They are words fading, written in bright blue pen. Ball point.
They are words scrawling across the page, the closer in time they are to me, the messier they become.
They are words about being new, about birds flying across the Ontario sky, the pain and guilt of losing a cat to winter and the streets of Staten Island.
They are words singing upside down and across the paper.
My father keeps them in his roll top desk and hands them to me in the kitchen where her china sat in shelves on the wall. His hands shake as he passes another journal of words over. I take their case, brown, cracked leather. I open the binding and peer inside at their mystery.
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Before she died, I heard my Nana Morse say to my sister, “Well, you know Carrie has always been a little… different.”
My sister nodded pretty emphatically in agreement.
“She’s just so different,” she said.
She said this ALL throughout my growing up.
Nana Morse was worried about this – about me being different. She also worried that I didn’t get enough protein. Or why I dressed so ‘differently.’
And honestly, I was so used to not fitting into my family by then that my only reaction was, “She just used the word ‘different’ to describe me twice. That’s not really creative of her. I wish I could edit her word choice a bit.”
So, yeah, she was obviously right.
When I was little, my Avó Palreiro took me aside and said, “You be you. To hell with everyone else.”
And then she glared at my nana.
The thing is that different is okay. Different is good. Different can be stigmatic and incite bullies and all sorts of negative things, but different is also innovative. Different people who take action? They make changes in this world. This world needs positive change. So, if you feel a bit different or if your family or others are mocking you for it? Well, they suck, honestly. Ignore the suck. Be you.
HOW TO MAKE A GOOD BOOK BETTER (WHILE BEING DIFFERENT)
Here are some things I (should) think about when I’m revising. Hopefully, they’ll help you out, too. I’ve taken them from James Plath’s article “Twenty-One Tweaks to a Better Tale,” but adapted them to fit me. Why? Because I’m different like that.
1. Does the beginning need to be an ending?
Sometimes our beginnings stink.
Beginnings need to be:
powerful witty stunning
How do you do that? You could use a powerful piece of dialogue, a witty description, or a stunning scene.
Sometimes we writers have to amp up, sort of rev our engines before we start the race of the story.
My engine is revving. Shh….. Sidenote: Some of us never get started.
It’s okay to cross entire paragraphs or a chapter out. It’s okay to do what it takes to make your beginning awesome.
2. Check Out How It Ends
Just like a beginning needs to be powerful or witty or stunning to draw us in like a really good appetizer, the ending has to linger (not in the way heartburn lingers). The ending has to resonate. Is there a way to echo earlier images or words or a phrase so that it has that extra kick, making the reader realize that there are deeper things going on, that there is a deeper meaning, that this story or poem somehow touches on the truth that is life?
3. Make Love to the Image
Have an image that resonates throughout the story. In the movie Brokeback Mountain it’s when one guy is hugging the other guy from behind him or it’s when he says, “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
Think about a book like Carolyn Coman’s MANY STONES or THE HOBBIT or CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS. There are central images in there. Do that. Use an image. A strong image will keep your story in readers’ memories.
Random Marketing and Book Things
My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy, is still coming out March 1 and I’m still super psyched about it. You can preorder 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.
I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.