Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES
THE CRITIQUE GROUP
talk about giving birth and menopause, about celebrities we would jump in bed
with if we had the opportunity, about being married forever from one of us, and
not having a date in eighteen months, shit, maybe more— and about your
grandmother: How is she? Her home in Chevy Chase is being sold. Ninety years
old, and my parents have decided that she can not live alone anymore— the
unreliable furnace and those long flights of stairs leading to all those
unopened rooms. We gather closer to her, the youngest among us, and urge her to
write more, about her grandmother, about what matters and what terrifies. What
we think to ourselves: How did we find one another? How lucky we are— four
women poised between twenty-nine and fifty. What we say aloud: We should meet
more often. We drink more wine, weep, scream, howl, beat our fists against one
another, laugh gulping for air, a certain power in us to write about anything. And
he always arrives late, slick with sweat, riding his bicycle on even the
coldest of nights, changing the pheromones in the wide-open room. When he says:
Did I miss anything? We say: We haven’t even started.
The Critique Group was included in the new anthology, ABUNDANT GRACE published by Richard Peabody and Paycock Press in December, 2016, and featuring women writers in the Washington DC area. My fiction selection is one of the shortest in this amazing collection. Praise be to Richard Peabody for including it. Copies of the anthology can be purchased at http://www.gargoylemagazine.com/paycock.
A year or so ago I was watching the evening news and saw an image that filled me with anger and despair. The result was this piece of short or "flash" fiction entitled: "BEHEADED," which was just published in the wonderful online literary journal,FICTION SOUTHEAST.
Here is a link to this new short short:
Thank you for reading!
What is this? A mini-sweepstakes for LIE, my critically-acclaimed (*starred* reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, School Library Journal and more)young adult novel. Why now? Today, Thursday, April 14, Donald Trump, GOP candidate for President of the United States, is having a political rally in Patchogue, New York on Long Island. What happened there, in 2008, a horrendous hate crime, the murder of Marcelo Lucero inspired LIE.
I wrote LIE to understand why this could happen in a town so near where I lived at the time.
I write to understand. I write to build bridges, not walls.
Enter for a chance to win a copy of LIE. It's only two copies, LIE is widely available these days in public libraries, but if you haven't read or heard of my young adult novel (appropriate for ages 14 and above and adults), I thought it timely to do a FREE giveaway. The link is live only through April 16th:
I’ve been reading a lot of work this past month by Elizabeth
Strout, known most famously for her novel-in-stories Olive Kitteridge.
The three works
I’ve read seem to blend into one book. In the last that I read, My Name Is Lucy Barton, her new novel,
one of the characters, a writing teacher tells her, “We all only have one story
to tell,” and she goes on to say that we tell it, in many different, over and
over and that’s okay. I felt this way with her recent work. It was all one
I began this journey without a plan; picking up the O. Henry Prize Stories 2015 collection
and discovering her short story, “Snow Blind.”
A rural, small town. A tightly knit family, the Applebys, and a terrible family
secret. One of the children, Annie, ultimately does leave the small town,
almost miraculously, becomes a star of screen and stage, but even she cannot totally
leave behind her small town family and her history. I found a link to the story
I learned soon after reading this masterful short story that
her novel, The Burgess Boys, was
being made into a HBO mini-series, and realized I hadn’t read this book. It’s
the story of two brothers, both lawyers, one more successful than the other in
New York City. Along with their
sister, who never left their small town in Maine, they harbor a deeply-held
family secret. When the nephew does something stupid and terrible in the
hometown, all breaks loose between the siblings. However, ultimately, (no
spoilers here), the ties of the siblings to one another and to their history in
that Maine village bind them to one another more than to anyone or anything
I then thought: I must read her new novel. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, the main
character, nicknamed ‘Wizzle’ by her mother is very ill. She’s in a New York
City Hospital (what I take to be Cornell Presbyterian, though it’s never named.
There is a view of the famously art deco Chrysler Building and having spent a
lot of time there in recent years, I can imagine the view of the building,
glistening, in my mind’s eye). Her mother on her first visit to New York City,
and the first visit between them in years. Staying at her sick bed for several
days, the mother tells story after story, of people from their Illinois farm town
and their impoverished life together. In many ways, My Name is Lucy Barton is a story about how stories heal us.
But at the end of my reading I thought: Can we never move
far away enough to leave our family, our hometown, our dark family secrets, no
matter how we try to re-make ourselves? The answer for the characters in these
Strout stories is: no. We are bound to our family, our siblings, our towns. This
is the essential story that gets told again and again in these works by Strout.
Have you ever spent time with an author and felt you knew
PS you can always spend time with my newest young adult novel: BEFORE MY EYES!
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!
Write 5,000 words today and you can binge-watch the rest of the first season of
Write 4,000 words today and you can go to Starbucks for a
chai tea latte, grande, and re-read what you wrote. Live the writer’s life.
Write 3,000 words today—write hard and fast and then off to
the yoga relaxation class where you will ultimately lie on a mat and do nothing.
Write 2,000 words today and turn off the computer, leave it
off for the rest of the day, free yourself from the shackles of social media
and typing like one possessed. Write 2,000 words and go get your nails done by the
girl from Vietnam who scowls at your hands, looking at them intensely,
wondering what she should do with them. The nails are bitten down to the skin, bleeding
at her touch. All you really want is for her to hold your hands in the folds of
her own cool bones.
Write 1,000 words today and you can read the rest of
Franzen’s PURITY. You don’t know if this is a reward or not, you think not.
Write 1,000 words and you can go back to library and find new books, ones that
you will enjoy reading.
Open your novel and write 500 words this morning, you can do
this. You will know you made an effort. You will be giving the world what?
Ideas? Words. More words. Maybe some will make sense, maybe none will. You
don’t know what else means anything to you anymore. So, you write. Make a deal
with yourself: 5,000. You can do it. 5,000 words.
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