Chocolate Squirrels and Author Mental Health: Interview with Jessica Burkhart
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Hey! Welcome to a bonus interview episode of Dogs are Smarter Than People, the usually quirky podcast that gives writing tips and life tips. I’m Carrie Jones and with me today is Jessica Burkhart
Jessica Burkhart is the author of the best-selling 20-book Canterwood Crest series with over 1.5 million copies in print in multiple languages. Her other works include the Unicorn Magic series and the stand-alone YA novel WILD HEARTS. She makes her editorial debut with LIFE INSIDE MY MIND: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles
Jessica’s mom hates squirrels but she still gave Jessica a chocolate squirrel for Easter? WHY?!? Jessica explains that to us if you listen.
And we talk about being brave, being neurodivergent and being an author. I hope you’ll listen and give Jessica all the applause.
Spoiler: I, Carrie, absolutely adore Jessica.
Spoiler #2: This interview touches on mental illness, addiction, and writing. And Jessica? She is brilliant.
You can find out more about Jessica and her books here on her website.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.
WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.
I was just visiting an awesome school in Greensboro, North Carolina talking about my Moe Berg picture book biography and I was telling the kids about how to show not tell emotion and I had an epiphany right after a kid asked if I was Italian because I spoke with my hands so much.
Spoiler Alert: I am a lot of things, but I am not Italian.
Anyways, I realized that the biggest writing tip I can give is to live unafraid in your words, live unafraid in your loves, live unafraid in your experiences.
Live the biggest, fullest life you can imagine because every person you meet, every thing you do will help you shape not only the stories and people you put in your books and fiction, but also in your lives.
So here is the thing.
We are all human. We all suffer. We all make mistakes. We all do good things.
And it feels, often, that we can never do enough. Or learn enough. Or get to touch other people’s stories.
I realized all this when we were delivering wheelchairs to this man, David Castellanos, and his family in Belize. One wheelchair helps. Raising money for a wheelchair helps. But there is still so much more to do.
Part of that is hearing and truly listening to other people.
David had a stroke. He is 42. Social media isn’t tweeting and posting about him. He and his family are quietly living their stories, the happy ones and sad ones.
David’s wife asked me if I knew of a way to get more money for him to help with his medicine. I didn’t. There’s no nice easy way for them to get a GoFundMe. They already work hard and barely manage financiallyAfter . I asked the local Rotarian in charge if he could help. He was not helpful.
After we fitted David and his wheelchair, Mrs. Castellanos stood at the gate to their home and watched us go. She watched the truck full of wheelchairs go. She watched the first van go. Then it was our van.
We couldn’t just go.
I couldn’t handle it. Shaun jumped out of our van and gave her some money. Yes, I know it’s not enough still to help with his medicine and yes, I know it’s not a long-term solution.
What I’d Like
I would like people to live in a world where they can be sick and not feel like they are draining their family’s income and future. Belize. The United States. Everywhere.
I would like people to live in a world where a wheelchair isn’t a verdict, where you can lift out of poverty even when you are in pain.
That hopelessness is here, too, in Maine, in the United States. We should be able to do better than this. And I am lucky to see this, to witness it, to even witness my own helplessness, because it makes my own story bigger and richer.
David matters. You matter. I matter. Our stories matter. Our lives matter and we all deserve a chance to live them as fully as we possibly can.
When you write your life, when you tell your stories, remember that we are all surviving and loving and struggling. Put that heart in there, make your feelings, your wants and your emotions resonate. The world needs to hear stories – all stories – and their tiny pinpricks of hope and truth and reality that peek out even when embedded in fiction.
The best writers care about more than their own success or follower-counts. Every tweet isn’t about how awesome they are. Every moment in their life isn’t just about them. The ability to have empathy, to see, to observe and care about things? That makes a difference and you read that difference on every single line of every page. The magic of caring comes through and makes your story resonate with truth.
Rotary allows me to meet Rotarians in other countries. It allows me to meet David. It allows me to take action to make change in my community and in the global community. Thanks to Rotary, I get to hear stories that are different than mine and like mine all at once. That’s the best kind of gift.
You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON
On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m be reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!
WHAT IS PATREON?
A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you.
HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!
BE A PART OF THE PODCAST!
Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!
No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?