A String of Unrelated Wonderful Things to Make You Feel Good

TODAY’S BREW: Target Coconut, also the name of my new band

By Julie 

The following is a bunch of unrelated things that make me happy and will do the same for you, just to remind you I’m here. Writing books, being Julie. OKAY GO

  • I penned the editing note today, “Don’t be on the receiving end of your own bad attitude.” Take that.
  • I am not ashamed to have cried openly at the Stranger Things 3 trailer. MY OTHER CHILDREN ARE BACK. Stranger Things 3 is all my life needs
  • The YA novel series, Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon is the Twilight I needed without vampires but with actual dead people. Do it, folks. Don’t hold back.
  • I probably don’t need to tell you to see Captain Marvel (which I saw on #InternationalWomensDay and wished every woman I saw there a happy one), but this is the movie that women deserved. And for anyone who says it’s “in-your-face-feminist,” well, YEAH. I ask you to give ten bucks to a woman or girl to see it that might not otherwise. Imagine, ladies, if you’d had a Captain Marvel movie as a kid.
  • The Scholastic Book Fair is nigh! Setup is Friday night, and I have a collection of the most amazing women on the planet that help me do it every single time–three times a year–no matter what else they have happening in their very full lives. Their commitment to literacy, to each other, to me and these kids is what dreams are made of. Also, this tiny school with more children with English as a second language and more children with special needs than any other school, AND the lowest income community with less access to the books in my huge town had truly remarkable results in English language standardized testing last year. SUPER. HEROES.
  • This sled dog:Boo James Frye
  • I have an amazingly solid plan for The Harpy book I’ve been working on, and I’m about halfway through my first draft. And this book opens up a whole world into the Harpyverse that I intend to explore to its every bloody inch. So look forward to that. And buy The Harpy right now.

OKAY I HAVE TO GO. Tell me things about YOU and YOUR LIFE that are wonderful in the comments! Share your joy and be a badass.

 

 

The Language of Fear: a Women in Horror Guest Post with Harli V. Park

TODAY’S BREW: Mocha something from Target

(this part) by Julie 

A self-described squid, this talent-tentacled force somehow manages to cohesively put her work into the world through so many ways, I don’t even know how I can give her justice. Harli’s blog (click here) gives you plenty to dive into, but follow her on Instagram and where I found her, Twitter because she is a veritable whirlwind of art and subconscious brilliance come to life.

harli

The Language of Fear 

By 

Harli V. Park 

The entirety of fiction is based around the Known.

I’m sure its expected that as a horror writer, you think I meant the unknown and that’s just a type. Nope. The known and how we compartmentalize it is something that has and always will be staple in how we as writers create. The best part of being a writer is translating the known with our imaginations into this unique language that transcends perspective. Some of us accomplish this in the fantastical, some in the thrilling, and some in the language of love. Then there are writers like me; those who speak the language of fear, who transform the known into the unknown.

As horror writer, my dialect of fear is almost exclusively psychological often with tones of the sociological. My current manuscript reflects this in the psyche of a little girl – an avatar who has no autonomy and is forced to become something vile in order to obtain it. That premise alone probably resonated with dozens of internalized fears and sent very real chills up spines. That’s what I love. I who speak the language of fear don’t take what you don’t know and try to frighten you with it because the unknown is only a transcendental fear. While it is no less effective, it’s power lasts for only as long as it takes to understand it.  No, to me, the most horrifying scenarios that speak to us on a deeper and decidedly more tangible level are the monsters we know by heart.

I take an extreme amount of joy in being able to portray those monsters for those who may never once have seen them but recognize their shape, recognize their feel which allows them to understand the perspective of someone else who has seen the monster repeatedly. The monsters are ones we’re all haunted by but believe we’re the only ones who see them when, in reality, they just take on different shapes for different eyes.

So why do I choose monsters? Why do I choose horror? Why do I choose to translate the language of fear for human consumption when there is already enough “negativity” in the world at large? Well, why does anyone creative do anything?

Because I’m fluent in the language.

I am African American. I am female. I am nonbinary. I am pansexual. I live with a mental illness called schizoaffective disorder.

When presented with that profile, I believe many can pick out the reasons why the language of fear may as well be my native tongue. The world itself has never been a safe place for me and it became even more intensely dangerous for me as I grew up and discovered more of the person I am and more about the world around me – about people. It is not an overt fear of violence as, while valid, I’ve come to terms with the risk of it since I occupy this planet with other people. No, the greatest fear I’ve faced is invisibility.

The very idea that what I think, what I say, what I desire, and what I personally experience, not only doesn’t matter, but is actively invalidated by not just by those who are hateful, but by those who want to help. This invisibility is such a monster in my life in that it doesn’t allow for connection with my fellow humans and, thus, doesn’t allow for understanding. This fear doesn’t just encapsulate me, but everyone who feels unseen. It’s being told you’re overreacting, its being told you should consider others more than your own issues, its being told that you are paranoid, that you’re simply misunderstanding. This fear doesn’t just apply to me, but it encapsulates everyone who just for moment has their power taken away by the words “Well you’re just…” It’s not a desire to be special but to simply be considered. Invisibility is a fear known to all and its monster is ever shifting before the eyes of those it clutches, and in effort to be heard, we pretend the monster doesn’t exist. In effect, we slowly become invisible to ourselves.

So being so fluent in the language of fear – my everyday a plethora of subtle shadows in my peripheral – I seek to use it to tell stories that have meaning in a way that touch a much baser level than just allegorical retellings of the now and things that only one group of people can truly understand. I write horror and monsters because we all know them. We all know what they cause. How they shape us… and how they save us.

While being confronted with monsters – with something horrifying, we come to realize that we are not the only ones. That the monsters are real for someone else just like it is to you. In that moment, we who fear are no longer invisible. In my opinion, fear defines what we love and knowing that fear is shared and understood, allows for us to take the risk of sharing what is loved and conquering the monsters together. So I write horror. So, I write monsters. I speak the language of fear and I wait for someone to speak back, so that they know that someone sees them.

Why Being a Woman in Horror is a Triumph

TODAY’S BREW: Butter Rum from Target, one of my favorites. (If you have not had Target coffee, well let me just tell you.)

By Julie 

IT’S FEBRURARY, has been for 16 days, and once again I’m ashamed to do this:

“CRAP, IT’S WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH!”

Every year I want to do a GIANT THING for Women in Horror Month and every year I don’t get to it. And isn’t that just a metaphor for women in horror right there? We may be thought of as horror authors but the feat of being a woman in the horror genre isn’t celebrated widely, and at worst we might be considered kind of a pity pick in the Boys’ Club.

But the reason Women in Horror Month gets neglected by ME of all people every year is because of the same reason why women in horror all over the world are viewed as secondary in the genre:

Because we’re women first.

Women who are mothers with so many hats to wear that are all of equal importance that we need more heads to put them on.

We constantly hear about self-care because women forget all the time to take care of themselves, as busy as we are taking care of everyone else. *cue eyeroll by a bunch of men, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE* *and even if there is no eyeroll WE FEEL LIKE IT. We feel like we should be able to handle all of it and that we’re just bitching*

The AMAZING thing about women in horror to me is that we switch gears every second of the day. Every day I go from being kick some frigging ass mental health advocate for both my children, one with anxiety and the other with bipolar disorder and OCD, to doing the family’s laundry, taking care of all my lizards, taking care of my mom who’s alone now, doing the food shopping, the Other Stuff shopping, all three meals, picking the youngest up at school every day, running to therapists’ appointments 4 times a week sometimes, doing homework with two kids who have disorders, running the book fair, teacher conferences, going to the park, spending family time (which I feel the need to make A MAJOR EVENT every day), handling the oddly frequent flat tires and other car issues which had me driving my husband to and from work every day for weeks, running the school store, editing for clients…. The list is neverending and gets switched up all damn day.

Then I sit down after being Mom of the Year and LET’S WRITE ABOUT VISCERA AND THE MOST VILE OF HUMANITY AND MONSTERS AND EVIL.

How does a person just get into that headspace after a day like this? Or more often, DURING the day. I’m usually answering math questions (not my forte), and watching over some thing I’m burning in the oven as I write.

Then let’s talk about promoting my work and the utter failure that is because I just plain don’t have time.

EVERY WOMAN IN HORROR HAS A VARIATION OF THIS. EVERY WOMAN HAS A VARIATION OF THIS.

I shame myself a bit right now, because in my head I’m saying, Well, men have things to do too, and Switching gears and being the world’s greatest caretaker then turning around to be the most gruesome and disturbing imagination the horror community has ever seen is like, not that big of a deal. And I think to myself how I’ve never been treated as a girl in the Boys’ Club, and how being a woman in horror is no different than being a man in horror. I tend to undercut that I have difficulties to overcome because of my gender in this profession. But it’s not true. I do have difficulties that I don’t recognize, that I brush over, that I don’t hear about. And as a strong woman, I’m the one who could have a leg sawed off and say, “I was looking for a way to lose weight and THERE IT IS.”

Put-a-Smile-on-Your-Face-While-You-Nurture-the-World-and-Handle-More-Emotional-Burden-Than-Anyone-Ever-Should-and-Be-Pretty-While-You-Do-It-But-We’ll-Still-Call-You-Fragile-Because-Your-Muscles-Aren’t-Visibly-Monstrous is a mantle women have had to hold for, well, ever. To be groomed into this be pretty and shut up vision that we have seems to by nature work against writing horror. Blood, guts, perversion, disturbing and provocative terror that undercuts the most base moral ground doesn’t really coincide with this:

fifties housewife

To think that this woman might ever have say, cannibalism and zombies on the brain seems implausible. But hell, we came from somewhere, didn’t we?

These days you’ll find me just as often helping a PTA bake sale (and still feeling guilty I don’t do more for them) as I am reading something blood-curdling. The interesting thing about it is that–get ready for it–

WOMEN ARE MORE THAN ONE THING.

We’re capable of being powerful and the best at everything we want to do, especially the things society doesn’t think we can do. I think every woman has a rebel streak somewhere that wants to just goddamn show everyone that she’s a war goddess as she shops at Market Basket. It’s that struggle young mothers have where they lose themselves in being just Mommy. It’s the struggle of the woman who wants to be the perfect wife but has a dark side that shames her. It’s the struggle of the woman who doesn’t think the same way as the other parents at the playground. It’s the struggle of the woman who’ll be the trophy wife regardless of her capabilities. We’re fighters, every one of us. The women who write horror take that struggle and smash it onto paper and smile with a mouthful of teeth at any man who dares to question it.

Write what scares you. Be the monster you want to see. Read horror written by women.

The Harpy, by Julie Hutchings

Article 94

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…

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In Which I Make an Exciting Declaration

TODAY’S BREW: Gingerbread because winter is at the tail end it feels but then snow happened and where even am I.

By Julie 

This post is random HARPY happiness because of the books I’ve put into the world, this one brings me nothing but constant joy and positivity and has been received so well that I can’t stop talking in run-on sentences.

The latest happiness is THIS ONE: The Midnight Society’s Great Horror Book Alert

The reviewer, Kathy Palm, will fill your book world and Twitter feed with joy as she does mine.

The mythology of the harpies spans Greek and Roman mythology through the Middle Ages, into present-day anime, and I had to get my hands dirty with it, too. Honestly, one of the best Wikipedia entries ever is on harpies. The thing spans their entire histories, it’s awesome. Go read it and you’ll see my headspace. Harpy Wikipedia

DISJOINTED RANDOM HARPY INSPIRATION, GO!

Yup. That's the new love interest.

Look, it’s Evan Hale!

The Harpy takes a little life into her heart, and buys a pink canary.

Keegan! The canary and birdcage theme…it ran away with me and I loved writing it.

Kesha- Animal+ Cannibal. I LOVE THIS COVER. 2 sides of her, neither one more "good" than the other. THIS is the Harpy to the core.

This Kesha album cover hit home with how I feel about Charity–both sides of her are vicious, and both beautiful. 

In This Moment: Adrenalize. The perfect Charity Blake song.

this artwork feels EXACTLY like the Harpyverse to me. The clear pain, neverending discomfort, the caged bird, the darkness in those eyes and what they’ve seen, and yet a beauty under it all of her experience and uniqueness.

Red Autumn Wonderland 8x10 Photograph by Boshena on Etsy

this image that inspired part of THE HARPY cover art. 

deviantart blood zodiac harpy

by Vasylina, on Deviantart

This amazing artwork you can find on my HARPY Pinterest board worked in my brain with a Harpy battle scene that I won’t spoil but you might figure out if you read the book. The Harpies here don’t look like the ones in that scene, but the beasts in my Harpyverse don’t all look the same, are as varied as their pasts. AND LO AND BEHOLD, THERE YOU HAVE IT.

THERE WILL BE MORE HARPY BOOKS.

A WHOLE GODDAMN HARPYVERSE.

SAY IT WITH ME: HARPYVERSE. HARP.EEE.VUUUURRSSS. 

Got some stuff written already. Some stuff you might see SOON. So keep watching this spot and maybe you’ll get it. In the meantime, grab your copy of THE HARPY and make it your world now.

 

harpy cover

Charity Blake survived a nightmare. Now she is one. 

CLICK HERE to get THE HARPY on Amazon

 

 

 

 

On Being Unavailable

TODAY’S BREW: As much as I can before the cream runs out

By Julie 

My last blog was about resolutions and crap, and this one is also like that but different.

The last blog proclaimed how my focus is all over the place at the beginning of the year. Possibilities everywhere, chasing down opportunities like the rabid dogs they are and wrestling them to the ground until you too are rabid and like an apocalypse zombie all you can think of is this thing you’ve forced yourself to do and now you’re in it so deep there’s no way out but there’s all this other stuff to do too and wait where did life go?

I’ve spent the last 18 days thinking a LOT about this approach I seem to take every year, and I realized it’s not an approach–it’s a FEAR.

Yup. Doing stuff out of fear.

Fear of being judged for not doing enough.

Fear of MISSING SOMETHING like a kid who won’t go to bed before midnight.

Fear of regrets.

That’s not an approach at all. That’s a defense mechanism. An approach is a plan. It’s a defining of priorities. And that means narrowing down all the things one does. That I do.

This is widely interpreted as “saying no.” I can’t be the only one who hears all the time that it’s okay to say no, to not do EVERYTHING. But it’s one of my core values, one of our very few house rules TO HELP PEOPLE THAT NEED HELP. I can help in a lot of ways. I can do a lot of good! I can make a big difference doing small things all day long! It’s easy to take helping too far, clearly. So I coined a new phrase, because saying NO has such a negative connotation in my head, and I’ve worked my tail off eliminating as much negativity in my life as possible. My new plan?

MAKE MYSELF UNAVAILABLE 

man with fireworks

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

YEAH!

I need, for my mental health and self care and for me to REALLY help when help is needed, to not make myself constantly available. By trying everything, doing as much as I can, working hard at working hard, I’ve not prioritized myself. How do I know this? Not just FEEL this, but KNOW it? Two things:

  1. “Self care” is NOT running from an overwhelming sense of purpose down the craft store aisles. Self care should not be running from anything. That’s the opposite of care, that is escaping. I don’t want to escape the things I commit to doing, whether that be a play date, writing a book, whatever it is that’s got me needing QUIET at the time that I find myself driving to Michael’s. (Where lo and behold I THEN find myself buying stuff that contributes to all the THINGS that I do.)
  2. I–me, who loves and does so many things, that has such INTEREST in the world–could not REALLY claim that I enjoyed a hobby.

That second one was where it hit me.

My definition of a hobby (n): guiltless enjoyment of thing for oneself only. an ongoing love one is invested in for themselves and themselves alone.

I love to read, naturally. Not a hobby. Essential to my life and to my profession.

I love going to Target. Not a hobby. A necessity for STUFF, but also a coping mechanism, i.e. an escape (see above about the craft store).

I love watching movies. Not a hobby. Rarely see one just because I want to see it regardless of whether or not anyone else does. Also necessary for my professional inspiration and one of my favorite family activities–movie night. Which I prepare for…for the family.

Here’s a kick in the pants: I love being with my family. Nine out of ten times, my choice is to hang with my husband and kids.

FAMILY IS NOT A HOBBY.

So in realizing all this stuff, the other day I didn’t fill my two hour window of no obligations with writing, cleaning, editing, doing all the things I can be doing. I bought a movie I’d wanted to see–mother! which turned out to be wildly in-depth and brain-stimulating. I watched it alone without fear of being interrupted and with no judgment. No obligation to do nothing during the duller parts either. When it was slow I researched reptile stuff. Now THAT’S a hobby! I told myself. I love love love reptiles, adore my pets, love making their lives better and keeping them happy. They aren’t necessary in my life, obviously, but I would be miserable without them. And they aren’t for anyone else but me. Researching stuff on them and not guilting myself about needing to do something else felt really good. Fulfilling. Not the same as falling into a Wiki hole. It was good for me.

I’d misunderstood leading a fulfilling and full life with making myself a priority. Or maybe I’ve reached a new phase of living. Because I coined another phrase that I’m especially psyched out of my mind about:

MENTAL HEALTH IS NO LONGER ABOUT STAYING ALIVE.

IT’S ABOUT BREATHING LIFE.

albert_einstein_quotes2

I think I’m in the phase of not just trying to keep myself stable and healthy but wanting to grow that health and enrich and indulge. Hell, try something new if I feel like it–hopefully I’ll feel alive enough to want to try new things, learn something new.

Now I talk a little about priorities.

I have this planner pad that has a section for “today’s priorities.” Now I take offense to it.

A priority isn’t something that changes by the day. It’s a constant value, something important all the time, that drives the To Do and the Why. Important stuff to do every day can change, that’s a thing that has to be altered all the time. But the priority, the driving force? No.

The other night my 11 year old had a three hour long panic attack. A real live panic attack. Everything else in the world stopped, and I spent yesterday contacting everyone in the mental health profession I could find to ensure I got him an appointment to see about medication. (Discussed in-depth with his therapist, of course.) All the other things that I HAD to do got put down without question. Because those other things might be important, but Bennett is the priority.

The priority gets top billing. The priority gets as much time as it requires. The priority is the driving force and sometimes it needs be in the passenger seat and let someone else drive.

Things to do are not as important as the priority. Nothing else matters without that priority.

It wasn’t just about changing a schedule, it was eliminating things that will prevent me from giving all the attention to his needs AND give me sufficient time and energy to take care of MYSELF from the agenda. Refusing an editing job takes a lot off my to-do list and gives me more time to allot to the priority. Why spend a lot of time on stuff if it detracts from the priority, the reason? The things I do have to be driven BY that thing. I write because of me, because of my family, because it being a hobby wasn’t enough. I spend all the time with Scholastic that I do because it contributes to my heart and mind and it puts me where the priorities are in a meaningful, outstanding way for them. Those are cohesive priorities–writing and my family and literacy.

The important stuff–editing in this case–is still important, but it’s not crucial right now.

Being unavailable to do things for a person because I want to rest up–not need to, but want to–so that I’m not drained and can take care of my family… helping is important, but it’s not the priority. It’s a value but it’s not the number one thing. Bennett is. If staying home for the four hours I’d spend helping out someone else will help me plan for and be on A game for Bennett in his time of need, recovering from and handling his anxiety flare-up, then it’s a four hour rest that was well worth it.

And at the end of the day, I might just have a little energy for myself.

You can’t take care of everyone. But you can take care of the ones that matter really well, with the ability to give extra for everyone else, by prioritizing. Being unavailable for EVERYTHING so you can do SOME THINGS really well and remind yourself what’s important. What’s MOST important.

I guess that’s what it means when they say you can’t take care of anyone else if you’re not taking care of yourself, right?

So now. Go take care of yourself. Keep one tab open at a time. Shut off your notifications when you’re driving and at bedtime. Those EMERGENCIES we all lay in wait for in the middle of the night or on the drive home are rare. Give yourself the peace of mind to be unavailable to come to everyone’s aid all the time. Be a priority and you’ll feel like one.

 

 

Working Hard at Working Hard and Looking for Opportunity

TODAY’S BREW: Gingerbread, because I’m still holding on.

By Julie 

BEST OF NEW YEARS TO YOU ALL!

I don’t know about you guys, but a new year for me doesn’t start out with I’M GOING TO CHANGE EVERYTHING I DON’T LIKE AND DO BETTER AT ALL THE THINGS I DO LIKE AND ALL OF THIS I WILL DO FROM A TREADMILL AND ALSO GIVE UP SUGAR.

New years start for me more like

Christmas decorations have invaded and conquered

I’d really like a new couch. Again. As I do yearly.

I have six books I want to write

I don’t want to write

the gym would be awesome

*does six situps, watches tv*

*cleans the kitchen, living room gets messier while no one is in there*

*struggles with wanting to change into a new planner despite this planner going for another seven months*

*chalks up laziness to “enjoying this time”*

*watches movies, eats crap*

*goes to bed*

I do THIS every year now, too: I run myself ragged (this year more so than usual) the month before Christmas until the week of Christmas break I cannot think of anything but relaxing with my family–which is perfect. I wouldn’t change THAT for the world.

Then January first comes along.

Leftover Chinese food calls to me.

The kids have a half week of school in which I readjust to normalcy as best I can, but by Sunday I feel as though I’ve wasted my life.

My focus goes from family to CLEAN THIS GODDAMN HOUSE to shit, I haven’t touched my newsletter in months. 

*start PR from scratch*

In any case, what I want to say here is that this is a pattern for me. And like any pattern, it creates some discord where I want to break out of it, but year after year I fall into it.

For me, the new year isn’t a renewal of self, it’s a building from the ground up after running myself ragged. That whole “self care” thing is generally me working so hard at working hard that I suddenly just need to rest.

And there it is, folks.

I work hard at working hard. 

*suddenly blog post becomes something else*

I’m a hard worker. I throw myself into everything I do with such force and determination that it burns me out. But working from home, 5:00 never comes. There’s not a point in the day that I’ve worked as much as I can and it’s time to go home, chill and get back up the next day. There’s also no steady paycheck, and because of that every moment that I’m not actively doing things is a loss of money in my mind. Plight of the middle class, I guess. That line of thinking has consequences. I pick up odd jobs like a freak. (Currently working three part time jobs from home). It’s impossible to do three jobs 100%. I am not 300% of a person. So even while working hard at all three, I’m still losing money if I look at it too deeply.

NEVER LOOK TOO DEEPLY.

Then I go back to the reasons I work from home. And there are many:

  • my physical condition was such a nightmare that I almost DIED from overworking myself at my out-of-home job.
  • my mental condition was worse than my physical condition.
  • being away from my kids as long as I was and coming home too tired to be the best mother I could was destroying me. Like, puking in the bathroom at work after sobbing all the way there kind of destruction.
  • I want to think my body and mind don’t need a lot of attention, but they do. They just really, really do.
  • now that I AM home with my kids, I’ve been able to throw myself completely into their care–and if I hadn’t been here, I would never have seen the extent of Sam’s disorders, and his mental condition would be partially dependent upon my work schedule.
  • I’m home to do homework. And to volunteer at school, and run the book fairs, and be present for activities. Every day can be movie night, game night, whatever night we want. We’re together and we can talk. Once again, that means I see Sam’s mental health, I see Ben’s anxiety levels. I can do something about them.
  • Wait, wait, listen to this: I can actually take care of my home.
  • I’m living my dream: I’m an author. End of story.

And it comes down to this every time, right? Every time I wonder why I work hard at working hard it comes down to listing the reasons why I belong at home. From my own mental health (because quite frankly, I still have nightmares about working outside the home) to being able to run the little Christmas store at school to living my dream of being an author, the thing I went to school for, the thing that’s always been my end goal.. I have to list it to justify why I don’t make 50 grand a year anymore.

I AM NOT A DOLLAR SIGN.

I AM NOT A DOLLAR SIGN.

I AM NOT A DOLLAR SIGN.

I can say it all I want, but it never stops plaguing me. Knowing that I can do MORE, even if it kills me–until it kills me–it’s always there, under the surface.

In the meantime, I can’t devote all my time to writing and marketing or freelance editing, because I’m spreading myself too thin to prove that I have value.

I AM INHERENTLY VALUABLE.

I suffer no lack of self-confidence. I know I’m a lot of things to a lot of people, and I’m a lot of things to myself. But the part of me that dives right into everything and learns along the way is really prominent. It’s something I’ve always been proud of. It’s something I try to instill in my children, that there is no better way to learn than by doing, and learning is the crux of living.

Despite telling them that they learn by doing, they still do not make me coffee.

Maybe this year what I should learn by doing is to say no to taking every single opportunity afforded me.

That sounds NUTS.

But one thing I’ve learned in life is that opportunity comes to me because I’m always looking for it. Thus, lots of opportunities come up in my world because I’m very open. I talk to everyone. Prime example: Went to the Minute Clinic yesterday because it sounds like there’s an ocean in my ear. (I’m fine.) A couple of women who did not look like they got out of a Rolls Royce were also there. They talked to me–and I talked back.

Come to find out, one of those women just returned from a two month stint in Africa working in an orphanage. The other one has some mental health issues and has two older kids who have Bipolar Disorder just like my Sam does.

These are things that take a toll on people. While some others made sure to look the other way when their eyes met because these ladies were kind of a mess, I didn’t, and I met two people that are entirely devoted to others, at their own expense. I learned a couple of things then.

  1. Judging a book by its cover never goes away. I’ll  never do that–unless it’s an actual book because come on. Cover art is everything.
  2. Caring takes a toll.
  3. Value isn’t in what others see.
  4. Lulumon lady with the super nice purse probably didn’t play board games with needy kids in Africa this week.
  5. Maybe Lulumon lady did…but she never met my eyes and we never spoke.
  6. That woman who went to Africa chose to come home, no matter how much it hurt her to do so, even though she could help forever. That there was so much more to be done. I don’t know how to stop doing. 

There’s no measure for doing good in the world. While I can say that this editing job made me x amount of money, I cannot give the measure of what it means to know what every meal my children eat is, what the value of that is. The editing job gets finished and I can see what my work did, in real time. The momming job never ends, and I’ll never know when I’ve done enough. I’ll never know on paper how much worth I had at working hard. Even in writing, I can type THE END and measure how much the expenses of publishing and the ongoing income of the end result comes to. At the end of the Scholastic Book Fair I can say exactly how much money we’ve made the school and how many books went home with kids and into classrooms. But when it comes to just plain doing good? Being the best person I can be? I never know when to stop. I never know when I’ve done enough. I never know how to slow down.

I said my first NO to a book signing opportunity for the week after Christmas.

I’m still thinking about how much cash that would have made me. And I also know how much more health it would have cost me.

Opportunities and DOING aren’t any good if you can’t enjoy them.

Enjoying the good you do matters.

A good deed is still good if you have something to gain from it.

I don’t know if there was anything to be learned here for you. I like the idea that there is. I know that just writing this has helped me along the path to just being able to say I’m going to stop doing this now. It may not be done, but I am. 

Also, I am done right now.

BYE GUYS. Be you this year.

 

 

 

 

 

You, Me, and Barrel House Z

TODAY’S BREW: coconut laced with…cream. Yeah, cream.

By Julie 

HARPY HOLIDAYS, FOLKS!

(See what I did there? I won’t ever let it go #buymybook.)

This Christmas/I’ll give you my harp/ee

The very next day/You’ll read it away…

Okay, seriously though, I’ll be at the Holiday Market Place at Barrel House Z in Weymouth, MA THIS VERY SUNDAY, THE 16TH from 2 to 8. And they’ve got some awesome local vendors lined up, like Townie Frozen Desserts and The Pretentious Pickle Company (Whiskey pickles. Beer pickles. Come on). And Barrel House Z is a class act in itself.

But I WILL BE THERE with a Christmas tree covered in Harpy chocolate ornaments and a bunch of gift bundles of books and I will talk at you all day if you want. Come along and get your Christmas shopping done, but more importantly,

SHARE A BEER WITH ME, JULIE HUTCHINGS, PRETTY SCARY AUTHOR.

 

 

 

When So Much Good Happens You Feel Pukey From Smiling and Happy-Crying: The Holly Jolly Hedge Fund

TODAY’S BREW: Dunkins dregs

By Julie 

It’s occurred to me that blogging falls to the wayside A LOT, and that my blogs lately are about doing things for literacy and kids. Well, today that’s what I’m writing about, so suck it up.

A truly amazing thing has happened.

You all know how I run Scholastic Book Fairs as if it’s my life-long dream. It became about more than being a part of my boys’ education, became more than being about having book fair fun… I know these kids now. I wanted to do something for them that was more than books this time.

Then my friend-since-forever Jill said, “You should do something that Wayne would be proud of.”

Jerk. She said that, can you believe it? She said the thing that slapped me right in the gut-heart combo.

Wayne is my stepdad who passed away just a few weeks back. He was one of the most generous of heart people I’ve ever known, and he loved Hedge. This was the first year he wasn’t able to make the Veteran’s Day celebration there, where he gets to sit up in front of all the kids and be honored for his service, and he loved that. So this just worked out.

Ben and Grandpa 2017 veteran memorial

Grandpa Wayne and Ben, Veteran’s Day at Hedge Elementary

The oldest school in Plymouth, Hedge Elementary is the also the smallest school in Plymouth (and there are a lot of schools here). The charming old community of North Plymouth is tiny, and all the students are within walking distance of Hedge–we don’t even have a bus! And it’s the lowest income part of town, too. Its students have plenty of challenges, and the holidays can be one of them. We’re talking about a school where the amazing nurse set up a program where many kids go home every single weekend with a backpack full of food. A school where the PTA head and mother of 5 Hedge students over the years makes an enormous Thanksgiving feast every year and serves it so that she knows every one of those children will have a Thanksgiving dinner.

I did this thing: Holly Jolly Hedge Fund

My mission is to fill these ridiculously cute and incredibly useful little Thirty-One totes:

31 icon littles.png

with Something you want, something you need, something to snuggle and something to read.

Yep. ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE OF THEM. No pressure. Nope. *dies a little on the outside and a lot on the inside,* but that fear wasn’t going to get it done.

All I could do was START.

I put together a massive THING with Thirty-One because I need the bags, right?

But then I gotta FILL those suckers. For something they want, I found these awesome little gingerbread men from Oriental Trading Company that it will take them a little time to make, and they won’t get thrown away in two days. Found their somethings to snuggle there too. For something to read, I SHOULD have enough Scholastic Dollars to get books for all the kids free. (Scholastic Dollars is credit earned as a percentage of book sales.) For the something they need, I found the least expensive gloves I could–because I still had no idea how to pay for them aside from my side commission–and they’d still be more than a lot of these kids would have for winter. But then my sister piped up and said she’d make hats.

And hats she made. I think she’s on like number 25.

Then my wonderful aunt heard about it and she mailed me 11 more.

My wildly talented writer friend from Twitter, Eva Gibson, mailed my sister some yarn. And a buddy from my hometown is bringing my sister yarn today. And people are offering up their yarn and their time to make these kids hats with love instead of some crappy stuff from Walmart. People from all over started rallying around it and I’d barely said a word.

Then the Go Fund Me suggestion happened, and I just did it. Even though asking for help even for something not for me is hard, I did it. But I wouldn’t post it to Facebook because it affected so many of my friends there. Lucky for me, the Twitter community and the friends I’ve made there are incredible people. Once the Go Fund Me caught a couple of retweets, in less than an hour it raised over $1000. I had only asked for $600 as a high estimate, because again, asking for money is like UGH. In minutes, 50 people or something had shared it, directly asking people I didn’t know to do the same. I tried to thank every single one but 150 degrees of Kevin Bacon later, I lost everyone. There were donations of everything from five bucks to five hundred. The guy who made Lore?! AARON MAHNKE? Yeah, him. And a woman I’ve never seen or spoken to gave more than I could have believed anyone would. People I know have nothing extra, and people I don’t know at all. Then someone on Twitter I know not at all shows up and she’s from Plymouth too, and SHE donated…it’s just been so wonderful to see.

There are good people out there, folks. You’ve got to be one of them to surround yourself with them.

Now I can give the kids even better stuff, and instead of looking at cheap crayons, I’m looking at Crayola 24 packs. Instead of the cheaper but still adorable stuffed animals, I’m looking at plush teddy bears.

It went from seeming impossible to OH MY CHRIST, WE HAVE TO PUSH THIS SO MUCH HARDER NOW BECAUSE LOOK AT HOW CLOSE WE ARE!

And I raised that Go Fund Me goal. Because we can make this AMAZING.

And the thing that just about everybody thought couldn’t be done, IS BEING DONE. AGAIN.

If you want to help out, here’s how:

  • SHARE THE GO FUND ME OR DONATE. Every dollar helps, every share helps, which sounds cliché, but in a half hour we went from not being able to do this to OH MY GOD IT CAN BE DONE. Holly Jolly Hedge Fund.
  • LOOK INTO DONATING A THIRTY-ONE LITTLES TOTE. Get your Christmas shopping done (or get something awesome for yourself because IT’S CHRISTMAS) and donate to the fund at the same time. Message or email me: juleshutch at outlook dot com. (and you might even win a thing).
  • MAKE A HAT OR FIFTY. We still need hats! Nothing fancy necessary!
  • GOT A BUSINESS OR A BOOK YOU WANT PUSHED A LITTLE? Help me out with this and we’ll put flyers, coupons, greeting cards from your business (I will personally fill them out from you, for them) into the bags, on the blog, all over FB and get you as many likes as I can… Hell, I’ll write you into my next book. YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME.

Do something for someone who needs it. This campaign is just big enough to be more than I can do alone, but small enough that every single helping hand makes it achievable TODAY. And thank you, all of you who’ve given of yourselves so far where you can, in any way you can.

thanksgiving-quotes-05

 

 

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.