My Grandmother’s Ghost

Canadian Geese

By F.M.B.

Oct.2, ‘91

 

In the dim light of twilight you suddenly appear.

In swift and silent formation,

Determined in your flight to reach your destination,

Oh! Tell me who directs this urge

Never failing in direction?

Where are you now wondrous birds?

You break my heart headed for the land I love.

I shall remember you always

Indelibly imprinted in my brain.

Your silent flight guided by your leader.

 

When I was born, my mother was 35 and my father was 42, and he was the youngest child, too. 42 plus 18 equals 60, so my dad was 60 when I was 18. My Grammy Barnard? She was 33 when she had my dad. She was 75 when I was born, if that puts it into perspective. That’s like the age where when you die people say things like, “Well, she had a good, long life.”

She lasted in this world a lot longer than that.

My grandfather Barnard was 82 when I was born and died six years later. He was grim, austere, and full of edicts and judgements. He once ran for office as a communist. He’d been a stockbroker before that. He was not a kind man according to my mom.

He had a stroke in the bathtub and drowned, but my mom liked to pretend like Grammy Barnard finally had enough of his bullshit and held him under the water. She told this version only to me. She also would say, “You are so lucky to not know that man. He had a copy of Mein Kaumpf in the basement and when I called him on it, he said that it was good literature. Evil bastard.”

“Hitler or Grampa Barnard,” I usually asked.

“Both,” she usually said.

 

The point here is that I’d never known Grammy Barnard young.

The other point is that I’d never known Grammy Barnard not pining for youth.

The other point is that I’d never known her not stressed about death.

She would cry over the beauty of a tomato. She would cry over the pains in other people’s hearts.

Grammy Barnard Poem #2

March 11, 1927

 

A Wish

 

Love, she goes hand in hand with spring,

To thoughts of this girl then you will cling,

Go dear, and to her tell,

Of the desire you have in her heart to dwell,

Tell her while sweet spring is here,

Tell her while she still is near,

Tell her of moonlight, tell her of flowers,

Tell her of love, and its wondrous powers.

When she died she was 104. I was 30.

When the terrifying ex-communist, ex-stock broker, also known as Grampa Barnard died, my parents were already divorced. Everyone decided that my dad couldn’t handle living by himself very well. He was prone to melancholy, according to Grammy Barnard. My mom liked to say he was depressed. My dad would just say he “gets sad.”

He went to a therapist to talk about the divorce and how it made him sad and how his dad’s expectations also sometimes made him sad. He only made it to second grade. He could barely read. He was smart, but he was dyslexic before people really talked about dyslexia.

He was a sweet man. He forgave people anything. He forgave people everything. He was like a little hobbit who watched a lot of PBS and news shows. He would ask you insightful probing questions that would hit right to your soul. He could create tools for car engines. He could make a tree grow fast and strong in ways that honestly don’t seem human.

Anyways, Grammy Barnard had lived with my dad since I was six or seven and she had always been old to me.  When I went over to their little ranch house, she always took my face in her hands and said things like, “Ah, look at your skin. It’s so beautiful. The beautiful skin of youth.”

This was awkward.

She was about four feet eight inches tall and had a hump in her back. She wore silk blouses and liked pickled herring. I’m not sure why these facts seem important but they are somehow important.

She was tiny.

She also wrote poems and made paintings and had no faith in either.

My dad liked to announce, “My mother is a poet. She is an artistic person. She cries at the beauty of a tomato.”

She’d roll her eyes and say, “Lew.”

And he’d say, “You are, Ma.”

And she’d say, “My art and poems are rubbish.”

“They are not.”

“They are!” She put her hands over her face almost always, hiding from the kindness. “I despair of them. I can’t come close to recreating the beauty of this world.”

Grammy Barnard Poem #3

Truth, May 19, 1927

 

They say how we think so we are

And I from my guess room not afar,

From the truth of the feelings you have for me

My sensing heart does well know when yours is on a spree

Delicate instrument ticking like the clock,

Accurate recorder of each emotions shock.

Timid quaking little hart,

This man who tore your life apart.

 

And then she died. At 104. I was 30.

I eventually took the money she left me and used it to help pay for me to Vermont College of Fine Arts to get a Masters in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

When I got to Vermont I heard all about the ghosts in the college. The stories didn’t bother me. I’d heard about ghosts before. But one night, during the first residency after Lisa Jahn Clough convinced me to not quit. I’d been feeling despondent because all the other students were so much more knowledgable that I was about everything.

I came from the world of poetry and newspapers. Sports writing. Columns. Play reviews. Stories about planning boards. Deadlines. Quick turn-arounds. Hard facts.

And here I was surrounded by people who were splurting out phrases like “objective correlative” and “emotional resonance” and “desire through lines.”

I was sure I didn’t belong, especially after one student berated my lack of confidence as an insult to all women everywhere. That didn’t help my confidence, by the way. Tearing people down for not being confident enough, usually isn’t the best policy for building them up.

Anyway, Lisa convinced me to stay. But when I looked out the window an hour or so after our talk, I saw in front of me, my grandfather, angry looking, wearing his austere clothes, blood coming out of his ear.

I was on the second floor and my grandfather was dead, long dead, and he stared at me with the most hateful eyes.

And then, I heard the voice of my grandmother behind me, loud and strong, “You are not rubbish.”

I whirled around. She wasn’t there. I turned back around towards the window and there was no creepy old grandfather full of judgement. He was gone.

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s  out! 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.

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.

Ebook on Sale for October! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book NEEDis on sale in ebook version on Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically about human-sized pixies trying to start an apocalypse.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.56.50 PM

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

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

 

Apply Now!

 

 

Advertisements

I’ll Stay With You

One of my many grandmothers liked to tell stories. It’s the catholic one, Portuguese, Avó. And her stories never really had cohesion. They were basically family facts and remembrances wrapped up in anecdotes with a heady dose of moralizing and tradition. And I freaking loved it.

Let me set the scene.

It is the 1980s and to me she seems impossibly old. She has always been poor, though some of her nine children are now rich and she has filled her small apartment with ceramic knick-knacks, rosaries. Pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary share precious wall space with her children.

“There is not enough wall,” she laments, sitting down with a sizable sigh because it’s hard to move her body around.

There is not enough room anywhere in her apartment. It’s stuffed with afghans, crocheted table coverings. Hot sauce and ketchup and condiments stack the counters of the kitchen. And then there are the ceramics, some made by my aunt in a kiln in a shed behind her trailer. They are mostly angels, madonnas and carousels. Girls in hard flouncy dresses that resemble Southern belles from another time. Their skin is porcelain and pale and perfectly white and the opposite of my grandmother’s. Their bodies are tiny. Limbs stretch out in ballerina poses, ready to break off at any moment, precariously attached to their bodies by some kind of magic.

There are no men here other than Jesus. He’s a picture on the wall. He’s pretty pale, too.

I am in love with a swan that is on the table next to the thread-bare, plaid couch that is about two decades too old to ever find a home away from my Avó.

I’m checking out the swan as she hands me a hot chocolate that’s been topped with Marshmallow Fluff.

“Chemicals are good for you,” she says with a wink. “No matter what that Dustin Hoffman says.”

It is July and she’s feeding me hot chocolate from a package and has heaped the gelatinous white of fluff on top of it to sweeten it even more. And in that moment, she is absolutely my favorite of all my grandmothers despite all her scandals, the time she ran away from her own children, leaving them to raise each other, the time she refused to give her eldest son his birth certificate when he wanted to join the Navy because the certificate said a name of a father he’d never known existed.  If he saw that birth certificate then he’d know his last name was Gonçalves, a totally different name that he’d been living with for the first 16 years of his life.

At the time, it seemed very important that he not know, she says with a shrug.

“Turned out? Didn’t matter.” She smiles. She has a fluff mustache. “It’s always what we think matters, that doesn’t, and then the things that do us in? They come out of nowhere.” She crosses herself and I do, too, because I want more fluff, because I want her to love me, because I want to not be something that slams her out of nowhere.

I pick up the swan, my favorite swan. There is a brown line across the gentle curve of her neck.

“Your cousin broke her, but the thing is? Ceramics? You can glue them back together. People? Not so much. Not so perfectly. Our breaks show if you squint too hard at them.”

 

I'll Stay With You-4

Not too long ago, my grandmother was spat on for being dark but beautiful, for being a woman and beautiful, for being catholic, for knowing a language other than English, for being impossibly, assuredly herself.

And she ran away from a life of poverty once.

And she ran away again. And again.

“But I could never run from God,” she tells me. “Not once. And let me tell you, he forgives better than your children will.”

This is true and not true. This grandmother sits in a lounge chair, holding court over the summer family reunions and pool parties, munching on Pringles straight from the can, commenting on the food people bring to her on plates because her legs have swollen too much from heart disease and other things to hold her up too well, grilled tomatoes and bread and sardines. She seems to like the Pringles best, but she eats it all and never says thank you.

It drives my mother crazy, but she’s busy gossiping with the aunts so it doesn’t matter. It’s just my Avó and me.

And she tells me, “You’re different because you don’t fit in.”

And my little girl heart chips into pieces, a broken ceramic swan on the floor. I stare at the ground, at my naked feet my Aunt Mary Jean’s backyard grass.

A Pringle comes into my sightline and wiggles. An offering.

She says, “That’s not bad. When you don’t fit in, it’s hard, but you can touch people, you can touch people’s souls. Your otherness makes you strong. It made me strong.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s my job to give you advice.”

“No. Thank you for the Pringles.” I pause. “You’re supposed to say thank you when people give you stuff.”

“You mean me?”

“Yes. I mean you.”

She laughs. Her whole body shakes with it.

“What I like about you is that you don’t try to make me like you,” she says once she stops laughing. “I am going to tell you something. When I was little we had the Feast of the Holy Ghost and we would offer up sweet bread to the church, right? And I would look for the candy vendor.” She sighs and watches the cousins, all older than me, dark hair and skin, brown eyed and greens. “When my John, your father, was young, people would call him the N-word. He was so dark in the summer. Back then you were white or not white according to the whites, and you were only white if you weren’t like us.”

“So different.”

“Yes.”

“Mom says difference makes you strong? You said otherness.” I ask this because I am kid who pays attention.

“It made me me, whatever you want to call it,” she says, which is probably the only true answer there can be about things like this, things that form you and shape you. How do you know if something made you stronger if you never had the privilege of not suffering through it? How do you know that you wouldn’t be stronger if you didn’t have to endure hate, or oppression, or a million other traumas that a person can undergo in so many ways?

“You want to go in the pool? Play with the cousins?” she asks me, taking my hand even though it is salty from Pringles.

I look over there at the older cousins, confident, laughing, football stars and beauty queens, confident and free and wild. I sat there with her, both of us a little round, both of us a little awkward, and I squeezed her hand.

“No,” I tell her. “I think I’ll stay with you.”

 

WRITING NEWS

I’m heading to Montreal this week and then, Freeport, Sept. 28 and then Houston and Virginia Beach pretty soon to promote my picture book biography of Moe Berg. It’s called The Spy Who Played Baseball. 

My Post copy 6

 

ENHANCED, the follow-up to FLYINGis here! And it’s out of this world.

 

The last TIME STOPPERS BOOKis out and I love it. You should buy it.

Timestoppers3_005

How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

Art Stuff

You can buy prints of my art here. Thank you so much for supporting my books and me. I hope you have an amazing day.

I was Nominated for Woman of the Year and My Heart is Hitching All Over the Place

My heart hitched yesterday.

This email came that I was nominated for the local YWCA’s woman of the year. I stared at it.

And stared at it.

And stared.

I know this might not be a big deal to some people, but me? I flipped out.

It had been a weird rollercoaster day. I signed with a new agent of awesome. I traced down the smell of dog poop to Gabby’s front paw and managed to pry the smooshed and stuck poop out of those giant doggy paw pads five minutes before I had to go lead a Rotary club meeting.

It was disgusting. I had to bleach floors.

I made a resume.

I ran a meeting.

I did all my writing work.

I figured out what I was going to say at a breakfast Rotary meeting the next day that started at 7 a.m. and was three hours away.

I cleaned a toilet.

But that email? It kept resonating.

That email meant something big inside of me – something so big that I couldn’t even talk about it for 24 hours.

“People can nominate women of all ages who make a difference in this community,” said Jackie Davidson, executive director of YWCA MDI. “You can nominate anonymously as well. We want as many women as possible to be recognized for what they do to make our community a better place.”

Make the community a better place.

That email made my heart hitch, the same way that selling my first piece of art made my heart hitch. I know I won’t win and that’s totally fine. Someone awesome will. But the thing is.. someone thought I deserved this.

That means so much to me.

Why it means so much

I grew up poor.

There’s no getting around that.

My mom tried really hard to pretend we weren’t poor. She tried to hide it from everyone, including my much older brother and sister who grew up 15 years earlier than me in a  much nicer working class reality. But when I came around we were poor.

My nana stood in food lines to get us commodity cheese because my mom wouldn’t do it herself because she was too ashamed. Credit card companies and collection agencies would call constantly. I was taught early on to lie on the phone when I answered it and say my mom wasn’t home if it wasn’t my sister or one of my aunts calling.

We had a typewriter, not a word processor, not a computer. Every time I had to get clothes, I’d feel full of guilt. It didn’t help when one of my older siblings taunted me for my quirky style. Goodwill sometimes makes you have a quirky style.

As a child, we would go to my wealthy uncle and aunt’s house for gatherings with their friends. Their friends were senators and doctors, people who worked for WHO, people who helped create the measles vaccine, documentary filmmakers who headed AIDS awareness efforts. I remember looking at their fancy clothes and listening to them and being both inspired and terrified.  They placed napkins in their laps. They kissed people on both cheeks. They made eye contact when they talked, and they used different forks for different things.

They were all kind to me. That wasn’t it. But I knew that I didn’t know how to play by their rules. I went to a window seat that looked out on Lake Winnipesaukee. There was a bookshelf at the end of the seat and in that bookshelf was an etiquette book full of how to eat at the table, what manners were, how to write ‘thank you cards,’ exchange greetings, and so on. It was a beautiful summer day. All the other kids were swimming and playing tag. I was reading and memorizing and trying to learn how to be like the others.

Getting Called Out

Eventually my Aunt Maxine noticed that I was sitting there, reading.

“Carrie. What are you doing? Go out and play,” she said. She liked to use people’s names a lot. She also was sort of bossy in a nice way.

I was afraid of bossy, but I also loved my aunt so I said as bravely as possible, “I’m reading.”

“Don’t you want to go swim with the other children? They’re all outside getting sun, having fun.”

They were. They were splashing around in the water, doing cannonballs off the dock, or perfect dives. They had perfect bathing suits from L.L. Bean and every single one of them seemed to know how to play tennis.

She took the book from me and read the title. After a second, she sat down on the bench next to me. “What are you reading this for, Carrie?”

And I said, “Because I want to be better.”

“Be better! That’s ridiculous. You’re wonderful as who you are.”

“I want… I want to fit in.” I looked her right in the eyes and she got it. I knew she got it. She understood all the things that I couldn’t figure out how to say.

She handed me back the book. “I will make a deal with you. You read this for another half hour and I’ll set the kitchen timer. When it goes off, you go play with the other children and get some exercise.”

Nodding, I thought this was okay. “But I might not finish the book.”

“You can finish it after dinner and games.” She pet me on the top of the head. “I’ll bring you the timer.”

I was five.

That book changed my life and so did my aunt and uncle. They realized that there was a social code and a way of being that wasn’t easily accessible for me no matter how hard my mom tried. I was a poor kid in a wealthy town. I was a latchkey kid who was awkward and driven and terrified of failure. Paying for acting lessons, to play on the soccer team, to play piano were huge stretches for us. Sometimes they happened. Sometimes they didn’t.

I want to be better

My aunt and uncle understood my situation and my want because my uncle was the same way. He was the oldest son of a single mom. He pushed himself hard to succeed, to learn the social code of success and wealth. He went to UNH because it was the only place he could afford and he was valedictorian there, desegregating the fraternity system while he was class president. He eventually went to Harvard Law, married Maxine who had so much intellectual stock and prowess it was just ridiculous. He ended up being the head of an international law association, head of a law firm, chairman of the board of trustees at UNH and so many other things.

My little five-year-old self was trying to do the same things as he did. I wanted to make a difference in the world, to make it better.

Somehow. I took the first and only step I could think of taking – reading that book, trying to crack the social codes of behavior that made his friends and him so different from me.

You Aren’t Death

I was in college when he was dying. We had all gathered for one last Thanksgiving. There were tons of people there, the same kind of brilliant, world-changing people that were there when I was five and when I was ten and when I was 15. My mother and my nana were barely able to sit still because they were so overwhelmed with Dick’s impeding death. They’d have to leave the room every time someone mentioned his name.

During dinner, Maxine called them into his bedroom with her. They stayed for about two minutes and left sobbing.

“He’s too tired,” Maxine said at the threshold of the hallway that led to those bedrooms. “He needed them to go.”

But then, a minute later, she called for me. “Dick wants to see you, Carrie.”

I remember pointing at my chest. “Me?”

“Yes.”

“He’s not too tired?”

“No,” she said. “Not for you.”

There was a bit of a murmur at the table because Uncle Dick wasn’t really calling for anyone to come see him. He was barely holding on.

She ushered me into a back bedroom that wasn’t their normal place to sleep. The wooden walls were dark because the shades were drawn. There was only one bedside light on. My uncle was thin and his breathing was so heavy. It seemed like there were a million blankets layered on top of him.

He met my eyes as I came to his bed and sat on the edge of it, ignoring the chair.

“Everyone sits in the chair,” he rasped out.

“I wanted to be close to you.” I grabbed his hand.

“Nobody wants to be close to death.”

“You aren’t death. You’re my uncle.”

We were quiet. The weight of his hand in mine seemed like nothing and everything all at once. I think he might have fallen asleep, but I sat there thinking about how beautiful he was, how elegant, how he changed systems of injustice one at a time, as best he could, how he taught himself Japanese, how to play the organ, how to be wealthy, how to fit in with an entire class of successful people that he wasn’t born to, and how he and my aunt Maxine both tried to lift other people up into that class with them.

He opened his eyes. “Carrie, I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Will you pick it up?”

There was only one answer.

“Yes,” I told him. “Yes.”

It was the last thing he said to me. He fell asleep again. We left for home. I left for college. And since then, I have spent years trying to figure out how to make my words to my uncle not be a lie. How to meet the challenge of his life so well lived.

How to pick up that damn gauntlet.

And I know I’m not doing enough.  It’s hard to motivate other people. Sometimes it’s hard to even motivate myself.

I have a friend who recently said to me, “You do so much volunteering. I don’t. I can’t. I’m a selfish person. I want to make money.”

And I didn’t know what to say.

I still don’t.

I have only succeeded as much as I have because people were willing to let me read a book, to be examples of goodness, to give me the opportunity to interact with senators, opera singers, doctors who have saved thousands of lives. Humiliation and exclusion are not what we should aspire to. Inclusion and praise are not things to be afraid of giving to other people. Enjoying other people’s successes and happiness doesn’t make you any less likely to succeed.

That’s why a nomination for making a difference means so much to me. And to have it be at a YWCA event? The YWCA that’s all about empowering women and fighting oppression? That means even more.

Aunt Maxine and Uncle Dick told me throughout my childhood that intelligence was a privilege I was born with. It could be cultivated and expanded on, but what was the most important thing was finding a way (or many ways) of using that privilege (intelligence, class, race, gender, being physically fit, and so on) and using it to better other people’s lives, your own life, the world not in a way that makes you a hero but in a way that makes you a friend.

Yes, we need to take care of ourselves (thus being selfish), but we also need to not live in bubbles – to see where our language and our rules, our so-called ‘cultural norms’ can be a code that even five-year-olds realize doesn’t include them.

I don’t know how to fix this, but I know we all have to try. I was so lucky to have an Uncle Dick and Aunt Maxine. Not everyone is. And when you feel excluded because of economic, racial, gender, religious codes? How can you not hurt?

I’ve tried to pick up the gauntlet by being friends, writing books, and I’ve even tried to be a politician. I’ve tried by how I raised my daughter, by being on boards, on fighting against bullying, for literacy, against domestic violence, by promoting diversity in children’s literature.

It doesn’t feel like enough.

Honestly, it feels like nothing, like I am barely touching the surface of need, of change.

Part of why I’m in Rotary International, and even why I decided to be the volunteer Public Image Chair for a huge part of Canada and the United States is because this organization of 1.2 million people are picking up the gauntlet, over and over again. From helping to eradicate polio (one vaccine and one fundraiser at a time) to building a local playground or a creating a book festival, Rotary grabs that gauntlet. The only difference is, they do it together.

How are you picking up the gauntlet? How do you feel excluded? Included? I’d love to know.

If you could nominate one of your friends for helping her community, who would you nominate as a woman of distinction? Tell her. It will mean everything. I promise you.

 

*I’ve posted pieces of this before, I think. I’m not sure. But it’s my story and I want to make sure I remind myself of it a lot – of how grateful I am to have a story and for the people in my life who have been so good to me. I hope you have those people too.

Writing News

31702754 copy

ENHANCED PAPERBACK RELEASE!

This is the book that I forgot was coming out. I am so sorry, little book!

Carrie Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Flying, presents another science fiction adventure of cheerleader-turned-alien-hunter Mana in Enhanced.

Seventeen-year-old Mana has found and rescued her mother, but her work isn’t done yet. Her mother may be out of alien hands, but she’s in a coma, unable to tell anyone what she knows.

Mana is ready to take action. The only problem? Nobody will let her. Lyle, her best friend and almost-boyfriend (for a minute there, anyway), seems to want nothing to do with hunting aliens, despite his love of Doctor Who. Bestie Seppie is so desperate to stay out of it, she’s actually leaving town. And her mom’s hot but arrogant alien-hunting partner, China, is ignoring Mana’s texts, cutting her out of the mission entirely.

They all know the alien threat won’t stay quiet for long. It’s up to Mana to fight her way back in.

“Witty dialogue and flawless action.”—VOYA
“YA readers, you’re in for a treat this week. Hilarious and action-packed, this novel is sure to be the perfect summer read.”—Bookish 

“Funny and playful, with a diverse cast of characters and a bit of romance and adventure, Flying is the perfect light summer read.”—BookPage

Order Your Copy:

amazon bn booksamillion  indiebound

 

I made a video about copy editing my next book, co-written with Steve Wedel. It’s called IN THE WOODS and its scary self arrives in 2019. BUT HERE IS THE GOOFY VIDEO!

Our 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.

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

The Final Time Stoppers Book

What is it? It’s the third TIME STOPPERS book! It’s also one of the reasons that I forgot about ENHANCED’s release.

Time Stopper Annie’s newfound home, the enchanted town Aurora, is in danger. The vicious Raiff will stop at nothing to steal the town’s magic, and Annie is the only one who can defeat him–even though it’s prophesied that she’ll “fall with evil.”

Alongside her loyal band of friends Eva, Bloom, SalGoud, and Jamie, who still isn’t quite sure whether he’s a troll or not, Annie journeys deep into the Raiff’s realm, the Badlands. The group will face everything from ruthless monsters to their own deepest fears. Can Annie find the courage to confront the Raiff and save everyone, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice?
What People are Saying About The Books:
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
“The characters show welcome kindness and poignant insecurity, and the text sprinkles in humor . . . and an abundance of magical creatures.” Kirkus Reviews 

“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 
How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.com and let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

 

 

 

 

Writing is a Place for Misfits and So is My Town aka Bar Harbor, Maine

One of my friends likes to say that everyone who stays in Bar Harbor is running away from something else.

I always argue and say, “No. They are here because it’s beautiful. They’re here because there’s something so lovely about the national park and it’s baby mountains and the carraige roads and the sea. It’s magical.”

“There are other bigger national parks with even more magic,” he’ll say. “Believe me. This is a town of runaways.”

He’s right, but maybe only partially.

Where I live is sort of a haven for beautiful misfits, for people who maybe didn’t make it somewhere else, who maybe weren’t embraced somewhere else. And the people here?  We usually love that about each other.  There was a postmaster who dressed like Elvis until he retired. There’s an artist who dresses up like a 5-4 Bat Man and dances around downtown with a boombox perched on his shoulder. He’s a good dancer.

But it isn’t really that they are misfits. It’s more that our town – on the whole – lets you embrace your own quirkiness.

And a lot of us are running away from families or hometowns where didn’t fit in. It’s like a refuge for those of us who weren’t loved enough or were maybe loved too much. We even have our own language.

If someone asks you, “How are you doing?” and you answer, “It’s August,” that means you are surviving, but only barely, but hey, at least you’re making money off the tourists.

We make our own family here with weekly five-dollar-stakes poker games, wood cutting parties. We dress up and dress down and collect our friends’ stories and support each other’s nonprofits and brew beer and have yard sales where we buy each other’s castoffs. We go to the grocery store more than we need to go, just to say hello to each other.

Evening Meeting! -5

Since we live in a tourist town, and in the summer the narrow streets are crammed with parked cars and people who can’t drive, you’d think that we would explode at each other, or at least the tourists. But that doesn’t really happen. We know that we’re neighbors. We know that in winter, we’re going to have to make due with those of us who stay instead of running off to Florida or Arizona or Mexico. We will see each other in the handful of restaurants that stay open in the winter. We will recognize our family despite the layers of fleece and flannel and wool, topped off with parkas.

And we know each other’s flaws. We know who is the narcissist. We know who drinks too much, who loves too little. We know who has anger issues and who lives in fear. We know who has social anxiety, why they’ve lost their job, why they’ve lost their husband, and how many husbands that’s been. But the thing is?

We love each other anyways because that’s what misfits do. That’s wha realt family is. Especially the kind of family that you make yourself.

Family is about authentic connections more than blood.

Family is about acceptance and caring and rooting for each other even in the biggest moments of suck.

The kids book writing community is a lot like my little town. It bands together and makes community within itself. The people in it usually support each other. Friends are made. Loves are had. We see each other’s flaws (Bad tweeting, poor plots, silly dialogue) and still care and support and lift each other.

I wish that the world could be more like these two communities I get to enjoy. I wish that everyone could have a Bar Harbor or a kid lit world. And sometimes I really think that we can. We just have to be brave enough to be authentic, to love others despite their flaws and quirks, and to work at it.

It’s worth working at.

It really is.

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

Please buy it so I can keep buying food for the dogs… and stuff…

37584945_10156714893329073_1974569355584733184_n

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.

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?

You should totally buy my book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

My Post copy 6

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.

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.

Appearances

I’ll be at the Maine Literacy Volunteers Festival on September 8. It is in Augusta, Maine.

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