Doing Things About Literacy With Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin Peppermint Gingerbread. It’s mid-season, what do you want from me?

By Julie 

I had the extraordinary pleasure of participating in our Community Literacy Night hosted by my Bennett’s middle school on Thursday, and let me tell you, I loved it.

Pretty sure I was the only author with a child in that middle school present, and as you know, I take literacy as seriously as a heart attack. Hence, three Scholastic Book Fairs a year at Hedge Elementary, where last year…

In a school of less than 200 kids

In the lowest income neighborhood in Plymouth

In the school with the highest percentage of children with English as a second language

In a community that doesn’t even get a BUS

WE SENT HOME NEARLY 1,500 BOOKS FROM THOSE BOOK FAIRS ALONE. 

The Book Fair has become such an event at this little school that the kids just see me and start asking when it’s coming. And they see me a lot. Sometimes I haven’t even recovered from the last fair yet.

The last book fair looked like THIS:

 

Not pictured: endless mushrooms, fairy lights, the Adopt An Enchanted Animal Fundraiser, the Fairy Photo Booth…

Have I mentioned my book fair team is UNBELIEVABLE?

In any case, when the opportunity to be a part of a literacy event for the town and all of its many schools came up, AND was at the school where I went and Bennett just started at in September, I jumped down their throats and clung to their tracheas. Community literacy is hugely important to me (and should be to you), and I really prioritize making a mark at my children’s schools. It’s great for them, great for me, and if I’m being braggardly, great for the school.

Great readers insert themselves into understanding other viewpoints and ways of life. They seek to understand other people’s reasons and mistakes and priorities. They want to know about other people and places, real or imagined. Readers bridge gaps in differences. Readers open their hearts because they know how to listen and think beyond themselves. That’s where acceptance, tolerance, celebration of others begins. Kids who read promise us a better future. I want to help make that happen.

Community Literacy Night was so cool. A bunch of authors were there, a bunch of kids from one of the high schools ran a café, there was live music from the band ever 15 minutes, the planetarium did shows… The best part for me though was the many middle and high school kids that helped run the event. Getting to talk to these kids just made my entire dream come into perspective. You know, this thing wasn’t a “book signing,” it was about literacy. Writing, reading, inspiring growth in those things.

I GET STUPID SHY TAKING PICTURES AT EVENTS, so mine are all bad. I don’t just mean selfies… I get shy taking ANY pictures. It’s the silliest thing in the world. But trust me, that sign has my name on it and I was there.

literacy night 2

That little stack of books in the middle with the ribbons around them are 5 copies of THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS that I put research and inspiration and personal notes throughout, hoping they’ll inspire some kid to be who they need to be. (I still have a couple! Message me if you think you’d like one!)

I made these damn cookies for days! They say “Reach higher. Don’t let the stars stand in your way.” (Because inspiring as all hell. And because stars. Like Witch of Stars. Buy my book.)

literacy night 4

Here I am, looking partly drunk and partly sweaty and partly as if I’ve eaten many of those cookies myself. But I’m talking to this lady who is worked her tail off to write a book and is afraid of publishing. And I’ll tell you what I told her: YOU ALREADY DID THE HARD PART. YOU’RE A HERO. YOU WROTE A BOOK. But are you gonna listen to a lady who looks that drunk?

literacy night 6

You can see my book fair All For Books donation box loud and clear because that Scholastic program is amazing. 100% of collections go straight to buying books for kids who can’t get their own at our book fair, and Scholastic matches our collections for another school in need on top of it. Wonderful.

This here is the organized chaos I threw together about writing, and I have to tell you, I think it’s pretty cool. A pile of hand-drawn pictures, post-its, 5 subject notebooks, crossed out garbage and highlighted trash… ART CAN BE A MESS. There is no process aside from finding your own. And you can see my pretty stack of THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS over there. (I kept THE HARPY hidden because kids.)

literacy night3

Getting to talk to all the kids who write and have questions about writing was KILLER. They’ve got direction and they’re not afraid, and they TRY. I’m such a freak I gave a couple of them my phone number to text me questions. NOT WEIRD AT ALL. But what’s important is that I made my passion matter.

This is my catchphrase now. I say it all the time, I write it all over the place and now it’s like my “did I do that?”

MAKE YOUR PASSION MATTER. I love reading and writing and kids. THROW THEM ALL TOGETHER AND BOOM, LITERACY SANDWICH. I think I have something to say. I think what I put out into the world matters. I make sure it does, dammit. So I run creative writing classes when I can at the elementary school, and I give advice, and I run the book fairs, and this year I plan to focus more on doing in person events than anything else, because this is the stuff that makes a better world.

Anyway, I have all the answers and stuff, so hit me up if you want to know how to be awesome, I guess.

Truly though, thank you all for helping me make my passion matter. Without your support, writing books would always be an expensive hobby and not my life.

Because of the interest I had in THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS there’s going to be a countdown sale on the Kindle version for $1.99! Starting November 6th for 3 days! I’ll post more about that next time, because these characters have a lot to say. It’s a witch book, but it’s about oppressive families. The heroes have been abused, slut-shamed, silenced, have undiagnosed disorders… There’s a lot about them that SPEAKS, and I’m proud of it. Go check it out  HERE.

61NZfQ1WokLAnd if you’d like a hard copy sent to you with my notes inside, signed by me, one of only 5 proof copies, hit me up.

Talk soon, but until then, be awesome. Be you.

 

JUST FUN STUFF with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: HARD CIDER OUT OF THE SKULL OF A THESTRAL. It’s time to go to the Pumpkin Spectacular!

By Julie 

You’re like, WHAT. This is a thestral, if you aren’t a Potter nerd. A black skeleton-bat-horse that only people who have seen death can see:

Pretty sure that’s my patronus.

And the Pumpkin Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo is a tradition we have every year and it is the most Halloweeny thing a person can do. If you’re in the Northeast, I highly recommend you meet me there and we can drink pumpkin beer as we wait in line and look at the elephants in the dark and finish it off with hundreds of incredibly carved pumpkins and creepy music and there’s swan boats and a foggy pond and it’s just the best. I’ll take pictures. *gasps for breath*

In Other Fun news, I had a bitchen book signing this weekend, coincidentally on my 17th wedding anniversary, at Dirty Water Distillery, the first-ever Spooks and Spirits horror author whoop-de-doo and liquor event hosted by Inebri-Art.

(I did a podcast interview with Andy Driscoll over there, and here it is if you want MY VOICE.  Julie’s Inebri-Art podcast).

 

Here I am with badass Steve Van Samson, author of  The Bone Eater King, post-apocalyptic vampires with African mythology (I KNOW, RIGHT?), Marcia  Lynch (prettiest) and Mark Lynch of BAM! SMACK! POW! . It was as much fun as it looks.

Image may contain: Maria Lynch, Oldman Wade Sho, Julie Bennett-Hutchings and Steve V. Krikorian, people smiling, people standing

And whatever, you missed out on freshly-ripped-from-chests heart chocolates that I actually MADE, like in the cooking part of the house.

spooks tablespooks table 2

They’re blurry but hey, I write books and look good, I’m not a photographer.

ANYWAY, go check out all those little clicky links, and enjoy the final days of the Halloween season! I’m having too much fun to write anymore. Love you guys and HARPY HALLOWEEN oh my god, how much do you hate me now.

 

 

 

 

Dark Love Poems

I am nothing if not emo, and this just gets me right in the gut. It’s words like these that get my juices flowing over writing my new novel, INSCRIPTION.

irevuo

Penning the perfect love poem is one of the most difficult of artistic endeavors — yet we have a special place in our hearts for those writers who effortlessly conjure the darkness of lost and unrequited love.

View original post 433 more words

Artist Dan Kern and KITTY.

TODAY’S BREW: I MADE ANATOMICAL HEART CHOCOLATES AND THAT’S NOT COFFEE

By Julie

This is my friend Dan’s cat. Dan Kern is the artist I plan to collaborate with to make THE HARPY a graphic novel, so SURPRISE. Neither of us have ever done such a thing, but you learn by doing, right? Check out his art HERE and get 10% off!

LOOK AT THIS KITTY PIE.

Image may contain: cat

The incredible artist, Dan Kern who is a gentleman and genuinely awesome guy is giving 10% off his artwork because his poor little Belle needs help he cannot pay for alone.

GET YOURSELF SOME DAMN ARTWORK AND HELP SAVE A KITTY. 

Dan makes stuff like THIS:

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And THIS:No automatic alt text available.

 

Here’s Dan Dan’s Facebook post from today. Look at how nice he is:

This is Belle. She’s been my little furry rock for 8 years. After a few weeks of trips to the vet and today the oncologist, the tumor growing in her mouth ( Squamous Cell Carcinoma ) cannot be removed and I was told that radiation and chemotherapy are not only not really great options, but they may make things worse. So for now, its more about managing discomfort and making sure she’s a happy lady. Now, if know me, you know I don’t like asking for help. But, my friends, I need your help. As you can imagine, the bills from her visits, her surgeries, and medications are a bit steep. But instead of outright asking for money, I decided to put up a little sale on my store and if you pick up some artwork and enter the code “FORBELLE”, it’ll give you 10% off your purchase. Art is the only thing I have to offer, it’s the only thing I’m kinda good at. Its the only way for me to thank you for helping me and in turn helping her. Thanks for taking the time to read this. It means everything to me. You can find my store here:

Daniel Kern Art

The world is ugly. Buy some art. Help an artist and an animal and feel good about yourself. OKAY BYE.

#IndieAuthorDay

TODAY’S BREW: caffeine mainlined into each eyeball

By Julie 

First, thank you to everyone who’s reached out or thought of me and my family in the passing of my stepdad, Wayne Nelson. He was the most generous soul in the world and is sorely missed.

I’m not ready to talk about that yet. What I am ready to talk about is strength. Strength in the face of opposition, grief, anger. I’ve felt all these things in plethora especially over the last few weeks. Exhausting doesn’t begin to describe it–from Wayne’s stroke and the subsequent days of hospital visits and travel arrangements and all the emotion of that, to having shingles and setting me back for a week or two, to starting a side business while trying to edit for clients and get kids back to school and to regular therapy appointments while maintaining FUN, and running the enormous Scholastic Book Fair for our little school (YAY HEDGE, we earned over $2500 to spend on books and other school needs), yeah, stuff is tiring. You could say I do it to myself–I would say that I volunteer myself to do it.

tribute

One of the things I’ve done for myself is becoming an indie publisher. These last several weeks have been grueling–but through it all I was determined to have THE HARPY out by October 20th no matter what. See, I absolutely HAD to be a part of a big ol’ book signing and beer guzzling event I learned of, Spooks and Spirits right here in my hometown of Plymouth at Dirty Water Distillery. You can click on those things, guys.

OH YEAH, COME SEE ME AND GET A SIGNED COPY OF THE HARPY FOR THE FIRST TIME OUT IN THE WORLD

October 20th

Dirty Water Distillery 

10 Water Street, Plymouth MA

12-6pm

So I got my act together in the midst of all the emotional turmoil and dinosaur fights and I got the perfect team together to make the release happen. Now enjoy this tiny video:

The Perfect Team

The extra pressure of getting the book out wasn’t MORE tiring than what I was already doing–it added strength to it. It reinforced my backbone, reminded me constantly that not matter what else was going on, what I was doing for others, what was happening that was out of my control, what I was watching being taken away from me, this was all mine to handle. This was a hell beast that I created and gave name to and released at my own whim. I had utter control here in every way. And while I was getting a little lost amongst doing All the Things, THE HARPY was always right there staring at me, counting down its minutes to birth, and saying, “You did this. You’re doing this. Even now.”

Indie authors are heroes. All writers are. But the world of indie publishing puts everything in my grasp, while also, PUTS EVERYTHING IN MY HANDS. It’s wild responsibility, incredible pressure, powerfully humbling (even as we brag about it), and leaves us both vulnerable and stronger. Above all, the indie author is the one who says, “This goddamn creation is getting out into the world no matter what.”

As a developmental editor as well, I get to work with so many indie authors that lay out their heart and soul to me and say without reservation, “Tell me what’s wrong. Don’t be shy.” That’s a strength that I admire to the pit of my gut. (By the way, folks, editing is not to tell you what’s wrong. A good editor should highlight what’s knock-you-on-your-ass amazing and show you how to leverage it to strengthen your weaknesses.)

*winks at camera* Contact me for Undeaditing, writerlies.

So to all the indie authors out there who inspire me, congratulations, and above all, thank you. Thank you for fighting through the self-doubt and Impostor Syndrome. Thank you for taking chances. Thank you for producing art for you. Thank you for producing art for the rest of us. Thank you for standing behind what you create and showing the world what’s really important. Thank you for showing our kids that there is more than one way to be a success. Thank you for showing them what a labor of love looks like. Thank you for shaping a new world where books can keep up with our brains and our chaotic lives. You matter to me. You’ve got a life outside of your books, and to have the self-discipline that you do to not get lost in that life and ignore the hard stuff that you so easily could is what real power looks like.

Fight on, indie authors. Be the strength you want to see in the world.

If you’re so inclined, I’d love you to preorder THE HARPY for only 99 cents.

Cover Reveal: The Harpy

TODAY’S BREW: Iced coffee with cinnamon and a pumpkin donut

By Jolene

Huge thank you to everyone who signed up to join Julie’s email list to be the first to see the cover for The Harpy. Many of you have been feasting your eyes on it since this morning. The feedback has been amazing and I agree with those of you who have said it’s your favorite cover yet. It’s my favorite cover too!

For those of you not on Julie’s mailing list, I’m here to share the cover with you too!

Are you ready?

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Here you go!

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The Harpy

Charity Blake survived a nightmare. Now she is one.

Punk-rock runaway Charity Blake becomes a Harpy at night—a treacherous mythical monster who preys upon men just like the ones who abused her. Struggling through an endless stream of crappy coffee shop jobs, revolted stares, and self-isolation during the day, Charity longs to turn into the beast at night. Doing the right thing in all the wrong ways suits her.

But a Harpy’s life belongs in Hell—the gruesome Wood of Suicides, where the Harpy queen offers Charity just what she’s looking for: a home where she can reign supreme and leave behind the agony of her past. The choice to stay in Hell would be easy, were it not for a rock-and-roll neighbor who loves her for the woman she is—even when he discovers the creature she becomes—and unexpected new friends with their own deranged pasts and desires who see Charity as their savior. But salvation isn’t in the cards for Charity. Not when her friends see through her vicious attitude and fall in love with her power as the Harpy.

Struggling between the life of an injured outcast and the grizzly champion of a blood-red hellscape, Charity must thwart her friends’ craving for her power enough to fear her corruption—and determine once and for all where her salvation lies: in eternal revenge or mortal love.

Add The Harpy on Goodreads

Pre-order The Harpy on Amazon

 

Isn’t it gorgeous?! I’m so excited for this book to come out. And I’m especially proud of my friend Julie who has stuck by this book for years, through trials, troubles, and setbacks. But it’s all worth it because it’s here. It’s amazing. And it’s about to knock your socks off.

Release date is October 16, 2018!

Pre-order your copy now for a special pre-order price of 99 cents.

 

What do you think of the cover? Let us know in the comments below!

YOU can see The Harpy cover first!

TODAY’S BREW: Kind of gross tea. What?! I’m sick.

By Jolene

Hello friends and enemies (and frenemies). Some exciting stuff has been happening around here. You see, there’s this book called The Harpy that my insanely talented friend Julie has written. It also happens to be coming out THIS MONTH.

You have the chance to see her GORGEOUS cover first. All mailing list subscribers will get the first look at this gorgeous cover. So make sure your cute butt is on the mailing list!

I hope you love The Harpy. I know that I do.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN ME UP TO SEE THE HARPY COVER FIRST BECAUSE I’M SPECIAL.

Charity Blake survived a nightmare. Now she is one.

Punk-rock runaway Charity Blake becomes a Harpy at night—a treacherous mythical monster who preys upon men just like the ones who abused her. Struggling through an endless stream of crappy coffee shop jobs, revolted stares, and self-isolation during the day, Charity longs to turn into the beast at night. Doing the right thing in all the wrong ways suits her.

But a Harpy’s life belongs in Hell—the gruesome Wood of Suicides, where the Harpy queen offers Charity just what she’s looking for: a home where she can reign supreme and leave behind the agony of her past. The choice to stay in Hell would be easy, were it not for a rock-and-roll neighbor who loves her for the woman she is—even when he discovers the creature she becomes—and unexpected new friends with their own deranged pasts and desires who see Charity as their savior. But salvation isn’t in the cards for Charity. Not when her friends see through her vicious attitude and fall in love with her power as the Harpy.

Struggling between the life of an injured outcast and the grizzly champion of a blood-red hellscape, Charity must thwart her friends’ craving for her power enough to fear her corruption—and determine once and for all where her salvation lies: in eternal revenge or mortal love.

Add The Harpy on Goodreads

My Stepdad

TODAY’S BREW: This apple crisp stuff, the bag was pretty.

By Julie 

Hello dumplings.

I hope you’ve seen THE HARPY blurb that my darling buddy Jolene posted here! It’s on the Goodest of Reads as well, and will soon be up for PREORDERRRRRR

See the source image

This book is right back to my horror roots, and I’m happy to be there.

My life has been filled with plenty of horror lately, unfortunately. My stepfather passed away this week after a stroke two weeks ago. I’m not ready to talk about it. I’ll filter that energy into the book I’m working on in October.

I’ve done plenty of good, too, however. Ginormous book fair went amazingly well. I love to run the Scholastic Book Fair for our tiny school–the kids were absolutely awed by this one. I was awed by the help I received from other moms at school and their wonderful kids. During Open House we had no less than 12 people working the book fair alone, and it was PACKED. $1300 in only two hours. Our school doesn’t even have 200 students! With the earnings we made this week we filled every teacher’s wish list and we’re re-furnishing the library.

The book fair is good for the soul and I sure needed that last week. I toil hours away there, all day for five days and a couple of nights and it fills me with such happiness that I can barely express it. The greatest thing for grief is doing good, I’ve found out. Something immediate to turn to that is undeniably life-altering for someone changes my perspective, gets me out of my head and out of the hospital and off the phone and all the things that go with the tragedy of a stroke. And wow. Strokes are indeed the most horrendous thing I’ve ever seen.

In any case, you always get me at my most flayed, and I got up the little energy I could to touch base with you all, let you know that even now, my readers are wildly important to me. You help me through the trials of life.

My stepdad wanted THE HARPY out in the world more than anyone. He’s the only family member to have read it. One of a handful to read it at all. Let this be a lesson to you: don’t dawdle on putting your dream into action. Make sure the ones who want to see your creations get to. Do it for them and do it for yourself.

Reading was a connection I had with my father, who passed away when I was 16. He instilled a great love of books for me. And my stepfather loved to read, was my biggest fan. I loved talking books with him, and he loved to support me. I’ll never forget it. I’ll never forget him. He was the most genuine, kind, thoughtful, generous person you could meet and laughed with me until the very end.

Thank you, Wayne, for being the only man who could step into my dad’s shoes. He would say nobody should step into his shoes because he only had toes on one foot.

Be who you need to be in this life, folks. Nothing else matters.

 

 

THE HARPY IS ON GOODREADS!

TODAY’S BREW: Iced coffee–black like my soul.

By Jolene

You’re probably thinking, Who the hell are you? Where’s Julie?! What have you done with her? Don’t worry, I’m just the friendly ghost in her attic, all Devon-Sawa-in-Casper-dreamy, floating in to tell you that Julie’s newest book, The Harpy, is UP ON GOODREADS!

This is not a drill.

The cover is yet to be revealed but you can read the blurb below. Also, Julie is planning a cover reveal to her mailing list first, so if you want to be the first to see her beautiful, gorgeous, stunning cover of The Harpy, make sure your cute butt is signed up for her mailing list! Until then, here’s a little bit more about The Harpy, out in October 2018.

Untitled design

Charity Blake survived a nightmare. Now she is one.

Punk-rock runaway Charity Blake becomes a Harpy at night—a treacherous mythical monster who preys upon men just like the ones who abused her. Struggling through an endless stream of crappy coffee shop jobs, revolted stares, and self-isolation during the day, Charity longs to turn into the beast at night. Doing the right thing in all the wrong ways suits her.

But a Harpy’s life belongs in Hell—the gruesome Wood of Suicides, where the Harpy queen offers Charity just what she’s looking for: a home where she can reign supreme and leave behind the agony of her past. The choice to stay in Hell would be easy, were it not for a rock-and-roll neighbor who loves her for the woman she is—even when he discovers the creature she becomes—and unexpected new friends with their own deranged pasts and desires who see Charity as their savior. But salvation isn’t in the cards for Charity. Not when her friends see through her vicious attitude and fall in love with her power as the Harpy. 

Struggling between the life of an injured outcast and the grizzly champion of a blood-red hellscape, Charity must thwart her friends’ craving for her power enough to fear her corruption—and determine once and for all where her salvation lies: in eternal revenge or mortal love.

Add The Harpy on Goodreads!

If you’re still scared and wondering where Julie is, you can still check in and say hi to her on Twitter. Life man, it’s crazy. ;P

World Suicide Prevention Day

TODAY’S BREW: Pumpkin everything, shame-free

By Julie

Suicide awareness and suicide prevention are not the same thing, and I want to speak up about it now, when the world is trying to listen.

It’s a great step forward that suicide is on the radar, not as something that crazy people do. Talking about it is good, it’s great–but talking about it with a purpose is more important.

You may know that my baby has Bipolar Disorder and OCD. We saw the signs of a mood disorder really early. Like, REALLY early. Some of the things that come to mind: As an infant he hated being confined–couldn’t stay still in a bassinet in our room. We had to move him to another room in a giant crib to get him to sleep at all. Sitting in his little Bumbo seat before he could sit up on his own, he was most happy when given a pile of magazines to rip the pages out of and put in stacks. My sister in law called him “Stan,” like a little office worker. He had to carry an assortment of certain toys and things with him everywhere, making us late for things, not able to go out at all sometimes because he would have a violent tantrum if one thing was out of the mix. We had to go up and down the stairs at our house–only at our house–in a certain order, get in the car in a certain order or he’d turn into someone else. Adrenaline-fueled violent episodes. I remember one time at the “quiet” Walmart a half hour away that I’d go to so it wouldn’t trigger him–I put eggs in the carriage. Sam was barely able to talk yet, he was so little. Screaming “NO EGGS” over and over until we had to leave. It took me over a half hour to put him in his 5 point harness because he was thrashing so violently. And that was not uncommon. The police have had to be called on our toddler because he was being so violent about getting in the car the “proper” way, refusing to stay seated, needing to start the entire afternoon over so that the doors got opened in the right way. We used to call him “Frats” because he’d be up allll night, singing and running in circles, banging into things, like a frat party animal–he’d only be okay if he was in his playpen, where he’d go on like this for hours. I remember doing crunches to try to stay awake, and my husband and I slept in shifts so Sam wouldn’t be alone. (Search #Frats on Twitter. It was funny? But it was scary.)

This is just stuff off the top of my head.

The violence that we lived with every hour of every day was what finally sent us to seek help. My landlords that live downstairs had the courage to come to me and say, “Something is wrong with Sam.” When someone finally said it, I went right away for help.

Sam was three.

Now a lot of people might say that he was too young for us to see anything wrong. That ADHD explains a lot of it. That parenting is to blame, or he needs more boundaries.

What say is that when my baby’s pupils would dilate to make his eyes nearly black, that when at 3 he would be in such a rage that he could throw tables across a room, that any baby that doesn’t want to be held, that any child we couldn’t allow to have a pencil, a pair of safety scissors, anything sharp, that was so angry about living… That is a child who has more than an attention issue.

Mental illness runs in my  family. And I’ve seen what happens when mood disorders and other disorders are recognized too late. That was not going to be my child.

I’m a warrior when it comes to my children’s continuing mental health care. I am not any different than you. All I did was take measures to ensure my child got the proper treatment and that his brother was able to cope with it in a healthy way also–because mental illness is something we all fight together.

Again, I want to say that talking about suicide with purpose is more important than just being aware of it. The things we do as a family to ensure that our child with Bipolar Disorder and OCD does not end up considering suicide can work for anyone, anyone who pays attention to warning signs. Here are my tips, and I have to say, I’m an expert now.

  • WATCH FOR SIGNS OF CHANGE. “Triggers” can’t always be recognized or anticipated when it comes to episodes–and I say “episodes” in regards to when Sam would change. This certainly isn’t all-encompassing or even applicable, necessarily, to your situation or someone you know. This is just my experience and the advice I can offer so you can prevent the mindset that could lead to suicide. Like I said, the triggers could be ANYTHING. And I do mean anything, to set him into such a violent state that he had to be physically restrained and cooled down with ice to stop trying to hurt himself or us. (I apologize if I go off-rail here a bit. It’s very very difficult to relive these memories, but it’s important. It’s so important.) The changes though–these I can now see a mile away. Before Sam would lose it, his eyes would become so dark it was frightening. His face would become incredibly serious, dark. A certain few words he’d use–this changes or grows sometimes–were red flags. If he called someone a “maniac,” he needed to be helped control himself. If he swears, he’s been triggered. Time to intervene. These days if he says, “don’t judge me,” (by the way, he’s EIGHT), he’s starting to lose control of his emotions. For me, that means he needs to be taken aside. Recently I plopped my ass down in the middle of Barnes & Noble and played Fish with him–which I carry in my purse. I know it settles him down to play a short game quietly. I think it helps him to know that someone understands he needs the world to stop for him for a few minutes. Then we were okay. Before the freakout gets out of hand, I see these signs and know it’s time to let him know I’m on his side, but he’s losing control. That it’s time to use our tools (a therapy term) to settle down and get control back. See the signs of change–long term or short term–and take them seriously enough to address them. I think that’s the key: take it seriously enough to address it.
  • SPEAKING OF TAKING IT SERIOUSLY… I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard that this one or that one, child or adult alike, are only “doing x thing for attention,” or “said they wanted to hurt themselves but it’s only to get a rise out of x person,” or “is getting moody but it’s (stop me if you heard this one) just for attention.” So, um, here’s the thing: IF IT’S JUST FOR FUCKING ATTENTION, THEN GIVE THE PERSON THE ATTENTION. If someone says anything that alarms you, or is meant to alarm you–they’re going to hurt themselves, they wish they were dead, etc… DON’T PLAY GOD. Just fucking ADDRESS IT. In our house, if someone says they’re thinking of hurting themselves, (and it’s been more than one of us), or that they’re so sad they don’t know what to do, or that they want to die, all it takes is for you to reach out. If you’re a parent, there are unlimited resources to help IMMEDIATELY. At the very easiest, teachers, guidance counselors, hell, even the ER. We have a 24 hour crisis center for families that need immediate psychiatric help, either just to talk to a professional or something more. I had to run to them once when Sam hit himself in the head with a toy and said, “I did that for you,” to me and his brother. That kind of guilt and self-image needed immediate attention, not my talking him down and boosting his self-esteem or telling him I’m not angry with him for whatever. We went straight to that crisis center, which was, ironically enough, closed for Memorial Day. So I went straight to the ER. And I got the help I needed. Here’s the thing–Sam didn’t really get HURT, and he may never have done it again, but I couldn’t comfortably leave a room without worrying. That kind of sideways mentality could only manifest more seriously if left unaddressed. At the ER he met a psychologist and a psychiatrist (who actually suggested he be committed to a facility for a few days), and we had all the tests we needed to have done just to make sure everything was OKAY. Going forward, I live by the idea that if a kid’s saying something alarming or doing something alarming “just for attention,” then give it to them! Don’t YOU make the call! It’s as simple as saying, “Okay, hop in the car, we’re just taking a little drive.” If a professional determines that it’s nothing to be worried about, then great. But what if it had been? Either way, the kid got the attention they needed. And YOU showed them that it MATTERS TO YOU. Now THAT is how to prevent suicide.
  • LIKE I JUST FUCKING SAID, SHOW THEM THAT THEY MATTER. I show Sam that it matters to me how he’s feeling by giving him the attention he needs when he needs it. I show him by listening when he’s having an episode and reacting when the time is right: I don’t fuel his aggression by getting angry. The Hulk can’t listen when he’s green. If he’s beyond my control, I recognize it and do something about it. If he’s beyond MY control, I realize how terrifying that must be to HIM. Time for the drive to the hospital or the crisis center. We may never have to get there! We’ve taken the drive and he’s been able to say, “I’m okay now. Let’s talk about it.” And he really, really does that. He’s learned that he can talk about it, that he MUST talk about it. There are consequences for losing control, even though it’s not always his fault. There was a long time where he’d wonder why we were angry with him because he doesn’t always remember what happens when “the angry beast” comes out. NOW he knows that he has to talk about it because no matter how unfair, there is accountability for this disorder to ensure that we stay on top of it, that we understand his feelings, or if there are new issues to handle. Either way, IT MATTERS that we talk about how he was feeling, what we could do differently as a team the next time, and that he feels understood, or at least listened to.
  • OH, ALSO, SHOW THEM THAT YOU MATTER. Sam also understands that his actions affect us. We need to talk about that too. When the time is right. TALK about it–not a yelling match, not an explosion. Talk about it, even when nothing has instigated it. “Thanks Sam, for letting me have some quiet time. I need that every day, you know?” Simple things like that which show him that emotional needs are important. For that matter, I take care of my mental health. I see a therapist, too. I ensure that I take care of myself by being creative, resting, going to the doctor, just doing things that make ME happy. Lead by example. And recognize if this person you’re concerned about isn’t. Ask them about it. “How are you doing, really? I notice you’re stress-eating like Little Debbie hurt you on the inside.” (maybe not that, but you know what I mean.) It may be uncomfortable to say, but SO FUCKING WHAT.
  • THERAPY. Sam has a team. A psychiatrist that prescribes his meds and checks in with him every couple of months. The school principal, nurse, teachers, counselors…they ALL know what I just told you. I update it as needed. I let them know what his new warning signs are, or what I’m noticing at home. And he sees a behavior therapist bi-weekly now–to be increased if necessary, though it has not been. What the wonderful thing is that with regular behavior therapy since he was four, Sam now controls his behavior, he lives the way he wants to live to make himself and everyone else happy. His behavior therapy has become emotional therapy now. He has FEELINGS he needs help understanding. When he loses control it may not come out in punches, it comes out in a swear that gets him in trouble at school. (Come to find out, he’d been targeted and set off because the kid knew if Sam got upset enough he would swear and it was funny. And then the Autistic kid in class would repeat the swear, which, yay, HILARIOUS). So now the school knows that when Sam swears it isn’t because he’s pushing limits–it’s because his limit has been pushed. It’s rare, and it’s not punishable. Period. On another note, therapy for his big brother is necessary too! Ben has severe anxiety–as do I. But talking about it is massively helpful. He has warning signs, too. Whenever he says, “I don’t know,” we know that he’s overwhelmed. Simple, I know. But if he’s confused, he’s terrified and anxious. In addition to that, we all need someone to talk to about living with someone who has life-altering disorders. We have a responsibility to do that, to ourselves and to him.
  • DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO. One of the things that makes Bennett anxious is a gathering around a table. Yeah, I’m talking about formal dinners. Thanksgiving, for instance. Last year it was just us, me and Tim, Ben and Sam. But the prospect of sitting at our big dinner table looking at each other and expecting something, I guess… it literally sent him to bed in tears for an hour. This is NOT a kid who overdramatizes. I’ve found him at a family Christmas party, sobbing in an empty room because he couldn’t handle the stress. WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS, JULIE? Because you know what? We got rid of the fucking dining room table and traded it in for a little pub table that we use every single day. It’s casual, it feels like US. Yeah, we might not be hosting dinner parties anytime soon, but FUCK ‘EM IF THEY CAN’T TAKE A JOKE. My kid needs this and we like it better this way. Also, if we can’t go to the giant Christmas party, well that’s just too bad. We might try. We might go and pop in for an hour and leave before half the people know we were there. We might go without Ben. We might not go at all. We might miss out on stuff, and that has to be okay. THE BIG EXPECTED THING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE BOWED DOWN TO LIKE A FALSE GOD. He doesn’t HAVE to be in the school play, he doesn’t HAVE to go to the Christmas party, he doesn’t HAVE to be made uncomfortable just to face his unknown fears WHERE HE IS CHALLENGED TO NOT ONLY FIGURE THE FEAR OUT BUT THEN DEAL WITH IT ALL IN THE NAME OF TRADITION OR DOING WHAT’S EXPECTED. Fuck that noise.
  • GET THE FUCK OVER YOURSELF AND IF MEDICATION IS NECESSARY, GET IT. I don’t like to take aspirin if I don’t have to. But I take meds for anxiety, a mood disorder, stuff to stabilize my hormones, panic pills as necessary… Because my quality of life SUCKED before them. When medication was suggested hesitantly when Sam had barely turned four, I didn’t waste a second in complying. His quality of life…well, it was unliveable. We woke up every day in tears, knowing what we all were waking up to. Sam took medication and for the first time in 4 years I was able to watch him sit down and color a picture without having to run in circles and fall down or threaten to stab us with a pencil. I AM NOT SAYING MEDICATION IS THE ANSWER. But it goddamn well is a component in the intricate puzzle we keep together with him. If Sam doesn’t have the therapy/parenting quality/school involvement/medication seamlessly upkept, it all falls to shit. They go hand in hand. I refuse to be the asshole that says “my kid isn’t taking drugs” just so nobody looks at me funny. He needs these things right now to help him be the happy, productive, creative, confident child he’s become. One who has never seen his academic career suffer despite all he deals with. He’s not even on an individualized plan. One time last year he was marked down on his report card for not participating in class–this is unusual for him. He’d also been acting out at home, irritating us on purpose with no benefit to himself, claiming everyone was angry at him all the time… We realized that we’d dealt with his manic cycles so often that this was actually indicative of a depressive cycle for him. Once we recognized it and talked it over with him, we were able to address it as a family. We’ve been through two or three of these now, and they get easier every time. (Again, went off the rails a little there, but too damn bad.) In any case, it did require a slight shift in his medication for a certain period of time.
  • ALSO, IN REGARDS TO MEDICATION… Sam knows what his medication does for him. He’s beginning to understand which one does what. He knows when he has to take it regularly and at what point he needs medication to help him in the moment. As he gets older I’m holding him more accountable for his part in when he has those in the moment needs. If he’s out of control and we’ve tried everything, yes, I give him the instant release medication–and I’m telling him I’ve done my part trying to help him control himself, and then gave him the meds, and now he has to do his part. He has to use his tools. Deep breathing, sitting quietly and reading a book, whatever he needs and wherever he needs it. Now I’m able to give him half of the instant release pill to calm him (clonidine), and say, “Now you do your part. We have to work for it.” Often taking the entire pill will put him to sleep–often he NEEDS that because he’s been running on a manic cycle and can’t stop. But sometimes it can be avoided by just saying, “let’s put the work in.” He knows what the meds do and that they aren’t the only answer. His 11 year old brother knows when and how to give him his meds. It’s like needing to eat healthy meals–nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide. (Unless you’ve seen Sam eat a meal; sometimes, I do want to hide.)

What I’m saying through all this stuff is that we pay attention to feelings in this house. We make them a priority. We suffer through stuff together. When we have to or when we just want to for the bigger picture. We feel comfortable to be ourselves and admit that we have problems, we have fears, we need help. We speak out about our feelings and needs. We refuse to be ashamed. We’re open that we have disorders, that we take medication, that there are some things we can’t handle alone or sometimes at all. I, myself, have called the suicide hotline when I thought there was an issue. There’s a text number I utilize often as well, where they just listen when I need to talk. For me, in the U.S. I text SUPPORT to 741-741. It’s a priceless resource. I recommend the line to other people, say we use it all the time. I won’t be afraid to admit that we aren’t perfect. We are not disorders, we HAVE them. We have challenges, but we’re HAPPY. Happy overall doesn’t mean there aren’t terrible disturbances inside–it just means that we know in the end, we’ll be okay.

I won’t be humble about it: I have created and ensured that this home has become a safe place to feel what we want to feel, talk about what we don’t want to feel, recognize what will keep each other protected and happy. A place where the problem is handled as soon as it happens. A place where we care about ourselves and each other, and if there’s a change in that, it’s all of our problems. We won’t ever FIX the things that weaken the four of us…but we’ll always acknowledge them and then walk right the fuck on by as we do what makes us happy.

THIS is what prevents suicide. THIS is what will ensure that my child who suffers a debilitating disorder knows that it is exactly that–a disorder. Not him. It requires maintenance like any other medical issue. It requires attention, and what he knows is that it’s attention that we all will give. THAT IS WHAT WE NEED TO DO, FOLKS. PAY ATTENTION WHEN ATTENTION IS NEEDED AND REACT.  It’s not enough to be aware of the threat–there are measures you can take every day to keep it in the side-vision. So that it won’t affect you. So that suicide doesn’t sneak up on you.

Live your life shamelessly and openly. And love people. Loving people openly and with investment can make the difference between doing the irreversible thing and not. Be the one to take the initiative and tell someone that they matter to you, that you notice there’s a change, that you think they need help and that you want to help them get it sooner rather than later. Be uncomfortable. The alternative is a lot worse.

Share what you know about suicide and how it affects you today. Challenge yourself to bring it up in one way to someone today. It may start a conversation that someone desperately needs. It may change a life to hear, “I’ve noticed…” It may save a life to hear, “I think you need some help. I want to help you.” It may save a life down the road if you start telling someone how YOU feel–it may help them open up when they never thought they could.

Have faith in yourself to help others have faith in themselves. Be the prevention.