Letters To My Representatives 4-19-2017

Good morning, fellow Resistance! Here is my letter for today! All three of my reps received the same one. Be sure to call/email/fax your own reps and check out It’s Time To Fight for more info!

Dear Senator Stabenow,

Good morning!

I would like to express concern that Trump called Erdogan and congratulated him on winning the referendum that awards Erdogan more power. This is a slide into a dictatorship for Turkey and it is very disturbing that Trump is congratulating another leader on acquiring more power. It also means we need to be very careful in curtailing Trump’s own power and guaranteeing that he doesn’t make a power grab in anyway.

I realize that our influence over this is limited, but I want to express strong condemnation over the reports that gay men are being held and tortured in camps in Chechnya. If this is true, it is a heinous crime and we need to speak out against it, and potentially do something about it.

I am very concerned about the developments in our relationship with North Korea. Mainly that Trump is in charge of our response and he has thus far proven himself to be ineffectual, reactive, and a liar. We cannot trust him. I don’t know what you or any elected official can do about this, but as a citizen, I fear to have that man in charge if any military operation.

Concerning the North Korean developments, I’d like to know how Trump can say he is deploying the USS Carl Vinson in an offensive maneuver against NK, but really it was heading to the Indian Ocean. How does our government lose track and/or not have their story straight on a carrier strike group? If it was a ruse, is this responsible governance to potentially spark an international incident? How horrifying for the families of those serving on those ships to think Trump was sending them into a volatile situation when really they were going to practice maneuvers. And what is the end game? Trump has no plan. He is reactionary and irrational. Does he want a regime change or for the DPRK to reduce their nuclear efforts? He’s made no coherent statements.

I am concerned that Stephen Miller has been tasked with working on women’s issues. To start with, he’s not female, so why is Trump placing a man in charge of women’s issues? Also, Miller has expressed a disbelief in the pay gap, argued against paid family leave, and has no experience working with women’s issues. This continuing absence of women from Trump’s administration and the role of men in deciding things for women is not just troubling, it’s downright criminal. We are going backward and I for one have no wish to live in the 1950’s.

I have concerns over the Buy American, Hire American EO Trump signed. While I can see some benefits, I think the prevailing mindset that we should only look at American products and people puts us into the position of becoming less competitive in the global market. We make ourselves better and more competitive by absorbing the best into our system. If we continue with this nationalistic and isolationist approach we will fall behind the rest of the world. America First is a policy for the past. We are a global community and need to act like it.

I oppose any measures to repeal, defund, or end the ACA. Please continue to work to support the ACA, as well as propose measures to fix some of its problems, because it is of course not perfect.

I am concerned about the cutting of federal jobs. While eliminating redundancy and making departments more efficient is a good thing and needed, I am concerned that our government is going to be running short handed and under-funded. This may be Trump’s plan, to make our government work less well so he can point out the problems and declare he needs more power to make things run better, so we need to be extremely vigilant in preventing him from doing this.

I am opposed to Devos rolling back Obama-era guidelines on student loans. Taking away these protections do not help our students.

I will continue to call for a bipartisan commission to investigate Trump and his campaign and their ties to Russia, both financially and during the campaign. I demand a full investigation into all of Trump’s surrogates and himself.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

Letters to My Representatives 4-12-2017

Here are today’s letter! For personal reasons, I am cutting back to one letter a week, so they’ll be pretty full of everything I want to say. I planned on continuing three letters a week for a while longer, but that’s just not sustainable right now. Please continue to write your own letters and make phone calls. It is our civic duty to participate in our government. We can no longer trust our electeds to do this job without our input. We never should have in the first place.

Dear Senator Stabenow,

I oppose Trump’s possible proposal to cut the payroll tax. More money in our pockets in the short term will be detrimental to the Social Security/Medicare pool in the long term.

I oppose Sessions ordering the end of the forensic science commission. Though forensic science has never been perfect, with regulation it could make a huge positive impact and this sets the field back.

I am very concerned about Pruitt’s decision to postpone decisions about banning the use of chlorpyrifos until 2022. If this is a harmful substance, and studies have shown that it is, we need to rethink our use of it now before it does more damage to people and the environment.

Please stand with Obama’s agreement with the auto industry on fuel efficiency standards. We need to move in the direction of environmental responsibility, decrease fuel use, and keep up with progress in technology. If there are better ways to do this, I am acceptable to altering the agreement, but we need to always be moving toward a better future, not short term gains for right now.

I am opposed to increasing offshore oil drilling as Trump is preparing an EO on this. We need to be investing in alternative and renewable sources of energy, not increasing our dependency on oil and damaging the environment in the process.

I am opposed to Trump cutting regulations on smog limits. We need to improve quality of the air in cities and around the world to reduce health risks and improve quality of life. Reducing smog limits will be detrimental to both these concerns.

I am opposed to cuts for the Lead risk Reduction Program. These cuts will place more people in danger, prolonging the dangerous effects previous lead use has had on our country.

I am greatly concerned with Trump’s foreign policy approach, especially when we are talking about North Korea and Syria. He appears to have no actual plan or strategy and is just reacting with whatever pops into his head at the moment. What is our end game in North Korea and Syria? Are we looking to achieve a regime change? What would that strategy look like and how would it be achieved? Does the end game involve reduction in North Korea’s nuclear efforts? Are we coordinating with Japan, South Korea and China in regards to North Korea? Trump’s haphazard approach and frankly dangerous temperament make me gravely concerned for these situations and the millions of people who could be affected.

I have concerns about Trump’s military strike on Syria. I am not opposed to bomb strikes on Assad targets, especially in retaliation to the chemical attacks on innocent civilians, but Trump’s approach seems sporadic and driven by emotion, not policy or strategy. Not to mention ineffectual and possibly driven by a desire to distance himself from the idea that he is in Putin’s pocket. How do you plan to address moves going forward? How will you require Trump to get Congressional approval of major military action in the future? What is the end game here? Regime change? How would we achieve this while protecting the lives of Syrians, limiting the numbers of American troops on the ground, and preventing ISIS from taking control? I don’t believe Trump has a comprehensive plan going forward and I look to Congress to hold him accountable and propose strategic moves. Also, I know you are against the ban of Syrian refugees, but please continue to be vocal about this. The idea that Trump and Ivanka were “heartbroken” over the deaths of Syrian children due to a chemical attack but couldn’t care less if we do our part in the international community by assisting refugees is both hypocritical and ludicrous.

Please strongly oppose the latest GOP effort to repeal or weaken the ACA.

I oppose Trump’s defunding of the UN Family Planning Agency and their lies to justify it. We need to stand strongly against the GOP and their continued attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable people. It is time that Conservatism be disassociated from Christianity, because the Christianity I know is about helping the weak, not punishing them for being so.

I oppose Sessions review of the Justice Department’s review of Police reform. I ask that you question the point of these challenges and condemn the effectiveness of these reviews if necessary. Police reform will protect everyone, civilian and police, and are needed to make our streets safer.

I have asked repeatedly and will say it again: I demand an independent commission to investigate Trump and his ties to Russia, both financially and through the campaign, including many of his surrogates like Manafort, Kushner, Flynn, Sessions, and more. The American people deserve to know the truth and I do not trust a GOP congress to conduct this investigation, especially with Nunes’ already questionable actions.

I ask you to condemn the removal of LGBTQIA from the census. It is important to know where need is present so we can allocate resources effectively.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

 

Dear Representative Mitchell,

I oppose Trump’s possible proposal to cut the payroll tax. More money in our pockets in the short term will be detrimental to the Social Security/Medicare pool in the long term.

I oppose Sessions ordering the end of the forensic science commission. Though forensic science has never been perfect, with regulation it could make a huge positive impact and this sets the field back.

I am very concerned about Pruitt’s decision to postpone decisions about banning the use of chlorpyrifos until 2022. If this is a harmful substance, and studies have shown that it is, we need to rethink our use of it now before it does more damage to people and the environment.

Please stand with Obama’s agreement with the auto industry on fuel efficiency standards. We need to move in the direction of environmental responsibility, decrease fuel use, and keep up with progress in technology. If there are better ways to do this, I am acceptable to altering the agreement, but we need to always be moving toward a better future, not short term gains for right now.

I am opposed to increasing offshore oil drilling as Trump is preparing an EO on this. We need to be investing in alternative and renewable sources of energy, not increasing our dependency on oil and damaging the environment in the process.

I am opposed to Trump cutting regulations on smog limits. We need to improve quality of the air in cities and around the world to reduce health risks and improve quality of life. Reducing smog limits will be detrimental to both these concerns.

I am opposed to cuts for the Lead risk Reduction Program. These cuts will place more people in danger, prolonging the dangerous effects previous lead use has had on our country.

I am greatly concerned with Trump’s foreign policy approach, especially when we are talking about North Korea and Syria. He appears to have no actual plan or strategy and is just reacting with whatever pops into his head at the moment. What is our end game in North Korea and Syria? Are we looking to achieve a regime change? What would that strategy look like and how would it be achieved? Does the end game involve reduction in North Korea’s nuclear efforts? Are we coordinating with Japan, South Korea and China in regards to North Korea? Trump’s haphazard approach and frankly dangerous temperament make me gravely concerned for these situations and the millions of people who could be affected.

I have concerns about Trump’s military strike on Syria. I am not opposed to bomb strikes on Assad targets, especially in retaliation to the chemical attacks on innocent civilians, but Trump’s approach seems sporadic and driven by emotion, not policy or strategy. Not to mention ineffectual and possibly driven by a desire to distance himself from the idea that he is in Putin’s pocket. How do you plan to address moves going forward? How will you require Trump to get Congressional approval of major military action in the future? What is the end game here? Regime change? How would we achieve this while protecting the lives of Syrians, limiting the numbers of American troops on the ground, and preventing ISIS from taking control? I don’t believe Trump has a comprehensive plan going forward and I look to Congress to hold him accountable and propose strategic moves. I strongly oppose the ban of Syrian refugees. The idea that Trump and Ivanka were “heartbroken” over the deaths of Syrian children due to a chemical attack but couldn’t care less if we do our part in the international community by assisting refugees is both hypocritical and ludicrous.

I strongly oppose the latest GOP effort to repeal or weaken the ACA.

I oppose Trump’s defunding of the UN Family Planning Agency and his lies to justify it. I am against the continued GOP attacks against the most vulnerable people. It is time that Conservatism be disassociated from Christianity, because the Christianity I know is about helping the weak, not punishing them for being so.

I oppose Sessions review of the Justice Department’s review of Police reform. I ask that you question the point of these challenges and condemn the effectiveness of these reviews if necessary. Police reform will protect everyone, civilian and police, and are needed to make our streets safer.

I have asked repeatedly and will say it again: I demand an independent commission to investigate Trump and his ties to Russia, both financially and through the campaign, including many of his surrogates like Manafort, Kushner, Flynn, Sessions, and more. The American people deserve to know the truth and I do not trust a GOP congress to conduct this investigation, especially with Nunes’ already questionable actions.

I ask you to condemn the removal of LGBTQIA from the census. It is important to know where need is present so we can allocate resources effectively.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

You can find more information at It’s Time to Fight! To keep up on the day’s news in this chaotic environment, check out What the Fuck Just Happened Today!

Letters to My Representatives 4-6-2017

Today’s letter is loooong. We’re on vacation and I know it’s the only one I’m going to have time for. I wrote all three reps, though this is the one for Senator Stabenow. But all three were mostly the same, so no need to post them all. Please consider writing/calling/faxing your reps once a week. it may not seem like it odes much, but our combined voices are important to influence our democracy.

Dear Senator Stabenow,

Thank you for voting NO on Gorsuch. Please continue to fight against the changing of the rules to allow for a simple majority to approve Supreme Court picks.

I am deeply disturbed at the lack of US response or inappropriate response to the chemical attacks on civilians in Syria, the refugee crisis, as well as the threat of unprecedented famine and drought around the world. We are approaching an attitude of isolationism which is morally wrong, detrimental to our country and impossible as we are becoming a global society and affect others with our actions whether we choose to or not. Please take a stand that our government needs to be a global leader in helping the less fortunate in this world.

We need to be accepting more refugees, not less. We need to take a firm stance against Assad, the use of chemical warfare, as well as Putin. We need for the US to push Russia to sign off on the UN Security Council resolution. We need to do more!

I do not support cuts to the Lead Risk Reduction Program.

Please stand against the GOP’s latest attempt to repeal and undermine the ACA. I do not support the idea of high risk groups that place an unsustainable burden on the most vulnerable. We are attacking and punishing the very people who need our help the most.

I ask you to protest Trump’s defunding the UN Family Planning Agency. He continually targets the most vulnerable groups of people and it’s time we held the GOP accountable for not caring about the least among us.

Please protest Trump’s changes and/or proposed changes to use of force rules. This could lead to more civilian deaths, which in itself is heinous, but will also lead to increased hatred of Americans and potential backlash and increased attacks and fighting.

Please challenge Session’s review of the Justice Department’s review of Police Reform. We need police reform to address the systemic racism and violence that permeates our police forces nationwide and increase safety for our officers as well as decrease the instances of death to our civilians.

Please speak out in defense of sanctuary cities.

I DEMAND as a US citizen an independent commission to investigate Trump and his Russian ties. We need a full investigation into Trump, his financial ties, his campaign ties, Flynn, Sessions, Manafort, Kuchner and many more and their ties and interactions with Russians and their surrogates during the campaign. We deserve to know the complete truth on this matter.

I want to know why LGBTQIA people were removed from the census and what can be done about it. We need data to target need in certain communities and the lack of this data will be detrimental to the US for generations to come.

I want to know why Sessions has not been held accountable for lying under oath. Please seek appropriate action to make sure that this happens.

Please continue to find ways to protect Dreamers. We have an obligation to help children who were brought here as children and have grown up as Americans most of their life. They are a part of our communities and we need to provide protections for them.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

Visit It’s Time to Fight for more ideas, scripts and information. I’ts important to be armed with facts!

Letters to My Representatives 3-30-2017

I did write a letter to Representative Paul Mitchell on Tuesday, but in a weird Copy/Paste mishap I lost it. I know, who can’t copy and paste correctly? But alas, it is gone into the ether. So here are all three letters I’ve written today. They are each a bit redundant, but I thought I would share as each is a little different based on what the Senator or Rep has done or already supported. Plus each voting body has different concerns, so the House Rep doesn’t need to hear about Gorsuch’s nomination as they don’t vote on him.

Dear Senator Stabenow,

I ask you to vote NO on HJ Res 43.

Thank you for publicly declaring you don’t support Gorsuch’s nomination. I support you in this decision. NO Trump appointees should be confirmed for anything until his involvement with Russia during the election is cleared up.

If HR 1431 makes it to the Senate, please vote NO.

I do not support the exclusion of LGBTQIA from the census. I want to know how this decision was made and who is responsible. We need this information to track need, size and allocation issues. Please speak out against this and help to find a solution to this problem.

I call again for an independent bipartisan investigation into all of Trump’s ties to Russia, including financial and during the campaign and including investigations into Flynn, Manafort, Sessions, Kushner and all his surrogates with Russian connections. It is imperative that the American people be given a full understanding of what transpired as well as put a halt to the Trump presidency until this matter is cleared up.

I want the issue of Trump’s conflicts of interest to be addressed. Though there are many, specifically I want the money that is going into Trump’s pockets directly from tax payers (use of trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, Trump airlines) to be addressed. Trump should not be making money off the presidency and it a disgusting and egregious violation that this is happening.

I ask you to strongly oppose Trump’s EO regarding environmental protections. I am disgusted that our environment and the state of the planet means so little to this administration.

I encourage you to strongly oppose Trump’s proposed budget. Trump’s proposed budget focuses too much on hard power options like defense spending, and cuts too much from essential programs that help serve Americans domestically, and internationally. I strongly believe that by eliminating funding that contributes to programs like Meals on Wheels, coastal research programs that help the government determine the movement of inclement weather, grants for after school programs and teacher training, and counterterrorism programs from the Department of Homeland Security, we are weakening our nation. Moreover, by reducing funding to programs with international ramifications like the UN Peacekeeping programs, we are lessening our influence on the global stage.

I urge you to speak out against Trump’s nepotism including Kushner and Ivanka in the White House. Neither has any government experience and Kushner especially is getting heavy responsibilities I do not feel he is qualified for.

I also encourage you to call for an investigation into Sessions perjury in front of Senate Judiciary committee. It is horrifying that this is being allowed to be swept under the rug. He is supposed to be the Attorney General of the US and he LIED under oath. This is not acceptable.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

 

Dear Senator Peters,

Thank you for standing with Planned Parenthood. I saw your Tweet on yesterday and appreciate you standing for health care for women.

I ask you to vote NO on HJ Res 43.

Thank you for publicly declaring you don’t support Gorsuch’s nomination. I support you in this decision. NO Trump appointees should be confirmed for anything until his involvement with Russia during the election is cleared up.

If HR 1431 makes it to the Senate, please vote NO.

I do not support the exclusion of LGBTQIA from the census. I want to know how this decision was made and who is responsible. We need this information to track need, size and allocation issues. Please speak out against this and help to find a solution to this problem.

I thank you for calling for an independent bipartisan investigation into all of Trump’s ties to Russia, including financial and during the campaign and including investigations into Flynn, Manafort, Sessions, Kushner and all his surrogates with Russian connections. It is imperative that the American people be given a full understanding of what transpired as well as put a halt to the Trump presidency until this matter is cleared up. Please continue to demand this happens.

I want the issue of Trump’s conflicts of interest to be addressed. Though there are many, specifically I want the money that is going into Trump’s pockets directly from tax payers (use of trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, Trump airlines) to be addressed. Trump should not be making money off the presidency and it a disgusting and egregious violation that this is happening.

I ask you to strongly oppose Trump’s EO regarding environmental protections. I am disgusted that our environment and the state of the planet means so little to this administration. Thank you for already expressing your strong support for science and the environment.

I encourage you to strongly oppose Trump’s proposed budget. Trump’s proposed budget focuses too much on hard power options like defense spending, and cuts too much from essential programs that help serve Americans domestically, and internationally. I strongly believe that by eliminating funding that contributes to programs like Meals on Wheels, coastal research programs that help the government determine the movement of inclement weather, grants for after school programs and teacher training, and counterterrorism programs from the Department of Homeland Security, we are weakening our nation. Moreover, by reducing funding to programs with international ramifications like the UN Peacekeeping programs, we are lessening our influence on the global stage.

I urge you to speak out against Trump’s nepotism including Kushner and Ivanka in the White House. Neither has any government experience and Kushner especially is getting heavy responsibilities I do not feel he is qualified for.

I also encourage you to call for an investigation into Sessions perjury in front of Senate Judiciary committee. It is horrifying that this is being allowed to be swept under the rug. He is supposed to be the Attorney General of the US and he LIED under oath. This is not acceptable.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

 

Dear Representative Mitchell,

I ask you to vote NO on HR 1431.

I do not support the exclusion of LGBTQIA from the census. I want to know how this decision was made and who is responsible. We need this information to track need, size and allocation issues. Please speak out against this and help to find a solution to this problem.

I call AGAIN for an independent bipartisan investigation into all of Trump’s ties to Russia, including financial and during the campaign and including investigations into Flynn, Manafort, Sessions, Kushner and all his surrogates with Russian connections. It is imperative that the American people be given a full understanding of what transpired as well as put a halt to the Trump presidency until this matter is cleared up.

I want the issue of Trump’s conflicts of interest to be addressed. Though there are many, specifically I want the money that is going into Trump’s pockets directly from tax payers (use of trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, Trump airlines) to be addressed. Trump should not be making money off the presidency and it a disgusting and egregious violation that this is happening.

I ask you to strongly oppose Trump’s EO regarding environmental protections. I am disgusted that our environment and the state of the planet means so little to this administration.

I encourage you to strongly oppose Trump’s proposed budget. Trump’s proposed budget focuses too much on hard power options like defense spending, and cuts too much from essential programs that help serve Americans domestically, and internationally. I strongly believe that by eliminating funding that contributes to programs like Meals on Wheels, coastal research programs that help the government determine the movement of inclement weather, grants for after school programs and teacher training, and counterterrorism programs from the Department of Homeland Security, we are weakening our nation. Moreover, by reducing funding to programs with international ramifications like the UN Peacekeeping programs, we are lessening our influence on the global stage.

I urge you to speak out against Trump’s nepotism including Kushner and Ivanka in the White House. Neither has any government experience and Kushner especially is getting heavy responsibilities I do not feel he is qualified for.

I also encourage you to call for an investigation into Sessions perjury in front of Senate Judiciary committee. It is horrifying that this is being allowed to be swept under the rug. He is supposed to be the Attorney General of the US and he LIED under oath. This is not acceptable.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

 

Please check out ItsTimeToFight.com for information, call list and scripts! I couldn’t do my letters without them!

10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known As A Newbie Writer; But I Learned The Hard Way

I’ve dreamed of being a writer since the 4th grade. I think that would have been 1986, or there about. But I didn’t actually do anything besides jot down stories and ideas once in a while until 2006. That was the year I quit my job, became a stay-at-home mom, and moved two hours away from friends and family. Even then, I entered the pursuit of literary endeavors blindly. And I must say, pretty naively. There are a few things I would love to have known in 2006 that took me years to learn, so maybe this list will help any newbie writers, or not-so-newbie writers, who happen upon this post.

1 – Make Writing a Priority

I’ve talked about this several times, but most recently in a blog post here. You have to make writing a part of your life, your schedule, just like your family, your job, school, whatever it is that makes up life for you. If you want to be a writer you have to find room to write. And I’m not one of those “write every day” people either. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t do something related to my writing career, but I don’t write every day. Sometimes it’s as simple as connecting with other authors on Twitter, reading a blog post on writing advice, promoting someone else’s book, or reading a YA novel.

You have to decide this dream is worth something to you, and that’s not measured in books sold, dollar signs, or accolades. I haven’t made a penny or sold a single book yet. But the keyword there is “yet”. The dream doesn’t come true without the hard, hard, exhausting and never ending work. The idea that you have to pay your dues first is very, very true. And even once that dream is “real” the money and fame might not be. It’s going to have to be an important part of you to keep going.

2 – Own It

Do you write? If the answer is YES, then you’re a writer. Own it. You’re not an aspiring writer: you’re a writer! It doesn’t matter if you’re traditionally published, an Amazon ebook writer, fan fic or WattPad writer, or just a writer who puts words on the page but hasn’t found your avenue of publication yet. You write = you’re a writer. It doesn’t matter if you’re terrible or fabulous, fresh and new or cliched, traditional or groundbreaking. You’re a writer. Don’t let anyone take that from you.

And never be ashamed to declare it proudly. I spent years too embarrassed to tell people I was a writer. Mainly because I had mentally tied the idea of success and legitimacy to the idea of being an actual writer. It took me a while to accept that if my fingers flew across the keyboard placing black words on a white page, I was in fact a writer. And a hard working one at that. There was no need to be embarrassed because I had no outward signs of achievement yet. I write; therefore I am a writer.

3 – Accept That What You Write is Crap

Not very confidence inducing, am I? But you need to accept this. Especially in the beginning. Even the best writers produce some pretty awful first drafts. And second, and third . . . That’s why writing is a process. You may write a beautiful first draft, or maybe it’s simply word vomit with a little structure. Either way, it’s on the page, and that’s a start.

Most people aren’t born amazing writers. Even those that go through creative writing programs in college don’t always pop out a best seller on their first go. It takes practice. Critique. Swallowing your pride and working harder. Then more writing. More critique. Repeat. Repeat. Writing that first draft is often the fun part. Fingers flying, words flowing, ideas bursting from your head faster than you can tap letters on the page. But writing is also in the nitty-gritty hard work of revision and reading the same words again and again and again.

But don’t be embarrassed by that word vomit either. We all have it. Whether it’s an entire first draft or just a few chapters that stubbornly stick between the slats of our imagination and won’t slide through into words. DO revise your first draft before you seek out betas. DO continue to learn how to be a better writer and apply that to your work. But DON’T give up because that first go isn’t a shiny golden baby, but rather a wrinkly, pale, yet somehow lovable one. Ugly babies often grow into wonderous humans.

4 – Never Stop Learning

I don’t care if you have an MFA, you can always learn more about writing. And if you’re like me and have an associate’s degree in a field unrelated to writing, there’s a lot to learn. I always did well in my English and writing classes, so it’s not like that aspect was a challenge for me, but there were definitely things about grammar, punctuation, and writing that I never knew or had forgotten. (And probably still don’t know.)

But brushing up on the basics isn’t enough. There are as many different writing styles and approaches to craft as there are writers. Read the novels of writers you admire, check out blog posts and articles about how to write better, and read books on craft. There’s always something more to learn, and sometimes you just need a reminder of something you’ve heard a hundred times but can’t quite seem to apply to your own writing.

And yet, that’s still not enough. One of the most important parts of writing—and a part I feel is too often neglected—is learning as much as you can about the identity of the character you are writing. If you’re an Own Voices author, then you have a lifetime of experience to fall back on when writing a character that represents your identity. But if you’re not, you’ve got a steep learning curve to catch up and be moderately effective. If you’re not Own Voices, you will never be the best person to write that story, so it’s going to take you a lot of extra work to still be an acceptable person to write that story.

5 – Don’t Let Your Mom Read Your Work

Okay, I’m being a little facetious here, but seriously, don’t. In fact, don’t give it to your husband, brother, sister, dad, aunt, cousin, best friend or the post man either. I know how exciting it is to have that finished manuscript in hand and want to share it with someone, but people who know you are not the best ones to share it with. Like I said, I’m kidding—a little.

It is okay to let family and friends read if you just need a meaningless ego boost so you can brave the idea of actually letting another writer take a look at it. But if you think you’re going to get useful feedback from anyone who actually knows you in the flesh, it’s unlikely. Maybe, just maybe, you know another writer, or your sister has a writing degree, or Uncle Buck published a novel, but even then, they may not objectively be the best people to look at your work. They love you. They’re going to see you every holiday, birthdays, and lots of places in between. They have a vested interest in your happiness. You don’t want that in a critiquer.

True feedback comes from people who don’t care if they hurt your feelings. True critique comes from people who write. We know (hopefully) what goes into a good novel. We have read many great books, and written our own (quality subject to opinion) and can see where you’re telling vs showing, or using too many -ly adjectives, or know a Mary Sue when she skips across the page. We know craft. Your mom doesn’t. And even if she does, she may love you too much to crush your dreams. Get yourself a dream crusher CP. They will only make your writing better.

 6 – Find Yourself a Writing Crew

Writing is by nature a somewhat solitary endeavor. From my experience, a good majority of writers consider themselves introverts and reclusive. We’d much rather hold the company of our next manuscript or a favorite novel than hobnob with anyone anywhere anytime. But that can be detrimental to your development as a writer. And the good news for introverts? Most of the interaction you have with fellow writers is online! Yay for the internet!

I didn’t start using Absolute Write forums until 2010, almost 4 years after I started writing! Sometimes I look at that join date in my profile and think it must be wrong. It feels like some of those writers have been with me since the beginning. But that just shows the value of good writing friends: because I can’t actually imagine doing what I do without them, even though I did it for 4 years.

Twitter blipped on my radar in 2014, mainly because of a pitch contest. I came for the chance to pitch my book; stayed because it became one of the best ways to network with other writers. Even though AW made me feel less alone and I love my AW friends (they’re with me on Twitter, too), Twitter made me feel like I belonged! Sometimes it can feel like high school with cliques and drama and arguing, but I was in this big pool of thousands of writers who had opinions and ideas and talked about process and marketing and just everything! My knowledge grew by leaps and bounds just from exposure to people just like me (and many not at all like me) and the industry itself.

Your writing crew can teach you to be a better writer, teach you about the industry ins-and-outs, provide support for all those moments of what-the-hell-am-I-doing-anyway?! You need beta readers and critique partners, advice and moments of solidarity over just how hard this all is, and sometimes just someone to laugh with and relate to. Some people might think this is sad, but I barely talk to IRL friends anymore. Yet I talk to my online writing friends every day. It’s not sad to me, because I’ve found my crew.

7 – Be a Cheerleader

Being a writer is hard. I think many of us are prone to anxiety in the first place, but putting out something so personal into the world is double anxiety inducing. That novel, short story,  or poem is a piece of your heart, your soul. It’s your imagination and dreams come to life in black and white—and sometimes color if you’re a picture book or graphic novelist. It’s months and months of late nights, neglected housework, and missed social engagements. It’s not just words on paper.

And that’s why we need cheerleaders. This kind of goes along with the above about finding your writing crew, but it’s more about what you can do. Maybe you don’t need cheerleaders, which is fine, but I think many people would give up if they didn’t have others cheering them on. And seeing the success of others can spur us to believe that yes, this too can happen for me.

There are many ways to be someone’s cheerleader. As a beta reader or critique partner, think about what the MS has done right as well as where it has gone wrong. Once again, not everyone needs this. I can get along just fine with a critique that shows me all my flaws but doesn’t point out my triumphs. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the compliments, but I don’t need them. Yet, in the beginning I think I did. Now I’m confident enough, but you might not always know the temperament of your fellow writer, so try offering positive feedback as well as negative.

Social media is another great way to offer encouragement. Like and/or share a blog post, leave a positive comment on a Tweet or Facebook post, and offer congratulations at agent signings, book deals, and signing events. Share in the excitement and happiness for your fellow authors, because they deserve the celebration now, and it makes you feel happy and excited too. Besides, they’ll be there for you when you have something to celebrate!

8 – Take Criticism (and rejection) Like a Champ

If you want to succeed in writing, you will have to learn to take criticism. And yes, no matter how experienced you become, criticism can still hurt. I’ve been writing with the idea of achieving publication for more than ten years now, and hearing that an editor “didn’t connect with my character” or that a beta felt a line in my book was sexist or that my critique partner thought a sub-plot was too unbelievable still stings pretty bad. You labor and love over every character, every plot, every paragraph, hell, every word! Criticism can feel downright personal.

But it’s not. So stop. Step back from the critique in whatever form it comes: beta or CP critique, agent or editor feedback, book reviews, or online comments. STEP. BACK. When you’re too close to your work, it is hard to think objectively. When you’re upset about a comment, it’s almost impossible to think objectively. STEP. BACK.

I’ve seen it many times. (I’ve done it a few times myself.) A critique hurts and you seek to defend yourself, or maybe strike back at the critiquer, or even find other voices that support yours so you can feel like you’ve done nothing wrong. But you’re not helping yourself. In fact, you’re actively harming yourself. I’m not saying that every critique and comment is valid, but I will tell you that every critique and comment is valid for the person who has given it. They’re not out to get you. Try to look through the lens that they are viewing your work; listen to what they have to say and weigh it as objectively as you can; do seek other opinions, but make sure they aren’t just people who will agree with you, but rather people who have a similar lens as the original critiquer.

Obviously I’m talking about a lot more than comma placement or “tell vs show” here. Sometimes critique can be as simple as that. And sometimes it can be about harmful representation for which you are not the best person to decide if it is or isn’t. But you have to learn to be objective, put aside your hurt, and evaluate the critique for what is best for your novel—and most importantly—best for your readers.

9 – Don’t Query Recklessly

Querying itself is as much an art form as writing. And jumping into it head first without learning the art can damage your chances. That doesn’t mean if you make a mistake or a query faux pas that you should pack up your lap top and throw in the towel. I’ve had some pretty egregious mishaps myself (like the time I used the wrong name for an agent) but I still managed to find an agent who loved my book.

Good news: there’s a plethora of querying advice on the internet. Google, as always, is your best friend, but to get you started, below you will find a few posts I wrote about querying that link to my favorite posts and articles about querying. Yes, it’s a lot of reading. Did you think this would be easy? It’s not. Not only do you need to read all that I wrote, and all that other writers and agents have written, but then you have to decipher what is best for you. Because everyone has different advice. And then figure out what’s best for the particular agent you’re querying. Because they each have their own likes and dislikes. Which means more research. Oh, and you’ll need to research which agents would be a best fit for you and your book. That’s more research.

You owe it to yourself and to that book you spent months, sometimes years, writing and polishing. Querying can take as much time as the actual writing. But you want to do it right, not quickly.

Queries! Queries! Queries! – Part One: Researching Agents

Agent Research: I forgot to tell you something!

Queries! Queries! Queries?? – Part Two: How to write a query letter

The Query Process: It’s Own Brand of Crazy

Newbie Post #12: 5 Silver Linings in Those Rejection Letters

10 – Give a Hand Up

As we move through our journey as writers—whether our goal is publication or just the joy of writing—be willing to give a hand up. That’s how our writing community grows and progresses. Chances are you’re going to be given beta reads and query critiques from other writers, especially in the early years, so you have to be willing to do the same in return. In the beginning, it’s a trade of scratching each others’ backs, and you get the added benefit of learning a lot about what will work for your own writing by reading and critiquing others. But as you become more experienced, you can offer a valuable helping hand to beginners.

And this goes for book promotion and book reviews as well. An author’s bread and butter can very well depend on how many reviews they have on Amazon or how their sales did that first week after release. We have to be willing to support our writing community in anyway we realistically can. It’s instinct to keep your eye on the prize ahead, but I also like to keep an eye and a hand out for those climbing behind.

So that’s about it. Truth is, you may have to learn these things firsthand for yourself. But at least if you read this, you know to be looking for those learning opportunities. And maybe you’ll catch on just a little faster than I did. Good luck!

 

Letters to My Representatives 3-24-2017

Here is today’s letter to Representative Paul Mitchell only. The House votes on AHCA today and I encourage all of you to email/fax/call immediately! Voting starts at 10am!

Dear Representative Mitchell,

I attempted to call your Washington DC office this morning but not only are you not answering the phone your voicemail box is full. I have heard a lot of Americans saying this is the case with their own representatives. I’d like to believe it’s because so many people are calling to tell all of you to do your damn job and vote no on the AHCA, and I think that’s highly likely because it is extremely unpopular, but I suspect it is also a tactic so that certain GOP representatives no longer have to listen to their constituents. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you would never do this to your constituents and will continue to be readily available to hear their concerns and acknowledge what they want as you do in fact work for us.

As such I am writing to demand that you vote no on HR 1628 or the American Health Care of 2017, when it comes to the House Floor. This is a bill that has the potential to impact millions of lives for decades, and decisions are being made too quickly, and without deliberation. The CBO score alone suggests that there are millions who will be negatively impacted, should AHCA pass. Please focus on working and fixing the ACA, and addressing any challenges/potential solutions that way. Not to mention the last minute additions will be catastrophic to the health of millions of Americans.

Based on your multiple letters and calls trying to convince me that the AHCA is a great bill (you failed by the way) I am assuming that you are voting yes. If you have indeed changed your mind and are voting no, my apologies for the vociferousness of this letter. If you are voting yes, which I suspect you will, just know that I will remember come November of 2018. In fact, I’ll make it my mission in life to make sure that every constituent of Michigan’s 10th District remembers come November of 2018. This bill is detrimental to Americans and not only will it cause great harm to the health of millions of people, it will come back to bite you when you’re up for re-election. Which I suspect is all you really care about anyway.

Have a nice day.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Austin

Letters to My Representatives 3-23-2017

Here are my letters today! First one is for my senators, the second for my House rep. If you can, call or write your reps today!! The House is voting on the AHCA today.

Dear Senator Stabenow,

I know I can count on you to vote against HR 1628/American Health Care of 2017 or whatever it will be called if/when it reaches the Senate. I encourage you to continue to speak out against this horrible bill with strong language. Thank you for your support of the American people and Michigan residents in particular. Please continue to encourage both Senators and Congresspeople to vote against this damaging bill.

I would also like to encourage you to strongly demand that we put a hold on the Trump administration until matters of his ties to Russia have been resolved. It is inappropriate that a questionable president should be making decisions, enacting policy and appointing people to the government when his legality is in question. Most importantly, please hold up Gorsuch’s nomination as Trump should not be allowed to appoint a Supreme Court justice when he is under investigation for colluding with Russia to throw our election.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

 

Dear representative Mitchell,

I am asking you to please vote NO, when HR 1628 or the American Health Care of 2017, comes to the House Floor either today, or tomorrow. This is a bill that has the potential to impact millions of lives for decades, and decisions are being made too quickly, and without deliberation.

The CBO score alone suggests that there are millions who will be negatively impacted, should AHCA pass. Please focus on working and fixing the ACA, and addressing any challenges/potential solutions that way.

I encourage you to support a full independent commission into Trump’s ties to Russia and his collusion to throw the election. Nunes is demonstrating he is not qualified to conduct this and we need absolute certainty in this matter. The Trump administration should not be allowed to enact policy, make decisions, or appoint people to the government while his very legitimacy is in question. You owe it to the American people to ensure that their president is legitimate and serves the interests of America, not himself or Russia.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

Here’s a link to call/email scripts for the AHCA though it’s also what I used! Get out there and let your reps know how you feel!!

http://itstimetofight.weebly.com/ahca.html