Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
Caroline Bock - Author of BEFORE MY EYES and LIE
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CLAIMING A METAPHOR...Original Flash Fiction Inspired by the Holiday Season (Warning! Not Your Typical Holiday Thoughts)
FROM ONE WRITER TO ANOTHER: ON READINGS...
Character Building Excercises -the Fictional Kind
FLASH FICTION - a new original piece of short short fiction
WHAM!!! Write A Story...A story about a story....

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Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES

ON WRITING

CLAIMING A METAPHOR...Original Flash Fiction Inspired by the Holiday Season (Warning! Not Your Typical Holiday Thoughts)

CLAIMING A METAPHOR
                               
If there were one metaphor she’d use for herself, it would be that of something fractured beyond any repair, or shattered. But broken is more accurate. Jagged. Something to be thrown away, something to worry about the garbage men getting hurt handling. —Caroline Bock, original flash fiction, December 2014

 
At this time of year, I look inward even more than other times. And while on the whole this was a pretty good year, I still forged this metaphor about myself, or at least, my literary self. What metaphor would you shape for yourself? Does it differ by season? Does it sing in one and cry in another?
 
May this season bring us all peace— and a few metaphors to inspire us.
 
 
(P.S.  … and now for our holiday commercial message: If you are wishing for a new e-reader this season, consider a BEFORE MY EYES download. My new YA adult novel is available as an ebook for every device!!)        ...Caroline

FROM ONE WRITER TO ANOTHER: ON READINGS...

I recently attended two readings with eight debut or fairly new authors. It's an honor to read, and to attend a reading, and frankly, an opportunity. At these readings, I learned a few things of what to do and what not to do:

-Prepare a short introduction for yourself.Don't rely on the good-hearted soul to introduce you in the manner or with the detail you may want to be introduced.

-If you are reading with other authors, have a plan.Who will go first? What will each of you read? How long will each of you read? For the audience the reading is a night out, a learning experience, and for you: A chance to sell your books. You are putting on a show, and the audience expects on some level to be entertained in exchange for considering your book.

-Test, test, test any audiovisual equipment before the reading. Test the sound with the idea that you will have a full room and it will need to be loud. Bring speakers if possible. Have a back up plan if the electronics fail. And don't get flustered if the electronics fail— just move on. People are here to see you, to hear you talk about your book, not to view the book trailer you spent a lot of money on (or, if you are lucky, your publisher spent a lot of money on).

-Now the reading. PRACTICE WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO READ in front of friends and relatives. Read slowly. Pause at the end of the sentence. Pause at the end of the paragraph and look up at your audience. Read with drama. Choose a dramatic section, preferably the opening. BRING A COPY OF YOUR BOOK (I'm always surprised when writers don't and then use a new brand-new copy from the sell pile, sometimes making it harder to sell that copy). Mark up your reading copy as you would a speech— underline key words or phrases. Make note to yourself to slow down and breathe—— in the margins or at ends of the paragraph. Don't apologize at the end of your reading about what you just read or how you read it. Now it's over. Just close the book and look up at your audience.

-Be prepared to answer basic questions from the audience such as:

-Did you always want to write?
-What writers or books inspired you as a child?
-What kind of research do you do on your book?

-Make sure you thank the audience, no matter how big, no matter how small, for attending. Remind them that the PRINT books are for sale...and signed editions are certainly
worth buying.


Dear fellow writers, I wish you much success with your books—and your readings.   

Character Building Excercises -the Fictional Kind


First some thoughts on character:
“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 developing character:
 
#1 You admire a character for trying more than for their successes
 
-- 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.
 
Writing EXERCISES…
 
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.
                                                            Adapted from Ron Carlson Writes A Story by Ron Carlson


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I've written two novels with multiple points of view... if you haven't read them yet, consider BEFORE MY EYES and LIE.

Write on!

FLASH FICTION - a new original piece of short short fiction

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! --Caroline

 

WHAM!!! Write A Story...A story about a story....


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 his Ka-zooooom!!!!!!!!!
 
 “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 future?”
 
“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 elementary school?”
 
“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.”
 
“Huh?”
 
“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 tighter.
 
“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 himand 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....


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Caroline Bock is the author of two critically-acclaimed young adult novels: BEFORE MY EYES and LIEKa -zoooom!!!

FINDING INSPIRATION IN... BALLSTON SPA, NEW YORK


Mark Louis Gallery in Ballston Spa, New YorkMy 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.
Mark Louis Gallery in Ballston Spa, New York
My 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.

Once, 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.

Anyway, we 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?

After 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 we did.  
 
Finding Inspiration… Writing Prompts…
-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...
Ballston Spa, New York, it’s about five minutes from downtown Saratoga Springs, just north of Albany. Ballston Spa has an array of antique and craft shops, and yes, Mark Louis Gallery.

 
 
 
 
 

ON FRANZ KAFKA on his birthday

 
Born on this date, July 3rd 1883,into a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, Franz Kafka is arguably one of the greatest German writers of the modern era. The hero of his most famous short story "The Metamorphosis"— Gregor Samsa— wakes up and is a bug, a dung beetle, trapped in his shell and in his bedroom by circumstances beyond him.

If a situation is “Kafkaesque“—— it’s  nightmarish—— there is a pervasive menace——sinister, impersonal forces at work, the feeling of loss of identity, the evocation of guilt and fear, and the sense of evil that permeates the twisted and often absurd logic of ruling power. In short, a sense of being trapped by unknown, irrational powers...that’s Kafkaesque. Sound familiar?

Kafka wrote to Max Brod, his friend and editor, in an undated letter:"I usually solve problems by letting them devour me."
I often feel that his writing devours its readers, drawing us into the mind of the grotesque, the twisted, and at the same time, offering us up the humanity of the characters. 

Overall, Kafka had a dark view of the world. Acclaimed writer and literary critic Vladimir Nabokov, wrote and lectured extensively about Kafka. He notes on THE METAMORPHOSIS: "Its clarity, its precise and formal intonation in such striking contrast to the nightmare matter of his tale. No poetical metaphors ornament his stark black-and-white story. The limpidity of his style stresses the dark richness of his fantasy. Contrast and unity, style and matter, manner and plot are most perfectly integrated." There's an amazing youtube video of Nabokov lecturing on Kafka: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9nRNnTQhFA

Until his death in 1924 at age 40 of TB, Kafka wrote largely in obscurity, and left behind instructions to Brod to destroy his works. Thankfully, Brod didn't follow directions.

I have been obsessed for a while about Kafka and his stories. If you read BEFORE MY EYES you will find a key scene in which I pay trip to THE METAMORPHOSIS. If you are a writer or an artist, you must read A HUNGER ARTIST. If you believe in justice, or lack of it, read, THE TRIAL (links here to free copies in English).

So what are you reading for?



So cool... poetry on the Diane Rehm show...including my first poem!

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
tall,towering trees
tiny,timid animals,
rigid, rustling leaves,
I stand there
just me.

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 Author...


Warning! More thoughts on having a friend who’s an author…
 
-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.
 
BEFORE MY EYES by Caroline Bock (St. Martin's Press, 2014) more at www.carolinebock.com-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.

If You Have A Friend Who's An Author, Be Prepared...

If you have a friend who’s an author, be prepared:
 
She will expect you to read her new novel,even when you say you the last novel you read was last summer—that one about billionaire sex or vampires, though you don’t want to admit this to your friend, who has written a serious literary novel.
 
She will say that you don’t have to read it and really mean—she wants you to buy her novel.
 
She will confide that she prefers you buy it at an independent bookstore,and you will not know what she means.You haven’t been to a bookstore since you had to buy your mother a Mother’s Day present two years ago. Whatever you read appears on the screen you also play games on and sometimes answer a text or an email or as a last resort:a phone call.
 
And then when you do buy this novel,because you are a very good friend, she will ask you,“Have you read it? And what you do think?” Since the last time you had to report on a novel was in college or high school, you will deflect her questions with, “how are the sales?” and she will shrug your question off and persist on wanting to know what you think about her novel.  
 
And then when you tell you love it,especially the opening scene, she will ask you about the end.You will have to say you loved it too, even if you skipped to the end and read only the last line, (hint: this English major trick will save you much persistent questioning from the writer).
 
After being relieved for passing this test,your author friend will ask if you will write an online review, even though you haven’t written anything about a novel since high school or college, and barely write anything longer than a text these days.
 
You’ll start thinking that having this friend is way too much work, if you haven’t already.
 
But somehow, guiltily,since you were once an English or liberal arts major too, you will compliment her on the complexity of the story once again, thinking that this will get you out of actually writing anything.But she will nudge you: Amazon only requires twenty measly words for a review.Certainly, you can write twenty words about anything, including her novel, you will think.
 
So later, while staring at the screen, you will wonder how anyone writes anything, how did your friend write an entire novel of words strung together into sentences baked into paragraphs, resulting in a story with living, breathing characters, which the parts you read were really pretty good, especially that twist, so unexpected, a fictional dream, you remember that phrase from somewhere, and maybe you’ll even finish her novel someday.
 
You will turn off your screen and sit there in the dark, thinking that if you could only think of a story, and write it down, you could be a writer too.
 
 
Caroline Bock is the author of the new young adult novel,
BEFORE MY EYES(St. Martin’s Press, 2014). More about her work at www.carolinebock.comor be her friend—and be prepared.
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