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

Hard writer truth time:

First drafts suck.

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

Why?

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

Here’s the Thing:

Being good takes practice.

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

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

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

Think about it.

 

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

WRITER TIP OF THE POD

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

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

DOG TIP FOR LIFE!

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

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

 

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

 
 
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Perfectionism – It’s good. It’s bad. It’s a pain for writers.

Perfectionists aren’t perfect people. They are almost always miserable people.

Seriously.

Think about it.

There’s no such thing as perfect and if you are constantly trying to achieve perfection? What happens? Misery happens. This is true for your life and for your writing. The sad news is that a lot of writers are perfectionists, which means they are miserable.

There’s this great article on the Verywell Mind that has the 10 signs that you might be a perfectionist. But here are some of the signs:

Signs of Perfectionism

All-Or-Nothing Thinking – You can only accept perfection, your goal, nothing else will do.

Critical Eye – Tiny mistakes are the kingdom of your land and you fixate on them.

“Push” vs “Pull” – According to the article, perfectionist are “pushed toward their goals by a fear of not reaching them.” But high achieving people? They are happy making steps towards the goals and not constantly worrying/stressing about not getting there yet.

Unrealistic Standards – Your goal to be God is ridiculous. That’s basically all this is. Your goal is to be the ultimate at something, something that is not possible. And you know it, but you still make that your goal.

Focusing on Only Results – You don’t care about the process of getting there.

Depressed by Unmet Goals – What is this thing called happiness? Perfectionists have a hard time knowing this thing.

Fear of Failure – It is overwhelming and it starts to taint everything perfectionists do.

Procrastination – Elizabeth Scott puts this in her article and phrases it so well, “This is because, fearing failure as they do, perfectionists will sometimes worry so much about doing something imperfectly that they become immobilized and fail to do anything at all! This leads to more feelings of failure, and a vicious cycle is thus perpetuated.”

Defensiveness – Constructive criticism is the enemy and not a tool for betterment. Constructive criticism hurts.

Low Self Esteem – Being super critical of yourself? It doesn’t help your self. Your esteem actually lessens.

Three Tips to Fight Perfectionism
So so so sad

Those are so sad, aren’t they? That’s not how you want to feel, is it? So, how do you overcome your own perfectionist mindset?

Three Steps to Overcoming Perfectionism

Recognize that you do it.

Talk realistically to yourself.

Practice looking at things from other’s points of view

Writing Tip of the Podcast
Writing Tip of the Podcast

Writing Tip of the Pod: Recognize your perfectionism and realize that it’s holding you back. Allow yourself to be happy.

Dog Tip for Life: There is no such thing as perfection, there is no one way to be. Some bacon may be crunchy. Some bacon may be soggy. All bacon is perfect. So are you.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

Carrie will 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, she’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council.

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.

But here is the link to our podcast today about perfectionism!

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

Perfectionism – It’s good. It’s bad. It’s a pain for writers.

 
 
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The Space Where Our Power is At

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Victor Frankl

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

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

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

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

It helps center us.

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

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

A pretty mellow exercise to do this is as follows:

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

You are. You are in this world.

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

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

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

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

WRITING NEWS

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

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

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

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

The Podcast

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

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

The Space Where Our Power is At

 
 
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How Do You Become? Meeting Secret Superheroes

I used to sleep in a car.

That’s not as big a deal as you would think it was. Yes, it was Maine, but I had a really furry dog who was warm and cuddly.

Nobody knew I did this. Not my friends. Not the people I worked with. Not even my own family.

And I realized one morning as I was rolling up my sleeping bag and hiding the evidence, “Do I want to define myself as the woman who sleeps in a car with her dog?”

And the answer was no. Beds are warmer and cozier and they don’t give you a crick in your back.

Yesterday, I was at a Rotary International District Conference in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. There were these beautiful people all around me. Every one of them volunteers, defining themselves as people of action, people who make change in their community and all around the world.

While they were voting on their budgets, the man next to me gave me a save-the-date card. He was unassuming, thin and over 60, I think.

But this man? This man was a secret superhero. volunteering countless hours to help his community and the world. And then I realized – everyone in this room was the same – they were all changing the world, saving the world, pretty quietly, one teaspoon at a time.

Secret Superheroes

The card the secret superhero man gave me was for a Rotary conference. I have seen a million Rotary International cards, but this one was different.

It had a hashtag on top, which is such a big deal for Rotarians because they aren’t hashtag people. But it was the content of the hashtag that mattered to me:

#whatmightwebe.

“Oh,” I think I may have made a sharp inhale.

“Look at the back. There are quotes on the back.”

IMG-4061

“I love this,” I told him.

He smiled.

As writers and humans we cling to our definitions of who we are.

The first questions people usually ask me when we meet (and it’s not on book tour) is what I do and where I am from as if my job and location define me. It’s  kind of them to ask. I do the same thing.  But who we are isn’t our location and our occupation. It’s so much more. It’s what we decide it to be.

So become what you want to become. Let go of the things that define you. Easier said than done, right?

But you have to try. Let go of the labels that keep you in place and grab the ones you want to own, the ones that will expand you (not in a gassy way, but a uplifting way).

The first step?

Find your passion.

The second step?

Go after it.

When I started writing novels, I was a full-time editor for a small local newspaper sleeping in my car a lot. I wrote on notecards in my car while I waited to pick my daughter up from school. I wrote on the backs of state high school basketball programs during halftime when I was taking photos of a game. I wrote on a laptop balanced on my knee as I covered a planning board meeting. I wrote everywhere. That first story became this.

I just got the first pass proof pages this week for the last book in the series. Many thanks to Bloomsbury for publishing it.

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When I was writing these books back in 2006, I realized that I loved making up stories. So I thought, how can I do this well enough to do this for a living?

I sent a piece of that story and applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts. I got in. I freaked out. I worked ridiculously hard, producing three times the normal amount of work the other students produced.

Why?

Because I felt so lucky to be there, I didn’t want to screw it up.

Here’s the key though: I wanted to do it so much that my fear of failing? It wasn’t as strong as my want. I was willing to work tirelessly and becoming something.

That something wasn’t necessarily being a writer.

That something was becoming better.

I wanted to evolve, to become, to learn, to grow, to be better.

So, that’s the first step, defining your want, your passion, your need and going for it.

So, I’m asking you: What do you want to become?

It’s okay to take a moment to think about that. Sometimes we get so busy fulfilling our obligations and helping family and friends and just surviving, that we forget what we’re surviving for, what we’re aiming to become. And we even feel guilty for taking three extra minutes to actually think about our own selves and who we are.

It’s okay to spend a minute to think. You’ve got this.

WRITING NEWS AND STUFF

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,  I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

To find out more about my books, there are links in the header. And if you buy one? Thank you so much. Let me know if you want me to send you a bookplate.

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. If you want to help us out, please subscribe to it, share it, or tell us that you like it.

COOKING WITH A WRITER

I’ve 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 6-month-long Writing Barn classthat 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.

 

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.

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

Make Your Life and Your Writing Resonate

The best kind of work is the kind that makes you messy (even if you’re a Virgo) inside and out.

And for a lot of writers, especially writers for kids, our job isn’t just about making story; it’s about making a difference somehow in at least one kid’s life. That is a messy business because in order to make a difference, you have to dig deep, to go through a lot of dirt and mud and rock to get to what it is that matters to you and to your story and to your reader and/or life partners.

When I go to schools, I always tell the kids that one of the important steps to becoming the best writers you can be is to live the biggest life you can live. To not risk life or jail time, but to have adventures, to do things that you would never expect yourself doing.

YOUR LIFE IS YOUR STORY. MAKE IT A BIG ONE.

Big stories have conflict, and none of us are really into conflict in our lives, but it’s the conflict that allows our stories to have meaning and resonance.

Big stories have awkward moments and worries. Our characters and our selves feel overwhelmed. We feel like we can’t make it sometimes. That’s part of what makes surviving such a sweet triumph.

Being a writer is about more than craft. It’s about the story of how to be a writer, your story. It’s part of the bigger story of your life.

Being a writer is about more than craft. It's about life and resonance and cohesion.
Writing is life.

 

EVERY LESSON ABOUT WRITING CRAFT IS ACTUALLY A LESSON ABOUT LIFE.

Talking about paying attention to detail in your scene? It’s the same as paying attention to the details in your real life.

Talking about traits of your character and how to make them heroes (or not)? It’s the same as talking about the traits that make you the you that you so beautifully are.

Talking about resolution to your story is the same as talking about resolution to your relationships, to your current conflict, to your own life and death.

I know, right? Mind blown.

In every story we write there needs to be some logic and there needs to be some spirit or resonance.

What makes the logic of the story?

That comes from plot, pacing, character, and theme. You start your story with a vision and then the other elements are honed and refined to express that vision.

The logic is the structure of the story, how it all works together. It’s how your plot isn’t just action, but a movement forward towards an end point – and how that movement forward makes sense and works together with the character, the theme, the pacing.

Events that happen must make the character react and act.

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

AND RESONANCE?  WHAT’S RESONANCE?

It’s the story’s value. It’s the universal nature of the story. It’s what makes the reader’s heart and mind go, “A-ha!”

It’s what makes you remember the story. We’ve all met people, read books, watched movies or shows or heard songs and forgotten them, but the ones that resonate? Those are the ones we remember.

Think Hamilton.  Hamilton resonates across so many demographics partially because it’s the story about immigration and triumph and death, about idealism and it’s then set to something that feels more new in musical theater – the style of music, which is juxtaposed to the historical setting. It resonates.

Think about the Nas song War (Birth of a Nation). This song connects Nat Turner to the protests of today and about fighting to make a better U.S. It resonates.

It’s about theme and heart. It’s about authenticity and humanity. That’s what resonates.

SO HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR STORY RESONATE?

Think about what your story is really about on the deepest level.

HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR LIFE RESONATE?

Same thing. Think about what your life is really about on the deepest level.

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Dog Tip for Life

Get dirty as much as you can. Dirt means you’re living. Dirt is real. Dirt is life.

Getting Messy makes you a better writer. carriejonesbooks.blog
dog tip for life

Writing Tip of the Pod – When you’re writing, don’t be afraid to have messy, uncomfortable things happen to your characters. A story with no conflict is not a story.

Advice about adding resonance and cohesion to your story
Bob? Yuri? Scary?

Random Bonus Picture from Random Thought Time

This is Bob. Or maybe Yuri? He is in our house. Shaun mentions him in the podcast. Bob/Yuri frightens me even though he has no arms.

Here’s a direct link to the podcast feed.

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

Writing News – Carrie’s

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Book Expo America

Carrie will be signing copies of The Spy Who Played Baseball at Book Expo America on June 1 at 11:30 a.m.

WSSTypeWriter-300x300

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.

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.

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 actionSchool Library Journal

Sparty knows all about that. More info about that series and all of Carrie’s books is here.

 

There are Storms in My Brain

BRAINSTORMING?

Even the word sounds a little creepy. Like there is a storm inside your brain. It sounds… It sounds sort of violent and hazardous and windy. In this podcast, we talk about the storms inside our brain and how those storms can become story ideas.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Five Ways to Brainstorm Story Ideas

Five Ways To Get Story Ideas

Some authors have a really hard time just getting an idea for a new story. They burn out. They can’t find anything that they think is ‘good enough.’ They just don’t know where to start and that lack of a start makes them blocked.

This is so sad! There are ways to fight it.

ONE WAY TO STORM IS BY ADMIRING OTHER’S WORK

Think about ways that other people’s stories influence you. If you’re an Outlander fan, think about why. If you were to write your own kind of time travel story would it be like that? With a lot of spanking and stuff? Or something totally different. How would it be different?

ANOTHER WAY TO INCITE A HAILSTORM OF QUESTIONS

Ask your self questions. It’s all about ‘What if?’ What if Trump wasn’t president in 2018? What if everyone had blue hair? What if the earth had two moons? What if dogs were really space aliens?

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Sparty the Dog: Wait. You mean they aren’t?

Carrie the Human: No, buddy… I mean… I don’t think so?

 

THIRD WAY WHERE THE WIND IS SO STRONG IT PUSHES IMAGES INTO YOU

Some of my best ideas have come on a treadmill watching the country music network or MTV or some random YouTube channel with the sound off and just seeing images. Eventually, an image will hit me so hard that I have to write a story about it. The happened with my story, Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape).

FOURTH WAY OF ICY UNDERSTANDING

Figuring things out. This is sort of like Another Way, but instead of deliberately asking yourself off-the-wall questions, ask questions about things that matter to you. A lot of my stories are because I don’t understand something. Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend was because i couldn’t understand a hate crime that had happened. I mean, you can never understand that kind of hate, but this one incident was so bizarre that they only way I could deal with it was to write my way through it.

FIFTH WAY – AN EMOTIONAL BLIZZARD

Get emotional. What is it that always makes you laugh, cry with joy, weep with anger? What are the situations that pull at your heartstrings. Think about that as story. Write.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Inspiration is just attention. Notice what’s around you. Then ideas will come.

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Once you have your seed of information and your brain has successfully stormed, don’t second guess your idea. Write it down. If you are a plot-first writer, think up the questions to flesh out your idea – who is the protagonist. What is she up against? What’s her goal? How is she going to get it? Write it down. Do it. Don’t block yourself.

Writing Tip of the Podcast
Writing Tip of the Podcast

All the podcasts are linked to this page right here. You can find out more about us and the podcast there.

Writing Is Sometimes Not So Glam, Even When You Win an Award.

Welcome Back to the Glam World of Children’s Book Writing! Not! 

Many of you have heard about the time my skirt fell down to the ground in New  York City during a major book event.

Many of you have heard about the time a reader bit someone else in line trying to grab After Obsession, my  book I wrote with Steve Wedel.

Many of you have heard about the 5 million times I said the wrong thing.

But that’s not all of it.

My Post-6


So I won a few awards for Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, my debut novel. Sometimes these awards ceremonies were hard to survive.

Yes, I did just write survive.

One of these times was when I won a Maine Literary Award.

The people at the awards ceremony were incredibly nice and kind. Grape-eating abounded. Brie-eating abounded. There was wine. But more importantly there was sparkling cider. The awards were held in a dark room on the seventh floor of a library. Yes, there are buildings with over three floors in Maine, thank you very much.

But I expected to be like this:
(Image from solar navigator)

Instead, I was like this:
(image from the Times)
Why?

Well, a woman who is very nice read pieces of the award winners and then presented them with the award. There were awards for poetry, published fiction, published non-fiction, published children’s book (THIS IS WHAT I WON!) and then there were awards for teen writers, which is super ultra-cool, because let me tell you that winning an award looks SOOOOOOOO good on college applications.
(Dakota Fanning right here knows that she is going to get into every college she wants.)

Anyway, I went up. I received my award. I smiled. I hugged. I went back to my seat while people applauded. I did not fall down. My skirt did not fall down. I did not say any swear words or call anyone by the wrong name.

I thought I had made it through.

I thought I was safe.

I thought wrong.

Then an ultra-cute teen went up and received her award. She went back to her seat, then the host called the teen’s name into the darkness and asked what high school the ultra-cute, ultra-good-writer teen went to.

“Scarborough,” the teen replied. Her voice flitted through the darkness.

Then the host said INTO THE MICROPHONE (!), “Carrie. What high school do you go to?”

Me:

Everyone in the audience turned their heads to stare at me.

Me:

Super cool administrator of the program started saying, “No! Carrie — Carrie — wrote –“

Me (finally capable of speech): No! I’m —  I’m old.

People began laughing.

People began laughing somewhat hysterically, snorting wine out their noses.

People could not stop laughing.

Emily, my super lovable kid, pet my back, and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. They won’t remember.”

Sigh.

I remember.

And this is why I remind myself that I’m not a writer for the potential glory. I’m a writer because I love story, I love writing, and I write for kids because kids and teens are awesome.

Kate DiCamillo said, “Stories are light. And light is precious in a world so dark.”

That light makes the embarrassment worth it.

My Post-5 copy

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

 

Local Author Gets Kicked Out of Coffee Shop

RANDOM PLACE, MAINE — Local author Carrie Jones was kicked out of the town’s one and only coffee shop today when she ordered a decaffeinated tea rather than a super mocha ultra caffinated coffee thingy.

“Can you believe it?” asked shop owner, Leslie LongIhavewrittenstoryaboutloveandsexinthesuburbs. “Everyone knows you can NOT be an author without coffee. It’s like being a Disney star without having big bright shiny teeth and an occasional sordid scandal. I mean, come on. . . Hello? Green tea?”

Ms. Jones was promptly booted to the street. She took her laptop with her and was seen hunkering down in a bush near a window of the establishment.

“I can still get wi-fi here.” She sniffed. “Thank God.”

Her agent then called on her cell phone and told her not to comment. In a written statement from her agency, Ms. Jones’ agent expressed her assuredness that Ms. Jones can indeed be an author who does not drink coffee.

“No, she is not a Mormon,” she said. “And she’s not all straight-edged. Or pregnant. She can’t have much caffeine because it gives her seizures. Yes, I swear, she is still an author. Really. An author. ”

The one-star-reviewer IHATECARRIEJONES on Good Reads obviously disagreed.

“Real authors are caffeinated. Or at least drunk,” he wrote. “She is dead to me.”

Leslie also disagreed. “She’s a poser. I don’t care how many books she’s published. Her last book was a picture book biography. That doesn’t even count.”

Jones vowed never to leave the house again.

“Or, I’m going to pretend to drink coffee. I’ll like get coffee scented tea or something. There’s got to be a way to fight this,” she said, pretending that she wasn’t crying, you’re crying, while wiping tears from her face.

www.carriejonesbooks.blog

Marsie the Cat’s Monday Motivation

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Look. Be you. Don’t let any haters tell you that you stink. You don’t. They do. People who yank each other down aren’t worth your time. Any cat knows that. You need to know it, too.

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, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog.

 

Four Simple Ways To Build Charismatic Characters and a More Charismatic You

When I was little I tried to hide.

I was this kid who talked like a Muppet. Everyone made fun of me so I didn’t talk at all in first grade. I was known as THE QUIET KID WHO GIVES HER SNACKS AWAY – SO DO NOT BEAT HER UP. This was an effective strategy against bullying, honestly.

The teachers couldn’t figure me out. I wasn’t intellectually challenged, but I never actually said anything. Teachers tend to like kids who raise their hand and talk.

But talking meant people noticing me. If people noticed me, they might make fun of my voice. It was way better (in my six-year-old wisdom) to be nothing. Quiet. Just there. This is not terribly charismatic.

Then, I wrote a haiku in September of second grade. I had all the syllables right (a big requirement). It was all one sentence (another requirement). It wasn’t about Tonka trucks (against the teacher’s rules). It was about nature. I was the only one who did it right, so the teacher, Mrs. Snierson, posted it in big letters on the wall and decided I was gifted. Whew. Did I fool her.

The poem was:

Spring is fun you see
Because flowers grow with rain
And robins come home.

This is how I learned that teachers are important to writers’ egos.

That one poem got me into gifted programs.
That one poem got me noticed.
That one poem put my life on a trajectory that didn’t have to do with silence.

And I used all that time watching people to learn about the kids who had the ‘it’ factor. Charisma. They were kids like Sarah Silverman and Steven Sills and Julie Zito and Andrea Henrichon. These shiny, golden people. I watched what they did and longed so much to be like them. That poem was my first step.

Let’s face it. Not all of us writers are super charismatic. Some of us prefer hiding in a reading nook to going out and talking to actual living people.

That’s not the rule, obviously. There are some super charismatic authors out there.

So, what does that mean when we’re writing characters who are supposed to be charismatic? What even is charisma any way?

Charisma is when you or your character is so darn compelling or attractive that people become devoted to you.

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This dog is charismatic even when flopped down.

I’ve met and interacted with a lot of authors with a lot of big followings and most of them build those massive followings with a lot of social media confidence, and a lot of that confidence that I’ve seen is false. They create an online presence that is full of flaunting and preening. They call their readers cute fan club names even when they only have two readers. And that way works. Being super confident works to build charisma.

But I can’t do that. Why? Because I prefer to be authentically me. And authentically me is sometimes sort of confident, but most of the time I am self deprecating and I doubt. This is totally evidenced in Dogs Are Smarter Than People’s Tuesday podcast where my husband almost convinces me that I am wrong about the ingredients in a white Russian.

Sidenote: My husband is a super confident man even when he’s wrong and I actually appreciate that about him because it makes me feel safe. When do I not appreciate it? Um.. when he’s confident that I’m wrong when I’m actually right.

There are a lot of blogs out there talking about charisma and almost all of them are talking about being confident. So you automatically think that if you aren’t confident, you aren’t charismatic, right?

Wrong.

Those blogs aren’t talking about personal charisma. They are talking about charismatic leadership. Those are two different things.

According to Ronald Riggio, PHD, “Personal charisma is a constellation of complex and sophisticated social and emotional skills. They allow charismatic individuals to affect and influence others at a deep emotional level, to communicate effectively with them, and to make strong interpersonal connections.”

So what is this special constellation of skills? Can’t you just believe you’re awesome and be charismatic?

Not really.

We all know the blowhard who saunters around thinking how awesome they are. We write them into our stories and movies. They are almost always a big, white dude who ends up getting beaten up by the hero at the end of the movie.

So how do we make a charismatic character without making someone who is annoyingly over confident? We make someone likable.

My Post-3 copy

Charismatic people don’t think the world revolves around them.

We’ve all met the people who only talk about themselves. You can be standing in front of them bleeding profusely and they will look at you and say, “Hey, you know I once got this cut that bled like that for like hours. It was a paper cut. Man, that thing bled. You know my mom says I have always been a big bleeder, blah, blah, blah.”

That person is obviously not charismatic. Being into yourself so much to the exclusion of all others no matter what the situation is sort of an anti-charisma.

This goes for characters, too. The character that only thinks about their self when their friend has just lost a hamster, or their zombie girlfriend, or whatever, is an unlikeable and uncharismatic character.

So, how do you fix this? Two quick things: 

  1. Listen to other people when they talk to you. Have your character listen to other characters.
  2. Don’t make a conversation all about you. Don’t make the internal monologue about your character all about your character all the time.

Own Your Space

When you go somewhere, own that somewhere. When your charismatic character enters the wizarding tournament, don’t have him shirk off to the side. Have her swagger onto the court. Have him stride to the field. You can do this, too. You might be a writer, but own your writing space. This is yours. You deserve it.

My Post-3 copy 2

Be Kind

When I go the grocery store, people wave to me. Why? I think it’s because I try to be kind and open. I like to hear about their days and connect with them because they are cool people. I never realized this was a weird thing until one of my friends went with me.

We walked through those sliding front doors, a whole bunch of awesome cashiers waved, smiling, and my friend grabbed my arm and scurried over to produce whispering madly, “Those people love you.”

I said, “They are nice.”

And she said, “Carrie, they don’t love everyone. They love you. They aren’t waving to everyone. I bet some of them even know your name.”

She was totally flabbergasted and I was flabbergasted by her being flabbergasted, but then I realized that my normal isn’t everyone else’s normal. The awesome people at my grocery store don’t think I’m better than anyone else because I’m not. But they might think that I treat them better than most other people.

That is actually sad.

Everyone should treat each other with a bit more kindness and openness, honestly. A charismatic person and character, is comfortable enough with who they are that they can treat others well and want to know their stories and connect with them.

How do you do that? 

  1. Be enthusiastic if other people take the time to try to connect with you. This goes for characters, too.
  2. Be optimistic when you can be optimistic. Lift up other people and their goals instead of trying to drag them down.
  3. Don’t be afraid to smile or laugh when you feel like smiling or laughing.  the

Be Expressive

My Post-4

A charismatic person (and character) isn’t afraid to express her genuine emotions. A lot of time, I tell my students that something emotionally huge just happened for their character, but they aren’t showing that on the page and so the important scene falls flat.

So, they’ll write something like this:

Ezra leaned forward and kissed me. I kissed him back. After a moment, he broke away. 

There is no emotional investment in those three sentences, right? It’s just actions. You know what happened, but you aren’t invested in that scene. There is no charisma in the character right there, right? Compare that to:

Ezra leaned forward like he was going to kiss me. That couldn’t be right. Ezra Jones would never want to kiss me. Swallowing hard, my lips trembled. I almost looked away, but his lips met mine before I actually could.

Ezra Jones’ lips were touching my lips!

And my lips were touching his lips right back. 

 The cat screeched in the other room and we broke away, laughing. My hand fluttered up to my mouth. Ezra Jones had kissed me. Me. 

So, my point here is not about Ezra Jones’ kiss, but about emotion and expressing that on the page or in your own life. We all walk around broken and pieced back together. People are fragile, inside and out. And it’s natural sometimes to try to hold in our emotions.

Charismatic people are genuine people. They let their emotions be out there for the world to see, but they don’t usually make scenes. They are genuine, but they know the impact that their emotions have on other people and they care about that impact, so they do control their emotions when interacting with others in what could be perceived as a potentially negative way.

That ability to care about others? That expressive empathy? That’s charismatic.

So, to recap. How do you make characters charismatic? 

  1. They don’t think the world revolves around them.
  2. They own their space.
  3. They are kind.
  4. They are expressive. 

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

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say. Also, I can be concise! Most of my friends don’t believe this.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image
 

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog.

Yesterday’s podcast was about how I can’t have a donkey farm or be Bono, but it’s also about character and blocking and how dogs are smarter than people.

 

 

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

My Post-4 copy 3

MY BOOK COMES OUT TOMORROW! 

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.