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. 


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My Last Rotary Club Meeting is Today

It’s my last meeting as the Bar Harbor (MDI) Rotary Club president and I’m pretty psyched and sad all at once. 

There’s nothing sweeter than being part of something bigger than yourself. Rotary gives all of us that whether we’re presidents or not. Rotary clubs transform lives for good. That’s a big mission that happens in small and large ways throughout our local community and in the world. 

One Little Club

Last week, our club donated $1,000 to the Trenton Elementary School in honor of its amazing librarian-advocate-volunteer-local to help get new books to kids next year. Books had been mostly cut out of the school budget. Books, as all Rotarians and writers and librarians know, make a huge difference in kids lives. 

When I was sad and scared and lonely, when I thought I might not survive the sorrow in my little life, when I thought I had no hope? It was stories of other girls becoming that gave me hope. Books saved me. 

Trenton’s librarian broke down when we gave her that check because she knew the money made a huge difference to the kids in her rural school. 

Making a difference

This year our club members raised money to fight polio, travelled to different countries to fit wheelchairs. We gave out scholarships, supported local nonprofits, helped fire victims in California, wrote letters and sent care packages to struggling soldiers and veterans, created an anti-bullying resource (still waiting on the video) after an amazing pro-empathy workshop led by one of our own. We made blankets for rescued shelter animals. We helped displaced families find temporary homes. We started Little Free Libraries 

And that barely scratches the surface of what one little club in rural Maine has done.  

Rotary is also about building peace. When we make friends, when we work together to solve problems, when we think about more than just ourselves, we’re actively part of the peace-building process even when we don’t realize it. We’re transforming our connections and our lives, meeting neighbors we never knew before, solidifying acquaintances into friends. 

I’ve loved being able to watch that happen this year. I can’t wait to see it happen next year under Susy Del Cid Papadopoli’s turn as our president. 

mdi marathon
mdi marathon

It’s bigger than Rotary

What you do in Rotary, how you’re involved, your passion is like what you do in life. That’s up to you, but let me remind you that If you’ve missed a bunch of meetings? We still love you and want to thank you. If you’ve had a hard year? We still love you and appreciate you. If you’ve had a love-hate relationship with the club or its members or me or the board? We still love you. 

Being in Rotary, being human, caring, promoting Rotary and talking about the good it does gives hope to people who might not have hope. It shows people that the only stories aren’t the bad ones, that there are people out there in the world, giving time, giving money, trying to do good. 

I’m so glad that Rotary International continues to exist and can create more and more good stories in a world that often feels like it’s too full of bad epics. Your kindness, your action, makes a difference whether you’re in Rotary or not. 

That’s made me a really lucky Rotary club president. I’ve gone to places I never thought I’d get to go to, visited countries, helped locally, made so many friends, built a playground, been hugged a lot.

All of those stories and experiences make my writing better, but they also make my life better. Rotary does that. It makes your life better (with your help) so that you can not only create better stories for others, but become one yourself.

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. 

Camper Wisdom and Dialogue Hints

So, I’m back in the camper for the summer because we rent out our hosts to tourists every year. Well, it’s the second year, that almost makes it every year, right?

To put this in perspective, we have two dogs, one obese cat, two humans (occasionally three) in this tiny camper from the 1980s. We painted it white so it wasn’t as depressing, but let me tell you, painting things white doesn’t make anything actually bigger.

Anyways, I was trying to quickly make a camper video about dialogue and I failed completely. Here it is below. Don’t judge too harshly.

If you don’t want to die from secondhand embarrassment let me sum it up for you. The takeaway from this video is meant to be people react to different things in different ways. People speak in different ways. Show this in your dialogue. Think of how your mom talks, your bestie, your avo, the lady at the bar, your rabbi. Not everyone talks the same. Think of how they all react to one simple situation like a rat popping out of the garbage bin in the kitchen. It wouldn’t all be the same, right? Respect and embrace that difference and show it in your story.


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. 

Do You Have To Write Every Day? Stephen King Twitter Torches versus the Anti-Burnout Crew

So, one of the big debates in the world of writing advice is the Write Every Day Debate.

I know! I know. Sexy name. High stakes.

But, honestly, it gets people so riled up. There are the Write Every Day Camp. They carry lit Twitter torches and follow Stephen King who famously wrote:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

And then there are the Anti Burn Out Crew who say that you can’t possibly write every day because your fingertips will fall off.

People have Twitter wars about this.

But to be fair, people also create character sheets and become hyper-focused on knowing their character’s favorite color and think that’s more important than what it is that the character wants with all her heart, or what the character is terrified of happening.

WRITING Hint:

Your character’s motivations, her wants, the thing she’s longing for and living to get? That’s more important than her love of teal.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

There is no one way to be a writer. If you can write every day, write every day. If you can’t, don’t, but make sure you still actually write. You can’t really be a writer if you only talk about writing and don’t actually do it.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Nobody cares what Lassie’s favorite color might have been. They cared that he wanted to save his family. Don’t stress the meaningless details. Not in your story and especially not in your life. Focus on what matters.

SHOUT OUT! 

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

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! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

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. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


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

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. 

Do You Have To Write Every Day? Stephen King Twitter Torches versus the Anti-Burnout Crew

 
 
00:00 / 00:20:29
 
1X
 

Writing Tip Wednesday – Step Outlines and Structuring Your Story

The structure of a story is sort of a pain in the butt for a lot of writers.  In a story, the structure sort of goes like this:

 

  1. Something happens.
  2. Which causes something else to happen.
  3. Which makes something else happen.

And the evil part of being a writer is that you have to hack out all the things that aren’t part of those steps. You have to keep that something happens-makes something else happen-causes something else to happen movement in all the scenes in your story.

What are the scenes? They are the places where things happen.

Some writers use a magical tool called a Step Outline.

What’s a Step Outline?

It’s something I just made into a proper noun. A step outline (no longer a proper noun) is where you show the way your story develops by outlining the scenes.

So, for an example, the story I’m working on right now goes: 

  1. A girl and her friend sends in the girl’s DNA test to figure out who her father is.
  2. She freaks out about this and her friend comforts her by the ocean but she has a horrible feeling.
  3. At work that horrible feeling continues and she gets an ambulance call that a girl’s been hit by a car.
  4. She rushes to the scene and is the first one there. The area is crowded with tourists and the little girl dies. Something magical is emitted from our hero’s hands and the little girl comes back to life.
  5. The video of the rescue goes viral and two strangers come to her work, discussing her healing the girl and the lack of a man’s name on her birth certificate.

As I write that down, I realize it isn’t perfect. How does scene two truly bleed into scene three in the manuscript? Now, I know that I have to go back and make that connection a bit stronger. Step outlines are magic that way.  By breaking the scenes down, we see the connections but also the gaps, the places where we need to make it stronger.

You can also break down those steps and bigger scenes into smaller scenes. Every beat of action doesn’t deserve a step, but every little scene (a page or so) does.

Step outlines are a pretty basic tool, but they are pretty brilliant ways of understanding the cause and effect and pacing of our stories. Try it out and tell me what you think!

 

Writing and Other News

I’ll be hanging out at Virginia Beach this weekend for an awesome book festival.

Art.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 here or 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

Apply Now!

 

Our First Tip To How to Make Your Life and Writing Life Better

Shaun: So, Carrie’s not the best in the mornings and too much noise, clutter, extra to-do items pretty much throws her completely off her game.

Carrie: One of the reasons that the dogs and I do daily motivating thoughts on my Facebook and Twitter accounts is because it helps ground me and make me feel less cranky and stressed…. Usually. Shaun, however, is a morning person who craves noise and tropical music while I’m a Pachibel’s Cannon morning person.

Shaun: True.

Carrie: So, this week’s podcast is the first in a series of podcasts about how to make your life and your writing life better and our first tip is….

DOG TIP OF THE CAST: Just say no to the stuff you don’t want to do. You don’t have to say yes to invitations or the extra responsibilities. You don’t have to respond to every single text and/or email. You get to be in charge of these ancillary parts of your life. If you don’t want to email/text/talk to someone, there might be a really good reason why. In this life, we have a limited amount of time to expend. Expend it well. Do it on your terms. Dogs get this.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD: Yep. Same point. Write the stories that you want to, that resonate with you. Say no to the stories you think other people want you to write.  When you get rid of the baggage, the things you don’t want or need to do, you free up your mind of clutter and give it space to create.

Listen to the full podcast to hear Shaun’s random thought all about marketing – KaPerPi. It’s knowledge, awareness, public relations and public image. It’s pretty cool.

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

Writing and Other News

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

Art.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Apply Now!

 

 

Our First Tip To How to Make Your Life and Writing Life Better

 
 

00:00 / 00:15:49
 

1X

 

Don’t Make Your Setting A Stereotype; Writing Tip Wednesday

A lot of people love where they live or where they visit, but that doesn’t mean that they can write well about that place or include that town/city/cruiseship in an authentic way in the setting of their story.

I’ll use where I live as an example.

Tons of people claim that their piece of the earth is the most beautiful, and those of us who live here on Mount Desert Island are no exception, tiny mountains lift up the center of the island creating granite vistas in deep pine woods. The coast is full of dramatic cliffs where the sides plunge into the cold, gray Atlantic Ocean.

It’s so beautiful that a million people travel all the way up the coast of Maine to visit it this summer. If you google image Bar Harbor or Acadia National Park you’ll see photo after photo of distance shots of the town or photo after photo of Sand Beach and these two mountains called the Bubbles.

The same distant landscape shots appear over and over again. But when you live here, that’s not the town, that’s not the setting. It isn’t something felt or viewed at a distance. It’s up close. It’s details. It isn’t a static image but a movie full of depth and emotion and change.

And I can tell right away when someone writes about here but they’ve either:

  1. Never visited
  2. Never talked to anyone local
  3. Spent a mere day

They’ll have the locals pronounce the town, “Bah-hah-bah.” They’ll stick in a ‘telling detail’ about the tiny town square or the carriage roads of Acadia. They’ll use a last name like “Higgins.” They will present a one-dimensional portrait of a small town that’s always beautiful.

But MDI  isn’t always beautiful, no place is, not to everyone. When we’re writing about place and including setting in a story, it’s good to remember that no matter how beautiful a place is – that’s not all there is to it. Or that your one moment there, doesn’t mean you get the whole of it, understand the big picture and nuance of the place.

Just like a character needs to have multiple dimensions, so does the setting of the story.

Mount Desert Island is a place where people write stories of fantasy and of survival, where people come to hike and bike the carriage roads and then decide to stay, choosing to live with the lobsters and deer and wild turkeys.  The main industry here is tourism and then there are two scientific laboratories, a small college, a wee hospital, and boat building places. People still lobster. People still fight fires and get arrested and work at one of the tiny grocery stores. It’s a place where churches have game night, breweries have trivia night, and there seems to be one nonprofit agency for every five year-round residents.

Every winter a lot of the town vanishes. Shops and restaurants close. Snowbirds fly south. Restaurant workers go to Florida to make money before returning again in May.

It becomes an entirely different place than it was just six months earlier when it was brimming with tourists, crowding the sidewalks, bickering over where to eat, hauling bags of t-shirts around. A century ago, Bar Harbor was the town of the Rockefellers and Pulitzers, the elite white people of the United States. A century before that, it had Wabanaki camps along the bay.

Place, like people, has dimension. Place has a past beyond our present. To be the best writers and people that we can be, it’s good to remember that, to breathe in the nuance and the dimension.

*all photos by me.

Writing and Other News

I’ll be hanging out at Virginia Beach this weekend for an awesome book festival.

Art.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 here or 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

Apply Now!

 

After the Hurricane, Oysters, Kindness, and Survival

Apalachicola is a town that remembers its ghosts and welcomes them. This town on Florida’s panhandle, is a town of oysters and celebrations, proud of its history. It’s a town where the locals have pamphlets at the cemetery explaining who is reposed in more than 40 graves.

In this town of roughly 2,500 people, the friendliness is obvious in every interaction. Even one month after Hurricane Michael ripped through it and devastated neighboring communities, Apalachicola seems – wet, but lovely.

Things aren’t right.

This town on the bay, the second oldest European settlement in Florida, is usually full of tourists spending money in the small restaurants and art galleries, going on fishing trips, filling up the rooms in hotels, inns and weekly rentals, but not this year. Even the man who comes from Maine to sell his blueberries every November is a no show.

 Dan, one of the owners of Hole in the Wall Seafood, tells us this with a shake of his head. “I don’t know what happened to him. He just hasn’t shown.”

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A lot of visitors haven’t shown. Maybe they are afraid of what they’ll see, Dan wonders. Some buildings look permanently shut down. Floors are buckled. Windows are holes. Squeegees and bleach can’t fix everything, but sometimes you can still get a whiff of the bleach, which is better than the stench of mold, which emanates from some of the buildings closer to the water. The storm surge was about 9.5 feet here. That’s a lot of water that sloshed through the two lower streets that run parallel to the water.

 

The workers at the Hole in the Wall Seafood catalogue their friends’ losses to the group of diners that come in and sit at a high table. Normally, this time of year you can’t find a spot to sit in this cozy, friendly restaurant that features oysters (of course) and cajun grouper. But nothing is normal and it’s evident by their conversation. One friend has lost a porch. Another lost their oyster building. Another lost half their roof. Someone lost a car to a tree. Someone and someone else and someone else lost their house.

“You were in Spain for the storm?” Dan asks from his station behind the bar as a woman arrives, joining her friends at that back table.

“Mm-hmm,” she says.

“Yeah,” one of them teases. “You missed a good time.”

“She just got the evacuation notice and kept on goin’. All the way to Spain,” they tease and there’s laughter all around until someone else adds, “Was a good idea.”

A month later and the words and people are still brave, but the emotion is still raw.

IMG_8023

Oysters

 

Apalachicola has been Florida’s oyster capitol for a long while, but the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 created a disaster for the oyster industry and its workers. A bay becoming increasingly salty has also allowed sea predators to suck out the oysters and leave just empty shells. It’s a double-whammy that has slammed the industry and its people.

 

The reason for the bay’s saltiness has even created a legal battle between Florida and Georgia with Florida claiming that Georgia is hogging up the water. Florida receives less fresh water and the bay becomes more and more salty. This allows sea predators like oyster drills to hang out in the estuary and eat the oysters, plundering at will in the increased salinity.

 

Apalachicola oysters used to be 90% of Florida’s wild supply and 10% of the United States’. That  isn’t true anymore. Farm-raised oysters have taken over the industry.

 

The grandfathers and fathers of Apalachicola’s modern-day oystermen used to use tongs to lick up 50 or so oysters a pop. Now it takes 50 tong licks to get just a couple oysters. Instead, oyster men are trying to rebuild the oyster beds that were devastated after the oil spill and now after the hurricane.

 

“I don’t know what will happen,” one man announced at the bar, laughing in that bitter way that happens. “Maybe we’ll all go to Maine and lobster.”

 

“Freeze your balls off,” a waitress announced.

 

“Yeah. Forget that.” He laughed and took a swig of his beer.

IMG_8033

Hurricane Michael

 

And then came Michael.

 

They’ve had hurricanes before. There are tall stakes in the ground to estimate storm surge by hurricane category. One is right by the playground. Another waits closer to the center of town. Warnings. Memories. Ghosts of hurricanes past measured in feet and fears of hurricanes yet to come.

 

“Waves were breaking in my front yard,” the man at the Hole in the Wall tells us. “It came in around 2:30. I had five or six people with me on the patio. The roof sheet metal? It just started peeling off. That’s some sharp stuff. I hustled everyone in. I think my patio’s down by the raw bar now.”

 

He faired better than his neighbors, only losing a patio and bins full of clothes and other items. He jokes that a seaweed berm probably saved his house, shakes his head about his luck, the randomness of hurricane winds and waves.

 

The rest of the customers and staff go back to cataloguing their losses, their neighbors’ losses, a seemingly never-ending litany of damage. Floods took the 13-Mile processing plant, which lost its roof because the walls blew off. The two downtown streets, Commerce and Water, flooded.  The neighboring town of Port Saint Joe was hit even harder than Apalachicola. But the McDonald’s there is open again even though the building was flooded out, windows are still being repaired and the toilets are in a trailer in the parking lot. Driving through the town, you see holes that shoot all the way through a house, houses moved 50 feet of their sites, sailboats jetting up towards the sky, the bottom submersed. You see mounds of debris on both sides of the roads, moldy sheet rock pulled from houses, broken trees, couches, mattresses, waiting to be disposed of.

Just driving down a street makes you a witness to destruction.

 

The loss of homes, of personal items, is horrific. But there’s also a loss of revenue. The Hole in the Wall estimates that it lost $30,000 in revenue for the two weeks it was closed. The second two weeks, the owners made about a quarter of what they usually make because the people just aren’t here.

 

Dan’s wife, our waitress, sighs and tells everyone that they could have opened sooner, but it didn’t feel right. They were busy feeding volunteers. From the Thursday after the storm through the Sunday, restaurantauers, volunteers, teachers, banned together to feed everyone, serving thousands of meals while waiting for electricity to come back to the town.

 

“It wouldn’t have felt right to open before that,” she says. “That would have – it just wouldn’t have been right.”

 

So, they helped the feed the town instead, for free.

 

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Survival

Apalachicola seems like a town that reinvents itself to survive. Before it was Apalachicola, it was a British trading post, Cottonton. Before it was Cottonton it was a settlement of a subgroup of the Seminoles. The name Apalchicola is a combination of Hitchiti words, apalahchi and okli.

 

During the Civil War, the USS Sagamore captured the town, occupying it for most of the fighting.

 

Before the railroad was popular, Apalachicola was the third biggest seaport on the Gulf. But then railroads came. So that changed. Thanks to Greek immigrants, the sponge trade was a major economic driver. But then that changed, too.

 

Back in 1837, the town allegedly had 600 meters of one brick store after another on the main street, a testament to its prosperity and health. Most of those buildings were three stories high and 25 meters deep. Granite pillars adorned every one of them. It doesn’t look like that now, time and industry, hurricanes and people, have changed the landscape and the economy over and over again.

 

Before the oysters, it was lumber.  It was sponges. It was a port city full of trade. What will it be next? That’s really the question.

 

And it’s a question for a lot of us and our towns, our cities. What do we become when our main industry dies? How do we reinvent ourselves, support our families and way of life when fisheries die off, when paper is no longer made, when Amazon goes under, or when climates change, when war comes? The act of reinvention, of survival, seems primary and so essential, but we never really focus enough on it, not in our daily lives, and not for our communities.

Apalachicola is impressive, not just because of the kindness of its people, but because of its capacity to change, to survive, to transform.

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Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

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

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!

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.

 

Wednesday Writing Tips – Writing Stream of Consciousness.

Yesterday on the podcast, we talked about writing stream of consciousness, and I’m going to continue that discussion today.

The whole point of stream of consciousness in your writing is to make it feel like you are directly putting the thoughts of the character onto the page. There are lots of ideas and theories about whether the perception of thought as flow versus choppiness is even correct, but in order to touch that topic, it would take me about 5,000 words.

That’s a bit too long.

So, we’re just going to go with the literary concept of flowing thoughts. One of the masters of the literary device wrote this:

“Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semitransparent envelop surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible?”

Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction” In: McNeille, Andrew, Ed. The Essays of Virginia

So, how do we as writers use Stream of Consciousness in our narrative.

Stream of Consciousness is not an internal monologue or expressing a tiny bit of the character’s thoughts in your story. It’s a full-on immersion. Style. Grammar. Structure? Those things don’t really matter that much. Plot can be lost. Stream-of-Consciousness writing can confuse the reader. But it’s also, so incredibly cool if you can pull it off.

According to the New World Encyclopedia:

Stream-of-consciousness writing is usually regarded as a special form of interior monologue and is characterized by associative (and at times dissociative) leaps in syntax and punctuation that can make the prose difficult to follow, tracing a character’s fragmentary thoughts and sensory feelings.

That’s hard for some of us to do. In writing, we pressure our thoughts to be linear so that we can communicate with the readers. We focus on making words and story make sense, shaping our (and our characters’) random thoughts into a logical, emotionally resonating story.

The best way to get into the understanding of stream of consciousness writing is to do this really simple exercise, but really get into it.

  1. Get something to write with, computer, pen, blood, whatever.
  2. Set a timer for more than five minutes.
  3. Write everything that comes into your head. Don’t try to be an awesome writer, just write your thoughts.
  4. Read it.
  5. Realize that you have just written a stream of consciousness.
  6. Look at books where stream of consciousness is the narrative.
  7. Try it yourself.

Here is my example that I just did with no editing. It should make you feel better about your own thoughts, honestly.

So in order to make people realize how goofy thoughts can be I’m totally writing my own thoughts down for five minutes. But I think I’m still putting in punctuation, but whatever. Does that still count? I mean, I am writer. I think in punctuation, right? Unlesss I don’t. Ugh. Thoughts are so weird. They are like dreams because you have to piece them together

Piece

Together

Peace

Together

Peace to gather

And I am still freaked out about my dream the other night with the black adder that then sort of flowed into the other dream about the tree of life only it was a black ash tree and my dream voice kept telling me that the fact that it was an ash tree was so important and the tree was on a hill and there was this one squirrel running on the hill and then my dream voice was all – it is black ash – remember black ash – it is holding us all together and then the next day there is a massacre of hate at the synagogue Tree of Life and that is a little frustrating because what is the point of randomly symbolic dreams when I can’t use them to stop hate or maybe it’s not all connected and I am just trying to piece it together because when you piece things together it’s like you’re not so powerless and I am so tired of being powerless

Violence and hate

Hate and violence

Powerlessness

Dear God, how many freaking minutes have I been writing. Did I even really set the damn timer? Oh, there it goes.

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!

 

 

Cooking With a Writer – Ghostly Pizza

As you know, I’m trying desperately to make the family vegetarian and I am TOTALLY failing.
But here is my recipe for Halloween pizza. Halloween is a frantic night for us because we get about 800 – 1,000 trick-or-treaters. So, I tend to make things that are fast and easy like calzone snakes or mummy Stromboli, but this… this, my friends, is the ultimate in easy. It’s sort of embarrassingly easy. Stay tuned below for the story of my first-ever ghost sighting.

Ghostly Pizza

So, sometimes I cheat because on Halloween things get hectic here. 

  • 1 lb Frozen Pizza Doug (do not judge)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • .75 cup pizza sauce
  • .5 lb mozarella slices
  • some little capers (for the eyes)
  1. Realize that you have no time to make food that isn’t candy.

  2. Preheat oven to 475ºF. 

    Spray bottom of a 16-by-11-inch rimmed baking sheet with the stuff that makes things not stick. Or use olive oil, but olive oil is expensive, so maybe don’t. I mean olive oil is awesome, but we’re already using pre-made pizza dough here so pretension is gone, right? 

    Spray the darn sheet.

    Celebrate by eating candy.

  3. Stretch that dough evenly to cover bottom of sheet. 

    This is a lot like stretching your 20,000-word story into a 50,000-word novel. You might have to take a couple of rounds, and rest in between to get this stretched.

    Do not give up.

    Celebrate by eating candy.

  4. Open the jar of sauce. 

    Cry because you have no wrist strength.

    Celebrate when you finally open the jar. Celebrate by eating candy.

    Spread that sauce over the dough. Try to make it even. Leave a border on all sides of the rectangle. Try to make that border a 1-inch border. 

    Celebrate with candy.

    Set a timer. Put it in the oven.

  5. Bake about 15 minutes. 

    Celebrate that. Celebrate that with candy.

    Now, you get to have fun! Yay, fun! Remember fun?

    Scrounge up a ghost-shaped cookie cutter and cut ghosts out of cheese. 

    That is so cool.

    Put the ghosts on the pizza. It is hot. Be careful. Obviously these ghosts have been hanging out in hell. The sauce is like red flames. And the whole scene is hot. 

    Celebrate liberating the ghosts from hell with candy.

    Hide the candy wrappers in the garbage during the final five minutes of baking.

  6. Take the pizza out. Look how cool that is! 

    Put caper eyes on each ghost.

    Let is stand for five minutes. Eat it. Eat it with a celebratory side dish of candy.

Man Verdict: It needs meat and more cheese.
My Verdict: Seriously? I’m so full from the candy.
Dogs’ Verdict: We agree with the man. If you’re going to dress us up, the least you can do is add more meat.

GHOST STORY TIME!

This is the story about the first ghost that I ever saw. . . Or the first possible-ghost I ever saw for you nonbelievers.

I grew up in what used to be rural Bedford, New Hampshire and I lived up on a hill on the corner of Hardy Road and Route 101, which was then a little two-lane highway that led from Manchester, New Hampshire (a thriving metropolis former mill town) to points west. People thought my house, a dark brown ranch with red shutters, perched up on the hill was creepy. It was the kind of house people would dare each other to go to. On a positive note, we didn’t get a ton of  door-to-door solicitations.

I remember when I met a girl in second grade and told her where I lived she said, “Oh. But you’re so normal. You’re not creepy at all.”

And I was like, “Huh?”

“Your house,” she said. “Your house looks scary.”

My house was scary, but my house was also home, which is sort of this weird concept for some people, a dichotomy that doesn’t make a ton of sense. How can your home be scary but also comforting? They have created entire entertainment enterprises out of this concept – things like the Addams Family where the macabre is comforting. Or the vampire family in Twilight where their vampyric nature is hidden by the clean, modern lines of wealth and big windows and good hair.

In the last ten years, I’ve incorporated a lot of the scarier things that have happened to me into books. That’s because they seem more presentable and understandable when they are fiction instead of shouting to the world, “Hey! My house was weird. Maybe haunted. Who knows?” Or, “Yeah… this happened at a seance I had in fifth grade.”

And the stories?
They add up.
You can only hear so many footsteps in so many houses before people start to think that you’re either lying or a freak. I spent a lot of time trying to quash the differences inside of me – of being poor, of slurring my s’s, of being the freak with the haunted house, the person who sometimes knew things she shouldn’t logically know.

So, yeah, I grew up in this house my dad built in Bedford, NH. It was on a hill. There’d been another house there about 100 years before but it had burned down.  And after that some people from Connecticut built a camp in the woods and would come there in the summer. That was in the early 1900s, I think. But those were the only known houses before ours.

Anyway, we had this great big picture window in the living room. My dad and mom were arguing at the kitchen table, so I toddled off and went into the living room. It was night time. I was really little, probably somewhere between three and five, because my parents were still married enough to be living in the same house.

I really hated them fighting so I waddled over to the picture window and decided to blow on it, so I could make those hand footprints in the mist that comes from your breath.

So, I started to blow on the window to see if it would frost up, but then I noticed something outside on our front lawn. Our front lawn was a big, grassy hill that sloped down to the road. I cupped my hands around my eyes so I could see better and peered out because it was getting dark. There was a woman wearing a long, white dress walking across the lawn, from left to right.

That was weird. Nobody ever walked across our lawn at almost night. We were really rural then, up a long, dirt driveway, up a hill.

I was little, but I knew it was funky.

But something else was wrong, too.

She was walking right above the hole for the septic tank. It was a big hole about three feet deep that was covered with two granite slabs. I knew it was there because my mom was always warning me about falling in and breaking an ankle. My mom was really, really worried about my ankles. I grew up thinking pretty much anything could break my ankle — holes, bikes, skis, horses, soccer….

So, anyway, even though there was a hole there, the lady walked right over it.

“Mommy!”

I yelled for her but they kept arguing. The woman kept walking. She lifted her arm and waved. She seemed nice.

“Mommy!”

“What?”

“There’s a lady in the lawn.”

“What?”

“There’s a lady…”

My mom and dad both rushed to the picture window.

“There’s nothing,” my dad said.

“I thought I saw something…” Mom interrupted. She turned me around to look at her. “What did the lady look like?”

“She was a lady… she was wearing white… you could see through her dress…”

My mom put me to bed, right away, but my parents stopped arguing, at least for that night.

Writing News

Last Time Stoppers Book

I love this book baby and 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.

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!