Things I Have Already Said, And Will Probably Have to Say Again

I have written about what happened to me my senior summer in multiple ways, the most recent time was in the anthology THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID, which was released this year.

 

It was a party. I was not drunk. I didn’t drink in high school. I liked to brag that I was “weird enough without drinking.”

This is a weird thing to brag about, honestly.

 

The young man who assaulted me had mono. As I started college, I came down with mono. The Epstein-Barr virus that causes mono attacked my brain and gave me seizures and some cognitive degradation. That’s how I have epilepsy. Every time I have a seizure, I know that it’s a horrible, tangible legacy that my assailant left me for the rest of my life.

 

Also, yes, I used to be smarter. It’s hard not being as smart as I once was. It’s impacted my confidence and belief in my abilities.

 

And as the country listens to Professor Christine Blassey Ford’s testimony about her high school assault, I realize how incredibly lucky I was in the years after my own assault.

 

Yes, I lost IQ points.

 

Yes, I still occasionally have seizures.

 

No. I didn’t tell my family.

 

No. I didn’t tell most of my high school friends.

 

But I had people who believed me.

 

But I did tell the people in college that I trusted. Some of them were wonderful. Some? Not so much.  One guy insisted that we should have sex so I wouldn’t ever find sex scary. His drunken insistence was pretty overwhelming and not helpful at all. One guy eventually wrote about my assault in his memoir, not using my name, and making it into a bonding moment with his adopted brother who offered (I guess) to go beat my assailant up.

 

A couple years later, my boyfriend insisted that we help inform other woman about date rape. So, we enlisted real Maine judges, real Maine lawyers, classmates to play the roles of the rapist, witnesses, and had a trial in front of an auditorium full of students and people from Lewiston, Maine. It made the news.

 

I played the victim. He thought it would be empowering.

 

We didn’t have scripts. We had a set of facts and we had to present them according to our characters’ point of view.

 

And telling a story that was basically my own, but not my own, so that the process of the legal system could be shown and explained to other women and men who might someday need to report their own rapes? It was so hard. And I was hiding behind the façade that I was acting.

 

So, every tweak and twist of Professor Ford’s voice, every tremor and pause, both breaks my heart, and makes me ill with compassion, but also – it also makes me so amazed by how brave she’s being as she says things that she remembers, things like “indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two.”

 

“You’ve never forgotten the laughter? You’ve never forgotten them laughing at you,” Senator Patrick Leahy said.

You don’t forget things like that.

I can’t forget Anita Hill’s testimony about sexual harassment from (now) Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. I saw how she was treated.

I remember.

Patrick Leahy was on the committee when Anita Hill testified back in 1991. He is on the committee now. Senators Hatch and Grassley were also on both committees.

Speaking truth matters. Surviving matters. Taking care of each other matters.

 

I’m in an organization that has a membership of about 35 women. Of those women, I know at least seven of them have been molested or sexually assaulted. These are leaders of the community. These are kind women who devote their lives to their community and family. And I know of seven of them who have openly stated that they’ve been hurt.

There are probably more.

 

And here’s the thing: What could they have become, what could they be doing, if they didn’t have to deal with that baggage?

 

What would this country be, this world be, if the borders of women’s bodies were respected? If they weren’t hurt by sexual assaults and have to deal with the trauma of that for so long? And it obviously isn’t just straight women, it’s non-binary people, it’s gay people, it’s men. What would we all be if we didn’t have to be derailed by violence? What would we all be if we didn’t have other people constantly doubt and deny our pain?

 

Spoiler alert: We’d be even more awesome.

 

That’s what our country needs to work towards. We need to work towards kindness, respect. We need to work towards caring about each other.

 

 

 

 

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.

Bigfoot_Rescue_Kit_3_large

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.