Being Nice: Who Do You Think You Are?

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

Carrie is polite.

Carrie is courteous.

Carrie is word-of-the day worthy.

That’s not who I thought I was.

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

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

So I prayed.

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

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

And I was all, “E.”

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

And I was all, “T.O.Z.”

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

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

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

10298575_10152479050009073_1745305575127517871_o

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

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

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

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

And I wanted to.

I wanted to belong, you know?

plot pacing and proms writing tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That bastard,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

Neither of us are lookers.

            We’re not tens.

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

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

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

And I smiled at her.

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

And I am?

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

29461_320

Her words shouldn’t matter.

It freaking matters.

 

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

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

You know how that is right?

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

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

Ah, I’m not as smart as…

Ah, I’m not as good a runner as…

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

Your life is your message to this world.

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

That’s the truth of you, too.

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

img_1604

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s power.

And that’s magic.

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

Writing News

 

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out my website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

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

Timestoppers3_005

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

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

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice, and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

writing tips life tips carrie jones books

Advertisements

Writing Heroes That Don’t Suck – Dogs are Smarter Than People Podcast

Who do you root for?

In your own life, this question is easy. We root for ourselves. A lot of the time we root for our friends, our family. We almost always root for the dog. I mean, even in Cujo, the horror-novel by Stephen King where the dog is killing everyone? A lot of us still root for the dog.

But when we write books?

We want to root for the hero. The hero is who we like. The hero is who we admire.

Sometimes though, that’s sort of hard.

There are moments in Harry Potter where we’re rooting for Hermione more than Harry because Harry’s being a butt face, stubborn, sulky and insolent.

But Harry’s a better hero because of that. We can relate to him and find hope in our own hero potential because he is imperfect. If imperfect people can be heroes, so can we.

So can we.

Here’s the truth.

Heroes aren’t perfect. Not in real life. Not in books. And a lot of the time people don’t identify with heroes that are too perfect like Captain America or Superman because their goodness seems so impossible. They’ll prefer Iron Man or Batman because they are flawed and moody or temperamental and snarky. It’s easier to relate to that lack of perfection.

This is not true for Carrie obviously. She’s all Cap all the time because she can relate to being imperfect because of her own self righteousness and savior complexes more than being imperfect because she’s moody, sulky snark. It’s kind of a problem, honestly.

But back to the point. Your hero probably shouldn’t be perfect. Perfection is kind of annoying.

HOW DO YOU WRITE A  HERO WHO ISN’T TYPICAL OR BASICALLY DOESN’T SUCK?

The same way you write everyone else.

Listen

Listen to people other than yourself, how they talk, how they think. Use your empathy to understand their character and then steal some of those traits and motivations for your own hero.

Tweak

Tweak the trope. Sure you have archetypes of messiahs/warriors/matriarchs/mystics, but go beyond the trope when you’re making your hero. She might be like Xena the Warrior Princess, but she can have a goofy Whose That Girl side like Jess. Give your ‘mystic’ trope a ‘matriarch’ profession like a lawyer or judge.

 

Think

Think about your own heroes – the ones in real life. What do they do that isn’t all that heroic? Talk with their mouth full? Wipe their boogers on the edge of the seat of the car? Use that.

carrie-jones-you-know-life-fractures-us-all-into-quote-on-storemypic-5c727

Dog Tip For Life

When you let go of your need to be the perfect puppy all the time, you get to chill out a little bit more. Chilling out is good for your heart.

Writing Tip of the Cast

We all want to be perfect. We aren’t. Our heroes shouldn’t be either.

Here’s the link to this week’s podcast all about this! And more…

 

 

WRITING NEWS

Carrie’s back from Book Expo America and super excited about the upcoming TIME STOPPERS book coming out this August.

This middle grade fantasy series happens in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine and it’s all about friendship and magic and kids saving their magical town.

It’s quirky. It’s awesome. It’s full of heart. You should go by the first two books now. 🙂

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of Carrie’s 16-or-so books, check out her website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

OUR PODCAST

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.

xo

Shaun and Carrie, Sparty, Gabby and Marsie (the honorary cat-dog)

Dogs are Smarter Than People the podcast
Gabby is not a perfect dog

We love her any way.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People Podcast – First Drafts Suck, But It’s Okay

Hard writer truth time:

First drafts suck.

Almost everything stinks the first time you do it. That’s because it’s THE FIRST time you do it. But, we tend to expect to have our writing be perfect somehow.

Why?

Guitarists don’t expect to be Mark Knopffler the moment they pick up a guitar. Singers don’t expect to be Norah Jones the first time they sing. Sculptors don’t expect to be Michelangelo.

Here’s the Thing:

Being good takes practice.

And even if you’ve written 100 novels already? There is a high likelihood that your first draft of your next novel? It’s going to suck.

But it’s not the end of the world. The end of the world is when you give up.

So, how do you make your sucky first draft better?

Think about it.

 

How to Get Past Your crappy first draft. Three secret ways to write better
You can do it

WRITER TIP OF THE POD

You want to make that first draft a better second draft? Think of these three things to start off right.

  1. Think about what your character wants more than anything in the world. Make sure you have that in your story.
  2. Think about what your character would never do – not ever. Revise your story so that this becomes a high moment of tension, of possibility.
  3. Add tension to every page. EVERY PAGE!

DOG TIP FOR LIFE!

Sometimes, it’s hard to catch the ball in your mouth, especially the first time. Try again anyways. Once you do it right, you get the ball… in your mouth! Score!

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

 

Dogs Are Smarter Than People Podcast – First Drafts Suck, But It’s Okay

 
 
00:00 / 00:14:56
 
1X
 

It’s okay to wander in life.

At the Abbe Museum Indian Market yesterday, it was about artists and bringing attention to the Wabanaki heritage and culture.

That’s what the Abbe Museum is all about.

The event though? It also created connections as people exchanged snippets of their lives and stories with each other.

One artist showed a old photo in a book to a guest. “It’s this picture. She’s right here.”

“Yes! It’s my grandmother’s niece.”

There was a moment of nodding, smiling and the artist asked the man on the other side of the table, “Are you a writer?”

“Nah, just a regular person wandering around today,” he said.

“Oh, that’s what we all always are, isn’t it?”

His smile grew bigger and they shared a silence.

Sometimes when you hear real truths? There are no other words.

I hope that your Monday and your week is full of truths and big realizations of wandering around and being regular and being real.

Here are some photos I took:

Molly Neptune
Molly Neptune
Geo Neptune
Geo Neptune
JJ
Molly

What does it mean to be a regular wandering person? What does it mean to find your own truths? It means you aren’t defining yourself by your job, your labels, other people’s expectations.

It means you are being and existing and observing without definitions.

It means that you are drawing in experiences to use later if you’re a writer or an artist or a person who interacts with others.

When we live our biggest lives, when we wander and experience? We learn, not just about other people but also about ourselves.

Dogs are Smarter than People
Love

Gabby the Dog is so into that and I am, too.

 

As writers, we try to create emotional truths in our readers. We try to make them feel and understand life and story through our characters.

Here are a couple things to remember when you’re writing fiction:

  1. Thoughts lead to feelings.
  2. Saying “I am so sad,” doesn’t really make us readers feel sad. But showing us how a woman feels the cold side of the bed. A name comes into her head. She reaches out her hand. The bed is still cold. She hugs a pillow, clutching it to her. . . . That can show us more than ‘sad,’ it can show us ‘sad-lonely.”
  3. Emotional truths in our story are the truths that resonate with us. They are the things that hurt us deeply, lift us up. Things we are passionate about. Remember your passion, your beliefs, when you write. It will help inform those truths.

 

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

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

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page on my website carriejonesbooks.blog .  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

Write! Submit! Support! Begins Again in July!

There is a quick webinar (free) on Tuesday about the Write! Submit! Support! class that was created at the Writing Barn in Austin. You can sign up for that here.

It’s not easy to create a thriving writing career in the children’s industry, but what if you didn’t have to do it alone? Write. Submit. Support is a six-month program designed by author and Writing Barn Founder Bethany Hegedus. Classes are led by top creatives in the children’s industry field; they’ll give you the tips and tools you need to take both your manuscripts and your developing career to the next level. Think of it as an MFA in craft with a certificate in discovering (or recovering) your writer joy! – Writing Barn 

And more about the class I specifically teach? It is right here.

Here is what current students are saying:

Carrie is all strengths. Seriously. She’s compassionate, funny, zesty, zany, insightful, honest, nurturing, sharp, and…Wow, that’s a lot of adjectives. But really, I couldn’t praise Carrie enough as a mentor. I’ve long respected her writing, but being talented at something doesn’t automatically mean you will be a great mentor. Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching. Aside from the specific feedback she offers, she also writes letters in response to the process letter and analyses. These letters have been so impactful for me as I writer that I plan to print them and hang them up. Creepy? Maybe. But they are so inspiring. And that, in the most long-winded way possible, is how I would summarize Carrie as a mentor—inspiring.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People

And finally, the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

Make Your Setting Kick Butt

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of writing where setting is just… Well, it’s missing.

You begin a chapter and there are just these talking heads and you’re not quite sure where they actually are.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

 

And the reader is like, “Cool. They have Coke. They are upset. But where are they? Are they floating in the ether? Are they in Newark? I just don’t know.”

So the first rule of creating a kick butt setting for chapters or scenes in your book is:

Actually have a setting.

I know! I know! This seems obvious.

It is not obvious.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John had in his dorm room.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Make the Setting Somewhere Cool if you can

A lot of stories have scenes around a dining room table.

There are places in the world that aren’t dining room tables. It’s okay to have a domestic scene in a bathroom, a bedroom, a basement. It’s okay to make the dining room cool. It’s okay to make the dining room a couch.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Think about Theme and Mood

If your book is about misery make your settings reflect that. If your book is about displacement, do that, too.

 

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper. It was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

Remember Detail

Depth and intricacy aren’t swear words. The Belles, a newish YA novel does such a fantastic job of having setting become part of and enhance the story. J.K. Rowling? Same thing. Give yourself a moment to really breathe and live in the place that your characters are breathing and living in.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper. It was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said, shutting the door. There were stickers all over it, declaring, “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” or “FREE TIBET,” or “HEGEMONY NOW.” Some of the stickers were peeling off at the edges, like they were trying to escape the actual refrigerator door, but they couldn’t. They were stuck.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.”

“Seriously.”

 

Study Old Books

The Charles Dickens’ and Brontes of this world were masters at making you live inside the settings. Don’t copy them, but pull out one of those old books where time was spent creating the stage. Roots was a book that always felt real to me. Color Purple, too. The Bluest Eye.

Find a book where you feel like you live in the place and study a paragraph or two and try to determine how the authors make you see that world.

 

Use Your Senses and Your Symbols

Setting isn’t just visual. It’s smell. It’s the feel of the air on your skin. It’s a million things all combined. The symbols and objects that create your place also reflect the story. Think how Twilight was rainy and dark, foreboding with its trees as opposed to Bella’s original sunny south.

Chapter One of Book Of Pretend

I grabbed a Coke out of the mini fridge that John kept in the back of his MINI Cooper and shut it fast. Broccoli smelled rolled into the air, sickening and heavy.

The mini fridge was crammed into the backseat somehow. I have no idea how he even kept it charged. Nothing made sense about it being there, but then again, nothing about John ever made sense.

“I am so upset with you,” I said, shutting the door. There were stickers all over it, declaring, “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” or “FREE TIBET,” or “HEGEMONY NOW.” Some of the stickers were peeling off at the edges, like they were trying to escape the actual refrigerator door, but they couldn’t. They were stuck.

“I’m more upset,” he said.

“No way in heck.” I popped the top of the Coke. The click and fizz of it satisfied me more than this conversation ever could.

“Seriously.” John swallowed hard.

I met his eyes.

He looked away and slammed the door of the MINI shut before leaning across the top of it, hiding his head in his arms.

The rotten broccoli smell somehow got worse. Gagging, I took a swig of the Coke, forcing it down.

Now, go back up and read the first pretend excerpt again. It’s a totally different story, isn’t it? It’s weird because I’m weird, but it’s better.

My Post-40WRITING NEWS

I’ll be at Book Expo America on June 1 at the Lerner booth from 11:30-12.

There’s a free information and inspiration session from  Write! Submit! Support!, a six-month intensive program through the Writing Barn.

It’s a one-day only thing just to hang out and learn about the program. I swear! No weirdness involved at all. More info is here.

TIME STOPPERS THE MIDDLE GRADE SERIES OF AWESOME

Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.

51YDGwoXfXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
Time Stoppers Book Two! Out in paperback this August! 

Dogs Are Smarter Than People

And finally, the podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

My Nana’s Funeral Was Awful – Seriously Awful

Because my family is a bit – um – all over the place, I ended up having multiple grandmothers when I was growing up. I had a Nana, a Grammy, and a Avó or Vovó. And every single one of these women was eccentric and radically different from each other.

One had the worst funeral ever. Unless you count the funeral where my aunt passed out and everyone thought she died.

I’m not counting that one.

Or the one where I had a complete #metoo moment. That was my dad’s funeral actually.

I’m not counting that one either.

Anyway, about my grandmothers.

One grandmother was the chairwoman of the Republican women’s party in our state. She believed in manners, in propriety and responsibility, and all that stiff-upper lip stuff.  She drank alcohol once every five years or so, on Christmas. She wrote one poem.

One grandmother was an artist and poet who never let the world see her art, who cried over the beauty of a ripe tomato. She believed in prohibition, probably because her husband forced her to believe in prohibition. She also believed in Julia Child.

One grandmother was a collector of all things ceramic, lover of all things Bingo, and could not care about ‘propriety’ at all. She drank.  She never wrote a poem. She lived one. Some of the lines were flawed, but it was real and raw and authentic.

These ladies didn’t interact much. They are all dead now, but the one I’m thinking about is my nana and what writing lessons I can get from the life she lived and the funeral she had.

My nana basically had the worst funeral in all of history. Or… well… she’s in the top three for my family funeral disasters.

Why?

Oh, let me count the ways. Learn from this, writers, okay? 

The setting was bad

They put all of us closer relatives in a family grieving room before the funeral started, but the room was the kindergarten room for church school and so the whole thing was filled with a giant table and church muppets. People sort of had to stand with their backs flat up against the walls like a police line-up. When new people came into the room, everyone would have to do this sideways shuffle scooch along the walls to make room.

The church muppets were all flopped on top of each other and it looked really naughty. My nana would not have approved. I made Jesus muppet hold hands with Minister muppet because they looked lonely.

It wasn’t a place or setting where emotional resonance could happen. It’s hard to comfort other people or even be super introspective when your back is to the wall and you are staring at puppets who look like they might be trying to make muppet babies.

Know Your Main Character

My nana was 100 when she died. She was a really smart woman. You’d go to her house and she’d have a newspaper clipping for you and she’d be like, “Have you seen this censorship issue that the American Library Association is lobbying against?”

Or she’d be like, “Did you know that Medicare is (Insert large word)?”

She went to this same church that her funeral was at for about 8,000 years.

But the minister’s sermon was all, “Think of the things Rena saw change in her 100 years,” which is nice, but it was like a history lesson.

A history lesson! Ugh. And I kind of wanted it to be personal, not a eulogy you can use for anyone over 98. But that’s what it was.

In a book, you have to know your main character inside and out or else their story doesn’t mean anything. That’s what happened here, too.

Instead of hearing about my nana and her life and her interactions with everyone and with the church, it was a sermon about… history? Full of random dates and events but with no actual human content. Her life as told in his sermon didn’t exist.

Our lives and our characters’ lives have purpose. We aren’t just meant to be a backdrop for a history lesson.

Random Characters Thrown In For Effect 

Part of my family looks like they belong in the Jersey Shore. Seriously, my nephew Brooks saw someone and screamed, “OMG! It’s Snooki!”

Funerals are often places where families see branches that they forgot about or have deliberately avoided for years. That’s okay in a funeral, but in a book? Characters need to have a purpose.

Lack of Emotion

Nobody sobbed. There should be sobbing at a funeral, but I guess since it was History Lesson Funeral, people just took notes, worrying about the test later or something.

People loved my nana. They missed my nana. My family is a high-drama, emotional family that sobs at anything. But here? It didn’t happen.

In life and in books, you have to be able to have the space for sorrow, you have to have an emotional aspect to a story, to understand their worries, their drives, to know that their departure would leave a gaping hole.

That doesn’t happen with bad writing or bad preaching.

The only time emotional resonance happens during a history test is when you realize you’re going to fail it, honestly.

Don’t make your life or your book a history text.

Sometimes Following The Rules Isn’t Healthy

I had to sit in the front row so the minister kept looking at me, which meant that I had to pay attention to the history lesson and nod appropriately, which would have made my nana proud I’m sure.

But following the rules and doing the proper expected thing isn’t always healthy for you. Crying can be good even if it isn’t at the ‘socially acceptable’ time.

And I guess that’s why I’m sad. I wanted my nana’s funeral to make her proud of the life she lived and of all of us people she left behind. I wanted to feel some sort of closure, but I didn’t. I just sort of felt like someone had forgotten to pick her up and give her a ride over.

My nana loved for people to give her rides. She also loved to food poison people with dairy products, talk politics, play cards, get angry at you for beating her at cards, talk on the telephone, and hang out with her friends. She was smart and lively and stubborn and an absolutely horrible cook.

When I asked her why she was so involved in politics she said, “Because I remember what it was like to not even be able to vote.”

She was ten when women got the right to vote.

“It meant something. Women are just as good as men,” she said. “If not better. Stronger. They didn’t let us use our minds.”

She was the valedictorian of her little class in Weare, New Hampshire. She wrote a poem in her yearbook. She was proud of it, but (unlike one of my other grandmothers) it was pretty much the only poem she ever wrote. She didn’t have time for that, she’d said.

When I asked her why she was so smart, why she spent so much time learning and understanding things, she’d said, “Women can’t afford not to be intelligent. Not in this world.”

And another time she said, “It’s our responsibility to learn everything we can learn, to make good decisions, informed decisions.”

A farm girl, she’d married a jazz drummer who played in big bands and toured the country. One time he didn’t come back. He remarried. She never did. I don’t think she ever even dated anyone, but she did think Ronald Reagan was a ‘looker.’

She raised her kids as a single mom back in the 1940s and 1950s. Her oldest son went on to desegregate the fraternity system at UNH and though they were desperately poor, he ended up a valedictorian at his high school, at UNH, and then went on to Harvard Law.

She was so proud of him. Why?

“Because he is a gentleman and because he can think,” she said once when we were sitting on her couch and I was trying to avoid eating any of her food because – food poisoning. And then she said it again, “He can think. So can you. Use your brain, Carrie. Use it. Don’t be afraid of it.”

My nana was pretty cool, and worth way more than a history lesson. She was an epic, a woman of resilience and persistence in a time that was hard.

“All times are hard,” she’d say.

And this, also, is true.

But all times also have beauty and good and resonance. Don’t be afraid to embrace that, too.


 This is my nana. She is 100 here. She would hate this picture. 😉

Do Good Wednesday

I have had seizures.

It started when I was in college and I had Mono. The Epstein Barr virus that causes Mono attacked my brain as well. Eventually, the virus left, the seizures lessened, but it made my brain less resistant to future seizures.

There are all kinds of seizures and all types of triggers for people and all sorts of degrees of severity. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological condition and in the United States, 3.4 million people have epilepsy.

That’s a lot of people and yet there is a ton of stigma about it. So, my Do Good Wednesday call is just this. Go check out this website. Learn a little about epilepsy. Don’t be afraid when someone has a seizure. If you are a parent or a loved one, don’t make it all about you if a loved one has a seizure.

That’s all.

xo

Carrie

Lessons I learned at my grandmother's awful funeral
Dance

Writing News

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’m being interviewed live on WERU radio on Thursday, May 10 at 10 a.m. You can call in and ask questions and be on the air with me! The livestream for the station is here. 

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,

I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!

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.

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

How To Write Sucky YA Novels

So, you want to write a young adult novel and you want it to be bad? I hear you. You’re tired of trying to write good novels for kids. Writing something awful? Well, it’s freeing and everyone cares too much about kids anyway, right?

My Post-19

Here are my tips for writing the worst YA novel you can.

Write like an 88-year old man from a wealthy neighborhood in Connecticut. 

You once had a teenager perspective inside you back a few decades ago. That’s over now. You’re a full-fledged curmudgeon. Write like it.

Make sure that the whole book is written like you’re observing things from an ancient, judgmental difference.

Like a total fool, Brandon failed to put money in his IRA or notice that his skin’s taut nature. I laughed at him. 

 

Make sure there is no emotional truth in anything.

You don’t want the readers to identify with any of your characters. What better way to do that than to make sure that they can’t. How do you do that? Make everything bland. Make everything completely lack intensity. Imagine Spock from Star Trek when he’s not in love with Kirk. Channel that.

I fell in love. No metaphors. It happened. Maybe it was gas. I had burritos for breakfast that morning, which always impacts my digestion.

Avoid any real teenagers. Wait. You can yell at them to get off your lawn, but that’s it.

You want a sucky book, right? Make sure you have no current pop references, write in a bubble and have no clue what teenagers care about or even look like. They’re all blue, right?

I wanted to be one of those people who are just there but not. I liked the smell of Metamucil. When Grampa visited I thought, “Cool.” Same thing as I thought when the love of my life showed up. Intensity is overrated. 

Use a lot of slang!

Nothing makes an awful book like using slang from the 1940s in a present-day time period. Put in as many as possible.

Good ones include:

Armored heifer – Canned milk

Bust your chops – Yell at someone for being a dork

What’s buzzin’ cousin? – How are you doing?

He had high-tailed it out of there, and I did not have moxie to flap my gums to him about how she was a bearcat or not to take any wooden nickels from the other one, who was such a cancelled stamp.

Have No Plot

Seriously. Just have everything be stagnant. Have there be no immediacy. Have it be like a town planning board meeting discussing the land use ordinance’s shoreline setback for 5.7 hours.

We sat there. The others talked. Time passed. We sat some more. I stared at the ceiling fan. It seemed bored, too. We sat some more. 

Have No Hope

Life is dark. Life has no hope. Why not teach the kids that right now, right? They will one day have to sit in a town planning board meeting so they might as well get used to life with no light at the end of the tunnel where someone busts their chops all day and they have to drink armored heifers.

Make them hate their existence as much as possible.

Everything sucked, but not in an intense way. Just a mellow suck – sort of a droning on of suckitude for years. Then I died after 80 years of almost-but-not-quite existential worries and moments. The end.

 

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

A lot of abuse happens at home. Know the signs of abuse and help your friends or yourself. Nobody deserves pain.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
Staffed 24 hours a day by trained counselors

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

National Sexual Assault Hotline

1.800.656.HOPE

rainn.org

The National Domestic Violence Hotline asks these questions to help you understand if something is abuse.

Does it….Does he/she/they…?

  • Insult, demean or embarrass you with put-downs?
  • Control what you do, who you talk to or where you go?
  • Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
  • Push you, slap you, choke you or hit you?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Control the money in the relationship? Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all of the decisions without your input or consideration of your needs?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, deny the abuse or tell you it’s your own fault?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Attempt to force you to drop criminal charges?
  • Threaten to commit suicide, or threaten to kill you?

 

You can volunteer for organizations locally and nationally. A good place to start is here.

Every time you do something good, you make an impact. It might not seem like a lot but moment after moment, tiny bits of help after tiny bits of help add up to change.

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

 

Carrie Jones Books blog, NYT bestselling children's book author and podcaster and teacher
This is what I look like. Well, with wet hair.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

The Podcast

Dogs are Smarter Than People, the podcast
Look, Mom! It’s a podcast.

And please subscribe to and like our podcast if you listen and spread the word. It’s kind of you and it makes us feel happy. The RSS feed is here.

Why You Should be Vulnerable in a World of Trolls

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

I am afraid of pass proofs.

But they are still super cool.

Why am I afraid of them?

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

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

Yes, Snapple! It is too late.

Why is it too late?

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

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

And all of this made me think about vulnerability.

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

So, why do it? Why do anything?

Because if you don’t, the trolls win.

Because if you don’t, fear wins.

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

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

Vulnerable People are Leaders

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

Vulnerability Helps Others

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

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

Honestly?

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

 

Vulnerability Is Contagious

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

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

Silence is oppressive.

But vulnerability? It’s contagious.

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

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

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

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

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

From its website:

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

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

You can give money, provide services or partner with them.

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

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

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,

I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

I’ll be at Sherman’s Bookstore in Bar Harbor on April 28 from 1-2.

To find out more about my books, there are links in the header. And if you buy one? Thank you so much. Let me know if you want me to send you a bookplate.

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

 

COOKING WITH A WRITER

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

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

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome six-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money. We’ll be having a Zoom class to learn more about it and I’ll share the details as soon as they are official.

Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.

What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking action School Library Journal

How Do You Become? Meeting Secret Superheroes

I used to sleep in a car.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secret Superheroes

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

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

#whatmightwebe.

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

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

IMG-4061

“I love this,” I told him.

He smiled.

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

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

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

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

The first step?

Find your passion.

The second step?

Go after it.

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

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

31123328_10156480977224073_7168853376883490816_o

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

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

Why?

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

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

That something wasn’t necessarily being a writer.

That something was becoming better.

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

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

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

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

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

WRITING NEWS AND STUFF

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,  I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

To find out more about my books, there are links in the header. And if you buy one? Thank you so much. Let me know if you want me to send you a bookplate.

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. If you want to help us out, please subscribe to it, share it, or tell us that you like it.

COOKING WITH A WRITER

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

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

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn classthat they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support!is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.

 

Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.

 

TIME STOPPERS THE MIDDLE GRADE SERIES OF AWESOME

Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.

What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking actionSchool Library Journal

Boobs, Awards and How to Face Your Fears in front of Katherine Paterson

Sometimes our fear of failure gets so super big that it keeps us from going towards our goals.

Do you know what I mean?

Like sometimes that fear keeps us from going after what it is we really want to do or be or experience? That’s how it is for me sometimes at least.

It almost kept me from getting an award

One time, fear almost held me back from experiencing what was probably one of the biggest moments in my little life. This is because I have social anxiety. It’s almost like stage fright. I’m so good when I’m at someone’s house or an event or a meeting, but before I get there? I spend most of my time thinking, “I do not want to go here. How do I not go here? Agh… Maybe they will cancel.”

But it isn’t because I don’t enjoy myself when I’m at my friend’s house or at an event. I love being at friends’ houses and events. I present as an extrovert and I love people.

Honesty moment: Sometimes I totally don’t enjoy myself at a meeting and my anxiety makes sense because being bored is not fun.

Anyways, my ahead-of-time anxiety comes from this weird fear of failure – that I won’t be good enough, that I will be too awkward, that people will make fun of me.

It’s all pretty second grade.

How To Face Your Fear of Failure
Wednesday Writing Wisdoma

A couple of years ago this fear almost kept me from a really cool life event. I was in D.C. for some American Library Association conference. And there was a  Vermont College of Fine Arts party that I was so stressed about. It was at Tami Lewis Brown’s House.  Katherine Paterson was going to be there.

Yes, that Katherine Paterson. Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson!

I totally didn’t want to go. I was stressed about making a fool of myself in front of Katherine Paterson.

And to make it worse, I was totally freaked out about how I could avoid M. T. Anderson because he’s so tall I found it intimidating. And his book FEED was why I even applied to Vermont College. He taught there then.

And I was worried about what I was wearing because my social anxiety sends me right back into a spiral of awkward worries about superficial things.

To be fair, it was summer. So people wore dresses and sleeveless dresses. I am from Maine. I am used to fleece and flannel.

How To Face Your Fear of Failure - tips from NYT bestselling children's book author Carrie Jones
I am basically this sheep.

And I ended up having to wear my cardigan the whole time because my dress was way too cleavage-y.

How do I know this? I know this because the doorman at the hotel  stared at it and asked if I wanted to “hang out.”

Really.

And I am a children’s book author! I am supposed to be not the type of person people can ask out. Wait. Am I??

Or the type that is supposed to have their boobs hang out?

I mean, either meaning of ‘hang out?’ It wasn’t a good thing.

Anyways, I think part of the problem was I told the doorman that I loved him when he ran after the shuttle bus for me. Bad Carrie! Bad!

So, I sat on the shuttle bus, buttoning my cardigan, almost hyperventilating.

I resisted the urge to scream, “STOP THE SHUTTLE BUS!”

I resisted the urge to slip out of the shuttle when it stopped and call a cab that could take me back to the hotel.

I resisted and resisted.

And I went to the party and my hair was flat and I had a cardigan on (and buttoned) even though it was 98 degrees and then…. and then….Katherine and Tami made speeches about the awesomeness of Vermont College. I think Tobin (M.T. Anderson) may have too. And then… And then… They gave Kekla Magoon of Awesome an award for being a distinguished alumna and she cried and was beautiful and I patted her on the back and tried to tell her how she was great and deserved this so much, all while thinking how awesome she is and then…. and then….

I GOT ONE TOO!

 I look short don’t I? And Tobin looks tall and intimidating. And Katherine, Tammy, and Kekla had enough confidence to be sleeveless. Then there’s me… in a cardigan.

Seriously! I don’t know what they were doing giving me that, but I was awarded a plaque and everything and I almost died because I kept thinking, “People are going to take pictures and I am wearing my dumpy cardigan to hide my cleavage AND my hair is flat. Crud. Crud. Crud. Why did nobody tell me?”

But it was amazing. And the whole time I kept thinking that I wouldn’t even be a writer if not for the people at Vermont College and how there are so many brilliant graduates who deserved that award, and I kept looking out there in the crowd and seeing those freaking phenomenal writers and it was so completely humbling.

But then I also thought about how terrified I was when I first started at Vermont and how that fear of failing and not fitting in almost kept me from being there. Some people were already published. I had barely written one book draft if you don’t count books written in spiral notebooks in grade school.

I felt – no, I knew – that I didn’t belong and I almost quit that first week because I knew there was no way I could possibly belong there with all those people who had been writing for forever and who knew all the terms and all the publishing houses and I knew nothing.

I didn’t believe in myself at all. I was positive I would fail and I was SO AFRAID, bitterly afraid.

Lisa Jahn Clough and Emily Wing Smith and Ed Briant (who said something awesome at a reading to me) and then Tim Wynne Jones were the reasons I toughed it out that first semester. I am so very glad I did because Vermont didn’t just make me into a writer it gave me a community of fellowship, of learning and of people who I adore (even if they are tall).

And I promised myself that I was going to do my best to write books kids deserve and make it so I could deserve that award, which I almost didn’t get because:

  1. I almost missed the shuttle on purpose
  2. I almost went on a date with the hotel doorman – no just kidding!
  3. My fear of failing in front of people was SO overwhelming that it took everything I had to go.

So, how do you fight your fear of failure? Here is how I do it.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones carriejonesbooks.blog
Wednesday Writing Wisdom

Tough Love Yourself

Realize that if you don’t try, you’re not going to have the experience. Imagine how crappy you’re going to feel if you don’t at least try to write a novel when all you want to do is be a novelist. Realize, that you can’t publish a book unless you submit it.

IMAGINE THE WORST POSSIBLE OUTCOMES And Realize that they aren’t that bad, Honestly

When my daughter Em was little and stressed about something and/or failing I’d say, “Buddy. Is anyone going to die if you fail? Will you go to jail if you fail? Will you be forever injured? Then do it. Nothing horrifying will happen.”

I tell this to myself, too.

MAKE SMALL GOALS AND NOTICE WHEN YOU REACH THEM

Thinking about writing an entire series of novels can be overwhelming. For some of my students, thinking about writing 80,000 words (basically one YA novel) is terrifying and they are certain that they will fail when they think of it that way.

This is why I never think of it that way.

You put your big goal into smaller, more attainable bites. Writing 250 words a day for five days a week doesn’t seem as potentially fail-possible as writing 80,0000 words. And when you hit that goal? Allow yourself to notice, to feel your success. Train yourself to be successful so that failure feels like a really far away thing.

Have an Escape Route

Lots of times when we think; I am going to completely fail as a writer and have no job and go bankrupt, it helps to have a cushion, a back-up plan.

When the Emster was applying to colleges, she had a back-up college, but she also had a contingency plan about what to do if she got in nowhere. She’d take a gap year and try again. Maybe get a couple cool life experiences and skills.

In writing, when you fail? You do the same thing. Rethink your story’s structure. Start over again with your writing goal. Find a new way to get what you want, but the most important thing is to actually enjoy doing what you’re doing. Goals are awesome, but most of your life is spent is in process not achievement. Make sure you love the process and/or task so much that it doesn’t matter if you’re what society defines as ‘successful’ or not.

Sidenote: I was having all sorts of issues with wordpress yesterday so Do Good Wednesday is actually being posted on Thursday. It’s probably still Wednesday somewhere in the world, right?

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

Here is a cool and amazing project that Rotary International is doing. If you can’t help financially? That’s totally okay. Just tell the world about the project and/or Rotary. It’s 1.2 million people all around the world doing good, making change and taking action all while making friends.

And the project?

Here’s what Kate Sieber of Rotary quickly says about it:

“Rotary members from Durango, Colorado, USA, team with the Navajo Nation to bring solar lights to remote, off-the-grid homes on the country’s largest Native American reservation.”

If you follow the link you can find out more.

WRITING NEWS AND STUFF

Book Expo America

I will be signing copies of The Spy Who Played Baseball at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1, from 11:30 to noon at the Lerner Booth.

Moe Berg The Spy Who Played Baseball
Moe Berg

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.

Write Submit Support
Look. A typewriter.

PRAISE FOR CARRIE JONES AND WRITE. SUBMIT. SUPPORT:

“Carrie has the fantastic gift as a mentor to give you honest feedback on what needs work in your manuscript without making you question your ability as a writer. She goes through the strengths and weaknesses of your submissions with thought, care and encouragement.”

I swear, I did not pay anyone to say that. I didn’t even ask them to say it. The Writing Barn just told me that the feedback had intensely kind things like that and gave me a quote.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

These books are out there in the world thanks to Tor.

What books? Well, cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking actionSchool Library Journal

TIME STOPPERS THE MIDDLE GRADE SERIES OF AWESOME

Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.

Dogs are Smarter Than People

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

And finally, our podcast had a new episode Tuesday. You can check it out here.  It’s about making your characters and yourself memorable.

If you enjoy podcast, we’d be so super grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or subscribing to it on iTunes or Stitcher or rating it there or somewhere. Thank you! We know it’s a super small thing, but it means so much to us.