Monday Motivation and Writing Process; Being Weird? It’s totally okay.

Life isn’t usually a nice ascent where you get to your end goal and never get knocked down or have a set back.

But the point is to keep moving forward, to keep striving and loving and fighting for what you believe in.

208422_10150237184694073_7701072_n

For a long time, Marsie the Cat was super afraid to go outside into the big world. She was only okay with it if you put her on a leash like a dog. She liked being tethered to her humans, which is good news for birds, honestly, since cats kill so many songbirds.

But anyway, Marsie worked her way up to facing her fears. She took one step outside. Then another. Then another. She explored the world.

Marsie the Cat: Are you going to tell the humans that they should be like me and be brave?

Me: Basically.

Marsie: Humans should always emulate cats.

Me: 

Marsie: Fine. Go on with the blog. Also, please don’t tell them that I’ve never killed anything. The other cats would mock my pacifist ways.

Me: 

Marsie: They all heard that, huh?

Me: Pretty much.

In my own life, there are a TON of things that I’m hesitant to do because it feels too vulnerable or like it’s just… Well, like people will laugh at me, honestly. But then I think – Dude, people laugh at you all the time. Those people are just haters and at least you are giving them a moment of joy at your expense or… yeah… I don’t know there’s got to be a way to spin this positively.

Anyways, one of the weirder and more vulnerable parts of my writing process is painting. A lot of times when I get stuck, I paint something that expresses the moment of the story that I’m working on.

Sharing that makes me feel a bit jittery-vulnerable. But I’m sharing it because:

  1. Marsie wants me to. She thinks it’s motivating.
  2. This is my year of doing things that are hard for me like the podcast and being in THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID and stuff and rebooting a blog and having an occasional newsletter

BACK TO PROCESS

So, lots of other authors make notebook mosaics of images when they write a book. They’ll cut out pictures from magazines and glue them into a notebook or a big piece of cardboard paper and stare at these images to represent their characters.

Me?

Yeah, that would be far too logical a way for me to approach getting into the ‘essence’ and ‘imagery’ of my story.

Instead, I paint things. I do this despite the facts that:

1. I have NO IDEA how to paint.
2. I only took Art 101 in high school and it did not cover painting. It was all about drawing still life. I failed at it.
3. Did I mention the whole lack of artistic talent thing?

Oh! And also every Sunday morning I would draw cartoons when I was a kid and every Sunday morning my mom would declare, “Nobody in our family is an artist.”

And I would say, “Grammy paints.”

And she would say, “My side of the family.”

But because I am:

1. illogical
2. stubborn

I do not let this lack of training or talent or my mother’s genes stop me.

Art is way harder for me to share than:

1. Stories about my skirt falling down
2. Family tragedies
3. My writing (even poems).

I’m not sure why that is. I guess it’s almost like posting current diary entries or something, but here goes:

IMG_0834

So, this dark and dreary one (with the lens flash included for special coolness) is from the story AFTER OBSESSION that I co-wrote with Steve Wedel.  I had to get into the scary part of the story. And the sense of isolation and the creepy guy.

And this smoochy-smoochy one is for ENTICE (a NEED book), and yes, the people are kind of ugly…. I told you I couldn’t paint!  And yes, Zara’s hair is blonde. I ran out of black paint.  A real artist would have gone out and bought more black paint, but I’m a writer so….

*hyperventilates*

Excuse me. I have to go hide in shame.

IMG_0833

Okay, I’m back.
And yes, the guy has the weird beginnings of a beard, but that’s because I messed up. 😉

 

And you’d think after years of bad painting that I would eventually stop with this.IMG_0828
Spoiler: I haven’t stopped with this. There’s a whole bunch more on my art page.
IMG_0831
But the one I’m working on right now is for ANOTHER NOW, which is a time travel story that I’m working on. It’s YA and the first part takes part on Mount Desert Island in Maine. And I was thinking about how we add on paint and add on paint, but scratching it off? That’s also pretty cool and it reminds me of revising a book.
IMG_0816
Because when we revise, we scratch things out. We accentuate other things. It’s all about trying to make people feel and think. It’s all about communicating story as best as we can, right?
IMG_0805
And life is sort of like that. We add on and add on with our experiences, but we also can scratch out the parts of us we don’t like. We can quit boards and remove ourselves from bad places. We can work to bring more joy and meaning into our life and work to reduce our own negative qualities.
Revision isn’t just about adding on. It’s also about scratching out.
That’s pretty cool.

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.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

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.

Advertisements

The Time I Almost Killed My Agent & How Being A Bestseller Shouldn’t Be Your End Goal

A long time ago, I thought that when my books made a bestseller’s list my life would suddenly be SUPER glamorous and certain things would happen.

The process of writing is more important than potential failure or success.
She looks like a Home Alone character

What kind of things?

1. I thought my hair wouldn’t need an entire bottle of conditioner every morning so it wouldn’t be tangled.

2. I thought my eyebrows would magically pluck themselves.

3. I thought weird people wouldn’t make up random rumors about me.

Note: I have never been to a party in Las Vegas nor am I the actual devil.

4. I thought my books would stay on the bestsellers list forever and ever or something cool like that and I’d never have to worry about money again.

To be fair: I am pretty much incapable of not worrying about money. There are deep-rooted psychological reasons for this. Those reasons are called, ‘my mother.’

5. I thought I’d suddenly be a really good driver who wouldn’t almost kill my agent.

 

I thought wrong.

One Saturday  a few years ago, my agent of awesome magical agenty things and I actually got to see each other at the New England SCBWI Conference. We were both panelists/speakers. So we went out to lunch off site. I drove my MINI.

Okay. Disclaimers:

1. I live in Maine. We don’t have multi-lane traffic really.
2. I had never driven in Mass before.
3. I  was used to other drivers being nice.

So, we’re on the highway in the slower lane and there were cars EVERYWHERE and we’re all zipping along when I noticed a long line of traffic waiting to merge. A big old tractor-trailer truck was at the head of the line. I  worried about this truck. I have no idea why.

I decided to get into the fast lane so the cars could merge into my lane more easily. I looked over my shoulder to check the blind spot.

Bad idea.

My agent gasped.

The big truck had cut off the car in front of me at a high speed of like 10 mph. AND the car in front of me had COMPLETELY STOPPED MOVING! This meant I was about to ram into the car at 60 mph.

I slammed on the brakes.

Slamming on the brakes made the MINI spasm and jerk. The tires created this cool squeal noise.

I did the Mommy Move. Do you know the Mommy Move? It’s when you slam your arm in front of the person sitting in shotgun because you think:

1. That person is going to die.
2. That their seatbelt is not as effective as your super powerful mommy arm.
3. That you don’t actually need both hands on the steering wheel in this dangerous life or death situation.

So, yes, I mommy-armed my agent.

*Shakes head at self*

But, to be fair. He did grab my arm at the same time in his agent move to try to save me.

You can now imagine everyone in the car screaming.

You can also imagine me thinking, “Oh. We aren’t dead. I did not kill my agent before the panel. Okay. Good. Okay… Good author. Good author.”

The best part? As soon as we started up again my agent was like, “Um. Carrie? I drive back from the restaurant, okay?”

The other best part? The agent was still alive and he didn’t die before the panel. And also, he totally paid for the food. Score!

But I guess the bigger point is that while a couple of my books made the New York Times bestseller lists they didn’t stay there forever, which is such a total bummer in terms of money and making a living and all that stuff.

However, whatever.

Seriously.

Just whatever.

I was so lucky that it happened, right? Lucky and I worked hard. I still work hard. And it was super cool. But it didn’t completely change my life and make my eyebrows better. Here’s why:

I don’t know how not to write.

“Wait. What?” you’re probably saying.

Here it is though: 

Being successful didn’t inspire me to write more or to slack off or even make me feel like less of an imposter sometimes. It’s just a thing that was, a weird metric of what our society claims is ‘success.’

My Post-15

Even if I never was traditionally published again – even if I self published and nobody ever read another one of my books – I would create stories. That’s just all there is to it:  I really don’t know how not to write books or communicate through blogs or art or social media or news columns.

I don’t know how not write. Are you like this? Because it means something. Whatever it is that you don’t know how NOT to do? That is what you’re meant to do.

So, while having the tag – NYT bestselling or internationally bestselling (Thank you, France, for starting that) – is super cool? It doesn’t matter. What matters is doing what I love and surviving.

And that’s the thing. It doesn’t matter what you are as an occupation, you have to find something you are passionate about, something that you can’t imagine not doing – and do it. Do it over and over again. Hone your skills. Craft your crafty craft. Love the people or dogs or cats or manatees that you love. Do the work. Enjoy it. Feel blessed that you get to do it. Because you are. Blessed. Choose to be blessed.

joy as process - make it about the journey of writing rather the goal of having a bestseller
Look! She is so super happy. She even has a balloon!

My mom wanted to be a teacher all her life. She never got to college. In New Hampshire, they don’t let you teach if you don’t go to college. She never got to do what she loved even though she was so smart.

One of my favorite friends is an emergency dispatcher for our town. She’s not super into that. What she’s super into is baking, taking nature photos and making people happy and look at what she’s building – this perfect business that combines all those passions. That is a huge risk for her, but she’s taking it. Why? Because she loves it. And by doing it she’s making herself and so many other people happy.

That’s the thing – this life is so short. If you have an opportunity to pursue your passion, do it. You are so lucky to have the opportunity to do that. And you have to make the opportunity to do that. Don’t let your feel of failing keep you from trying or going after your goals.

Failure doesn't exist if you enjoy the process

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be so super grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest. Thank you! I know it’s a super small thing, but it means so much to me.

WRITING NEWS AND STUFF

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 and this weekend I’ll be in Cornwall, Ontario talking to a massive troop of Rotarians about public image. 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. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

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

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn classthat 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.

Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.

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.

And finally, I’ve added a contact form in case you’d like to be on my email list. If you subscribe to my posts via WordPress then those come to your email whenever I post. To do that click on SUBSCRIBE, but this is to sign up for my random newsletter, which I basically only do when something big happens like a book is coming out or I’m going on tour or something  or I’m giving away a story for free – so basically two to three times a year.