Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who Are We?

A few weeks ago I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. It was my second visit. The first time was fifteen years ago.

I remembered it being an inspiring place.

A monument, in a sense, to the thousands of every day people who rose up during the struggle for civil rights. College kids who risked their lives to help black people register to vote in the South. Teenagers who sat at restaurant counters while enraged racist people dumped food over their heads and beat them. Preachers and rabbis linking arms and marching, singing We Shall Overcome.

Fifteen years ago I thought that what I saw in the museum was history.

If you go, you will see the remains of the fire-bombed bus, where once students rode for a voter registration drive. You will see the lunch counter, the stoic and courageous people hunched in front of the surrounding mob. You will see a brave kindergarten girl walking into a school escorted by soldiers.You will see statues of the sanitation men in Memphis who were on strike. Each statue holds a sign. I AM A MAN.

You will see the hotel room where Martin Luther King Jr. spent his last night on earth. He was in Memphis to speak in defense of those men. He was shot on the balcony outside the hotel.

Now the hotel is the Civil Rights Museum.

I walked out of the museum fifteen years ago feeling jubilant and inspired, charged with energy at what one person could do to effect change, and one more person, and one more-- ordinary every day people who had reached a breaking point, who would no longer stand for injustice, who marched to show that they had had enough and that they believed in the promise of America, that all men are created equal.

And that meant all Americans.

I went to the museum this time with my grown daughter and her boyfriend, and a friend of mine and her daughter. We are white people. I must mention this, even though I feel weird mentioning it-- it is something I have never felt the need to mention before. When I write about myself, when I write characters in stories, I picture whiteness. I do this because I have grown up in a country where the majority of the people are white. White is the default. By this I mean, that it is assumed

--by white people.

It is comfortable for me to write this. It was uncomfortable for me that day at the museum to be in a crowd, the majority of whom were not white people.

This time when I saw the bombed out bus, the lunch counter, the angry mob, I still saw the heroes who rose up against oppression, of course, but I also saw the faces in the angry mob, the faces of the bombers, the shooters, the police officers with fire hoses.

We sat in the dark to watch a short film before we began our tour. When I say We, I mean my daughter and her boyfriend, my friend and her daughter, the only white people in the darkened room, and I mean the other members of the audience that day, who were black people.

The film began with people speaking about American history. One person after another adding a voice to tell the story, of slave ships, of human beings held in bondage, of families split apart, of beatings and murder, of a Civil War, of promises made and broken. One person after another, telling a story of lynchings and unjust laws, of segregation and humiliation. We, the voices said. We. This happened to us, they said, and we rose up.

When I say We, I mean, black Americans.

I am ashamed to say that this was an illumination for me. I have never sat in a room in America and known that when the word We was spoken, it did not include me. For the first time in my life as a fifty year old woman, I became Other.

It is, to put it mildly, an uncomfortable feeling.

It is what American people who are not white feel like every damn day.

Not me! Not me! I wanted to tell the American people in the darkened room. I didn't DO this!! I don't believe in this! My ancestors weren't a part of it! Please, don't see me as Other! Please don't see me as the people holding the fire hoses. Don't see me as the smiling white faces in the crowd cheering a lynched man hanging from a tree.

There is an artist and writer named Bree Newsome, a black woman, who speaks about the Civil Rights Movement in America.

We don't know our own history, she says. And when she says, We, she means both black and white Americans. We don't know the worst of what we have done to each other. And we don't know the best.

White people held the fire hoses and screamed in rage at school children entering a school. White people beat protestors and bombed churches and met peaceful marchers on a bridge with guns.

White people risked their lives to help register black people to vote. White people linked arms with black people and marched across the bridge.

We must acknowledge all aspects of our history. And when I say We, I mean white people. I know it feels uncomfortable. I want this to be in the past. I want it to be history. I want to turn away from it. Defend myself. Say both sides...

I am asking you not to do that. And when I say You, I mean my white readers.

I am asking you to squirm with discomfort in the darkened room for a moment.

And then I am asking you to step out of the room with me and choose your side.



Monday, August 7, 2017

Random Thoughts on Food and Hemingway

I went to the grocery store today to buy some odds and ends for recipes I plan to make this week, and realized as I unpacked my bag that the Me of Twenty Years Ago would not have bought -- or possibly even recognized -- any of the items.

Okay, the honey, but that's about it.

(for the record, in addition to the honey: organic unsweetened soy milk,
flaxseed meal, vanilla bean, almond butter and raw cashews)

The Me of Twenty Years ago had never grown a garden or been to a farmer's market or visited a Whole Foods. (Did Whole Food exist?) I felt guilty about feeding my kids chicken nuggets and Kraft Mac and Cheese, but not so guilty that I quit feeding them chicken nuggets and Kraft Mac and Cheese. (In my defense, I also served them fruit occasionally and as soon as I heard about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, I never let it into my house again, except in the form of Mrs. Butterworth's.)

What does all of this have to do with Hemingway? 

Nothing, except that I just finished reading his memoir A Moveable Feast, a book I'd somehow managed to skip reading over the years even though I like Hemingway's novels and when I was in Key West, I visited his house with all of the six-finger-pawed cats roaming around. 

Fun fact that I did not know until I read A Moveable Feast

it is not about food. 

Instead, it is about Hemingway's writing and social life in Paris in the 1920's, his adventures with his wife Hadley and his friendship with expatriate writers Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. There are nice nuggets of writing wisdom and lots of wine drinking and gossipy asides (Zelda Fitzgerald was crazy and F. Scott started drinking too early in the day and Hadley had to put up with having no indoor plumbing.) 

I don't think that Hemingway would recognize many of the items in my grocery bag either. 

But then he didn't watch the documentary my husband made me watch last week called What the Health. I am not recommending that you watch this movie unless you plan to seriously overhaul your diet. Let's just say that until I watched this movie I loved cheese. A lot. And now--

I am having a hard time loving cheese. 

Okay, I just looked at a few articles criticizing some of the statistics in What the Health and now I feel slightly better about my awful parenting food choices twenty years ago and my newly acquired horror of cheese. 

So tonight I will take a more balanced nutritional approach, something I will call Hemingwayterian:

It calls for a colorful plate of tofu and veggies.



And a large glass of wine. 











Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Guest post from my husband writing as me...

Psst: I haven't been honest about being back to work.


My darling husband took me to North Carolina to visit my friend Deb. She turned 50. (insert funny SNL skit with Danny DeVito and Molly Shannon here)


We had an amazing dinner at SoCo, a farm to table, husband and wife owned restaurant and B&B owned by Jeremy and Kimberly (we love them now). Watermelon was cooked for hours until it had the texture of raw tuna. This is a thing!



We drove by a new whirligig park dedicated to Vollis Simpson. Across from it was a huge antique store. I use the word antique loosely. Hats off to Wilson, North Carolina.

Next destination was Boone, home of App State and Yoseph the mountaineer. We also yumped into a LOT of hiking (see what I did there). Hubby was up to 3 shirts and 2 showers a day.

The view on top of this mountain was supposed to be great.

The last day we did some tasting at two wineries, Grandfather Winery and Banner Elk. We met Jensen, a sustainability major at App State, who was our awesome server. We tried to fix him up with Deb's daughter, because, you know, wine.


The end.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back to Work

After all of the gallivanting around Prague and Venice, strolling over bridges and listening to music and peeking into ancient churches (the icons and the china Jesus babies and the Black Madonnas and the jawbones of saints and the bearded women statues),

after the cemeteries with the tilted headstones and the fallen over flowers, the gondola rides and the wandering in alleyways, the preoccupation with pavement stones, and the stunning artwork in the museums,

after the meals eaten in outdoor cafes, the slabs of pork and dense bread, the pasta, the daily tasting of gelato, the obsession with Trdlos, the wine, the beer (the first glass ever. And the second. And the third),

after the jet lag and unpacking,

after the out of town guests and the return to daily chores (the weeding of the overgrown garden, the picking of vegetables) and the laundry,

after the much longed for and anticipated visit with the young adult children (and a significant other), and the celebration of the 4th of July in that over-the-top way it is celebrated in our town (the parade route staked out with chairs weeks in advance, the star painted streets, the high school marching band warming up by drumming drumming drumming so that we all wonder if we have fallen into the Jumanji set, and the early morning wake up with the bullhorn, the parade and the all day long cookout leading up to the fireworks),

after the kiddos have taken off again, leaving behind the quiet empty nest (oh! I should be used to this by now but somehow it still pierces me, that stillness as I slip past their dark empty bedrooms),

after the chores are done and the garden's producing and the dog's been walked and walked and walked, and there is no more travel on the horizon, no impending house guests, and so nothing more to do, really,

that is when I know it is time,

at last,

to go back to work.





Thursday, July 13, 2017

Democracy with a Side of Pea Shoots

I hear the word Petition and I think of the line in the Declaration of Independence:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury... something something about pleading with the King of England to listen to us.

Not what I thought I'd be doing on the hottest day of the year (so far) in my little town of Upper Arlington, Ohio. But here I am at local Farmer's Market, holding a clipboard, asking people to sign a petition.

I'm set up in the shade, cursing myself for not bringing along a bottle of water. Or a wading pool. As people wander toward the vegetable and flower booths, I accost them, politely. I've got a smile plastered on my face, my spiel memorized:

Hi! Have you signed the petition for Fair Districts Ohio? We're trying to stop gerrymandering in Ohio Congressional districts...

At this point the person I've accosted does one of three things:

1. Smiles back and says, "Oh I've heard of that! I want to sign it!"

2. Waves me off with a "I've signed that already!"

or

3. Gives me a look that says, BACK OFF WEIRDO as they hurry off in the shimmering heat toward the table heaped with bags of organic lettuce and pea shoots.

Luckily, I am not alone in my petitioning quest. I'm here with Lyddie, reluctant (but good sport) 8-year old daughter of a friend. Lyddie's babysitter fell through, and now, after a fun afternoon splashing around the public pool, she's stuck with me at the Farmer's Market where I've agreed to collect signatures for a petition.

Me: Hi! Have you signed the petition for Fair Districts Ohio? We're trying to stop gerrymandering in Ohio Congressional districts.

Accosted woman: "I have no idea what you are talking about."

Me: So this is--

AW: (waving me away)

Fun facts for woman in the above exchange:

The way things work in Ohio is every ten years, after the census, whatever party is in power gets to draw the district lines for our congresspeople. Sometimes this means the Democrats get the honor. Sometimes the Republicans do it. But either way, it's led to what most people would call unfairly drawn congressional districts.

Communities split and parceled out into three or four districts. Towns represented by leaders who basically pick their own sure-thing voters.

Which means that when it comes time for an election, our reps don't have a contest at all and are easily re-elected. Which means that they know their job is safe. Which means that they don't have to hold a townhall to listen to their constituents' concerns or answer questions or explain why they're voting the way they're voting.

Anyway, the Fair Districts Ohio petition is a plea to put some common sense back into the system--a request for a transparent process where both parties have a say in the drawing of districts. We need to get 500,000 signatures for this to appear on the ballot in 2018.

This week I need to get sixty signatures. Today, I am hoping for twenty-five.

Lyddie is not thrilled with my odds. She's flopped out in the grass in the meager shade, fanning herself with my information flyers. She's given up on coloring in her coloring book. It's too hot to turn cartwheels. Thank GOD the farmer in the organic meats booth across from us has taken pity and offered her a popsicle.

Meanwhile, I'm accosting people politely. Hi! Have you signed the petition for Fair Districts Ohio...

I feel like a waitress back in my waitressing days. Hey! Would you like fries with that? Hi there! Do you want to help me save our Democracy! Hello! How would you like your burger cooked?

"I don't have time for this," a man snaps at me, and I smile and say "Okay!"

"Well, are you going to explain what the petition IS?" he asks.

Um.

Lyddie covers her head with a beach towel. "What a fart face," she says after the man stalks off to check out the organic meats.

The guy selling lettuce and pea shoots laughs. I drift over to his booth and we chat for a bit about the heat. And about our lovely customers. After fart face leaves, the organic meat farmer joins us. Naturally, I ask both guys to sign my petition. In turn, I buy pea shoots and lettuce and rib eye steaks.

Lyddie scores another popsicle. I collect 24 signatures.

All and all, a fine day for America.





Friday, July 7, 2017

An Interview with Erin McCahan

The best thing about being a writer is meeting other writers, and sometimes, having the opportunity to read their books in advance. Last year I read an early version of fellow Ohio YA author Erin McCahan's novel The Lake Effect. I was a fan of Erin before I was a friend-- she won me over with her very funny, quirky and beautifully written novel Love and Other Foreign Words, so I jumped at the chance to take a peek at her latest book.

The Lake Effect is a smart mix of hilarity and heart-tugging Coming of Age angst. The story centers around main character Briggs, who signs on for much more than he bargains for when he takes a job working for Mrs. B, an eccentric elderly woman at the lake where his once wealthy family used to own a summer home.

Trust me: You will never look at funerals the same way ever again.

Today I am thrilled to catch up with Erin on the eve of her book launch.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jody: Sid Fleischman says it takes two sticks to start a fire and two ideas to start a story. What were the two (or more) ideas that sparked The Lake Effect?

Erin: Old ladies and anti-texting commercials.

Jody: Ha! You totally made me laugh out loud.

Erin: Next.

Jody: No, wait. Go back. I want to hear more about the sticks.

Erin: Old ladies and anti-texting commercials. What else is there to say? The interaction between old ladies and teenagers is just such rich material to mine.

Jody: I've never thought about that, but okay.

Erin: So I was polishing the characters of Briggs and Mrs. B -- without yet figuring out their story -- when I started seeing loads of anti-texting-while-driving commercials aimed at teenagers. I'd watch them thinking, "Those are never going to work."

Everyone knows that, by the numbers, the Big Bad Catastrophic Event happens to someone else. No one should text and drive, but people still do it because the odds really are in their favor that they're not going to crash and die or kill someone.

Jody: That's something that happens to other people--

Erin: Right. So I started thinking about how I could get Briggs, who is eighteen, to undergo a real transformation if the Big Bad Catastrophic Event happened to "other people"-- someone else, someone not necessarily close to him. Strangers even.

And that became the questions: "What if he spent a summer going to a ton of funerals of strangers?  How do I get him there?"

Because 'a ton of funerals of strangers' just screams 'bestseller,' doesn't it?

Jody: You're killing me here.

Did that make you laugh? Me. Mentioning killing and funerals?

Erin: No.

Jody: Probably there is a reason why you write funny books, Erin, and I don't.

What was your process for writing this book? Was it different from other books you've written? Easier? Harder?

Erin: My process is the same every time. I chew on a story idea but won't start writing until I have a solid beginning and end. Then I sit at my desk and tell myself I can't do this.

Jody: Wait. What? This works for you?

Erin: Not really.

Jody: What activities do you like to do while you are thinking about some problem in your writing or trying to avoid your writing?

Erin: Do you mean in addition to telling myself I can't do this?  Well, thinking about a problem: treadmill. Avoiding a problem: jcrew.com. In both cases, just taking a break from the book helps. So do Doritos.

Jody: Truth. Doritos help with everything. What kinds of scenes or stories do you love writing most?

Erin: Interactions between teens and old people.

Jody: Least?

Erin: Love scenes. I feel completely embarrassed and self-conscious writing those things.

Jody: Any advice for aspiring authors?

Erin: Drink heavily. Okay, not really.  Um -- yeah -- no, not really.

Two things: Learn to graciously accept criticism from experts, and be patient. Everything in the writing life takes a very long time.

Jody: Also very true. Are you ready for the Lightning Round?

Erin:  Yes!

Jody: What kinds of things do you do for fun?

Erin: Lately, it's plotting my escape from landlocked Central Ohio and doing this interview.

Jody: (blushing) I appreciate that.

Last good book you've read?

Erin: I just finished a biography of Washington Irving called Washington Irving, which was excellent. I love biographies. Especially the ones with catchy titles.

Jody: TV show you've binged?

Erin: Boston Legal, watching it while I'm on the treadmill while working out plot problems. I never saw it when it ran, and it has renewed my crush on James Spader. You know that iconic poster of him from the 80s? I'm tempted to put it in my office. That and the Hang in There kitten poster from the 70s.

Kitty                                      James Spader


Jody: Secret fear?

Erin: That this country will finally switch to the metric system, and I'll never again know how fast I'm driving or how tall I am.

Jody: Best meal you've ever eaten?

Erin: I really don't know. I'm not a foodie, though I hear the trololos in Prague are pretty good.

Jody: So they say. Cutest cat story?

Erin: My life is a cute cat story!

Jody: What's up next for you?

Erin: The Lake Effect, releasing July 11th! It makes me too nervous to think about it. I'll have to be on my treadmill all day, eating Doritos, drinking wine and watching Boston Legal.

Jody: And dreaming about James Spader?

Erin: Of course!

Jody: Thanks, Erin! I absolutely adore you and I adore The Lake Effect and I am so excited that the rest of the YA-book-loving world will soon be introduced to Briggs and Mrs. B.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Readers, want to know more about Erin McCahan and her wonderful books?

Where to find her:

Website: erinmccahan.com
Facebook: authorerinmccahan
Twitter: @erinmccahan

Where to find her books:

Barnes & Noble
Amazon












Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Love Letter to a (departing) Bookstore

Dear Cover to Cover Bookstore,

The first time I stepped through your doors, I was in love.

Well, it's always that way with me and places that house books. Libraries. Bookstores. The spines lined up on the shelves, the scent of the paper, the people who tend to congregate in these spaces. Voracious readers. Aspiring writers. A kid here and there, cross-legged on the floor, lost in a story.

But you were different. You were special.

A store dedicated to children's books. An owner who reads everything, who loves and honors children's literature. I browsed for a year before I talked to her beyond the typical clerk-to-customer conversation. Can you recommend--? If my child loves that, will she like this--?

A year or two more before I told her I reviewed books on my blog. Her eyes lit up and she waved me into a back room. I nearly keeled over from book overload shock. Stack after teetering stack, books scraping the ceiling in high rise towers, books piled up on the floor and spilling out of boxes.

Advanced copies of forthcoming books, she said. She and her assistant couldn't read them all. They needed people to review them. Would I mind doing that for her?

Uh, no. I wouldn't mind!!! I walked out that first time with an armload, feeling like I'd won the lottery.

Somewhere along the way I told her I dreamed of being a published writer. From then on, she always asked how my writing was coming along. When I attended book talks and signings, she introduced me to the authors. When I had a manuscript on submission, she offered to take a look. She liked it, she said. And when the book was released, she threw me a spectacular launch party.

There's a wall in this lovely bookstore, several walls actually, of author and illustrator signatures. All of the people who visited the store in the thirty-five years of its existence. In my pre-pubbed days I used to read the signatures. Jacqueline Woodson. Virginia Hamilton. Kwame Alexander. John Green. Imagine my name up there.



I know, I know, this magical space couldn't go on indefinitely.

This week the owner is retiring. Someone's bought the place--the Cover to Cover name, I should say--because the building itself is closing and reopening somewhere else. The expansive inventory of children's books is being sold. The wall of signatures will be taken down.



Yesterday I browsed the shelves for the last time. I touched the book spines, sat cross-legged on the floor. Lost myself for a few moments in a story. Searched the wall of signatures for familiar names.

Smiled when I found my own.



I realize as I write this letter that it isn't to the bookstore. It's to the owner, Sally Oddi, book lover and children's literature champion, supporter of writers and illustrators, teachers and librarians, and loyal, supportive friend to me and to so many.

Thank you, dear Sally, for creating Cover to Cover.

May this wonderful place live on without you, and may you enjoy your retirement, surrounded by good friends and good books.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Walking, Map-less, in Venice

I walk without looking at my map.


It's folded up in my pocket. Useless, because I can't find myself on it. The words are too tiny. The road I am on doesn't seem to exist. This church. This square. I can't find them on the page. It's okay. I've stopped caring about where I am, where I'm going.

Instead I look. I see.

It's possible that I am seeing for the first time.

Red dishtowels pasted against a blue sky. Ivy growing through window grates. A sign for cappuccino. The price is something I don't understand and I am too tired to calculate it.

Turn a corner and I am the only one walking down this alleyway. I look at my feet shuffling over 500 year-old cobblestones. Look up, at walls that Mozart might have trailed his fingers over on his way to conduct a concert. Up higher, a sky so blue it can't be real.

I can walk all day. Winding down passageways and over bridges. Admiring expensive clothing and glass and leather in store windows. Swirls of chocolates and pastries and bread.


This way leads across another bridge. This way, a dead end. A building. A locked door. Men selling masks and key chains. Statues. Ancient wells. The water shimmering in a canal.

A massive church rises up unexpectedly.


I move through a mass of people and I am one of them and somehow not one of them.

I don't know how I came to be in this place. I don't know where I am going next.

A split in the road, and I choose one of the paths with little thought because it doesn't matter which way I go. The truth is, I can't really get lost here. Even without a map. I've figured out that I can follow the signs painted on the sides of buildings, arrows pointing the way to the rail station. Or to the Rialto bridge. If you know these two places, you can trace your way to anywhere.

On a whim I stop to buy a gelato. I sit on an ancient wall and watch pigeons peck at the soggy roll that someone's dropped in the canal, at people taking selfies on a bridge. A burst of song from a roving acappella group. They sing faster and faster, the words in a language I don't know.

This gelato is the most delicious food I have ever tasted in my life. These pigeons are the cleverest birds I have ever seen. The people smiling at their phone screens are heart-breakingly beautiful.

This song, this song. How do I keep it inside me forever?


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Churches, Cemeteries and Beer

*Trying to write this blog from my phone so bear with me if it's wonky.

The beer in Prague, they say, is cheaper, than water. This is true. Too bad I don't like beer.

Correction: I loathe it. I was joking to my friend on this trip that I haven't had a beer since I was seventeen years old, but the truth is that first beer probably doesn't count. I took one sip. Put it down. Walked away half gagging. I was at a party where I only knew one person and was feeling extremely self conscious. Later I overheard people mocking whoever it was who left behind a beer un-drunk.

I mean, who the hell would do that? they said, appalled.

When you travel, when you walk through an unknown city, miles from home, when the conversations going on around you are in a multitude of languages and none of them are your own, you tend to have thoughts like these, flashes of memory, long ago humiliations in your non-drinking beer past.

I walk into so many churches here they begin to morph into one another. The church with the massive chandelier hanging over the pews, the cloister with a bearded woman statue nailed to a cross, the small tomb-like church with a statue of a black Madonna, the church that displays what they call "The Holy Infant of Prague," something that looks like a china doll wearing an elaborate poofy dress.

People around me pay coins to light candles. They kneel at the altars. They bless themselves and pray as they have prayed, in many of these churches for hundreds of years. I am overwhelmed in these sacred spaces.

Is it my once upon a time Catholic school girl upbringing? The cloying scent of incense drifting in the air? The familiar feel of holy water on my fingers as I bless myself? The prayers buried in the recesses of my brain leak out and I whisper the words I thought I'd forgotten.

Oh my God these cemeteries. Ancient tombstones falling over in the Jewish ghetto. The neat rows of raised garden beds behind an old Catholic Church. Someone is still putting out fresh flowers on these graves, dropping small stones, lighting candles.

I feel weepy walking back and forth over the Charles Bridge, the snippets of music playing. The heartbreaking "Moldau." And, weirdly, one night, a joyful rendition of "Mamma Mia." Beggars kneel, bent over, heads bowed, elbows on the pavement, holding out their up turned hats. No one gives them money. Some of them have dogs. Every dog makes me want to cry, and what does that say about me that I tear up for the dogs and not for the men?

I decide I am getting a damn beer.

I hear a band outside a pub playing Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." I listen for a while with the crowd on the street and then I force myself to go inside. The man sitting by the only empty stool speaks English. He knows the owner, he says.

I tell him I haven't had a beer since I was 17. He smiles and says,  So, two years ago, right?

Haha, this guy is a funny one.

He recommends a beer, and it is enormous. I brace myself and take a sip.

Not like I remember. More... wheat-y?

Turns out the guy sells Aloe Juice. Whatever the hell that is. He's from England. He owns a factory in Bangkok. The band has veered from playing Led Zeppelin to monologuing about oppression, something something about how we're all being brainwashed by Abrahamic theology?

I am lost.

Half of the enormous beer finished, and it hits me that this aloe juice salesman may possibly be hitting on me.

He blabbers on about the dark turn the band has taken and how aloe juice can apparently be found in your upscale supermarkets and how much he hates hippies.

I finish my beer (!!!!) and then excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I sneak out another exit and walk quickly through the crowded streets, freaked out at first that the creep hippie-hating aloe juice guy will follow me, but he doesn't.

I walk the crowded streets, buzzing with my first beer, listening for random snippets of music, people prattling in every language but my own.



Saturday, June 3, 2017

That Thing Where You Agree to Go To Prague Without Actually Realizing You've Agreed to Go to Prague

Last month I was out with a group of my writer friends and we were going around the table how we do, sharing stories of our latest writing projects, when one of the writers jokingly, I thought, mentioned that she needed a traveling companion for a trip to Prague, and I jokingly, I thought, said I'd love to be that companion, and then she jokingly, I thought, asked if I snored and I assured her that I did not, and we digressed for a moment about how annoying it is to share a room with someone who snores and we all laughed and moved on to another topic.

Side note: I've been a part of this group for three years, invited after my book came out by one of the women whom I'd met at a book festival. The members are all young adult fiction writers who live in the central Ohio area. We call ourselves OHYA (for Ohio YA authors). We're not a writing critique group (although we've all read each other's works) but more of a support group, meeting up for dinner once a month to pick each other's brains about writing and publishing, commiserating with each other when things are not going so well and celebrating when they are. 

For months now (maybe a year?) Lisa Klein's been giving us updates about her novel Ophelia (a brilliant and gorgeously written re-imagining of Hamlet from his girlfriend's point of view) being made into a film.  I know several writers whose books have been optioned for film and through their experience I've learned that it is a REALLY LONG AND DRAGGED OUT PROCESS and 99% of the time the film never actually gets made. 

I confess that this thought was what was going through my mind when Lisa Klein would share her monthly updates about the Ophelia film. The producer would tell her they'd settled on a script or they were toying around with casting or they were scouting locations and considering filming in Prague or whatever, and it all seemed very precarious and likely to fall apart at any moment...

until, a few weeks ago when Lisa Klein called me and asked if I was serious about being her travelling companion because as it turns out, her novel Ophelia is really and truly being made into a movie, and the producer invited her to come to the set in Prague, and seeing as how I do not snore, she would love for me to join her on this trip. 

Oh, also, she was planning to do some research on another book in Venice.

Flash forward to TWO DAYS FROM NOW and I am boarding a plane to Europe to catch a glimpse of Daisy Ridley dressed up as Ophelia and apparently Clive Owen is in this movie too? and also the guy who plays Malfoy in Harry Potter. 


So yeah. This is happening. 

I will keep you posted on the adventure. 



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Off Path

It's been a while since my first book, Thin Space, came out. Four years and eight months, to be exact. Not that I am counting.

Okay, I am counting.

The first couple of years were a whirlwind of promotional travelling. Book festivals and bookstore signings. Library and school visits. This was my dream come true: Published Author, and I was loving it. In the meantime I was writing new stuff and submitting it, hopeful, sure, that I was set firmly on my much longed for career path, that I'd have a new book out the next year and the next and the next--

But then time kept ticking by and my path took a few unforeseen detours, and suddenly I woke up to find myself wandering around in a random field.

A few weeks ago I was invited to watch a Battle of the Books competition. This year Thin Space was on the B.O.B. list in central Ohio, which meant that I had another round of kids reading it-- and being quizzed on it. Fun fact: when I was a teacher in Lexington, Kentucky, I was the coach for my school's B.O.B. team. A librarian friend and I selected the books and wrote many of the questions. The interested students read all of the books and practiced buzzing in on a quiz show style competition, and let me tell you, the competition was serious. Many of the kids read each book two or three times. They attacked their buzzers with surprising ferocity.

Fun fact #2: my school's team was really good. One year we won first place in the entire district. Another year my team competed against the school where my daughter went and she was on the team and I told her I hoped her team would win, but secretly I was rooting for my own team. (Please don't tell her!)

Anyway, it was a surreal experience to watch a bunch of kids in Ohio buzzing in and answering questions about my book, especially when there were questions that I couldn't answer. (This is a side effect of having a book come out four years and eight months earlier.) After the competition I spoke to the students, answered questions about the book (what I could remember!), and signed their copies. I hung out with one of the teams and the kids asked me if I'd ever thought about writing a sequel.

Fun fact #3: I did write a sequel. Before I sold Thin Space, when I had no clue if the book would ever be sold, I had a cool idea for what might happen next. I tend to struggle writing a book (if you read this blog with any regularity, you will find this statement a comical understatement) but this book was relatively easy to write. It practically scrolled out of me. Who knows why. Because I knew the world of the story already? Because I understood the characters and heard their voices speaking plainly in my head? Because I had sorta given up on the idea of publishing and was writing purely for my own amusement?

In any event the sequel turned out better in many ways than the original. But it's clear to me that it will never be published, at least not traditionally. I'm okay with that. Apparently, the whole write-a-book-purely-for-your-own-amusement thing has an upside.

The kids at the B.O.B. competition were excited about the sequel and wanted me to email it to them. The librarian did them one better. She took my digital copy and printed off and bound copies for her team. She came by my house the other day and asked me to sign them-- a special parting gift for her B.O.B. team-- and she left me with a copy of my own.

It's the only hard copy I have.

I flipped through it later, and the story I wrote many years ago came back to me. The joy I had writing it, that came back too.

Some of my writing friends --the ones who had debut books come out the same year as Thin Space-- are releasing their fifth books this year. It bugs me sometimes, to find myself so far off the path I thought I was ambling along on, to find myself wandering in a field.

But here's something I realize now:

The path may be gone, but this field's a decent place to be. It's got colorful flowers to sniff and lots of nooks and crannies to get lost in. Trees along the edges to climb. A creek to splash through. Birds twittering, and--um...

how long can I keep this extended metaphor going? What's my point again?

Oh, yeah. This place, off path, what I'm trying to say is most days I'm happy right where I am.





Saturday, May 27, 2017

Light at the End of a Graduation

Last week I went to my nephew's high school graduation. The school was in York, Pennsylvania and it seemed like a very nice school. Example: when my husband and I parked in an overflow lot and began our long trek toward the building, a woman holding a baking pan and a spatula welcomed us to the school and offered us a brownie. I mean, come on, homemade brownies in the parking lot? How lovely is that?

I get teary at graduations. The band playing Pomp and Circumstance. The kids lining up in their caps and gowns. Their young faces are radiant. You can practically see the emotions scrolling across their features, a mix of excitement and hope, anxiety and fear, but mostly, it's joy. (Okay, I used to be a high school English teacher, so I know that some of that joy is related to them thinking: Woo Hoo! Thank God I am finally finished with high school!!)

My husband and I high-fived our nephew as he walked past and then settled in for the program. Introductions by the principal. Speeches by select students. This is the time, I confess, when I typically tune out and peruse the graduation program, reading the names of the students and seeing what honors and awards they've received, the plans they have for after high school.

The president of the student council stepped up to the microphone and gave the first speech. It was the usual speech you hear at these things. A rundown of fun stuff the class had experienced together over the years, how hard they'd worked, how ready they were to move on to the next chapter in their lives and make the world a better place.

I love the optimism of teens, the sense that the future is bright and their generation won't muck things up like the previous ones have. I want to believe them.

But I am struggling.

The night before the graduation the man running for Congress in Montana physically assaulted a reporter who asked him a question about healthcare. At the same time, over in Europe, our president who was attending a NATO conference, pushed the leader of Montenegro out of his way. I am trying to imagine any other president we have ever had in our country doing this--physically laying his hands on another world leader and pushing him. Obama, Bush, Clinton, the other Bush, Reagan... I can't visualize it.

Something is different. We've taken a dark turn as a country.

My son, who graduated from college last year with a double major in history and computer science, argues with me on this point. Our country has never been perfect, he reminds me, and this particular time is no darker than any other. We went to war with each other once, for example. We've chosen despicable leaders before. In 1856 a congressman from South Carolina beat a Massachusetts congressman on the head with a walking cane.

So yeah, I guess we are somewhat more civilized now.

In the small town of York, Pennsylvania, the leaders of the class were still making their speeches. One by one. The vice president of the student council. The valedictorian. The salutatorian. The class president. The vice president. They were all teen girls.

The valedictorian told a story about switching schools, moving from the city school district to the suburban. Apparently, there is a large income disparity between the two districts, even though the high schools are only two miles away from each other. She talked about how the city kids have art and music classes in a hallway because there isn't enough classroom space, how they have fewer sports and honors classes than their counterparts here, at York Suburban. It's time to acknowledge the unfairness, she said, as members of the audience squirmed uncomfortably, and resolve as a community to do better.

The salutatorian had just came back from a science competition in Los Angeles. She spoke of the amazing projects she'd seen, the many talented scientists she'd met. As a person of color, she was inspired she said, to meet such a diverse group of people from all over the country and the world, already playing a part in tackling the challenges we face.

The class president spoke passionately about a book she'd recently read called Chop Wood Carry Water about the long, arduous, behind-the-scenes and often thankless process that must take place if we want to become experts in our fields. Trust the process, she told us. In the end we will achieve greatness.

Speeches over, the students filed up to receive their diplomas.

The next day, that man running for congress in Montana was charged with assault. He also won his election. The American president practiced his bizarre grippy-tug handshake on the president of France. Meanwhile, in the suburban district of York, Pennsylvania, the newly graduated students woke up to the first day of the rest of their lives, defiantly hopeful.

Remember these names. You will hear them in the future:

Parker Faircloth-Henise
Elizabeth Kuree Huh
Alexandra Jane Babinchak







Thursday, May 18, 2017

Displanted

The day before Mother's Day my daughter left home to head back to school, a nine-hour drive, alone, one she's done several times before, but still sets my mom-nerves on edge. I dug around in my garden to keep my mind busy, poking green bean seeds in the ground and transplanting seedlings, every hour or so, my husband calling out updates of our daughter's progress.

He's got some tracking thingy on his phone, and yeah, I know, there's a creepy/stalker-y element to this, but we can't help it. We want to picture our child in the driver's seat, coasting along on her journey, the closest we will get to being in the car with her

she's crossing the bridge in Cincinnati 
she's approaching Louisville
she's an hour outside Mammoth Cave

I go back to my digging and poking and mulching, relieved for the moment that she's safe and that much nearer to her destination. For the last few years I've been planning my garden ahead of time, drawing the plots out on graph paper, no longer content to randomly throw things in the ground.



There's a weird comfort in setting the borders, arranging the plants. Each year my plans are more elaborate, more structured. One large bed grown into two, and then grown into four. And now I've got side beds filled with herbs, a rock garden, corners stuffed with potted plants. In winter I checked out a stack of garden design books from the library and read them like they were novels.

Something cool I learned: my four square garden pattern can be traced all the way back to monastery gardens in Medieval times. What is it about this particular structure, about any structure--

she's nearing the Tennessee border
she's on the other side of Nashville

Something sad I learned: My daughter has been away at school for two years now, and even though I am fully adjusted to empty-nester life, each time she comes back and then leaves again, it's a fresh loss.

I draw a line in the dirt for my marigolds, trying to envision them blooming like a flowery fence in front of my tomato plants.

she's outside the city
she's there, she's home

The dog trots out to bask in the sun as I nudge the seeds into the ground. I know how it goes. Mid summer and these bare beds will be dense with plants, the reality different, despite all of my planning, from what I can imagine today. Plants tangled up with other plants, some overgrown, some drooping. Weeds working there way through despite all of my mulching.

A pumpkin (did I even plant a pumpkin?) poking up in an unexpected place, hopping over the perfectly drawn border into the grass beyond.  





Friday, May 5, 2017

Dispatches from a Reluctant Activist

The hardest part is the drive downtown, the navigating of interstate changes, the search for a parking garage.

Confession: I live 12 minutes from downtown Columbus. As far as city traffic goes, it's on the light side. But I am such a baby when it comes to driving places, going places, I should say. Last month my husband's car was out of commission and he took mine to work for a week and I didn't even notice. I spend my days in one room for the most part, changing out of my pajamas and robe only to walk the dog.


And lately, to drive downtown to protest or to attend meetings or to speak to my state Rep or to my Congressperson or to pass out flyers. Ever since I marched in the Women's March in Washington DC, I made a resolution to Do Something each week.

Last week, for example, I wheedled my husband into marching with me in the Science March. Talk about reluctant activists. This march was a gazillion miles out of the man's comfort zone.

Also, I made it worse by giving him a sign to hold:



People came up to him, strangers. They said it was their first march too. They slapped him on the shoulder and thanked him for coming out. They asked him if they could take his picture.

It was excruciating for me to watch his discomfort, and finally, I offered to hold the sign, and people stopped me instead and my husband would squirm and say, "Actually, that's my sign."

But anyway, back to why I was driving downtown. It was for an Advocacy Day organized by Freedom of Choice Ohio. When I signed up to go, I had no idea what it was-- some all day meeting?

Turned out, it was a education session of sorts, where different groups spoke about issues affecting women and children and families in Ohio and the impact that legislation would have on them in the coming year. After we had the information, we would march over to the Ohio Statehouse and pair up with a buddy, and meet two-on-one with an Ohio representative to share our personal stories.

The day was alternately inspiring and crappy.

Inspiring, because the speakers were so smart and caring and dedicated and I believe in this cause, that women have the right to make their own medical choices without politicians interfering, that we have the right to plan our families, deciding if and when we will have children, that even the poorest among us have the right to our own bodily autonomy--

and crappy, because it all feels like such a long slog and who knew the democratic wheels turned so slowly, with so many layers and hoops to jump through.

I walked with my buddy, an older woman who seemed very quiet and reserved and stereotypically grandmother-ish, but oh wow, she surprised me when we met with our representative, how knowledgeable she was, and how passionate.

The rep himself, was a very nice guy-- thank you, Steven Arndt for taking time out of your day to listen to us, for sharing your own story and for hearing ours -- My story, for the record, boils down to Me, age fifteen, walking up to the Planned Parenthood in my neighborhood (yes, I really had a PP in my neighborhood-- a ten minute walk away) where I went for medical advice and to obtain birth control, because, oh my God, I was fifteen and sexually active, which is crazy to me now, what a messed up mix of contradictions I was back then-- an honors student at a private Catholic high school, a damaged girl clinging to a doofball boyfriend, scared enough to know that I did not want to get pregnant-- like the girl in my class who was publicly shamed for doing the "right thing" by having her baby.

That girl almost died of pre-eclampsia during her labor. I don't know what happened to her after, what kind of life she's led.

But I know what happened to me. I had opportunities-- college, graduate school and upper middle class life. Eventually, children, who were planned, wanted, loved. Still, I can't forget the poor sad girl I knew and the poor sad girl I was and how different circumstances could've been for me, and how lucky I was to be aware that there was a place I could go, somewhere safe and welcoming and non-judgmental.

All this I told Mr. Arndt and he nodded politely, but who knows how he will vote in the future on these issues, if it was worth his time or mine to have our conversation, if it changed anything.

I didn't know it yet, but the very next day, the Republicans in the House of Representatives would vote to take away healthcare from 24 million Americans. Part of their cruel proposal restricts the right of poor women to choose where they go to receive medical care.

Done for the day, and my new buddy and I walked back to our cars and paid for our parking. (another area of stress for me. How do I get the damn parking ticket to go properly into the slot?!)

We exchanged business cards and smiled at each other. Maybe we'll meet up at another of these things, my new friend said.

Most definitely.















Sunday, April 30, 2017

Things I Did This Weekend Instead of Writing a Blog

Goal this weekend: Write a blog

(side note, I write four blogs a month. It's a goal I set for myself a few years ago and for the most part I do it. It's a weird goal because I mean, who cares? I don't get paid for these blogs. Nothing bad will happen if I don't post one, but still... it bugs me like a little itch when the end of the month sneaks up on me and I haven't yet written my fourth blog.)

Instead of writing a blog, I did this:

*Made a turtle out of clay

with my friend Natalie at this pottery place where we were supposed to play around with clay and make cups or bowls and decorate them in a whimsical way, and I started getting panicky/perfectionist-y, how I always do when it comes to arts and crafts, but I kept playing with the clay, joking that I'd let it speak to me and tell me what it wanted to be, and weirdly this worked. 

It wanted to be a turtle. 



*Caught the tail end of Mindy McGinnis signing her fifth book




at Cover to Cover Book Store and got my book signed and talked to the owner, Sally Oddi, about how she is going to retire and sell her bookstore!!! --something that is killing me because Cover to Cover is an awesome bookstore (one of the oldest, continuously operated, children's bookstores in country-- 37 years!!) If you want to buy it, please call Sally. 

I'm serious. (614) 263-1624

*Went out to dinner with Natalie because we realized it was our three year Friend-a-versary, and if that is not a thing, it should be.

*Read most of the book Dreamland by Sam Quinones


which is a really horrifying examination of the opioid epidemic and how Big Pharma pushing pain meds and misleading doctors about how addictive these drugs are was happening around the same time a group of men in Mexico started selling black tar heroin in small towns across America.  

*Helped my neighbor paint some trim on his house


Because last summer he helped my husband and me paint our back porch, and I was like, No problem, I can totally climb up onto your roof and paint that small stretch of trim. This was scary but I inched up and down the roof on my butt and fell into a zen-like place of painting and thought about the time when I was nineteen and got hired on by my boyfriend's painting crew to paint the trim of all of the McDonald's in the Central Connecticut area. 

*Tore a hole in my shorts from inching up and down the roof on my butt.

*Mulched my flowerbeds


*Helped my husband lay a brick patio


 Oh. And I guess I wrote a blog. 

The end. 



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Battling the Yips


For the past few weeks I've been slogging through my day's writing work-- NO, I DO NOT HAVE writer's block, maybe more like writer's cube if that is a thing. Anyway, each day, as a reward for completing my goals, I've been listening to the Fresh Air podcast.

I love tuning in to hear interviewer Terry Gross talk to actors, artists, directors and authors. The app is cool because you can skip around and choose the episodes you want to listen to. 

I almost skipped today's episode: The 'Phenomenon' That Changed MLB Pitcher Rick Ankiel's Life because I never heard of Rick Ankiel and I'm not much of a baseball fan. But before I could turn it off and switch to another episode, the interview started. Rick Ankiel, apparently, used to be this awesome pitcher and now he's got a new book out, a memoir called Phenomenon. 

When he was only twenty years old, people were raving about how good he was and he knew it. He skipped past college and signed a million dollar contract to pitch in the major leagues. It looked like he was on the road to having a great career, but suddenly, during a playoffs game, he threw the ball and it didn't feel right. 

He had this nightmare game, unable to control his pitches, the ball shooting off in random directions, and all of this happening on live TV, with announcers commenting about it and the crowd booing him. When the game was over, he told himself it was a fluke thing and figured that with a rest, he'd be back to normal. 

But he wasn't. 

He couldn't seem to throw the way he had before. He tried everything he could think of to fix the problem. Going back to the mechanics, he called it. Practicing. Watching what other pitchers were doing and trying to copy them. Resting. He couldn't tell if this was a real physical issue, he said, or maybe it was the yips. 

(the yips?? This was me, listening to podcast and wondering what the heck the yips were. A pause here, while I looked it up:

The yips is the loss of fine motor skills in athletes. The condition occurs suddenly and without apparent explanation usually in mature athletes with years of experience.)

Back to poor Rick Ankiel... 

The yips were destroying his life.

He lost his place in the majors and was dropped back down to the lower levels, whatever they're called in baseball, until he finally ended up on some rookie team, all the while his anxiety about his inability to pitch building and building. He'd drive around watching little kids play baseball and think about how easy they made it look and wondered why he couldn't do it anymore.

Baseball, he said, had been his thing. He'd grown up in a messed up family, his father abusing his mother and eventually going to jail. Baseball was the one thing he really did well. It was his refuge. His escape.

And now here he was hitting this weird psychological wall.

On the farm team, he performed okay. No TV spotlight. No one commenting on his performance for the most part, but he was unhappy. Whatever joy he'd once gotten from baseball seemed gone, and after awhile he decided to quit the game. 

Which is when a funny thing happened.

His agent suggested he start playing again in another position. This (I guess?) is not the typical career path of a baseball pitcher? but Rick Ankiel thought about it and said he could envision himself hitting a home run and just the thought of that made him feel excited again. 

He became an outfielder and a good one. He hit 47 home runs before retiring to spend more time with his family and write his memoir. 


So, anyway, this is why I decided today that I am going to quit writing.

Nah. I'm just joking with you. I don't have the yips

I don't have the yips

I don't have the yips.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ode to the IKEA Catalog

In this world
everything is sleek surfaced and brightly lit,
an array of welcoming rooms
where women dance in kitchens
and children lick wooden spoons
and a man tells us to embrace what's wrong
as he garnishes the clams with garlic
and lemon.

In this world everything has its place.

The children put away their toys
and your friends come to dinner early
and always always help you
bake the meatballs.

They say we can make things better.
They say the days of "have to" are over.
They say that playtime can happen anywhere.

And we want to believe them.

We do.

So we set the sofa in the center of the living space.
We move our backyard inside.

We arrange and arrange and arrange, finding beauty
in a tealight holder
in a bed canopy
in a plant pot
in a clear lacquered bamboo knife tray.








Tuesday, April 11, 2017

An Interview with Mindy McGinnis


I’m thrilled to have award-winning YA writer Mindy McGinnis On the Verge this week. Mindy, if you haven’t read her yet, (and if you haven’t, I’m not sure why!) is the prolific genre-bending author of the dystopian Not a Drop to Drink, the gothic historical A Madness So Discreet (which won the Edgar Award), and the dark contemporary The Female of the Species, (hands down, one of the best books I read last year).


And now she’s got a new book out, the fantasy Given to the Sea. Last weekend Mindy and I caught up at the Ohioana Book Festival and I had the chance to ask her all of my burning questions.

----------------------------------------------------


Jody: On a recent panel you talked about where your ideas come from. Not a Drop to Drink you had an image of a girl holding a gun and A Madness So Discreet started with your interest in the old insane asylum in Athens, Ohio. I’m curious about your new book—which is the first fantasy you’ve written—about the inhabitants of a dying island world.

Mindy: In a lot of ways Given to the Sea is a montage of many different thoughts that have come to me over a period of fifteen or twenty years.

The first scene that ever occurred to me was a star-crossed lovers type of situation, with an Ivanhoe-esque turn with the female refusing to cave to her own desires to be with the male, to the point that she's willing to pitch herself from a window to save her pride. That scene doesn't actually exist in the book now, but it planted the seed that told me I wanted to write a fantasy.

A combination of many things came together for everything else: an interest in Huntington's disease (also called the "dancing sickness"), the idea of genetic memory, and rising sea levels.

Jody: It just occurred to me that the rising sea level idea is the flip side of your first book. Not A Drop to Drink was a world with no water, and here, with this new book, you’ve got a world with too much water… Was the process for writing these books the same?

Mindy: My process is always the same. I sit down and write the book.

Jody: You make it sound easy.

Mindy. Not easy, but you just do it. With this book I thought I had all kinds of freedom because I was building a fantasy world.

Jody: So, you're thinking anything goes...

Mindy: Except it doesn’t. You have to keep track of your own rules that you're making, because you made them in the first place.

Jody: And sometimes you write yourself into a corner. What do you do when that happens? Any tricks you can share?

Mindy: I think a lot while I'm driving. I live in the middle of nowhere so if I'm on my way to an event I've usually got at least an hour each way, and the drive might give me some room to sort things out.

Jody: You've recently started writing full time. Has that changed how you write?

Mindy: It's harder to make myself write. Before I was on a very tight timetable. If I had twenty free minutes, then I needed to crack out some words. Now, I've got all day... and I know it. I'm learning how to budget my time better, which is weirdly harder when you have more of it.

Jody: What kinds of scenes or stories do love writing most and least? 

Mindy: I love writing biting dialogue, insults, stuff like that. Least, action scenes. Writing a battle scene and trying to keep it as "realistic" as possible while still making it thrilling and fun is challenging.

Jody: You write in different genres... from dystopian to gothic historical fiction to contemp, and now fantasy-- what makes a Mindy McGinnis book a Mindy McGinnis book—besides the fact that at least one of the characters is probably going to die?

Mindy: That, and a definite layer of grit and realism overlying everything. That's my approach with any genre. If this WERE going to happen, how would it unfold? No drama. No fuss. Just, give this thing some room and see what happens. Usually nothing good, because it's a McGinnis. :)

Jody: This is on a totally different note, but I know you've launched a podcast recently. What got you interested in that?

Mindy: I started listening to podcasts while I was running, and I started on the high end of production value - Serial, This American Life, Cracked, etc. I burned through those and started listening to others that were suggested to me and, most of the time, was not impressed. I thought to myself, "I could do better than that." Then I thought I should put my money where my mouth was.

So I did, literally. It's a time investment for me, since one of my biggest complaints about other podcasts was that they needed heavy editing (lots of filler, dead space, inside jokes, side rants).

Jody: And your podcast doesn’t--

Mindy: I don't make my listeners listen to anything I wouldn't want to hear.

Jody: I'm guessing there's some money involved. 

Mindy:  For hosting and distribution. I'm hoping to at least break even with it, if not make it financially productive, by the end of one year (I paid for one year of hosting up front). If it's not lifting its own weight by then, I'll have to pull the plug. At the moment I spend more time on the podcast than I do on my writing, which economically makes zero sense.

Jody: True. But hey, what does make sense in this business?

*(Check out one of Mindy's podcasts Here)

Okay, time for the lightning round. What kinds of things do you do for fun?

Mindy: Oh, God. I'm such a geek. Genealogy. Seriously. I found an ancestor (female) that I'd been looking for for ten years a few weeks ago and I almost cried. I also love old cemeteries and will just stop the car and go visit one if I see one that looks interesting to me.

Jody: Last good book you've read?

Mindy: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Jody: TV show you've binged?

Mindy: Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I'm catching up!

Jody: What's up next for you?

Mindy: Given to the Sea will have a sequel (it's a duology) in the Spring of 2018, titled Given to the Earth. I have another contemporary, This Darkness Mine coming October 10th of 2017 from Katherine Tegen Books.

Right now I'm working on a story I'm mentally referring to as "Drunk Hatchet With A Girl," about a teen lost in the Appalachian region.

I'm sure marketing will retitle that.

Jody: Probably. But wouldn't it be awesome if they didn't? Hey Mindy, thanks so much for chatting with me today! And dear readers, if you'd like to know more about the dark and brilliant mind of Mindy McGinnis, see below:

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Mindy McGinnis is an Edgar Award-winning author and assistant teen librarian who lives in Ohio. She graduated from Otterbein University with a degree in English Literature and Religion, and sees nothing wrong with owning nine cats. Two dogs balance things out nicely.

Where to find her: 

Where to find her books: