When Children’s Book Writers Are Supposed To Dance Things Might Not Be Pretty

Back before COVID-19, I went to my first big writing conference (as a speaker) in L.A. (California) and I learned that there was a big gala thing and all of us children’s book writers (published and prepublished) were supposed to dance and schmooze there.

Despite the fact that my aunt owned a dance studio and I started dancing when I was two and despite the fact that author/poet/musician/playwright Ozzie Jones once gave me the best compliment about my dancing ever at a Bates College party and despite the fact that I’ve been in far too many musical theater productions, I get uptight about dancing.

Cough.

This is awkward to admit.

And I was supposed to hang out in a group of 900 children’s book writers who were going to be dancing? It was already super obvious who the extraverts are in the children’s book world and let me tell you? It’s the dancers. It’s the schmoozes. It’s the people who introduce themselves to you and aren’t awkward about it.

It is not me.

I thought children’s book writers were my people. Apparently, I was wrong. The whole situation was a lot more like a middle school dance than I thought it would be.

What I learned

1. Some writers can actually dance. I mean, they bend backwards. They throw off shoes. They are not me.

Get your boogie on and shuck off those ukeleles, authors!

2. Author John Green blushes and sort of crumples in half when kids tell them they’ve read Looking for Alaska‘s scene that involves a penis.

I am not spoiling here, but… I’m sure you can guess the scene. The truth is that scene has a bit of the Judy Blume phenom going for it. Kids I knew flipped to it, shared it with friends, even before or after they’ve read the whole book and I could go on for awhile about this and how it’s a very okay thing, but that would be a much longer post for later in the week. 

Also, despite a lot of lady writers asking him to dance, John Green managed to not dance. I envied him.

See, John. This is almost as steamy as your scene, and Raintree County is ancient, although steamy. 

3. It is hard to find people you know in a crowd of 900 and sometimes you just have to give it all up and hang with people you barely know. When doing this, try not to talk about the positive beauty of fleece TOO much. They will run away. 

4. Holding a beer makes dancing easier. I did not do this, but I should have. Thanks for the tip, Lisa Yee!

5. Once you tell people that you’re running off to get someone else to come dance it is REALLY REALLY hard to find those people again. Try not to worry that they think you were blowing them off and you are an evil mean girl or something.

I’m so sorry I lost you! I was busy dying inside from social anxiety.

6. Author Lisa Yee tells amazing stories. Many include peeps. Some include pee. Does there seem to be a connection?

I found this photo on Pinterest. Thank you, Pinterest!

Rock on, Little Peep. Rock on!

7. It’s okay to stand in the big grass circle by the taco makings instead of dancing because there will be other people there who aren’t drunk enough to dance either. These are some of your fellow introverts. Embrace them. Ask first though because not everyone likes embracing.

8. Even when there’s lots of room to spread out people will clump up to dance. I am not sure if this is because it is fun getting elbowed in the head or just for the hiding-your-dance-skills in a bunch of other people factor. Or maybe it’s just the hope for getting lucky is greater the closer you are to other bodies. Does anyone know? Is this an extrovert thing or an introvert thing?

9. Sometimes people can do amazing things with aluminum foil. Sometimes people can’t. This can be dangerous when the foil is used to make clothing. No. I am not posting a picture of this here. But also foil-clothing and dancing can lead to some NSFW photos of writers. Don’t enthusiastically dance if you’re only wearing aluminum-foil clothing unless you’re okay with other writers seeing body parts that are usually covered up and stuff.

10. Writer Cecil C (BEIGE) can hold while dancing:
    1. Plate of food.
    2. Eating utensil
    3. Massive funky-cool bag/purse
    4. Video camera
    All at the same time with a still-healing wrist, which obviously qualifies her for this status

 Yes, she is the dynamic force of both Wonderwoman and Superman combined! That’s super power.

And there you go. Helpful hints for when you go to a conference and there are a bunch of children’s book writers dancing.

Continue reading “When Children’s Book Writers Are Supposed To Dance Things Might Not Be Pretty”

Author versus Mushrooms

As you know, I am a woman of obsessions.

I am obsessed with mushrooms. Like I legit love them.

I am obsessed with children’s book writing world and lately I’ve become obsessed about my time in a house in Ellsworth, Maine where one of these obsessions was growing in the wood trim outside my shower IN MY OLD HOUSE. 

I repeat: IN MY OLD HOUSE!

Spoiler:

It was not the children’s book writing world that was growing in the wood trim. It was mushrooms.

How wrong was that? 

Yes, I know I am a writer. I know I have some issues with doing certain things, but I swear to Stephen Colbert and all things holy that I did actually clean my bathroom.

Law enforcement officials, please note that I also vow that I awas not growing magic mushrooms for any illegal drug purposes.

Do you know what this meant? It meant that the mushrooms are there for some evil, nefarious purpose. 

It also meant that it was time for a – 

THREAT DOWN FOR CHILDREN’S BOOK WRITERS:

It’s hard to be a children’s writer. And it isn’t just book banners, angry reviewers who don’t like comma splices, or paper cuts we have to worry about, folks. Our very existence is being threatened. Our happy homes are being infiltrated. It’s a dangerous world out there. 

#1 Threat. 

Mushrooms.

We think they are cute. We think Smurfs live under their polka-dotted roof tops, but no … 

Really they are hanging out in our bathrooms waiting to strike, waiting to tell the world: LOOK AN ABSENT MINDED AUTHOR LIVES HERE AND SHE HAS NO CLEANING SKILLS! 

They are directly related to

# 2 Threat.

Spores.

Because let’s face it, mushrooms are releasing these babies possibly causing hallucinations. We could be breathing them in. They could be the true reason behind Green Eggs and Ham, behind Knuffle Bunny, behind my sudden allergy to laptop computers. And they could also be the reason for …

#3 Threat. 

Disembodied Voices in the Night. 

Every night this week, I’ve heard a woman’s voice. 

It’s said things like: Hufflepuffs.

Or maybe it was: Huff and puff. 

I’m not sure. But it’s waking me up and creeping me out. 

#4 Threat. 

Other children’s authors. 

Who other than other authors have obviously fed lines to the disembodied voice of the night. J.K. Rowling I’m talking to you! What am I going to hear next ? 

Can I ever sleep again? Soon I’ll be seeing Lisa Yee’s giant Peep floating across the room.

Enough is enough guys! Do you hear me? Enough is enough!

5. Mosquitos 

Colbert used to have a bear that was his big threat, but for me, it’s got to be the mosquitos behind this whole threat down. 

I’m covered in welts. 

I’m obsessing about past mushroom-home incidents. 

I’m actually blogging about it all.

Could someone just come over and sedate me now? Please…? That way I don’t have to work on this revision. 

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp! 

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

Carrie Jones Art for Sale

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

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. 

Writing simple can be complex

So lately I’ve been thinking (Amazing! I know!) about what it is to be an individual, and how as writers we can create individuals who mirror real life truths on our page.

“An individual is someone who cannot be neatly classified or categorized because he or she cannot be easily dissected or analyzed, divided into definable parts. The individual is, first and foremost, a being-unto-itself, a unique whole

Kevin L Stoehr, “You Who Philosophize Dylan” 

The problem is that people are hopefully complex, yet often in writing there’s this overall simplification of story and character that does not mimic that complexity. It seems like corporate media America has decided that people want simple things, which is fine, as long as there are also complex things to balance out literature, particularly children’s literature. And we all buy into it.

M. T. Anderson talks about something pretty similar in an interview with Joel Shoemaker in VOYA back in 1999.

But maybe that drive towards the simple is something that we should make little rebellions against. Maybe instead of following the grade-school description of what a story and genre should be, we should be fiddling around with that description.

Maybe instead of simplifying our characters we could expand them, make them more complex than hairstyles and clothing choices, than ‘good girl,’ ‘good boy,’ ‘bad child.’ And I’m not talking about giving the evil villain one redeeming quality, I’m talking about giving the evil villain a complex identity. 

Making Things Predictable

 When my daughter Em turned 13, she had one major gripe with the books she read. She said that most plots are too predictable. She said that most characters just have one defining trait, and well, that bored her.

 I’m just worrying that maybe we should be putting some emphasis back on complex stories and characters for the big-time readers who are losing their faith in books. I’m not saying to rid ourselves of the simple stories, I’m just saying we should embrace the complex, too. 

I guess, I’m just worried that in our surge to make lots of money by reaching massive audiences we are making out stories too simple, our genre choices too straight forward.

And we fall into traps because we’re so afraid nobody will buy or understand our books. We don’t want to scare off readers with something difficult to read. We want to keep things straight and common, no eccentric teachers, no bizarre-o main characters.  We make sure the character always has a clear want and they go after it. We make sure the main character isn’t too complicated. Some of us follow formulas and plotting rules, and that’s okay. It’s not bad. I just don’t want it to be the only way. And I don’t want the authors who brave themselves up enough to deviate to be blasted.

Someone asked me why I made Belle have seizures in TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (ex) BOYFRIEND and not have those seizures be an active part of her character development. Okay, first off, I did it because that’s how Belle is. Her epilepsy isn’t about her character any more than having thick hair is about her character. It doesn’t have to be.

It’s only by treating epilepsy as a condition rather than a defining character trait that we can:

  1. lessen the stigma of epilepsy
  2. create a character who is an individual

And obviously this doesn’t just apply to epilepsy. It applies to every condition and physical trait that can cause stigma. But we can’t do this is we make our characters too simple, too one dimensional. It’s only when we make complex INDIVIDUALS that we can really battle stigma and stereotyping and all those things that we don’t want to perpetuate. 

So what I want to know is what happens if we keep making narrative more and more simple. What happens to our minds? What happens to our books? Do we become numb? Do we look sideways at books that aren’t simple? Do we become so used to simple that we start believing it’s complex? And has that already happened? I hope not. I really, really hope not. 

Writing simple can be complex

But there’s another side to things. By making the choice to have a character have hobbies that aren’t necessary to the plot, to quote philosophers occasionally in a romance/horror novel? By making a science fiction origin story, clean and easy to read and focusing on a girl? To make a character have epilepsy but not be defined by it? Those are simple writing choices that can have complex ripples.

Don’t be afraid of the ripples.

Things Referenced

Joel Shoemaker, “Hungry . . . for M.T. Anderson: An Interview with M.T. Anderson,” VOYA 27, 2 (June 2004) 98-102.

“Bob Dylan and Philosphy.” Edited by Peter Vernezze and Car J. Porter. Chicago: Open Court Press, 2006 182-193.

PODCAST

To follow that up, I give you a podcast that talks about writing and poop texts.


WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

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?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.

Carrie Jones Art for Sale

PATREON OF AWESOME

You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps).

Check it out here.

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. 


Writing Tip Wednesday: Defying Jerks’ Expectations and Going After Your Dreams

A long time ago there was a woman on one of those singing competition shows and she was not what society would call good looking.

Because of her looks and age, people expected her to suck. This was also because she did some weird thing with her hips before she sang. Prior to her tryout, she said she’d always wanted to be a professional singer, to sing in front of a super big audience. People snickered.

They truly snickered.

I’m sure she could hear them.

But then she sang.

She did not suck.

People cried instead of snickering.

And I totally wanted to be her. I wanted to be the one singing and making people gasp and cry and stand on their knees all because of my voice and my talent. I wanted to be the one who defied their expectations.

Singing like that woman? That’s not a dream I’ll ever get. 

First off, I was never even in show choir. And I have never auditioned for a televised talent competition. I haven’t even done karaoke because I get super social anxiety about those things. Plus, stage fright.  

But I was in this cheesy song and dance company once.

IT WAS SO EMBARRASSING

But let me say: I was paid.

So, I think this counts as being a professional singer, right?  *clears throat* Of course, we played places like Chuck E’ Cheeses or the Masonic temple in Manchester, NH.  

I am happy to say no pizza was thrown on me during the Chuck E’ Cheese performance.

Sarah Silverman was also in the group. So was Bridget Walsh, the third national-touring ANNIE! I was totally out classed. I never had one of those big show-stopping solos. 

I also never got to perform with a dog like Bridget did in ANNIE. ;(

I don’t think I ever will perform with a dog or have a show-stopping solo.

I kind of gave up on that dream.

Other Dreams

When I was little, I dreamt that I’d find Bigfoot. I dreamt that I’d write books, change the world for better, would have art in museums.

One of my teachers told me that I’d never get any dreams because my voice was so hideous that people would never take me seriously.

My own sweet mom told me that people in our family are incapable of making art, let alone museum-worthy art.

Society told me (and keeps telling me) that you can’t make the world better.

So many dreams…

I never gave up on my dream of writing.

I am still working on that one. Someday, I want to write in a way that people sing. I want people to gasp and feel and laugh and be on that journey with me, because of my words. Even though I’ve been a New York Times bestseller, there are moments when I feel like that dream is impossible. I keep plugging along though, trying to ignore that teacher’s voice in my ear, telling me that my very essence, my voice, will make people never pay attention, take me seriously, make them snicker instead of applaud.

A lot of times I work with other writers who are so close to giving up on their dreams even though they are so talented, and have great stories and craft and it makes me so worried and it makes my heart hurt to think of them giving up.

Dreams matter. Hard work matters. Persistence matters. Your story matters.

Do you have dreams? Are you still going for them? Are you feeling unmotivated? If so think about the lady who people snickered at and how her talent made them cry. If so, you can even think about me.

I promise, I’ll be thinking about you.

Writing News

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

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?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

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! 

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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. 

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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!

ART

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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. 

Quick Writing Tip

Blissed Out Monday

IMG-5852Sparty the Dog: Human, I worry about you.

Me: Why now, Sparty?

Sparty the Dog: Not you specifically, but all humans, really.

Me: 

Sparty the Dog: 

Me: Okay. Ready.

Sparty: You live too much in your mind and not enough in your heart.  You live too much in your teams and not enough as a whole. You think differences are scary and surround yourself with the similar.

Me: 

Sparty: I broke your brain, didn’t I?

Me: Pretty much.

 

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s almost out! You can pre-order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere. The official release date is August 7! 

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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 Carrie’s book about Moe. 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.

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

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Carrie is the writing coach I always dreamed of having. She has such a great balance in her feedback between singing your praises at what is working and giving you honest criticism at what still needs development. Carrie goes above and beyond in her editorial letters, giving very clear and detailed feedback, and her eagerness to answer any questions makes the whole experience of critique—which can be a very vulnerable experience—make you feel like you’re with a trusted friend that you’ve known for years (even though you just met). 
 – Jason Gallagher, author of WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE

Ebook on Sale for July – and July is almost over! 

And finally, for the month of July, my book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

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Appearances

Carrie will be at The Books-A-Million in South Portland, Maine on August 8. She’ll be at the Maine Literacy Volunteers Festival on September 8.

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