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Viewing Blog: Carrie Jones, Most Recent at Top
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Please be warned. If you are going to read this blog, you have to understand that I'm a little bit weird. John Wayne is my internal editor. Grover the Muppet is my internal cheerleader. I know! I know! Weird. I'm the author of Tips on Having A Gay (ex) Boyfriend (May 2007/Paperback May 2008), Love and Other Uses For Duct Tape (March 2008), Girl, Hero (July 2008), Need (January 2009), Moe Berg's Story (Spring 2009).
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1. The Criterion: When a Theater Reopens

It is a space for stories.
            At its grand reopening Thursday night, the 1932 Criterion Theatre hosted a slew of Bar Harbor locals as well as visitors who drifted through the art deco halls, ducked into the 88-seat balcony, stood on the stage, descended into the basement and made this grand theater their home.
            Again.

           Since 1932, the Criterion has been a part of this seaside community; its stage hosted bands, dancers, and shows. Its theater screen became a pilgrimage for local people who all had stories to share during the reopening.
            “The last movie I saw here was the First Harry Potter.”
            “Mine was Jurassic Park.”
            “Do you remember…?”
            “Do you remember…?”
            “Do you remember…?”
            People talked about the restoration, gobbled down the appetizers, spoke about the beauty of the place, but it was the stories that they kept coming back to.
            “It used to be that if you couldn’t see in the ticket booth, the woman who owned the theater would call your mom and make sure you were really the age you said you were,” said one local taxi driver.
            That woman was BH (Betty) Morison and she also would hold out her hand and make you spit your gum into your palm before she’d let you into the theater.  Maybe that’s part of why the restoration of it has been such a success. This place tucked amid the retail shops of Cottage Street where cruise ship passengers buy t-shirts and stuffed animal lobsters, has always been loved.  People have gathered here for decades. Kids saw their first movies here. People kissed their first kiss. Sang their first sing-a-long. Made memories.
A few days earlier while speaking to the Rotary Club of Bar Harbor Maine, Abbe Museum Director Cinnamon Legutko said, “I am a passionate advocate for community, intrigued by what makes community.”
            What makes community is a place like the Criterion. It is a gathering spot, a memory-making spot, a place where kids and adults can be exposed and re-exposed to the arts, all of the arts. It is a place to tell stories.
           “The one time I got pulled over my the police was after I was here,” a woman says, “it was in 2001 or 2002, I think. I’d gone to a concert, had a hard apple cider at six before it started and got stopped at a road block when I was driving back home to Ellsworth. It was after midnight. I was cold. They sheriff deputy asked me if I had drank anything tonight and I told him. I shouldn’t have told him. I was obviously fine to drive. It had been six hours.”
            Her story is especially fitting since the Criterion began in 1932 because of  George McKay, a bootlegger who decided to go ‘straight.’ He built the theatre as part of that venture, creating a 1,000-seat venue full of art deco details and glamour.  After extensive restoration thanks to a two million dollar anonymous gift as well as Board Chairman Michael Boland’s passionate advocacy and vision, the theater is open again, already hosting a Saturday children’s program and blockbuster movies. It continues to live. And it continues to inspire more stories like any good theater should.

*All these photos are from the Criterion's website.

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2. Every Day Hero

I used to do this thing called Every Day Heroes. I kind of miss it. So, I'm going to bring one out of the archive. When I wrote this, Hannaford's actually noticed and commended Angela, which is super nice of them to do. They were/are lucky to have her.



Angela at the Grocery Store

Angela, the cashier at Hannafords has a soft voice. You can barely hear it above the beeping of the scanner as she registers our bananas, our milk. But she pauses for a second and checks out Em who is laughing, mouth open.

“Oh!” the cashier squees. “I love your braces.”

Em’s mouth slams shut.

But the cashier? She notices the change. She notices the effect her comment had on Em’s 13-year-old self esteem.

She journeys on. “I love them, really. They are so cute. The brackets are all different colors.”

“Yeah,” Em manages. She pales. She hates her braces.

“And your teeth are going to be so nice when you get them off.” The cashier rings in some Annie’s macaroni and cheese. “Really.”

Em nods. She bags the box. “I know.”

She half smiles, but she still doesn’t open her mouth wide enough to see her teeth.

The cashier lady finishes up, helps up bag while the credit card processes. Then she looks up at Em. It’s a long, look. It’s a sweet look. Then she says, “You know something?”

She doesn’t wait for Em to answer. She continues on. “You know, you are a beautiful girl. You’re just really lovely. It’s stunning.”

Em smiles and her winter pale cheeks red up a little. “Oh… thanks.”

Angela presses her lips together, pulls a receipt out of some machine. The transaction is completed. We haul our canvas bags full of groceries over our shoulders. We’re ready to go. But the cashier pauses for a second. Em pauses too.

“I mean it,” she says. Her eyes are beautiful. They look right into Em. “You are.”

When we’re walking out of the store, Em bops a little bit even though the sky is gray, the parking lot is full of slush. She bops and says to me, “That lady is really nice.”

She is.

That lady made my daughter feel special. They don’t know each other. They don’t know each other’s names, although they can probably recognize each other in the cereal aisle. Still, Angela took her time to make sure that Em left the grocery store feeling good about herself.

That woman is my hero.

I can tell you one thing, if you go into Hannaford’s you’ll be able to find her. She has short, thick brown hair, plucked eyebrows and pretty eyes. But the way you’ll really be able to find her is the way she’ll look at you. She won’t look at you like you’re a customer. She’ll look at you like you’re a person.

And that’s a rare enough trait now-a-days that it makes her one of my favorite heroes.

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3. There's a Dog Party Going On #amwriting


All the dogs are currently partying on the bed.

Okay. Two dogs are partying. One dog is sulking.

Why?

Because they are totally rocking out to the fact that Sparty (the sad dog) is about to become a character in the work-in-progress that I am writing.

They think that it is completely cool that Farty rhymes with Sparty and Fartacus rhymes with Spartacus.

Sparty thinks the white dogs are bullies and he is tired of being an objective correlative. He thinks the book should star a cat or something. He thinks wrong, poor guy. 

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4. Boston Marathon

I first posted this on the night of the Boston Marathon, April 15, 2013, and the post was picked up by our local newspaper, the Huffington Post and a couple magazines. People asked me to be interviewed. I denied those requests. I did that because I don't think this is my story any more than anyone else's story. I did that because I didn't want any 10-seconds of fame because of what I witnessed and wrote about.

I never wrote about everything I witnessed.
I never posted all the photos I took.
I never will.

And I am glad of that.

I used to be a newspaper reporter and an editor. And there is something cold and limiting in putting down the facts of a story. The facts (when we can discern them) are important, but the truth of stories? That truth is embedded somewhere else. It is in the details, the feelings, the hearts of those involved. I sometimes thing that poems and songs come closer to the truth of people and even of terror incidents than a news story ever will.

But still, there has been a verdict. I am glad of that. I am glad that at least one chapter of the many stories that began when brothers bombed a marathon has ended.

Since the marathon, my friend, Lori, has run it again, still passionately trying to raise money for Dana Farber Cancer research. Another friend, Erin Dionne has written about being in the jury selection pool. Their stories continue, as do so many others. And some have ended.


Here is my original post:


So, I was at the Boston Marathon today to take pictures of my friend, Lori, running and then crossing the finish line. Before the marathon I had lunch with my daughter Em. She was nervous.

“I have a bad feeling,” she said. “You need to be careful.”

“You have no faith in me. I am a perfectly capable person,” I said.

“I just am worried.”

“I will be fine,” I told her.

But I did several things that I don’t normally do. I didn’t take the T. I chose to walk from Cambridge to mile 25.5 of the race route. I figured out the T route and everything, but I just didn’t want to go on it. Walking was healthier, I figured. I was going to watch a marathon.

So, I walked and set up for taking pictures. I didn’t expect to see Lori for an hour, so I hung out with some people from New Jersey, talked to some cops. I took some pictures and kept wondering if I should walk the rest of the route to get ready for when Lori crossed the finish line. It was close. Logically, I knew I should, but my gut kept me back. One of my friends called, and as we talked the first explosion went off.

“What was that?” he said.

“That was bad,” I answered. “It was an explosion. It was absolutely an explosion.”

Then the second explosion happened. And I hung up. And I looked at the cops. And the cops both lifted up their portable radios to their ears. That was not a good sign. Then they began to run towards the finish line along a parallel road. That was a worse sign, especially since one of the cops looked like he never ran.

Ever.

I followed them. It smelled of smoke. It smelled of fear and confusion. Cops and medics and volunteers swarmed the area. Blood pooled on clothing and the ground. Debris was everywhere. People were crying and hysterical. The police turned me around. So, I turned around. I regret that now. I don’t know how I could have helped. I am not a trained emergency medical technician. I regret that, too. There were cops and medics everywhere. Their shiny, reflective yellow vests were like pieces of good and brave in a smoky land of pain. I wanted to tell each of them how heroic they were. There was no time for that. They were busy saving people.

So, I went back to where I had been taking pictures. Runners were wandering around still, confused, cold. They had a combination of runner’s fatigue and shock. Shivering and stunned, they were desperately trying to contact family members. Some walked in circles because they didn’t know how not to keep moving, but they also didn’t know where to go. They had spent 25 miles moving forward, towards this one destination called the finish line and now they were stuck, aimless. Their ultimate goal was suddenly gone, devastated by two bombs. Those of us who were there to watch, gave them our cell phones so they could call family members who were waiting for them. They were waiting for them right by the bombs. We gave the runners money so they could get on the T when it worked again. We gave them our coats.



“How will I give it back to you?” one runner asked as she shrugged on a dark green fleece.

“You don’t need to. You never need to,” a man next to me told her.

“I have to,” she murmured. “I have to.”

I gave away my coat. I passed around my phone.

One woman said, “Please tell me it wasn’t the subway. My kids are on the subway.”

“It wasn’t the subway,” I tell her. “It was the finish line.”

She cocked her head. “What? No? How?”

That was the question: How? We knew by then that it was probably a bomb, and the hows of making a bomb are easy, but the ‘how could you” is a harder question. How could someone kill runners and spectators? How could humans ever think it’s okay to hurt each other? How could anyone commit violence in big acts with bombs or small acts with fists.

How could we? How could humanity?

“How?” she kept saying. “How?”

And then the police moved the runners out, detouring them down another street. And then they told us, the watchers, to go. So, we left, a massive exodus towards the bridge and Massachusetts Avenue. People were still sobbing. A man on a corner was reading from Boston.com on his iPhone trying to find out exactly what happened. People stood around him, strangers listening to him say the words, “explosions… injuries…”

Three girls were crying, young and scared and broken inside.

“They are so hurt. They hurt them. They are so hurt,” one girl kept repeating. We kept walking.

As I walked across the bridge, a woman on the phone sobbed to her friend, “It was so big. The explosion was so big. I dropped everything in my hands. I dropped my lens cap. I dropped my purse. I dropped it all. I called my sister. I called my friend. I called everyone. I just need to talk to someone. I feel so alone. It was awful. People were missing their legs. It was awful.”

And then she saw me, this talking woman, and I nodded at her and I grabbed her hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back. We kept walking.

A leather-jacket guy next to me was telling another guy in plaid that he had no way home. I gave him my cell. We kept walking.

I made sure that Lori’s husband and daughter were okay even though they’d been waiting right across the street from where the bomb exploded. They were. I knew Lori was okay already because I had been tracking her route. I’d never been so happy that she was running hurt and that was making her slower than normal. As I was feeling thankful, a man in front of me went down on his knees on the sidewalk. It looked like he was praying, but he was really sobbing. We all stopped walking. People pat his back. People murmured things. He stood up and we kept walking again. We walked and walked and gradually the crowd thinned, and gradually the sobs lessoned. But the sirens? The sirens grew louder and more continuous. They were forever sirens. They did not stop.

And so many people will not be able to walk ever again. And at least three people are dead. And so many people have had their hearts and bodies broken at this marathon that should be a celebration of human endurance and spirit and will.

And so many people helped others, making tourniquets out of yarn, carrying the injured, soothing the shocked, giving away their clothes to keep runners warm. And so many people have hearts of goodness. We can’t forget that. Not ever. Not today. Not in Boston. Not ever. Because that is exactly what the Boston Marathon is about: It’s about not giving up, not giving in to pain. It’s about that celebration of surviving and enduring against all odds, against everything. It’s about humanity. No bomber can take that away. Not ever.

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5. Rotary Wheelchair Project Last Update #rotary

SANTIAGO, PANAMA -- Nena has seen horrors. The wife of a member of a Santiago Rotary Club has seen it all. When we enter a Santiago hospital and I ask her if she works here, she laughs.

“No,” she tells me. “I volunteer here. I volunteer everywhere. My husband. The man with the cane? He works here.”

Nena is from Mexico originally. She knows Spanish, English, Italian and Japanese. She is a Rotarian from birth, she says. Her father was a Rotarian. Her husband is a Rotarian. She is not an official part of the Santiago Rotary Club, which is about 26 members strong. Only one of those members is a woman.  She is still a Rotarian.

“There used to be five women.” She shrugs like this change in the membership dynamics is not much of a big deal.

She spends the day showing us the projects that the Santiago Rotarian men have accomplished, but also the projects that are propelled by the wives of the club, women who spend their times unofficially helping people.



One of those places she brings us is a home for children who are malnourished. Another is a home for children whose mothers are having difficulties. Some of them are orphans. Some of them are not officially orphans. There are sisters whose father is their grandfather. There is Kimberly, 11, whose mother tried to kill her last year. Kimberly is sweet, perching on a coach, a desk, while the younger children frolic around her. She picks a multi-colored Beanie Baby bear and cradles it in her hands. She watches the Rotarians crowd in to meet her and the other children and hear how Rotary has helped them. She smiles shyly but quickly. I am instantly in love with her as she laughs as a Rotarian with spotty Spanish tries to figure out her age.

“Her mother is in prison forever,” Nena says with anger. She tells us the story of another girl, eight, who she met in a hospital. “I saw her, saw the line on her belly and said, ‘This girl is pregnant.’”

People scoffed.

But Nena persisted. “They said, ‘She hasn’t even had her first period yet.’ But I said, ‘She is.’”



They tested her and she was more than halfway through her pregnancy. Her mother couldn’t understand. It turned out that her grandfather watched her while her mother worked. Her grandfather had been raping her. He also sold her to his friends. He is in jail now.

“As far as I am concerned they should have cut off his balls,” Nena says.

Nena enters a home for children with troubles, children like Kimberly, those sisters, a little boy named Jesus, and she scoops up a baby, cradling him in her arms, cooing. She is justice and kindness. She is anger and action. She is love and grace and a million things all wrapped up in a small package of a woman that wears multiple pieces of jewelry at once.



The Bar Harbor and Ellsworth Maine Rotary Clubs and Nena visit schools and water towers that the Santiago Rotary Club has sponsored. We meet Jesus who folds his Ellsworth Blueberry Pancake Breakfast t-shirt into a precise rectangle, smiling at his colored pencils and coloring book. We meet school children who will have physical education class again simply because we have brought a few soccer balls. We meet Kimberly who smiles with love despite what her mother tried to do.

Ellsworth President David Wells hands out toys and t-shirts. Ellsworth High School student Josh Callnan who pumps up soccer balls with a pump that Dave Wheaton and Annette Higgins thought to bring. Sallie Boggs is greeted by an eight-kindergartener simultaneous hug. Shaun Farrar is surrounded by children at each school he visits. The students gaze up and up at his 6 foot 5 inch frame with wonder, giggling as he asks their names.


“They think he is a giant,” one Santiago Rotarian laughs. “He is, actually.”

In a place where malnourishment is often an issue, growing so tall is rare. The Santiago Rotarians have made combatting malnourishment a priority creating fiver or six sites at schools where they hatch and raise chickens for six weeks, three times a year. The students then eat the chickens for lunch. Their parents take turns cooking, rotating throughout the year. The chickens that are not eaten are sold to buy more at an earlier stage in their life cycle.

Nourishment helps children have stronger minds and bodies. Rotarians including former Santiago Club President Edwin Munoz dispersed 10,000 dictionaries throughout Panama to give students access to words that will give them broader, stronger futures. `

Clean water is also important. Working with a Rotarian from Texas, the club has provided multiple water tanks to both residential areas and schools. The Rotarian’s wife had died. When they were visiting Panama she had been saddened by the lack of running water in schools. School would have to be closed in the middle of the day so children could wash and get water off site.

“It was disruptive,” says their principal. “This is so much better.”

The Santiago Rotarians have even provided sewing machines to the local hospital so that workers could make hospital gowns and surgery garments for doctors and patients.
Hospital Director Doctor Rafael Andrade addressed the Rotarians and speaking both about the sewing machines and the wheelchairs that the Ellsworth and Bar Harbor Rotarians brought over said, “There is no word for this because it is something that comes from you’re heart. I hope that this visit is not your last time here.”

As the Rotarians visited the bowels of the hospital to see the industrial sewing machines, Nena said, “They have needs. The hospital – everyone – they have many needs. They want wheelchairs, too.”




Rotary and Nena and the women like her keep picking away at those needs. When the home for malnourished children needed a physical therapy room, Rotarians from Panama and the United States stepped up.

“They needed a wall for the room. We built a wall. They needed another wall for a room. They built another wall. Piece by piece is how these things happen,” Nena says.



And she’s right. It is piece by piece, volunteer by volunteer, wheelchair by wheelchair, water tower by water tower that change happens, that lives become a little bit better, that hope because reality. Change and hope, service and volunteerism are powerful things. It doesn’t matter if it’s little steps. All that matters is that it’s steps in the right direction. That direction is forward. That direction is to a better life. That direction is towards hope. #‎rotary #‎rotaryinternational


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6. Panama Wheelchair Project #rotaryinternation #rotary

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7. PANAMA WHEELCHAIR UPDATE - PANAMA CITY, PANAMA #rotary #rotaryinternational

Carlos, 13, hunkered in his father’s arms in the club house of Rotary 2030 in Panama City. His voice came out in a guttural cry as Rotarians from foreign clubs gathered around, taking pictures, making friends, and learning about Carlos’ story.

Carlos has cerebral palsy, diagnosed when he was six months old.



“He was a normal baby and then….” The Panamanian Rotarian struggled to find the words in English to describe what happened to Carlos. It didn’t matter. For over an hour, in blistering heat, Carlos’ father held him in his arms. Carlos’ mother, his sister and brother all gathered around him and then the moment arrived. He was going to be placed in a special wheelchair that so many Rotary clubs in North America worked to provide him with.

“It is… It is scary for him to do this… So many times people think these kids… That they don’t have feelings. They do,” said one of the 20-

30 members as he looked on anxiously.




Carlos went outside, held in his father’s arms as Rotarians from Panama, Canada and the United States gathered around. Pictures were taken. Water bottles handed out. Then work began. Deb Hammond of Bar Harbor, Maine and Marilyn Wells of Ellsworth, Maine began to help Carlos’ family fit him to a special wheelchair designed for children with cerebral palsy, meticulously and lovingly easing him into the seat while simultaneously adjusting the wheelchair to fit his body. Carlos withstood all the poking and prodding, the pictures, the adjustments and in the end. he was fitted into the wheelchair. Moments later, Carlos gifted his mother, Rachel, with the most beautiful smile. She pet his hand against her face, over and over again. His smile became bigger. Ariel, Carlos’ father, was no longer carrying Carlos’ weight. Instantly, his daughter catapulted herself into his arms for a hug while his younger son stood by, holding onto the edge of Carlos’ wheelchair, watching over his big brother.

“For these families, this means… it means everything,” said Roy, a Panamanian who is not affiliated with Rotary but who became an integral part of Sunday’s adventure. “All of this… it is so fortunate.”


You can call it good fortune or Rotarian luck or divine province. But Roy was a huge part of it. Roy was Linda Whitehead’s driver when she came to Panama via White Rock, British Columbia. Linda is the Global Wheelchair Program Chair and a past president of the Semiahmoo Rotary Club in Canada. Roy and Linda are both talkers, friendly, ready to pat someone on the arm, take their hand, make a connection. He asked her about why she was in Panama and she told him about the wheelchairs. He told Linda about his wife’s friend Ari and her eight-year-old Gabby. Gabby was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when she was a year old. Ari is a 29-year-old single parent who spends most of her days carrying Gabby in her arms. When she works in the restaurant, she brings Gabby with her, placing her on a mat in the room while she makes money to support them.

“You are so strong,” I tell her and make a muscle.

“Si,” she says.

“But not just your muscles. Your heart. It is so strong.”

She smiles.



Gabby’s wheelchair came with Linda to Panama not because Linda knew about Gabby. It came because Linda brought an extra wheelchair for carry-on instead of bringing a bag full of make-up or books or clothes.

“You never know when you might need one,” she says off-handedly.

She needed that wheelchair the very next day. That carry-on wheelchair became Gabby’s wheelchair.

It isn’t easy for Ari and Gabby. Though they live only about 45 minutes outside of Panama City, getting Gabby to the rehabilitation center has proved too difficult. Not only does it cost about $5 a day in travel expenses, which is a lot here;
it meant a lot of work for Ari. Getting Gabby to the center required Ari carrying Gabby up a hill down a hill, on a bus, onto another bus. All of this was under Ari’s manpower, all of it required hours of Ari holding Gabby in her arms to take her to a rehabilitation center that sees 300 patients a day. Wheelchairs sponsored by Rotarians from around the world, wait in the halls for patients. Now Gabby will have one of her own.

“It makes things easier,” Ari says. “I am so thankful.”



Rotary Club members from Seattle, Canada, Alaska, Maine and Panama were there to watch Gabby settle into her first wheelchair, watch Ari smooth away the hair from Gabby’s face and then kiss her hand over and over again. We were there, lucky beyond words to watch the love that Ari envelopes Gabby with, to witness the love that Carlos’ family showers on him and each other. We are the thankful ones.

Members from the Bar Harbor and Ellsworth Maine Rotary Clubs will be visiting Santiago, Panama this week and distributing wheelchairs that they are providing to residents in need. The Santiago Rotary Club is graciously hosting us and helping with the project. I’ll be posting more, hopefully, as the week progresses. Please forgive me for the typos. I’ll try to fix them later. ‪#‎rotary‬ ‪#‎rotaryinternational‬

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8. #Rotary #Panama Travel Day for the Panama Wheelchair Project

We are seated three rows ahead of our fellow Rotarians on the flight from Boston, Massachusetts, USA to Panama City, Panama, but I can still pick out Annette Higgins’ voice from the hub-bub of passengers.
            “If you need help with those forms, Susy can help you,” she tells a fellow passenger, a woman she has only met three seconds ago. “Can’t you, Susy?”
            “Absolutely!” Susy Davis’ fluid voice is instantly recognizable as well.
            Susy and Annette are two of six Rotarians (plus one spouse) from Bar Harbor, Maine’s club jetting to Panama to help fit people into wheelchairs that the club raised money to purchase.
            “Don’t worry,” Annette tells another passenger worrying over a form, “we’ll help you too if you need it.”
            Help is meant to be one of the backbones of the Rotary Club. It’s often called service, which sounds a lot fancier. Sometimes that service might be raising money for wheelchairs. Sometimes it might be assisting others fill out customs and immigration forms. But it is always supposed to be the nature of Rotary, of being a Rotarian. It is why we are here. It is why Susy spearheaded this wheelchair project for our club.
            Although, she was born in Panama, Susy has spent a good portion of her adult life in Maine. When she heard about the wheelchair project she jumped onto the effort along with two other clubs in our Rotary District. She sponsored a Princess Breakfast, a pajama photo shoot during our town's Bed Races, and all sorts of fundraising efforts.
            “I wanted to help,” she has said. “This is a great opportunity to help.”
            Susy and us fellow Rotarians are paying our own way to Panama as we head to both Panama City and Santiago to distribute the chairs that are arriving via freighter ship instead of airplane.
            I’m a worrying type of person, and I have to admit that I’m a little freaked out about whether the wheelchairs will make it, whether I’ll do a job representing Rotary, whether I’ll do anything right, actually. But back at the hotel in Boston where we had to stay over because our flight was so early and Logan Airport in Boston is so far away from our little town in Maine, another Rotarian said, “This is a big adventure.”
            It is.
            You have to embrace the adventure sometime and just give in, even if you are a worrying type of Rotarian. Life is meant to be spent adventuring, not spent hiding; sometimes it feels like the world is so full of fear that everyone forgets what it’s like to simply put one foot in front of the other and step outside their communities, their homes, their safe routines and risk being adventurous, risk experiencing the joy that happens when you take one little week out of your life to hang out, distribute wheel chairs and try to service others.
            It’s what Rotary is about. It’s the kind of Rotarian and person that I want to be and I'm totally psyched to be on this adventure.
IMG_0443 Rotariam reads on the plane.
IMG_0521No, these are not painted red, Rotarian.
IMG_0522Rotarians fuzzy, but ready to help. 

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9. Old Rejections

Sometimes, when you're a writer trying to get an agent or a contract, you get rejected and those rejections FEEL ABSOLUTELY HUGE. Those rejections feel like ALL YOUR WORTH is wrapped up in the word, "No."

A few years ago I blogged this (Back then I also used to blog about my dog's poopy butt. I try not to do that anymore):

On a weirdly positive note, I just received the BEST rejection letter ever. Yes, I know. It makes no sense. But i sent out a novella to Penguin. They responded that it was "Beautifully, written, incredibly moving" and it's clear that I "have a great deal of talent."

So why did they reject it? Just to make me sad?
Probably, but they said it was a bit too specialized and scary for the middle grade market.

Hhmmm...

What does this mean?

Does this mean it's YA or adult even though I imagined it as middle grade? I am not smart enough to figure out who to send this to now. If only my magic cat and her great sitting abilities could tell me.

On another positive note Penguin said they'd be happy to consider future work, wished me great luck and "strongly encourage" me to submit the piece elsewhere.
Where? Where? Where?

Acckkkk!!!

AND obviously I felt hopeless and frantic, which was sort of a constant state of my prepublished being. But now? Now, I can't even remember who at Penguin I sent that novella to. Or why I thought someone would buy a novella? A NOVELLA?!?

My point in blogging about this? It's that rejections don't determine your worth. Sometimes they are so insignificant that the only way you do remember them is through a blog post. What determines your worth is your actions and your intent in life and work and art and relationships. At least, that's what I think. So if you are an artist or a writer or a singer or applying to colleges or jobs, try to remember that it's okay to get rejected. Just don't give up on who you are or what you want. Not ever.

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10. Books

So, I have seven books under contract. That is super cool and I am ridiculously lucky. I know it.

But I still feel like I'm not working hard enough. It's sort of like I spend so much time thinking, "Wow. I can't believe this is my job" and I worry that it will go away super soon because that's how everyone says publishing is.

So, instead of enjoying the fact that I have actually, miraculously:

1. Gotten books published and been paid for it
2. Have more books under contract

I waste my time worrying that I won't get to do it much longer.

This is silly, I know. I should just be grateful, I know. Somehow though, my brain refuses to just enjoy the ride. 

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13. How to Become a Traditionally Published Author

First off, I have a disclaimer. I wrote "TRADITIONALLY" up there because I currently have no idea how to be a self-published author. I'm sure someday I will know how to be a self-published author, but I am honestly:

1. Not organized enough to be a self-published author
2. Way too cheap to hire people to edit, copy edit, design, and market. Seriously. I am so cheap that I am having a hard time justifying conditioner even though my hair is currently a tangled mess. I also need a haircut. But again. I am cheap. It's kind of a problem. I grew up super poor so I always worry about running out of money. Being a writer for a living has not helped with this issue.

Sigh.

Back on Track: Also, I think a lot of the steps are similar because whether or not you are a tradionally published author or a self-published author you have to write a book. Right?

The Steps.

1. You Have to Want It


Seriously. You have to want to be published enough to devote time to it.
Talking about writing does not equal wanting it.
Writing words down somewhere?
That equals wanting it.

2. You Have to Write

Words have to make their way onto a computer or a notebook or something. You can't publish The Book of Awesome without writing The Book of Awesome.

3. You Have to Read

Reading is studying. We learn the craft by immersing ourselves in the tools of the craft. That means stories and sentences. Words are just symbols of images and objects and actions. It's cool to see how other authors use those symbols, arrange them, pick them out. That's how we learn! Repeat after me: Learning is fun.

4. Do Not Freak Out That You Suck

Everyone sucks. Everyone is brilliant. And almost everyone thinks that they suck and that they are brilliant and that they suck. It's like a cycle. You can't get hung up on how good The Book of Awesome is ESPECIALLY on the first draft. You just have to write and write and write until you get to the end of the first draft because that's where the fun starts.

5. Global Revision is Awesome

No. I am not lying. Revision really is awesome. It's like making a collage. You cut things up, add things in, smell some ModPodge and laquer that whole thing up into something beautiful, something with layer and meaning, something that makes sense. Revision is what saves us all from the suck that is our first draft, and if you think about it as putting a puzzle together or solving THE MYSTERY THAT IS YOUR PLOT or THE MYSTERY OF HOW TO MAKE EVERYONE NOT HATE YOUR MAIN CHARACTER, it's super fun.

Revision is not about hating yourself. Revision is about loving your story enough to step up and make it shine.

6. Line Edits

Okay. Line edits are where I pretend I'm one of those writers that are in movies. You know the kind, right? They worry over every word. They hook-up an IV line of scotch because they use the word "cringe" 87 times in a 1,000 word poem. That sort of thing. Line edits are like when you pretend to be an evil editor, red-lining words out, deleteing images, and all that stuff. It's kind of hot in a sadistic way.

7. Write a Query

This is the part where I used to cry. That's because the writing side of awesome has suddenly turned into the business side of getting noticed. I am a flamboyant person when out in the world, but I am sooooo super shy and soooo horrifying self-deprecating. Like I have a hard time admitting to the fact that I am a best-selling author because it seems braggy to me. I know. I have issues.

Anyway, I hate this part but it is super necessary to getting published.

A query is a letter to an agent or publisher telling them why he or she wants you and your book. It's like speed dating in 300 words or less and you don't get to wear a cute skirt or lick your lips or anything.

Queryshark is the best resource for this. It's Janet Reid's site. She's an agent. queryshark.blogspot.com

8. Hello? Hello? We Should Be a Couple

Now that you have a query letter, you have to start searching for an agent. An agent represents you and your book, helps you find a home for your book, negotiates contracts, rights and takes about 15% of your earnnings as his or her agent pay. You want an agent who loves your work, tolerates you, that you feel respected by, that communicates with you, that advocates for you.

Basically, you want your agent to be kick ass in a way that doesn't intimidate you but instead compliments you.

Remember to keep track of what agents you send stuff to! Also, do not stalk them.

Just like there are good cops and bad cops, good cheese and bad cheese, there are good agents and bad agents.
A nice place to sort through them is pred-ed.com, which is Preditors and Editors.

A good way to find them is agentquery.com

9. Shove Your Baby Out the Door

Now that you have:
1. A book
2. A query letter
3. Agents to send it to

You have to shove your book baby out into the big world. Do that.

Remember to:
1. Follow the agents' guidelines about how many pages of your book that they want with the query letter.
2. Not seem like a stalker, but seem like you know a little something about the agent's other clients, or likes.
3. Be detail oriented. Follow all those guidelines about submissions that the agent has posted out there. Really. This is not the time to be a quirky cupcake by writing YOU WANT ME AND YOU KNOW IT WE BELONG TOGETHER as teh subject line in your email query.

10. Wait Forever

You will probably have to wait forever to hear anything from your potential Best Agent in the World about the Book of Awesome. This is normal. This is annoying. Try not to stress. Realize that when you do stress it is normal to stress.

Write while you wait.

11. Accept What Happens

Sometimes your Book of Awesome will not find a Best Agent in the World. This does not mean you suck. Repeat after me: I do not suck.

It just means what then?

It means nothing, honestly. Publishing is weird and slow and subjective. A book nobody notices can become a international bestseller in a couple years.

So... if everyone says no, you must just keep writing. Query a little more, but in the meantime write another book. If you want to write as a career, you have to treat it as a career, and keep producing words, refining your craft, practicing your trade. If you are already working on other Books of Awesome, it makes it much easier to deal with Book One of Awesome being rejected.

If an agent asks for a FULL, this means she wants to see the whole entire Book One of Awesome. Send it. If they like it they will probably call you. Try to be cool about this. It will be hard.

If an agent asks for a full, calls, and then offers to represent you...

1. Do a happy dance.
2. Do the happy dance silently so the agent doesn't hear whooping noises.
3. Tell them you'd like a little time to think about it.
4. Think about it or at least pretend to.
5. Keep dancing.
6. Accept offer.
7. If you have queries out to other agents, send them a quick note saying you've accepted representation somewhere else and thank them for their time and consideration.
8. Dance more.
9. Wait while your agent send out Book of Awesome to publishers.
10. Try not to stress. This is called Being on Sub (submission) and it is super stressful.
11. Keep writing.
12. If you get an offer from a publisher - Boom! You are golden. Your agent will craft that offer with you and - Booyah. You are traditionally published.

Please remember to be nice throughout the whole process. It's stressful. Life is stressful, but try to be kind even when you are in the pits of rejection despair. It's super important.

Yay! Good luck!

I will try to write more blogs about writing instead of just posting pictures of my dogs and snow, but posting pictures of my dogs and snow is so much more fun. Less helpful though, I know. 

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15. My tweets

  • Sat, 03:36: RT @writerstephanie: Today @poetswritersinc told me I could not be listed in their directory of writers because YA novels "do not qualify."
  • Sat, 03:48: Tonight I played Cards Against Humanity with three other humans and a dog. The dog won.

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  • Mon, 20:43: The autocorrect on my phone just changed the word "USUAL" to "IDESK," which pretty much sums up my day today. #amwriting
  • Mon, 22:15: Overwhelmed by his visit to the "doggy spa" (code name: kennel), upon arriving home Scotty immediately… http://t.co/DeQxi3J4qU

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19. My tweets

  • Fri, 21:04: Trying to focus on this, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
  • Fri, 21:05: Ever since I wrote Star Trek fan fiction in fourth grade, I don't know how not to write. It feels more vital than eating, honestly. You?
  • Fri, 21:21: Friends are not Acquaintances http://t.co/nBD9Ml5iMW

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21. I Have Been Writing for a Living for Nine Years: This Means I am Old and Lucky

In my quest to blog, and my inability to think of anything to blog about, I've been randomly looking at old blog entries. And I realized that it was at the end of January in 2006, halfway through my MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, that I sold my first book, Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, which the awesome editor Andrew Karre took off the slush pile and made a million times better.

Anyway, this is weird.

It's weird because it:

1. Seems like two years ago and not ALMOST A DECADE!
2. Has made me realize that if I've been doing this for ALMOST A DECADE, I should not feel so bizarre when I write down AUTHOR as my profession when applying for a credit card or mortgage or something.
3. Made me realize that by now I should be better at copyediting my own blog posts and status updates and tweets and not have so many typos.

Also, it is weird because I was kind of calm about it when it happened. Here is the evidence in the form of the original blog post.

So, despite the fact tha)t I can't spell, the nice editor man called me back yesterday and talked to me for 40 minutes and told me all the good stuff about my book and what he thinks could get better. It was like talking to a Vermont College mentor. It was really cool. He was brilliant and really, really nice. And he's starting the book through the acquisitions process at his imprint, which is really cool...


But, I'm not getting my hopes up about it, until papers are signed.

Still, he had the best insight on the piece and I am so excited about working on it. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go work on it. He only wants another 10,000 words. Geesh. Piece of cake.
Ha.


I currently have six more books under contract. Now. In 2015. I am super excited about them. Three are middle grade with Bloomsbury. Three are young adult with Tor. And the thing is? It doesn't feel like nearly enough. When I was at Vermont, my advisors would laugh at me because I was:

1. Goofy and they liked goofy
2. Way too productive
3. Liked revision soooo much
4. Capable of telling a joke

But the thing is, I am so lucky. I might feel like six books under contract aren't nearly enough (my poor agent), but I will never forget how lucky and happy I am that I get to write AUTHOR on all those business forms. If you're a pre-published author, I can't wait for the day when you get to do that, too. Remember to post about it so you can look back nine years later and be all, "Whoa.... Did that happen? Wow."

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