How to Make People Keep Reading

I’m about to revise a lot of my own stories and in the next couple of months, I’m going to see if I can figure out how to self publish instead of continuing traditional publishing, so I’m trying to pretend that I won’t have a ton of editors helping me, no writing mentors, just me.

And that’s a little scary.

But it’s made me think more fully about my own stories and how I can apply the tools I use when I teach writing to my own darn writing.

I know! I know! That should be easy, right?

It’s not as easy as I thought because it requires stepping away from the book and thinking as a reader, as a writer, and as an editor, but mostly as a reader.

And the main element when we write a book is that we want our readers to keep reading. So,  I think I’m going to start what I like to call (Drumroll please) the Wednesday Writing Series About Hooking Your Reader.

I’ll be giving two hints a blog post. Let’s start!

TWO QUICK HINTS TO KEEP YOUR READER HOOKED ON YOUR BOOK

Hooking Your Readers - Wednesday Writing Series

Begin your story with the moment that will transform the main character or world.

Begin with the girl moving to Maine from Charleston and seeing something strange on the side of the road like I did with the NEED series.

Begin with the male member of the ‘class couple’ telling his girlfriend that he’s gay like I did in the TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (ex) BOYFRIEND books.

Have a really strong voice of the narrator.

The Martian’s first line is, “I’m pretty much f*cked.”

That combines the pivotal moment with a super strong narrative voice.

Or the Color Purple begins with, “You better not tell nobody but God.”

Which has a great voice and a mystery set in, too. What shouldn’t they tell?

Next week, I’ll have two more tips.

Do Good Wednesday

Puerto Rico still needs assistance and so does Guatemala. You can help by spreading the word or donating to the Hispanic Federation, a nonprofit involved with advocacy for Latino communities.

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The Hispanic Federation’s three big campaigns right now are:

Check it out. Think deeply. Care. That’s how you do good.  That’s how you make a difference in the world and your community. You’ve got this. Sparty the Rescued Dog believes in you.

 

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Sparty: I do! I believe in you.

 

Writing News

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?

You should totally buy my book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun because it’s about Moe Berg and it’s a picture book. I’m heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

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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.

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services, but I’m also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! (WSS) six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about my individual coaching, click here.

WSS-Testimonial-Mountains-1-300x300

And finally, for the month of July, my book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

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Proof of the sale-nature of July.

 

Thanks so much for reading my blog! Please comment or say ‘hi!’ if you feel like it!

 

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Mommy Fears (in Honor of the Emster)

In honor of the Emster being home on leave this week, I’ve conjured up this old blog post about my mommy fears and her innate Emster capabilities.

What I find interesting about this is: 

  1. How openly neurotic I have always been.

  2. How she has always been kick-butt.

 

Here you go: 

Okay. You know how when you’re a mom you have these certain levels of fear when it comes to your kid? Well, most moms do. Sorry to all you people who are not moms or aren’t neurotic. You will probably be bored with this blog post.

 So there’s the deepest level of Mom Fear, which is that:

1. Your child will be kidnapped on an airplane like in that Jodi Foster movie where she ends up blowing up the airplane in a feat of total mom awesomeness.
2. Your child will be assaulted or violated.
3. Your child will be murdered/seriously injured or threatened to be like in that Denzel Washington movie where he’s the bodyguard but he might as well be the dad because he is so amazing to Pita and she even names her teddy bear after him.
4. Your child will marry a ghoul:

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Please do not marry him, Em, at least not when he’s like this.

But then I have what I call the Secondary Level of Mom Fear, which includes:

My child will starve because I have no income.

My child will become a heroin addict because I suck, etc…

My child will become a monster full of hate.

But also on this Mom fear level is this one:

My child will get on the wrong airplane at the airport.

And yep… It happened.

So the Emster was done with this super cool Fresh Film Program in New York City (thanks to amazing author and human Saundra Mitchell) and she was flying home to Maine. Em did everything right:

1. She got a car and had money to pay it. She got in the car at 8 a.m.
2. She told the driver she wanted to go to US Airways at Laguardia Airport.
3. She buckled her seat belt. Gold star, Em! Gold star!

But then things went wrong. There was an accident. Traffic stalled. She was stuck there for about an hour. But finally they move again. The driver drops her off at the airport, but wait — He drops her off at the United terminal. Em realizes this once she gets inside. She asks for help. Twice. She runs to the shuttle for the other terminal. The shuttle bus doors have just closed. She looks hopeless.

Em is the one smiling with teeth. 😉

Hopeless doesn’t work. So, instead she goes into Looking Cute mode. The shuttle bus doors magically open.  She asks the driver for help. He tells her to hop on. She does. There are a MILLION stops. They get to the terminal. She goes to the kiosk to get her boarding pass but she doesn’t have a credit card and can’t pay the $20 for her luggage. Someone else helps. She gives them cash. They don’t even make her weigh her suitcase. Score! (Note: Shoes are heavy. Em likes shoes).

She finds the Security Screening. She goes through. She finds her gate. It is 9:30. Her plane is supposed to leave at 10. There is nobody milling around like normal. Em being the astute little camper that she is, goes to the woman at the little podium/counter thing and asks if this is the gate for the Bangor, Maine flight.

Woman: That flight is closed.

Em: !!!!!

She decides to look cute again.

 Em is still the same one.

Woman (speaks into walkie-talkie): MUMBLE MUMBLE.

Em: ?????!!!!

Woman (to Em):
Okay. You can go out. The plane is on the tarmac.

They let her through the doors. She rushes to the airplane, climbs up the stairs, gets on, looks at her ticket and then says to the flight attendant:
Is this the plane to Bangor, Maine?
Flight attendant person: No. This is the plane to Buffalo.

Em:

Flight attendant person:
The Bangor plane is behind us, I think.

Em runs down the stairs, across the tarmac and towards a plane that was completely obscured by the Buffalo plane. She drops things on the tarmac. She picks things up. She runs. She scrambles up the flight of stairs and says, “Is this the plane to Bangor?”

It is.

But wait!

Her seat is gone. They have given it away because she is late.

“NO!!!!!!!!” Em screams.

But they let her sit in the exit row all by herself. She buckles up and makes it. Nobody kidnaps her. She does not fly to Buffalo. She flies home.

She is amazing.

And cute.

And resourceful as heck.

Me: You will write about this some day.

Em: I have already lived it once; I do not want to live it again.

Writing News

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?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun. She’s heading to Houston, North Carolina, and Virgnia soon, just to talk about it. How cool is that?

My Post copy 6

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.

Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services, but she’s also teaching a Write! Submit! Support! (WSS) six-month class online via the Writing Barn in Austin. For details about that class, check out this link. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

WSS-Testimonial-Mountains-1-300x300

And finally, for the month of July, Carrie’s book FLYING is on sale in ebook version on multiple platforms, which means not just Amazon. It’s a cheap way to have an awesome read in a book that’s basically Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with chocolate-covered pretzels.

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Proof of the sale-nature of July.

 

Thanks so much for reading my blog! Please comment or say ‘hi!’ if you feel like it!

 

xo

Carrie

Marsie’s Monday Motivation – Cat Loves Dog, TLF

Marsie: It’s Monday.

Me: Yes.

Marsie: 

Me: 

Marsie: Aren’t you going to whine about it?

Me: No.

Marsie: 

Me: Aren’t you going to ask why I’m not going to whine about it?

Marsie: I’m a cat. I stopped caring. I’ll care about in like – 32 hours or if you bring out some cat nip or kitty snacks. Then I’ll be your best friend again for like… hm… 45 seconds.

Me: 

Marsie: Just giving you the truth, human.

Me: I’m happy because today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I’m happy because I like the fact that you and Sparty the Dog kiss each other and snuggle.

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Marsie: He’s warm.

Me: 

Marsie: Fine, I love him.

Me: That’s why I’m okay this Monday. Even though things can suck and people can suck, there are these tiny little glimmers of hope that we might learn a thing or two from other people or from cats and dogs about love.

Marsie:

Me: What I’m trying to say is you inspire me, Marsie, because despite all your tough talk and kitty glares and cat face, you’re really just about the love.

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Marsie: Human! Don’t tell! The other cats will mock me!

Me: Sorry, baby, they already know. Sometimes, they just choose not to remember.

 

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Writing News:

I’m super excited because I’m going to be at Book Expo America signing copies of my nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg!

The Spy Who Played Baseball

And I’m super excited because I started teaching the online Writing Barn class and despite the fact that Sparty the Dog expelled gas out his rectum (REALLY LOUDLY) none of the students heard it. And I don’t think anyone noticed my gagging face either.

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Sparty: Oops.

Finally, I’m moving forward with the podcast. I had to order a microphone, which was sort of terrifying because I know nothing about microphones. And honestly, I sound like a Muppet, so the whole thought of my voice just being out there? That sort of brings up childhood fears of bullying and one of my old teachers telling me that I’d never succeed at anything because of my s’s. I talk about that in Dear Bully. I’m still going to try though because I am done with fear keeping me from trying things, right? I’m going to channel my inner cat. I hope you do, too!

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Friday Writings and a Scholarship for Middle Grade Writers at the Writing Barn!

First off, there is an awesome scholarship being offered at the Writing Barn for Write! Submit! Support! an awesome online class that I’m teaching in 2018. The class is for novelists of all genres, but the scholarship is for middle grade authors.

DETAILS ABOUT THE AWESOME SCHOLARSHIP

Katherine Applegate, Newbery winning and NYT bestselling author, and good friend of The Writing Barn has created the Mary Carolyn Davies/Wishtree MG Write. Submit. Support. Scholarship to be awarded to:

 

  • either (1) MG writer for the full amount of a Write. Submit. Support. registration ($1800)

OR

  • to be shared by (2) MG writers for half the amount of a Write. Submit. Support. registration ($900)

 

This scholarship honors poet, novelist and playwright Mary Carolyn Davies.

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While most people know me as a young adult author thanks to the NEED series, I am in the middle of TIME STOPPERS, a middle-grade series published with Bloomsbury and before my time at Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA program, I was a newspaper columnist, editor and poet. I think it is super cool how writers can write across platforms and how their work can change as the world changes, their understandings change, and their own needs change. So! Don’t be hemmed in by just writing one thing!

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This is a photo of me after receiving VCFA’s distinguished alum award. You can tell I acting in a super distinguished manner right after that. Kekla Magoon also received one. She was way more poised.

So, to harken back to that era of writing, here’s a column that was in a paper a few years ago. It ran alongside an article about drug use in Maine and the lack of care for transients with alcohol and/or drug dependencies. 

It wasn’t until well into the afternoon that we found him, dead beneath a shed on Water Street. Then he was only spotted because an oil spill into the Union River brought firefighters and reporters close by.

We noticed his naked feet first. Then we saw him stretched out between car tires and a garage door.

The Bangor Daily News reporter I was with told the firefighters who were still down by the river trying to mop up oil.

“Guys, there’s a body up here,” he said. His voice was quiet, still, a nothing voice and the words fell out into the world and for a moment nobody moved.

“A body?”

But Kenneth Butler was more than a body. He was a man.

According to Ellsworth police, Kenny Butler had a long history of medical problems, including heart trouble. No one’s quite sure where he was living before he died by abandoned car tires last week.

On a normal day, people go missing. Sometimes that gets noticed. Sometimes it doesn’t. On a normal day, people die. Sometimes that gets noticed. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I noticed Kenny Butler’s death. So did that Bangor Daily News reporter. So did his family.

Kenny Butler drank a lot. He did drugs. He couldn’t go to our county’s only shelter on cold winter days because they don’t allow people who are using drugs or who are drunk. Sometimes when people detox, they have seizures. Sometimes, they get violent. So, Kenny crawled beneath the basement of a shed, wedged himself between an old door and some tires. Then he died, in the cold, alone.

The police came, put on their purple latex gloves, strung up yellow tape to cordon off the area. As they took over, I thought about who Kenny Butler might be. I thought too about people who go missing from our lives by inches every day. The phone calls we fail to return. The smiles we are sometimes afraid to give.

I didn’t work anymore that Friday. My little girl, Em, stood close by all afternoon. She tugged on my sleeve.

“I don’t want to die alone,” she said.

Her eyes filled and just underneath that edge of sadness, awakening floated.

“I don’t want you to die alone either,” she added.

The wind whipping up off the Union River grew even colder that Friday afternoon. I knew what she meant. She looked up at a treehouse we were working on. It’s high among four trees. We could have stood on the platform, but there weren’t any walls yet, only tree trunks and branches separating us from falling, sheltering us from the sky.

“It’s the living you don’t want to do alone,” I told her. “That’s more important than the dying.”