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.

 Snow makes the perfect backdrop for Delicate Arch. My brother and I did this winter hike -- along with a thermos of hot chocolate to treat ourselves when we got to the top! It's a local hike for me, but I still don't make it as often as I'd like. ⠀ ⠀ QOTD: What's your favorite cold-weather drink?⠀ ⠀ #archesnationalpark #iloveutah #moabutah #moab #delicatearch ⠀  Winter flowers have a simple beauty all their own. QOTD: When does spring start where you live? It's already starting to warm up here. (Yay!!)⠀ ⠀ #flower #flowers #bokehful #flowergram #wintergram ⠀  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
 This is what happens when I ask my eight-year-old to pose for a bookstagram: she plops the story on her face and says she's ready for her closeup.⠀ ⠀ QOTD: Who -- or what -- is your favorite model? ⠀ #bookroo #kidlit #kidsbooks #picturebooks #bookcovers  Getting in a little afternoon watercoloring with my EVERYDAY WATERCOLOR book. It feels so good to be back with my paints again. QOTD: What's on your agenda for the weekend?⠀ ⠀ #artbook #everydaywatercolor #lifeincolor ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #Artgram⠀ #Artjournal⠀ #Artlove⠀ #Artlover⠀ #Artnerd⠀ #Artofinstagram⠀ #Artphoto⠀ #Artsanity⠀ #Creativebug⠀ #Morningart⠀ #Abmhappylife⠀ #Colormehappy⠀ #colorsplash ⠀ #dailymotivation⠀ #Flashesofdelight⠀ #goodmoment⠀ #goodmoments⠀ #Happycolors⠀ #immtribe ⠀ #ampainting ⠀ #igauthorlife ⠀ #Lifeissweet⠀ #Livecolorfully⠀ #Livelaughlove⠀ #Livelifehappy⠀ #seekthesimplicity⠀ #Thehappynow  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
 Remember when I said it was almost spring? HA HA HA. Good times. ⠀ ⠀ It snowed yesterday. ⠀ #spoketoosoon #stillwinter ⠀ QOTD: Did you get snow this weekend?  It's a sunny day in the Utah desert, but right now I'm California dreaming. QOTD: Where do you wish you were today?⠀ ⠀ #californiadreaming #earthpix #Goneoutdoors #landscapelovers #landscapephotography ⠀  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 ⠀
 I love the beauty of an elegant title page. QOTD: What's your favorite font? (Come on. You know you have one!)⠀ ⠀ #booknerdigans #amreading #booklr #ilovereading #bookcommunity ⠀  Snowy Sundays are made for reading and writing. QOTD: What are you doing with your Sunday?⠀ ⠀ Book: The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg @cnholmberg ⠀ #readingweather #amreading #amwriting #amediting #thefifthdoll  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⠀

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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Snails in Brown Uniforms and Kidnapping Mothers

I'm antsy in a way I haven't been since I believed in Santa Claus. This year for my birthday my family members pooled their money to allow me to purchase my first ever big-girl camera. Well, the first I've owned since the ancient Minolta I perma-borrowed from my parents when I was on my high school newspaper staff, then handed over to my brother...
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Lords of the Laptop

Sometimes it seems as if everybody wants to be a novelist. I'm sitting in my local coffee shop, where I retreated in order to -- what else? -- work on my own novel. The place is not crowded, but I count three others hiding behind their laptop screens. At the table beside mine, a man is explaining his screenplay's entire backstory to a red-haired...
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A Post About Repairs — Now With Photos!

Seems everything needed repairs this week. First there was an elderly but sturdy machine at work, which required my second-favorite set of instructions ever: the now-infamous page 36 from the vintage manual I keep in a nearby cupboard. Raise your hand if you had to stifle a juvenile snicker when you read the title above. Raise both if you were...
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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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15 Tips for Shooting & Editing Your Cell Phone Photos

Introduction By posting this I am not claiming to be an expert. Most everything I know about iphoneography is self-taught via luck, experimentation, and sheer stubbornness. (Laziness, too, since my DSLR is too heavy and bulky to come with me on many of my adventures.) Also, my tips may not apply to every device, since I use an iPhone for all...
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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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On Finding an Agent (or Two): A Post with Pictures for the Visually Curious

Last April I broke up with my agent of nearly three years. It was necessary, and risky, and terrifying. It meant leaving the only person in publishing who'd thus far agreed to champion my work, in order to find someone else who would, you know, champion my work. Writing that message was hard. It couldn't be undone, and there was no guarantee I...
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How To Plot a Book in 16 Steps

I've recently entered the brainstorming stage of my next book. It's a fun, crazy time. Sometimes my mood is rainbows. Sometimes it's angst. Right now my mood wants lists (as it often does), so here you go: a step-by-step guide to plotting a book. All you writers out there, this is for you. You're welcome. 1. Find the most inconvenient time/place....
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