Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
GOOD NEWS from Caroline Bock
Wham! Write A Story!!
(a story about a story for adults as well as kids)
Wham! Will writes. Ka-zooom!! And our hero flies off. The end.
He adds a half dozen exclamation points to his ‘Wham’!!!!!! and three more to
“I’m done,” he
says in a very loud voice. “I’ve written the greatest story ever!”
But Lara, his best friend, doesn’t agree. His story isn’t
done. It hasn’t even begun.
“Yes, it is! See I wrote ‘the end.’"
“You don’t have a beginning,” says Lara. “Where’s the ‘Once
upon a time’ or ‘it was a dark and stormy night?’”
“I have “Wham!' With an exclamation point.”
“Okay, you can start with wham! But something has to happen next. You
have to introduce the setting or the characters. Then something has to happen to the characters. Also, you’re
using a lot of exclamation points!!!”
“Exclamation points look like soldiers, and I like them. But what’s
the setting? Why do I need that?”
“Where the story takes place. The setting is also about when it
takes place. For example, does it take place now? Or in the past? Or in the
“I want it to take place here, Lara. On the page.”
“You have to take it off the page. Bring it into reader’s
mind. My mind.”
“Then, how about at school?”
“What kind of school? You have to be specific. The more details in a story, the
better the story. An elementary school? A big school? The world’s biggest
“The world’s most gigantic elementary school. A billion and
twenty-nine kids go there.”
“I’m glad I don’t go there.”
“It’s my setting,” says Will.
Lara stretched across the white sheet of paper, her
character aching to go someplace. To do something or to want something—the
story needed a plot.
“Okay, so you have the setting. Who’s in the story? Who’s
this story about? Is there a main character—other than us— that does something?
That propels all the action and stuff forward.”
“What happens next? That’s the plot. You have to ask
yourself what happens to your characters?”
Will underlines with his newly sharpened yellow pencil a
line where he says that his superhero flies off to fight the evil alien mutants,
right before ‘the end.’
“Let’s back up. Is that your main character? A superhero? Not me?”
“I don’t write books about girls.”
“Today you will, or I’m leaving.”
“I guess I could add you but only as a secondary character.”
“Forget it then. This story ends now.”
“No, wait!!! Lara!!! You can be a main character too.”
“A superhero too?”
“Yes, a superhero, too.”
“What’s my name in the story?”
“Can’t you just be Lara?”
“What’s the other superhero’s name?”
“He has a name,” said Will, clutching his pencil even
“You didn’t include it.”
“But I know the name.”
“And I only know what you write on the page, Will, and what
I read. So what’s his name? What does he look like? What is he thinking? Seeing? Touching? Feeling? Use all of your senses to describe him—and me.”
Will put his pencil down on the lined notebook paper.
“That’s okay. You are going to have to edit and revise this
story—every writer does that. But hey, tell me, what does this other hero want?
What do I want?”
“I don’t know. I never know what you want, Lara!”
“I want to save the world, of course. Ka—zooom!! Don’t all
heroes want to save the world?”
Will snatches up his pencil and scribbles that down: save
the world. Ka—zooom!!.
“What obstacles do we face? What decisions do we make? All this
tumult is about something called: Plot. We have to have stuff happen to us.
Challenges. What helps us or stops us from doing our job or getting what we
want or, in this story, saving the world? Start at the beginning, again. You
can do this. You can write your own heroes, Will.”
“Can I use exclamation points?”
“Maybe just one or two,” said Lara laughing with Will, and
with that Lara ka-zoomed off the page.
“Wham!” dashed off Will, beginning his story, again....
"Before My Eyes, by Caroline Bock, takes the reader through the last few days of summer from the perspectives of three narrators: two teens and a mentally-ill young adult. Bock skillfully weaves together the topics of schizophrenia, gun violence, family issues, and typical adolescent angst while at the same time providing a compelling story. Though the reader gets a glimpse of the book’s climax in the first few pages, the end plays out in an unexpected way when unlikely heroes emerge. As a retired Professor of Education, I believe Before My Eyes would be an excellent book for an 11th or 12th-grade English class, and since it provides a realistic portrayal of schizophrenia, it might even be a good choice for an AP Psychology class. Whatever one’s reason for choosing this book, the reader will not be disappointed."—Edmund Sass, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus of Education This summer, I "met" Dr. Sass through the world of social media. He runs a website, Educational Resources and Lessons Plans, and I emailed him about my new novel, Before My Eyes. He was driving through the small town of Bock, Minnesota, population 106, (a town I someday plan to visit!) when he received my email. And so it goes that we he read my brief note, and he agreed to review a copy of Before My Eyes.
I am amazed how we find ourselves connected to one another—and grateful.
My brother Mark creates art from heart
pine lumber in his studio in Ballston Spa, New York. The studio was once a barn
that once shoed horses and repaired buggies. There are nicks for blacksmith
tools and for the horseshoes in planks and rafters. He paints his art, some of
it furniture, some of it paintings, the colors of the earth— brushed browns,
and deep reds and yellows, allies of zinnias and
sunflowers. Mark is a gentle giant of a guy with a beard going grey and retro
glasses, reminiscent of the glasses our father wore all his life, and I wonder
if he wears them because they are cool and hip, or because they remind him of
our father, who was neither?
The wind stirs in through the open
windows, and the studio is a mixed scent of green wood and dog or horse and
wildflowers from his plantings out front— and bad eggs, the sulfur from the
springs that feed this upstate New York town. The art is substantial— a fish, three-and-a
-half feet long, a carved rooster, its tail flaring, weighing four or five
times the weight of a living rooster; the smooth flesh-like wood of a horse painting
over four or five hands high. I wait to hear the rooster crow or the horse rear
back or the fish, let’s call it salmon, splash out of its river toward to the
sun, returning to spawn in the riverbed were it was born. The light dapples in and
plays with the art.
brother and I are only together for a few days until we return to our own,
lonelier lives. On Sunday night, we flick on an old movie in his loft above the
studio. “How Green Was My Valley,” won the Oscar in 1941 famously beating out
“Citizen Kane,” is on Turner Classic Movies. As we watch, we both agree: our
father would have liked this John Ford movie about a Welsh family of coalminers,
a workingman’s tribute— and then there’s the ending. He would have hated the
ending. He liked movies in which the good guys win: the American beat the
Nazis; the average guy overcomes odds to find love and happiness. I don’t want
to ruin it, but the father in the move dies tragically in his son’s arms, close
enough to what happened with Mark and my father that we can’t talk when it’s
over that we sit there on his couch in the dark next to one another, the
silence running through us.
we spent long summer days at our games: kickball, ring-o-leavio, red light
green light one-two-three, one-two-three. We were four latchkey children without
keys, the house on Daisy Farms Drive left forever unlocked by our father since
it was easier not to dole out a key to each of the four of us kids.
were always racing inside and outside, shouting for one another—our father booming
at us: What the hell are you doing? Do
you think you live in a barn? Close the door— playing freeze tag or hide
and seek on languid summer nights until it was dark, and we could no longer
hide or seek —Get in the house! You want
to get killed by a car playing in the street at this time of night?
another threat or two, we’d come running, shouting too. He’d scuff our heads,
his form of love, which we will never forget. My father never understood how he
got a son, an artist, and a daughter, a writer, but he always had the same
advice for the four of us —the way you
make your bed, is the way you’ll sleep in it—which we didn’t understand until
Finding Inspiration… Writing
-Is there one locale (like my
brother’s studio) in which all your senses feel alive? Write about that place.
-Do you have a sibling that
inspires you? Write a short scene you and him or her as an adult… and then another
with you as a child.
IF You Want To Visit...
Ten very basic writing tips...for a summer Friday afternoon...
1) Write on a regular schedule.
2) Finish a first draft of what you
4) Share it with someone who reads a
5) Re-write and look at plot closely.
6) Re-write and look at characters
7) Re-read entire work,try reading
parts out loud. Cats are very good listeners.
8) Finish.Say it's done.It's good
enough. So many really good writers I've met in workshops, in the MFA program,
never trust in themselves to say a work is finished.
9) Send it out into the world— and this is a much larger discussion—— but letting it go is the important part, if you want to be a writer with readers (as opposed, I guess, to a diarist).
10) Breathe. Take a breath. Read, a lot.
Take notes on what you read. Is there a word you discover? Is there a name?
(I'm becoming a big collector of names). Be generous to other writers. Write a
review. Try a different form, for example, write flash fiction if you write
novels. Don't wait too long to return to #1.
Do you have some basic writing tips to share?
Have a great weekend all!
"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
You are invited to a virtual month-long discussion
of BEFORE MY EYES with author Caroline Bock!
Date: March, 2014
Venue: YA Reads for Teachers (And Any
Location: The United States
Here is the Goodreads book summary of BEFORE MY EYES:
From the author of LIE, a powerful new
young adult novel about a fateful Long Island summer and the lives of three
young people who will never be the same...
"GRIPPING, DISTURBING AND
"Every one of Bock's fragile
characters hides an unflinching inner backbone of steel. Impassioned and
moving." - Elizabeth Wein, bestselling author of Code Name Verity and Rose
Message from Rory M., moderator of the goodreads group, YA For Teachers (and Other Adults):
I'm thrilled to
have Caroline Bock as our guest this month! Let us know if we should expect you
on the discussion thread -- it is a book that will haunt you!
...and I hope you can join too....Caroline
My eight-year-old daughter lost another tooth this week, and she insisted that she still believed in the tooth fairy
. So the tooth fairy was contacted and replied with this note:
I believe in you…
And I’m glad you believe in me.
Stay forever young…
With love always,
Your Tooth Fairy
This note (and a few dollars) from the tooth fairy made a little girl very happy. Do you still believe?
Sometimes it's nice to know that simple things are still good things to believe in--like the tooth fairy.
P.S. If I had a fairy, it would be a book fairy, someone who waves a wand and encourages all to go read my new young adult novel, BEFORE MY EYES, which is NOT at all whimsical, but as much adult as much as young adult. Look for BEFORE MY EYES everywhere books/ebooks are sold. Read it with your mature teen (age 14 and above) or just read it.
A poem dedicated to novelists everywhere
Another ordinary day—
The sun will rise across the fields.
The cold will parse the light,
on par for February.
My son will forget to zip or button
And I’ll remind him, adding:
‘Put on a hat,’
like my father always said to me
when it was cold or hot.
I’ll hear my father’s gruff
and it will make me happy in a way
that when he was alive it never did.
The teapot will shrill and
I’ll hurry it off the stove top,
hushing the boiling water.
I’ll press my mug,
with specks of tea
and milk and honey to my cheek, wondering what to make
for supper, and how I should
get to work today writing—
I don’t know what.
I’ll spot black birds
pecking at the ice-patched fields,
the school bus ruffling around
the bend, and my son loping
down the hill to the bus stop, and
it will be an ordinary day except
for the rush
that every novelist should feel
at least once in their lives:
today my book will be published.
-- Caroline Bock 2.11.14,