Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
Bockposts Book News
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
-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’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!
*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
Sharing good news... today the trade paperback version of my
latest YA novel—BEFORE MY EYES— is available from St. Martin's Press. Why
does this matter? It's cheaper than the hardcover version. It's easy to bring
to the beach (if it ever stops snowing in New England, this is will be a plus).
It's set at the end of a long hot summer (So even if it is freezing right now,
you can read about summer). But is it a so-called summer read?? Well, it's a serious summer read——
about paranoid schizophrenia, gun violence, and the teen loneliness and romance
at the end of a long hot summer. Lastly, it's been called a"powerful read," by
reviewers and by many readers. Thank you for considering
BEFORE MY EYES, which is now available in hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook formats, everywhere books are sold.
First some thoughts on
“Character is the very life of fiction. Setting exists so
that the character has someplace to stand, something that can help define him,
something he can pick up and throw, if necessary, or eat, or give to his
girlfriend. Plot exists so the character can discover himself (and in the
process reveal to the reader) what he, the character is really like: plot
forces the character to choice and action, transforms him from a static
construct to a lifelike human being making choices or reaping the rewards. And theme
exists only to make the character stand up and be somebody: theme is elevated critical language for what the
character’s main problem is.” (On
Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner, p. 54)
On the ‘”accuracy of
the writer’s eye”
“….whether you’re writing about people or dragons, your
personal observation of how things happen in the world – how character reveals
itself can turn a dead scene into a vital one…. Good advice might be: Write as
if you were a movie camera. Get exactly what is there. All human beings see
with astonishing accuracy, not that they can write it down…. Getting it down
precisely is all that is meant by ‘the accuracy of the writer’s eye.’ Getting
down what the writer really cares about – setting down what the writer himself
notices, as opposed to what any fool might notice – is all that is meant by the
originality of the writer’s eye. Every human being has original vision….” (p. 71, Gardner).
Pixar story artist
Emma Coats tweeted a series of “story basics” here are her highlights on
#1 You admire a character for trying more than for their
-- Simplify. Focus. Combine character. Hop over detours.
You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
-- What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw
the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
-- Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might
seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
-- Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great;
coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
--What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the
character. What happens if
they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
--If you were your character, in this situation, how would
you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
1) Take a simple act, say unbuttoning a shirt, pulling on a
sock, pouring a cup of coffee or milk, and write it in slow motion, that is,
give it two hundred words. Don’t automatically lapse into hyperbole (and thereby
the comic), but think of the effect: make it matter-of-fact, sinister, gross,
full of touch, feel, sight, and smell.
Discuss how the manner in which the character performs the
act shapes his character.
2) Write two hundred words on a character entering a space
(a car, a classroom, a kitchen, a backyard, etc). Inventory all the sense of
the space as she moves toward the one thing that she desperately wants in that
space. Take your time and describe in detail what the character sees, hears,
smells, senses and knows—and doesn’t know—about the surroundings.
Discuss how the character’s perceptions or point of view,
and motivation or want, shapes this character.
from Ron Carlson Writes A Story by
I've written two novels with multiple points of view... if you haven't read them yet, consider BEFORE MY EYES and LIE.
"The best summer books blend elements of typical beach reads (romance,
adventure, mystery, etc.) with reflective themes that explore
friendship, loss, self-discovery, family, and more. The awesome
plotlines of these titles will have readers tearing through pages, but
the original and complex characters will leave them feeling that these
tales, like the season itself, were over far too quickly.
The lives of three young people — Max, the unhappy son of a state
senator, Claire, a poet who feels responsible for her sister ever since
their mother had a stroke, and Barkley, a troubled 21-year-old who hears
a voice in his head — become joyfully and tragically intertwined one
Long Island Labor Day Weekend."
Read the ENTIRE LIST of thought-provoking, complex, new young adult books at the Boston Globe website... and don't be embarrassed if you are an adult reading these young adult novels!!
I found Senator Elizabeth Warren’s new memoir, A FIGHTING
CHANCE, so truthful it hurt. It hurt to be told the truth: The system is rigged
for those who are wealthy and well-connected, a truth that doesn’t surprise,
that isn’t exactly new, but is told in an eye-opening, refreshing, and at points, damn inspiring way.
The Senator from Massachusetts tells a few stories of her
life growing up scraping the bottom of the middle class barrel in Oklahoma
before moving on to college with a scholarship and law school. She shares how
she was drawn into bankruptcy law and eventually to Washington D.C. and the
worse banking and housing crisis since the Great Depression. She talks in plain-speak about politics and being a newcomer to D.C. and having the idea to form
the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and her great disappoint at not being appointed
its first director because she was “too radioactive.”
She describes being a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and
about meeting Americans across the country and asking the question: Who is the
American government working for?
Ultimately, she answers, “People feel like the system is
rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: They’re right. The system is
rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires
pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOS—the same ones who
wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs –still strut around
Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.” She
wants to celebrate success. But she, like so many of us, doesn’t want the game
to be rigged.
I had the great opportunity to see the Senator speak in D.C.
and I wanted to shout out at the end, “Run, Elizabeth, Run,” and by that I mean for President. She
would have my vote.
And if you haven’t read BEFORE MY EYES, my new young adult
novel, isn’ it time for a serious young adult novel that PW and Kirkus Review
calls, “gripping” about teens at the end of a long, hot summer, one hearing a
voice and having a gun... Caroline
Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?That was the question radio host and interview extraordinaire Diane Rehm asked today on her WAMU/NPR radio show. I was at my desk, working, writing, and my third grade poem from Mrs. Murano's class, at George M. Davis Elementary School in New Rochelle, NY, popped into my head. As far as I remember, it is my first poem, and I wrote it at age eight. Impulsively, I tweeted it to her-- and she read it on the air! It's right near the top of the show. (click here for link) And here it is too:
In the woods
where there are
rigid, rustling leaves,
I stand there
I've gone on to write and publish more,including my new young adult novel,BEFORE MY EYES,(St.Martin's Press, 2014)which has one of the main characters, Claire, age 17, writing poetry, which is featured in the novel.
Do you remember your first poem?
Warning! More thoughts on having a friend who’s an
-You will be asked to come to a reading. Wearing black is
always appropriate. Saying how whatever she reads is “moving” will work well
for most books.
-If you haven’t bought a copy of her novel, she will expect
you to buy one and she will sign it for you. Or, you can say you have read it
on your kindle or nook or Smartphone. You will not have to say that you only
read the free excerpt.
-You will find out that she’s often depressed and she will make
a bad joke about ending the way Sylvia Plath (head in gas oven) Hemingway did
(his own shotgun). You will not think this is funny and neither will she, even
though, she will say it is only a temporary condition, this darkness and
despair. It’s only until she starts writing again, and then, on occasion, when
she writes, and afterwards, a postpartum depression.
-You will ask if she has started her next novel, trying to
distract her, trying to encourage her—and she will say she is done writing
novels, nobody buys books, nobody reads—and you will be secretly relieved, you
will think that you will have your old friend back until the day you call and
she is excited once again, happy even. She has started a new work. She can’t
talk about it. It’s too early, too new, too fresh. She just has to write. You will
say you understand even you don’t because you are good friend and you know by
now that writers need good friends.
--Caroline Bock is the author of the new young adult novel: BEFORE MY EYES St. Martin's Press) available everywhere print and ebooks are sold.
A Special BOOK TALK with
Join the Maryland
Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America: A Special Book Talk with Caroline Bock
, author of the acclaimed
new young adult novel, BEFORE MY EYES,
Press, 2014), about teens, mental illness and gun violence, and decisions and
consequences that change lives forever.
SUNDAY, APRIL 27
2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Rockville Memorial Library
Rockville, MD 20850
Bock’s thought-provoking novel delves into the important issue of gun violence
in our country. The book facilitates a discussion among young people and
parents regarding the terror and prevalence of shootings, and also the ease in
which anyone can obtain a gun in this country.”-Jenifer Pauliukonis, Maryland chapter leader of Moms Demand Action
REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED AND SIGNED
COPIES OF BEFORE MY EYES WILL BE
AVAILABLE. A Donation will be made to Moms Demand Action with every book purchase
EVENT: FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
I own a cat.
However, I wrote a new novel, BEFORE MY EYES, with a
dog, a blind dog, named King, as a key character. He “sees” what others
can’t—particularly about his owner, 17-year-old Max Cooper, who is struggling
at the end of a long, hot summer.
Not only do I own a cat, but as an adult, I have only owned
a dog, a puppy, named Goldie, for three days, (and three very long nights),
until my husband and I realized that we weren’t ready for a puppy. We weren’t
ready for children either, but we were really not ready to take care of a
puppy. We were in our mid-20s and barely able to take care of ourselves.
We wouldn’t have children until sixteen years into our
marriage, and we would never have another dog. Over the years, we became
committed cat people, specializing in bruiser cats—big, bold, neutered male
cats—with old man names such as Marvin and Shelton.
Yet I wrote a second young adult novel in which the blind
dog metaphorically saves one character’s life, and is a key part in literally
saving others. I based his character on my brother’s dog, who is one of the
smartest and most empathetic of creatures, and who is also a black Labrador.
The reader reaction to King has been strong and
overwhelmingly positive. So I’ve
been thinking about the reasons. A dog belongs to family in a way that a cat does
not bother himself with being. In
a novel, a dog can be taken outside, can be the excuse for a walk (this happens
twice in my novel), can be critical to the play on a soccer field (also a key
scene), and can express warnings, fears, love—all of which King does in BEFORE
Cats, frankly, can’t be bothered with humans much of the
time; they aren’t anyone’s cipher but utterly unto themselves, at least the
cats, I’ve known. As Mark Twain noted, “If man could be crossed with the cat it
would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” On the other hand, Twain also looked
highly on dogs, “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out
and your dog would go in.” At the end of the day, I find favor in both cats and
dogs, sometimes too, over man.
This time around I wrote about a heroic dog, a blind dog,
named in King in BEFORE MY EYES—a novel about teens, mental illness and gun
violence—appropriate for teen ages 14 and above, and adults of all ages. Read
the book and find out why readers are rooting for this novel—and for King.
P.S. Are you a dog or cat person? What is your favorite dog or cat in literature?