Black Bean Burgers and Murky Middles

One of my favorite things to get at one of our local restaurants has always been a black bean burger that they made on site.

It fell apart.

It was huge.

It was delicious heaven of black bean awesomeness and it was THE THING I always ordered whenever I got take-out. I looked forward to it SO MUCH.

So… yeah….

The restaurant stopped making it and replaced it with a quinoa burger.

I get it. Quinoa is trendy. It is happy. It is hipper than the black bean. These things happen and I could not buy enough black bean burgers to validate the restaurant keeping it on the menu. A woman can only eat so many black bean burgers.

But… but… it made a bit of a panic.

Because something I loved was just… it was just gone. And I don’t know about you all, but I tend to make the meals that everyone else around me like so much so that I almost have forgotten what food it is that I really like, you know? This black bean burger was the one thing that I would always order and love and enjoy for me.

And it was forever gone.

But the man is cool and he wanted to fix my despair because he is nice like that.

And the man now makes me black bean burgers. And he even doesn’t even complain that there is no meat inside them, which is really saying something, honestly.

Cooking with a Writer Black Bean Burger Recipe

Black Bean Burgers of Structure

  • 1 16-oz black beans (DRAIN THEM AND RINSE THEM)
  • 1/2 green pepper (ALL CUT IT UP 2-INCH PIECES)
  • 1/2 onion (ALL CUT INTO WEDGES)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 2 TSP hot sauce, Thai sauce, wing sauce, whatever you like or have
  • 2 slices bread all crumbled
  • 1 /2 cup flour
  1. Be proud that you’ve cut the onion, pepper, and opened the black beans and have not harmed yourself with the sharp knives or can opener. 

    Wish that everyone would celebrate this success with you. 

    Get wine.  

  2. Oil a big piece of aluminum foil and put that on a cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit/190 Celsius if you are going to cook these in the oven

    Be proud that you know the word Celsius. Writers need to know a lot of words. Celebrate your knowledge of words. 

  3. Dump those black beans into a bowl. Ponder the black beans. Think about how German poet Sarah Kirsch wrote an ode to black beans. Hate her for a second because you’re jealous. Then remember she’s dead and hate yourself instead. 

    Repeat the mantra: I celebrate other writers’ successes. I celebrate other writers’ successes. 

  4. Take a fork and mash those black beans up until they are sort of ‘thick and pasty.‘ Realize that this is a good character description – ‘thick and pasty.’ Go write that down so you don’t forget it! 

  5. Saute the onions in a little oil until soft. Watch them loose their structure just like your middle grade fantasy novel when you tried to write it in the point of view of the wizard’s toilet paper. 

    Realize that you sometimes make bad choices. Get more wine.

  6. Add onions, spices, green peppers, bread crumbs, and spices and sauce to the beans. Mix it up. Think it’s ugly. Feel badly about this. 

  7. This is the hard part. You know there’s always a hard part, right? Like the murky middle of every book where the end is in sight, but you aren’t sure how to get there. Yep. Hold on that’s where we are now, little writer friend.  

  8. Add the flour –  just a couple tablespoons at a time. You want to mix it each time. You want this ugly thing to look super thick. You will probably have to use your hands and get messy. I am so sorry.  The murky middle is an icky place. You get dirty. You dig deep. Blah. Blah. Blah. 

  9. Buddy! You did it!!! Shape it into a burger shape just like you shape your story into a story shape. 

  10. You have a choice here. I know! It’s like you’re in a love triangle and you have to choose between the cold vampire and the hot werewolf. 

    You can put the burgers on the sheet of aluminum foil and back 10 minutes per side in the oven. 

    You can grill on a real grill. Place the patties on foil first. Grill 8 minutes each side.

    You can fry it in the pan you used for the onions. Just put down a bit of oil, turn on the heat to medium-low, and cook for 3-4 minutes each side. 

  11. You are probably going to want burger rolls and condiments. That isn’t in the calorie count, but go for it, writer! You did this. You rock star. 

Dogs’ Verdict: We can only eat the bun because — flatulence.

Man Verdict: Can we put bacon on this?

Carrie Verdict: This is the best food ever created other than stuffing and sushi. The end.


Everyone always talks about writing being like cooking.

Clarification: By everyone, I mean writers. Writers like to talk about themselves.

Anyways, there are a million blogs about how writing is like cooking, but not really anything about cooking like a writer. So, our new Thursday segment is now COOKING LIKE A WRITER.


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 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.


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!

I’ll be at Sherman’s Bookstore in Bar Harbor on April 28 from 1-2.

To find out more about my books, there are links in the header. And if you buy one? Thank you so much. Let me know if you want me to send you a bookplate.


The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along with over 3,000 listens.

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.



The awesome six-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. We’ll be having a Zoom class to learn more about it and I’ll share the details as soon as they are official.

Write Submit Support

Chickpea Pasta Sauce and Imposter Syndrome – They Totally Go Together


I made a pasta sauce out of chickpeas. How wild is that? The recipe is inspired by Cooking Light and it doesn’t have a ton of ingredients. Do you know what that means?

It means even starving writers can eat it! I’m talking to you, poets. Seriously. This is super cheap. Yay! Cooking With a Writer

Imposter Syndrome

So, a lot of writers have imposter syndrome. We think we aren’t a ‘real’ writer. That we somehow magically got published and everyone will find out we are a fraud.

This is a real thing.

Almost every writer I know has this. I blogged about it here.

When I was making this recipe, I was thinking about the chickpeas and how they are maybe feeling a little impostery when paired with penne. In the United States, we do our pasta with tomato sauce most of the time. Or sometimes pesto, which costs so much money. An occasional purist will do the olive oil/parmesan/lemon thing, but they are few… Too few… And maybe chickpeas are thinking, “Hey… are you sure about this? I mean… Maybe I don’t belong here in this pasta. I’m not a tomato. I’m not basil. I’m just a little beige cutie.”

Which is sort of how a lot of writers feel about their place in the writing world.

Well, here’s the truth: Chickpeas totally are the real thing. And so are you.

Don’t let yourself tell you otherwise.

There are Chick Peas in my Pasta Sauce because Weird Choices are Good Choices

In writing, we always here that it’s cool to surprise the reader with a nice, happy plot twist or quirky detail but it’s NOT GOOD to surprise the reader with something too wild and unexpected unless you’ve built up to that somehow, which is why Shaun the Meat Eater has no clue that there are chickpeas in this pasta sauce. And we’re going to keep it that way.

Also, the calories are for whole wheat pasta, but there was no way I was going to get that into the man’s gullet, honestly. We used regular bad-for-you pasta. Rebels. 

  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, all chopped up like my episodic story
  • 4 cloves of anti-vampire garlic
  • 1 cup carrot, all chopped up again because this recipe requires knives
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drain them first!!! (Really. Drain them.)
  • .75 cup water
  • .5 tsp pepper (Did you ever notice salt comes before pepper always? What is up with that? )
  • 1 tsp salt (Behind pepper for once)
  • 4 cups penne pasta, cook this and drain this too! (If you keep .75 cups of water you can use it up there)
  • .25 cup basic, fresh, chopped
  1. Cook the pasta in a big pot of water according to the directions on the pasta box. I always do this first because water takes FOREVER to boil and waiting for it to warm up reminds me of waiting for my agent or editor to email me back, which causes…. um… anxiety.

  2. On a totally separate place/burner/heating source, heat the olive oil on MEDIUM HEAT. 

    Medium heat sounds pretty bland. Halfway to hot. Halfway to cold. Worry that this is indicative of your muddy middle where the plot is just… it’s boring and medium. Worry that you are boring and medium. 


  3. Cry

  4. Buck up, little camper. The oil is warm in a medium way and now you must add the minced garlic, the carrots, the onion. Add it. ADD IT, DAMN IT! Now! Right now! Get over yourself and cook this thing!

  5. Cook that mess for 8  minutes. Set the timer in case you get lost in a scintillating inner monologue about positivity and writing and how Oprah visualizes herself as awesome and that somehow works for her. 

  6. Try to create a good mantra like, I am an amazing writer that everyone loves and I make amazing books. 

    Decide you need to edit that mantra. Worry about what it means if you can’t even make a mantra. 

  7. Realize you have imposter syndrome! Oh no! Not again! 

  8. Your eight minutes are up. Take the mixture and add the chickpeas and the pepper, salt and water and put it in a blender and mix it up there until it is smooth. 

  9. Look at you, mixing like a pro! Feel good about this. You did this! You are a cook! And a writer! And a human! Go you! 

  10. Toss the yummy penne pasta stuff (hopefully cooked and warm) and mix it with your amazing blender concoction. If you have enough money to buy fresh basil, sprinkle that on top like it’s magic fairy dust or pixie glitter. 

  11. Eat! You deserve to eat! You do! You are not an imposter. You made a pasta sauce out of chickpeas like a freaking boss. You can get an agent and finish your novel and make a NYT bestseller list. Look at you! 

    Feel powerful. 

    You are. 

Dog Verdict: Pasta is delicious.

Man Verdict: I could eat this forever.

Carrie Verdict: This is so bland. I need to put gochujang in it. Oh my gosh, where is the left-over feta cheese. Okay… okay… now it’s worth the calories.

I actually did squirt gochujang into it because I thought it was too bland. And even then, it needed a zing, which is why I added a tiny bit of feta. This absolutely increases both calories and cost. Recipes with a Writer. Cooking With a Writer


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!




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.


“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.


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’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, 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