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It's a funny thing [Aug. 7th, 2015|01:29 pm]
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Forgive me if I wax philosophical.

Some of the most creative, talented people I know never get anywhere.

They keep postponing their work, making excuses, one after another.

“Oh, I’ll do it when I’m settled in our new house.” Which they’ll acknowledge in the next sentence might take a year.

Or there are children to raise. “When they go into preschool, I'll have time.” Then, “when they’re in elementary school.” And so on.

It doesn’t stop.

These people never seem to put themselves first, for anything. There are meals to make, books (and not the kind you read) to keep, always the never-ending business of living to be seen to, and somehow, the creative person in the marriage or partnership is the one who takes all the busy-ness on.

They have so many obligations that keep them from the one thing that would make their souls sing.

I see this squandering of talent more in women than men. I think men learn early on that it’s okay to say no, while women are taught to say yes, to be pleasers. Truly, I do know how hard it is to do it all.

There are consequences to talented people not using their talents. The years go by and their creative skillset gets rusty. Their making art or books muscles atrophy. There’s a medical term—sarcopenia—which means the natural loss of muscle tissue as you age. I wonder if there’s a term that defines when your creative muscle—your moxie if you will—shrivels and disappears? The urge you forget that’s still there, because you never think to use it. It’s like you stuck it in the deepest, darkest part of your psyche.

But I can tell you the never using your creativity hurts. The regret shows.

People will let you down. People will betray you.

Don’t let yourself be one of those people.

Don’t break promises you’ve made to yourself. Don’t betray your dreams.

©2015 Jennifer J. Stewart
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Row, row, row your indoor rowing machine [Jul. 25th, 2015|01:11 pm]
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A while back, I wrote a letter to my gym, detailing my reasons for quitting. And although I didn’t intend to quit my fitness goals, that’s kind of sort of what happened for a few months.

The trouble lay in having to make too many decisions. With the gym, I just needed to drive down there, and then pick my poison: the treadmill or the elliptical. Now, there were far more choices. Would I work out in the morning or the evening? Which of three parks would I power walk in? Or would it be better to go for a hike? And then I’d have to figure out where to hike. And if I was going hiking, I needed to pack water, and a snack, and so on. Enter mental exhaustion.

Then there was the part where to exercise first thing in the morning, I had to get dressed, I had to smear myself with sunblock, and then of course, I was starving, so I had to eat breakfast, too.

After that, this being Tucson, it started to get hot. That will really derail outdoor exercise. Soon my six day a week fitness habit had devolved into three times a week workouts. If I was lucky.

There had to be a better way, and I found one.

Taking Gretchen Rubin’s wise advice from her book Better than Before about making my exercise habit convenient, I invested in an indoor rowing machine, specifically the Concept 2. Pricey, certainly—about three times the cost of my cut-rate gym membership—but I’ve been very happy with it.

Every morning now, except for Sundays, I get up and put on my exercise clothing. I head to the kitchen and make myself a mug of English Breakfast tea, spiking it liberally with almond milk.

Then, I get on my Concept 2, and row, row, row hard for 30 minutes. I listen to music, but it’s familiar music, so it’s good thinking time. Writers need lots of uninterrupted thinking time.

I’ve lost a smidgen of weight, but I’ve put on muscle and gotten stronger, and I notice everything is tighter, except my pants.
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Book Love [Jul. 25th, 2015|12:44 pm]
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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson—An international bestseller, and deservedly so, the novel follows the lives of Ursula Todd. Yes, lives—Ursula gets do-overs. Particularly compelling are the sections set during the London Blitz. I’ve also read the sequel—really companion novel—A God in Ruins, and enjoyed it too.

Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt—What happens when the bully gets bullied? K.A. Holt distills everything in free verse. Bonus: you’ll learn some wicked ways with books.

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley—Oh, man, does this book have it all, and it’s written in funny accessible prose. I got this from the library, but I’ll have to get my own copy. Yes, it’s that good. If you adored Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, I’ll bet you’ll love this book.

Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck—Okay, I am not the greatest cook. Understatement. In fact, there is a lot of swearing going on when I cook, and when I’m finished the kitchen resembles a crime scene. Sometimes it even catches on fire. So a cookbook with liberal four letter words sprinkled in? I’m all over it. The recipes are really not that complicated, plus I always keep a fire extinguisher handy.

P.S. These aren't books, but I subscribe to “One Thing New” that delivers a couple articles in my email in-box weekly. A couple months ago, the lead article was “Productivity Tips for the Real World” by Kimberly Weisul and Emily Brower Auchard. Whatever the subject, I’m always intrigued and entertained. I also like to listen to Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Smart's weekly podcast. This week's episode covered creativity, and the special guest was Rosanne Cash. Gretchen is the author of Better than Before, and Elizabeth writes for television.
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Helping Nepal [Apr. 27th, 2015|07:48 am]
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I have been doing a lot of soul searching about helping Nepali people, particularly the children, who are most vulnerable. Many of you know that years ago my family worked in Nepal as medical volunteers, and that I wrote a children's novel out of those experiences. I want to urge everyone to donate to the charity of your choice (The New York Times has a good list). I want to do more, and I am figuring it out. Perhaps all profits from school visits in the next year will be dedicated to this cause? That sounds about right. Stay tuned.
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Barbara Park Memorial Literacy Grant [Apr. 16th, 2015|08:55 am]
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Attention, Arizona schools!

The deadline to apply for a Barbara Park Memorial Literacy Grant is April 21st, five days from now. Barbara Park was best known for her Junie B. Jones series. Twenty grants of $400 each will be awarded to buy books for your school library.

The application is here. Good luck!
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Dear Gym [Feb. 12th, 2015|09:01 am]
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I wrote a personal essay for Revolvist, out today. It's called "Dear Gym." Hope you enjoy it!
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New year's resolution [Dec. 31st, 2014|01:45 pm]
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So I think I've come up with the most boring new year's resolution ever.

On the other hand, it's probably doable, and it's not a huge change. Okay, my new year's resolution is to eat a salad every day.

I probably eat salad every other day already.

There, aren't you underwhelmed? 2015, bring it on!
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#EndGunViolence [Dec. 7th, 2014|05:24 pm]
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Remembering victims

Two years ago, in Newtown, Connecticut, innocent lives were taken by gun violence. In Tucson, we witnessed our own tragedy nearly four years ago.

We can recite these places where gun violence occurs like a litany.

Shockingly, when the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings takes place next Sunday, 60,000 more Americans will have died from gunshot wounds.

St John on the Desert Presbyterian Church in Tucson is partnering with the Newtown Foundation, Washington National Cathedral, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. Across the nation, from December 11-14, there will be special events and services in remembrance of the victims.

St John is my church, and I will be there for the worship service, followed by a candlelight vigil, for the victims of gun violence.

Gun violence affects all of us.

I hope you will join me.

Friday, December 12th, 6-7 pm
St John on the Desert Presbyterian Church
2695 N. Houghton Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85749
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Give it a listen: If That Breathes Fire, We’re Toast! [Nov. 8th, 2014|01:47 pm]
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If That Breathes Fire, We’re Toast! by Jennifer J. Stewart (that's me) is now available as an audiobook, from Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. If you get the book as a new Audible listener, it’s free!

I also have FREE Audible download codes. Please email me (jennifer at jenniferjstewart dot com). I will send them out while they last, along with easy instructions for using them.

Miranda Stewart narrated the audiobook. It’s good to have a family member in “the business.” Miranda also narrated another of my middle grade children’s novels, The Girl Who Has Everything, as well as Wendy K. Williamson's bestselling memoir, I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar. I am sure Miranda will narrate many more books! Have a listen
to a sample.

When If That Breathes Fire, We’re Toast! first came out, VOYA put it on its Best Fantasies of the Year list. It was also a finalist for Oklahoma’s Sequoyah Book Award.

Trade review snippets:
This enjoyable, slapstick story has tongue-in-cheek humor and interesting characters that suspend reality and will captivate its audience. VOICE OF YOUTH ADVOCATES
...the sharp, funny phrasing and the likable, believable characters give the book freshness and zip, and the eye-catching cover will help it circulate in libraries. BOOKLIST
The story beautifully blends fantasy and reality. This book is tough to put down! CHILDREN'S LITERATURE
Relaxed, readable debut... tongue-in-cheek humor will keep readers turning pages. KIRKUS
The dialogue is fresh, and the characters are likeable, including the adults... A quick, fun read. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

I hope you enjoy the audiobook, and if you do, please consider leaving a review if you have time. They matter. Thank you.
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Link love [Oct. 29th, 2014|10:37 am]
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In no particular order, these are websites that are helpful for writing people, unorganized people (imagine a Venn diagram here showing how these two intersect), and people who just want to have a little fun, which includes everyone.

TeuxDeux—This virtual ‘to do’ list keeps me organized and on track. Now it comes in colors and with a flying unicat!

Number Five Bus—Interesting conversations between interesting people, all of whom happen to be picture book creators—authors, illustrators, or author-illustrators. You will learn a lot.

Drew Weing's webcomic, The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo—Make sure you start from the beginning. Perfect for Halloween!

We Need Diverse Books—If you haven’t heard of this group, you need to, whether you are a part of the children’s and teen literature community or not. It matters. Their indiegogo campaign is here. I donated. Please join me.

The Minimalists—They’ve helped me clear the clutter and think about all my stuff in a new light. Perhaps they will help you. Plus, playing the #minsgame on twitter is fun.

Which websites are your favorites? Also, as the possessor of a new smartphone, are there apps that I shouldn't miss?
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