Being Evil is a Waste of Time

I was talking to my daughter Em recently about how she was at a Wal-Mart in Georgia and a woman dropped some stuff and how Em helped the woman pick up her things.

Em wasn’t looking for praise and good-person-pats-on-the-back, she was confused by how other people chose not to help that lady.

For Em, her instinct was to help and to be kind.

But it wasn’t that way for the other people who were there.

At the grocery store in Maine that same day, Shaun (my husband) was in line and a lady had pushed her cart right within an inch of his legs. He backed up an inch to get a better angle to get something out of our cart, hit her cart and immediately apologized. His instinct was to apologize for something that wasn’t his fault.

I have trained him well.

Just kidding! Just kidding!

But the woman acted like it was his fault that her cart was in his space. And then… his instinctive kindness fluttered right away.

When I looked at the lines in the store, I was amazed by how many people seemed so sad or angry, frustrated or anxious. Few people smiled. Most people actively frowned. A lot complained.  They were miserable and sure, some of them probably had reasons to be, but all of them?

So many of us are so lucky. We get to have electricity and phones and indoor plumbing. We have problems, too, obviously. People get sick. People have depression or anxiety. Our friends die. Our kids get in trouble. But we also have so much.

We focus so much on the evil though, just slip into that mindset of ‘everything sucks’ that we sometimes forget the good.

That world of evil and misery is not the world I want to live in and it’s not the world I want everyone else to live in either.

Finding Meaning

There’s a theory out there that a lot of us are unhappy, anxious, uneasy, depressed because we want to find meaning in life and finding meaning? That can be pretty damn hard.

We find religion and go to therapy and the gym in the hopes of finding salvation – emotional, spiritual, phsycial. We convert to different ways of thinking, believing, acting in the hopes that… that what? That we get meaning. That we feel better. That we live better.

Even the stories we write, we’re told by editors and agents and teachers, “Let’s see how that character changes and grows. Or how that character digresses. Bring that character to a new place of self awareness, to a new self.”

It’s all so tremendously linear. The growth of a person or book character is condensed to simple steps, actions forward.

But are people like that? Do we work like that?

That’s where some of the disconnect comes in. When we do evolve, we don’t always evolve in a straight line. When we look for meaning, it isn’t always found after a simple pattern of forward steps.

The people who intrigue me are the people who just live. They live kindly, help others, and are just… they are beautiful.  Their instinct is to be kind and they don’t even lose it after it’s met with anger or fear. They actually cultivate the kindness.

Kind Kids

There were some teens like this where I was on Saturday.

My local YWCA has a holiday bazaar where kids go around with volunteers to buy presents for their family. Volunteers act as store keepers at “stores” where items go for .25 to $5 (or so). Every kid has an escort that takes them around to these store tables loaded down with donated items. The escort is usually a volunteer from the local high school. More volunteers wrap the presents.

It’s pretty adorable.

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The best part is watching the high school kids interact with the younger kids. All these kids are obviously awesome because they are sacrificing their Saturday morning to volunteer, but there was this one kid who totally stood out to me and this wasn’t just because he was wearing a sleeveless Celtics t-shirt jersey when it was 9-degrees-Farenheit.

Nah, Mike impressed me because he broke my stereotypes about bros in sleeveless jerseys. He was on the younger side of high school volunteers, but he was so amazingly wise or patient.

“Would your gram like this?” he’d ask the boy he was assigned to, picking up a set of bird mugs.

The boy would stare at the mugs for about one minute, absolutely blankly. Then, he’d turn away. Mike didn’t even flinch. His tone and demeanor didn’t change.

They’d move on to another item.

Then another item.

Then another.

Mike never groaned. Mike never rolled his eyes. Mike was just… He was patient and awesome and kind, so kind.

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“I love him,” said one of the adult volunteers who’d walked through the frigid weather to the Y so that she could volunteer this morning.

“I would like to marry him,” another lady said, “you know if I was 70 years younger.”

Mike wasn’t the only one who was awesome. There were students volunteering who were wiping phlegm of their temporary wards off their hands, and doing it so discreetly so they wouldn’t hurt the kids’ feelings. There were students carrying more than their weight in presents as the followed their charges scrambling through a maze of volunteers and tables laden with gifts all donated by local people and merchants.

And right then, I realized that I wanted kindness to be my religion just like the Dalai Lama said. I wanted that to be the default choice in my life: the choice of kindness.

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For that kid, for Em, for Shaun – their initial choice is to be kindness. Humanity might crush that kindness away sometimes, but that’s their instinct, their true natures. Of course, they’re going to mess up. They’re human. I’m going to mess up. I’m human. But I’m going to actively choose kindness even as I fight against the things that I think are evil.

Kindness might not be a direct shot to meaning and decreased anxiety, but I really think that they are linked. The more times you can be kind, that you can give, that you can lift people up instead of smashing them down – helps.

There is meaning in goodness.

There is meaning in us.

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Gabby and her frog. She loves and protects him and sometimes even gives him the bed and sleeps on the floor. Why? Because she’s kind. 

 

Writing and Other News

Art.

I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

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Time Stoppers!

You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

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

Timestoppers3_005

Moe Berg

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

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

FLYING AND ENHANCED

Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them hereor anywhere.

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. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

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

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

Writing Barn

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

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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

The Worst Things My Dogs Did

I love dogs.

I love my dogs. I mean look at them. I’ve had a great line of awesome rescue dogs that have blessed my life.

But sometimes? Sometimes horrible things happen. Things that seem like they should not happen in real life. Things that seem like they should only happen in horror movies.

One of those things? Well, once the dog, the big dog, the big dog with the massive bladder let loose the contents of her bladder on hardwood floor of the upstairs hallway.

We discovered this because there was a puddle on the downstairs floor.

“What is that?” the man asked.

“Um… pee?”

“That’s not pee.”

“It smells like pee.”

“It can’t be pee. It’s dripping from the ceiling.”

And I foolishly said, “It really smells like pee.”

The man then unleashed a massive stream of cursing that really belonged in record books. He vaulted up the stairs and cursed more.

“The BAD WORD BAD WORD BAD WORDING BAD WORD dog BAD WORDED AND BAD WORDED up here.”

“It will be okay,” I said.

“It is so not okay,” the man said.

I grabbed paper towels and bleach spray and bleach wipes and headed up the stairs.

The man grabbed a mop and bucket and continued to swear.

“Urine is literally dripping from our ceiling. OUR CEILING!”

The dog went out on the porch, which would have been a much better place for her to unleash the contents of her doggy bladder of Olympian size.

This whole event happened immediately after we came upstairs because the basement had  flooded. Our basement had never flooded before. There had been two inches of rain and I guess it inspired basement flooding and doggy bladders?

Yeah. I’m reaching there.

Anyway, this all happened during a day in which nothing went right, but I totally held it together anyways. This happened during a day where the one thing I was looking forward to for AN ENTIRE YEAR got cancelled because a projector at a movie theater broke.

It happened.

The dog had a massive accident. The accident found a knot in the wood and dripped through it onto the kitchen floor.

It was messy and disgusting and swear worthy.

And we survived. Right?

I love dogs and people and humanity, but man… if we don’t mess things up beautifully sometimes.

But what matters is loving through it, surviving through it, continuing through it.

And also bleach wipes.

Bleach wipes are important.

 

https://carriejonesbooks.blog/dogs-are-smarter-than-people-the-podcast/

One time when I was a emergency dispatcher, I came home and Tala and Scotty, my then-dogs, greeted me at the door, all doggy happy. Scotty, was my new dog and he was a rescue dog from Alabama who was in a kill shelter and for a long time we had thought that he was perhaps a grandpa who likes crawfish and BudLite a lot and was somehow caught in a dog’s body – like he was a shapeshifter who got stuck.  He had a puncture wound in his neck when he got here, two small holes. So, I think a vampire is to blame.

He’d also been shot.

His tongue had also been flayed and had healed, but one side didn’t work.

You know I’m a grandpa in real life – a human grandpa who likes BudLite.

Before that night, I had already witnessed him:

1. Get ice out of the refrigerator.
2. Use his paw on a door handle to open a door.

And now, he did this….

Do you see that? It’s a drawer that was COMPLETELY shut when I left the house. This means he grabbed it with his mouth and got it open at least a little bit and then he either wedged his nose in or something and opened it more.

Why would he do that? Oh, he was probably sick of dog food and bored because I was gone. Which is bored doggy behaviour, I know, but I present more evidence….

This was just part of the mess the dogs made. Notice the bottle of corn syrup was still standing up? Would a dog do that?

“No! A dog would not do that,” said Tala. “A dog would do this! Look at all that powdered sugar mixed with shoe! Yummy! I give it 5 stars!!!”

Side note: Dog saliva combined with powdered sugar on a wood floor creates a glue-like paste that is impossible to vacuum or mop up. It must be attacked with Clorox bleach wipes. I swear. I did not know this that night.

And finally, though they ate peanut butter chips and brown sugar and confectioner’s sugar and Crisco shortening and Shepard’s Pix mix and Italian seasoning mix, they did NOT eat this….

Do you know what that is? It is chocolate!!! Chocolate KILLS dogs. And they left it, only tearing open the end. I sort of imagine Scotty holding Tala back and saying, “Baby. It smells good, but it’s poison. It will kill us. Let’s go lick up the sugar.”

See? I swear he was human!

You know it, baby. Now go get me a beer while I lick the sugar off this here rug.

I miss Tala and Scotty and all the dogs I’ve had before. I miss them even though they weren’t perfect. I miss them even though they had flaws. That’s the thing, if the living creatures we love are flawed? That doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of love. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of our love.

Nobody’s perfect. Not even a dog. But that’s okay. It just means that they are real.

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!

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 with over 3,000 listens.

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.

 

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

Spilling My Guts All Over the Page – Marsie Motivation Monday

So, it’s Monday and I kind of have a hell week, but Marsie the Cat is all about motivation and I spent a lot of time this weekend reflecting about the things I want to do and why I haven’t done them yet.

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Marsie: Get to the point, human.

Me: I’m trying.

Marsie: It’s slow going here. Nobody is going to read this.

Me: 

Marsie: What?

Me: Bingo!

Marsie: Bingo? Seriously, humans make no sense.

Me: But I make total sense to me.  I’ve been thinking about trying a lot of things. I thought about them all last year. But I’m afraid nobody will notice, or read it, or care.

Marsie: And you haven’t done anything because you’re too scared to, right?

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Me: Bingo again. Freaking-a, cat. Why are you so smart?

Marsie: Because I’m a cat.  I am smart and fearless. You need to channel your inner feline. I’m not afraid to make a podcast. I’m not afraid to start a business. I’m not afraid to quit things that make me cranky. I just quit them.

Me: 

Marsie: Seriously, what are you afraid of?

Me: Sucking. I’m afraid of sucking.

Marsie: Well, I can’t relate to that because I’m a cat and we never suck. We leave that for dogs, but. . . Why are you afraid of sucking? What is the worst that will happen?

Me: People will say I suck? I go bankrupt? I. . . I’m not sure. I think it’s the bankrupt part that freaks me out because I grew up poor. Plus, um…. public humiliation is usually never fun unless you’re into that.

Marsie: Look. Cats have no money. Yet, we get fed. We have a place to sleep. We have friends when we feel like having them and not just ignoring them.  We don’t care if people mock us because we are confident in our own awesome. You must channel your inner cat. No offense, human, but you’re getting old. You have to hurry it up.

Me: 

Marsie: 

Me: I’m not sure if you’re trying to make me feel better or worse.

Marsie: It’s not about better or worse. It’s about truth.

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What I am Afraid to Do: 

So, one of the things I’m afraid to do is share stories or any of my writing that hasn’t been traditionally published yet. But, um, this link is going to send you to a pdf file of a short story that is actually part of a bigger novel I’m working on. The bigger novel follows multiple women in one family. Their ages range from six to 65. This excerpt is self-contained and is the six-year-old’s story.

If you read it and don’t hate it, can you please tell me? Because if you haven’t figured it out by now I am (whispers) terrifically insecure. 🙂

Also, I created a bit of a view book of all my published books. It’s here. 

And thanks, as always, for reading this. Go out there and do massive good in this world! Face your fears! Sing out your story and make that story the one you want to live. I believe in you so much.

And if you want to help me out and can’t afford to buy one of my books right now, you can still help me by:

  1. Sharing this post or at least liking it.
  2. Posting about my books, so other people can know about them.
  3. Signing up as a blog follower or on my email list.
  4. Just being a good person who tries.
  5. Singing out your own story. Be fearless with me. We can do this. The world needs you and your story.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

Book winners! 

Hey! Thanks to everyone who commented on Friday’s blog. I appreciate it so much and I kind of feel like you all did it just to be kind to me. Thank you for being so kind.

So, I made Sparty the Dog pick three winners instead of just one.

If your name is below, please send me (only if you feel comfortable) your mailing address and tell me if you’d rather have a middle grade novel or young adult novel with the SPY WHO PLAYED BASEBALL. And… send your mailing address to carriejonesbooks at gmail with the dot before the com.

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Sparty the Dog: I have to pick the winners? It’s so much pressure!

Me: I know, buddy. I know. That’s why I’m making you do it. Hold on to Mr. Penguin and we can get through it.

Congratulations to commenters:

Heather Lonkard!

Patty Dupre!

Megan (of no last name)!