I Am Completely Beside Myself

The last few months have been a whirlwind of launching Another Good Dog into the world. It’s been beyond my wildest imagination, surprising me again and again.

I’ve done enough TV now that I’m finally getting better at not blinking so much while talking and actually answering the question that was asked (as opposed to rambling on in questionable English while my mind is screaming, “OMG – I’m on TV!”).


I’ve even made peace with the fact that I never look anything like I wish I looked on the screen or in print. My hair will never bend to my will. And I suppose that’s appropriate. Who wants an obedient life?

I’ve gotten lovely (and sometimes odd) emails from all over the country, and lately, the world. It always shocks me a little that people I don’t know have read the book about my life and my kids. I love it when they tell me that they are living a parallel life somewhere in Chicago or Trenton or Missoula. I love it most when it’s from someone who says, “We’ve decided to start fostering dogs….”

I’ve gotten to reconnect with former foster dogs who have joined me to sign books (still have a couple of those coming up in Wilmington, DE on Dec 9 with Momma Bear and State College, PA on Dec 15 with John Coffey!!!).


I’ve met tons of dogs in my travels, and I’ve been privileged to have a hand in rescuing a few.


But now it’s time to get back to writing. No more cross-country flights or signing a gazillion books or catching up with old friends I might never have encountered if not for the book.

Now it’s time to get ready for the holidays, hunker down with my home and family, maybe even bake some Christmas cookies. I’m looking forward to long days of writing and hanging with the dogs instead of getting ‘gussied up’ and racing out the doors to speak or sign books or talk about dogs.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had the chance to speak to several groups of women about writing, particularly fiction. It’s been just the impetus I needed to propel me back to the page.

I miss writing fiction. I miss my characters and their stories. I miss taking long runs to sort out plotlines and untangle motives. I miss creating chemistry with words, torturing the characters who deserve it most and learning quirky secrets about the most unassuming people.

I’m excited but intimidated. Which is making it hard for me to get started. I have the best intentions but find a million ways to stall the inevitable. (writing this post, for instance)

I haven’t looked at my latest manuscript since last winter. What if it’s crap? What if I can’t find the thread of the story? What if I don’t still love the characters? What if I don’t remember how to write fiction?

Then I remind myself that every time I sit down to write, I’m telling a story. So what if the stories of late have been true stories about dogs? I’ve always believed that good fiction is based on truth. Maybe it’s illustrating a truth evidenced in the world or maybe it’s a truth from your own life dressed up like fiction. Good fiction feels like truth.

karen joy fowlerI just finished reading Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (which I picked up simply because I loved the title). Reading her story of a child raised alongside a chimp in a family of scientists felt true, even though it wasn’t. Karen Joy Fowler is good. Am I that good? I’d like to be.

Sometimes the story was so odd, that it had to be true – like when Rosemary’s luggage got switched and she ended up with a Ventriloquist’s dummy and she and friends took it out barhopping. Occasionally, the author slipped seamlessly into second person (where the author talks directly to the reader) and many times I felt like the entire book was a conversation between me and Karen Joy Fowler.

I’m working up the nerve to write to Karen Joy Fowler. To pay homage, but also to ask for her secrets. How does she pluck such rich images from the elaborate garden that must be her mind? Words that from a lesser writer would seem silly and contrived, but in her hands land squarely in the box marked ‘truth.’

I want to write like that.

Luckily, I do know a few tricks.

The biggest trick is to write.

A lot.


Without censors.

So, now that I have a little white space on my calendar, I’m going to get back to doing exactly that.

I’m no Karen Joy Fowler, but I am Cara Sue Achterberg, occasional TV star.


Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.



If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com. You can shop for signed copies of all my books there, too!

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

Another Good Dog coverIf you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog. And discover my latest release at AnotherGoodDog.org.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.


Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live in the darling town of Woodstock, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and three rescue dogs (who rescue me on a daily basis). Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at CaraWrites.com.

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