the shaping of SJ

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The Lost Manuscripts: The Tooth Who Didn’t Want to be Cleaned

Published July 12, 2018 by admin

Eh, it’s summer, let’s have some fun. I haven’t done a lost manuscripts post in forever (you’re heartbroken, I know). Thankully I found a giant box of stuff to go through during The Culling last year, so I’ll have material for a long time. For those not in the loop, this is where I dig up stuff I wrote as a kid, transcribe it, and put my spin on it now. It’s every bit as terrible and horrific as you’d want. So, without delay, let’s take a look at the classic story of learning responsibility, a story longform enough that I actually bound it as a kid (with staples! So classy!) I present to you: The Tooth Who didn’t Want to Be Cleaned. (note, I’m also correcting most of my spelling/grammar errors, because I wouldn’t even do that to myself. The last page is really weirdly phrased, so I’ll leave that mostly as is).

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It’s important to note that NOWHERE else in the main book does this tooth have hair, so obviously she’s wearing a wig to escape a sordid past and this is actually a coded espionage title. Clearly, she wants to be a bond girl and her bad attitude can be fixed by love and understanding. Or something. I’ve slept through a lot of Bond films.

Obviously there’s also a reason I didn’t grow up to be an illustrator. Anywho, let’s begin. (No worries, I didn’t take pics of every illustration in this thing, because no one needs to go through that).

Once upon a time there lived a tooth named Julie. She didn’t like to get cleaned. Every time the flouride rinse, the toothbrush, and the floss would come, she would hide. 

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Obviously, my handwriting hasn’t improved much since I was 9. Also, I included this just because I have no clue how she’s even hiding. Is that a tongue? The mouth? Gums? Dental tools, guys, SHE’S RIGHT THERE! DO YOUR JOB BETTER! Maybe she figured out a way to be invisible. Sneaky Bond girl Julie. I also like how I had no idea what to do for flouride so it turned out looking lke a cup of punch or blood or something just being flung toward the general area of the mouth. Which is pretty much what I thought of mouthwash back then, so it checks out.

All the other teeth tried to get Julie to stop hiding, but it never worked. One day, Julie found a hole in her. “Oh great,” she said. “Now I have to go to the dentist!”

Julie’s like 90% more chill than I am when I have to go to the dentist, but Julie also only has to worry about herself and not the strange hellscape her entire mouth can be, unlike, uh, some people.

When the dentist tried to fix the hole, Julie hid. “Julie,” the dentist said, “please stop hiding or else you will rot and fall out!” Then Julie came out and let the dentist fix the hole.

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Ok, is the dentist fencing? Why is that drill SO HUGE? I’d had cavities by that point and wasn’t really freaked out, so WHERE did this come from? Was it too dangerous to get close? Was the dentist afraid Julie would kill her? I mean I’d be freaked if a sentient tooth took herself to the dentist, too, but the lady doesn’t seem to be that ruffled. Is she giving her a sci fi spy implant while she’s fixing the cavity!? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

Now Julie has never hid again. As for all I know, now she has never had another hole in her again.

Well, that’s a relief, but I’m still left with questions. Was she a baby tooth? Did she fall out anyway, making her whole life futile and this title more of an existential thing? Did the dentist give her cool spy gadgets? What did she do with her invisibility power? What about the espionage? COME ON, JULIE, YOU HAD SO MUCH PROMISE. Sigh. Some things I guess are too powerful for us mere mortals to know.

So yeah, 9-year-old me’s take on dental care. Brush your damn teeth or else an anthropomorphic tooth will take it into their own hands to drag you to the dentist and become a spy. Or something.

I’ll let Julie sign off from here (Seriously, she’s a supervillain! She’s back with the wig again – WHAT IS GOING ON WITH YOU, JULIE!?).

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People may not support you – and that’s okay (Things I’d Wished I’d known)

Published July 5, 2018 by admin

One of the things that has really been brought home for me lately is support. In any sort of artistic endeavor, it’s important. There are a lot of thoughts on the subject, and these are just mine, born from my personal experience – ymmv.

So one of the things that inevitably comes up with people who have creative careers is family and close friend support: how they do, how they don’t, whatever. Stories tend to either favor “oh they’re SO amazing they helped me get through all this, they sold their house to help me move cross country and we have soul connection time every night to lift me up…” or “They never believed in me, here are my receipts from the past 45 years…”etc etc.

Which kind of neglects the in between stuff, or actual reasons.

Here’s the thing: We all want to be the heroes of our own story. We want to be the protagonist and everyone to fall in line and be there no matter what, tell us we’re wonderful, help us finance things, etc. Sometimes those realities just aren’t there.

If you have friends or family who emotionally don’t get what you’re trying to do and aren’t supportive – it’s okay. That has nothing to do with you. I’m gonna say it again for the people in the back: HOW PEOPLE REACT TO YOUR GOALS AND TALENTS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. 

They may have their own views of what things are, it may not particularly interest them – do you know how many dinners I’ve sat through where people ask me what I’m working on out of politeness, and then they’re eyes glaze over? Do you know how many passive aggressive emails or comments I’ve gotten about how what I’m doing isn’t *real*? Or maybe someday I’ll be a real whatever, like I’m pinnochio and all it takes is the blue fairy to update my bravery forms so I can stop being a wooden costume person or writer or whatever. Or I’ve been compared to whatever property is hot right now.

It happens. I’ve learned to laugh it off and move on, or look at their advice and take or leave it as I see fit, because I get that’s them trying to connect with me the best they know how, and that’s awesome.

Also, if you do have family or friends who know what they’re doing and are critiquing you, that’s totally different. I would hope you’d at least give them an ear.

People like to get their digs in. Or they try to understand, but for whatever reason, they just aren’t as emotionally invested as you are. Or they worry about the pragmatic/logistical sides, which is understandable. Realizing where people are coming from have softened my reactions somewhat, and I try to at least be able to answer some business questions for those who are truly concerned. Also, maybe these people are artists themselves and are working through their own personal path and issues.

I hate to tell you this, because it is a reality that is hard to accept, but hear me out. Some people just aren’t going to be as supportive as you like. And that’s okay.

Before you growl at me in the comments, give me a minute. I’m not talking outright derision or abuse here, those are situations no one needs to tolerate. What I’m talking about is perception and practicality. I know artists who see people as traitorous if they’re not replying to EVERY post and complimenting EVERY last thing they do – and that’s just not reality. No one can keep that up all the time, and you shouldn’t expect them to. You have to find a balance on what kind of emotional and practical support and work you expect from people.

The point of all of this is, people aren’t necessarily enemies coming to get you. BUT, you also don’t have to prove yourself to them. Your path is your path, and you don’t need their permission or to hit certain goals to become real to them. You are real, your work is real. Maybe it varies on the scale from hobbyist to professional, maybe you’re in a bit of a plateau, maybe you’re still in planning stages. You don’t owe them proof of anything to be personally validated. If you feel better not going to dinner with them or just making a rule to not discuss that kind of work with them, that’s fine. Totally understandable. Because when you go in with expectations of what support really is, you’re going to potentially end up disappointed and hurt or wonder why whomever has this big giant fan club and their family goes with them to everything or whatever and you don’t have that.

This is why seeking out your tribe and people who can help you when you’re down and support you and give you real world advice is so important, because so often a lot of us come from backgrounds or friend groups where people may have concerns, but don’t get enough of the ins and outs to really give substantial advice. This is why finding people who are into what you like and have firm guidelines on what advice or critique or input you want from them are awesome. You don’t go to dinner parties or family dinners or see old friends expecting them to fall all over you because you have a book out. You just don’t. You go to engage with them and if it comes up and they like it, awesome.

It’s the same with teachers or others who told us we couldn’t do something five thousand years ago and we cling to that as vengeance material every night before we close our eyes. I get it, it’s motivation, but guys, you gotta let that go. Drop that weight and your journey will be loads easier. I’m not saying ignore it, but resentment over lack of support will eat you.

Everyone wishes more people like them or their work than reality can furnish. Everyone wants validation. Artistic work doesn’t give you that validation to that degree, I can guarantee you that. And, like family, you can always go looking for that outside support system.As I’ve said nine million times: IF YOU ARE GETTING INTO ACTING, FILM, THEATER, ART, WRITING ETC FOR PERSONAL VALIDATION, SIT DOWN AND FIGURE OUT HOW ELSE YOU CAN GET THAT BECAUSE THESE CAREERS ARE NOT BUILT TO GIVE THAT TO YOU. 

Sometimes, too, family and friends can be supportive emotionally to a point without being as fulfilling as we’d like. It’s usually practical. I didn’t have the money to do a couple theatre internships that I *really* wanted to do, and at the time we just didn’t have the resources to fund it. The people I knew who did go to things like that had grandparents or whomever who could help them pay for an apartment for a set amount of time. Sometimes the dice roll in your favor, sometimes you can work around it, sometimes you can’t. I’ve had to let that go and realize that that doesn’t necessarily directly mean it caused me to miss out on anything. Sometimes friends just aren’t going to support your kickstarter or buy your stuff or whatever. It can hurt, but it may just not be in the realm of feasibility for people. And yeah, sometimes that means other artists have more of a leg up. Them’s the breaks. But the thing that will hold you back even more is holding onto that resentment or frustration instead of looking for another path or way in.

By the way – I know the family members that are supportive of me ARE extremely supportive. They’re their for me within their means and within their understanding. Hell, one person bought copies of Olde School for everyone they knew for Christmas gifts one year, and has perpetually lifted me up when I get frustrated, while remaining in the real world enough to suggest other directions and options I need to look at as a whole. I know people have my back. That doesn’t magically make it their job to throw me to the next point in my career – that’s still my own responsibility.

I’m not saying to let people walk all over you – absolutely not. Your goals are worth the effort and the work and the love. Sometimes, though, I think we get hung up on how we’re being perceived and how many people around us are holding us up and throwing parties or helping us out and talking us up, and it’s just not great to measure success by that or hold that against people. You can be mindful of it, and certainly don’t stay around them if they’re taking a chunk out of you because of it, but don’t let that fester things inside yourself, because it’s only making things more difficult in the long run.

People may not support you, and that’s okay. You don’t need to give your whole soul to prove yourself to people – that’s completely okay, too. Their opinion doesn’t reflect on all the amazing stuff you’re doing and want to do, so you keep doing you and the rest will come in time.

 

 

 

 

 

Star Wars Saturday: Christmas Edition

Published December 23, 2017 by admin

It’s almost like I’ve been waiting for this alignment for years.

So some fun stuff for today!

Backstory: having a minster in the family can open one up to all sorts of experiences, one of which might be having a giant, mega-sized nativity scene that would rival some playsets from the 1980s. And because The Sibling and I tend to amuse ourselves in creative ways, there has been a long stretch of years where we felt the need to…enhance things.

I don’t really remember how this started, and to our credit it probably would’ve stopped long ago if some people would stop bringing it up every year, but for a long stretch of time, sneaking things into the manger scene was tradition. I think one year we added Barbie accesories, we’ve mixed up sizes on some things, by far one of the best years was when I found a bunch of pirates with the same paint job as the actual figurines…

Yes, okay, we’re very mischevious and we’ve heard about this more than once, but who are we to fight with tradition at this point? It’s dropped off a bit over the years as we’ve gotten busy, but at least we still have photos.

Did I mention we had a lot of Star Wars figures growing up? You can see where this is going:

 

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Beautiful

 

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What, you didn’t know the Wise Men were Jedi?

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Keeping watch in case of Herod’s men or mynock, whichever comes first

Seriously, I cannot stress how big this thing is. What, you thought it was just the inn? Nope, we’ve got the Roman temple to deal with, too…

 

 

 

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and you thought finding a parking space for The Last Jedi was rough…

 

 

 

 

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perfect

Also to our credit, that is hardly the only decor in the house we enhance:

 

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must be Christmas: the special edition

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hollyandivy

Kindle    B&N      MMP Store

After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong oninions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keepinga promise to an old friend?

 

 

 

 

 

Magic and Loss: Or Elfhood, Revisited

Published December 8, 2017 by admin

I did this post a few years ago, trying to explain my feelings on December. They’re many and complicated and sometimes contradictory, but I’m still really proud of this post, and long though it is, figured it deserves a second look. It gives a decent-ish summation of my world view, so there’s that. Plus, you get photographic evidence of me as an elf. You’re welcome.

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I’ve mentioned it off and on, but December is not the easiest month in the world for me. While I like the seasonal aesthetic, it seems like if anything awful, life-changing, or downright weird is going to happen, it’s likely to happen in December. Seriously, we’re talking medical-mystery grade illness with wacky false diagnoses, weather that had me hiking out of ditches and almost having to hold the door of my car closed during a snowstorm, breakups, monumental fights, family deaths, friend deaths, pet deaths, near muggings, and that time I was accidentally set on fire at Christmas Eve service. Apparently I live an active life.

It’s also traditionally been the time I’ve pulled down a lot of holiday gigs, because, eh, just because the season can be hard emotionally doesn’t mean I’m not showing up and doing what needs to be done. Obviously, sometimes the two collide in ways I could never anticipate.

Read the Rest Here

 

 

Shall We Gather at the River

Published April 7, 2014 by admin

Admittedly, I can be a fairly private person. I realize this isn’t always a good thing, but it’s the way I work. Not everything about me is everyone’s business, and I’ve tried to employ the iceberg metaphor in discussions and promotion: for every little bit I show, there’s a lot kept under the surface.

Part of this is what happens when you’re an introvert. Part of it, I can’t help but think, was learned growing up in a small town as a minister’s kid. I’m not saying I had it as badly as a celebrity or the children of celebrities. On the contrary, I had it easy in comparison. Still, I think people don’t always realize that tightly knit communities have their downsides when you’re going through your awkward teenage years and kind of want to keep some things to yourself. Because one of my parents was very active in the community, a lot of people knew them. They also felt comfortable telling every little detail they’d witnessed about whatever I was up to. I’m sure a lot of this was out of concern, but it was stifling. I definitely heard enough about all the decisions that family member made, as well, but somehow I think a lot of that judgement was nudged onto me, as if I was part of some family committee that helped decide what that person would go out and say.

I sat through sermons telling stories on me, had people in my classes report things about me, had mutual friends and some teachers passing info about my life. In some cases, like with grades, I get that that only served to help me. In other cases, I think I had to go through my growing up at my own pace. In every case, it felt like a supreme violation at the time (I mean, come on, no one at twelve or fifteen wants every dumb little thing that comes out of their mouth to be brought up at the dinner table because someone passed it along). Even when people mean well, I tend to not like overly nosy people. I’m trying to get better at giving people the benefit of the doubt, but it is still a fact that I do not want anyone going through my mail, I do not want people unpacking for me, I do not like people rearranging or digging through my stuff unless they have my explicit permission. I don’t need things that I said or did ten or twenty years ago brought up at family gatherings because people think it’s amusing to put me in the hot seat. Sorry, that’s not fun for me. I lived that kind of thing constantly as a kid, and although I can embrace the spirit in which a lot of it was done, I still value my privacy above most everything else.

Needless to say, I was a little scared to death about Evillecon. I didn’t know who I might run into or what feelings might resurface. I’ve had 12 years away from the area in the case of college, and probably 15 years away in the case of high school. I had done a lot to purposefully distance myself, because I felt very strongly about needing to go out and make myself my own person. I love how my growing up shaped me, but I do think it’s important at some point for a person to hit the path and see what they can see for themselves. At any rate, it’s the way I work and the way I am. Somehow all that path-walking got to be a habit, and it was just easier to keep myself to myself, clinging to the memories that were still irritating instead of realizing that as much as I’ve grown and changed, other people have, too.

In a lot of ways Evillecon was as much about facing myself, past fumbles, and past versions of myself as it was about releasing a new book and putting the word out. I’m really, really glad I did it. Not only did it give me a chance to reconnect with people, but it made me put a lot of things aside and enjoy where I’ve come from and look forward to where I’m going.

I zoomed around Mt. Vernon, Indiana a bit before my library appearance that weekend, and I was given a proper tour on Sunday. It’s so strange…so many things have stayed exactly the same. I can still navigate without a map. The things that have change, though…a lot looks tired, as tired as I felt after all I was doing that week. It was hard to see all the changes that had been made to the house I’d loved so much. It was hard to see the elementary school I went to is now closed, though the hill of death is still there (The tombstones are fenced in now, as well. Ever proof that if enough kids use them as a sledding obstacle course, change will come). The river front is beautiful, and I was glad to have some time walking along it. I spent a lot of time there as a kid with different relatives, and to see it slowly being built up is satisfying. I hope the downtown district gets the same treatment. There was a strange mix of vibrant energy and tired sighs, and in some ways I could relate. It’s hard to keep moving forward when you think you know who you are (you never really know), when you feel like you’ve been working for a long time. I hope we both keep growing, though, because I can see a lot of potential in both of us.

Walking along the Ohio River was like greeting an old friend. It’s still pretty much the same view, the same feeling of unsettled peace, which is the best kind…there’s enough ease to feel comfortable, yet enough tension to make you want to do something. I found that I was able to let a lot of my irritations and past annoyances go, and it helped me really enjoy the weekend even more. It’s like the old Robert Lowry hymn says.. “Soon we’ll reach the silver river, Soon our pilgrimage will cease. Soon our happy hearts will quiver With the melody of peace.”

 

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