees and then…. and then….Katherine and Tami made speeches about the awesomeness of Vermont College. I think Tobin (M.T. Anderson) may have too. And then… And then… They gave Kekla Magoon of Awesome an award for being a distinguished alumna and she cried and was beautiful and I patted her on the back and tried to tell her how she was great and deserved this so much, all while thinking how awesome she is and then…. and then….

I GOT ONE TOO!

 I look short don’t I? And Tobin looks tall and intimidating. And Katherine, Tammy, and Kekla had enough confidence to be sleeveless. Then there’s me… in a cardigan.

Seriously! I don’t know what they were doing giving me that, but I was awarded a plaque and everything and I almost died because I kept thinking, “People are going to take pictures and I am wearing my dumpy cardigan to hide my cleavage AND my hair is flat. Crud. Crud. Crud. Why did nobody tell me?”

But it was amazing. And the whole time I kept thinking that I wouldn’t even be a writer if not for the people at Vermont College and how there are so many brilliant graduates who deserved that award, and I kept looking out there in the crowd and seeing those freaking phenomenal writers and it was so completely humbling.

But then I also thought about how terrified I was when I first started at Vermont and how that fear of failing and not fitting in almost kept me from being there. Some people were already published. I had barely written one book draft if you don’t count books written in spiral notebooks in grade school.

I felt – no, I knew – that I didn’t belong and I almost quit that first week because I knew there was no way I could possibly belong there with all those people who had been writing for forever and who knew all the terms and all the publishing houses and I knew nothing.

I didn’t believe in myself at all. I was positive I would fail and I was SO AFRAID, bitterly afraid.

Lisa Jahn Clough and Emily Wing Smith and Ed Briant (who said something awesome at a reading to me) and then Tim Wynne Jones were the reasons I toughed it out that first semester. I am so very glad I did because Vermont didn’t just make me into a writer it gave me a community of fellowship, of learning and of people who I adore (even if they are tall).

And I promised myself that I was going to do my best to write books kids deserve and make it so I could deserve that award, which I almost didn’t get because:

  1. I almost missed the shuttle on purpose
  2. I almost went on a date with the hotel doorman – no just kidding!
  3. My fear of failing in front of people was SO overwhelming that it took everything I had to go.

So, how do you fight your fear of failure? Here is how I do it.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones carriejonesbooks.blog
Wednesday Writing Wisdom

Tough Love Yourself

Realize that if you don’t try, you’re not going to have the experience. Imagine how crappy you’re going to feel if you don’t at least try to write a novel when all you want to do is be a novelist. Realize, that you can’t publish a book unless you submit it.

IMAGINE THE WORST POSSIBLE OUTCOMES And Realize that they aren’t that bad, Honestly

When my daughter Em was little and stressed about something and/or failing I’d say, “Buddy. Is anyone going to die if you fail? Will you go to jail if you fail? Will you be forever injured? Then do it. Nothing horrifying will happen.”

I tell this to myself, too.

MAKE SMALL GOALS AND NOTICE WHEN YOU REACH THEM

Thinking about writing an entire series of novels can be overwhelming. For some of my students, thinking about writing 80,000 words (basically one YA novel) is terrifying and they are certain that they will fail when they think of it that way.

This is why I never think of it that way.

You put your big goal into smaller, more attainable bites. Writing 250 words a day for five days a week doesn’t seem as potentially fail-possible as writing 80,0000 words. And when you hit that goal? Allow yourself to notice, to feel your success. Train yourself to be successful so that failure feels like a really far away thing.

Have an Escape Route

Lots of times when we think; I am going to completely fail as a writer and have no job and go bankrupt, it helps to have a cushion, a back-up plan.

When the Emster was applying to colleges, she had a back-up college, but she also had a contingency plan about what to do if she got in nowhere. She’d take a gap year and try again. Maybe get a couple cool life experiences and skills.

In writing, when you fail? You do the same thing. Rethink your story’s structure. Start over again with your writing goal. Find a new way to get what you want, but the most important thing is to actually enjoy doing what you’re doing. Goals are awesome, but most of your life is spent is in process not achievement. Make sure you love the process and/or task so much that it doesn’t matter if you’re what society defines as ‘successful’ or not.

Sidenote: I was having all sorts of issues with wordpress yesterday so Do Good Wednesday is actually being posted on Thursday. It’s probably still Wednesday somewhere in the world, right?

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Do Good Wednesday!

Here is a cool and amazing project that Rotary International is doing. If you can’t help financially? That’s totally okay. Just tell the world about the project and/or Rotary. It’s 1.2 million people all around the world doing good, making change and taking action all while making friends.

And the project?

Here’s what Kate Sieber of Rotary quickly says about it:

“Rotary members from Durango, Colorado, USA, team with the Navajo Nation to bring solar lights to remote, off-the-grid homes on the country’s largest Native American reservation.”

If you follow the link you can find out more.

WRITING NEWS AND STUFF

Book Expo America

I will be signing copies of The Spy Who Played Baseball at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1, from 11:30 to noon at the Lerner Booth.

Moe Berg The Spy Who Played Baseball
Moe Berg

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

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

Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.

PRAISE FOR CARRIE JONES AND WRITE. SUBMIT. SUPPORT:

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

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

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 actionSchool Library Journal

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.

Dogs are Smarter Than People

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

And finally, our podcast had a new episode Tuesday. You can check it out here.  It’s about making your characters and yourself memorable.

If you enjoy podcast, we’d be so super grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or subscribing to it on iTunes or Stitcher or rating it there or somewhere. Thank you! We know it’s a super small thing, but it means so much to us.

Wednesday Bullying Post

So Monday I posted about my own bullying experiences and mentioned DEAR BULLY, an anthology that I co-edited. That book happened because Megan Kelley Hall and I felt so powerless after hearing the stories of two girls. One was Phoebe Prince. Phoebe killed herself after being bullied over and over again. The other girl was a kindergarten student, Jasmin Lovin, who survived her bullying, but was having a horrible time with nightmares and fear.

Carrie Jones Dear Bully 70 Authors tell their stories
Dear Bully

But the book was about more than just those two girls. Bullying is bigger than that and any identity factor or trait (real or perceived) can be used as a reason to deride and torment others.

I felt so powerless to help these kids all over our country. So as an author, I did the only thing I could think of doing; I asked for stories from other authors, so kids who had the opportunity to read the book could realize that they weren’t alone.

They weren’t. They aren’t.

As I told the International Literacy Worldwide Association during an interview, “It (a person’s bullying story) was about kids who were bullied about their sexual orientation, their size, their parents; kids were bullied about anything.”

The hope was that if we all shared how we had been bullied, kids could find hope in our survival, hope in the fact that some super cool authors like Z Brewer or Alyson Noel or R. L. Stine had survived and that they could too.

I was absolutely blown away by everyone’s support and everyone’s stories. And it made me incredibly sad that so many of you have bullying stories and that so many of you are still affected by bullying or are being affected right now.

I keep saying it breaks my heart but honestly my heart is shattering over and over again every time I hear a new story.

But I’m also really happy and proud of everyone for sharing and wanting to help and wanting to make change. You are awesome.

And now I’m going to tell some bullying stories from one person’s life. It’s not about me. It’s about my daughter, Em of Awesome, and she’s given me permission, I swear. Em would never categorize herself as either a bullied kid or a hero. I think that’s important somehow.

 

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Little hiker buddy
Life lessons learned from bullying stories
A love of sweaters runs deep in this family

BULLYING STORY 1

So, when Em was four she went to a Waldorf nursery school. I took her there so she could know how to hang with other kids and also because I love the whole Waldorf philosophy which is, “the human being is fundamentally a spiritual being and that all human beings deserve respect as the embodiment of their spiritual nature.”

So, Em had gone there for about a month when I came to pick her up. Her little cotton dress was all ripped and her face was splotched because she’d been crying. The teachers were all consoling and talking to another little girl, Hannah.

Em launched herself into my arms and I said, “What happened, baby?” because that is what mommies ask.

And she said, “Hannah threw me down and told me she was a lion and was going to eat me up and she ripped my dress and wouldn’t let me up.”

And I hugged her and asked her what the teachers did and she said, “They are talking to Hannah.”

And I said, “Did they talk to you?”

And she said, “No.”

So, I went and talked to the teachers (who are all lovely by the way) and I asked them what happened and they said the same thing as Em. And then they told me that Hannah had been jealous of Em who was somehow really good at sewing and reading (and basically everything – such is the curse of being Em) so Hannah was acting out her rage.

And I asked if Hannah was told that it wasn’t cool to rip another girl’s dress, threaten to kill her, and tackle her. And they told me that they hadn’t because Hannah was merely expressing herself. This was the escalation of her being angry and jealous for awhile.

And then I asked if anyone had comforted Em.

And they said, “No. We were focusing on Hannah.”

This is when I took Em out of the school forever because I honestly thought the spiritual growth and support of the bullied, beaten-up kid was just as important as the spiritual growth and worth of the kid who bullied.

And also because I often have no chill.

Carrie Jones Dear Bully 70 Authors tell their stories
Em of Awesome
Life Lesson here:

If you feel your kid is in a situation that isn’t healthy for them and you have the means to take them out of that situation? Take them out.

Random note: This same girl who lion attacked Em laughed at me for telling  over a decade later for telling her I needed more information before signing a petition about an issue in our town.

Dear Bully. Bullying stories for survival
The Emster in snow

Bullying Story #2

Em has been bullied again, but never to a horrible extreme, and she’s lucky. And she’s also turned into one of those kids/young adults who stands up for other people who are being bullied.

One time a boy in third grade was tormenting a girl in the lunch line because of her eye shape. The girl was Aleutian. Em (who has always had wicked verbal skills) went up one side of him and down the other and announced to everyone, “M- has the most beautiful eyes ever.”

M said, “You think so?”

Em said, “Um… yeah. You are so pretty, especially your eyes.”

And the girl told Em that the boy had been bullying her about her looks for forever. Em was the first one who heard and said something.

Life Lesson Here:

Standing up for others in the moment when they can’t manage it themselves, is okay. Another lesson, if you love someone. If you think the are beautiful, let them know.

Bullying stories and life lessons learned
Graduation

Bullying Story #3

Another time Em battled an Ed Tech who told one of her friends during PE that she threw the ball “like she was r-word.”

(Sorry. I hate that word. I couldn’t write it.)

Yes, the Ed Tech said the actual word.

Yes, the Ed Tech worked with what the school district labels as ‘special needs’ kids.

Yes, the Ed Tech saw nothing wrong with what she said.

Yes, Em’s friend cried and cried about it. She had issues with reading back then. The Ed Tech knew that. She bullied her right into a sobbing mess on the gym floor.

Life Lesson Here:

Bullies can be grown-ups. We’ve all learned that, right? We just call them trolls when they are on social media.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Dog kissing helps


Bullying Story #4

We were at a big conference in LA full of children’s book writers and the key note speaker was hanging out talking by the pool. Em waited her turn and told him how much she loved his books. She was pretty small so he looked kind of shocked that she had read them. Anyways, he was super nice and they were talking when three women who wanted to be children’s writers came over and shoved her out of the way to talk to him.

Seriously, they just pushed her.

Keynote Author Man got this shocked/stunned looked and asked if Em was okay.

The ladies? Didn’t even blink.

Em wasn’t a person to them, and I think a lot of the time that’s what happens. Bullies forget that they are bullying people with feelings and coolness and quirks and emotions. Or maybe they don’t forget? Maybe they just don’t care.

Life Lesson Here:

Rudeness can happen in places where you least expect it. Adults ignoring, berating, tormenting, discounting kids? That’s something that makes an impact. Yes, those ladies were just rude once, so it’s not technically ‘bullying,’ but having the gatekeepers, the movers, the shakers, the people in positions of power and authority ignore you over and over again? That makes an impact.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
She is embarrassed about this shirt. I am embarrassed about my hat.

Em was a quiet kid, but she was fierce, and she was so lucky that she has had the opportunity to be so  fierce and strong and what kills me is that so many of us don’t. So many of us don’t have the tools to keep dealing with bullies over and over again. So many of us don’t know that other people have had to deal with it, too. So many of us don’t realize that we aren’t alone, that we aren’t the only one with our dress ripped, or called names, or physically attacked or pushed aside by women who want to write stories for us, but more than that, they want to talk to the semi-famous man.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Dogs make you stronger

That’s why we all have to do whatever small thing we can. That might be standing up like Em; it might be joining a Facebook page; it might be telling our stories; it might just be giving someone a hug. It might be changing ourselves so that when someone calls us out on bad behavior we don’t get defensive and stubborn but we actually listen and care about their feelings more than our own just for a moment at least.

I know. I know… It seems so little. But it’s something.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Em as Black Widow for Halloween

WHAT I’VE TRIED TO DO

So, I can’t save anyone, really. All I can do is listen, give out smelly stickers, and share my own stories. Sometimes those stories are super fun and inspiring, like the NEED series or TIME STOPPERS or THE SPY WHO PLAYED BASEBALL. 

Sometimes those stories? They are full of pain.

I’ve recently contributed to the anthology THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID and Megan Kelley Hall and I co-edited another anthology, DEAR BULLY, which was an effort of writers, readers, bloggers and people to raise awareness about bullying. The money we raise from Dear Bully’s royalties continues each year to support programs meant to raise awareness about bulling and support those who have suffered. I am so grateful for that opportunity.

But it doesn’t feel like enough, you know? Nothing ever feels like enough.

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Do Good Wednesday!

If you’re a survivor of bullying, please know that you aren’t alone. Check out this website for some resources. And if you are a person who bullies? Try to get some help too. Your life can be so much better than it is now.  Let’s change our culture into something better.

 

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Writing News

The Class at the Writing Barn

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

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Praise for Carrie Jones and Write. Submit. Support:

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

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

People are saying super nice things about me, which is so kind of them because helping people on their writing journeys and their craft and supporting them? That’s pretty boss, honestly.

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

The Podcast

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE has a new episode about life tips, dog tips and writing advice that just came out yesterday.

 

 

Flying and Enhanced – the Young Adult Science Fiction Series

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

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Sparty knows all about that. More info about FLYING is here and the rest of my books? Right here.

 

Revising a Book Is Sort of Like Hell, Basically, So Take Care of Yourself

Back in 2009, I had just finished the revision of CAPTIVATE (sequel to NEED), and after I happy danced, I pretty much passed out.

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The revision of that book was the hardest revision I ever had to do, basically because during that revision I had to work my brain really hard and I was still pretty new to writing novels.

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DURING THAT REVISION:

1. I cut about 40,000 words in two-revision passes.
2. I added about 20,000 more words.
3. I lost all word retrieval skills.
4. I  called everyone I saw BABY  because that was the only word I could retrieve.

5. I lost one friend who didn’t like that I called him BABY and failed to call him back 8,0000 times.
6. I gained three more friends who were into the whole BABY thing.
7. I wondered why I was a writer 74 times (a day).

My whole life went on hold I made lists like this:

Tomorrow I will have to:

1. Call my father who thinks I don’t love him anymore and doesn’t understand that I can’t talk to him in the middle of work when he always talks for at least an hour and it totally ruins my ability to think.

2. Email my mother who is much more understanding.

3. Do push-ups.

4. Pass out again.

5. Reply to blog comments.

Yes, that’s how bad it was. I put ‘pass out’ on my list of things to do.

Revision can be tough especially when there’s a whole lot of pressure on you. To be the best writer and person you can be, you have to take care of yourself, not just your book.

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So here are some tips on how to stay healthy while revising

Get Some Sleep

I know! I know! Writers are supposed to write until they are slumped over their desk and drooling on their keyboard, but this is not actually healthy!

Your brain becomes less efficient the more it needs sleep. So no all-nighters, writing friends.

Have Healthy Snacks, Not Sugary Ones.

Sugar makes you fluctuate between big highs and lows. Nobody wants that.

Stand Up A Lot

Sitting at the desk forever isn’t good for you. Stand up and work whenever you can or at least take breaks from the sitting.

Get Exercise

This is right there with not sitting at your desk all the time, but I made it two separate points. If you take the time to work out before you do your actual writing work, it helps keep you focused and awake.

Drink Water

Dehydrated writers are writers who faint. Fainting is romantic in books, but in real life it leads to concussions. Concussions lead to missed deadlines. Nobody wants that.

Do Good Wednesday

Be a kindness ambassador. I know! I know! It sounds corny, but I’m so super serious. Leave a note, a present, anonymously somewhere in your town or school for someone specific or anyone at all.

Need a specific idea on how to do this? There used to be a blog called Secret Agent L (I think) where the person in charge of the blog went around their town doing this sort of thing. It was cool.

The link is here.

carriejonesbooks.blog

Random Marketing and Book Things Since I am an Author and Need To Make Money.

I KNOW! I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO ADMIT IT. 

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 podcast that came out Tuesday. All the episodes links are on this page.

This podcast is weird, quirky, and totally authentic. I mean, you can tell we are goofy people just trying to share some writing tips and life tips and we are not sitting in the NPR studio. I mean look at us. We’re total dorks.

And finally, I made a little video for my TIME STOPPERS books.

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.