Don’t Give Away Your Shot. Kick to Win.

A long time ago, our daughter Em was taking karate, which was the only martial art available then in our town.

She was eight years old and tiny.

The instructor was Shaun size – sort of – and bald, super intimidating. He had all the little ones line up and kick rectangular strike pads. Em’s kick was so unexpected and powerful that the adult holding the pad fell over.

Did they tell her, “Good job?”

Nope.

They made her sit down.

“What did I do wrong, Mommy?” Em asked.

“Nothing, buddy. Nothing.”

And a mom next to us whispered, “You were too strong. They don’t know what to do with women who are too strong.”

Em got called back up and got to join the group again. This time the kids were kicking the instructor’s shin. It was Em’s turn. She wound up and executed the kick perfectly. The instructor lurched backwards, held his shin, and told her to sit down.

Again.

Em was smaller than the rest of those kids in there, but she was powerful and they didn’t know what to do with that. They couldn’t even understand it. How could this perfectly behaved, tiny child be so strong?

And sometimes that happens with us throughout our lives and our writing. Our power surprises even us. We’ll wonder where it came from? We’ll wonder what it means. And sometimes other people will not know what to do with it. Those people might be our mentors, or our families, or strangers on the internet.

But here’s the thing.

Don’t let them make you sit down or sit out. If you surprise them with your power? That’s on them. It’s not on you.

Writing Tip of the Pod:

Don’t be afraid to dig deep to get your power.

Dog Tip for Life:

Don’t let the other dogs out-alpha you. Pick your battles. But win. Don’t give away your shot.

SHOUT OUT

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.

WRITING NEWS

NEED is on sale for Kindle sales on Amazon for a mere $1,99 this month. Snatch it up!

ENHANCED, the follow-up to FLYING is here! And the books are out of this world. Please buy them and support a writer.

31702754 copy

The last TIME STOPPERS BOOK is out and I love it. You should buy it because it’s empowering and about friendship and bias and magic. Plus, dragons and elves.

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How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.com and let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

Art Stuff

You can buy prints of my art here. Thank you so much for supporting my books and me and each other. I hope you have an amazing day.

A new episode of Dogs are Smarter Than People, the quirky podcast with writing tips, life tips and a random thought comes every Tuesday! Check it out, like and subscribe!

Don’t Give Away Your Shot. Kick to Win.

 
 
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Mansplaining Buttfaces and Women’s Anger

The other week a man that I once trained gave me a piece of paper citing exactly what I once trained him about. He presented it to me like it was brand new information.

He handed this piece of paper across a table where I was surrounded by my colleagues who all know that I had explained to him what he was now preaching to me and he did it as if I’ve never heard any of it before.

I stared at that piece of paper one moment too long.

He then proceeded to mansplain something to me that I trained him about less than a year ago.

And I said, “Yes. We’ve made a conscious decision not to do that here for multiple reasons. Would you like to hear them?”

And everyone at the table sort of flinched. But nobody said anything. Nobody usually does. Except the mansplainer who didn’t want me to say our reasons. He just jumped to a different topic instead of taking that moment to maybe learn something, which is sad. It’s sad for him.

Afterwards, someone said, “You had your voice. That voice you get. The angry voice”

And someone else said, “I was ready for you to go crazy.”

But I didn’t. Because in that second I was too tired to care. Instead I thought, “Hey, at least he listened the first time when I taught him about the exact same thing he’s shoving in my face today.”

I regret that now.

In a New York Times article, Leslie Jamison wrote, “For years, I described myself as someone who wasn’t prone to anger. ‘I don’t get angry,’ I said. ‘I get sad.'”

Women and girls? Sometimes we have a hard time realizing that what we’re feeling isn’t sadness, but anger.

And Jamison goes into that a bit in her article writing, “If an angry woman makes people uneasy, then her more palatable counterpart, the sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant. Angry women are messier. Their pain threatens to cause more collateral damage. It’s as if the prospect of a woman’s anger harming other people threatens to rob her of the social capital she has gained by being wronged. We are most comfortable with female anger when it promises to regulate itself, to refrain from recklessness, to stay civilized.”

After I gave a training last week, a disruptive, older man told me afterwards that I would get paid for talking if “You weren’t nervous.”

“I wasn’t nervous,” I said, pretty calmly. “I’m high energy.”

“You were nervous,” he insisted, stepping closer. “That’s why you move around a lot.”

“No. I move around a lot because I have a lot of energy. I like my trainings to be inclusive, to involve the people and engage them instead of me standing up there and preaching,” I insisted.

Another man, same demographic, came over and said, “Carrie’s authentic. She’s passionate. That’s what you’re supposed to be.”

“Maybe you should sit down,” the first man said to me, inching even closer, “that would contain your energy.”

“No,” I said, literally standing my ground. “I’m not as good a speaker when I sit down.”

And the man with us (Nice Man) said, “Carrie’s a great speaker. You wouldn’t want to change anything she does. Everyone was rapt. You were enraptured. There’s magic in what she does.”

I can not tell you how much I appreciated Nice Man aka Second Man. I jaunted off and first man actually yelled after me, “You could get paid for this if you weren’t nervous.”

I basically had enough. I whirled around and shouted from the doorway of the room, “I wasn’t nervous. Think of it this way. I’m like Janis Joplin. You can’t help but watch me because you’re constantly worried I’m going to fall of the stage. Okay?”

I did a speed walk sort of thing down the hallway and this other facilitator told me she was going to buy me a beer. She did. I deserved a keg honestly, but I got something better:

  1. A nice man who knew exactly what to say and when
  2. A female friend who has had similar things happen to her
  3. Self respect because despite my conflict-averse nature I stood up for myself over and over again even as a rich white man, older, in a position of power, wouldn’t back down.

Over that beer, the same woman told me how she walked out of a training once because the man in charge of the event didn’t want her to use a projector because when she walked in front of it, the lights flashed on her breasts.

Seriously.

When she told me that story, I was so proud of her because she didn’t back down. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about anger lately and how so many women relate anger to powerlessness and how men relate anger to power and how our society consists of so many of these binaries.

Author and activist Soraya Chemaly talks about this in her just released, “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger.” There’s an excellent interview with her here at WBUR.

But my favorite thing that she says is this, “When we shut down somebody’s anger we are literally silencing the knowledge they have and saying it’s not valuable to us as a social resource.”

I did that to myself during that first exchange with the mansplaining. I could have taught him more, but I shut down my assertiveness before it got ‘out of control,’ and I silenced the knowledge I had and didn’t share it. Not that he deserved it, but the other people at the table did.

That’s a big deal. It’s so hard not to let others shut down our anger as women.

Anger has meaning. There are reasons people are angry. And when we shut down their anger, we also shut down their voices. This is so important when we’re talking about bias and oppression. By shutting down angry voices, we shut down the opportunity to make ourselves better as people and as a country.

Anger isn’t this one-size-fit-all thing. Anger is used to stereotype an entire race of women into a trope. Think about all the pejoratives used for black women in America.

Anger and sex combined is used to defame people implying their emotions are out of control, ie calling Kamala Harris and Corey Booker “hysterical women” during the Kavanaugh hearings or Serena Williams “hysterical” when she was arguing with the tennis judge. But it’s also the all-encompassing term that doesn’t cover the nuances.

There are so many nuances. Me speaking about human trafficking isn’t the same as a man raging at his wife because she texted another man. Me getting annoyed at someone teaching me what I’ve taught them isn’t the same as someone screaming at their colleagues because of a newspaper article. Me being annoyed at a man cornering me and insisting that I was ‘nervous’ isn’t anywhere near the same as a woman’s anger and frustration when she’s been systemically oppressed because of both her race and her sex, and possibly also her sexuality or religion or economic class.

All anger isn’t the same. Anger has degrees and nuances.

When one of my friends was talking about me getting “that voice,” that voice isn’t me actually angry. It’s me assertive. It’s honestly just me not being simpering. And whenever I use that voice? People listen and they bristle and some of them rub their hands together because they expect a fight and unlike me – they like fights.

But why does that assertive voice equate to being angry? Why is me being passionate and assertive the same thing as me being enraged?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s because I’m a woman.

I talk about this with my male friends and family all the time, how if my tone isn’t absolutely loving and placating people get offended or think I’m being angry. And how their every-day tones are so much harsher that the one I have which sets people off.

I’ll give you another hint. I’m not actually angry when I talk that way. It just means I care.  It means I want to be heard. And that’s the scary thing. Why is being heard threatening? Why is it so scary to see women, to listen to women, and to hear them? And when we do listen to them, and hear them in a place like a training, why do we feel compelled to tell them to change?

WRITING NEWS

I’m heading to Freeport, Maine on Sept. 28 and then Houston and Virginia Beach pretty soon to promote my picture book biography of Moe Berg. It’s called The Spy Who Played Baseball. 

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ENHANCED and  FLYING are here! And they’re out of this world. Please buy them and support a writer.

 

The last TIME STOPPERS BOOK is out and I love it. You should buy it because it’s empowering and about friendship and bias and magic. Plus, dragons and elves.

Timestoppers3_005

How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

Art Stuff

You can buy prints of my art here. Thank you so much for supporting my books and me and each other. I hope you have an amazing day.

How to Be Happy Even If You Are a Writer

When people love you or praise you? They are giving you a gift. It’s not cool to turn that away. You don’t want to be an arrogant butt face, but allow people to be kind to you if they are moved to do so.

A lot of writers and artists spend a lot of time doubting and feeling unhappy. Why? That’s the question. Part of it is that we’re creative people. Creative people tend to feel big feelings. We live in feelings and interpretations and expression.

That can be hard on a heart.

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It’s hard to believe in yourself when the industry makes it so hard for you not to believe.

Writing is hard on hearts. Rejections come fast and easily and the whole field is so subjective. Outside validation can be hard to come by.

We Expect to be Perfect

We are not perfect.

We apologize when we are normal. We apologize for being human. We apologize for who we are as if who we are is supposed to beyond human.

We see our books, our arts, our blogs as perfect, idealized, finished products and that level of perfection is hard to get to in real life. So….

We Tear Ourselves Down

For some of us, we’re so used to other people tearing us down for being weird, daydreaming, quirky, different that we try to do it before they do – that way it doesn’t seem to hurt that much? But it’s not good for us to do that.

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So how do we get happy?

Create

Keep working and creating. There is power in persistence, in not giving up. There is happiness in losing yourself to the process.

Let Forgiveness Happen

You can call it grace if you prefer, but allow yourself to be human. Don’t be so harsh  on yourself when you fail or make a mistake. Embrace that failure because it allows you to know you are human. Not God.

Realize That You Are Absolutely Good Enough

When people praise you, let them. When people come to see you, embrace that. When they listen to you speak, read your work, buy your painting, tell you something awesome, let them. Don’t ignore the good to hold onto the bad.

When people love you or praise you? They are giving you a gift. It’s not cool to turn that away. You don’t want to be an arrogant butt face, but allow people to be kind to you if they are moved to do so.

Dog Tip for Life: Accept the treats that life brings you, man.

Writing Tip of the Cast: A really good way to be a better writer is to think outside of yourself and imagine you as your character. But a really good way to be a confident writer is to allow yourself to be human, to rejoice in the fact that your story isn’t perfect at the first try and/or draft. Forgive yourself when you use the word ‘feel’ 572 times in an 50-page story. Forgive yourself when you accidentally have everyone fall in love with the main character or you forget to have a setting. It’s okay. Acknowledge it. Fix it. Love yourself anyway.

 

Writing News

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’m being interviewed live on WERU radio on Thursday, May 10 at 10 a.m. You can call in and ask questions and be on the air with me! The livestream for the station is here. 

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,

I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

PODCAST

The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness 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.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
The podcast of awesome

How to Be Happy Even If You Are a Writer

 
 
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My Love Affair With Big Foot and Why I Write Books About Girls Saving People (and hairy creatures)

When I was a kid, I played alone most of the time.

Yes, this is VERY- VERY sad.

My siblings are way older than I am. We lived out in the country. There was a lot of woods and a lot of swamp. My parents worked. So after school I would be all alone.

This meant that most of the time:

1. I read library books
2. I wrote stories when I ran out of library books.
3. I looked for Bigfoot when I got writer’s cramp.

I looked for Bigfoot a lot actually.

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This book cover is pretty much what I wanted to happen. I wanted Bigfoot to come and steal me away and I would save him from evil scientists who wanted to kill him. We’d take care of each other and potentially fall in love.

It was a lot like the Disney plot of Harry and the Hendersons...

Only in my version there was no John Lithgow and the Bigfoot was a lot – um – sexier? Yes, it is possible for Bigfoot to be sexy. DO NOT DOUBT!

So, thinking about this today made me feel kind of lonely. I just read about some other authors who had these great memories of playing with people and siblings. My memories of play are these solo made-up stories of me searching for Bigfoot or sitting alone on a rock by the highway writing Star Trek fan fiction for my brother in a little college-lined notebook.

And occasionally I would hang out at Debbie Muir or Kathy Albertson’s house where their moms would feed me things.

Is it no wonder I lost when I ran for office?

So, it’s funny too, when I was thinking about this. It made me realize that my stories all have this large theme running through them about saving people and being heroic and standing it up for what you believe in. I think this whole theme started up with the whole me saving Bigfoot theme in my early play. Weird. I think I’ve grown up so much and then I’m all like  DUDE. I AM STILL WRITING ABOUT HAIRY, HOT GUYS WHO AREN’T QUITE HUMAN AND THE GIRLS WHO SAVE THEM.

Yes, that is a spoiler about pretty much every single fiction book I ever write, ever. Sh. Don’t tell.

When you write books, the things you care about, the things that make you the person you are? They come through. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice. Sometimes it isn’t. A woman once asked me in an angry way, “Why are all your books about strong girls having horrible things happen to them?”

She was trying to get me to not visit her school.

And I was like, “Because horrible things do happen to strong girls.”

But the real truth is that I write books about friendship, about girls saving themselves and the ones they love, and often the world because I needed stories like that when I was a kid. I write those stories because I don’t know how to not let my own inner self leak onto the page. I write those stories because kids need to be lifted up not pushed down, to be told to shut up, to be silenced, because they some adults don’t like what they are saying.

I write those books because teens matter. I write those books because girls and women matter. I write those books because people have to have the courage to save themselves over and over again in one lifetime.

Do Good Wednesday

According to a story on NBC news, suicide rates are spiking in Puerto Rico right now. The relief effort is still happening. A simple thing you can do to help (and get something in return) is buy the salsa remix of Almost Like Praying. This effort is organized by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a bunch of amazing musicians. Your proceeds go directly to help Puerto Rico.

Note: I made that link super large to try to convince you to do it.

Random Marketing and Book Things

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. 

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog.

Yesterday’s podcast was about how I can’t have a donkey farm or be Bono, but it’s also about character and blocking and how dogs are smarter than people.

Imposter Syndrome – You Kick Butt. Believe It.

My imposter syndrome is about a society where truth is never good enough because truth is not pretty enough. My imposter syndrome is about a society where people ridicule your heart, your kindness, your vulnerability and other people applaud that.

So, for my Wednesday Writing Wisdom post, I’m going to partially reblog something from 2016 with some new content because I still deal with this monster all the time.

What is this monster?

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Not Marsie the Cat.

 

It’s Imposter Syndrome

 

How I Battle Imposter Syndrome

 

So, recently I was having a big period called, “I Suck At Everything.” It’s pretty much a variant of the dreaded Imposter Syndrome.

 

What is imposter syndrome? It’s when you feel like everyone is suddenly going to realize that you are:

 

  1. A big fraud.
  2. You suck
  3. Basically a big, sucky fraud that’s about to get called out by the YOU TRULY SUCK YOU LYING FRAUD PATROL WHO HAVE EXPRESSIONS LIKE THIS

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And lots of amazing people have Imposter Syndrome. What kind of amazing people? People like Maya Angelo who has said,

 

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

 

So, yeah, Maya Angelou, THE Maya Angelou has it, which kind of only makes mine worse because I think, “Um… I’m not that cool. I’m not even worthy of having imposter syndrome.”

 

This is even though I logically know that I’ve been on the NYT bestseller list, some of my books were bestselling books in other languages and I’ve even received awards for writing and I get happy reader email. And even though I just looked up “Carrie Jones Quotes” and found all these things I said that someone put to pictures/photos.

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(Yes, I did just google myself). My mom always used to google me, but she’s dead so I can’t rely on her to tell me things about myself – or all the other Carrie Joneses in the world – any more.

 

Anyways, here is the thing:

 

Logic does not matter when you have imposter syndrome.

 

Some people think imposter syndrome comes from feeling like you’re more important than you actually are. This might be true for others, but – ohmyfreakingword – seriously? I barely think I am doing anything halfway good enough to make this world a tiny bit better. This is so not my problem. It’s totally okay if it’s part of yours though.

 

My personal imposter syndrome is linked to my I DO NOT DO ENOUGH syndrome. For instance if I don’t make a TO DO LIST and strike things off each day, I will feel like I accomplished nothing all day. If I accomplish nothing all day, I hate myself, feel guilty, and go to bed depressed. So, I always try to make to do lists like this:

 

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This visual representation, PLUS the advice of a friend on Facebook (Yes, they do exist), made me realize that I had to do the same thing with my imposter syndrome. I had to start collecting visual evidence to convince myself that I don’t completely suck.

 

I remind myself that I have been called out before and I have survived. As someone connected to our local, mostly volunteer fire department, I witness our community come together a lot. It is a beautiful and glorious thing to see firefighters leave their families, dinners, jobs and go out and help other people. I blogged about this. A large, pedantic man caught me off guard less than a week later and berated me for writing schmaltz. That schmaltz was my heart.

 

I was devastated. I was irate. I survived.

 

I try to remind myself of all the things I have survived, sleeping in a car, witnessing a terror attack, sleeping with the enemy, massive amounts of seizures, assault, in order to realize that people thinking I’m a fraud? Calling me out for sucking? It will hurt. It does hurt. But it can be overcome. Other people have overcome so much more.

 

Reminding myself of the bad things that I’ve survived isn’t something I like to do, because I don’t want those things to define me. I don’t let them define me. But sometimes, it’s good to realize that being a survivor is something I can be proud of.

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Some people have imposter syndrome that comes from comparisons. They see someone else doing awesomely (In the book world, a prize, a list, an invitation to a conference) and think, “I suck because that is not me.”

 

Mine doesn’t work that way.

 

Mine is about fear not about envy. Mine is about the fear that I will be ridiculed for who I am and how I think. Mine is about the fear that my abilities are not enough. (Honestly, I can barely tie my shoes because my mechanical skills are so awful.) Mine is about being so poor that you don’t know how you’ll survive, about pain from being betrayed, about being hurt physically,  about public ridicule because of your political views or decisions, about cognitive degeneration, about not fitting in because you grew up outside of what society’s norms are. My fear is about things that have already happened to me and I don’t want to happen again.

 

My imposter syndrome is about exposure even when I have already been exposed, which is why I am doing a podcast, “Dogs are Smarter Than People.” I am facing that fear.

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My imposter syndrome is about a society where truth is never good enough because truth is not pretty enough. My imposter syndrome is about a society where people ridicule your heart, your kindness, your vulnerability and other people applaud that.

 

My imposter syndrome is about fear.

 

That’s all it is.

 

Fear.

 

So I remind myself with my notebook that I have had  joys, that I have had tiny, kind interactions, where I have touched other people’s stories and gotten to glimpse at their truths and their lives and how amazing is that? It is amazing.

 

My notebook is to remind me that no matter what happens in the future, I have had those moments, been blessed by them, and lucky. It’s to remind me that you can’t be an imposter when all you are doing is being yourself. Your self.

Go be yourself, people.

Go write your stories! The world needs to hear them.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

Do Good Wednesday – 

My Rotary Club and the Bar Harbor Kids Book Festival are co-sponsoring this Story Trail in Bar Harbor that we hope to get up and running this year. It’s a lot of building and planning. I’m a little freaked out about it, honestly, because I think I’m in charge.

It’s 16 story stations spread out around our town. Each station has a two-page picture book spread. You follow a map and read a book, which promotes literacy, being outside, and getting some exercise. Plus, it’s for kids, which is super cool. It requires a lot of planning, building, and consensus-building, but it’ll be worth it, right?

Tell this introvert that it’ll be worth it.

You should check out Rotary though.

We’re doing this project thanks to our club’s money from fundraising and a district grant, but what Rotary does is get community leaders from all around the world (1.2 million) together to take action and make positive change in the world and their local communities. This can be in big ways or small ways. All ways matter. This Wednesday maybe we can all think of tiny things we can do to help someone else or promote something awesome.

Write Your Way Up; Grudges are Ways We Stay Sane

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I was just thinking about how I’ve never been the kind of writer that teachers loved. I mean, even growing up, I was not the writer that teachers praised. I was the writer that the other kids thought was funny.

            Except for one teacher, but he didn’t happen until high school.

            But when I was in middle school, we had these Author of the Month contests. Every month, we’d read our stories in front of the class and there would be two Authors of the Month. One would be the teacher’s choice. That was Kathy A. It was Kathy A. pretty much every month. The other author of the month would be the kids’ choice. That would be me.

            Even before fifth grade, I wanted to be Kathy. She had a house with two floors. Our house had one. She had two parents. I had one at a time. She had a mom who made Swedish meatballs and worked in a library and did arts and crafts and took me to Pioneer Girls at the Calvary Baptist Church every Friday  and this is where I would hope really hard that Jesus had come into my heart finally.

            We’d sit around in a circle, close our eyes and silently ask Jesus into our heart. We’d raise our hands if we wanted help. I was really concerned about Jesus coming into my heart and forgetting to close the door behind him and all the blood rushing out of my heart and into my chest, which is probably what a heart attack was maybe.

            Maybe?

            I didn’t know.

            But I would always silently ask, “Dear Jesus. If you are not in my heart already, could you please come in and also could you please shut the door behind you?”

            I figured that it was a good idea to be polite to Jesus.

            Then I’d ask Jesus to come into my mom’s heart, too, because everyone seemed to think she was headed straight for help because she didn’t go to church because she caught the minister cheating at bowling and when she called him on it, he lied.

            “If someone doesn’t have bowling honor, how are they supposed to be my spiritual support system, huh?” She steamed. “A man who cheats at bowling is not my pathway to Heaven.”

            She never got over it.

            Nobody listened to her.

            Everyone said that my mom held a grudge.

            Here’s the thing though: My mother (and my Avó and my nana) didn’t hold grudges. They held knowledge. They held knowledge of wrongdoings for a long time. They had to remind themselves of the wrongs that had happened because nobody else would listen to their voice. They held that knowledge close to their hearts because that was all they had power to do. They held those grudges to keep themselves safe and sane.

            Anyways, Kathy  had the life I wanted. She had two parents who didn’t hold grudges, Swedish meatballs, knew Jesus was in her heart and didn’t really freak out about Author of the Month contests because she knew she was destined to win.

            I had no idea how that felt.

            How did it feel to know you were destined to win, that you were smart, that you were strong, that you were beloved and loved?

            I wasn’t that kid.

            I was the poor kid who needed to be saved, I guess. This is probably why a lot of the kids in my books are poor kids who want to be saved?

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            But the thing that saved me over and over again was writing. I wrote my way through it when my stepdad died, when men were bad to me, when my best friend died, when my brother died, when my mom died, when my dad died. I wrote my way into college scholarships. I wrote my way out of sleeping in the backseat of my car. I wrote my way out of living in an apartment where the ceiling was caving in. I wrote my way through pain and into triumph over and over again. I’m pretty sure I even wrote my way into political office – yes, it was just city council, but it still counts, right?

            Here’s the thing: Writing gives voice to those who society has silenced.

Here’s the other thing: Writing gives you power when you are absolutely powerless. It gives you hope when all hope is gone.

But reading? Reading is just as important. Reading outside your own experience, helps others to be heard. There is nothing better than hearing, than growing, than knowing about things and experiences outside of yourself. Empathy and knowledge aren’t swear words. They are words that make us all better, lifting us up.

            So, go write even if your teachers or your friends don’t give you an A-plus and you don’t know where the semicolon goes.

            So, go read even if it’s things that other people make fun of.

            Go create. Even if you feel like nobody else will ever listen to you, YOU need to go listen to you.

            Write your way through it.

            Write your way up.

            Be your own author of the month, author of the year, author of your life. You’ve got this.

            We all can’t be Kathys. But we can all be ourselves. And that’s even better.

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