What I Used To Be

I used to be a newspaper reporter and editor for small award-winning local papers.

Sometimes I miss it.

Sometimes I don’t.

Thursday afternoon five workers (reporters, editors, sales) at the Capital, an Annapolis newspaper, were killed.

People are violently killed each day. In newsrooms. In homes. On streets. In wars. In schools. In places of religious worship.

Everywhere.

And that’s the thing.

It’s everywhere.

I Used To Be A Reporter and Editor

When I was a reporter and an editor, I made barely a living wage, but I did it because I loved learning about the people in my community and I loved sharing their stories. I didn’t do it for the money. There was no fame unless you count Maine Press Awards.

Spoiler alert: Those shouldn’t count.

There was just a passion to make sure that people knew what their local government was doing, what they could do, what was happening.

As a member of the press, I often felt powerless because I had to report on things that needed to change, but I couldn’t be an active agent/instigator/or participant in that change.

I still feel powerless even though I’m not confined by my job anymore.

Once the publisher and executive editor of the second paper I worked for called editorial staff into a meeting because someone we wrote about in the police beat was threatening the paper. The police were made aware, but our downstairs office was vulnerable with big opening windows, meant to reflect the transparency of our work and our openness to staff.

One of my editors said to me after, “We will all die if someone comes in here with a gun.”

I said, “I know.”

“What can we do?” he asked.

“Just continue until we can’t,” I suggested. “I mean, what else can we do?”

I didn’t really believe it would happen. Not really. The meanest thing I had to deal with as a reporter was people insulting my intelligence because I had ‘pigtails.’

Note: They were braids.

I didn’t live in fear. The worst thing I had to deal with were town managers making sexual comments and random people asking me out on dates and a boss #metooing me into another position.

Yes, I did make that a verb, a hashtag verb.

I Used To Be Innocent

I thought people could understand that everyone was human and that once they had that magical understanding – poof! – their hate would stop.

I forgot about greed as a motivation.

I forgot that people ignore facts that don’t support their belief systems.

I was naive.

When politicians and hate-media vilify the press, reporters, journalists, photographers, they are vilifying and dehumanizing people – real people – often your neighbors.

Let me tell you about the reporters I know, working right now. 

There’s a woman who sings to a friend’s dog on back porches during parties, quietly bonding with him when everyone else has left him.

There’s a man who plays drums in a 80s cover band. I found a body with him once.

There’s a woman who falls in love with every stud she interviews, but never ever does anything. She likes chocolate and her family.

There’s a woman who wants to be a traditionally published author much more than she wants to be a reporter, a woman who dreams.

There’s another man who walks his golden through the neighborhoods of Bar Harbor, greeting everyone he sees with care and kindness.

They are not anyone’s enemy. Just like children aren’t. Just like black men driving aren’t. Just like a wife isn’t.

But I don’t know how to make people understand that.

I Used To Be Someone Who Believed in Safety

I thought that my closet was safe, my mom, big dogs, my bed surrounded by stuffed animals. I was lucky that way because for a long time I believed that home was always a good place, a place to run to. Not everyone had that. Not everyone gets that. And then I thought work was that place… until it wasn’t.

What does it mean to live in a world where nothing is safe? Where going to school, going to church/temple/mosque, going to eat, standing on a corner, sleeping in a bedroom, walking down a street, doesn’t feel safe?

It feels like this. It feels like denial and shock if you have been living privileged and lucky.

But what it really feels like?

Is wrong.

So many times in the last ten years I’ve pitched book ideas only to hear, “That doesn’t happen. That doesn’t still happen.”

People were shocked by #metoo, shocked by the systemic racism that causes people to die, shocked by the continuation of white supremacy groups, by the mysogyny, by anti-LGBTQA crimes, by human trafficking, and hate.

That shock is a lovely luxury, but we can’t be shocked anymore.

I Used To Be Someone Who Thought I Could Save The World. Alone.

I had a savior complex. I know better now.

 

When people tell us their stories, don’t laugh. Listen. Be honored that they trust you enough to share themselves with you – and that includes the sad, scared, angry parts, too.

Women shouldn’t be afraid of violence in their homes. Children shouldn’t be afraid of violence in their schools and homes. People shouldn’t be afraid of police, of nightclubs, of  snipers and bombs and sometimes even cars.  People shouldn’t be afraid to post their opinion on the internet because it could mean stalking and trolls. People shouldn’t be afraid to worship or protest or eat at a restaurant or board a plane or go to work or practice for a softball game or drive a car while black, or stand outside their home while in the Tohono O’ogham Nation.

But people are afraid. Or they are shocked.

Exposing the hate that happens? That’s a first step. But it’s only one step and this fight, the rectifying of our society isn’t going to happen in a straight line. There has to be multiple work on multiple fronts and one of those fronts is inside of ourselves.

Here’s a Huffington Post article that shows just how real the anti-press hate is. It is uncensored and explicit.

 

 

Writing News

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

Moe Berg The Spy Who Played Baseball
Moe Berg

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Writing Coach

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Death By Christmas Tree; the U.S. has always been a hot mess

Back in 2008,  a man in Florida basically tried to kill his father with a Christmas Tree.
At first, in some horrible, weird way, I was kind of impressed, because seriously, how ironic and anti-Christmas is death by Christmas tree? Like, if I wrote that in a book some reviewer would say, “Jones’ quirky writing style sometime stretches the boundaries of the imagination. The Christmas tree assault was highly unbelievable.”
But the Florida Christmas Tree Incident really happened.
And I was also kind of impressed because this man tried to throw the tree at his dad, which made me think: Wow. Superman Strong. Captain America Strong. That’s strong.
But I was unimpressed because let’s face it — It’s never cool to try to kill your father unless your father is Darth Vadar.

Darth was at the Criterion Theatre last year. He was scary. Also, his zipper broke. You can tell he was angry about me noticing this as I took his photo.

EDITED TO ADD; SORRY! SORRY! IT IS NEVER COOL TO KILL DARTH VADER. VOLDEMORT? HE’S OKAY. RIGHT? 

It’s so bizarre because the Christmas tree is currently a symbol of family, of light in the darkness, of celebrating Jesus’ birth.

In 2004, the Pope called the tree a ‘symbol of Christ.’ Anyway, it turns out that the tree was not a normal-sized Christmas tree that touches the ceiling. It was a mini tree. A MINI CHRISTMAS TREE! This man tried to kill his dad with a three-foot-tall tree, and then the metal tree stand, because he didn’t give up after the initial tree throw.

So, in the United States, nine years ago a man was so propelled towards violence that he attacked his father with a miniature Christmas tree, a symbol of Jesus, which leads me to believe that no matter how much I love my country it’s a bit off. Violence isn’t something that we should exalt, use to motivate, or even use to dehumanize others.  Yet, we do.

Videos of people beating up other people are posted all over social media and even on our current president’s Twitter account. These are real people. These are people who are hurt or who died and the incidents of them being injured and attacked? That shouldn’t become a way to motivate other people to do what you want them to do. Because you know why? That’s a part of the terrorist playbook from all the way back to the 1980s.

Inspiring hate to go to any kind of war or motivate exclusionary actions isn’t the way to be.

Yes, it’s been done a million times before, but that doesn’t make it okay. Women have been raped a million times before, religions oppressed, races tormented, difference tortured. There have been how many genocides? Because it’s been done, because it’s currently being done, doesn’t make something right.

Taking an act of personal violence, twisting the facts around it, turning it into propaganda, and using it to incite anger against other groups of people isn’t the high road. That’s not what Christmas is about. Let’s work against it being what our country is about and all of us who have Christmas trees? Let’s not use them as weapons any more.