Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
Yesterday, I had a wonderful opportunity to speak before the Suffolk County School Library Media Association (SSMLA)
at their annual dinner. This talk before a smart, high-spirited group of school librarians, game me the chance to remember my high school school library at–New Rochelle High School.
My school library was a refuge for a geeky kid who liked to read – who was
involved in her school’s literary magazine – and not much else – I was raised
by a single parent, a father, who raised 4 kids along after my mother had a
stroke and was left almost fully paralyzed and brain-damaged. We couldn’t
afford to buy books in our house – but we didn’t need to buy them. There was the library, especially the
You could find me
there almost everyday after school.
I didn’t want to go home.
Home was chaotic. Home was loud. Home was where I, as the eldest daughter had to cook dinner and clean and do laundry and not stop
until everyone was in bed and then, maybe I could escape and read more.
I have to admit that I don’t remember
the librarians’ names – but I remember their kindness. I remember how they
smiled when I checked out every novel by Ernest Hemingway after I read The Sun
Also Rises in 10 grade English class.
One thing I do remember -- one stifling spring day, my study partner, David, leaned over to me and said, "I like you more than you think." But that’s a
story for outside the library.
If you are a librarian or an educator, I've done something thinking about the Common Core for ELA Grades 8-12 and my young adult novel, LIE. I would appreciate your thoughts on my study notes -- at my website www.carolinebock.com.
And thank you school librarians, you should be mandated for every school, you are critical to our students success!
BEFORE MY EYES
BEFORE MY EYES
BEFORE MY EYES
BEFORE MY EYES
new novel by CAROLINE BOCK
from St. Martin’s Press in 2014
If you are one of those people who like to be in the know before anybody else... check out Lena Roy's blog post on my upcoming young adult novel, BEFORE MY EYES. I asked her if she could "blurb" (write an insightful but eye-catching yet meaningful few lines for promotional use based on an early, early review copy. A blurb is an art in itself). And was I surprised what I got back - much more than a blurb. Or maybe I shouldn't have been surprised - she's an amazing writer - and reader! Here's a first take on BEFORE MY EYES:
"...Bock's story begins with a mass shooting on a Monday morning, and then she takes us back to Friday, weaving the narrative between three points of view: Max, a state senator's son who is having a hard time doing the right thing, Claire, a poet who has too many responsibilities, and Barkley, who hears voices, and unravels before our eyes. Max and Claire are more worried about themselves, and although we know what is going to happen, we quickly turn the pages.
Bock isn't preaching to us about the way things should be, she's giving us a glimpse into the way things are, without sentimentality and without an agenda. Her characters are multi-dimensional, filled with both darkness and light, as we, her readers all are. She reminds us of the struggle to be human, and has us searching for our own redemption, our own path to forgiving the world for its sins..." the complete critique of BEFORE MY EYES can be found at: www.lenaroy.com.
Thank you, Lena!
BEFORE MY EYES will be published in early 2014 from St. Martin's Press.
In the meantime, if you haven't read LIE yet, my debut novel about race, hate, murder, and ultimately at the very end, love -- get a copy today -- if you haven't read Lena Roy's EDGES, get a copy today too! Caroline
Did you ever find something old--a poem-- and decide to finish it twenty years after you started it? Of course, you're a different person. Or are you? Here's my poem that I found and finished...
Twenty Years Between
the First and Second Part
We come to it late this love late at night
after the argument about the kids
that aren’t born yet to us— we are preparing our
arguments ahead of time like we prepared
cheat notes for tests in college we make
ready our lives for children then come back to
love after we’ve decided nothing—
the children will come when they come and
we’ll let them be born. What a thing
to have to decide—
when to let something be born
and when other things like money
Twenty entangled years later,
making love late again.
No arguments before or after, only
our son and daughter’s sleeping breaths,
what a thing we’ve decided—
nothing matters more.
Consider giving your teen a novel that will make them think differently about the meaning of love -- and hate -- my debut novel: LIE.
At Syracuse University, on a sparkling cold winter night, at the Hall of Languages, top floor, I listened to my poetry teacher, Jack Gilbert,
read and I cried and cried. His words and the passion in which he read them filled this undergraduate with emotion and possibility -- and I remember thinking: this is what it means to be in college, to write, to be alive.
This magnificent poet died today at age 87. One of his last collection of poems I re-read now, Refusing Heaven (his "Collected Poems" have just been released this year). In the title poem, the voice says at the end, as he refuses heaven, "He is like an old ferry dragged onto the shore,/ a home in its smashed grandeur, with the giant beams/ and joist. Like a wooden ocean out of control./ A beached heart. A cauldron of cooling melt." Rest in peace, old teacher. Sail on.
Two weeks without electrical power and finally, someone, said let there
be light and there was light late on Sunday night here on Long Island – and
heat and television and computers and all the modern conveniences that make our
lives both easier and more complicated. I learned a lot of the last few days:
-I re-discovered Scrabble – and found at that 12-year-olds
can be as competitive at Scrabble as they are at soccer! I also re-lived the joy of snow through his joy at the Nor'easter of November on Long Island.
-I read poetry to the kids at night – they liked My Cat Jeoffry
the spiritual poem on cats by Christopher Smart the best and so did I. Our cat, Shelton, liked it
too. As Smart ends his poem about his cat, we petted our cat. "For he is of the tribe of Tiger... For every house is incompleat without him &/ a blessing is lacking in the spirit."
-I found the joy of early bedtimes, for the kids, and myself
at 7:30 pm and for waking with the sunrise.
-Historical novels are better settings than contemporary ones when you are living in a cold, dark surreal setting, I found contemporary settings where people argued over money and politics hard to focus on. For example, I started Richard Ford’s Canada
(plan to finish it), J.K. Rowling’s Casual Vacancy
(don’t plan to finish in the near future) but I did finish Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies
-- about the last weeks of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII set in the brutal fall and winter of 1535. (If you don't recall Anne was the one beheaded and pushed aside for wife number three: Jane Seymour).
And, I worried a lot – about my family in the cold – though we
were better off than many others – and remembered to be thankful for what we
had: an intact house and car and, most importantly, one another. We celebrated
by lighting candles on Friday night and saying prayers, even though we had no
choice but to light candles, the prayers had a special meaning flickering the darkness with grace and calm.
We live in strange times – between the future that we fear
and the past, which we can’t return to. I just hope we won’t be living in the
dark and cold until we figure out how to truly move forward.
Did the recent storms hit you? Or have you experienced
natural disasters where you live? Did it change the way you think or do things? Be well out there, my friends. And when you have time, consider reading my debut novel: LIE.
There are times when it's hard to write. In the middle of100 mile per winds, it's hard to write, it's hard to imagine the night will end, and if it ends, will there be a roof on the house or trees on the roof. Hurricane Sandy. The rain drills sideways. The wind rips. You have to be the grown up because technically you are grown up even if you want to hide under the covers too. You are thankful you do not have that house that you always wanted with the water view and afraid for those you know near the water. Lights blink, revive, and blink again. Dark hits you in the face. Your children cling to you -- even your twelve- year- old son who earlier in the evening ignored you like always. They want to go, leave, escape, now. You remember you live on an island -- the bridges closed, the railroad shut down, you cannot leave even if you were brave enough to drive anywhere. You're not brave enough. And then,with a final heave of darkness and wind, the skies sigh in exhaustion. The dawn seeps through the horizon, the land is speckled with wet leaves and downed trees, the sky blue and clear. Your neighbor lets you know he has a guy who has a chainsaw coming as if that is an every day thing -- and you are thankful to that neighbor and to the guy with the chainsaw. Everyone has lost power. A generator buzzes from someone's backyard and spews gasoline fumes into the storm-fresh air. Your son takes off on his razor to find out what happened to his friends and their houses, waving you off, racing toward the sun.
I hope all are safe and working on recovery --
set on Long Island,
inspired by true events.
Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2012, and I'm marking two very different anniversaries in this post: 9/11 and the Norton Anthology of Literature, both which mark turning points in my life -- and maybe yours?
Eleven years ago, I woke up to the same blue, blue skies that I woke up to today. Not a cloud. Blue. That day, I was supposed to be in New York City, running a press conference, downtown, until my ace second-in-command, called and ordered, "Turn on the news. Now." The skies were clear and blue and then they weren't.
The second anniversary, talks about what saves us from despair, at least what saves me: stories and poetry. The Norton Anthology of English LIterature
is celebrating its 50th anniversary, having published nine editions so far. I have carried my edition of the Norton Anthology of Poetry
with me since I was a freshman in college, schlepped it from one home to another, at least a dozen moves, brought it with me to graduate school in my 40s, adding notes to its tissue-thin paper, losing the cover, re-reading some poems never reading others in the 1,000 plus page tome. I will never abandon it, for it never abandoned me.
"I wake to sleep, and take my waking show.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go." --
opening to "The Waking" by Theodore Roethke
p. 1133 in my edition of The Norton Anthology of Poetry
And lastly, if you haven't read LIE
yet -- my critically-acclaimed young adult novel, now is the time.
I recently visited the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios - Disneyworld in Orlando Florida--and was inspired at every turn
-- not by the rides (though don't miss the Star Wars Tour at Hollywood Studios or the newly updated and wildly colorful "It's a Small World" classic at the Magic Kingdom) but by the imagination of the place, by the charm, by the wonder in my kid's eyes at every turn. What fascinated my 12 year old son? The talking garbage can in Tomorrowland. Was there a real person guiding it by remote control? Was it advanced robotics? Was is something else? Who was behind it (if anyone knows more about the talking garbage can in Tomorrowland - please let me know!).
At Disney's Hollywood Studios, the theme park tribute to Hollywood and the movies, I stumbled upon The Writer's Stop... of course, I had to stop and go into to this coffee shop and bookstore. Here I found a brief respite from the 90 degree tropical heat, and even more so, I discovered: The Imagineering Workout: Excercises to Shape Your Creative Muscles by The Disney Imagineers. This book is a gem, written in short chapters, with practical as well as inspiration advice, from those hands-on professionals -- from writers to designers to engineers -- who create for Disney. Here's a few of their suggestions:
- "Inspiration comes from things infused with life," John Kavelin, Director, Design and Production, Tokyo Disneyland Resort
- "Setting goals before and during the creative process enhances your projects...the key is to make sure the goals inspire and don't detract from your creative journey." Dave Crawford, Principal Mechanical Engineer Show/Ride Engineering
- "Your ability to articulate your likes and dislikes will give you the ability to champion and defend your project... observe what you like for five to ten minutes... observe what you don't like for five or ten minutes..." --Sue Bryan, Senior Show Producer, Concept Development.
- "Use 'What If?" to preface and idea of suggestion... ask and respond to your 'What ifs?' List them. Stay Positive..."- Steve "Mouse" Silverstein, Principal Developer, Animation Programming Systems, Walt Disney Imagineering Florida. (I seem to always start a with an idea generated from a question, though admittedly most of mine are a little less positive and more filled with outrage...read LIEto see what I mean!)
- "Question: how many Imagineers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Does it have to be a light bulb?...Create the magic!" --Jan O'Connor, Show Writer, Creative Development.
I plan to keep this book near my desk! Here's to a great end of the summer for all. If you haven't picked up a copy of my debut novel LIE now is the time--
Advice to a Six Year
Old After the Mass Shooting
at the Midnight
Showing of “The Dark Knight Rises”
by Caroline Bock
We send our children off—
with sunscreen and antibacterial lotion.
With orders to drink lots of water
if it’s hot, and to button up, if it’s cold.
I instruct my six year old not to scream—
don’t draw attention—
if the gunman points his semi-automatic your way—
run out of sight, disappear into the air—
know where the exits are located.
Or if in a classroom, barricade yourself in.
Don’t be a hero. Call 9-1-1.
Come home from Columbine,
West Virginia Tech, the “Congress at your Corner”
meet and greet in Tucson,
the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises”—
come home safe.
But at six years old, she insists she is smarter than me:
says she won’t leave my sight, she’ll hold my hand.
She’ll eat her green vegetables. Go to bed early.
We send our children off—
mine, contrary to what she promises,
breaks away, races across the dying grasses—
the scent of apples on the ground—
a new backpack slung on her sturdy shoulders—
new sneakers tight on her feet.
We stand in the autumn fields demanding
the world return our children safely to us
and fear our voices can never be loud enough.
Thoughts and prayers to all the victims and their families
Caroline Bock is the
author of the critically-acclaimed
What a cool thing I discovered -- LIE was reviewed in this monthly educator bulletin for The Character Council of Greater Kentucky. Now, as a writer, on first glance, I thought this was a writer's journal --i.e. development of fictional people in literature-- I have 10 distinct first person points of view in LIE and maybe someone in the Kentucky area thought this interesting.
But no, it's character as in a way to build ethics and values that we can all agree on like fairness, respect, trustworthiness, and caring for one another -- themes that are at the heart of my debut young adult novel, LIE. (We can agree that these are good things, right? In our current political climate I often wonder!)
Here's the link to the Character Council of Greater Kentucky -- and you will find there a PDF of this amazingly insightful newsletter on building character in grades 1-12 -- www.charactercincinnati.org.
And here's an excerpt from their LIE review: "This novel is a smart, topical story about a racially motivated hate crime, its far-ranging consequences and the community determined to keep it under wraps..."
more about LIE