How Does Writing Change Your Life?

Let’s start with the simple things.

  1. Writing allows you to create.
  2. Writing makes you better at communicating.
  3. Writing helps you inspire other people
  4. Writing gives you power. The more you write, the more you understand. The more you share your writing? The more others hear your voice. That’s powerful.

I grew up pretty poor. But there was a time in my more-recent adult life where despite everyone thinking I was totally fine, I was sleeping in the car with my dog, hiding, and trying not to get hurt.

That time feels like forever ago.

But it wasn’t really.

It also feels like a blink-of-an-eye ago.

It wasn’t that, either.

Writing Helps You Survive

The reason I survived was because I could write. I could write newspaper articles quickly and accurately. Those articles honed my ear for dialogue and facts and connections, but also helped me try to understand the truths of the people underneath the statistics and facts.

The reason I survived was because I eventually could write poems and novels where I could talk about loss and fear and persistence because I knew what it was like to be afraid, to lose so many people and things, but also to lose my self.

And survive.

I spent a lot of nights in Maine freezing in the car hugging my dog to stay warm. I thought of stories. I thought of plans. I wrote them down on scraps of paper, margins of meeting agendas, anywhere and everywhere.

I vowed to myself that I would keep trying, keep writing, find a way to make more money, stay warm.

And the more I wrote, the better I became. Even when I was rejected, I kept trying. My life and future depended on it and so did my heart.

There were stories I wanted to tell and stories I wanted to understand. The only way I knew how to do that was with words.

Writing helped me find my self and my words.

Writing gave me the practical skills to succeed in employment and publishing, but also the emotional skills to succeed in life, to feel okay, to understand.

That’s a gift I want everyone to have. There’s a great power that comes from being able to effectively communicate your truths and ideas. Some people are afraid of that. They don’t want voices that don’t match their own. That’s even more reason to write, to speak, to tell your story.

Tell your stories.

It could change your world. It could make your life better because it will make you more honest about who you are, give you skills to escape, skills to survive, and skills to succeed.

I want that for you.

Other posts about poverty or persistence are here:

Finding Hope Despite Everything

Rejection Doesn’t Have to Be the End

WRITING NEWS

Art News

I’ll be at CoeSpace in Bangor on June 7 as an artist! I know! I know! I’m hyperventilating about it already.

You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.

Carrie Jones Art for Sale
The Last Gods

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

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

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

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


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

QUICK WRITING TIP. IGNORE MY FACE!

Advertisements

When Women Come Together Things Get A Little Bad Ass

BAR HARBOR, Maine — “I love that you are doing this,” Erica Brooks, associate broker at the Swan Agency, announces as she approaches a table where Nicole Ouellette, owner of Breaking Even and Anchorspace, sits as she creates a computerized map of women-owned businesses on Mount Desert Island. The women are just two of many at the Women-Owned-Business Expo in the old gym at the MDI YWCA.

Behind them are various tables all featuring women-owned businesses. The range from financial planning to real estate, arts to mortgage services. Marketing materials, art work, drums, examples of their work decorate the tables.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The women here will tell you that business ownership changes you. Every interaction, every solicitation, every success and failure, brings with it an experience, a toughness, a life lesson. And these women? They leave an impact on their clients, their students, their community. Those impacts? They matter. The sounds of the women are joyous and insightful as they talk and help each other set up.

Ouellette asks Brooks to sign up for a raffle of business books. All the books are written by women and stacked on the table, right behind an entry form and sign-up sheet. Brooks happily adds her name.

“I think this event attracts women who want a book with the word, ‘badass,'” Ouellette says, lifting one up that has that exact word in the title.

Brooks agrees, laughing, and then even as the other women continue to set up, Brooks segues into something pretty poignant for early on a Saturday morning in a small coastal Maine town of only about 5,000 year-round residents. She starts talking about how real estate is her passion and how part of that is empowering women, two ideas which most people don’t immediately hook together. But after a negative life event, when she was able to buy her own house, she felt incredibly empowered.

“Financial freedom… equity in real estate,” she says. It means something to her.

Ouellette agrees, “I spent my entire twenties trying to get my friends to open an IRA.”

Owning a business for many of the women is about doing something they enjoy, a passion, a love, but it’s also about making money, supporting themselves, making connections and empowerment.

One of Ouellette’s businesses, Anchorspace, is cohosting the event with the MDI YWCA. Her business’s tagline is, “Where Downeast Maine gets to work,” where she hopes people will work smarter, healthier and together. One of her many passions is apparent at the Expo, it’s bringing people together so that they can support each other, shout out each other’s successes and hook them into new revenue streams and friendships.

“I’m meeting so many women, really cool women,” Elise Frank of Edward Jones says.

Surely that kind of joy and connection is both important for the women themselves as well as the community they work with. Maybe networking and friendship skills should be taught in schools as well as at home. Maybe learning to listen to a new friend should be learned when you’re learning your ABC’s and then again with a refresher course in high school. The world would probably be a better place.

That’s what is happening here.

The event is held at the MDI YWCA, whose mission is empowering women and promoting diversity. Throughout the three hours there’s a lot of happy networking happening. Women keep adding more and more names to the map of local women-owned businesses, trying to remember everyone and not leave anyone out.

“That seems impossible. There are so many… so many women,” one lady murmurs. “It’s pretty incredible.”

At the same time, new clients are potentially met, and friendships solidify.

The talk keeps turning back to certain themes. Mothers. Potential. Abilities. The desire to become something, to create something, and to reach their own best potentials. Liz Cutler, owner of ArtWaves. talks about her mother’s brilliance in mathematics and how she gave up a promising career when she became a mother.

“She was wonderful,” Liz says, but she also has to wonder how hard that was.

Becky Carroll talks about her desire to become more artistic like other members of her family, about exploring new talents . Women murmur about fitting in, striking out, holding each other up even while remembering their relatives who may not have had those same opportunities.

After three hours, the business owners say goodbye to Ouellette. Sherri Dyer of MDI Mortgage offers to help Cutler carry her paintings and easels out to her car. But before they leave, they join in a chorus of women thanking Ouellette for the opportunity.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you.”

It’s a chorus of appreciation for a kindness and an event meant to empower women, create friendships and promote each other. It’s a litany of thanks for an event the world needs more of, an event that’s about lifting each other up instead of pulling each other down, about community and opportunity, about learning more about your neighbors than you knew before.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Timestoppers3_005

I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

 

Resist The Silence

My dad was a dark-skinned man, ethnically Portuguese, but in the New Hampshire in the summer nobody knew exactly what he was and they all wanted to define him.

“What are you? Italian? Mexican?” People would ask.

He built a jewelry store for members of a mafia family. They insisted he was Italian. He’d shrug when my mom got annoyed about this.

“You work like a Mexican. You’re Mexican, right?” Some guy said to him once.

“You? What are you? Native? You a Cherokee or something?” People would ask because all First Nation people are somehow Cherokee even in New Hampshire.

Decades before I was born, he gave up trying to explain who he was. People had already labeled him.  And relabeled him. And labeled him again.

One time, we were out fishing and some young white guys came up and freaked out because I was pretty pale compared to my dad and they decided that he’d abducted me. Or something.

They called him the n-word. They threatened him. He just took it and took it and took it silently.  I eventually yelled for them to leave my daddy alone. I was pretty young and scared. All I really understood was that they were mean and that they were mean because they were being racist.

When we were driving back home, I asked him why he didn’t tell them that he wasn’t black. I asked him why he didn’t fight back. And I’m sure there were a lot of reasons he didn’t articulate and some that he probably did, but the one that I remember is this:

“I am lucky enough to be born a white man. What we had to deal with out there, I’m sorry that you had to see it, baby, but what black men and women deal with all the time? It’s so much worse.”

For my dad that was a long speech.

What was special about him was that he noticed other people’s situations, the things that they had to deal with. He never prioritized his experienced because he was “one piece of humanity.” Not all of it.

 

IN ORDER TO BE UNIFIED YOU HAVE TO NOTICE OTHERS; YOU CAN’T HELP OTHERS IF YOU EXIST IN YOUR OWN BUBBLE

Last Monday I talked about women’s anger and this week, I’m talking about unity. Sort of.

Audre Lorde wrote in Eye to Eye, “Sometimes exploring our differences feels like marching out into war.”

But sometimes just noticing each other seems almost impossible. You would think in the world of social media that we would come into more contact with difference, but that’s not always the case.

Divides are not new. The divide between parties or political ideologies, between races or genders or class or religion or ways of loving, is old and it morphs. Us humans seem to like ‘sides’ and ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ and teams. There are some really interesting studies by the Pew Research Center that talk about political polarization.

But the divide doesn’t have to be all that happens. Unity doesn’t mean that we all have to think/be/do the same things. Unity doesn’t have to be forced homogeneity. Neither does love.

But that can’t happen if we only live in polarities.

And it can’t happen if we only know about people who fit our own demographics and psychographics. It can’t happen when we only know what’s going on with people who look/think/live like us.

We have to notice and respect other people’s experiences.

THE FACEBOOK POST

Yesterday, a post went around Facebook asking women to black out their photos for a specific reason.

Tomorrow, female blackout from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Its a movement to show what the world might be like without women. Your profile photo should just be a black square so that men wonder where the women are. Pass it only to women … It’s for a project against domestic abuse. It is no joke. Share it

My Post-16

Typos are not mine for a change. 🙂

The originators wanted everyone to be silent and to make their profile pictures a black box, like the one above. According to Forbes, the chain message actually began in 2017. It’s surfaced a few times and picked up steam last weekend.  Since yesterday, I’ve seen a lot of my friends shift their profile picture to a square and then switch back. I’ve seen blog posts and status updates about how this is actually silencing us as women and silencing our voices and how we should be roaring instead of silent.

I appreciate that.

But there was a bit more going on yesterday, too.

MARCHES FOR BLACK WOMEN

Yesterday was also part of a weekend full of Marches for Black Women. Here’s a post about it from Bustle. According to the website, “The physical, financial, and social enrichment of the nation-state at the expense of Black bodies and at the expense of Black lives is too old a strategy, and Black women will not allow for it.

These marches  are happening on an important date in U.S. history. It’s the anniversary of the Elaine Massacres where it’s estimated that over 200 were killed as a response to unionizing, which white landowners found threatening.

And the thing is that I know that my white friends who were upset about domestic violence and I know that my liberal friends who are upset about the Kavanaugh hearings wouldn’t want to be complicit in not amplifying black voices let alone ignoring them. But I don’t think they knew about the marches this weekend. I bet many of us don’t know about the Elaine Massacres.  Our ignorance might not be intentional, but it’s there. And what message does it give to WOC when we’re saying, “Hey, let’s all be quiet on this day that you chose to march, to shout out your needs, to put yourself front and center.”

It sends a really strong message even when it’s unintentional.

LOOKING OUTSIDE OUR BUBBLES

And we need to do better. We need to educate ourselves and look outside our bubbles. We need to be outraged not just about white women, but about the treatment of all women. We need to hear voices that come from backgrounds that are not our own and from needs that are not our own. Even when it’s hard.

“Mainstream Communication does not want women, particularly white women, responding to racism. It wants racism to be accepted as an immutable given in the fabric of your existence, living evening time or the common cold.”—Audre Lorde. “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” Sister Outsider. Crossing Press Berkley. 1984. Originally published as the keynote presentation at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference, Storrs, Connecticut, June 1981

Racism should not be a given, not in our culture, not in our own selves.

 

My dad was right about a lot of things, but especially about being an ally and recognizing that your experience isn’t everyone else’s.

In this age of social media, it’s so important to remember that, and to be aware that there are other voices out there, many ways to be disenfranchised, and caring about those other voices doesn’t mean you aren’t taking care of yourself. It means we raise each other up as we all attempt to rise up to greater heights and understandings and a better world for everyone.

But don’t be silent or call for silence. Because it doesn’t make us stronger. It makes us unheard.

 

tumblr_o6ufn9aEi41rzzhceo1_500

Obviously, there is a time for silence – when you are listening to other people, to the disenfranchised and not pushing your words and agenda into their space. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about choosing group silence as the disenfranchised/oppressed group while those in power still talk, write, and are heard.

Some Resources

Some really good stories about America’s First Black Women’s Club are here

If you are interested in reading more kid lit with Black voices, check out the Brown Bookshelf.

If you’d like to read some really good speeches, check out here (Mary Church Terrell). 

And finally, for more about Audre Lorde, check out the Audre Lorde Project.

WRITING NEWS

ENHANCED, the follow-up to FLYING is here! And the books are out of this world. Please buy them and support a writer.

 

The last TIME STOPPERS BOOK is out and I love it. You should buy it because it’s empowering and about friendship and bias and magic. Plus, dragons and elves.

Timestoppers3_005

How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

Art Stuff

You can buy prints of my art here. Thank you so much for supporting my books and me and each other. I hope you have an amazing day.

A new episode of Dogs are Smarter Than People, the quirky podcast with writing tips, life tips and a random thought will be up tomorrow. Check it out, like and subscribe!

Five Ways to Write Happy
Five Ways to Write Happy

 

Mansplaining Buttfaces and Women’s Anger

The other week a man that I once trained gave me a piece of paper citing exactly what I once trained him about. He presented it to me like it was brand new information.

He handed this piece of paper across a table where I was surrounded by my colleagues who all know that I had explained to him what he was now preaching to me and he did it as if I’ve never heard any of it before.

I stared at that piece of paper one moment too long.

He then proceeded to mansplain something to me that I trained him about less than a year ago.

And I said, “Yes. We’ve made a conscious decision not to do that here for multiple reasons. Would you like to hear them?”

And everyone at the table sort of flinched. But nobody said anything. Nobody usually does. Except the mansplainer who didn’t want me to say our reasons. He just jumped to a different topic instead of taking that moment to maybe learn something, which is sad. It’s sad for him.

Afterwards, someone said, “You had your voice. That voice you get. The angry voice”

And someone else said, “I was ready for you to go crazy.”

But I didn’t. Because in that second I was too tired to care. Instead I thought, “Hey, at least he listened the first time when I taught him about the exact same thing he’s shoving in my face today.”

I regret that now.

In a New York Times article, Leslie Jamison wrote, “For years, I described myself as someone who wasn’t prone to anger. ‘I don’t get angry,’ I said. ‘I get sad.'”

Women and girls? Sometimes we have a hard time realizing that what we’re feeling isn’t sadness, but anger.

And Jamison goes into that a bit in her article writing, “If an angry woman makes people uneasy, then her more palatable counterpart, the sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant. Angry women are messier. Their pain threatens to cause more collateral damage. It’s as if the prospect of a woman’s anger harming other people threatens to rob her of the social capital she has gained by being wronged. We are most comfortable with female anger when it promises to regulate itself, to refrain from recklessness, to stay civilized.”

After I gave a training last week, a disruptive, older man told me afterwards that I would get paid for talking if “You weren’t nervous.”

“I wasn’t nervous,” I said, pretty calmly. “I’m high energy.”

“You were nervous,” he insisted, stepping closer. “That’s why you move around a lot.”

“No. I move around a lot because I have a lot of energy. I like my trainings to be inclusive, to involve the people and engage them instead of me standing up there and preaching,” I insisted.

Another man, same demographic, came over and said, “Carrie’s authentic. She’s passionate. That’s what you’re supposed to be.”

“Maybe you should sit down,” the first man said to me, inching even closer, “that would contain your energy.”

“No,” I said, literally standing my ground. “I’m not as good a speaker when I sit down.”

And the man with us (Nice Man) said, “Carrie’s a great speaker. You wouldn’t want to change anything she does. Everyone was rapt. You were enraptured. There’s magic in what she does.”

I can not tell you how much I appreciated Nice Man aka Second Man. I jaunted off and first man actually yelled after me, “You could get paid for this if you weren’t nervous.”

I basically had enough. I whirled around and shouted from the doorway of the room, “I wasn’t nervous. Think of it this way. I’m like Janis Joplin. You can’t help but watch me because you’re constantly worried I’m going to fall of the stage. Okay?”

I did a speed walk sort of thing down the hallway and this other facilitator told me she was going to buy me a beer. She did. I deserved a keg honestly, but I got something better:

  1. A nice man who knew exactly what to say and when
  2. A female friend who has had similar things happen to her
  3. Self respect because despite my conflict-averse nature I stood up for myself over and over again even as a rich white man, older, in a position of power, wouldn’t back down.

Over that beer, the same woman told me how she walked out of a training once because the man in charge of the event didn’t want her to use a projector because when she walked in front of it, the lights flashed on her breasts.

Seriously.

When she told me that story, I was so proud of her because she didn’t back down. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about anger lately and how so many women relate anger to powerlessness and how men relate anger to power and how our society consists of so many of these binaries.

Author and activist Soraya Chemaly talks about this in her just released, “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger.” There’s an excellent interview with her here at WBUR.

But my favorite thing that she says is this, “When we shut down somebody’s anger we are literally silencing the knowledge they have and saying it’s not valuable to us as a social resource.”

I did that to myself during that first exchange with the mansplaining. I could have taught him more, but I shut down my assertiveness before it got ‘out of control,’ and I silenced the knowledge I had and didn’t share it. Not that he deserved it, but the other people at the table did.

That’s a big deal. It’s so hard not to let others shut down our anger as women.

Anger has meaning. There are reasons people are angry. And when we shut down their anger, we also shut down their voices. This is so important when we’re talking about bias and oppression. By shutting down angry voices, we shut down the opportunity to make ourselves better as people and as a country.

Anger isn’t this one-size-fit-all thing. Anger is used to stereotype an entire race of women into a trope. Think about all the pejoratives used for black women in America.

Anger and sex combined is used to defame people implying their emotions are out of control, ie calling Kamala Harris and Corey Booker “hysterical women” during the Kavanaugh hearings or Serena Williams “hysterical” when she was arguing with the tennis judge. But it’s also the all-encompassing term that doesn’t cover the nuances.

There are so many nuances. Me speaking about human trafficking isn’t the same as a man raging at his wife because she texted another man. Me getting annoyed at someone teaching me what I’ve taught them isn’t the same as someone screaming at their colleagues because of a newspaper article. Me being annoyed at a man cornering me and insisting that I was ‘nervous’ isn’t anywhere near the same as a woman’s anger and frustration when she’s been systemically oppressed because of both her race and her sex, and possibly also her sexuality or religion or economic class.

All anger isn’t the same. Anger has degrees and nuances.

When one of my friends was talking about me getting “that voice,” that voice isn’t me actually angry. It’s me assertive. It’s honestly just me not being simpering. And whenever I use that voice? People listen and they bristle and some of them rub their hands together because they expect a fight and unlike me – they like fights.

But why does that assertive voice equate to being angry? Why is me being passionate and assertive the same thing as me being enraged?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s because I’m a woman.

I talk about this with my male friends and family all the time, how if my tone isn’t absolutely loving and placating people get offended or think I’m being angry. And how their every-day tones are so much harsher that the one I have which sets people off.

I’ll give you another hint. I’m not actually angry when I talk that way. It just means I care.  It means I want to be heard. And that’s the scary thing. Why is being heard threatening? Why is it so scary to see women, to listen to women, and to hear them? And when we do listen to them, and hear them in a place like a training, why do we feel compelled to tell them to change?

WRITING NEWS

I’m heading to Freeport, Maine on Sept. 28 and then Houston and Virginia Beach pretty soon to promote my picture book biography of Moe Berg. It’s called The Spy Who Played Baseball. 

My Post copy 6

 

ENHANCED and  FLYING are here! And they’re out of this world. Please buy them and support a writer.

 

The last TIME STOPPERS BOOK is out and I love it. You should buy it because it’s empowering and about friendship and bias and magic. Plus, dragons and elves.

Timestoppers3_005

How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

Art Stuff

You can buy prints of my art here. Thank you so much for supporting my books and me and each other. I hope you have an amazing day.

Hey! I have epilepsy. Sometimes, so do my characters.

One day I was hanging out in the hallway of the middle school with some other moms, waiting for all the sports practices to be over so we could shuttle our kids home.

These two other moms standing next to me were talking about diets and diabetes. They were both on Weight Watchers. One mom has lost tons of weight. The moms talked about the effect of weight on piercing private places and all this incredibly personal stuff.

Then they started talking about sugar and sugar substitutes (Splenda and aspartame).

One mom goes, “That aspartame. I stay away from that stuff. It makes the back of my throat feel funny. I think it does something to rats.”

So I say, “Aspartame gives me seizures.”

And I add, “So does coffee.”

IMG-1613
I swear both their mouths dropped open and they both actually stopped talking, which was a big deal, because they NEVER stop talking. I love them. I love their talking, but yeah . . . they are super good at it.

And when their mouths dropped open, I realized: You can talk about your diabetes, your husband’s joy stick, your own special piercings, your kids’ bed wetting, but you can’t talk about epilepsy.

And, this just totally sucks.

Because, I’m someone who is really, really lucky. I know what makes me have seizures so I avoid those things (Truth Alert: It does suck to give up beautiful caffinated coffee and gum), but other people aren’t lucky at all.
About one person in every 26 will have epilepsy at some point in his/her life. And they don’t always have the choice of disclosure, and they just have the stigma.

So? What does this have to do with writing?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the choices I made with Belle, the protagonist of Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend. I made her a folk singer for important reasons. I also gave her seizures, the same kind of seizures I have, caused by the same thing.

tipslarge-214x300

Her epilepsy is not a part of the plot. It’s not a part of the character development. But it’s there.

And, no matter how bad my book is, or how good, or if anyone buys it, or doesn’t, or awards it won, I am really, really glad I made that choice for Belle.

Choices are important in our lives and in our books. It’s the choices we make that inform the people we are, and also inform the characters we right. That’s pretty cool.

Like Sparty says, choose to grow, be broad, celebrate your next choices, listen to some awesome tunes. Be the person, the writer, the character you want to be. No matter what stigmas hold you back. You’ve got this.

IMG-1798

Wednesday Writing Wisdom & Being a Woman who is Not Ditzy

A few years ago, I attended the Poinsettia Ball, which was THE main social event in our community. I helped set up the Friday before the event, during which time I learned how to make sure all the flatware is aligned EXACTLY the right way.

It was actually kind of fun… the setting up part.

But, then, at the actual ball, this man comes up to me, and he’s vaguely familiar, but I can’t remember who he is. He’s got a red tie on. He’s a bit stooped over. But I smile anyway when he grabs my hand. I usually get hugged upon greeting instead of a handshake, so I figure it’s okay that I don’t know who he is right away. A handshake means we aren’t on hugging terms.

And he goes to me, “Hi, Carrie. Are you still –zy?”

I lean forward, although trying not to lean too far forward because of the whole breasts-in-gown thing, and I say, “Am I still busy? Yeah, I guess so.”

“No. Are you still –zy?”

He’s shaking his head at me.

I back up, he’s still clutching my hand so I can’t get free. People swarm around us, getting drinks, admiring each other. They are all loud talkers and it’s not easy to hear.

“Busy?” I ask.

“NO!” he yells. “Ditzy!”

Ditzy? Am I still ditzy?” I have finally evacuated my hand. What do I say? I have no idea. And because I just want to get away, I blurt, “Um. I guess so?”

I am immediately angry at myself for this answer, for being so shocked and surprised that I just let this random red-tie-wearing man define me.

Things like this always shock me. I had NO IDEA anyone perceived me as ditzy. Can newspaper editors (which is what I was then) be ditzy? Can former city councilors?

It’s amazing how many different perceptions people can have of you and how many different perceptions you can have of yourself.

Really.

So, after running away from HE WHO CALLS ME DITZY, I bump into a past teacher of the year, marathon runner,and told him the story. He actually gets angry on my behalf, which is SOOOO nice and says, “Carrie, do you want me to take him outside?”

“No,” I tell him. “I just want to know if I’m ditzy.”

“You are not ditzy,” he tells me.

“You swear?”

“Swear.”

Thank God for teachers of the year.

But there are two things that make me come back to this story as both a writer and a woman.

  1. As writers, we need to remember that not everyone always sees our character the same way – defines them the same way. And some people who define them are terribly wrong.  But that’s a good thing to remember when trying to give our characters depth and layers.
  2. As a woman, I keep thinking to myself, “WTF?”  Did I seriously let some random guy tell me I’m ditzy and agree? And then the immediate person I talked to was another man? Yes, second man was awesome. But why was I even so worried about how they defined me? What they thought of me? Why didn’t I go ask a woman instead? But more importantly, why did I ask anyone at all? The only person who should get to define you is you.  I say that to people all the time. Why couldn’t I have said that to me? Why didn’t I think, the only person who gets to define me is me?