There are Storms in My Brain

BRAINSTORMING?

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

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

Five Ways To Get Story Ideas

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

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

ONE WAY TO STORM IS BY ADMIRING OTHER’S WORK

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

ANOTHER WAY TO INCITE A HAILSTORM OF QUESTIONS

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

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

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

 

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

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

FOURTH WAY OF ICY UNDERSTANDING

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

FIFTH WAY – AN EMOTIONAL BLIZZARD

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

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

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

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

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

Writing Tip of the Podcast
Writing Tip of the Podcast

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

Prom Parties Can Make You a Writer & Teach You About Pacing

Since I have no shame what-so-ever, and since I enjoy humiliating myself I am going to post my old prom pictures here.

So, here it is:

This is me with Joe. Joe is gay. He wasn’t out yet here. He was the best boyfriend ever obviously since he went to the prom with me despite the fact that I was wearing this pink monstrosity of a dress. From now on the dress will be referred to as BERTHABELINDAGOGOS.

Check out the bottom part of BERTHABELINDAGOGOS! You could make five dresses for Beyonce out of that… that… Not that Beyonce would allow that, obviously.

Oh! What is the name for the bottom part of a dress? You can tell I am no good at dressmaking terms. Oh… yeah… hemline?

Also, please try to ignore my hair and the fact that we are holding my dog, Shelly Belly, and gazing at each other in a total Lifetime Movie sort of way and that Shelly Belly is ALSO GAZING AT JOE IN A TOTAL LIFETIME MOVIE SORT OF WAY!!! Shelly Belly! I never knew.

(Yes. Those are two different pink dresses. Yes. Joe and I went to two different proms together, two years in a row. Yes. My mother made us pose in front of the fireplace EACH TIME!!!)

Cleansing breaths, Carrie. Cleansing breaths.

 

Here are Joe and I post prom at Hampton Beach in NH, which is where everyone went if they:

1. Didn’t go to a hotel to be skanky
2. Didn’t go home to be lonely
3. Didn’t go to the post-prom party to be good kids approved of by the school administration and parents everywhere.

Although, actually we did go to the post-prom party and it was there that my German teacher (who is QUITE similar to the German teacher in TIPS) dunked me in the swimming pool repeatedly. I have not forgiven him for the repeated dunking (Water up the nose is NOT fun, Herr Wells!), which is why there is a German teacher in TIPS.

Note in the picture that  the cool U2 shirt, and Chris LaSalle passed out behind us. He is the lump in the sand.

Note that the Emster hates this picture.

Note that I am posting it anyway because my chin looks good.

Note that we went to the post-prom party because you could win things (I WON A SAVINGS BOND, WHICH PAID FOR A COMPUTER, WHICH SET ME ON THE COURSE OF BEING A WRITER) and  because there was free pizza!

Moral of the story: Always go to post-prom parties if you want to be a writer or get free pizza.

Where is the Writing Wisdom in all this, you might ask. Is this not Writing Wisdom Wednesday and also Do Good Wednesday? Yes… yes… it is.

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Writing Wisdom Time

Books are like prom experiences.

No two proms are going to be the same even if you go with the same person. Proms have different levels of thrill and different levels of boredom. Some are hell on earth. Some are fantasies out of 1980s movies complete with awesome soundtracks.

Books are like that, too.

There is no one way to be a book. But all books, and all proms have a certain pace to them. You expect for them to fall into one of the types of pacing and action:

Some will be a slower, mellow time. Think a quiet, literary novel.

Some will be all razz-ma-razz action, blowing your hair back. Think a loud movie about Marvel characters, only as a book.

What happens is you get an expectation of pace that happens from your very first page and voice and tone, or the moment your prom date shows up with a clown wig and another woman on his arm. You set up the cause and effect, the action and reaction, and the speed between those two elements.

If you think of it as plot points, then you want to have a consistent distance between plot points.

Plot Point One…. 5,000 words happen…. Plot Point Two… 5,000 words happen. 

And so on.

But then the plot speeds up right before the climax, and then it slows down right after a huge revelation or plot point to allow for emotional reaction.

Pacing is a tool you get to use to make the best story possible. How cool is that?

carriejonesbooks.blog

Do Good Wednesday

In honor of Joe and all the people I love and adore and respect, here is your Do Good Wednesday link. All you need to do is get informed. That’s it.

I once had someone look at TIPS; it was an industry professional and he lived in NYC and he’s super liberal and he said, “Carrie. This isn’t a believable premise. Hate crimes against gays don’t happen anymore.”

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He was obviously wrong then. He is still wrong now. We have only just had the first teen gay romance movie, right? We are still growing and as we grow? Sometimes hate lashes back and out harder than ever. So, just read about it, especially if you’re straight. Think about what it is to be a child of love.

 

Random Marketing and Book Things Since I am an Author and Need To Make Money.

I know! I’m not supposed to admit it. 

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.

 

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.

The List in My Head

Usually, I have a little list in my head of THE COOLEST THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO CARRIE IN ONE WEEK. This is how I keep the horrible things from bothering me, and believe me thanks to Sparty’s breath smelling like the litter box and Gabby having some doggy indigestion, things haven’t been too swell around here. (Note: How goofy is the word ‘swell?’)

And, I think I already have a winner for the COOLEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO CARRIE THIS WEEK!

I was out taking photos and all strung up with cameras and lenses when I saw a librarian walking across the parking lot.

She also saw me.

Her face lit up.

I instantly panicked and stressed about the overdue books in a bag in my car. I wondered if I had enough cash in my camera bag to cover my fines. Would she tackle me? Would she slap my wrists with something? I didn’t know… Maybe I could outrun her, hide in the produce section of Hannaford’s Maybe…

But then she smiled and said, “Carrie! I read your book!!!”

And then I remembered that she isn’t a librarian in my actual town. Doh!

And then she told me that she read my ancient, old book because another librarian talked about it on a listserv and then she said the most amazing words an author can hear: I LOVED IT, CARRIE. I really loved it.

YAY! A librarian I know loved Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend.

But it gets better than that because then she hugged me!!!!

There is nothing better than a librarian hug. Except maybe a kid hug. But they are pretty close.

I hope you all get hugged by librarians this week or at least dog kissed. Gabby would be happy to provide the service:

And speaking about kissing… let’s talk writer advice here with:

Lines of Desire and Character Wants

Desire. It sort of sounds like erotica, but desire needs to be a part of all story. Not the rated-x kind, but the kind that relates to your character and your character’s longing.

Humans are always wanting, needing, and desiring.

We are born. We want to be fed. We want to be held. We want sleep.

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And we want hugs. Usually. But not all of us.

And so it goes all our lives. When it’s about your characters’ multiple levels of desire, it is often about yearning.

What is it that your character yearns for above all else? This is also often called the super objective. This is the place where readers connect with your character – this yearning. It’s what resonates with them. Why? Because they yearn too.

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A lot of writers have super objectives and desire lines inserted into their characters without even realizing it. Their character pops out yearning and it’s merely a tweaking of that in prose.

But sometimes? It isn’t that easy.

My Post-6 copy

So what do you need?

You need two main things: A concrete desire and an internal desire are the big ones that are meant to drive your character through most (if not all) of the book.

What is concrete? It’s something real, tangible. It’s making a team. It’s getting a kiss. It’s saving a town.

What is internal? It’s what happens on the inside. This is where the characters emotional desires are pulling her or him through the book. It could be a want for home, family, friends. It could be to feel worthy. It could be to feel loved. This propels the character through the book, too.

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Sparty just wants a good cuddle

So, along with that, in theater when we do character studies, we think about these three questions in every scene we play. So in writing, we’d think about these things in every chapter we write.

These are the characters’ questions:

I want –

I need –

I must have –

And we fill in the blanks. In each scene, we see those three objectives and how they relate to our character. We can do that with novels too. What is it that the character wants, needs, and must have (super objective, greater than all other objectives, the desire line of objectives)?

The super objective or must have is what creates that arc throughout the entire piece/novel/play – the want that provides the throughline and arc.

Pretty cool, huh?

Random note: You can do this for more than just your characters. You can do this for your life. What is it you want, that you need, that you absolutely must have?

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

You want to make a difference in the world. I know you do.

According to its website, Amnesty International is “a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.”

Zara in the NEED books was big into writing letters to political prisoners via Amnesty’s network.

This link brings you to a page where you can sign a petition to add your voice to thousands of others who are calling for an end to the assault on Syria’s Easter Ghouta.

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Random Marketing and Book Things

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 yesterday.

And finally, I made a little video for my TIME STOPPERS books. Hopefully, the link works. I’m a bit worried about it not showing up.

 

Your Voice Is Your Own

Your voice… who you are… it matters.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Your Voice Is Your Own
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In Episode Eight, we learn a little bit about voice. Also, in our ‘voice experiment,’ Shaun lets loose with a couple of f-bombs, so I’ve marked this episode as explicit. The man cannot be controlled.

Whether you’re writing or just living, your voice is an integral part of what you are communicating to the world.

www.carriejonesbooks.blog

Writer Tip Of The Pod:

Voice isn’t just about your sentence structure and word choice; it’s how your narrator sees the world. It’s what drives them. It’s the subconscious experiences that have created their reality.

To get to the voice of your character, you have to be your character.

Let the kindness in your heart be reflected in your voice.  

Dog Tip For Life:

Don’t be afraid to let your inner world be part of your voice. Don’t be afraid to extend kindness to others. Let the kindness in your heart be reflected in your voice.

Bonus Podcast – How Carrie Messes Up Everything and Still Got Traditionally Published

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Bonus Podcast - How Carrie Messes Up Everything and Still Got Traditionally Published
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So, um… the title sort of says it all, doesn’t it?

This solo podcast talks about how I did, indeed, mess up my entire submission, but still (unagented) got out of the slush pile and had a book deal.

 

A much longer written version of this story is on my website here.

Three Ways To Create Characters W/ Epilepsy and Not Make Them Stereotypes

Don’t let one attribute define the character. An author can’t make a character’s one attribute be that she has seizures any more than the author can make that character’s one attribute be that she is only her race or only cranky or gay or hearing-impaired or short or really into ping-pong, so into ping-pong that she only refers to it as table tennis.

What did the nurse do when she saw that her patient was having a seizure in the bathtub?

She threw in the laundry.          

  -Common epilepsy joke on the Internet

Lovely, right?  Dehumanizing. Who cares if the patient drowns. The laundry is more important.

 

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Me being more than someone with epilepsy

 

  1. Don’t Let One Attribute Define an Entire Character

 It’s the same as creating any character. Don’t let one attribute define the character. An author can’t make a character’s one attribute be that she has seizures any more than the author can make that character’s one attribute be that she is only her race or only cranky or gay or hearing-impaired or short or really into ping-pong, so into ping-pong that she only refers to it as table tennis.

Some authors use sketches to create a full character, asking themselves questions such as: What does my character want? How old was she when she crawled? What was the worst thing that ever happened to her in kindergarten? Does she like hot dogs and if not, why?   

     

 Characters always need to be well rounded, whether they have epilepsy or not.

“A helpful concept to remember when developing characters for a story is that, as in real life, they should exhibit a mosaic of overlapping, sometimes contradictory traits.” (Epstein 56)

I was at my in-laws house and several teenage cousins were sitting in the living room watching television. Someone was dancing poorly on the sitcom they were watching.   

“Oh my God,” one of the girls said. “It’s like she’s having a freaking seizure… look at her.”   

“What a spaz,” another girl said.

She snorted.   

“Freaky.”   

“Super freak.”

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Me. The person they call freak. 

2. Be Aware of the Stereotypes

Writers can and should incorporate characters with epilepsy and disabilities into children’s fiction and they can do it without perpetuating negative biases against people with disabilities. To do so, authors must be aware of the stereotypes, write against the stereotypes, and create well-rounded characters.

Yeah, I’d like it if tv writers did it as well. But, right now, I’ll take what I can get.

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Em hugging a dog. She does that well. 

My daughter Emily snuggles into her bed. She stares at me, smiles, pulls me down into a hug and says, “Mommy, I wish you didn’t ever have seizures.”           

“Yeah, me too,” I say and smell her hair, which reminds me of bananas.           

“It’s not a big thing, though, right?”            

Her eyes are teddy bear sweet and her fingers twirl a piece of my hair.            

“Nope,” I say. “Not a big thing at all.”  

Do a web search on fictional children’s books dealing with epilepsy and you don’t come up with much. Even epilepsy foundations have meager resources for picture book fans. Epilepsy.com lists just eight books that deal with epilepsy in a fictional narrative. Yet, at least 300,000-plus American children with epilepsy have friends and schoolmates. Not many of those children connect with books that deal with the subject.            

A majority of books that do exist for children have their characters whose development comes from growing beyond a negative stereotype of someone with epilepsy.

What I’m wondering is why?

In her paper, “Portrayal of People with Disabilities in Children’s Literature: 1940s to 1980s” Maeleah Carlisle wrote, “Children’s literature often reflects the current society’s values and attitudes.” (1)           

That is true today.

It is no wonder that many authors use negative epileptic stereotypes for their protagonists. Most people have slight understanding of the disorder. Is this true about other conditions? Other disabilities?

In a paper about epilepsy and stigma printed in the Journal of Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology, the scientist’s conclusion was, “Stigma not only coexists with lack of information, but also with inappropriate behaviors .” (Fernandes 213)

Children’s authors have been unintentionally perpetuating those stigmas. But the lack of literature itself is also perpetuating the silence around conditions and disorders.  This is troubling because “Children’s literature can inform and influence children’s images of people with disabilities.” (Carlisle 5)

 Colin Barnes and researchers Biklen and Bogdan illustrated multiple ways in which literature and the media stereotypes people with disabilities. Those stereotypes also exist in children’s literature .

Those stereotypes include: 

  1. Person with disabilities is pitiable.
  2. Person with disabilitiesis the helpless victim of violence.
  3. Person with disabilities is evil.
  4. Person with disabilities is saintly, godly, a superhero. Some sort of extraordinary trait occurs to make the reader love the epileptic champion/hero.
  5. Person with disabilities is worthy of ridicule.
  6. Person with disabilities is “own worst enemy.” They could get better if they would just take their medicine, not drink, etc…
  7. Person with disabilities is a burden. They are a drain on their parents’ emotions, money, time.
  8. Person with disabilitiescan’t live a regular life with normal activities. (Biklen and Bogdan 6-9; Barnes 2-7)

 In examining the existing children’s literature, I found that in most books the protagonists’ character development hinged on breaking free of the stereotypes of epilepsy. This is also somewhat true of other disabilities, but not always. It’s the “not always” that gives me hope.

While at Vermont College in January 2006, I told fellow students my thesis topic.            

“Wow,” they said.

Then they’d usually nod and something would shift behind their eyes. They would pause, maybe bite their lips, maybe look to the side and then almost every single one of them asked. “Why are you so interested in epilepsy?”          

 “Because I have seizures,” I said.           

“Oh,” said one.           

“Really,” said another.           

My favorite person? She just nodded and said, “That’s cool.” 

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Me hiding behind a gnome. 

3. Do Whatever You Can To Understand Epilepsy

If you are writing about an experience outside of yourself and that experience is often used to ‘other’ people in a really bad way, you need to put in the work so that you don’t reduce your characters, so you can get your head into a space that is close to empathy and understanding.

What’s it like having seizures? It’s not really like anything for me. It just is. But my experience with epilepsy isn’t everyone’s experience with epilepsy and that’s important to remember. There’s no one way to have epilepsy or autism or diabetes or anything. There is no one way to be.

I sort of hate referencing my own life and books when I post about things, because it always seems so self-serving, but when I wrote TIPS and the sequel, LOVE AND OTHER USES FOR DUCT TAPE, I wrote them because I wanted to have REAL characters with complicated problems and complicated thoughts and complicated personalities. My daughter, Em, was begging for this. But something inside of me was begging for this too. I wanted to write a book where someone had seizures, but it wasn’t the end of the world, it wasn’t what defined them, it was just something about them, just like it was something about me.

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Author Rick Riordan said in our correspondence, “As far as why is it important to have characters with differences, again I had a very personal reason. I wanted my son to relate to the hero and feel better about the learning problems that were causing him trouble in school. It’s also real life to have lots of different kinds of people, and it can make for richer writing.”

That’s so important.  It’s something we’re still learning in so many ways. All of us.

Sources: 

Barnes, Colin. “Disabling imagery and the media.” <www.ncpedp.org/comm/commresrch.htm>.  January 17, 2006

Biklen, D. and R. Bogdan. “Media portrayals of disabled people: a study in stereotypes.” Interracial Books for Children Bulletin. 8: 1977, 4-9.

Carlisle, Maeleah. “Portrayal of People with Disabilities in Children’s Literature; 1940s to 1980s.” Beta Phi Mu — Chi Chapter. 1997. Indiana State University. 24 Jan. 2006 1987

Fernandes, Paula. “Stigma Scale of Epilepsy:Conceptual Issues.” Journal of Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology 3 Dec 2004. 21 Jan 2006 <http://www.epilepsia.org.br/epi2002/JEp213-218.pdf.

Jacoby, Ann. “Public Knowledge, Private Grief: A Study of Public Attitudes to Epilepsy in the United Kingdom and Implications for Stigma.” Epilepsia Nov 2004. 21 Jan 2006 <http://www.epilepsia.org.br/epi2002/JEp21http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.

Martin, Jenna. “Teens with Epilepsy: Living with Stigma.” Epilepsy.com. Epilepsy Therapy Development  Project.. 20 Jan. 2006 <http://www.epilepsy.com/articles/ar_1089388403.html&gt;.

Mellon, C.A. “Evaluating the portrayal of disabled characters in juvenile fiction.” Journal of Youth Services in Libraries. 2(2): 1989, 143-150

 

Writing Prompt: 

What is it about you that you don’t feel like people don’t understand? That they make into a stereotype?

Life Prompt:

How can you show someone that you see them? What can you do to see them better?

 

Random Other Writing and Work News:

The pub date for THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID, is March? You can preorder it here or anywhere. It’s an anthology that I have a piece in.

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I’m starting a podcast. The landing page will be here and also on my website and in all those typical podcast places, hopefully. It will be raw. It will be quirky because seriously… look at me… I don’t know how to be normal.

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I am incredibly terrified about this podcast. So, please leave a review once you check it out.

Also, on my website are the stories of how my books like the NEED series or TIME STOPPERS came into being, how I paint to get more into my stories, or more info about me and all that stuff that’s supposed to be on websites.

welcometomagic

 

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who was a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

And there you go, Friday’s blog post. Please let me know here if you can (and not just on Facebook) if you’ve checked it out. I hope you have an amazing, wonderful weekend where you shout out who you are to the world and the world loves you for it.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People – Episode Two – Living With a Writer

Living with a writer isn’t always easy. Shaun can give you some mellow tips that he’s learned from the dogs.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People - Episode Two - Living With a Writer
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Podcast Two – It’s Hard Living With a Writer


Writers and over-thinkers like Carrie break down every word and symbol into multiple layers and levels. That’s because authors spend so much of their time analyzing interactions and sentences and people. We recreate the world into our story by building that story word by word and symbol by symbol.

 

Sometimes that’s hard to live with especially when the writer is (cough) sensitive (cough).

Dog Tip – Cut Through the Noise. Dogs don’t pay attention to every word. They pay attention to intent. Live like a dog, but write like a writer.

 

Writing Tip – Make yourself more aware of the words you use and the symbols they are sending to a reader. When I write, “tree,” Shaun sees a kid’s drawing of a tree – a triangle with green crayon colored in. That’s not what I ever expected. Write all the different kinds of trees you can think of. Then write all the states of being a tree can have like, barren, bent, ice-covered, growing, etc. There are so many ways that one word can be interpreted. Pick the words in your stories that need to be specific and think about the words that don’t have to be. Your choices matter as you create the story in your reader’s minds. Writing is about communicating. Choose what you want to communicate.

Hey!

There’s some bonus content over on my website with links to free things. FREE THINGS!

I am Afraid To Be Seen – Friday Writing Life

There are certain things you are supposed to be afraid of when you’re little – normal things, right?

            Spiders.

            Dead people.

            Spiders coming out of dead people.

            Dead people coming out of spiders.

           

But I was afraid of being – just being – being alive – being noticed. Being.

 

I first started hiding in my bedroom closet when I was four, I think.

It wasn’t my first hiding attempt. That began when I started to see. When I was born they thought I was completely blind. It wasn’t for months before they realized that I could sort of see, just in a blurry way in which there were four copies of everything, four versions of the same truth, I guess.

Before my eye operation, I’d push myself against walls, crawl behind the couch or toddle there, feeling the scratchy fabric behind my hands. It happened at night too. I’d get in my bed after Mom kissed me goodnight and I’d pile all my stuffed animals around me and then pull the covers tightly up over my head.

“I am a nothing girl,” I would whisper. “I am nothing. Nobody can find me. Nobody can find me.”

I thought that this was a genius hiding space when I was four, and that makes sense because I was young and stupid, but what doesn’t make sense is how I sometimes still hide there, sometimes.

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When I was four and murmuring

In the closet

Because it was darker than the bed

And safer

With walls around me.

 

My mother’s voice

Rattled through the house

Hysterical

Hysterical

Calling my name

 

Screaming it eventually

Panicked beyond belief

And I sat there behind the clothes

Dangling down

Hand me downs

Of other kids’ better lives.

 

She found me

Of course

I made a noise or something

Giving myself away

And she found me there

Huddled up and crying

 

“Why are you crying, honey,”

she screamed, no she sang, no

she whispered. “Why are you crying?”

 

“I’m a nothing girl,” I whispered,

no shouted, no spoke, no screamed.

“I’m a nothing.”

 

And she bundled

me into her

arms and said, “No,

no you’re not,”

which of course

was exactly the wrong

thing to say.

 

There are certain things you are supposed to be afraid of when you’re little – normal things, right?

Spiders.

Dead people.

Spiders coming out of dead people.

Dead people coming out of spiders.

 

But I was afraid of being – just being – being alive – being noticed. Being.

Jamie, one of the main characters in the TIME STOPPERS series is a lot like this, too. Albeit for different reasons – his fake family are trolls.

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I think a lot of us have to deal with trolls in one way or another. It can make us hide.

Almost every Wednesday, I go to my Rotary club’s meeting and then that night, I head to one of my friends’ houses where people gather to hang out. Some people play poker. Some people knit. Some people run around with their kids. Everyone eats.

This Wednesday, I wore a big orange necklace on top of my typical L.L. Bean navy crew sweater. Everyone mentioned it. And I decided to be honest and say, “Look. I realize that I like to blend in. I sit on the floor sometimes. I wear all dark clothes. I hide behind a camera and take pictures. This is my first step in trying to be brave. This necklace. I’m trying not to hide.”

And everyone was “cool.” Because if you’re even going to notice something like that, you’re probably going to be supportive.

There’s this weird thing about writers, we communicate through our stories, but we also can hide behind those stories. We put the words out there, hope someone notices because writing is a lot of effort and it is horrible when you create something, try to communicate something, and nobody responds.

But at the same time, you can’t control other people’s reactions to you, to your story. And I’ve spent my whole life so afraid of people’s reactions, of them hurting me, that I hide.

I’m pretty sure that’s got to stop one necklace, one blog post, one podcast at a time.

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This picture is a big deal for me because I’m actually not wearing a sweater. I have worn sweaters in Mexico in July. I wore a sweater while having a baby. Seriously. Issues here, people. 🙂

Writing Prompt: 

What do you try to hide?

Life Prompt:

How can you show someone that you see them? What can you do?

 

Random Other Writing and Work News:

Due to a glitch in distribution, I think – I honestly can’t remember – the pub date for THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID, has been moved back to March? You can preorder it here or anywhere. It’s an anthology that I have a piece in.

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I’m starting a podcast. The landing page will be here and also on my website and in all those typical podcast places, hopefully. It will be raw. It will be quirky because seriously… look at me… I don’t know how to be normal.

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What do you like about podcasts? What do you hate? I’ll try not to do the hate things.

Also, on my website are the stories of how my books like the NEED series or TIME STOPPERS came into being, how I paint to get more into my stories, or more info about me and all that stuff that’s supposed to be on websites.

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My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who was a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

And there you go, Friday’s blog post, which runs counter to be impulse to be invisible. Please let me know if you’ve checked it out. I hope you have an amazing, wonderful weekend where you shout out who you are to the world and the world loves you for it.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

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?