The Bright Side of Subjectivity

For as long as I’ve been a writer, there’s a term I’ve struggled to grasp: subjectivity.

It always seems to be used negatively, paired with an apologetic shrug. “Sorry that person didn’t like your work. It’s just subjective, you know?”

But I didn’t know. I came from a educational and professional background where (besides, like, Bernie Madoff ) there was a right, and a wrong. A clear cut answer. A way to plug numbers into a formula and receive the correct answer. Subjectivity was a strange, dark cloud, hanging over everything I attempted. Why couldn’t I write something everyone would love? What was I doing wrong?

I thought, hmm. Maybe I should just become better! Then, I shall be able to vanquish subjectivity! But, even after spending a year studying craft books, working with freelance editors, and pushing myself, I still got negative feedback that was… subjective.

Someone suggested that I read one-star reviews of my favorite books. This technique, they suggested, would make me realize even this amazing authors got subjective, negative reviews of their books. Instead, because I am made of fiery passion and undying loyalty, I wanted to fight every deluded fool who couldn’t see the obvious talent of my favorites.

Meanwhile, I was also getting positive feedback. People liked my work, adored certain characters, laughed at my jokes. It didn’t matter to me. I was more concerned with fighting the big-bad subjectivity monster. Surely, there had to be some formula I could apply to make it go away, and have everyone equally love my work.

Spoiler: there’s no way to ever do that. I’m going to skip over the months I spent bashing my head against a wall, and instead tell you about what finally made me realize what subjectivity truly is.

What happened was… I read a book.

Of course, I’d read plenty of books during my battles with the smoggy subjectivity monster, but this book I LOVED. It was one of those books that turned me into a book evangelist, pushing the book at everyone I knew. Shockingly, some of my friends didn’t like the book. Or they did, but they didn’t like the same things I did. I had no real reason for why I loved the book, aside from a fuzzy feeling of it hitting me in just the right brain spots, like the way a cold glass of water quenches more on a hot day. I couldn’t point to any narrative craft, any technique the author used to specifically make me adore the book. I just knew that my world was a better place with the book in it.

I loved the book, subjectively.

That’s the bright side of the mysterious subjectivity-monster we forget sometimes. The same inexplicable force that causes some people to dislike our works (or not love it enough to accept it) also allows people to adore  our work. Subjectivity fuels book deals, creates fanart, causes readers to squee in 5 star reviews. So the next time you get mad at that subjective rejection, remember there’s someone out there who will subjectively love your work.

Don’t give up, darlings!

Falling Back in Love With a Draft

Writing a novel is a long, slow process. Although the story might start out as a brilliant spark, one that you’re willing to dedicate hours upon hours to, the magic may not last.

If it withers quickly, say, after twenty pages, or half an outline, perhaps that story wasn’t ready to be written yet. Let it go. It may come back stronger later.  However, at least for me, the “I’m in love with this story” feeling lasts for months. Then, one day, BAM. It’ s gone. Perhaps it was a plothole I couldn’t fix, or a bit of a feedback that hit too raw a place for me. Perhaps I just get sick of revising and start dreaming about the good old days of first drafting. No matter what caused it, I’m suddenly in a pit of despair where I can no longer find words or energy to edit.

I’ve committed to the story, I don’t want to give up. So, what do I do?

I don’t recommend whining to your friends, although I’m certainly guilty of this. If they’re not creative, they won’t get the need burning inside you to finish the story. If they are creative they may not be sympathetic to your own struggles, because they’re fighting their own doubt-monsters of writing.


A healthy thing to do is to get fresh air. Go for a run. A walk. Dance all night at a concert. Lose yourself in the real world, not the fictional one for a little bit. Or. Just be a cat. Cats know where it’s at.


Some people recommend reading published books, but when I’m in my pit of despair, that usually makes me roll around like a dying fish full of self-loathing. “I will never write such wonderful words as these” etc.

Likewise, be cautious around social media. All it might take is is one tweet about another writer’s success for you to feel more like a failure. Likewise, openly proclaiming aaaall your struggles with your draft might make you sort of annoying.

My favorite tip for falling back in love with your work is to return to your creative works. Maybe you don’t want to write in your manuscript, but you want to write short side stories (oh hey! mine are here. Exclusive Short Stories) or create pretty photo sets of your characters on Tumblr (like these! Gif post! With kissing! Non-gif but all the adorable )

If you’re artistic, try drawing scenes from your book. Or if you’re not, maybe consider commissioning an artist (easily found on Tumblr or Deviantart) for a drawing of your characters! This one is a huge one for me. Having an actual picture of the characters that previously were only words on a page re-energized me to tell the story.  My sketches are by the brillant Giles, found here.)

carrie-02a (1)

But if nothing else works, and it’s been weeks, and the feeling still isn’t going away, it is okay to shelve the story for a little bit. Let it rest. Begin a new story. You’ll come back to the old one with fresh eyes soon, and re-write it into a beautiful masterpiece.


Either way, soon, you’ll emerge on the other side of the pit of despair. You’ll go back to writing, the words flying fast and furious. Plus, you’ll be a stronger writer for having preserved through this hard time. Now, the next time the doubt-monsters kick in, you’ll know you’ve vanquished them once before. Have you ever felt like giving up on a story? How did you work through it?

Yinz Gonna Read a Book N’at? (Pittsburghese. Translation below)

*translation “Are you going to read a book?”

** Yinz is the Pittsburgh version of  “Y’all”

*** no one really knows what “N’at” means.

I’d always dreamed of living in a city. As a kid, of course, I usually dreamed about NYC, or Chicago or even London.
I felt at home among skyscrapers, happy in the midst of crowds, alive when all the lights and noise surrounded me. However, I ended up in Pittsburgh, PA, and I couldn’t be happier.



I’ve got my skyscrapers and my city living full of coffeeshops and live music, but I also get a small town friendliness and community I’ve come to love.  In fact, one of the best things  about Pittsburgh is the vibrant writing community. We have excellent MFA programs at Chatham and Seton Hill, a lovely library system thanks to Andrew Carnegie (just remember in these parts, it’s pronounced “car-NEGGH-gee” rather than New York’s fancy “Carn-e-gee”) and even a really cool program for exiled writers, The City of Asylum.

We have an Andy Warhol museum, a great Children’s museum, incredible theater shows, and amazing parks. Oh, yeah and sports. We have those too. We put french fries in our sandwiches and everyone eats pierogies (we even make vegan ones).

We’ve got films set or partially set here, (Dark Knight!) , video games, (The Last of Us), and plenty of books. The most memorable, for many people is Perks of Being a Wallflower,

Perks Scene

That’s a beautiful shot of a very real part of my city. Likewise, the hit Me, and Earl and the Dying Girl, captures real-life Pittsburghese.

In addition to these Pittsburgh authors, there’s also Joshua David Bellin (aka the YA Guy) author of Survival Colony Nine,Jonathan Auxier , author of The Night Gardener, Laura Lee Anderson, author of Song of Summer, and many others.

Plus we have really cool events. This fall, Rainbow Rowell will be speaking at the library, and this coming weekend, Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman will be speaking at Carnegie Mellon University for FREE! Details below.

So, that’s why I love my odd little big city that thinks it’s a small town. Why do you love your hometown?


Details for the event.

Lecture Speakers: Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman
Date: Saturday, August 1, 2015
Time: 2:00 – 3:00 pm
Location: Doherty Hall, Room 2315, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. The book signing will follow the lecture in the same room.
Registration/Fee: There is no charge to attend the lecture and registration is not required for this portion of the program.

If you’re from Pittsburgh, let me know!

Welcome to Twitter, Please Surrender Your Sanity

Despite the intense-sounding title, this is supposed to be a light-hearted post. As many of you know, Twitter is THE premier watercooler-esque hangout spot for procrastinating creative folks. However, Twitter can be an overwhelming, confusing place. It has an etiquette code all its’ own, and sometimes, stumbling around it can make you feel super old and out of the loop.


Twitter Etiquette 101!

Don’t be an egg. Seriously. (I’m referring to the default Twitter user profile picture of an egg)  Even if it’s just a picture of your favorite anime character, your cat, or a can of soda, it’s better than being an egg. Many people refuse to follow “egg” accounts, because nine times out of ten, they’re a spam account. Twitter users will connect with you better if your profile picture shows some of your personality, even if it’s not a photo of you.



Like a friend’s thought? A fav will do. Want to end a conversation, but not in a rude way? Just fave the last tweet the other person said. Fav-stars for everyone! However, if you want to signal-boost a friend’s blog post, article, or thought, a retweet will provide them much more exposure.


Well, maybe not THIS much exposure


Hashtags are great, right? We #should #hastag #EVERYTHING, #right?

Nope. That’s annoying. It also looks spammy, and it’s hard to read. Use hashtags like a seasoning. Put the hashtag at the end of the tweet. However, if you want to discuss a commonly hastagged item, then it’s totally fine. For example, there’s no sense writing “I’m so excited about Pitch Wars. #pitchwars”  Just use, “I’m so excited about #pitchwars.”

Try to avoid using too many hashtags in your bio, too. It’s harder to read, but a few targeted ones can make you more discoverable to new followers.



Twitter is an amazing place because you can read the tweets of anyone; famous authors, celebrities, your sister-in-law’s cousin’s next-door-neighbor… but use some common sense. Don’t be that person answering every single tweet from a big-name author, or creep out an average person by favoriting every single tweet they post. Ask youself: Does this person follow me? Do they answer and favorite my tweets? Will this be the first or second time I’ve interacted with them today? If the answer is “No” to at least one of these, slow down. If the answer is no to all of them, then definitely don’t do it.




Provide content on Twitter. It’s not just a place for emotional rants, sub-tweets(when you try to call someone out without actually calling them out) and retweeting all the time. Interact with people. Make friends. Share pictures of your city, gifs of your fav shows, funny thoughts.  Don’t share photos of other people, or kids though. Remember. Twitter isn’t like Facebook. It’s very, very not private.  Anything you share, rude, funny, embarrassing, whatever, may become viral.



Twitter also isn’t a marketplace. Constantly tweeting links asking people to buy your books, your art, your collection of bannana peels won’t result in many sales, and in fact, a lot of people will mute or block you. Aim for one sales-based tweet a week or so, more if you’re gearing up for a launch, but never more than three times a day.

Don’t schedule the same sales tweet to show up multiple times. That might work for commercials, but it doesn’t work for Twitter. Likewise, don’t constantly retweet other people’s sales tweets. DO NOT ever auto-dm people. Most Twitter users will auto-unfollow someone who does this. It’s annoying, rude, and makes it seem like you’re only on Twitter to sell things.


Not the right attitude for Twitter

Finally, be nice to people. There’s a real live person behind every twitter account (except for the spam accounts.) Try to treat them like real people. Don’t jump on a tweet and try and turn it into an argument. Don’t pester people begging for a retweet or to be noticed. Don’t send creepy DMs.

Be kind.


And if you got through this whole lecture, and want to be my Twitter friend, find me at @writer_carrie (link here)

Fears and Self-doubting in the Creative World

Hi all!

Short blog post is short, but will be leading into a longer one. If you read this blog, you’re probably a creative person. Or my mom. (hi, Mom!) and if you’re a creative person, you’ve probably felt doubts. Fears. The ever lurking shadows of failure.


The rejections and bad feedback that makes you feel awful. The people who look at your art and say “I don’t get it.” The review of your band that calls it worse than drunks at karaoke. You know, the non-fun part of being creative.


But those insidious whispers are WRONG. You are talented. You are amazing. You make good art and you make the world a better place. Everyone is cheering you on, and the world is waiting to meet you. There are so many good things ahead in your creative journey. Keep going. You can do it!


Here’s the thing. We all get those feels. And I’d like to think, just maybe, if we talk through them, together but anonymously, maybe we can get some things off our minds, and go back to making beautiful art.

To me, Rumple is beautiful art. Disagree, fine.

To me, Rumple is beautiful art. Disagree, fine.

So, on my tumblr, I’ve opened up to anonymous asks. I’ll leave it that way for about a week, and in that time, share your fears, your doubts, your moments of “OMG, I’m a fraud,” your cat’s name, your belief that Rumple/Belle is the best thing ever… okay. Maybe not the last two. But please, share your fears-no matter where you are, published, just starting out, a dancer or a knitter. I bet someone else is feeling the same one. All the fears will be condensed into one post, so you will be totally, totally anonymous.

Unless your fear is that Belle will never forgive Rumple. Then everyone will know that one’s me.

You’re not alone, and in a follow up post, I’ll try and address these fears. We are stronger together, and even stronger when we talk.

Social Media Sites Are Like Shoes

Have you ever seen someone enter the room, wearing an amazing pair of shoes, badass combat boots or dangerously high stilettos? The shoes add so much to their personality, to their style, and you find yourself craving the exact same ones, to borrow some of that pizzazz.



(Yes, this is a.gif post)

So you try on a pair, and they chafe, or give you clown-feet, or make walking impossible.

Othertimes, you’d really be happier wearing a pair of Converse, but your friends will insist you should wear heels or else this first date is doomed to feel,

Social media platforms are a lot like that.

It’s easy to see someone effortlessly chatting away on a v-log, or engaging with thousands of people on twitter, and to think, oh! I should do that.

Or perhaps, you feel pressured to be on tumblr, favoriting bath bomb giveaways (even though you don’t have a bathtub) or making a book review blog (even though you only read a book a month, and half the time they’re old classics no one wants a review of)

But guess what? It’s silly to shove your feet into shoes that don’t fit, and it’s just as silly to force yourself into a social media platform you don’t enjoy. How many times have you stumbled upon an abandoned blog, left to wither after five blog posts, or heard people complain social media sucks away all their time?

Social media sites, at least, for many writers and artists, are an important tool for networking, business growth, and socialization, but they should never add to your stress levels.


1. Determine how much time you want to spend, per week, on social media.

Five hours? Ten hours? Five minutes? None and you want to contract it to someone? None and you want to be a mystery? 24/7?


2. Decide why you’re using social media

Is it to recommend books to other people? As a platform to advertise your art commissions or freelance editing? A place to share story snippets and communicate with other artists?

Each choice may lead to a different platform, different ways of communicating with followers, and different choices in shared content.

giphy (1)

3. Define your target audience.

Once you know WHY you’re using the social media, it’s important to know WHO you’re hoping to engage. For example, many writers/agents/editors hang out on twitter. If you’re hoping to find beta readers or to learn more about the querying process, twitter is a great place. But, if you’re content with a small, dedicated group of readers/responders, a long form platform such as a blog may be better for you.

It’s also important to note ages change. Facebook is no longer the realm of the young and hip.If you’re looking to engage with teen readers, it’s not your best bet.


4. Set a schedule/plan

Social media, by its nature, is addictive. We’re conditioned, as humans, to respond to reward stimulus, and as you probably know, few things are more exciting on the net than seeing that little flag pop up, alerting you to notifications.

Once you’re done with your social media for the day, block the site, log off, turn off the wifi, whatever it takes to break away from the glowing screen.


Now, you’re ready to strut in your social media shoes.