Tips on Not Going to Jail on a Friday

1. When you say “hi” to a mean lady while perusing the turnips in the produce section and she TOTALLY ignores you, pretend she did not hear you. Do not decide she is rude. Do not throw a turnip at her. This counts as an assault, possibly with a deadly weapon, depending on the hardness of the turnip.

2. When the mean lady cuts in front of you at the fish counter at the grocery store and then asks what the difference between sea scallops and bay scallops are, then follows up that question with the comment on the price ($4.49/lb) and then asks if they’ll be fresh tomorrow, and then asks for a different amount than originally specified, and then once she’s finally done buying a pound of scallops, asks about whether it’s halibut season, not because she’s going to buy any, (“Gosh, aren’t they cheaper in late Spring?”) and then verifies that the price for the damn scallops was $4.49 not $4.41 Do not kill her, no matter how tempted you are. Dunking someone into the lobster tank is not a good idea either. This counts as murder. You go to jail for a long time for murder.

3. When the fish man finally gets to you and finishes your order in 20 seconds do not ask him why he skipped you in the first place, or lecture him about it, because he has probaby had a hard day, plus he might give you bad fish in the future. Try to smile. It will be hard.

4. When the nice cashier lady asks you if you found everything okay and how your day is going do NOT get hysterical and tell her about the mean lady saga and then compare it to being invisible and unloved and unworthy and how maybe you should just have an all-dessert lunch to make up for it, so you can be sugar high and guilty feeling as well as depressed over your new invisible status because then the nice cashier lady might call the police who might take you in for disturbing the peace, especially if you stand on the check-out line and try to choreograph a dance in a mad attempt to prove that you are human and you are visible.

5. Just calmly walk out. Smile. Get in car. Do not run red light. Do not bash into mean lady’s car when she decides to stop at a GREEN LIGHT! Yes! Yes! I swear she did.

6. Just go home, crawl into bed. Vow to never go to grocery store again. Feel guilty for being so angry. Wonder if perhaps you need therapy. Wonder if you’ll see mean lady there.

BOOK APPEARANCES

I’ll be hanging out at the launch of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID on March 15th and having  a panel discussion with editor Erin Moulton, Aaluk Edwardson and Ella Andrews at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH. 7pm!

“How to describe the feeling of not being believed? It is the feeling of disappearing.” -Stephanie Oakes

PODCAST AND BOOK NEWS!

Moe Berg

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

Podcast

In my big writing news, the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is live!

My Post

LIVE!

Please go leave a comment, or a review, and pretend to listen, because I’ve been freaking out about this so hard. It’s on iTunes and Stitcher and Castos at the moment and the RSS feed is also here. The feed has bonus material and free things. It’ll be on GooglePlay if I can ever get the screen to validate to not be just a big webpage of blankness.

Ten Writing Prompts for the Weird

I know that everyone in the entire writing universe loves writing prompts.

I do not love writing prompts. I know! Big admission there. Way to bring on the trolls.

The theory is that writing prompts help authors suffering from the dreaded writing block. I do not ever suffer from the dreaded writing block. I know! I’m hiding now.

Full disclosure: I don’t suffer from writer’s block because I have no internal censor, and also because I accept the fact that my first drafts will be terrible. It’s also because I come from the world of newspapers and poetry. In those worlds, you have big work ethics and are used to making no money at all. So, I refuse to have writer’s block because I am too busy realizing how freaking blessed I am to get to do this at all. So lucky. And I don’t want to be a newspaper reporter again.

I want you to be lucky, too. I want you to be a rockstar of writing, but a cool one without ego issues or substance abuse problems.

My Post-2

But back to writing prompts.  They help people and people get unblocked.

I look at them, and I get… I get bored.  So, I decided to jazz up some really common ones with a weird twist. I live on an island in Maine, according to my friends that makes it okay for me to be this weird. My friends are liars.

The Ten PROMPTS OF WEIRDNESS

Outside the Window: What’s the monster outside your window doing right now? If that’s not inspiring, what’s the monster in your coffee mug? Oh, yeah. You know it’s there.

The Bloodfeud: Write about the conflict that has torn your family apart for generations. Bonus points for the use of the undead.

The Shuffle: You hear a shuffling noise. Is that from outside or in?

Food: Write a poem about the last time you were served for dinner.

Hamsters in Love: Two hamsters. One love. Separate cages. 

Enemies: Write about the person in real life or pretend life or undead life that you can’t stand. Make them your teacher or your parent. What would that be like?

Unicorn Time: There’s a unicorn. What’s she doing?

Done with You: Write a poem where the first line is “Done with you.”

The Found Poem: Find a blog. Print it out. Circle words. Make a poem out of those words.

The Cat: Write about what’s going on in this cat’s mind.

 

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There! Easy and weird. I hope they help!

 

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PODCAST AND BOOK NEWS!

In my big writing news, the podcast is live!

LIVE!

Please go leave a comment, or a review, and pretend to listen, because I’ve been freaking out about this so hard. It’s on iTunes and Stitcher and Castos at the moment and the RSS feed is also here. The feed has bonus material and free things. It’ll be on GooglePlay if I can ever get the screen to validate to not be just a big webpage of blankness.

 

I am so freaked out this that I actually made a video! And I will probably eventually make a contest or something.

But no matter what, it’s quirky and real, and so much random fun.

I think I’m so worried because it’s so authentic and because I was bullied mercilessly about my Muppet voice when I was a kid. So, yeah…. big vulnerability issues there, which is also why I had to do it. I had to face my fears. Right?

Someone say, “right.”

Please….?

Pausing To Try To Be Chill. Failing. 

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

Three Ways To Create Characters W/ Epilepsy and Not Make Them Stereotypes

Don’t let one attribute define the character. An author can’t make a character’s one attribute be that she has seizures any more than the author can make that character’s one attribute be that she is only her race or only cranky or gay or hearing-impaired or short or really into ping-pong, so into ping-pong that she only refers to it as table tennis.

What did the nurse do when she saw that her patient was having a seizure in the bathtub?

She threw in the laundry.          

  -Common epilepsy joke on the Internet

Lovely, right?  Dehumanizing. Who cares if the patient drowns. The laundry is more important.

 

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Me being more than someone with epilepsy

 

  1. Don’t Let One Attribute Define an Entire Character

 It’s the same as creating any character. Don’t let one attribute define the character. An author can’t make a character’s one attribute be that she has seizures any more than the author can make that character’s one attribute be that she is only her race or only cranky or gay or hearing-impaired or short or really into ping-pong, so into ping-pong that she only refers to it as table tennis.

Some authors use sketches to create a full character, asking themselves questions such as: What does my character want? How old was she when she crawled? What was the worst thing that ever happened to her in kindergarten? Does she like hot dogs and if not, why?   

     

 Characters always need to be well rounded, whether they have epilepsy or not.

“A helpful concept to remember when developing characters for a story is that, as in real life, they should exhibit a mosaic of overlapping, sometimes contradictory traits.” (Epstein 56)

I was at my in-laws house and several teenage cousins were sitting in the living room watching television. Someone was dancing poorly on the sitcom they were watching.   

“Oh my God,” one of the girls said. “It’s like she’s having a freaking seizure… look at her.”   

“What a spaz,” another girl said.

She snorted.   

“Freaky.”   

“Super freak.”

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Me. The person they call freak. 

2. Be Aware of the Stereotypes

Writers can and should incorporate characters with epilepsy and disabilities into children’s fiction and they can do it without perpetuating negative biases against people with disabilities. To do so, authors must be aware of the stereotypes, write against the stereotypes, and create well-rounded characters.

Yeah, I’d like it if tv writers did it as well. But, right now, I’ll take what I can get.

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Em hugging a dog. She does that well. 

My daughter Emily snuggles into her bed. She stares at me, smiles, pulls me down into a hug and says, “Mommy, I wish you didn’t ever have seizures.”           

“Yeah, me too,” I say and smell her hair, which reminds me of bananas.           

“It’s not a big thing, though, right?”            

Her eyes are teddy bear sweet and her fingers twirl a piece of my hair.            

“Nope,” I say. “Not a big thing at all.”  

Do a web search on fictional children’s books dealing with epilepsy and you don’t come up with much. Even epilepsy foundations have meager resources for picture book fans. Epilepsy.com lists just eight books that deal with epilepsy in a fictional narrative. Yet, at least 300,000-plus American children with epilepsy have friends and schoolmates. Not many of those children connect with books that deal with the subject.            

A majority of books that do exist for children have their characters whose development comes from growing beyond a negative stereotype of someone with epilepsy.

What I’m wondering is why?

In her paper, “Portrayal of People with Disabilities in Children’s Literature: 1940s to 1980s” Maeleah Carlisle wrote, “Children’s literature often reflects the current society’s values and attitudes.” (1)           

That is true today.

It is no wonder that many authors use negative epileptic stereotypes for their protagonists. Most people have slight understanding of the disorder. Is this true about other conditions? Other disabilities?

In a paper about epilepsy and stigma printed in the Journal of Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology, the scientist’s conclusion was, “Stigma not only coexists with lack of information, but also with inappropriate behaviors .” (Fernandes 213)

Children’s authors have been unintentionally perpetuating those stigmas. But the lack of literature itself is also perpetuating the silence around conditions and disorders.  This is troubling because “Children’s literature can inform and influence children’s images of people with disabilities.” (Carlisle 5)

 Colin Barnes and researchers Biklen and Bogdan illustrated multiple ways in which literature and the media stereotypes people with disabilities. Those stereotypes also exist in children’s literature .

Those stereotypes include: 

  1. Person with disabilities is pitiable.
  2. Person with disabilitiesis the helpless victim of violence.
  3. Person with disabilities is evil.
  4. Person with disabilities is saintly, godly, a superhero. Some sort of extraordinary trait occurs to make the reader love the epileptic champion/hero.
  5. Person with disabilities is worthy of ridicule.
  6. Person with disabilities is “own worst enemy.” They could get better if they would just take their medicine, not drink, etc…
  7. Person with disabilities is a burden. They are a drain on their parents’ emotions, money, time.
  8. Person with disabilitiescan’t live a regular life with normal activities. (Biklen and Bogdan 6-9; Barnes 2-7)

 In examining the existing children’s literature, I found that in most books the protagonists’ character development hinged on breaking free of the stereotypes of epilepsy. This is also somewhat true of other disabilities, but not always. It’s the “not always” that gives me hope.

While at Vermont College in January 2006, I told fellow students my thesis topic.            

“Wow,” they said.

Then they’d usually nod and something would shift behind their eyes. They would pause, maybe bite their lips, maybe look to the side and then almost every single one of them asked. “Why are you so interested in epilepsy?”          

 “Because I have seizures,” I said.           

“Oh,” said one.           

“Really,” said another.           

My favorite person? She just nodded and said, “That’s cool.” 

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Me hiding behind a gnome. 

3. Do Whatever You Can To Understand Epilepsy

If you are writing about an experience outside of yourself and that experience is often used to ‘other’ people in a really bad way, you need to put in the work so that you don’t reduce your characters, so you can get your head into a space that is close to empathy and understanding.

What’s it like having seizures? It’s not really like anything for me. It just is. But my experience with epilepsy isn’t everyone’s experience with epilepsy and that’s important to remember. There’s no one way to have epilepsy or autism or diabetes or anything. There is no one way to be.

I sort of hate referencing my own life and books when I post about things, because it always seems so self-serving, but when I wrote TIPS and the sequel, LOVE AND OTHER USES FOR DUCT TAPE, I wrote them because I wanted to have REAL characters with complicated problems and complicated thoughts and complicated personalities. My daughter, Em, was begging for this. But something inside of me was begging for this too. I wanted to write a book where someone had seizures, but it wasn’t the end of the world, it wasn’t what defined them, it was just something about them, just like it was something about me.

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Author Rick Riordan said in our correspondence, “As far as why is it important to have characters with differences, again I had a very personal reason. I wanted my son to relate to the hero and feel better about the learning problems that were causing him trouble in school. It’s also real life to have lots of different kinds of people, and it can make for richer writing.”

That’s so important.  It’s something we’re still learning in so many ways. All of us.

Sources: 

Barnes, Colin. “Disabling imagery and the media.” <www.ncpedp.org/comm/commresrch.htm>.  January 17, 2006

Biklen, D. and R. Bogdan. “Media portrayals of disabled people: a study in stereotypes.” Interracial Books for Children Bulletin. 8: 1977, 4-9.

Carlisle, Maeleah. “Portrayal of People with Disabilities in Children’s Literature; 1940s to 1980s.” Beta Phi Mu — Chi Chapter. 1997. Indiana State University. 24 Jan. 2006 1987

Fernandes, Paula. “Stigma Scale of Epilepsy:Conceptual Issues.” Journal of Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology 3 Dec 2004. 21 Jan 2006 <http://www.epilepsia.org.br/epi2002/JEp213-218.pdf.

Jacoby, Ann. “Public Knowledge, Private Grief: A Study of Public Attitudes to Epilepsy in the United Kingdom and Implications for Stigma.” Epilepsia Nov 2004. 21 Jan 2006 <http://www.epilepsia.org.br/epi2002/JEp21http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.

Martin, Jenna. “Teens with Epilepsy: Living with Stigma.” Epilepsy.com. Epilepsy Therapy Development  Project.. 20 Jan. 2006 <http://www.epilepsy.com/articles/ar_1089388403.html>.

Mellon, C.A. “Evaluating the portrayal of disabled characters in juvenile fiction.” Journal of Youth Services in Libraries. 2(2): 1989, 143-150

 

Writing Prompt: 

What is it about you that you don’t feel like people don’t understand? That they make into a stereotype?

Life Prompt:

How can you show someone that you see them? What can you do to see them better?

 

Random Other Writing and Work News:

The pub date for THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID, is March? You can preorder it here or anywhere. It’s an anthology that I have a piece in.

9781942186342-THINGS HAVENT SAID-cover

 

I’m starting a podcast. The landing page will be here and also on my website and in all those typical podcast places, hopefully. It will be raw. It will be quirky because seriously… look at me… I don’t know how to be normal.

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I am incredibly terrified about this podcast. So, please leave a review once you check it out.

Also, on my website are the stories of how my books like the NEED series or TIME STOPPERS came into being, how I paint to get more into my stories, or more info about me and all that stuff that’s supposed to be on websites.

welcometomagic

 

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who was a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

And there you go, Friday’s blog post. Please let me know here if you can (and not just on Facebook) if you’ve checked it out. I hope you have an amazing, wonderful weekend where you shout out who you are to the world and the world loves you for it.

I am Afraid To Be Seen – Friday Writing Life

There are certain things you are supposed to be afraid of when you’re little – normal things, right?

            Spiders.

            Dead people.

            Spiders coming out of dead people.

            Dead people coming out of spiders.

           

But I was afraid of being – just being – being alive – being noticed. Being.

 

I first started hiding in my bedroom closet when I was four, I think.

It wasn’t my first hiding attempt. That began when I started to see. When I was born they thought I was completely blind. It wasn’t for months before they realized that I could sort of see, just in a blurry way in which there were four copies of everything, four versions of the same truth, I guess.

Before my eye operation, I’d push myself against walls, crawl behind the couch or toddle there, feeling the scratchy fabric behind my hands. It happened at night too. I’d get in my bed after Mom kissed me goodnight and I’d pile all my stuffed animals around me and then pull the covers tightly up over my head.

“I am a nothing girl,” I would whisper. “I am nothing. Nobody can find me. Nobody can find me.”

I thought that this was a genius hiding space when I was four, and that makes sense because I was young and stupid, but what doesn’t make sense is how I sometimes still hide there, sometimes.

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When I was four and murmuring

In the closet

Because it was darker than the bed

And safer

With walls around me.

 

My mother’s voice

Rattled through the house

Hysterical

Hysterical

Calling my name

 

Screaming it eventually

Panicked beyond belief

And I sat there behind the clothes

Dangling down

Hand me downs

Of other kids’ better lives.

 

She found me

Of course

I made a noise or something

Giving myself away

And she found me there

Huddled up and crying

 

“Why are you crying, honey,”

she screamed, no she sang, no

she whispered. “Why are you crying?”

 

“I’m a nothing girl,” I whispered,

no shouted, no spoke, no screamed.

“I’m a nothing.”

 

And she bundled

me into her

arms and said, “No,

no you’re not,”

which of course

was exactly the wrong

thing to say.

 

There are certain things you are supposed to be afraid of when you’re little – normal things, right?

Spiders.

Dead people.

Spiders coming out of dead people.

Dead people coming out of spiders.

 

But I was afraid of being – just being – being alive – being noticed. Being.

Jamie, one of the main characters in the TIME STOPPERS series is a lot like this, too. Albeit for different reasons – his fake family are trolls.

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I think a lot of us have to deal with trolls in one way or another. It can make us hide.

Almost every Wednesday, I go to my Rotary club’s meeting and then that night, I head to one of my friends’ houses where people gather to hang out. Some people play poker. Some people knit. Some people run around with their kids. Everyone eats.

This Wednesday, I wore a big orange necklace on top of my typical L.L. Bean navy crew sweater. Everyone mentioned it. And I decided to be honest and say, “Look. I realize that I like to blend in. I sit on the floor sometimes. I wear all dark clothes. I hide behind a camera and take pictures. This is my first step in trying to be brave. This necklace. I’m trying not to hide.”

And everyone was “cool.” Because if you’re even going to notice something like that, you’re probably going to be supportive.

There’s this weird thing about writers, we communicate through our stories, but we also can hide behind those stories. We put the words out there, hope someone notices because writing is a lot of effort and it is horrible when you create something, try to communicate something, and nobody responds.

But at the same time, you can’t control other people’s reactions to you, to your story. And I’ve spent my whole life so afraid of people’s reactions, of them hurting me, that I hide.

I’m pretty sure that’s got to stop one necklace, one blog post, one podcast at a time.

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This picture is a big deal for me because I’m actually not wearing a sweater. I have worn sweaters in Mexico in July. I wore a sweater while having a baby. Seriously. Issues here, people. 🙂

Writing Prompt: 

What do you try to hide?

Life Prompt:

How can you show someone that you see them? What can you do?

 

Random Other Writing and Work News:

Due to a glitch in distribution, I think – I honestly can’t remember – the pub date for THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID, has been moved back to March? You can preorder it here or anywhere. It’s an anthology that I have a piece in.

9781942186342-THINGS HAVENT SAID-cover

 

I’m starting a podcast. The landing page will be here and also on my website and in all those typical podcast places, hopefully. It will be raw. It will be quirky because seriously… look at me… I don’t know how to be normal.

13501976_10154349897204073_460166726311376845_n

What do you like about podcasts? What do you hate? I’ll try not to do the hate things.

Also, on my website are the stories of how my books like the NEED series or TIME STOPPERS came into being, how I paint to get more into my stories, or more info about me and all that stuff that’s supposed to be on websites.

welcometomagic

 

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who was a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

And there you go, Friday’s blog post, which runs counter to be impulse to be invisible. Please let me know if you’ve checked it out. I hope you have an amazing, wonderful weekend where you shout out who you are to the world and the world loves you for it.

Things We Haven’t Said – Things I Haven’t Said Either

There are a lot of things I haven’t said in my life.

That’s true for almost everyone, I think.

I’ve been tweeting a lot of pictures of my animals and trying to be motivating and uplifting and let people tell their stories. All stories matter. Yours matters. If there is anything I could do in this weird world, I wish I could convince everyone that their stories matter, that other people matter, that we all matter.

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YOU MATTER! 

I’m in a new anthology that’s coming out and it was hard for me to write the piece that I donated.  I’m not used to writing being hard. I’m used to writing being easy, being an escape from the bad things, a place where I can make my own world and control what happens in that world in a way that I can’t control what happens in my own.

But sometimes you have to write the hard things even when you don’t want to.

This was one of those times.

All net proceeds from Things We Haven’t Said will be donated to support survivor services.

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“This book will save hearts.
This book will save minds.
This book will save lives.”
–A.S. King, author of Still Life with Tornado and I Crawl Through It

“Powerful, important and timely, this is a collection of voices that tell, in their own words, what it means to be a survivor–a message of hope and healing that belongs on every young person’s bookshelf.”
–Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be and The Last to Let Go

“Challenging, heartbreaking and ultimately healing…a beautiful firsthand account from rape survivors about the impact of sexual assault on their lives.”
–Christa Desir, author of Fault Line, Bleed Like Me, and Other Broken Things

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This is me before the thing that I hadn’t said happened. This was my boyfriend, Joe. He’s a good human.  Remember how I blogged about when I got epilepsy. This is how I got epilepsy. 

Silence is a powerful thing. And breaking silence, around heavily stigmatized issues such as sexual violence, can sometimes seem impossible, especially for those who find themselves on the inside. This is particularly true for young people. Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out  features a lot of talented contributors,  and is literally giving voice to those who need help speaking up and getting help. The book — made up of essays, poems, letters, vignettes, interviews, and concrete information — breaks the silence and verbalizes the experiences of these victims and, in doing so, creates a chorus of hope for children and young adults who have experienced similar abuse.

The book comes out Feb. 6. You can preorder it here or anywhere.

Writing Prompt: 

What haven’t you said? What are you afraid to say?

Random Other Writing and Work News:

I handed back my first three packets to my students at the Writing Barn today and I am so amazed by them and how awesome they are. They are gifts to this world.

I’m starting a podcast. The landing page will be on my website. What do you like about podcasts? What do you hate? I’ll try not to do the hate things.

Also, on my website are the stories of how my books like the NEED series or TIME STOPPERS came into being, how I paint to get more into my stories, or more info about me and all that stuff that’s supposed to be on websites.

welcometomagic

RAINN is an organization that helps survivors of sexual violence if you need help and you want to start looking for resources.

Why I Write – It’s about Freedom

 

A wise woman, Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry is own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” 

For me, that responsibility comes with writing, with thinking about, ‘how can story make the world a tiny bit better,’ or ‘how can story and information help one person.’

And Harry Truman said, “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

There is so much that’s important in those quotes.

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Fear is not what you want to build change on. You want to build a life and a story on courage and imagination. You need to be persistent. You need to be determined. You need to be responsible. And you need to guard your freedom to build those things. And you need to guard other people’s freedoms, too.

You want to build your life on faith and hope, on action, on one step at a time moving forward.

What are you doing to help other people? 

What are you doing to help yourself? 

What are you doing with your freedom? With your story?

Those are the truths I’m thinking about today.

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Here is what I believe:

Your words matter.

Trying to write stories and truths?

It matters.

You matter.

That’s why I write. Because I want to remind myself what matters.

Writing News:

My Writing Barn class starts this Sunday and a high school student I mentor (volunteer gig) gives her senior presentation today, which is awesome. I’m so psyched for her and amazed by her.

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who was a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it.

 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

And… um… I’m starting a podcast. It’s going to be (cough) quirky. There’s truly no hope of it being anything else, honestly.  I mean, I’m wearing handerpants.

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