I was going to write about ellipses today, but I decided to tell you Gabby the Dog’s story instead even though it’s not the most practical writing tip for Writing Wednesday.
Imagine spending the first year of your life chained to a tree in Alabama, pretty much never getting any food, standing there, crouching there, hiding there in winter, in rain, in heat, in storms. Imagine people throwing things at you. Imagine hoping that you’d be fed.
That was Gabby’s life.
She grew broken, malnourished. Her hips didn’t work. Her knees needed help. She had no muscles to brace her tendons and ligaments and joints.
When she was rescued, the Great Pyrenees Rescue Organization that Carrie volunteers for, took her in and wondered if she’d last very long.
I was looking for aN Old dog to love
“I was looking for an old dog that nobody wants,” I said when I told the rescue organization I wanted a dog. “So, it has a nice place to die and it can feel safe and loved.”
“We have a two-year-old dog,” they said.
“That’s not old.”
“She has a lot of issues,” they said.
I’m used to issues. “Send her over.”
They did. I picked up Gabby in Cambridge, Massachusetts, right by Harvard. Gabby was terrified. The handlers passed her off. She shook with fear. She stared at the cars and trucks and students and cowered, a tiny, 55-lb skeleton of a dog.
“She is afraid of the color white,” they said. “She flinches if you raise your hand up, but even if you’re just wearing a white shirt or a white hat? She flinches. She is a dog with problems. She’s not very loving.”
I took Gabby for a walk around Harvard before the handlers left. Gabby flinched. She almost constantly flinched.
When Gabby and I got in the car for the four-and-a-half-hour ride back to Maine, Gabby put her head in my lap. She didn’t flinch. She gently licked my hand. She stayed that way the entire ride.
And since then all Gabby has been is the one thing everyone said she wasn’t – loving. Very loving.
She decided to be the dog she wanted to be, a dog who loves, a dog who plays and bounds around like a bunny. A dog who protects her family. A dog who loves.
This is totally another reason why dogs are smarter than people.
Writers, we can do this, too. We can become the people we want to be, work at our craft, be persistent and make stories. People will doubt you can do this. You will doubt yourself. But the secret is to not flinch. The secret is to love what you do. The secret is to become what you love.
It’s easy to give up, to choose doubt. But love? Unflinching love? That’s a choice we have to make again and again. Don’t give up.
You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON
On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!
WHAT IS PATREON?
A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you.
HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast 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!
You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here.
One night a long while ago, due to a top secret mission (that involved NOTHING illegal or alcohol, I swear) I came home at 4:30 a.m. When I stepped out of the MINI, I was sort of weirded out.
There was a noise in the woods.
Hm, I thought, pixies?
No, I thought. Pixies are just in my NEED books. They aren’t actually in the woods.
This thought did not help since the things in my books tend to happen to me in real life after I write them. So being a calm and normal writer, I freaked out and ran inside. Tala, the Super Dog (who is no longer with us) was waiting at the door.
She leapt on me, kissed me, and then Tala the Super Dog reminded me that she is Tala the Super Pee Dog. She made her needs very clear by running around in circles by the door and giving me puppy dog sad eyes.
Tala: Seriously? It’s a long night when you can’t use a toilet.
So, I snapped on the leash and brought her outside. She immediately went into SOMETHING IS WRONG mode and started smelling in circles and growling and sniffing, hauling me up the driveway with her leash fully extended and totally ignoring all my please to sit, stay, slow down, and just-stop-for-the-love-of-God-just stop.
She was a Pyr. They don’t listen when they think they know better than you do. This is so true that there are memes and gifs about it.
So, I held on and prayed.
And that is when there was a noise in the big long grass by the side of the driveway.
And that is when I stopped walking.
And that is when I started murmuring, Please don’t let evil pixies be real.
And that is when Tala freaked out completely.
It was not ‘freaking out,’ human. It was DOGGY DEFENSE MODE! Geesh.
She lunged and growled and then got very still. I wrapped the leash around my wrists and held on with both hands. All of Tala’s doggy hairs stood up straight. So, um, did mine.
And that is when the bear came out of the underbrush.
And that is when the bear got all bristly.
And that is when Tala got macho and all, YOU ARE SO NOT COMING ANY CLOSER BEAR.
And that is when the bear got all, OH YEAH . YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE ME?
And that is when I thought, ALL THE OTHER BLACK BEARS I’VE EVER MET WERE SHY.
And that is when I thought, OH MAN!!! OH MAN!!! IT’S GOING TO KILL MY SUPER DOG.
And that is when I got super human strength and somehow yanked Tala back and ran in reverse into the garage, dragging her the whole way.
Tala: Let me just say, I let it her drag me back. Carrie is a pacifist. She couldn’t have handled the gore. Plus, I didn’t want to humiliate that bear. Bears have such egos.
Anyway, I have seen a lot of bears in the woods and I have never been scared of them, not ever, but that morning? Totally different story.
And it kind of reminds me of my life right now. All these normal things like writing and revising and blogging and living, walking dogs, hugging friends, things I love, have all become a tiny bit scary. And even when other people try to protect me, it’s really up to me to hang on and do the right thing and haul butt into the garage and regroup.
Is your life ever like that?
If it is, I’m sending you a Tala. If it is, I want you to have hope. If it is, I want you to know that you are important and beautiful and you matter.
But even though they are a tiny bit scary, I still love these things, even people. Yes, even the scary people. I hope you can find love and hope, too.
Here’s the only thing I know: It’s worth it to go up the driveway and face the bears.
NEED is on sale for Kindle sales on Amazon for a mere $1,99 this month. Snatch it up! :
ENHANCED, the follow-up to FLYING is here! And the books are out of this world. Please buy them and support a writer.
The last TIME STOPPERS BOOK is out and I love it. You should buy it because it’s empowering and about friendship and bias and magic. Plus, dragons and elves.
For signed copies – email email@example.com for Sherman’s or email firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
You can buy prints of my art here. Thank you so much for supporting my books and me and each other. I hope you have an amazing day.
A new episode of Dogs are Smarter Than People, the quirky podcast with writing tips, life tips and a random thought comes out tomorrow! Check it out, like and subscribe!
My dog Scotty had the unique ability called UNLOCKING THE DOOR WITH HIS MOUTH AND THEN TURNING THE KNOB OF THE DOOR AND THEN PUSHING IT OPEN SO HE CAN FROLIC OUTSIDE.
In the dog world this made him a superhero.
But, it could be occasionally unnerving to his human (Hint: His human is me) in that I got all stressed out and frazzled about book edits and would suddenly hear him barking…. FROM OUTSIDE! Which is what happened one December.
Dogs here in Maine aren’t supposed to randomly roam around outside, plus it was hunting season, plus Scotty thought one neighbor of ours was the antichrist and he thought the only way to stop this apocalypse involved him running in front of her Toyota truck and barking at her.
So, I would worry about him.
He thought my worrying about him was silly. He thought his job was to worry about me. He was wrong.
Anyway, this one December day, a couple of years ago, I heard him do the end-the-apocalypse bark, and I threw on some ballet flats and jumped in the MINI, zipped up my driveway hill and there was Scotty barking and protecting the driveway from a car that was not the Toyota. It was a car that had fallen into a ditch and there was a man trying to shovel the car out.
I jumped out of my MINI, put Scotty in the car and said, “Can I help?”
The man was Joe, an older guy who has some major health issues and lived down the street. He was like, “Oh yeah.”
A white-haired lady inside the car looked at me and said, “Please.”
It was a front-wheel drive car. It had no super cool, studded tires like the MINI. And the driver had tried to get up the snow-covered monster hill that is my road and the car then slid all the way down. Her car was tilted at this funky angle.
It was pretty bad.
Joe and I got behind it and pushed. We pushed some more. My ballet flat went in the snow. I fell down. Joe fell down. The car didn’t move. We tried again. We tried again. And again. I lost feeling in my butt because it was so cold. And yeah, I didn’t put a jacket on or anything and my hair was wet from the shower.
This whole time that Joe and I were fighting against the wicked machine that was Mrs. Austen’s unbudging car, I was thinking about helping people and books and writing and even politics because let’s face it… you get bored pushing cars that don’t move. It’s sort of like a story that refuses to be revised well.
What I thought…
So a lot of the time when people start to criticize books they get really… um… agitated… if they think the female character gets rescued too much. And people are sort of SUPER sensitized to it so much that they flip out if anyone helps out the female character ever.
And I get that.
I get that female readers need to know that they can rescue themselves, that they don’t need a boy to do it, and that if girls think that then it makes them dependent. I mean, I think about that all the time when I wrote the NEED books. And Zara (my main character) thought about that all the time. I thought about it when I wrote FLYING and TIME STOPPERS and pretty much everything.
But it also makes me worried. Because the truth is that we all need rescuing constantly. We all need help. Boys need help. Girls need help. Authors who are neurotic about their next book coming out need help. And I want a balance in books and in movies. I want different genders and ages to help each other, to respect help, to be able to receive help. It’s about balance and intention.
And the thing is that in real life? You just do it. You just help (hopefully, unless you’re in a reality show or something and think it’s all about you). I wasn’t about to ignore that older woman in her car because she was:
I didn’t think, “Hm…. Perhaps, I shouldn’t help her because she should get that car out of the ditch all by herself even though she does have a cane and a fake hip that hasn’t fully healed yet. If I help her I am actually oppressing her.”
And Joe who almost died last year from a heart issue didn’t think that either, I bet.
So, I guess that’s my point. Go help somebody today! And thank somebody who has helped you.
Here are my thank you’s:
Thank you to everyone who has rescued me from writer insecurity this year, who have saved me from sad when Scotty died, when Emily went away. Thank you to the people who have made me laugh. Thank you to the people who reminded me that there are people of hope, people who dream, people who are good. You have totally been my rescuers in a year that should be struck from the canon of years and I owe you! YAY YOU!!! xoxxo
Writing Barn Class
There is an awesome scholarship being offered at the Writing Barn for Write! Submit! Support! an awesome online class that I’m teaching in 2018. The class is for novelists of all genres, but the scholarship is for middle grade authors. Also, the deadline to sign up is super soon. SO SIGN UP! Give yourself a present for the new year!
DETAILS ABOUT THE AWESOME SCHOLARSHIP
Katherine Applegate, Newbery winning and NYT bestselling author, and good friend of The Writing Barn has created the Mary Carolyn Davies/Wishtree MG Write. Submit. Support. Scholarship to be awarded to:
either (1) MG writer for the full amount of a Write. Submit. Support. registration ($1800)
to be shared by (2) MG writers for half the amount of a Write. Submit. Support. registration ($900)
This scholarship honors poet, novelist and playwright Mary Carolyn Davies.