Professors I Have Hated and Loved

I only hated two professors in college. One because he was misogynist buttface who only liked guys and was openly derisive about women being incapable of creating art because we were busy “focusing on making babies.” I walked out of his class after yelling at him for a good three minutes.

Most people think I am mellow. I am not mellow. Sometimes, I have no chill. This was one of those times.

I was the only woman in that class. My boyfriend was in that class. Two other guys were in that class.  Nobody else walked out. Just me.

The other professor taught poetry and liked to tell students that they weren’t real enough or raw enough. She wanted pain. She wanted authenticity. She wanted confessional poetry and most of us just sort of wanted to write about white baseball caps, rainbows, and dolphins.

In retrospect, I sort of feel badly for her because I probably would have gotten frustrated about all those poems about white baseball caps, rainbows, and dolphins, too.

But still. It was what we were right then, a lot of us – baseball caps, rainbows, dolphins.

And the rest of the professors? They were amazing. I had really great professors in theater and poetry even though I was a political science major.

Here’s a letter I wrote to one of them recently when he retired from teaching. I was thinking about this a lot after I reposted my Seamus Heaney blog. 

Dear Professor Farnsworth,

I don’t think you will remember me, but I will always remember you because you, your class, and poetry helped save me in a time of my life when salvation seemed highly unlikely.

I spent most of my time at college sick with seizures caused by an Epstein Barr virus that had attacked my brain. I spent most of my time wondering who I was, how I could fit in, and what my voice could possibly be when my broken brain was no longer my own.

You helped me reclaim my voice, but more than that? You helped me expand it.

I was not much of a poet.

I am still not much of a poet.

And you?

You had such a voice.

Resonant, understanding, persistent, encouraging.

You read my poems, all our poems – even the ones about vampires, and taught us that even if we didn’t know our voice right then, our voice would find us if we gave it space and attention.

Space and attention.

Space and attention and intention.

Those very same things that you gave to us.

You are one of the best teachers we could ever know.

You taught us to build up ourselves and our poems, to construct our stories and our voice, piece by piece, word by word, symbol by beautiful symbol. You taught us to craft our poems and our lives with patience and love and strength.

Patience.

Love.

Strength.

Add insight? And that is what you, Robert Farnsworth, represent to me. Patience. Love. Strength. Insight.

Your legacy?

Your legacy is huge and important and ripples into so many other lives? So many lives…

You have helped us to become.

Thank you. May your next stanza of becoming be as beautiful as this one has been.

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DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

Write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life. Send 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

 

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.

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

writing tips life tips carrie jones books

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Being Nice: Who Do You Think You Are?

I spend almost all my time trying to be a nice person. It’s always been like this; I kid you not. Like in fifth grade I was voted MOST COURTEOUS like that was some kind of damn honor or something, right?

Carrie is polite.

Carrie is courteous.

Carrie is word-of-the day worthy.

That’s not who I thought I was.

“Most Courteous” wasn’t what I wanted to be, you know, right? Like I wanted to be “Smartest” or “Prettiest” or “Class Clown” or “Most Athletic” even though “Most Athletic” is something I could never be since I have zero hand-eye coordination. This is because I don’t use my left eye to see. They thought I was blind when I was born. I had an operation. I had glasses when I was one year old and kept them all the way until fifth grade when I prayed to God every night to not have to have glasses in middle school.

There was this stupid Dorothy Parker quote that says, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,” and that quote was like the word of God to me. I knew I would always be most courteous and not real superlative worthy unless I actually got rid of those damn glasses.

So I prayed.

At the doctor’s office, I sat in the chair and stared at the eye chart. It was all on my right eye, I knew. It had to perform at 100 % to get rid of those damn glasses.

The doctor was all, “Can you read this line?”

And I was all, “E.”

And he was all, “Can you read this line?”

And I was all, “T.O.Z.”

He made an interesting noise, like he was impressed. “Go down as low as you can. Just keep reading each line. Start at the top. How about that?”

“Okay.” I took a deep breath and started from the top. “E F P T P Z L P E D.”

I went on and on. I could see them all.

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Sadly, the magical return of my eyesight didn’t make me magically popular as one boy reminded me at a sixth-grade dance at St Joseph’s the one Catholic church in our town. We had one Catholic church, which was where some of the Irish and French Canadian kids went. We had Protestant church, which was Presbyterian. That’s it.

I wanted to be one of those church kids so badly. But one of my dads was an atheist. Another dad was a lapsed Catholic who believed that hell was where we were living right now, on Earth. And my mom gave up her Methodist Church in Manchester because she caught the minister cheating at bowling and called him out on it.

“He lied to my face, that man,” Mom would self-righteously retell us for decades. “Right. To. My. Face. And this man was supposed to be in charge of my spiritual growth? I’ll show him spiritual growth. He was always looking at my cleavage, too. Creep.”

Bowling mattered a lot to my mom. But I was just annoyed because her cleavage and insistence that you aren’t supposed to cheat in bowling meant I couldn’t go to church.

And I wanted to.

I wanted to belong, you know?

plot pacing and proms writing tips

So, when S. slow danced with me three times in a row at the CCD dance, I felt like I might actually belong.

But then he pulled away from me and said, “Carrie, let’s face it. Neither of us are lookers. So we might as well make do with each other.”

I stepped out of his arms and I said one word, “What?”

“I’m saying… I’m saying… We’re not tens so we might as well make do.”

I cried and I ran away and hid in the bathroom. I didn’t come out even when his mom, a freaking chaperone, came in to check on me. I didn’t come out until there wasn’t any music playing at all.

Only then did I run out to my mom’s old Chevy Monte Carlo, which was waiting in the parking lot. I wrenched open the door and slammed myself inside the car.

“What is it?” Her smile went into the anger place where her lips were just straight lines. This was how she looked when she talked about her little Methodist minister friend.

I blurted out what S. said. With my mother, there was no pretending something bad hadn’t happened. There were no secrets, unless they were hers.

“That bastard,” she said.

“I’m ugly.” I sobbed that out somehow.

“You aren’t ugly. That boy is ugly. His heart is ugly. He was working some line. He thinks he’s some actor. Some comedian. He’s a punk.”

But I knew in my heart that my mom was lying. I was ugly. I had to be.

I suddenly became someone I didn’t think I was.

And the thing is, no matter how many times I’ve heard people tell me I’m not, heard boys and girls call me cute or beautiful or lovely or pretty, I’ve never believed them. It’s S.S’s words that I hear in my head, over and over again.

Neither of us are lookers.

            We’re not tens.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Prom dog

I have this other friend who photographs well. She is the opposite of me because I photograph like poop.

She says to me sometimes, “I don’t know how so many guys like you. You and me? We’re alright looking, but we’re not beautiful like OTHER GIRL.”

And I smiled at her.

OTHER GIRL is skinny and blonde and full of acne scars and holes of anxiety that threaten to eat her insides away. And I worry for her all the time.

And I am?

Alright looking, I guess. I became who she said I was.

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Her words shouldn’t matter.

It freaking matters.

 

Other people’s words have echoed and echoed and shaped me until I don’t even want to be in a photograph anymore. I’m too afraid that the image of me that I see will be even worse than I imagine.

I had delusions of insignificance. Every time I felt badly about who I was it was because someone else had put me in a comparison situation.

You know how that is right?

Ah, I’m not as successful as Rick Riordan.

Ah, I’m not as beautiful as all these famous actresses and models or even that random police dispatcher in my town. 

Ah, I’m not as smart as…

Ah, I’m not as good a runner as…

But the thing is? That’s crap. You are magical as you. You don’t need to be compared to anyone else or compare yourself to others. Superlatives are bull. We are all superlative at being ourselves.

Your life is your message to this world.

And what is that message? The truth of you? The truth of me? It sure isn’t how we look. It’s how we are on the inside. For me that’s word-of-the-day Carrie, Courteous Carrie, Writer Carrie, Photographer Carrie, Hug Your Dogs All the Time Carrie.

That’s the truth of you, too.

And looking into mirrors? It’s about more than seeing what’s on the outside, about more than being defined and labeled by what’s on that same outside. It’s about the inner you. The real you and seeing it – really seeing it – and knowing how freaking magic you are just by being you, authentically and truly you.

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That’s not saying you don’t have flaws, that you won’t mess up. We all mess up. We mess up constantly.

Some people are afraid of the #metoo movement, of making their own mistakes when it comes to racial issues, religious issues, sexuality, identity, ability.

That fear? It’s good. It makes us better. We are all heading straight into truth; burning it out of ourselves, all the ugly things that we don’t want to see. We can’t let our fear slow us down. We can’t let other people’s visions of us control us. We can’t be afraid to look into the mirrors that see deep inside of us.

Social media brings out trolls. That’s so true, but it also gives us a voice, a hope. We have a new template for telling our stories, for making our lives and for sharing them in a world where our voices often didn’t matter. We can share our magic in so many ways.

And it’s intoxicating and terrifying. People are interested in other people. People are sharing with other people. People are even interested in us. In us.

And that’s power.

And that’s magic.

Use it wisely. I know I will try to. I know I make mistakes. I know that I am human. But the thing is? I love being human. I love growing and evolving and changing. I hope you do, too.

Writing News

 

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.

The next book coming out with Bloomsbury in August is this one! More on the series here.

Timestoppers3_005

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE – New episode tomorrow!

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

writing tips life tips carrie jones books

Why You Should be Vulnerable in a World of Trolls

Last week, I got the first pass proofs of ESCAPE FROM THE BADLANDS, the third book in the TIME STOPPERS series.

I am afraid of pass proofs.

But they are still super cool.

Why am I afraid of them?

Well, they come after the copy edits, so even if you suddenly realize that having your main character fall in love with a bottle of ALL NATURAL SNAPPLE ICED TEA was important to the plot of the book, you can not magically make this happen now. It is too late!!!!

 SnappleIs it ever really too late to make SNAPPLE an important plot choice/love interest? I doubt it.

Yes, Snapple! It is too late.

Why is it too late?

Well, the first pass proofs are really what the book is going to look like on the page. It’s sort of all set and ready to go.

And that’s scary. Your book baby is ready to go off into the world of anonymous reviews and bookstore shelves, and there is nothing you can do now to toughen her up, make her street smart. She will be out there on her own very very soon and you just have to pray she won’t be a train wreck and become the kind of book that the paparazzi take pictures of because she’s always forgetting to wear her underwear when she gets out of cars.

And all of this made me think about vulnerability.

Because writing a blog, a book, a podcast, creating art, any type of true communication and art is an act of expression and it makes you vulnerable. And this world? This world is currently full of people who attack others. Some of those attacks are horrific and visible. Some are hidden.

So, why do it? Why do anything?

Because if you don’t, the trolls win.

Because if you don’t, fear wins.

Because for every troll attacking you, there is someone who needs your story and your voice. That’s why.

This is why you should still be vulnerable despite the evil in this world. Ready?

Vulnerable People are Leaders

People who lead need to connect to others. Vulnerability and authenticity are ways of connection, ways that we break out of our comfort zones and reach for bigger, better things.

Vulnerability Helps Others

Almost every time I blog or post about something that isn’t considered cool, (Having epilepsy, growing up poor, sleeping in a car, being assaulted), people tell me that I’m inspiring. I sure don’t ever feel inspiring. At all. And I have a hard time accepting that compliment, but… I appreciate that kindness because it means that it means those people are getting something positive out of my life or what I’m saying.

Plus, how cool is it that they took the time out of their lives to deliberately say something kind and supportive.

Honestly?

Can there be a bigger gift than hearing that you’ve helped someone else? Somehow? Even though you were just being you.

 

Vulnerability Is Contagious

Being brave and exposing yourself and your truth? It helps others be brave. Sure, it can backfire. When I first posted about my daughter being worried about me going to the Boston Marathon, trolls said my daughter (who is a Lt in the Army) must be a terrorist and have known about it or else why would she be worried about me. Yep… They actually went there.

And that’s the thing. You never know when someone is going to attack you or what for, but you can’t let that fear of evil suppress your voice, your story, your thoughts or your truths.

Silence is oppressive.

But vulnerability? It’s contagious.

Telling your story gives strength to others who haven’t been able to tell theirs yet. Facing your demons helps others to face their own. Isn’t that the kind of infection we want? Instead of a lack of civility and a parade of trolls, how about we work towards authenticity and vulnerability and truth?

A vulnerability contagion…I think that would be pretty cool. So, today’s Wednesday Writing Wisdom is to be vulnerable. No art is any good without it.

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

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

The Human Utility has a water assistance project in Detroit, Michigan, USA, and other cities around the country.

From its website:

Water companies are turning off the tap in cities across the U.S., forcing low-income families, seniors and single parents to live without basic necessities.

Families without water are forced to go elsewhere to take showers, clean dishes and get a drink. Your donation can help turn the water back on.

You can give money, provide services or partner with 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.

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

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!

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.

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. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

 

COOKING WITH A WRITER

I have started a tongue-in-spoon subgroup in my blog all about cooking vegetarian recipes as a writer. It is silly. The recipes still work though. Check it out here.

Black Bean Soup Recipe. Cooking with a Writer
There are white beans in this image. Try to pretend they aren’t there, okay?

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

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
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 action School Library Journal

How Do You Become? Meeting Secret Superheroes

I used to sleep in a car.

That’s not as big a deal as you would think it was. Yes, it was Maine, but I had a really furry dog who was warm and cuddly.

Nobody knew I did this. Not my friends. Not the people I worked with. Not even my own family.

And I realized one morning as I was rolling up my sleeping bag and hiding the evidence, “Do I want to define myself as the woman who sleeps in a car with her dog?”

And the answer was no. Beds are warmer and cozier and they don’t give you a crick in your back.

Yesterday, I was at a Rotary International District Conference in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. There were these beautiful people all around me. Every one of them volunteers, defining themselves as people of action, people who make change in their community and all around the world.

While they were voting on their budgets, the man next to me gave me a save-the-date card. He was unassuming, thin and over 60, I think.

But this man? This man was a secret superhero. volunteering countless hours to help his community and the world. And then I realized – everyone in this room was the same – they were all changing the world, saving the world, pretty quietly, one teaspoon at a time.

Secret Superheroes

The card the secret superhero man gave me was for a Rotary conference. I have seen a million Rotary International cards, but this one was different.

It had a hashtag on top, which is such a big deal for Rotarians because they aren’t hashtag people. But it was the content of the hashtag that mattered to me:

#whatmightwebe.

“Oh,” I think I may have made a sharp inhale.

“Look at the back. There are quotes on the back.”

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“I love this,” I told him.

He smiled.

As writers and humans we cling to our definitions of who we are.

The first questions people usually ask me when we meet (and it’s not on book tour) is what I do and where I am from as if my job and location define me. It’s  kind of them to ask. I do the same thing.  But who we are isn’t our location and our occupation. It’s so much more. It’s what we decide it to be.

So become what you want to become. Let go of the things that define you. Easier said than done, right?

But you have to try. Let go of the labels that keep you in place and grab the ones you want to own, the ones that will expand you (not in a gassy way, but a uplifting way).

The first step?

Find your passion.

The second step?

Go after it.

When I started writing novels, I was a full-time editor for a small local newspaper sleeping in my car a lot. I wrote on notecards in my car while I waited to pick my daughter up from school. I wrote on the backs of state high school basketball programs during halftime when I was taking photos of a game. I wrote on a laptop balanced on my knee as I covered a planning board meeting. I wrote everywhere. That first story became this.

I just got the first pass proof pages this week for the last book in the series. Many thanks to Bloomsbury for publishing it.

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When I was writing these books back in 2006, I realized that I loved making up stories. So I thought, how can I do this well enough to do this for a living?

I sent a piece of that story and applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts. I got in. I freaked out. I worked ridiculously hard, producing three times the normal amount of work the other students produced.

Why?

Because I felt so lucky to be there, I didn’t want to screw it up.

Here’s the key though: I wanted to do it so much that my fear of failing? It wasn’t as strong as my want. I was willing to work tirelessly and becoming something.

That something wasn’t necessarily being a writer.

That something was becoming better.

I wanted to evolve, to become, to learn, to grow, to be better.

So, that’s the first step, defining your want, your passion, your need and going for it.

So, I’m asking you: What do you want to become?

It’s okay to take a moment to think about that. Sometimes we get so busy fulfilling our obligations and helping family and friends and just surviving, that we forget what we’re surviving for, what we’re aiming to become. And we even feel guilty for taking three extra minutes to actually think about our own selves and who we are.

It’s okay to spend a minute to think. You’ve got this.

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 . Come hang out with me!

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.

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. If you want to help us out, please subscribe to it, share it, or tell us that you like it.

COOKING WITH A WRITER

I’ve started a tongue-in-spoon subgroup in my blog all about cooking vegetarian recipes as a writer. It is silly. The recipes still work though. Check it out here.

Black Bean Soup Recipe. Cooking with a Writer
There are white beans in this image. Try to pretend they aren’t there, okay?

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.

 

Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.

 

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.

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

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.

Cooking With A Writer – Dude, There’s a Burrito in my Spaghetti Squash

I convinced The Man and The Dogs to let me try another vegetarian recipe.

“It’s for the blog,” I said.

“Does the blog earn us any money?” The Man asked.

“Does this vegetarian recipe have bacon bits?” The Dogs asked. “Bacon bits do not count as meat.

“No,” I said. “And no. And yes… chopping meat into tiny bites and bits does not take away the qualities of meat.”

The Dogs decided to sleep through the recipe, which I understand. They’d had a hard day of barking at UPS drivers and squirrels, drooling on windows, and longing for meat products.

The Man did not sleep through the cooking.  He had questions, sort of like a copy editor or something… So many questions about every little detail.

“Does this mean you’re finally going to get rid of the gigantic spaghetti squash that’s been in our bread box for months?’ The Man asked. “Because then I am good with this recipe as long as we can go get pizza later.”

I have a lot to put up with here. Obviously.

carriejonesbooks.blog

This bad boy recipe is really loosely adapted from a much grander recipe from Cookie and Kate. You should check them out and applaud the beauty that is their website.

For background if you are new to this part of my blog:

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.

https://carriejonesbooks.blog

What does this mean?

It means I’m going to share one recipe with you each Thursday and it’s not going to be shiny and pretty and slick. It’s going to be real, people, because writers of kidlit are authentic AF.

Here is your Thursday recipe. The hardest part is cutting the damn squash, honestly. It was so hard! I had to get help.

Burrito Bowl inside a Spaghetti Squash! Say What the What?

Writers! YOU CAN DO THIS! You can make a thought into a story. Of course you can make a squash into a burrito! 

Also, the calories are on the upper end of the scale because I'm imagining you're using a lot of toppings because writers are like that if we have other jobs. If you don't have another job, you probably won't use cheese, right? Because cheese is expensive! And maybe not as many beans? Then your count is going to be in the 250 range. 

Course dinner, entree
Cuisine American, Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 412 kcal

Ingredients

THESE ARE THE ROASTED SQUASH INGREDIENTS - ACT ONE

  • 2 squash - medium, take out its innards and seedy things.
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • salt - dash
  • pepper - a few dashes

THESE ARE THE SLAW INGREDIENTS - ACT TWO

  • 1 package cole slaw mexican salad mix OR two cups of green cabbage shredded
  • 1 can black beans, drain it because it's icky if you don't
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onion - all parts white and green, we love all parts here
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 3 TBSP lime juice

THESE ARE THE SALSA SAUCE INGREDIENTS - ACT THREE

  • 3/4 cup salsa verde
  • 1 avocado - make it ripe, dice it up
  • 1 TBSP lime juice - yes, again with the lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt - yes, again with the salt
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, you've got it, again with the cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic

Random garnishes if you are into that - cheese, more cilantro because we're trying to increase the livelihood of those who produce cilantro, I guess?

Instructions

  1. I am so sorry. But you have to cut the squash in half. I know! I know! This is hard. This requires muscles. Writers' only muscles are in our fingers. This is not enough to chop spaghetti squash in half. 

  2. Recruit help to cut the squash in half. This is like a beta reader. It's okay for a writer/cook to have back-up. Just make sure they are strong. 

  3. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit because that's important. You can do this. This just requires finger muscles to set the degrees. You've got this, writer! 

  4. Spread the olive oil on the squash. Pretend it is the tears that have coalesced after rejection letters. Look at you! You're tears are making something delicious. 

    Add salt and pepper because why not, honestly? 

  5. Flip the squash over so that the inside parts are now down against the baking sheet. Think about how this is like your own inside parts, hidden inside your story. This is you, this squash! This is your heart and soul hidden from the reader but turning into something beautiful. 


  6. Put the pan in the oven! THIS IS IMPORTANT! Use those writing muscles and eat the time for 40 minutes, but it might take an hour. Squash like stories don't really follow perfect schedules and some take a little longer. It's done when a fork can pierce through the flesh.


  7. DO NOT MAKE THE SQUASH YOUR OBJECTIVE CORRELATIVE! I promise. It is not you. It is not your writer soul. You do not need to be pierced easily with a fork. You must remain intact. Take a moment to breathe. You've got this. 

  8. Okay. Are you okay? Make sure you're okay. Don't think about rejections or bad reviews. Take the slaw mix. Add black beans, the red pepper, the cilantro, the lime juice, the olive oil, the salt, the tears. Toss it around. Let it marinate. This is just like writing a book, isn't it? Leave it alone for a bit. Do not check it out. It's good. It's parts are mixing up and complimenting each other like plot and setting and action and voice and dialogue. Actually, maybe walk away from the kitchen and post an Instagram poem about squash and flesh and forks and marinating slaw. 

  9. Okay. It's salsa time! Do you feel happier? Did you write a poem? Did anyone like it? Find a blender. Borrow a blender if you don't have one. It's like borrowing a plot - totally not a big deal. Cough. Okay. So in the blender put the avocado, the salsa verde, the cilantro and lime juice. Add the garlic because this is not a YA novel set in Seattle. No sparkly vampires here, baby. 

  10. Writer. Um... I forgot to tell you to plug in the blender. Put the top on. Press BLEND. Watch things blend. Blend it till smooth. Marvel at how all these random bits come together to make something yummy. These bits are like your thoughts! Wow.... That's deep! 

  11. Dude. You are amazing. You have made three parts of something! IT IS LIKE THE OLD BORING THREE-ACT STRUCTURE OF A STORY! Whoah... Mind blown. Do a happy dance. You're amazing.

  12. Assemble it! Fluff the squash innards up. Put slaw into the hollowed out squash places. Put the salsa verde mix on top. Dang. Look at that. Garnish if you want. Eat your masterpiece! You did this, writer! You! 

https://carriejonesbooks.blog Recipes with a Writer. Cooking With a Writer

Man’s Verdict: That was surprisingly good actually and hearty. Probably because like you know the beans and the spaghetti squash has some density to it. The slaw is like a binder. Through some hot sauce in there.

Dog’s Verdict: Why do you hate us?

Carrie’s Verdict: This was pretty yummy, but cutting a spaghetti squash is so super hard. There must be an easier way to do that. Wait! I should check the internet for ways to do that.

Squash cutting
Squash cutting is serious, people

The ways are here, thanks to Trial and Eater.

Also, my middle grade fantasy series, TIME STOPPERS, is totally out there in the world thanks to the wonderful people at Bloomsbury.  It’s about two kids finding love and acceptance and friendship even though their lives have been super horrible. One of them was raised by trolls pretending to be people. Apparently, there are a lot of trolls out there.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Look, they made a pull quote!

It’s sort of Harry Potter crossed with Percy Jackson crossed with Inkheart, but set in Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor, Maine and it’s full of magic and adventure, but mostly it’s full of friendship. Because friends? Friends matter.

To find out more about it, you can go here. I hope you all have an amazing day and eat yummy food and nobody torments you too much. Watch out for trolls.

 

 

So, Yeah, I Saw Angels at My Bedroom Door – The Writing Life

People are always asking me if I’ll run for political office again and I’m always like, “Um. Hell-a no.”

The last time I ran for office, the honchos at the political party I was involved with told me to shut down my blog because it was sort of um… childish? Too candid? Too self deprecating? Too goofy? All those things.

It wasn’t really mature, basically. I totally get that.

But the thing is? I can’t be fake. I can’t be boastful and super confident. I am quirky and have a muppet voice. People don’t vote for that. People hug that.

And one of those stories that I shared on my blog, which made me pretty unelectable was this one about seeing angels. Here you go. Read it and know that you, too, would never vote for me.

The post

I am sick. I am really REALLY feverish sick. So sick that I spent last night shivering and having hallucinations. I saw angels in the door to my bedroom.


Seriously.

So what did I do?

I shivered under the covers and said, “Please do not let the Emster get sick because she has show choir auditions on Thursday.”

Angels said, “You are a blessed child of God.”

I said, “Uh-huh. But about Em… Could you please not let her get sick?”

Angels said, “You are a child of God and you are blessed.

I said, “Thanks. That’s so super nice, angels, and I really really appreciate you all being here, but… um… since you are here… could you um…? But, um, about Em…and show choir…”

My Post-6

Angels said, “You are blessed.”

I said, “What does that mean exactly?”

Angels sang. The doors glowed. I was left shivering and wondering if I’d be locked up soon and if Em would indeed not get sick.

The next day, I was getting interviewed for the newspaper THE BANGOR DAILY NEWS. I foolishly told the reporter guy I was sick and hallucinated about angels.

And that is why I an unelectable.

Random Marketing and Book Things Since I am an Author and Not a Politician 

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, has a new podcast that came out Tuesday. Shaun swears the mother of all swears in it. Sorry.

My Post-2 copy

And finally, I made a little video for my TIME STOPPERS books.

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.

How Harry Potter Made Me Believe in Writing

I wrote about this pretty recently, but I feel like I need to repost it here on this blog especially as I get ready to start a six-month class at the Writing Barn helping other authors believe in themselves.

Anyway, I hope you’ll forgive me for reposting. I also hope that you have an amazing weekend! You deserve it!

IMG_8499 (1)

Sparty says you also deserve bacon! He also says that he deserves more bacon. Bacon for everyone!

The Post

J.K. Rowlng made me believe in more than magic. She made me believe in myself and that I could be a writer.

I don’t usually talk much about my past because I prefer not to let the things that happened to me define me. I much prefer to define myself. I’m ornery like that. But some days I actually feel a little compelled to talk about that past. Not in sordid detail. Sorry if you are into that.

9781785301544

So here it is: A while ago I was so afraid of my home that I would sleep in my car.

People didn’t know that when it was happening. Most people don’t know that now. I was a respected member of that little community. But I would sleep in the car, often with my dog when it was cold. Maine winters are really cold.

What does this have to do with Harry Potter? Did someone cast a spell and free me from my freezing cold car? In a weird way, yes.

I have the most amazing daughter and she loved the Harry Potter books when she was little.  She wanted me to make a magical world like Harry’s, but catered to her. She wanted the magic to be in Maine set in Acadia National Park near where we lived. She wanted the main character to be a girl who had a cool best friend that may or may not be a troll. She wanted the book to be about friendship and justice and have funny parts. I’d make up the story day after day, telling it to her as we drove to my newspaper reporting assignments that happened after school. And eventually I thought that writing this story, which eventually became the TIME STOPPERS books, was so much more interesting than writing and editing stories for newspapers about local planning board meeting and setback ordinances.

51IYF1CSlDL

I wrote it when I waited to pick Em up from school. I wrote it during down times during town meetings. I wrote it on napkins, in my car, everywhere.

I wanted that story so badly.

I wanted to be a writer so badly.

But I didn’t believe in myself. I couldn’t even admit to myself that I wanted to write.

I was a woman who was too afraid to sleep in her own bed.

I was a woman that bad things happened to.

I didn’t believe I could do something like writing stories about magic and heroes especially for a living, especially when I felt so far from a hero in my own life.

Then I read about J.K. Rowling and how she had all these struggles, about how she wrote and was rejected, but kept writing because she was compelled to make it happen. She persisted.

And I realized that I could persist too.

So, I took that story I was writing and submitted it to Vermont College’s Master of Fine Arts program and promptly forgot about submitting it because there was no chance I could ever get in. And if I did, how could I pay for it?

I got in. My sweet grandmother died and left me a bit of money in her will. I used that money to pay for my master’s.

And a year later I was published, not with TIME STOPPERS, the story I wrote for my daughter, but another story with less magic but still a lot of heroes.

There is so much to admire in the story of Harry Potter and his friends and in the person who is J.K. Rowling, but what I admire so much about her is her authenticity, that she never shied away from telling the world about her bad times. It was that authenticity that allowed me to find my own brave.

I know she will never see this. But what I wish she could know – that we all could know – is that we only have tiny glimpses of the world we create, tiny bits of knowledge of the good we do and the impact we make.

I owe a lot to J.K. Rowling. I became a successful writer who actually gets to write for a living. I have a daughter who graduated Harvard and is all around amazing as she heads out into the adult world ready to make an impact, to change it for good. I live in an adorable place and I never have to sleep in the car, and I’m hardly ever afraid any more.

And it’s because I heard her story and thought, “Maybe I can do this too. I can be brave.”

I hope everyone reading this gets to have that happen to them, and I hope that we can work together to make this world a place where everyone can have the opportunity to feel safe in their houses, in the street, in their country, a world where we can all have the security of space and belief in ourselves to make whatever magic it is that we want to make.

Writing Prompt

Over at Bustle there is a really adorable (and smart) article full of Harry Potter writing prompts. You should go check it out if you’re in that sort of magical mood!

Writing News

An entire box full of The Spy Who Played Baseball arrived at my house on New Year’s Day! It’s a nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg and I need to give a couple away because I’m just that excited about it. If you post a comment on here before Sunday at noon (Eastern Standard Time) and Sparty picks your number at random, I’ll send you a copy and also a copy of another one of my books – probably Time Stoppers. So, do it! I like to mail things.

Also, there’s more stuff about me on my website.

 

Thanks again for reading my blog. I really appreciate it and you so much!

xo

Carrie

The Spy Who Played Baseball