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.

 

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.

On Strength and Presence and Refusing to Wear Shame Like a Crappy Shirt

TODAY’S BREW: “Regifted Brew,” which is an actual thing I got at Big Lots.

(the biggest of lots, the greatest of lots, the lots that’s gots more than any other lots gots)

By Julie 

HI. I fall off the planet all the time, and like all bloggers and writers and people, it seems, I always apologize for it, like I have to SHOW UP TO LIFE or something. Even now I want to give a reason why I don’t blog on a regular schedule, or make excuses about why my social media presence has been spotty at best, or even why I’m not writing consistently.

But I don’t have to do that.

Nobody does.

You don’t owe someone your presence. Presence by its very nature requires that you ignore all the other things considered a constant presence. Like Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and blogging and emailing (non-urgent), and all that garbage that does indeed serve a purpose, but makes us servants to it. 

Presence is living your life, the thing that fulfills you so that those other “presences” are not a responsibility or time owed.

There’s a term, “shadow of a leader.” Means that the culture is that of the leader. Means when that the team (in this case, my readers and followers and friends, people I affect), feel the leader’s influence even when the leader is looking the other way. A sort of “what would Julie do” overall feeling.

Now, I am an egotistical bastard, but even I know the world doesn’t usually think “what would Julie do,” but I work at being an inspiration, a motivator, through my words, my books, my actions. So yeah, it matters to me that people look to me as a guide. That’s what a leader is–someone who cares how their people live. And you guys are my people. And I am a leader.

A good leader isn’t always on A game. Because people aren’t always on A game. (or else A game would just be “the game” and LIFE ISN’T A FUCKING GAME, PEOPLE.) A good leader reflects the team just as much as the team is influenced by the leader. They learn from each other. They take care of each other. A family. A human goddamn family. 

So in this last period of falling off the planet, it wasn’t because of anything, as much as I feel like I should explain myself. There was nothing wrong–in fact, everything is great. Christmas was the best one yet for our kids. Truly magical. I feel FANTASTIC. That surgery has made me whole by taking things out. My family is happy, my home is cozy, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. It’s not always about doing things. For someone who is always doing things, this is a little odd sometimes. Because I did stop doing things. I haven’t written, haven’t done much in the way of promotion, my book schedule is totally off…

And looking for the first time in too long at my book sales, I found that yeah, they obviously suffered, but you know what? Nobody died.

I stopped doing stuff and nobody died. The planet still turns. The birds keep chirping, the air keeps…airing. Then my buddy on Twitter did THIS.

shadow of a leader

I said at one point that I’m not failing–I’m learning what I can do. The state of the universe doesn’t rely on “launch day.” Life is a launch.

It’s fabulous to feel like all the doing of things eventually means like I don’t always have to be doing things. That the doing has led to done.

 

 

 

Oh, I’ll never be done with promo and writing and editing and writing more and the world of the indie author is stuffed to bursting with the things that can be done. But I can do it at my own pace, and eventually it will lead to the resting period where I’m enjoying the journey as much as I’m working to trespass it.

There’s a difference between being lazy and taking a break, I’ve always said. I’ve taken a much needed break. But instead of getting back to the grind until I’m falling over myself to take a break again, now I can do my business at a pace where I’m okay to work myself to the bone, let myself fall into the wonderfully taxing writing where I can’t think or breathe anything but that book, and then take a day or a week off to do all the other stuff. The world won’t end if I’m not doing all of it at once. On the contrary, the world of the Shinigami vampires has, in effect ended, because I was juggling too many balls to give the last book all of the obsessive, filthy-haired, pajama-wearing, crap-eating attention it craves. crave. A day where I just write. I haven’t had that in….I can’t remember the last time. Where there was no time limit or word count limit so I could move on to something else. I don’t want to give my world 50%. I can’t and expect it to be a world of limitless proportions.

I’m so frigging excited to CREATE Crawling Back now, and I haven’t been. I confess, I haven’t been. But this time of refusing direction has put me in the spot again where I’m begging to write a damn good book.

So for 2018, which I, like everyone on Earth, have longed for, my resolution is to be. Be present in whatever I’m doing, stop self-induced juggling. Take the long, steady road instead of building a mountain and trying to climb it at all costs, fighting to face a demon of my own creation on the other side.

My new year isn’t about changing. It’s about being, and being better at being.

And I want that for all of you, too. I want that to be the shadow I cast this year. Be the beast you can at being. Be good–not just okay–with not pushing. Be happy at succeeding, in all its stages–not just at being a success. Treat yourself like an adventurer, not a slave.

God, that’s really good, isn’t it. I write stuff, obviously.

OH, if you like that little motivational reminder, I put one like it on a coffee mug. A quote from my dark fantasy, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS. 

wear_a_crown_and_pearls_not_chains_and_fear_mug-r872c56d13d304e7082fef982f12db672_kfpv9_650

wear a crown and pearls, not chains and fear

Let this be your reminder in 2018 to be exactly who and what you want to be, even if–especially if–you’re that person already.

(if you’re so inclined, and do be, because reading is how you get better at every damn thing, here’s a link for THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS: The Wind Between Worlds by Julie Hutchings https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076PXGHQT/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_5qPsAbBW81N59  )

2018 is a year where we fight back. A year where being who we are matters. A year where change is made by staying constant. A year where we become who we are, and stand behind it.

Be brave.

Be constant.

Be who you are.