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!

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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

 

Letters to My Representatives 3-21-2017

Today I sent Senator Stabenow and Senator Peters the same letter, below. Then I wrote a different one to Representative Mitchell.

I also want to share a tidbit from a friend of mine who is a DNC political staffer who talked to a GOP political staffer who is a long time friend. The GOP staffer (obviously not a Trump supporter) indicates that the pressure of phone calls/emails is working. It won’t show success immediately, but the slow relentless pressure of constituents writing/calling and staying engaged is being noticed. It’s hard to see what impact we are having, but we are! Keep it up!

Dear Senator Stabenow,

I think in light of the current FBI investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, it is even more important that Gorsuch’s nomination for Supreme Court be put on hold. We should not be subjected to a Supreme Court pick chosen by a potentially illegal president. This seat should have gone to Garland, or at the least he should have gotten hearings and a vote. The GOP’s stance was abhorrent and counter to democracy.

I also demand that there be a full independent commission to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia (campaign, finances, potential blackmail) as soon as possible. I am horrified at the GOP’s distractions from this by claiming we need to investigate leaks, not Trump’s potentially illegal activities. We must not back down and allow this to be business as usual. I ask that you demand a commission (much like what we had for 9/11) and that you continue to take a strong stance on this issue.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

 

Dear Representative Mitchell,

In light of Comey’s testimony yesterday, I will once again demand that an independent commission be formed to do a full and comprehensive investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia (financial, campaign, & potential blackmail). I am appalled at the GOP’s responses yesterday to Comey’s testimony. Their concern was not on the potential egregious matter of Trump colluding with Russia, but rather leaks that have let loose information from the White House. That is the equivalent of trying to punish the person who called the fire department when your house is on fire. The American people deserve to know what is going on here and it is Congress’s responsibility to thoroughly investigate. Party before country has got to stop, on both sides of the aisle.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Austin

Be a Selfish Writer

Snoopy

Being a writer has many different challenges: grammar, word usage, plot, picking just one story to write. Then there are queries, selling your book, marketing, trying to sell the next book, maintaining a career, and on and on. Many of the latter I haven’t experienced yet, though I’m really hopeful I will, but the challenge I find most daunting is time management.

And I don’t think it matters if you’re a new writer squeezing it in between work and social life, or an established writer who is juggling signings, writing the next book, and marketing the one that’s out there. We all have demands on our time and the trick is finding the right balance for what works for our life and our careers.

I remember when I first started writing I was a new stay-at-home mom. Those were a couple of easy years. I was used to working 40-60 hours a week, taking my kids to daycare, and still keeping the house clean, spending time with family, and getting everywhere we needed to be on time. Suddenly I had entire days open to me. My house had never been so clean, I made cupcakes for every classroom holiday, I volunteered for every gymnastic meet and school field trip. Writing was Cinderella going to the ball if all her chores were done. The stepmother found infinite problems for Cinderella to overcome, and I did the same thing to myself.

There was a lot of guilt in those early years. I wasn’t staying home to become a writer; I was staying home because our move made it difficult to find a job in my previous career and because we expected to have more children. It was the logical choice. And writing was just the frosting on the cupcake.

So I prioritized everything over writing. But it slowly began to gain on me. Even though I felt guilty for letting that laundry pile up, I just wanted to finish that chapter. And the dishes needed to be done, but I had some more research to do. I was torn between accepting that writing was a job I wasn’t getting paid for, and being the wonder-mom I expected myself to be. After all, my husband was working full-time, I owed it to him to have dinner on the table, the house clean, and laundry done, right?

Yeah, maybe. But that wasn’t really working in my situation. My husband wasn’t placing those expectations on me, I was doing it to myself. As my writing became more and more important to me, and it became clear that I was actually good at it, my priorities slowly shifted. Until one day I decided this was going to be a career, not just a hobby I fit in between babies and housework.

I became selfish. I had to. My older kids were in school full time already, but I needed to put the younger ones in daycare. Yup, I was paying out money so I could write. The guilt compounded, even though I needed this for my career as well as my sanity. (Turns out I’m not the most maternal-stay-at-home mom kind of person.) I needed a career—and I’d found one I absolutely loved—for my own mental health.

And don’t think I wasn’t judged on this. Family and acquaintances alike made comments like, “You’re kids go to daycare? But you stay home?”

Adding their judgment to my own self-generated guilt was a wonderful mix of anxiety and incrimination. But you know what? I stuck with it. My husband supported me. That was really important. I’d never have been able to do what I did without him and his unquestioning support. I get that not everyone has that luxury. Of the supporting husband or the means to pay for daycare when you aren’t actually bringing in any dollar signs yourself. And to be clear, this wasn’t full time. It was two to three days a week.

See, even now I can’t get away from the guilt.

But back to the point. You have to be selfish with your writing. And this can apply in many different ways. Of course you have to set priorities, and children, significant others, work and many other things often need to take a front row seat. But that doesn’t mean that every second of your time needs to be devoted to them. It’s okay to bring store-bought cupcakes to your child’s recital, no matter if those Pinterest Moms look down their noses at you. And yup, I used to be one of those Pinterest Moms. But I like the view off my self-imposed pedestal a lot better.

Sometimes your significant other needs to help with the kids, or the chores. Maybe your mom can baby sit. Or maybe your friends will have to understand that you can only go out once a month instead of every weekend. Sacrifices need to be made, on your part and sometimes on other people’s part too. But that’s where your priorities need to come in. Make a list of all the things you have to do and the things you want to do. Try to determine how much time you can allot to each one, or if some need to come off the list for the time being. It’s all about what works for you.

Yes, there will be guilt. You’ll create some, and those you love will create some. There will be sacrifices. Sometimes your own sacrifices, and sometimes from others. But as long as it’s all in moderation, it’s okay.

For my own case, I had to make writing a part of my life, not a hobby or just something I enjoyed. I still give up writing days now and then for classroom parties and to nurse a sick toddler, but everyone in my family knows it’s my job. Even if I’m not getting paid yet. They see me writing at my desk, and they know that they can interrupt me if they need to, but that Mommy is working. They know they can’t stay home from daycare-day just because they don’t feel like going. They know our house isn’t the cleanest or most orderly in town. Okay, they may have accepted it’s the literal worst, but they also get another benefit.

They see me being dedicated to something: a dream.

They see that they are the most important parts of my life, but there is value in me and my achievements as well as their own. They see me never giving up, working hard, and believing in myself.

So be selfish with your writing. Within reason, of course. Because whether that book ever gets published, whether you ever make any money, whether another person beyond your CPs ever read your words: there is value in pursing a dream and investing in yourself.

Letters to My Representatives 3-20-2017

Good morning fellow Resistors! Here is my letter to Senator Debbie Stabenow for today. Senator Gary Peters received and identical letter and for Representative Paul Mitchell’s letter I removed the portion on Supreme Court nomination (as the House of Reps doesn’t vote on that) and changed some of the wording to reflect that Mitchell doesn’t agree with some of stances. Be sure to write/call your own reps today. We make ourselves heard not by the volume of one individual’s voice, but by volume in numbers of all our voices!

Dear Senator Stabenow,

Good morning!

I encourage you to take a stand against Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I encourage you to filibuster this nomination and take a strong stance against his nomination. At the very least, he needs a vigorous questioning and thorough hearing. While I respect Judge Gorsuch’s accomplishments, I do agree with the comments from Democratic leaders like Senator Chuck Schumer, reiterating that Judge Gorsuch’s presumptive seat belongs to Merrick Garland.

Please continue to fight for a full bipartisan investigation into Trump, his campaign, and his surrogate’s ties to Russia, both politically, financially and things the Russian’s could use to blackmail any in the Trump administration. It is imperative the American people have full knowledge of what has taken place, who lied and when, and who knew what and when.

I encourage you to strongly oppose Trump’s proposed budget. The budget focuses too much on military/defense expenditures and not enough on diplomacy. It cuts needed funds that serve the most vulnerable and needy in this country as well as provide education and development. Those cuts will drastically damage us as a nation able to interact effectively not only with each other, but with the world. The cuts amount to small portions of the budget that make no difference in the enormity of the budget, but their wide spreading impact will be felt by all Americans. And I am appalled at the statements put forth by the GOP as to the ineffectiveness of these programs when there is ample evidence to the contrary. I’d also like to put forth that returns on investment are a terrible and inhumane way to look at programs that benefit humans. Their value as humans is intrinsic, not determined by how much they “give” to society.

Please continue to stand strong against the AHCA and any attempts to repeal ACA. While the program does need some adjustments to make it work best for all Americans, a repeal is not what is best for America.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Austin

Visit Itstimetofight.com for more information, scripts and call lists. They are a vital resource in resisting this damaging GOP administration.