Caroline Bock - BEFORE MY EYES
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YOU ARE INVITED! Sunday, April 27th-Book Talk for BEFORE MY EYES -2-4 pm Rockville Public Library, Rockville, MD
CATS versus DOGS... Thoughts On Writing...
PETER LANZA... and reflections on my novel: BEFORE MY EYES
MOMS DEMAND ACTION...and READ TOO...BEFORE MY EYES
Join! YA READS FOR TEACHERS (And Other Adults) reading and discussing BEFORE MY EYES online at Goodreads...Learn more here...

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Caroline Bock - BEFORE MY EYES

ON WRITING

CATS versus DOGS... Thoughts On Writing...


Cats versus Dogs more at www.carolinebock.comI own a cat.
 
BEFORE MY EYES by Caroline Bock  Cover Photo 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 MY EYES.
 
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.  
 


Cats versus Dogs ... more at www.carolinebock.comP.S. Are you a dog or cat person? What is your favorite dog or cat in literature?

PETER LANZA... and reflections on my novel: BEFORE MY EYES

This is devastating. I just read The New Yorker interview with Peter Lanza;it's the first insight into the teen--and Newtown murderer--Adam Lanza from his surviving parent. At the very end of the piece, his father reveals that he wished his son was never born,"...Peter declared that he wished Adam had never been born, that there could be no remembering who he was outside of who he became.'That didn’t come right away. That’s not a natural thing, when you’re thinking about your kid. But, God, there’s no question. There can only be one conclusion, when you finally get there. That’s fairly recent, too, but that’s totally where I am.'”
But still, I have to ask the same question that drove me to write the character of Barkley and his parents in my young adult novel, BEFORE MY EYES. Why didn't Peter Lanza "see" what was going on with his son? The article does go into some gripping detail about what he--and his ex-wife,who was murdered by Adam, did try to do -- but it was not enough.None of it was enough for all those teachers and children who were murdered.

I wrote BEFORE MY EYES, a
young adult novel about gun violence, mental illness, and three fragile teens -- and their parents-- because I couldn't get out of my head the question: Why? And I couldn't stop thinking what do the people--friends, co-workers, and parents around these troubled teens know -- and what do they choose not to know? My novel is just out a few weeks but already people are debating how I depicted the characters-- did I go too far? not far enough?

Ultimately, after reading this New Yorker story, what I want to do today: hug my children, talk with them, make sure they are okay.




One Week to Publication of BEFORE MY EYES

As the publication of BEFORE MY EYES, my second young adult novel, approaches I have to turn to other writers to stay sane because publishing is an insane business. Here's a quote that I particularly like from a great American writer who drank too much, died of consumption, and left great writing behind:

"Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves-- that's the truth. We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives--experiences so great and moving that it doesn't seem at the the time anyone else has been caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just way that way before." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Look for BEFORE MY EYES in hardcover and ebook formats everywhere books are on February 11, 2014.... Caroline 

LOOK: BEFORE YOUR EYES - Check out the news on my updated website

A snowy blustering day--darkening, storming skies-- all said, a perfect day to work on updating my website. Check it out! www.carolinebock.com.

Literary Crushes and More As We Sing Auld Lange Synge (Does Anyone on the Planet Know All The Words To This Song?)

This is the time of year to look back, a writer’s dilemma. It seems like I am always mulling on memories, lingering over scenes half-remembered, reconstructed as fiction. But as 2013 ends, this is a happy look back at my literary highlights of the year, as I prepare to pop the champagne and get ready to sing “Auld Lange Synge" (does anyone on the planet know all the words to this song?!): 
 
Cheers! to My Literary Crush of the Year:
Alice McDermott from That Night to Charming Billy and now on to Someone. I’ve read everyone of her novels and I think Someone is one of her best – it travels down some of the same streets as the one before – Brooklyn, Long Island’s South Shore, a young girl looking into her neighbor’s world and then into her own, an Irish-American girl trying to make sense of the ordinariness of life. I loved Someone.
 
Cheers! To Best Literary Find in My New City – The District of Columbia:
I met my literary crush Alice McDermott here hand selling books on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I also attended readings by Edwidge Danticat and Elizabeth Wein 9also author of the best YOUNG ADULT novels that I read this year CODE NAME VERITY and its sequel: ROSE UNDER FIRE). Best of all, I found a new home to buy books, discuss books, breathe books.
 
And cheers to:
The Best Books I read with my book club:
I love being part of a book club! We read many good books this year – but I loved the Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaughand Wonder by RJ Palacioand The Fault in Our Stars by John Green -- yes, our book club of women of a certain age love to read young adult novels -- and these two stories made us cheer and cry.  

Best Poetry Find:
I took an amazing class with her: Grand Theft Poetry and realized that poetry can be found, stolen, nourished in many places.
 
Best Self-Published Book:
Tales of a Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipesby Maria Schulz  -- rollicking tales of a large Italian-Puerto Rican family in Queens – and the recipes are delicious!
 
Best Indie Book:
Recommended by the imitable workshop leader (at another best new find: Bethesda Writer's Center) Mark Cugini: Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan—“a biography of place” a very peculiar place in Appalachia and the people there, written in vivid short scenes.
 
Favorite “classic” book re-read:
 The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten – read for research, with naches for the language, which as a kid my father sprinkled around our dining room table. Oy!

Best Movie Based on a Novel:
CATCHING FIRE based on Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series, as if you didn't know. But best new addition to the cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman. This December, the movie just crossed 700 million in box office world wide. May the odds be forever in their favor!

Best Television Series Based On a Novel:
House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey and awesome Robin Wright - is based on the novel by same name by Michael Dobbs (interesting a British writer and politician). I am currently binge-watching for the holidays on Netflix!
 
So farewell to 2013, I am already looking ahead to 2014 – in February, look for the publication of my second novel: BEFORE MY EYES (St. Martin’s Press) on 2.11.14.  I will not forget old friends…
...For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne...

Much more in 2014!! Caroline

20 Answers to the Question: So, What Does a Writer Do, Mom?

My son, who is in middle-school, had to interview someone in the family on his or her profession, so after much debate he interviewed me, his mom, on her second-career adventure as a writer. I would highly recommend this as an exercise for any mother and son because it gave us a chance to talk about me rather than him, though in the process we talked about him too-- about how you get from middle school to anywhere else in this world, which I didn't realize seemed to him an improbable journey. We discussed his aspirations, his dreams, his desire to do big and good things in the world. But since this was an interview with me, here are the answers to the 20-questions he asked about my career -- from the answers you can imagine the questions, or not:  

1.     My mom is a writer.

2.      Her responsibility is to write at least 5 days a week and to complete edits in the time designated by her editor.

3.     She works in my house.

4.      She works indoors.

5.     She works in an office crowded with papers, books and notes.  She does a lot of research on the internet and in the library, and even, travels to locations she is writing about in her work.

6.     She loves to read. Sometimes she reads more than one book at a time. I don’t know how she does this but she makes me go to the library with her so I can testify to the fact that she read a lot.

7.      She believes that the more she writes the better she becomes as a writer.

8.     There are no requirements for this job. However, my mother has a B.S. in English and Communications, worked for twenty years in cable television, and recently completed her Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing.

9.      No, there is no special clothing.

10.    Normally, she works 25-30 hours a week depending on deadlines. When she is finishing a novel, she works all the time and forgets to make us dinner.

11. It’s a year-round job.

12.  Both men and women write.

13.  It can be done anywhere.

14.  My mother has a high satisfaction in her job.

15.  No, she’s self-employed.
 
16.  No, because she’s self-employed.

17. She believes you need life experience to write fiction, a love of novels, and a good command of grammar.  

18.  Yes, she wanted to write since third grade.

19.  She doesn’t particularly like semi-colons. She calls them the bastards of grammar. She says it is okay for a writer to use all kinds of words including “bastards” when writing.

20.  No, she’s self-employed.

Interview conducted by Michael Bock for a middle school class project.

His mother, Caroline Bock, has a new novel –BEFORE MY EYES to be published by St. Martin’s Press on 2.11.14. More at www.carolinebock.com
 
           

Six random things you don’t know about me…

Six random things you don’t know about me…
 
-I can’t stand coffee, the taste or the smell. (I drink lots of tea!).
 
-I’m afraid of Ferris wheels and apartments on high floors with lots of windows (that’s why I always lived in brownstones in Manhattan).
 
-The summer after I graduated high school, I biked from Hyannis to Provincetown and via ferry onto Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard with my brother Mark, still one of the best trips of my life.
 
-I hiked the High Peaks in the Adirondacks and climbed Mt. Marcy and Haystack among a dozen other mountains and had my first kiss in a pup tent with Howard from Brooklyn. I was fourteen and on a three-week backpacking trip with the American Youth Hostels.
 
-I miss my dad, who passed away last October, every day. He brought four kids on camping trips every summer. He made a great kugel. He gave us the world and all the love in it.
 
-In Mrs. Murano’s class third grade class at George M. Davis Elementary school in New Rochelle, I wrote my first poem, and I can recite it to this day: In the woods/where there are tall. towering trees/tiny. timid animals/rigid, rustling leaves/I stand there/just me.

And one thing I hope you do know... I have a new novel coming out in February! Look for BEFORE MY EYES from St. Martin's Press everywhere books and ebooks are sold!

 
 

Does this happen when you google yourself??

What happens when you google yourself and ... 
you find out you’re a porn star? Or, at least that’s what popped up near the top of one of my searches – not Caroline Bock – don’t go looking there – but it’s close enough. 
 
I couldn’t help it. I clicked. (But I am not including a link here – this site is visited by people across age groups, including students. Sorry to disappoint:  this is more a  quick literary story of discovery rather than any other kind of adventure. You can leave now, if you must.)
 
So I clicked, and I was pleasantly surprised. She has high cheek bones and auburn hair and full lips and a rather commanding, bold, Teutonic presence. She looks like someone who drinks lagers, recites the score of whatever game is on in the bar and has slept with the guitar player and the drummer and neither of them know about the other. She seems to be European, with a brash, ‘come get me if you can look’ of someone in their infallible twenties.
 
Am I falling into fantasy with this other c. bock? I wonder if she googles herself and ponders me with a similar speculation? Does she peer at my writerly self portrait and wonder what am I thinking? Or, is this a one-way mirror?
 
On my website, I have a number of page views from Russia and Germany and I’m certain it can’t be for my novels. They must be searching for this other too and finding me in frustration, and I wonder if they spend even a second curious about this Caroline Bock? I want to tell them that I am still working out who she is -- a writer, a wife, a mother, a sister, a tea-drinker, a reader of historical novels and history and young adult and just about anything else that has great characters and a story to match --but, still a work-in-progress. And yes, that other woman tantalizes, and maybe, I’m a little bit of her too.
 
 
Make sure you look for BEFORE MY EYES – in February, 2014!

The Writer is the Person Who Stays In The Room and Other Writing Insights

I was feeling like I couldn’t write – it doesn’t really matter why – it was one of those days: sticky hot, rife with pollen and undone dishes and dreams drifting, uncomfortably unattainable—  so I picked up Ron Carlson Writes a Story From the First Glimmer of An Idea to the Final Sentence (he actually includes his entire short story: “The Govenor’s Ball” at the end). This slim book is a mini-MFA semester with this head of the MFA program in fiction at the University of California, Irvine. The biggest lesson: stay at your desk. Keep writing. Stay twenty minutes more. And twenty after that. Finish.I loved this advice (of course I was reading not writing it). But I do believe that the hardest thing is to finish, to get the first draft done, to let the words out.
 
But there is more. Here are the top five writing insights that I culled from Ron Carlson Writes A Story. I hope he writes many more. 
 
“When people ask me the personal-experience question, my response is that I write my personal experiences, whether I’ve had them or not…Having a feeling for my materials means sending myself on each journey, whether I’ve actually been there or not, and it involves the powerful act of the imagination that good writing requires: empathy.”
 
“I’m constantly looking for things that are going to help me find the next sentence, survive the story.”
 
“The most important thing a writer can do after completing a sentence is to stay in the room.  The writer is the person who stays in the room.” (Carlson’s italics throughout, but I agree!)
 
“The single thing I say the most to writers of dialogue is slow down. I actually don’t see much clunky dialogue, but I see a lot of scenes that are too brisk., to summarily done…And in the process of writing dialogue, remember: your characters can’t advance the story because they may not know it yet. That is a reason to slow down, to listen, find out.”
 
“Our mission is to write the physical scene as closely as we can, knowing that our intentions lie just beyond our knowing. Write, don’t think.”
 
So we begin again. We turn toward autumn, toward possibility; we return to writing.

 

A Very Adult Short Short Story - "Counting Backwards" by Caroline Bock

This is flash fiction - "Counting Backwards"-- less than 750 words-- submitted to Akashic Books,an indie Brooklyn press, infamous publishers of "Go the F--k to Sleep," a parent's classic.

This short short was written after reading another writer's flash and feeling that flush of jealousy-- one of this writer's main motivators, though maybe one shouldn't admit that-- amid the swirling of loneliness, sadness and regret. Maybe one should say that deep thoughts and world disasters motivate me (what motivates you?) and leave it at that.

Warning: this is Very Adult Fiction. Here's the link: http://www.akashicbooks.com/


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