YA novel research

I’m back to working on my YA novel this year, taking it through our writing group chapter at a time. We’ve done the first three of fifteen and I’m submitting tracked changes this time around. The research I do for this story is sometimes silly, sometimes disturbing, but always interesting. Here are some highlights.

Google searches like:

brown recluse eyes
brown recluse eyes close up
dyad
human extra eyes
human six eyes
do spiders have hair or fur? (hair)

I also looked up pictures of woad and information about Celts. (Curious about Celts? This was a nice read.)

Reading Series

Karen Hayes was an incredible poet who worked with children, adults, veterans, and dementia patients to share her love of poetry and its transformative power. She celebrated and was celebrated in every aspect of her life. She was loved unanimously. She carried an inextinguishable spark. If you would like to learn more about the life and times of Karen Hayes, check out here, here, here, here, and here.

Karen ran a monthly reading series with open mike and featured readers at a local Little Rock coffee shop called Guillermo’s. For years she kept it alive and going strong, always discovering new talent and spreading the good word. I kept meaning to go but other stuff would get in the way, I’d forget, I’d put it off. I’m no poet, I’d tell Karen. But Karen knew that even prose writers could have that poet soul. I finally hiked up my big girl panties and got to it. I went to one. It was so awesome, the energy was palpable and everyone there was there for the love of the craft. I decided my first night I’d be a regular from then on. And then my first was her last. When Karen died suddenly, no one knew what to do, what to say, or how to process. Instead of the next reading we held a poets wake. And then there was this question: what would happen? Who would lead? Who would keep Karen’s dream alive? I stepped up.

There was no one else, I only lived five minutes away, and it all felt like a sign. Working at the library, being a grad from UCA, being a local writer and a participant in Nanowrimo, I was in a unique position to invite friends and acquaintances from so many different circles to come together. I expanded the umbrella to include poetry and prose and I ran the series, posthumously named for Karen, for one year. Then Covid happened. We were once again in a situation where no one knew what to do or what would happen next. I couldn’t keep an in-person program running, and I didn’t yet know all all the ins and outs of Zoom. I set it aside, hoping Covid would run its course and we could get back together when Covid was over. Well. That clearly isn’t going to happen, and I think we’ve waited long enough. I know some people are understandably burnt out on Zoom, but I’ve come around to the way of thinking that something is better than nothing.

I return to you, now under the auspices of the CALS Writing Circle, the virtual Karen Hayes Poetry and Prose Monthly Reading Series. To kick it off right, the first event will be a two-night extravaganza, and attendance will determine which night we schedule going forward. Mark your calendars, friends, for the last Tuesday and Thursday in April. 4/26/22 and 4/28/22. 6:30pm-8:00pm both nights, online only, Zoom link to follow closer to time. Bust out and dust off anything you’ve been wanting to read. We’re back.

Jobe

In case you need to name a bookstore

All of my fantastic suggestions were shot down.

Shelf Care
Bragging Writes
Word’s Eye View
Vital Spines
Rise and Spine
Bookmark My Words
Tied in Plots
Connect the Plots
Melting Plot
Lost in Plot
Penny for Your Plots
A New Trope
Trope Springs Eternal
Lost and Bound
Willing and Fable
Stay True to Your Shelf

Jobe. Scouring the internet so that you don’t have to.

Thank you Little Rock for continuing to support library millages

Q1. Why is the library important to you, personally?

I grew up in libraries at school and in the community wherever we lived. We moved around a lot but I always knew I would feel at home in a library. Being surrounded by books as a child and knowing I had the freedom to learn anything and experience any adventure was empowering and exciting. My parents read to my siblings and I and imparted a voracious love of reading and learning. I have been a lifelong reader and an aspiring writer for most of my life. I had always hoped I would end up working at a library or bookstore, surrounded by books and knowledge and people who valued them. I treasure the fact that this dream came true.

Q2. What is your favorite reason to use the library?

I love that we serve the community and are able to make services available for free or at very low cost to people who might not otherwise have access to them. I love that we are able to stay current with technology and reading trends. I love that we offer a multitude of avenues for obtaining knowledge, whether checking out audiobooks, paper books, e-books, accessing information on one of our many databases or websites. I love that we offer programming for children, teens, and adults, and offer a safe, positive environment for all these ages. I love that we maintain a peaceful, welcoming environment for gatherings and study and solitude, that all ages can discover and learn in so many different ways. I love that we make technology and meeting space available to the community and facilitate gatherings for such a variety of interests and concerns. I love that our book collections are just the tip of the iceberg of what we have to offer. I’m constantly impressed at the ways we are always expanding our offerings from cooking classes to the tools library and the toys library to our art gallery, used book store, theater, maker space, genealogy studies, and more.

Q3. Who does the Library serve?

The library serves everyone in the community. The library is for the young and the old, the rich and the poor, people of all colors, all religions, all abilities, all orientations and genders. The library may be one of the last places in America where you don’t have to buy anything to have “permission” to take up space. The library is for the homeless, the elderly, parents, kids, teens, introverts and extroverts, groups and loners, public and private and home-school students, the traditionally employed, unemployed, and the self-employed. The library is for everyone.

Q4.  Why is the library important to those people? What will new funding do to help them?

The library offers access to reading and listening and watching materials, education and entertainment, current news and data, access to databases and apps and streaming. The library has the ability to aid people in internet use, printing and copying, gathering for study groups and meetings. The library has the availability to be of use throughout the week and on the weekends. The library offers programming in a hugely diverse range of topics from book clubs and specialty interest groups to mindfulness and meditation to fandom clubs and video gaming to puppet shows and sing-alongs to art groups, creativity groups, and writing groups. The library even transitioned seamlessly between virtual and in-person programming as dictated by COVID safety concerns. Continuing to fund the library will continue to ensure that we are able to provide in these myriad ways, while new funding will enable us to serve even more robustly than we already do.

Q5. Who is going to be uncomfortable if you ask for new funding?

I would hope that no one is uncomfortable being asked to continue to fund libraries as we are so obviously benefitting the community in such a huge way and in such diverse ways.

Q6. What community groups do you belong to?

I’m a gamer, a reader, a writer, an artist. I’m interested in music and food and cultures around the world. I’m interested in languages. I’m an LGBTQIA+ and Black Lives Matter activist. I’m a UCA alumni. I’m neurodivergent and the parent of a neurodivergent kiddo. I’m a coffee enthusiast. I love buying local and supporting Black-owned businesses. I’m an amateur Arkansas history buff. I love stickers and planners and office supplies and art supplies and arts and crafts. I love teaching classes and leading group discussions. I wear glasses. I take medication. I try to exercise and eat healthy. I love rainbows and unicorns. I love junk food and sweets. I’m interested in satanism, wicca, Buddhism, yoga, tarot, numerology, astrology. I play Dungeons and Dragons and Vampire Larp and more board games than I can count. I love science fiction. I love animals, I have two dogs and three cats. I love swimming. I watch cartoons. I’m pansexual polyamorous cisgender and my pronouns are she/her.

Q7. Where do you live and where do you spend your time?

I live in west Little Rock and I spend my time all over. I love going out to eat at restaurants all over Little Rock. I love spending time downtown. I have lived in the Central High Neighborhood Historic District. I spend time in SOMA, Argenta, North Little Rock, and further out. My husband has friends and family in Benton, Bryant, Cabot, Sheridan, East End.

Q8. Who do you know who knows everybody?

Honestly, I’m one of those people. I’m also connected with a multitude of poets, writers, and professors.

Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

As an extrovert I wondered if this book would simply extol the virtues of the quieter persuasion and end up making me feel bad about myself. It did nothing of the sort! I gained so much insight and empathy for how introverts are raised and pushed by parents and society to be other than they are. I had no idea! I was also surprised that introverts may make up as little as a third of our population. I work in library science, a traditionally introverted field, and am a hobbyist writer, another predominantly introverted field! I thought surely introverts must outnumber extroverts ten to one. We are certainly fewer and farther between in my personal experience than in the lawyering and business worlds that Cain describes. But I think I must’ve also had a unique upbringing being raised by a handicapable introvert. I was taught to use my voice to make sure everyone got a chance to be heard. To use my social prowess to check in with individuals one on one and make each person as comfortable as possible. I am so grateful to have been made aware at a young age that this world takes all kinds and that just because a person is quiet doesn’t mean anything negative about their personality, value, or the quality of their ideas. To Cain I would say thank you so much for the insight you provide to those of us who have not experienced growing up introverted in our extroverted American society and thank you again for the invaluable validation you provide for introverts everywhere to be so affirmed. I want to share this book with everyone I know, introverted and extroverted alike. Beautiful, timely, insightful, and much needed.

Jobe, The Rainbows Herself

October 14, 2020

Deb Moore, leader of the CALS Writing Circle and teacher of the popular series Memoir Writing for Seniors, recently shared a terrific article as part of her newsletter. (Email dmoore at cals dot org to be added.) I wanted to make notes while I was thinking about it so I wouldn’t forget to come back to this resource. For my own memoir in progress, which focuses on love relationships and sexual experiences, I wondered what my arc, through line, and beats might look like. The example went like this:

I wanted ______________(the desire line).

To get it, I ______________(action).

To get it, I then ______________(action).

But ______________(obstacle) got in my way.

So, I ______________(action).

Maybe my answers would look something like this: I wanted to connect with individuals, experience love, and better understand myself and others. To do that, I tried various partners and kinds of relationships. I explored orientation and ethical non-monogamy. But jealousy and frustration and desire for my freedom got in my way. So I had to determine what my healthy boundaries would look like and how much I was or wasn’t willing to compromise. (Having a polyamory-specific relationship counselor really helped!)

I’m not sure what the conclusion of my book will look like as I’m always experiencing new things, but I think that outlines one way the arc of the memoir could go. Nice! Thanks, Deb, for the share! And thanks to Adair Lara for the great advice.

October 8, 2020

OCT 8

Just a quick check-in as I update my site. With varying degrees of success I have been handwriting in a real journal with a real fountain pen and ink! I have re-started my sticker obsession and earmarked two favorite Etsy stores for future purchases, Planner Studio and Joy of Planning. (Honestly I have too many favorite shops to list here and you should just follow me on Etsy if you’re interested.) I have dipped my toes into new hobbies–DIY bookbinding and DIY miniatures (building a tiny library). I have taken up drawing and adore this youtube channel (intended for children) that does step-by-step instructions for kawaii (cute) and chibi (little) characters. Plumbers and electricians vy for my attention (funds) and I am facing the conundrum of needing a couch that won’t break under duress (Americans are heavy, dangit!) but also won’t break the bank (see what I did there). My teaching of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is drawing to a close after three courses worth. I can’t begin to express how important the friendships formed there have been to this EXTROVERT in isolation. I’m watching Utopia (an Amazon Prime original which is completely insane) and reading the fourth e-book of the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (they are SO GOOD). I’m also listening to the audiobook of The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson after I encountered this tee shirt and realized I only knew 3 of the 5 and needed to ammend that immediately! (NK is next.) I went through a bit of an Amazon addiction so I decided to take October as a Buy Ban month to reset my rabid consumer (someone has to reign her in, probably best it’s me). I’m exercising again and tracking my progress on Instagram. Have I forgotten anything? Probably. Vote him out (grab him by the ballot). Wear your mask. Black Lives Matter. Be kind.

Love,
Jobe

June 23, 2020

JUNE 23

I can’t remember the last time I sat down and wrote. My memory isn’t terrific, but it’s been a while. When isolation started in March, I didn’t think about how long it would last. I just responded to the changes how I could. I became a workaholic, in the fear that I would shortchange my job the work it needed done. There was so much to do and so little time. It felt like if I didn’t obsess over it to the exclusion of everything else that I would never catch up–it felt like I had to keep doggy-paddling to keep my head above water. The problem with that mentality is that it can’t last over time. That expenditure of energy can’t be sustained. I burned hot for three weeks and I burnt out.

I had to accept that I was human. That I would be sleepy, distracted, hungry, thirsty, needing to pee and take breaks. I had to accept that it was impossible to expect myself to spend eight solid hours of my eight hour work day doing only work, nothing but the work, so help me gods. Before iso, being at work meant being in the work building, and I had plenty (some might say too much) grace for myself for my varying levels of ability, productivity, distractibility from day to day. And on my worst mental health days, I followed the guideline of “If the best you can do is to show up, then congratulations, you’re doing your best.” Bare minimum, being at the work building was the definition of working.

Working from home, I didn’t know how to define my work day outside of when I was actually doing the work. The stress that was coiled tight as a spring in my neck, compacting the top of my spine, relaxed considerably when I realized that I could define my work day as an eight hour stretch of time during which I focused mainly on work tasks. That it was ok to take breaks, to eat, to spend a few minutes here or there talking to a housemate. In essence, it was ok to be human. I gave myself permission to have a more sane expectation. And things went surprisingly well. Within a block of hours, I could delineate the time however I determined most useful. And if that meant working for a six hour stretch, taking a two hour nap, and returning refreshed to work my last two hours, that was okay. The world didn’t fall apart, and I felt better. I discovered the joy of working from home and the flexibility of hours it allowed. I could work at 5 in the morning or 11 at night. Such wow! So very! Amazing how these things work out when we let them.

That was overworking. Here is overeating. Many of us eat because we’re bored, happy, sad, lonely, and every other reason–oh, and, ya know, actually hungry. People joke about gaining the Covid 19 like the Freshman 15. Before isolation I was doing really well controlling and slowing winnowing my weight down by using strict calorie counts. I used Luna bars to act as my primary meal foods for breakfast and lunch, fruit and popcorn as my light snack foods, and then had a healthy dinner. Most of my calories were usually weighted toward the end of the day, but I didn’t feel hungry or deprived because the bars are dense and full of protein. I also let myself indulge in little ways, like mixing hot cocoa powder into my coffee. When I got bored with two bars a day I switched to yogurt for breakfast. Those yummy Chobani flip things.

From August 2019 to March 2020 I went from 218 down to 194. I started out exercising but that habit dropped off as it usually does for me, and I found it easier to stick to the calorie control part of it by simply keeping bars nearby. They taste good enough, but not so amazingly delicious that I want to overeat them. (They’re no Reese’s peanut butter cups.) I had my ups and downs but my weight stayed within the 192-196 range, so I called it 194 for short hand. When iso started and everyone was gaining, I focused on simply maintaining instead of losing. I was happy to stay in my range and not see any spikes. I sometimes ate outrageous amounts of junk food, but I always tried to even it out. And I’d been doing a surprisingly good job at it. March April May and most of June I kept stepping on the scale with that little bit of dread and seeing that my weight continued to stay in that 192-196 range, and the relief that accompanied it like an exhaled breath.

So color me surprised when I had a heart stopping weigh-in at 199. The idea that I could be about to crest back into the 200s, after I had worked so hard to stay below that number, was a bit terrifying–and of course, if it happened, would feel extremely demoralizing. I looked at my habits and tried to figure out what changed. It wasn’t dessert food that was doing it. It was fast food. Because the bargain meal is designed to overfill, make you feel like you’ve received a bountiful harvest and are rich in food. Maybe when they first conceived a value meal, they thought, this will surely be too many calories to consume in one sitting. If an American can eat until full and still have food to throw away this proves how rich and bountiful a nation we are.

Meanwhile, our mothers taught us to finish our food. Told us we had to make happy plates if we wanted the dessert. (Rewarding food with more food, way to go, culture.) We were told there were starving children in Africa who would be grateful for the vegetables we hated. (How many of us questioned what good it would do a kid in Africa for me to eat my spinach?) Fast forward to the gigantic fast food meals and that built-in mentality to finish everything and there’s your disaster.

Now I already had a few good habits in place. I often opted for just the sandwich instead of the meal, cutting out the side entirely. And I would sometimes choose the healthier option if there seemed to be one, like the grilled chicken sandwich instead of the burger. But I do go in for the giant soda, because I need the caffeine (all my meds make me sleepy). So looking at my habits I figured out that I could splurge about once a week, if Doug or Shanti wanted to grab Taco Beuno or Burger King for a lunch together. But more than once a week was just too many calories. I was strict with myself and I was rewarded with the utter relief of seeing 196 on the scale again, not the dreaded 199.

Of course I realize that all these numbers are of infinitesimal import in the greater scheme. That 192 is in fact farther from 196 than 196 is from 199. I know. But in a quarantined world where we have control over so little, this is one thing I can affect. 199 was my line in the sand. My recognition of my own hard work and my promise to myself not to crest 200 again. The number, in the greater scheme, is arbitrary. But the symbolism is real, and significant, to me.

In parting, let me say that one of the things I love about working from home is being able to sit in the middle of my bed typing on my laptop, surrounded by stuffed animals and cats. It’s a nice feeling. Drink your water, write in your journal, be kind to yourself.

Love,
Jobe