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.


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.


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!



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.


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?”


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?  



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