Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
GOOD NEWS from Caroline Bock
I was going to write a long blog about the value of entering
contests, but what I really want you to do is read my short story,
"Gargoyles and Stars,"winner of the 2016 Writer Magazine short story
contest judged by Colum McCann. I rarely enter contests so I truly have
no wisdom to share except to enter them once in a while, if you admire
the work of the judge or the publication, if you feel lucky, if you
don't feel lucky and want to feel lucky for a moment. ——Caroline
The Writer Magazine
December 23, 2015
Twists, turns, double meanings and double lives. These are some of the
recurring themes for our Two Roads Diverge contest. Guest judge Colum
McCann chose the three winners and an honorable mention. We are happy to
announce them here.
Read the winning story in our March issue, on newsstands February 9, and read all three on writermag.com in January.
Caroline Bock and her submission "Gargoyles and Stars" introduces us to the cheerful and humorous Lydia, on the hunt in New York City for her parked car. Despite many vibrant memories, her loyalty to the past is trumped only by the fact that it doesn’t exist in the present except in her imagi
Guest judge Colum McCann noted Bock's style, saying, "It’s a brave story with many different strands nicely helixed together."
A young adult novelist, Bock has published poetry and short stories with F(r)iction, Ploughshares and Prometheus. Her poetry has been nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in Maryland, where she works as freelance bookseller.
The Best Holiday Present ever!
Here's to a 2016 filled with inspiration and creativity for us all!
HOW NOT TO WRITE...
-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
-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
-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
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
Defying Gravity Anthology, Fiction Southeast, 100 Word Story, Ploughshares,Prometheus,Vestal Review,
. She is also a contributor to The Washington Independent Review of Books. She writes every day, or
at least attempts to write. More at wwww.carolinebock.com
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!
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!
“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
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 …”
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
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.
Signs of Winter and Spock...
-We have run out of official school snow days. We are now onto
adding days to summer vacation. The snow/ice/freezing temperatures must,
therefore, logically end. This is, of course, an illogical argument.
-Logic, the realm of Mr. Spock, is dead. We live in an
irrational world. I’m trying to connect this to winter, and perhaps this is a
way: he was a character who lived on in our imaginations, and
certainly, in the Star Trek sagas, brought back to life over and again to reassert that logic can survive our human frailties.
For one brief moment, we believe winter will never end, and then,
with wind and rains and warmth, the earth is restored. Spring will rise, even if
we refuse to believe it amid the threatening snow and ice, even if we are illogical, irrational creatures.
Rest in peace, Leonard Nimoy.
Live long and prosper.
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.
Cold. Ice-Rain. High Winds approaching. Stay Indoors! We're all hearing the warnings up and down the Northeast of the United States today.So I'm daydreaming of actors to play the key teens roles in BEFORE MY EYES——just daydreaming—but if you've read BEFORE MY EYES, you'll know it's set at end of a long, hot summer. If you've read BEFORE MY EYES (and of course, you must, it's available everywhere books and ebooks are... here's an easy link:), you'll know that these are complicated, layered Long Island suburban teens at a breaking point in their lives, and we'll need the absolutely right mix of stars. Even more particularly, if you've read, BEFORE MY EYES, you'll know that there are three main teen characters:
Barkley - 21, an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, having his first psychotic break, hearing a voice in his head, with a gun in his desk drawer, is breaking apart at the end of the summer as he tries to hold it together at the Snack Shack and at home
Claire -17 dreamy, poetic, Claire, takes care of her younger sister after her mother suffers a stroke, and is at her breaking point at the end of the summer
Max -17, soccer star, son of state senator, spending his summer working at the local beach's Snack Shack, popping "borrowed" prescription pain pills, and at his own breaking point
and two minor teen characters:
Trish -17, funny, caring mother-hen of the Snack Shack
Peter -17, developmentally-challenged, sweetheart-of-a-guy also at the Snack Shack, unexpected hero along with Trish.
If you've read BEFORE MY EYES, which young actors should play these characters? And drum roll, the envelope, please, two thoughts on casting from the author of BEFORE MY EYES : Just named one of the 11 Potential Breakthrough Actors at this year's Sundance Film Festival by Indiewire.
known for her role in "Glee"
Other thoughts? — If you've read the novel, of course!
FLASH FICTION: "Read On" -- You'll ruin your eyes, she said, like your mother, and god knows you have her eyes. She had to wear glasses.Cat's eyeglasses.She'd never wear those glasses around the boys. And here my Nana offered up another one of her sayings—about boys and girls and glasses, which went up there with the lecture on your body is a temple. The book, a library book, cradled in my arms. You'll ruin your eyes, she continued. With books. With reading. And look at me, no man likes a girl smarter than him. Look at me. Put down that book.
------- Anybody who knows me, knows that I didn't book down that book or any other. Read on!
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....