Welcome!

Hey there. Thanks for stopping by. I’m Caryn Caldwell. I live in the deserts of the southwestern U.S. with my husband, daughter, and a lot of bookshelves. We are accompanied by several armloads of fluffy cats and sweet guinea pigs. When I’m not out hiking with my family, I write middle grade and young adult books, and am represented by the fabulous Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. Learn more about me here.

 A new perspective on an old fence. QOTD: What's something you've changed your perspective on? ⠀ ⠀ (I've changed mine on ending sentences with prepositions, obviously. I used to be much more formal, but colloquial speech is fun.)⠀ ⠀ #bokehful #bokehlicious #mountainlife #moabutah #upclose  The morning frost has touched any leaves not covered by snow. It will burn off soon, but for now I'm loving the white outlines it gives to everything. QOTD: What is your favorite part of winter?⠀ ⠀ #bokehful #upclose #treehugger #earthpix #goneoutdoors  Oh, deer. QOTD: What is your favorite wild animal? ⠀ #lasalmountains #iloveutah #utahgram #utahisrad #mountainlife ⠀
 STORY TIME: When I was a child, a "fixed mindset" was the norm. Either you were good at something or you weren't. If you weren't good, you could practice and maybe improve a tiny bit, but you'd be better off concentrating on your strengths and improving those instead.⠀ ⠀ And that's what I did. I was good at reading right away, so I read. By first grade I wasn't good at drawing, which meant I would never be able to do art with any skill, so I didn't bother with it.⠀ ⠀ Self-fulfilling prophecy, for the fail!⠀ ⠀ But once I became a parent and then began teaching elementary school kids, I realized that I was preaching a "growth mindset," encouraging kids to try and fail and try and fail and try and finally succeed. And the thing is, I really believe that we improve at just about anything with some practice and training.⠀ ⠀ But still, I had that stubborn fixed mindset with my own art. I wasn't immediately amazing at it, so I could never hope to be good.⠀ ⠀ Essentially, I was a hypocrite. It didn't feel great.⠀ ⠀ And so, two years ago I set out to learn and fail with art. I used books and @creativebug and YouTube. There has been a LOT of failing. There's still a LOT of learning to go. But there have been unexpected -- and extremely satisfying -- successes, too. Through this, I have discovered a great love. I have doodled and sketched and painted and colored. I have erased. And erased. AND ERASED. (Thank goodness for pencils.)⠀ ⠀ I still read. My most often-used creative outlet is still writing, and it always will be -- followed by photography and, to my great surprise, drawing and painting.⠀ ⠀ Like I tell my students, not one of us has to be perfect at any of it. We just have to practice and learn and fail and succeed and get incrementally better.⠀ ⠀ So what do you say? Shall we make some art today?⠀ ⠀ #missiongold #growthmindset #happycolors #colorsplash #watercolorillustration  I'm curling up with this beauty today, and, you guys, it is SO GOOD! It's the perfect blend of suspense, humor, and gorgeous writing. With the busy holidays and my daughter off school I haven't had a lot of time for reading, but I plan to make up for that today. QOTD: What are you reading?⠀ ⠀ Book: GRAY WOLF ISLAND by Tracey Neithercott ( @traceyneithercott/ )⠀ ⠀ #yalit #amreading #booknerdigans #booklr #iloveya  Unread books, just waiting to be opened so the magic can spill out. QOTD: What's at the top of your TBR (to-be-read) pile?⠀ ⠀ #tbrpile #dftba #amreading #booknerdigans #alwaysreading ⠀
 This is the Windows section of Arches National Park with the freshly-snowed-upon La Sal Mountains rising behind. Winter is a (relatively) quiet time of year to visit the park -- and, with the snow on the mountains, it's also my favorite. It's a perfect place to watch nature at work and contemplate the world.⠀ ⠀ QOTD: Where do you like to go to reflect on life?⠀ ⠀ #moab #archesnationalpark #iloveutah #utahrocks #landscapelovers ⠀  White Christmases are a special treat in the desert. Looks like we'll have one this year. QOTD: What do you have planned for this weekend?⠀ ⠀ #whitechristmas #moabutah #slickrock #wowutah #iloveutah  Hey there, human. Whatcha doin'?⠀ ⠀ #cateyes #cutekitty #kittyface #kittygram #realhousecats
 It's the last #socksunday of the year (already!), and I'm in the midst of a huge book hangover thanks to Gray Wolf Island, which I finished yesterday. It was amazing, and it seems unfair to start something new when I'm still caught up in this story. So I'm studying the map again, to put all the pieces in place. I do love to open a new book and discover a map inside; it usually means there's a great adventure ahead. QOTD: Do you like book maps?⠀ ⠀ #amreading #booknerdigans #booklr #bookstagram⠀  When flowers fall apart, use them to make a different kind of art.  Once upon a time there were flowers growing in our garden. Until they return, I have photos to remind me of their delicate loveliness. QOTD: What is something you're looking forward to?⠀ ⠀ #amreading #booknerdigans #readingtime #readingweather #ilovereading⠀

A Field Guide to Insomnia – For Reals This Time

Well, that was embarrassing. A couple of days ago as I was typing up my bedside notes, I accidentally published a blog entry I'd written in the middle of the night. Then Sir Google the Vigilant picked up the post before I could erase it. And now it's out there forever, half-formed thoughts and clumsy midnight sentences and all, the draftiest...
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Don’t Look Down: On Writing a First Draft

Here's the thing about first drafts: They are fun, but they are also scary. They are messy and muddled and awkward and hard. They have no guarantee. And they can make perfectionists like me very, very uncomfortable. But they are worth it for the times when everything works and, anyway, they have to be done in order to get to revisions. Even on...
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Chat with Suzie Townsend & Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary (Part I)

UPDATE: Great news! The fantabulous Danielle Barthel is now officially taking queries. Find query instructions here, her New Leaf profile here, and her Pinterest MSWL board here. I have a special treat for you: the first installment of a two-part chat with agent Suzie Townsend and assistant Danielle Barthel (Bar-THELL) of New Leaf Literary &...
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Things I Won’t Blog About Today

I’ve decided not to blog today. I thought I’d announce this decision, so you’d know that you were being neglected, instead of just suspecting it. It’s a beautiful May morning, and I plan to enjoy it. But just so you know what you’re missing, I’ll fill you in on a few things you will won't learn on here today. I won’t share my new secret...
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41 Ways to Conquer Writer’s Block

For the past several years I have volunteered at the local high school, advising a number of very talented students in the creative writing club. This year I mentioned NaNoWriMo to several of them. Word spread, and now we have a large group of students who are all determined to write an entire novel this month. Only problem? Some of them had no...
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That Beautiful Blank Page

I'm working on a new novel. To be clear, by "working on" I mostly mean "gazing into space" and "playing computer solitaire". On occasion, though, I do actual plotting. I've even created a few characters and half a premise. (Go, me! Woohoo!) The voice is jelling, the characters jabbering, the setting settling in. It's starting to feel like a book....
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The Art of De-Collecting

Other than the occasional college hand-me-down, garage sale find, or unnecessary kitchen appliance, my main contribution to our household's decorating scheme comes in book form. Hardcover, paperback, electronic - if you can read it, I've probably owned a copy. Sometimes two or three due to forgetfulness and a variety of gift-giving occasions. I...
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My Mind Is Not Mine Own

I think I'm losing my mind. Even at the best of times my inner narrator provides an occasional play-by-play of my existence, but my current level of running commentary is reserved for the times when I'm almost exclusively absorbed in my writing, as I am now. The source of this narratus intrusionous? I spend hours recounting the lives of my...
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Word Nerd

In seventh grade, in the back of my parents' car, on the way home from another disastrous school-wide dance, my friend Rebekah and I lied to each other in the nicest possible way. "Nerds," we told ourselves, "Are awesome." They were the most misunderstood subgroup in the high school hierarchy. Everyone should want to be one. Those snotty popular...
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Carrot Cubes, Green Pea Puree and Other Baby Food Misadventures

Somewhere between buying thirty-six cloth diapers for Sunshine and committing to what our local Target calls 'natural feeding' (because some people consider 'breast' a terrible word) I heard about the wonders of making your own baby food. The magazine article claimed it was Easy! Wholesome! Cheap! Fun! And Totally Not Messy At All! Since I'm into...
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