On The Peeshwank’s Birthday: Be A Light

This morning as we made our way to school, I reminded The Peeshwank that they were having a lockdown drill, so pay attention, listen for instructions, etc.

P: Is my birthday always going to be full of lockdowns, memorials and stuff?

Me: Yes, it probably will.  But don’t focus on that, just be a light in the world.  Always remember that there is more good than bad.  Always.

Our little family all celebrate birthdays in weeks filled with memorials of terrorist attacks, school shootings and now the Boston Marathon bombings.  We’ve found it’s best to just focus on ways that we can make the world a better place.  We spend the time surrounding our “special days” looking for the good in the world, finding reasons to smile, trying to share that happiness with others.  Yes, there are bad people out there, but they do not outnumber the good.  They never have, they never will.

Here are some moments that will restore your faith in humanity.

Take care, everyone!

candles

A Letter to My LGBT Friends

Dear friends,

This note is in light of what’s been happening this week.  No, I’m not talking about the Supreme Court hearings.  What I’m talking about is the vast amounts of hatred I’ve seen aimed in your collective direction.  (This is especially true for those of you living in the area where I am.  Just the news stations’ facebook commentariat are enough to make me wanna relocate to another planet.)  I can’t imagine what it’s like to hear such horrible things said about you and the people you love.  To be thought of as so inferior as to have basic rights denied by the country that professes itself to be the “land of the free”.  I will never know what it’s like to have my government/friends/family declare me unfit to marry the person I love.  (Let’s face it, I’m a middle class heterosexual white chick in suburban America.  I’m one Y-chromosome away from being “The Man.”)  I feel fortunate in that, but also guilty when I see loving couples who want nothing more than the same rights I am afforded just because my brain is hard-wired to be attracted to nerdy white guys.  Try as I did to be attracted to other types, I just couldn’t.  I was born this way.  Just like you.  And yet, I’m not judged for it.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  Screw that.  It ISN’T fair.  At all.

I want you to know that you are always welcome in my life.  My home is a place of love, caring, “Firefly” and “Sex and the City” reruns, cheap wine and compassion.  It is a place where you will never have bumper sticker platitudes thrown at you to try to make you feel inferior. As a spiritual person, I will always love you as if you were my own flesh and blood.  That’s what my God has called me to do.  That and make you laugh.  It’s my special superhero power (or so I’m told).  I ask nothing in return.  Well… if you’re one of my more fashion-forward gay bffs, I may ask your advice on what to wear when we go see “Wicked”.  (Ahem, Jeremy, ahem.)

So carry on and know that you are loved and accepted and that you have allies out there that stand with you.

Kisses,

Jenn

Equality

For further reading on the subject, here’s a nice take from the NYT.

Fun with Homonyms: Vow and Vowel

Back by popular demand!

These aren’t even homonyms, but lately I’ve seen a string of newly engaged ladies misusing them, so apparently some clarification is needed…

When you say, “I can’t wait to say my wedding vowels…”

All I think is, “Yeah, because a wedding without vowels is just a wddng.”

Come on, ladies, we can do better than this.

the_more_you_know

An Anti-Rant

The other day I allowed some unsavory types to get in my head and send me to a dark place.  Then a lovely friend of mine reminded me that it’s just not worth it to let people bother me like that.  She told me “Smiling will never break your face, just crease it in all the right places.”  And she was right.  That’s how I’ve always tried to live my life and I really need to get back to that place.  So I deleted my rant about a-holes, and instead I’m going to anti-rant about all the reasons I have to smile.

1) I have the most amazing partner in life a girl could ask for.  (Sorry ladies, we’ve tried to perfect the cloning process, but we just can’t quite get it right, so he remains one of a kind for now.)  In our years together we’ve never had a fight.  Nope.  Not one.  Anything we might argue about just isn’t worth it in the long run, so we’ve learned to compromise on those little things we may not see totally eye to eye upon.

2) I have a great kid.  Sure, The Peeshwank can test my nerves at times, but that’s in his job description as a kid, so it’s all good. He’s smart and healthy and hilarious and kind.  Our house is always full of laughter and for that I’m grateful.

3) We love our home, our neighbors, our neighborhood.  We’ve got quite a cast of characters around us, but we know they’d all be there for us at the drop of a hat.  When we were hit by a tornado, we were flooded with neighbors coming to ask what they could do to help.  It’s good to know you have that kind of support system around you at all times, and that you live amidst good, caring people.

4) I have some great friends.  My immediate inner circle has evolved over the years, but I always know that I have at least 2 or 3 close friends that would be there for me in a heartbeat.  I’m not the easiest person to get to know.  When I was a kid I was described as “shy”.  I know now that it’s different than being shy.  It’s that I have awful anxiety issues that hinder me in public situations.  It takes a long time for me to feel comfortable around someone.  It may come off as me being snobby, but I assure you, that’s not the case.  I’m just trying to hide the fact that I’m breaking out into a cold sweat, dizzy, and trying not to throw up on your shoes.  Think Raj on Big Bang Theory.  Yes, wine helps.

5) I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do.  Write.  Full-time.  Once my first novel was done I was scared I wouldn’t have another one in me.  I was wrong.  I’ve got more outlines for novels than I could ever write in two lifetimes.  I hope I get to share as many of those as possible with the world.  My writing may not change the world, but I’ve gotten so much positive feedback, I feel like I must be doing something right.  If I can give you an escape for a few hours and possibly even entertain you in the process, I’ve done my job.  Some people go into the entertainment business solely for the purpose of getting rich and famous, and I’ll be honest, I pity those people.  It’s obvious they don’t understand the love that should accompany this type of work.  Creators do something because they’d be doing it even if they never made a dime at it.  That’s the difference.

6) We live a debt-free existence.  I know it sounds crazy, but never underestimate the importance of this one.  I was a single mom for awhile, struggling to get by.  I know how hard it is.  I managed to pull myself up by the boot-strings and carefully dig myself out of the hole by budgeting every dime I spent along the way.  (FYI: I’ve learned the best way to get those sales people to stop pestering you to sign up for their credit cards is to sweetly say, “No thank you, we don’t use credit.”  They have no response for that and, in fact, will very often say, “Wow, good for you!”)  I now know that I can answer my phone without having someone on the other end trying to get money I owe.  Cutting back on frivolous expenses (like a new pair of Manolo Blahniks or Louboutins every quarter or so) has been a lot easier than I thought it would be.  After all, it’s just stuff… pretty, shiny stuff that looks really nice on the shelves in the closet, but stuff nonetheless.  (Disclaimer: this one may very well will change in six years when The Peeshwank goes off to Princeton, or Tulane, or Notre Dame, or Michigan State, or wherever it is he’s wanting to go this week.  But for now it’s true.  Disclaimer 2: I almost didn’t include this one because I didn’t want it to sound pretentious.  But it is one of the keys to our happiness.  I just want anyone interested to know that it’s truly worth working towards, even when it’s practically impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The pay-off is far greater than one could imagine.  Yes, even better than these.)

7) Finally, I take time to appreciate everything around me.  The people, the sites, the sounds, the smells, the tastes.  At least once a day I sit back and imagine what my life would look like to someone from a 3rd world country.  All the things I have taken for granted start to look priceless.  It’s a good exercise to keep one humble and put things in perspective.  Do it the next time you’re stuck in traffic, in line at the market, or vacuuming the house.

Hmm…

You know, that only leaves me with book-adaptations-ruined-by-Hollywood’s-desire-to-dumb-everything-down, people who fail to understand basic grammatical rules, and YA-fiction-that-gives-12-year-old-girls-horrible-perceptions-about-how-men-should-treat-them to bitch about.

Sweet.

(You were worried I wouldn’t get any snarky comments in, weren’t you?  Why would you doubt me?)

I had this great picture of The Peeshwank doing some artwork amongst a ton of flowers all ready to go, but then my computer crapped out and wouldn’t download anything from my camera. So here’s a bluntcard instead.

Funny thing about academic scholarships…

With graduation season upon us, many people are discussing post-grad opportunities.  For high school graduates, the big question is college.  Not only what to study but how to pay for it, which brings us to the topic of scholarships.

“How do I get a scholarship?” you may ask.  Well, let me clue you in on a little secret I’ve figured out…

The thing about academic scholarships is if you continually spell it “scolorships” you probably won’t ever have to worry about receiving one.  Funny how that works out, huh?

Top 5 Things You Should Never Say To A Novelist.

5. You wrote a book?  Cool.  I think I’ll write one too.  I mean, you did it, so obviously I can too. (Also included “So, writing’s pretty easy, huh?” and the ever so humble “I wish I had your job, it must be nice getting to sit around all day.”) 
If writing were easy, everyone would be doing it.  Sure anyone can type up 50,000 words.  That’s not the entirety of the writing process though.  That’s the easy part.  It’s the other months and years of rewriting, revising, trashing it all and starting over that are hard.

4. I don’t read.  Reading is boring.
I once had a boss who had graduated from a major university that won’t be named here (it rhymes with Hennessy) who told me he managed to achieve his Bachelor’s degree without ever having read a book cover to cover.  Ever.  In his life.  He’s never read a whole book.  I… I just… I can’t. 

3. Can I borrow some money?
Unless you’re talking to Anne Rice or Stephen King, chances are your author friend is just as broke as you are, probably even moreso.  Remember, we don’t get health insurance with our royalties.
“Royalty”.  It’s such a nice word.  It sounds so regal, so wealthy, so… royal.  In reality, it’s a gas bill (or this month it paid for Christmas).  On a slow month, it’s a trip to Sonic Happy Hour.  

2. I can’t believe all that happened to you!
Some people really don’t understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction.  Here’s a clue: Novel = fiction.  Biography/Autobiography = fact.  I’m a novelist.  I make lies.

1. Ooh, you should write a book about vampires.
No.  No, I shouldn’t. 

If you’re a new writer just starting out on your writing adventure, welcome to the club.  Be prepared.  Learn to just smile and nod.  I promise you’ll hear these things on your journey.  Don’t let it get you down, just pull up a chair and have a glass of wine with the rest of us.  It’s cheap wine.  We’re writers after all.

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter


NaNoWriMo is here again. And I still haven’t even touched last year’s winning novel…

For those of you who are new to Jenmac World, I’m a WriMo.  More specifically, I’m a 3-time winning WriMo.  I’ll hold while you applaud.  Or google “wrimo”.

If this sounds like Greek to you, then let me help you out.  NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  Yeah, it’s exactly what the name implies.  (Except “national”.  It’s actually gone worldwide.)  Basically, you write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November.  Do it and you win!  (But don’t worry, there is no failure.  Even if you only write a 1000 words, that’s a 1000 more words than you had before.)

I love doing NaNo as it gives me a deadline and I’m definitely one of those people who work better under pressure.  A LOT better.  Give me a deadline (even an insane one) and I’ll meet it.  Leave it up to me and I’ll wander around the house, occasionally stopping to watch the cats sleep under the trees out back, sipping on diet Coke, pondering whether or not to vacuum, deciding a nap would be more productive and finally deciding it’s too late in the day to start a project.

There is a downside to doing NaNo if you’re a serious writer.  There are a LOT of people out there who do it for the hell of it, then send off their NaNo drafts to agents and publishers on December 1st.  Yeah.  I know.  A rough draft that’s had no editing, no revisions, no rewrites, no proofreading done.  It’s like scribbling your job history on a cocktail napkin and turning it in to a prospective employer as a resume.  So, if you do NaNo, that’s awesome, feel free to find me on there (my user name is “jmcclory”) and we can help push each other to the finish line.  Just don’t even THINK of sending out queries on it for another year at the very least.  Trust me.  I’ve heard more than a few agents say that if you mention “this is my novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo last month” in your query that they will throw it out instantly.

That being said, it’s a wonderful way to break through that writer’s block we all suffer from occasionally and get some crazy, wacky thoughts on paper that have been milling about in your head for awhile.

So, here’s to a month of writing with reckless abandon.  Cheers!

I hope you’ve stocked up on coffee.  And wine.  Wine helps.  A lot.

For my fellow WriMos, are you a pantser or a plotter?  What are your favorite snacks that help get you through that chapter… you know, the one where there’s kind of a lull and you just can’t wait to get back to the exciting part?  Do you do NaNo events or do you take the Lone Ranger approach?

Myself, I’m a pantser.  Last year I went in with an outline and by 25,000 words my heroine said, “Um, yeah, I think not.  THIS is where we’re going with this story.”  My favorite reinvigorating snack is peanut butter and grape jelly on ritz crackers.  Hey, it’s got protein.  Don’t judge.  I haven’t had a chance to go to events because The Peeshwank’s busy extracurricular activities have always kept me away, but I hope to this year.  My region is starting to do mid-day events for those of us who work in the evenings.  “Work” meaning “chauffeur our little people to all their activities.”

My red metal Snoopy lunchbox

Another story of a child’s suicide due to bullying was on the news the other day.  I was heartbroken, pissed, you name it.

Like most people, I had my own run-ins with bullies as a child.  When I was in elementary school, I was tortured verbally by this complete asshole of a kid.  He picked on me relentlessly.  Normally I just let it roll off my shoulders.  I was awkward, I knew it.  I’d been reminded of it most of my life.  My knees bent in a funny way, my face was covered in freckles, my sense of humor was off, I was only graceful in ballet class and then only slightly.

One day, he took his attacks from verbal to physical.  Nothing major, although he did stretch out the neck of my favorite yellow shirt when he grabbed me by the neck and swung me around and to the ground during a game of kickball.  (My first and last kickball game ever.)  I got up, dusted myself off and forced back any tears that tried to make their way down my face.

I had never had anyone try to hurt me before, so it was all new to me.  That was back in the days of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.  I lived by that mantra.  It got me through the insults he flung my direction.  But what to do now that we were moving to the “sticks and stones” portion of the program?

After school that same day, I waited on the steps for my grandfather to come pick me up from school.  The jerk was waiting there too, and of course we were the last ones to be picked up.  This was back in the days when the school’s responsibility for the students ended as soon as the bell rang.  You were on your own the minute you left that classroom.

I had avoided making eye contact with him, hoping that he would just let it go, just leave me alone for one day.  Alas, he did not.  After a few minutes of his usual taunts, he moved towards me, fists coming at me.  I did the only thing I could think of.  I clinched my tiny fingers around the red plastic handle on my metal snoopy lunchbox and I swung.  I swung for all the things he’d said to me, to my friends.  I swung for the yellow shirt that was probably ruined.  I swung.

I connected.

It was the first and last time I hit a person in anger.

The next day he was the laughing stock of the school for allowing the shortest girl in the class to beat him up.  His lip returned to normal about a week later.  The taunting never returned though.

Back then, we didn’t have rules against bullying or people to turn to who could help us get past it.  The teachers largely ignored any complaints saying, “Oh, boys will be boys.”  The principal had other things to worry about.  Other kids turned away or joined in.  My parents were wonderful, but it was so hard to tell them that I wasn’t the most beloved kid in the school.  I had used the only thing I was armed with to defend myself.

There is a lot more support out there for kids these days.  But we have to insure that kids know about them.  Make sure you arm the kids in your life with the tools they need to overcome bullying whether they’re the bully or the bullied.  Give them the support they need.  Listen to them when they tell you someone is hurting them.  Teach them a respect for others.  Give them their own version of the red metal lunchbox to use when they’re in danger.  Let them know they’re not alone and that it will get better.

Whatever you do, don’t let them become another statistic.

I still have the lunchbox at my parents' house. I'm carrying a Wonder Woman metal lunchbox these days.

Some people should come with a warning label. *SPOILERS*

I know this lady for whom I have the utmost affection for, yet she has this habit of spoiling the ending of everything.  She does it so fast you don’t know what hit you, so it’s impossible to prevent it.  Nevermind the fact that she’s also a ninja and will break a beer bottle and cut you if you try to stop her.  (This may or may not be a slight exaggeration.)

“Hey Jenn, you should read this book, here’s what happens…, but on the last page you find out it’s all been a dream and it’s like, OHMYGOD, how did I not see that coming?!  You can borrow my copy.  It’ll blow your mind when you get to the end.”

Yeah, thanks.  I’m looking forward to having my mind blown by this surprise ending I will never see coming.

“We watched this movie the other day, it was so crazy.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on and how the guy was doing it until his TWIN showed up in the last scene.  TWINS!  It was crazy.  You should totally go watch it.  It’ll blow your mind.”

Yeah, I’ll run right out to see it right after I take my amnesia pill so I can forget this conversation ever happened.

“… and then you find out Bruce Willis is actually a ghost!  He’s one of the dead people!!!!”

Fortunately, I had already seen that one.

“And then he says, ‘Luke, I am your father’ and my head like totally exploded.”

Another slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

To quote River Song, “Spoilers!”

I know a lot of people that say they read the last page of the book first.  I’ve never been one to do that as it takes away from the journey.  I rather enjoy not knowing what’s coming when I turn the page.

Moral of the story: if someone says they haven’t seen/read/heard something, let the conversation end there.  And don’t tell me how this whole Romeo and Juliet thing works out.  I’m really rooting for those two crazy kids!

PS. Yes, I’ve read Romeo and Juliet.  Many times.

PPS.  Most of everything I say is in jest. 

I’ve found it practically impossible to live a fulfilling life while taking everything so SIRIUSly!  This is apparently quite difficult for many people to comprehend, so this is just to clarify. (Although that part about my friend being a ninja.  Totally true.  And by “totally” I mean “not really”.)

PPPS. *SPOILER*  If Sirius Black was such a badass – escaping Azkaban, evading dementors, battling Deatheaters- how is it he was killed by drapery?

PPPPS. Can we get a moratorium on dream sequences as plot devices?  It’s a cop-out, and should be as dead as Bobby Ewing.