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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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.