Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
Caroline Bock - Author of BEFORE MY EYES and LIE
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Unexpected Book, TV and Movie Delights of the summer of ‘15
FISH SELL...and other thoughts on BOOK MARKETING and MY POP


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Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES


Write 5,000 words today and you can binge-watch the rest of the first season of Mr. Robot.
Write 4,000 words today and you can go to Starbucks for a chai tea latte, grande, and re-read what you wrote. Live the writer’s life.
Write 3,000 words today—write hard and fast and then off to the yoga relaxation class where you will ultimately lie on a mat and do nothing.
Write 2,000 words today and turn off the computer, leave it off for the rest of the day, free yourself from the shackles of social media and typing like one possessed. Write 2,000 words and go get your nails done by the girl from Vietnam who scowls at your hands, looking at them intensely, wondering what she should do with them. The nails are bitten down to the skin, bleeding at her touch. All you really want is for her to hold your hands in the folds of her own cool bones.
Write 1,000 words today and you can read the rest of Franzen’s PURITY. You don’t know if this is a reward or not, you think not. Write 1,000 words and you can go back to library and find new books, ones that you will enjoy reading.
Open your novel and write 500 words this morning, you can do this. You will know you made an effort. You will be giving the world what? Ideas? Words. More words. Maybe some will make sense, maybe none will. You don’t know what else means anything to you anymore. So, you write. Make a deal with yourself: 5,000. You can do it. 5,000 words.



Columbine                        April 20, 1999
Tucson                           January 8, 2011           
Aurora                           July 20, 2012
Newtown                          December 12, 2012
Santa Barbara                    May 23, 2014
Charleston                       June 17, 2015
Roseburg, Oregon                 October 1, 2015
Dear Politician,
The answer is not more guns. As a mother, a voter, and writer, I strongly believe this. We need to do more now:
Ban assault style weapons for general sale.
Require Background checks and more...waiting periods...license... insurance. It shouldn’t be easier to buy and own a gun than it is to operate a car. Fund research on guns and their usages, including gun violence in America through the ATF and other federal agencies.  

Create a national minimum age for purchasing a gun—I would strongly suggest: 25 years of age. Make logical exceptions for police and the armed forces, or even hunters to age 21.
Change key mental health laws. If your son or daughter is having mental health issues, the last solution is a gun. Change mental health laws to make it easier for parents or loved ones to help stop access to guns.
Raise awareness. Fund, on a public-private basis, a massive public awareness campaign akin to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving efforts. I am a member of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense a national grassroots effort, but my interest goes one step further, I have published a young adult novel, BEFORE MY EYES (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) about gun violence. Call out the facts: more people want MORE DONE NOW on gun laws than ever before.
Am I against all guns? No. I respect that we have a history of gun ownership in this country. For responsible gun owners: If you are a hunter or a hobbyist, enjoy your gun responsibly. However, the time is now to do all we can to “insure domestic Tranquility” (the first line of our U.S. Constitution). It is time for all of us, but particularly our politicians, to stand up for sensible gun law legislation and do more.


-Listen to that voice that pounds the back of your skull with,“Not today. I can’t do it. I’ll start on Monday morning at 6 a.m., no, at 5 a.m.”
-Oversleep on Monday morning until 7 a.m. and decide it’s way too late to start.
-Talk about what you are going to write. Tell it to your writer friends, your book club, to the guy in accounting, who admits that the last novel he read was in freshman English.
-Decide what you need is another outline. Exhaust yourself scribing on a long yellow legal pad every plot point you can imagine (Zombies! Ebola pandemics! Martians!) into your historical novel set in mid-20 century Europe.Add this yellow legal pad to the pile beside your desk.
-Confirm to yourself that what you truly need is more research. This gets you going. The World Wide Web—hours wrap like rubber bands into a ball— and reams of notes printed out. But it’s not enough. You can justify a trip. You are writing about Italy, you must seek out the wonders of Rome, or at least visit a nearby pizza joint, or partake of a shot of espresso at the coffee shop. All this inspires you to do more research.
-Focus on your computer or your printer or desk. The printer is hacking out pages like an old man with phlegm. Shouldn’t you upgrade? Isn’t your monitor too small? Isn’t it time to back up? Clean up history? Shouldn’t you be working at one of those standing desks—wouldn’t jogging on a treadmill attached to your desk improve your writing? A trip to the office supply store is what’s required, and you set out, determined to conquer technology and write more, better, faster— and get in shape.
-Do anything but write one sentence and then another until a page is done, a scene or chapter is drafted. How to write that first sentence? That’s another blog.

Much response to this post, so I've added this addendum:

"Graham Greene realized early in his writing career that if he wrote just 500 words a day, he would have written several million words in just a few decades. So he developed a routine of writing for exactly two hours every day, and he was so strict about stopping after exactly two hours that he often stopped writing in the middle of a sentence...." (from the Writer's Almanac).  Great advice, and now, I have to stop writing... (only kidding, I am just getting started!) Caroline


Caroline Bock is the author of two critically acclaimed young adult novels: LIE (St. Martin’s Press, 2011) and BEFORE MY EYES (St. Martin’s Press, 2014). Her short stories and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in Akashic Press, Gargoyle Magazine andits Defying Gravity Anthology, Fiction Southeast, 100 Word Story, Ploughshares,Prometheus,Vestal Review, and Zero Dark-Thirty. She is also a contributor to The Washington Independent Review of Books. She writes every day, or at least attempts to write. More at   

Unexpected Book, TV and Movie Delights of the summer of ‘15

Labor Day. Unofficial End to Summer. But summer of 2015 had a few unexpected delights…

Re-read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret. How ahead of the time was Judy Blume? unexpectedly fresh and relevant, especially since I have a ten-year-old daughter!

Television series…
Humans on AMC… Synths, a.k.a. synthetic robots, more humane than humans—and complete with British accents. This BBC drama is a futuristic take on the ‘Upstairs/Downstairs’ life with lots of plot turns and heart. Plus, I've read that it's already renewed for a second season.

The Strain on FX… The second season of New York City under siege from pulp fiction-inspired, Nazi-backing, vampire-infected creatures took the idea that NYC could be a dangerous place to bring up kids to new levels. A fabulous multi-racial cast, inspired by novels of the same name, make this well-written series worth watching. Plus, I've heard: expect more of THE STRAIN next summer! 

Jurassic World…Saw this with my kids and found, unexpectedly, it was lot of fun for me too Made me think again: how cool would a real Jurassic Park be?   

Mr. Holmes…I went for the cast—Ian McKellen as the aging Sherlock Holmes, and one of my all-time favorite actresses, Laura Linney as his housekeeper. What I didn’t expect is how much this would be a movie about the process of writing. If you are a writer, go immediately to see.      

I Believe in Unicorns…I streamed this absolute delight of an indie film about first love on Amazon…and now I believe in unicorns. If you liked "Fault in Our Stars," I suggest you watch I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS. It's now streaming to a television or computer near you!        

So here we are at another Labor Day, which has a special meaning to me. The setting of my new young adult novel, BEFORE MY EYES,is Labor Day weekend on Long Island, New York. If you haven’t read BEFORE MY EYES yet, I urge you to do so this Labor Day. I find there’s something unexpectedly metaphysically rewarding about reading books at the moment, or in the place, that they are set.

Onward to autumn!

FISH SELL...and other thoughts on BOOK MARKETING and MY POP

FISH SELL... was originally published earlier this year by the wonderful Washington Independent Review of Books...but I've been thinking a lot these hot summer days of my Pop and of his unorthodox real-world advice so I'm reprinting and sharing it here...

Beyond the Book
“Fish Sell”
On seeing the trade paperback of my book for the first time
By Caroline Bock
The cover of Before My Eyes hasn’t changed, but the feel of it has. Grittier. I expect it to smell like cigarettes.
It doesn’t.
BEFORE MY EYES by Caroline Bock 
I flip to the back first, as if the ending may somehow have changed.
It hasn’t.
On the last page is an advertisement for another novel, LIE, and I see that I wrote that, too.
I actually never forgot that I wrote LIE, my first novel. Though sometimes it feels like I never published anything (except that poem I wrote in third grade) — that someone else wrote all those words over all those years.
I can still remember that first poem. My father stared at it and its “tall, towering trees” published in the school’s mimeographed newspaper.
“Toots, we got a writer in the family,” he said with his kind of praise, expansive and vague. It took me a minute to know that he was imagining me older, not 8 years old. Until that moment, I hadn’t particularly wanted to be a writer.
If my father were looking over Before My Eyes, he’d ask the sale price first ($9.99), and then how many I expected to sell (a lot, maybe). And then he might ask: “Why don’t I bring the book down to Thunderbird?” He’d sell a few for me at his flea-market table in Florida where he sold souvenir T-shirts to Canadian tourists.
“I can’t promise you how many books I’d move, toots. I’m the guy known for the fish T-shirts, not books. Did you ever think of slapping a picture of a shark on any of your novels? Fish sell, toots.”
You’ll notice that there is always a mother, damaged or dead, in my novels. I’m working on writing a mother into my next book, but I may have to kill her off. My father raised me, and I have trouble with mothers.
I have never seen a shark or written about one. Before My Eyes is about paranoid schizophrenia, gun violence, and the teen psyche at the end of a long, hot summer. It is largely set at the beach, but there aren’t any fish.

Some people glance at Before My Eyes and ask, “What age is this for?” because it is marketed as a YA novel. I wrote it with teen characters surrounded by adults who don’t see what is happening before their eyes. I think adults should read it first.
If you read Before My Eyes, you’ll immediately glean that it starts near the end and moves backward. The world is different if you think you know the answers, but you don’t.

I see the world moving forward and backward at the same time, roots overlapping one another, the trees from my first poem. I see myself writing in notebooks at 8 years old and today. My father is gone, dead now, but here with me, looking over my shoulder, talking about fish.
“Fish sell, toots.”
The trade-paperback version of Caroline Bock’s Before My Eyes is now available wherever books are sold. For more about the author go to 


When the King of Siam disliked a courtier,
He gave him a beautiful white elephant."
….” In Dispraise of Poetry by Jack Gilbert
I made a great find this past weekend at Capitol Books, a used bookstore in D.C., with floor-to-ceilings offerings in a row house near the Eastern Market—a copy of the poet Jack Gilbert’s Views of Jeopardy, his first book of poetry from The Yale Series of Younger Poets, published in 1962. I am not a collector of things— I’ve never felt the urge to bring anything but words into my house.
I believe there may be a chapbook out there. I remember he published one while I was at Syracuse University, the one year he taught at this upstate New York college, and I believe I even bought it. But it’s lost to the years and a dozen or so moves.
“Three days I sat
Bewildered by love.
Three nights I watched
The gradations of dark.
Of light …”
            Before Morning in Perugia by Jack Gilbert
What I remember most about him was that he was slight man, white haired and in his sixties by the time I was his student. He was passionate about the poetic line and about women, especially those  he found himself with in places foreign to him, a guy from Pittsburgh, and I find that these passions imbued in this early set of poems.
“… When I got quiet
she’d put on usually Debussy
leaning down to the small ribs
bite me.
            Portrait Number Five: Against A New York Summer by Jack Gilbert
I think of him so young writing these poems, and want to cry out, but instead I read on, gorging on the lines, ebullient with my find.



EIGHT GOALS TO CHANGE THE WORLD ... at the turn of the millennium... specifically: "At the Millennium Summit in September 2000 the largest gathering of world leaders in history adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets, with a deadline of 2015, that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the world's time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions-income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion-while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. They are also basic human rights-the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter, and security." — United Nations.

Today on NPR, I heard that the United Nations is reviewing the results of its Millennium Goals...

I wrote a version of this short essay inspired by those goals for a collection of essays, Spirit of Service (Harper Collins, 2010), and I thought it timely to re-read and reflect on my original work...

Influence, Tested
“—Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future.—Barack Obama, the culmination of his inauguration address.
We often feel like others have more influence over the course of events than we do.

We especially feel this way when we are tested with such big, intractable, and really hard problems: hunger, poverty, disease, genocide and environment sustainability  to name a few.  We think that as long as these problems are not in our backyards, we do not need to stand up and take action. It’s for others, the government, to be graded on anyway.  
In his inaugural address, with a heavy snow on the streets of Washington, D.C., on January 20, 1961, another President challenged this stance by declaring: “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  A lesser known line follows that widens this vision:   “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
We have dithered too long over the idea that others will do what we can and must do as citizens of the world. The United Nations  has outlined eight millennium goals to raise up the people of the world. Together, we must go forward into the journey of the 21st century.

—Understand the eight specific millennium goals outlined at (
— Join the hundreds of millions across the globe working to impact the UN Millennium Goal #1 – eradicating extreme poverty and hunger across the world by 2015.A focused global effort to show support for the fight against poverty and for the UN millennium development goals is being organized by Stand Up and Take Action, a global advocacy group.  Locally, use your influence to organize a teach-in about world poverty and the UN millennium goals.

Personal Post Script, June, 2015: This goal of eradicatin,  extreme poverty and hunger certainly wasn't reached. War in too many places intervened. In the United States poverty, is now eloquently termed "income inequality." But the fight must go on. In the United States: 15 dollar minimum wage is a start. What other ways to jump start this campaign on a local and global level?


And if you are looking for a compelling summer read consider my new young adult novel: BEFORE MY EYES (St. Martin's Press, 2014)

Dear Bill Gates...ideas for your summer reading list

Dear Bill Gates:
I’m concerned about your summer reading list, heavy on nonfiction titles, lacking in fiction, classics, poetry, which reflect the common core of what I believe every educated American should read (of course, I will readily admit that this is totally subjective, and I want to stress that I am happy that you are reading at all, something I stress to my own children).
So, I have some alternative titles to your summer reading list for you to consider:   
-The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson, short poems, easy to read at the beach, or choose any other poetry collection.
-1984 by George Orwell. I am amazed at how often George Orwell’s 1984 is quoted, especially in relations to politics and to technology. I plan to re-read this summer, and I think you should too. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the presents controls the past.”
-The “Battle Royal” section of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison to understand the history of racism and pain in America. The entire the book is moving too, but it’s that chapter you have to read.
-Hilary Mantel’s Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories,  or Lydia Davis’ Collected Stories, or George Pellecanos’ Martini Shot, if you’d like some terrific genre short fiction— one nice thing about short story collections is you can feel free to skip a story or two and still say you read the book. I’ve been reading a lot of short fiction lately—short fiction focuses the mind, and these stories all present character, image, conflict in the most concise way.  
-The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, my son just read this in 9 grade – talks about being the ‘outsider’ and ‘other’ here in America better than any young adult novel. One other thought: Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, winner of this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, written in verse. I have it on my TBR list and so should you.  
-Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, the Broadway show is a big hit, but the graphic novel is a deep and moving tale of a father and daughter— and coming out. And it’s always cool to say you read graphic novels.
I’m sure others would have suggestions for you that go beyond your limited nonfiction and science/tech-focused summer book reading choices— any others out there? 
I’d just urge you to go farther and wider and be more open and curious in your reading, and if you do, to share it with us all. 
Read on, Bill! Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!
Caroline Bock
*Full disclosure: I am the author of two critically acclaimed young adult novels: Before My Eyes (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) and LIE (St. Martin’s Press, 2011). You can also always read these book:)! More at


From Girl on a Train to Robert Frost...I recently wrote a few haiku reviews... a great exercise in writing. Some are reactions to what I read, others are refractions of characters (i.e. the pool cleaner in Gatsby is in my imagination, not the novel's pages). Here goes... 

For The Girl on a Train…
On a metro car:
See or hear nothing, feel less.
Days of driving rain.
For The Buried Giant…
No past, no future—
misted memories, but all
connect, remember?
For The Great Gatsby…
I cleaned the swim pool—
after cops fished Gatsby out—
more work, no more pay.
For The Collected Poems of Robert Frost…
I don’t know these woods—
what crossroad to travel now—
lead me there, poet.
Have you ever tried a haiku review?
—Caroline Bock is the author of the critically acclaimed young adult novels: BEFORE MY EYES (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) and LIE (St. Martin’s Press, 2011).


I write primarily fiction; however, I love poetry and since these are the final days of National Poetry Month, I am going to share with you notes from a fabulous writer's conference I attended, BOOKS ALIVE, sponsored by the Washington Independent Review of Books, an incisive online writing and book review community. This weekend, they honored poet and poetry advocate extraordinaire Grace Cavalieri with their first Lifetime Achievement Award. Upon accepting the award, she gave her top four reasons why poetry still matters (and I may be paraphrasing her, as I quickly took these notes):

-Poetry slows down time. You read slowly and you write slowly

-Poetry preserves the beloved

-Poetry makes us notice the world more

-We are more fully alive when we read and write poetry

This makes me want to write poetry, my secret writing, and to me that is the world.

Does poetry matter to you?

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