Dealing With Failure – Part One

We talk so much about the lack of civility in current culture, but there is also this great thirst to help, to care, to make a difference. And that matters. It matters.

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This week I failed at something in a business way and …. Well, it shook me.

To be fair, I am pretty raw and frayed right this second and my resilience isn’t at its peak. But for whatever reason, it shook me a lot.

I cried.

I didn’t wallow, but wow. I really wanted to wallow.

Instead, I posted on Facebook and asked people what they do when they feel like they’ve failed, when they are shook, when they are sad. How do they work their way out of it?

Note: My post wasn’t asking about depression, but a lot of people answered as if it was and those answers? They helped other people reading the post. That’s a big deal. And I am thankful for it.

People are giving. People want to help

I love that people were so incredibly willing to share their strategies for when they feel pointless, when failure seems too large. And I’m going to have a series of posts where I share these strategies because that’s the cool thing.

We talk so much about the lack of civility in current culture, but there is also this great thirst to help, to care, to make a difference. And that matters. It matters.

People want to help other people feel better, get through it. Remembering that matters, especially when you feel like you’re being annoying by not being perfectly happy. Nobody is always perfectly happy.

My friends’ and readers’ advice was beautifully varied, which only made it better because you could see the similarities and trends and differences in people’s coping mechanisms.

Some of those coping mechanisms involved apps.

“I’ve been there too this week if it makes you feel any better. My tips are to be gentle with yourself. Maybe take a long walk. I’ve downloaded a meditation app to my phone called Mind Space, and that helps me. A hot shower, some comfy pajamas and a cozy book. I like Rosemund Pilcher because she’s sort of soothing.” – Shannon Hitchcock, author

And another app was really popular. It’s called Calm.

“I use the app called Calm. It’s amazing and helps me with my insomnia and my anxiety. It’s got music and stories that help me relax and not stress out as much. It’s so awesome.” – Lindsey Schultz, photographer

 

And there with other people who deliberately moved their brains’ focus via distractions that were sound-based (like an app, but not), which was super interesting to me.

“I’m prone to having that feel like a failure reaction you describe. I turn on the tv or something that shuts my brain down for a couple of hours. That helps and It sounds ridiculous but I’ve noticed listening to people laughing on tv helps even if I’m not paying attention.” – Trish Madell, author

This sort of distraction and laughter is actually a thing that is often used to help with anxiety and depression. Yes! Yes! I know the trite saying that “laughter is the medicine” but there is truth behind that.

Laughter releases endorphins. Endorphins battle stress and make our immune systems tougher. Laughter connects us with others and makes us feel less alone. Laughter uses your brain’s whole cortex.

And for us creative people, humor actually makes us more innovative, we’re more apt to improv and make leaps in our thinking. How cool is that?

Do something that makes you laugh. For whatever reason, I always laugh at America’s funniest home videos. This seems stupid, and it’s a little embarrassing to even admit, but no matter how shitty I’m feeling, if I watch enough of them, I’ll laugh and pull myself out of the heaviness of the feeling of failure. On the other hand, I’ve learned to grieve some of my failures. Losing a book contract, for me, felt like such a failure. I tried so hard not to grieve it–to push through–but sometimes we need to grieve the loss and acknowledge the sadness. I’ve even had a friend send me a sympathy card for a book loss because it’s a valid loss, something worth crying about. Not every failure is, but sometimes I think we are too quick to assume we don’t deserve to feel bad.- Jody Sparks, author

So, for my first post in this series, here are the tips that came from my brilliant friends and readers

  1. Find a good app that makes you calm. Use it.
  2. Find the funny. Watch tv. Listen to laugher.

But what both of these things do is that they create a feeling of control.

When you turn on that app and use it to feel better? You are making the choice to feel better.

When you decide to watch something funny to feel better? You are making the choice again. You feel like you are in control, which is so incredibly different than feeling like a failure, isn’t it?

Writing News

I am super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.  And honestly, if you want to help me feel less stressed about failure and the writing world, leaving a review for the books and buying them? That is the best thing you can do for me.

Anyway…

This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town.

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal

 

“Sticks the landing . . . The world building is engaging . . . between the decidedly wonderful residents and the terrifying monsters who plague them.” –  BCCB

 

“Amid the magic, spells, adventure, and weirdness of this fantasy are embedded not-so-subtle life lessons about kindness, friendship, and cooperation.” –  Booklist

 

“A wild and fresh take on fantasy with an intriguing cast of characters. Dangerous and scary and fun all rolled into one. In the words of Eva the dwarf, I freaking loved it!” –  Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of The Unwanteds series

 

“Effervescent, funny, and genuine.” –  Kirkus Reviews

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go by the first two books now. 🙂

 

 

 

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out my website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

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The podcast of awesome

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.

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Memorial Day

 

My step-dad never talked about his service in World War II. He was a quiet man with an easy laugh. He was the kind of man who always could do anything. That’s how it seemed to me. He hardly ever cried, hardly ever got mad. He liked fishing and building. He liked coffee and cigarettes and steamers. He loved his family and his friends and his boat.

He wasn’t the kind of man who cried.

I saw him do it twice. The first time was when his brother died. The second time was on Memorial Day.

We were at a parade. The veterans were marching. He never marched with them. I don’t know why. A high school band was playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. I was holding my dad’s hand and all of a sudden he let go. My hand dangled empty. He turned away, took three steps back from the crowd of the road, and faced the buildings.

“Daddy?”

He pressed his fingers into his eyelids. He nodded once. “What sweetie?”

“Are you okay?”

He wiped his eyes just once with the back of his hand. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

“Are you sad?”

He half-shrugged. “A little bit.”

I’d only just really learned what the Memorial Day parade was about. From school I knew it was about soldiers who died in war. I knew my dad had been in a war, a big war. I made the connection.

“Did you have soldier friends who died?” I asked.

“A lot, baby. A lot.”

Our fingers found each other. We walked back to the crowd.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Me too.”

 

Memorial Day is more than the beginning of the summer vacation season. It’s more than a day off of work and school. Memorial Day is about the friends, husbands, wives, lovers, children, brothers and sisters who didn’t make it home.

We all know that.

We need to know that for more than just today.

I met a great guy from Otis back in 2008. He had a cane. He had a dog. I am a sucker for dogs. We talked about how on the Otis Town Report there are pictures of soldiers from Otis who are currently serving. His son served. He’s an Air Force recruiter now and his dad, the man I talked to, the nice man with the sweet smile, the can, and the beautiful dog, he served in Vietnam.

“It’s better for the soldiers coming home now,” he said. “I think people are finally getting it.”

I’m glad for that. I’m really glad but should it have taken 30 years for people to get it?

Men and women have died in service to our country. Men and women continue to die in service to our country. Those deaths mean more than a parade, more than a work-free/school-free day. Those deaths mean a lot. Not all those soldiers were perfect or saints, but all of them gave their lives for something bigger. All of them sacrificed.

For years I’ve watched the veterans throw a wreath off of the bridge in downtown Ellsworth. When I was a reporter, I even took pictures of it. The wreath? It floats away, down the Union River. It makes me remember the parade with my step-dad and how suddenly my dad let go. There I was, fingers dangling, hand empty, wondering.

But that wreath floating down the river is not really gone. None of those soldiers are gone. My dad, who died of a heart attack when I was in sixth grade, isn’t gone either, nor are his friends. Every one of them has touched our lives somehow. Every sacrifice has to keep being remembered. There are so many heroes from Hancock County, Maine, and from all over this country.

There are more and more all the time.

It’s important to notice the bad that happens, the evil that people do, but it’s just as important to celebrate the good that people are capable, the sacrifices (small and large) that we are also capable of. The empathy. The love. The selflessness.

When you are a military mom, like I am, Memorial Day becomes even more poignant. It’s a day where Americans are meant to remember military members that we lost in war, the people who sacrificed their lives for the ideals and Constitution of this country.

At Emily’s basic training graduation at Fort Jackson last year, the speaker, talked about how that made a difference, how in the United States the military isn’t about serving the leader of the country, but about the Constitution of the country and the people of the country. And for me, Memorial Day, is a reminder of those we’ve lost, those we might soon lose, but also about the ability of people to put others above their own selves, to come together as a country, and to serve the ideals of that country, so incredibly selflessly.

Easy First Steps to Marketing Your Books from Marvel and Me

It’s hard for a lot of traditionally-published writers to think of writing as a business.  Like self-published writers, we think of writing as craft. We’re compelled to create it, to tell stories, and then we’re inspired to share those stories. But the thing is that we sometimes forget that we need to make money to do things like have food, shelter, coffee products, and to pay medical bills.

This can be a problem.

We avoid marketing because marketing seems? Anti-craft somehow? I’m not sure. But it isn’t. Marketing is really just about getting people to read the books we’ve created. We write stories as communication. Marketing is making sure there is just someone out there to communicate with, right?

Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
big mountain!

I tell this story a lot because it really struck me. I was a speaker at a Rotary International training. There were a ton of wealthy, successful men in suits. I started to introduce myself and I cringed when I said, “I’m a NYT and internationally bestselling author. That always feels weird to say like I’m bragging.”

And this older gentlemen said, “There is no money in modesty, Carrie. Be proud of that.”

And I paused.

And my brain hiccuped.

Because that line is sort of antithetical to who I am. I don’t go out into the world trying to horde money like Smaug or raise massive amounts of money like certain politicians, but I am super psyched to sell books and be able to buy dinner and feed the dogs fake bacon.

But what really matters from that guy’s sentence is that I use my modesty and self-deprecation to my own detriment. Instead of allowing my story to be out there, I sort of hide from the moments of my success. Why is that? That’s the real question. Because it doesn’t just hold back me. It holds back my books and my ability to buy ice-cream cones for the dogs.

Here’s the thing: 

It’s okay to be glad to not be sleeping in a car. It’s okay to own your success. It’s even better when you use that success as a tool to help other people get there, too? Right? Modesty is lovely. I have big issues with braggarts. But it’s okay to know that you, yourself, have done some cool things. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do better or more or that other people can’t too.

Marketing is about one thing. It’s about caring.

cutie face Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
cutie face

 

So, Here are the First Three Tips on How to Successfully Market Your Book.

Spoiler alert: They have nothing to do with marketing.

 

Make the Best Product

That’s right. Your book is a product. It’s what you’re selling and/or your publisher is selling so you want to make the best book that you can. This is easier said than done.

You have to be willing to put in the work and not be inpatient to get it out there.

 

Let Trust-Worthy, Skilled People Help You

For some people that means editors at a publishing house, agents, critique groups. For some people that means teachers at MFA programs or places like The Writing Barn. But the key is trust – you have to trust their advice and you have to trust yourself to know when that advice isn’t all that.

 

Know What Has Worked in the Past, but Also Move Forward

There’s this weird trend in publishing called the “Writer, You’ve Done That Before” rejection, that as a business person? I can’t get my head around. If you’ve written a similar book, but your readers want more of that? Why not give it to them?

Marvel has this down, man. They have movie after movie about the same superheroes, expanding their universes, connecting them, but following a really similar pattern. One of the keys to the company’s success is that they know what their audience reacts to in their stories:

  1. Humor – deadpan, often flippant
  2. Big Fight Scenes
  3. Some emotional resonance
  4. High stakes
  5. Relatable protagonists.

So, know what your audience reacts to in your stories. Don’t be a big trope, but know what they like.

Easy first steps to marketing your books Author Carrie Jones writing tips blog
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In an interview with Nina Pipkin of Entrepreneur Marvel’s director of content and character development, Sana Amanat says, “When you want to make content that is meaningful, I think you have to try to not look at the big statement, but try to go as small as possible. Try to go down to the nitty gritty of who that singular character is — what they want, what they’re afraid of and what their challenges are. What are the elements that really make them a human being? What are the elements that make them relatable? Or even, what are those elements that make the audience angry with them? You really need to make the audience connect with that character.”

The best marketing comes from writing the best stories and characters that you can.

The next steps for marketing your books?

Have a website. 

Pick a couple social media platforms and post on them.

Don’t just post READ MY BOOK/BUY MY BOOK. Post about whatever interests you other than your book.

  1. Do occasionally post READ MY BOOK/BUY MY BOOK. I totally forget to do this, honestly. I’m too busy posting about other people accidentally spitting into my mouth and my skirt falling down.
  2. Be visual.
  3. Do video if you can.

    Care about the people who communicate with you

    1. People don’t want to be ignored. If someone reaches out to you in an email, on social media, communicate back. Not only is it the nice thing to do, it helps you make friends. Readers are real people. Treat them like it.
    2. Seriously.
    3. Remember you aren’t God. You are a human with emotions and flaws and so are the people taking time out of their day to talk to you. Honor that. Honor them.

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,

I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

Get Thee Behind Me, Satan

This post about Friday Writing Life is basically about me almost dying thanks to the devil and an ankle brace.

I go through most of my life feeling pretty lucky. I have a place to live. I have food. I’m not under constant threat of violence. That’s all pretty sweet and it hasn’t always been that way for me.

And part of the way that it’s happened is that I just keep working and doing and going after things, but not in a despot way, but in an “Everyone let’s make this world better together!” kind of way.

Part of determining what you’re passionate about is asking yourself if you’d do what you’re doing even if you made no money at all. For me, being a writer, is just something I do. I can’t imagine not doing it. And I feel lucky and blessed that I get to do it for a living and also help other people do it, too.

I like that so freaking much.

I like it when I get to witness  other people shine.

And it impacts me way too much when they suffer, or make mistakes, and recently a scam call made such a horrible mistake that I thought I’d share it with you.

This week, I got this phone call from “headquarters” about how I had “four complaints against me” and the “local cops” would come get me unless I called a specific number back in 24 hours.

And here’s the thing – people in positions of power who are threatening you with jail time for ‘four complaints,’ don’t call the local authorities, ‘cops.’ They call them police. Or law enforcement. But not ‘cops.’ Word choice matters. That’s your writing lesson of the post.

But….

The call made me think of the other interesting and randomly threatening phone calls that have happened in my life.  I think my favorite ones are where I am threatened not by ‘local cops,’ but by the actual devil himself. Because honestly? If you’re going to get threatened why not by the ultimate in evil, am I right?

Crank Calls from the Devil. The writing life.
Or just a devil duck?

So, anyway, those of you who are my friends on Facebook heard how I got this crank call on another Monday night awhile ago.

That time, the caller said, “Prepare to die, Satan claims you, Carrie.”

And I was all, “Hm. Wait! Can you not hang up so quickly, creepy-voiced man, because I would like to try to discuss this and maybe argue Satan out of it!”

But he hung up.

Apparently, Satan does not like to argue with random children’s book writers? Who knew?

And I was all, “Man, that was so creepy it was kind of funny.”

This is pretty much my response to everything creepy. Floating apparition? I laugh. Possible UFO? I laugh. Weird man running away after ringing my doorbell? Hold on, while I giggle. It’s sort of my defense mechanism for all bad things; I fight them with humor. It’s either that or screaming and screaming hurts your throat if you do it for too long.

I have other defense mechanisms. These are called dogs.

So, for the whole night I was basically all,  “Dogs. Come Velcro yourselves to my sides.”

Gabby: Carrie, we are always Velcroed to your sides. Geesh. *shakes doggy head*

And then because I had no attention span I kind of forgot about the call from the devil because I was busy writing and living and writing more.

But two days later, I almost died.

Really.

I was driving to this cool conference of librarians in Maine and I was on the turnpike and wearing the ankle brace from hell. That point of origin is just like the devil I guess, although originally he was from heaven.

The brace, which was on my left foot, suddenly flopped onto the brake. Now, basically the ankle brace from hell was so heavy and thick I could stand on a puppy and not notice. So, when the car lurched and lost 40 mph (like I was going 70 and then was going 30)  JUST AS I WAS PASSING A LOGGING TRUCK (because – Maine), and the car’s tires made this weird noise AND the car behind me wiggled all around to avoid the collision (Nice Driving, Mr. Car Driving Guy, btw), I realized that something was going on.

Fortunately, the brace was not on a poor little puppy.

Unfortunately, it was on my brake.

This is a brace about 1/4 the size of my monster. 

And I yelled, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” because obviously all the Friday nights that the Albertsons brought me to Pioneer Girls at Calvary Baptist Church in New Hampshire had conditioned me more than I realized. They were trying so hard to save my first-grade self’s soul. Apparently, Satan thought they failed.

Anyways, I moved the brace and kept going and then got to Augusta (where the conference was) and totally cried. I mean, I sobbed.

Seriously. I was a total wuss because:

1. I did not want that crank caller to be right.
2. I did not want to die because of my stupid ankle brace from hell.
3. I almost got the people in the car behind me hurt, too, and that’s something I couldn’t have lived with.

So, yeah. If you feel like someone is about to crank you and tell you that you’re about to die and that the devil has claimed your soul: DO NOT PICK UP THE PHONE!

That’s my brilliant life lesson here. Don’t pick up the phone if the devil is calling, or even if you just think it’s a scam caller who is going to send the ‘local cops’ after you. Life is too short to have the evil beside you or in front of you or blabbering on into your ear. Put it behind you where it belongs.

WSSTypeWriter-300x300

WRITING NEWS AND APPEARANCES AND STUFF:

Okay. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this, but I earned out my picture book biography of Sara Emma Edmonds!!!!

This is such a huge thing for me that I can’t begin to tell you how cool it feels especially since it’s with this picture book. Sara was this cool woman who dressed like a man so she could fight in the U.S. Civil War, but then her superiors asked her to dress like a woman and spy on the other side. So, she was a woman dressed like a man dressed like a woman and taking names the entire time. So amazing. Thank you so much to everyone who bought it!

Unknown

 

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support!is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.

PRAISE FOR CARRIE JONES AND WRITE. SUBMIT. SUPPORT:

“Carrie has the fantastic gift as a mentor to give you honest feedback on what needs work in your manuscript without making you question your ability as a writer. She goes through the strengths and weaknesses of your submissions with thought, care and encouragement.”

I swear, I did not pay anyone to say that. I didn’t even ask them to say it. The Writing Barn just told me that the feedback had intensely kind things like that.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.

What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking actionSchool Library Journal

TIME STOPPERS THE MIDDLE GRADE SERIES OF AWESOME

Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.

 

Dogs Are Smarter Than People – the podcast.

Shaun and I are total dorks in really different ways. You can tell when you listen to the podcasts, which come out every Tuesday.

We give writing tips, life tips, random thoughts. Occasionally, the dogs bark. Thank you so much to the thousands of people who have listened already. You guys are really amazing and our minds are basically blown by all of your support.

 

 

 

Wednesday Bullying Post

So Monday I posted about my own bullying experiences and mentioned DEAR BULLY, an anthology that I co-edited. That book happened because Megan Kelley Hall and I felt so powerless after hearing the stories of two girls. One was Phoebe Prince. Phoebe killed herself after being bullied over and over again. The other girl was a kindergarten student, Jasmin Lovin, who survived her bullying, but was having a horrible time with nightmares and fear.

Carrie Jones Dear Bully 70 Authors tell their stories
Dear Bully

But the book was about more than just those two girls. Bullying is bigger than that and any identity factor or trait (real or perceived) can be used as a reason to deride and torment others.

I felt so powerless to help these kids all over our country. So as an author, I did the only thing I could think of doing; I asked for stories from other authors, so kids who had the opportunity to read the book could realize that they weren’t alone.

They weren’t. They aren’t.

As I told the International Literacy Worldwide Association during an interview, “It (a person’s bullying story) was about kids who were bullied about their sexual orientation, their size, their parents; kids were bullied about anything.”

The hope was that if we all shared how we had been bullied, kids could find hope in our survival, hope in the fact that some super cool authors like Z Brewer or Alyson Noel or R. L. Stine had survived and that they could too.

I was absolutely blown away by everyone’s support and everyone’s stories. And it made me incredibly sad that so many of you have bullying stories and that so many of you are still affected by bullying or are being affected right now.

I keep saying it breaks my heart but honestly my heart is shattering over and over again every time I hear a new story.

But I’m also really happy and proud of everyone for sharing and wanting to help and wanting to make change. You are awesome.

And now I’m going to tell some bullying stories from one person’s life. It’s not about me. It’s about my daughter, Em of Awesome, and she’s given me permission, I swear. Em would never categorize herself as either a bullied kid or a hero. I think that’s important somehow.

 

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Little hiker buddy
Life lessons learned from bullying stories
A love of sweaters runs deep in this family

BULLYING STORY 1

So, when Em was four she went to a Waldorf nursery school. I took her there so she could know how to hang with other kids and also because I love the whole Waldorf philosophy which is, “the human being is fundamentally a spiritual being and that all human beings deserve respect as the embodiment of their spiritual nature.”

So, Em had gone there for about a month when I came to pick her up. Her little cotton dress was all ripped and her face was splotched because she’d been crying. The teachers were all consoling and talking to another little girl, Hannah.

Em launched herself into my arms and I said, “What happened, baby?” because that is what mommies ask.

And she said, “Hannah threw me down and told me she was a lion and was going to eat me up and she ripped my dress and wouldn’t let me up.”

And I hugged her and asked her what the teachers did and she said, “They are talking to Hannah.”

And I said, “Did they talk to you?”

And she said, “No.”

So, I went and talked to the teachers (who are all lovely by the way) and I asked them what happened and they said the same thing as Em. And then they told me that Hannah had been jealous of Em who was somehow really good at sewing and reading (and basically everything – such is the curse of being Em) so Hannah was acting out her rage.

And I asked if Hannah was told that it wasn’t cool to rip another girl’s dress, threaten to kill her, and tackle her. And they told me that they hadn’t because Hannah was merely expressing herself. This was the escalation of her being angry and jealous for awhile.

And then I asked if anyone had comforted Em.

And they said, “No. We were focusing on Hannah.”

This is when I took Em out of the school forever because I honestly thought the spiritual growth and support of the bullied, beaten-up kid was just as important as the spiritual growth and worth of the kid who bullied.

And also because I often have no chill.

Carrie Jones Dear Bully 70 Authors tell their stories
Em of Awesome
Life Lesson here:

If you feel your kid is in a situation that isn’t healthy for them and you have the means to take them out of that situation? Take them out.

Random note: This same girl who lion attacked Em laughed at me for telling  over a decade later for telling her I needed more information before signing a petition about an issue in our town.

Dear Bully. Bullying stories for survival
The Emster in snow

Bullying Story #2

Em has been bullied again, but never to a horrible extreme, and she’s lucky. And she’s also turned into one of those kids/young adults who stands up for other people who are being bullied.

One time a boy in third grade was tormenting a girl in the lunch line because of her eye shape. The girl was Aleutian. Em (who has always had wicked verbal skills) went up one side of him and down the other and announced to everyone, “M- has the most beautiful eyes ever.”

M said, “You think so?”

Em said, “Um… yeah. You are so pretty, especially your eyes.”

And the girl told Em that the boy had been bullying her about her looks for forever. Em was the first one who heard and said something.

Life Lesson Here:

Standing up for others in the moment when they can’t manage it themselves, is okay. Another lesson, if you love someone. If you think the are beautiful, let them know.

Bullying stories and life lessons learned
Graduation

Bullying Story #3

Another time Em battled an Ed Tech who told one of her friends during PE that she threw the ball “like she was r-word.”

(Sorry. I hate that word. I couldn’t write it.)

Yes, the Ed Tech said the actual word.

Yes, the Ed Tech worked with what the school district labels as ‘special needs’ kids.

Yes, the Ed Tech saw nothing wrong with what she said.

Yes, Em’s friend cried and cried about it. She had issues with reading back then. The Ed Tech knew that. She bullied her right into a sobbing mess on the gym floor.

Life Lesson Here:

Bullies can be grown-ups. We’ve all learned that, right? We just call them trolls when they are on social media.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Dog kissing helps


Bullying Story #4

We were at a big conference in LA full of children’s book writers and the key note speaker was hanging out talking by the pool. Em waited her turn and told him how much she loved his books. She was pretty small so he looked kind of shocked that she had read them. Anyways, he was super nice and they were talking when three women who wanted to be children’s writers came over and shoved her out of the way to talk to him.

Seriously, they just pushed her.

Keynote Author Man got this shocked/stunned looked and asked if Em was okay.

The ladies? Didn’t even blink.

Em wasn’t a person to them, and I think a lot of the time that’s what happens. Bullies forget that they are bullying people with feelings and coolness and quirks and emotions. Or maybe they don’t forget? Maybe they just don’t care.

Life Lesson Here:

Rudeness can happen in places where you least expect it. Adults ignoring, berating, tormenting, discounting kids? That’s something that makes an impact. Yes, those ladies were just rude once, so it’s not technically ‘bullying,’ but having the gatekeepers, the movers, the shakers, the people in positions of power and authority ignore you over and over again? That makes an impact.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
She is embarrassed about this shirt. I am embarrassed about my hat.

Em was a quiet kid, but she was fierce, and she was so lucky that she has had the opportunity to be so  fierce and strong and what kills me is that so many of us don’t. So many of us don’t have the tools to keep dealing with bullies over and over again. So many of us don’t know that other people have had to deal with it, too. So many of us don’t realize that we aren’t alone, that we aren’t the only one with our dress ripped, or called names, or physically attacked or pushed aside by women who want to write stories for us, but more than that, they want to talk to the semi-famous man.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Dogs make you stronger

That’s why we all have to do whatever small thing we can. That might be standing up like Em; it might be joining a Facebook page; it might be telling our stories; it might just be giving someone a hug. It might be changing ourselves so that when someone calls us out on bad behavior we don’t get defensive and stubborn but we actually listen and care about their feelings more than our own just for a moment at least.

I know. I know… It seems so little. But it’s something.

Life lessons learned from bullying stories
Em as Black Widow for Halloween

WHAT I’VE TRIED TO DO

So, I can’t save anyone, really. All I can do is listen, give out smelly stickers, and share my own stories. Sometimes those stories are super fun and inspiring, like the NEED series or TIME STOPPERS or THE SPY WHO PLAYED BASEBALL. 

Sometimes those stories? They are full of pain.

I’ve recently contributed to the anthology THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID and Megan Kelley Hall and I co-edited another anthology, DEAR BULLY, which was an effort of writers, readers, bloggers and people to raise awareness about bullying. The money we raise from Dear Bully’s royalties continues each year to support programs meant to raise awareness about bulling and support those who have suffered. I am so grateful for that opportunity.

But it doesn’t feel like enough, you know? Nothing ever feels like enough.

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Do Good Wednesday!

If you’re a survivor of bullying, please know that you aren’t alone. Check out this website for some resources. And if you are a person who bullies? Try to get some help too. Your life can be so much better than it is now.  Let’s change our culture into something better.

 

Adobe Spark-3 copy

Writing News

The Class at the Writing Barn

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.

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Praise for Carrie Jones and Write. Submit. Support:

“Carrie has the fantastic gift as a mentor to give you honest feedback on what needs work in your manuscript without making you question your ability as a writer. She goes through the strengths and weaknesses of your submissions with thought, care and encouragement.”

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

People are saying super nice things about me, which is so kind of them because helping people on their writing journeys and their craft and supporting them? That’s pretty boss, honestly.

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

The Podcast

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE has a new episode about life tips, dog tips and writing advice that just came out yesterday.

 

 

Flying and Enhanced – the Young Adult Science Fiction Series

Cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking action – School Library Journal

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Sparty knows all about that. More info about FLYING is here and the rest of my books? Right here.

 

There are Storms in My Brain

BRAINSTORMING?

Even the word sounds a little creepy. Like there is a storm inside your brain. It sounds… It sounds sort of violent and hazardous and windy. In this podcast, we talk about the storms inside our brain and how those storms can become story ideas.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Five Ways to Brainstorm Story Ideas

Five Ways To Get Story Ideas

Some authors have a really hard time just getting an idea for a new story. They burn out. They can’t find anything that they think is ‘good enough.’ They just don’t know where to start and that lack of a start makes them blocked.

This is so sad! There are ways to fight it.

ONE WAY TO STORM IS BY ADMIRING OTHER’S WORK

Think about ways that other people’s stories influence you. If you’re an Outlander fan, think about why. If you were to write your own kind of time travel story would it be like that? With a lot of spanking and stuff? Or something totally different. How would it be different?

ANOTHER WAY TO INCITE A HAILSTORM OF QUESTIONS

Ask your self questions. It’s all about ‘What if?’ What if Trump wasn’t president in 2018? What if everyone had blue hair? What if the earth had two moons? What if dogs were really space aliens?

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Sparty the Dog: Wait. You mean they aren’t?

Carrie the Human: No, buddy… I mean… I don’t think so?

 

THIRD WAY WHERE THE WIND IS SO STRONG IT PUSHES IMAGES INTO YOU

Some of my best ideas have come on a treadmill watching the country music network or MTV or some random YouTube channel with the sound off and just seeing images. Eventually, an image will hit me so hard that I have to write a story about it. The happened with my story, Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape).

FOURTH WAY OF ICY UNDERSTANDING

Figuring things out. This is sort of like Another Way, but instead of deliberately asking yourself off-the-wall questions, ask questions about things that matter to you. A lot of my stories are because I don’t understand something. Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend was because i couldn’t understand a hate crime that had happened. I mean, you can never understand that kind of hate, but this one incident was so bizarre that they only way I could deal with it was to write my way through it.

FIFTH WAY – AN EMOTIONAL BLIZZARD

Get emotional. What is it that always makes you laugh, cry with joy, weep with anger? What are the situations that pull at your heartstrings. Think about that as story. Write.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Inspiration is just attention. Notice what’s around you. Then ideas will come.

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Once you have your seed of information and your brain has successfully stormed, don’t second guess your idea. Write it down. If you are a plot-first writer, think up the questions to flesh out your idea – who is the protagonist. What is she up against? What’s her goal? How is she going to get it? Write it down. Do it. Don’t block yourself.

Writing Tip of the Podcast
Writing Tip of the Podcast

All the podcasts are linked to this page right here. You can find out more about us and the podcast there.

Rescuing People and the Writing Barn Scholarship

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:
1. Older
2. Female

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

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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)

OR

  • 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.

Writing Wisdom Wednesday

So, I’ve been reading a lot about marketing and social media lately, mostly because of my volunteer position at Rotary International, where I’m the public image coordinator for Eastern Canada and a bunch of the Northeast United States.

And it made me think about how much I absolutely fail as a writer and marketer.

Seriously.

I am no John Green.

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Me = Not John Green

Anyways, I found this old interview with Cynsations, a blog run by the incredible Cynthia Leitich Smith where she asked me:

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

It’s horrible. I grew up in New England and we are the kind of people who gasp and hold up garlic cloves and a cross when we hear the words, “self promotion.” I think M.T. Anderson (author interview) said something about that in an interview once, and it really resonated with me because it’s so ridiculously true.

So, I joined the Class of 2k7, a cross-publishers marketing group of debut authors, because I figured I could at least tell myself that I was promoting other people as well as myself. That made it a more altruistic thing, but it also takes a lot of time because I signed up for too many committees. Note to all other debut authors and my fifth-grade writing self: Sign up for only one committee.

Most of my time is still spent writing. The problem isn’t necessarily balancing the other aspects of the business in terms of time spent, but more keeping my mind from obsessively worrying about the other aspects of the business (the sales, the reviews, the promotion) so much that it affects my ability to write.

I still think this way. A lot of writers LOVE marketing. It makes me nervous. I can sing out the awesome stories of other people all day long? But when it comes to promoting myself or my own book? I shudder. I’m trying to be better about that but even right now, I’m all…. should I put in my website link? There I did it. (Seriously, I stared at it for five minutes).

Should I say, “Hey, there’s all this talk in the New York Times about ufos and the government investigating it and that’s totally what my book FLYING is about?”

It’s weird how hard this is.

But in happier writer news, look what I got at a holiday party this weekend. HANDERPANTS!!!

Yes… yes… I do write in them now.  Many thanks to the awesome Keri Hayes for the present and the photo.

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In that same interview, Cyn also asked: If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

Current Carrie: Hey! You! Writing in that notebook.

Fifth-grade Carrie: Ew! Am I really going to look like that? Where are my bangs?

Current Carrie: At least your glasses are gone.

Fifth-grade Carrie: Cool.

Current Carrie: Okay, listen. I have writing advice. You know how you’re having Captain James T. Kirk fall in love with your banged hair, glasses-wearing heroine?

Fifth-grade Carrie: Yeah.

Current Carrie: And how Mr. Spock is also in love with same heroine…

Fifth-grade Carrie: Uh-huh.

Current Carrie: And how the Dr. McCoy guy is in love with her too?

Fifth-grade Carrie: What’s your point?

Current Carrie: It’s not all that realistic, sweetie.

Fifth-grade Carrie: It isn’t?

Current Carrie: No, honey. I hate to break it to you. It’s just not. My writing advice to you is that not everyone can be in love with your heroine, unless you’re Laurel Hamilton and your heroine has the ardeur or something.

I still think that’s solid.