Janet Sumner Johnson
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Summer Break!

Jul 14, 2014 Uncategorized 5 comments

Summer is now in full swing, and rather than fight, I’ve decided to succumb and embrace the crazy. So I’ll be taking a blogging break from now to the end of August.

In the mean time, here are some summer pictures to enjoy:

The last day of school:

The Drive-in:

Fireworks:

And of course, Ice Cream!

Have a great summer!


High Heels and Science: Being Girly is Okay

Jul 07, 2014 Uncategorized 14 comments

So this past week or so, this article about a Verizon
commercial has been going around:

“Powerful Ad Shows What A Little Girl Hears When You Tell Her She’s Pretty”

After watching the commercial, I have all kinds of things going through my head.
Things that have been swirling about for a while now, and I am tired of holding
it in. First, as a parent, I tell my boys not to get their clothes muddy, too.
Because, LAUNDRY. Need I say more? And who are they to tell us what a girl hears
when you tell her she’s pretty? I’m a girl. I know just fine what I hear.

Because here is the thing: my personal experience as a girl
was pretty much the opposite. No one took tools from me and said ‘let your
brother do that.’ Everyone told me how great I was at science and math. From
parents, to teachers, to professors. And knowing how much of a braggart I must
sound, I was great at it. All my
highest test scores and best/easiest grades were in math and science.

Everyone encouraged me to go into a science, depending on
what subject they favored: My orthodontist told me I should be an orthodontist.
My engineer dad encouraged me to be an engineer. My HS and college math
professors said I should major in math. My physical science professor
encouraged me to major in science.

And they were all men. They saw potential, they encouraged.
Good on them! Exactly what the ad said adults should be doing. And what the ad
suggests they aren’t doing. Keep in mind, I am old. Like in my 30’s *wink,* so this
was back in the day women were discouraged from science, right?

By all accounts, I should have been in that 18% mentioned in
the ad. Because I liked science. And I STILL liked it when I got to college.
Plus, I was encouraged, which,
according to this ad, simply doesn’t happen for girls. And right up until my
first semester of college, I planned to be an engineer.

So what happened? What went wrong???

Nothing.

That first semester, I realized that the classes that I loved
were not math and science. So I switched. Majored in English. And I am one of
those people who was somehow “failed” by society because I didn’t
major in science. Or so this study tells me.

Well I am here to tell you that I was not
“failed.” I did not fall out of love with math and science because
society discouraged me or told me I couldn’t be good at it. I simply loved
other stuff more. I know it is not politically correct to suggest that gender
might be an influence, but there it is.

In no way do I mean to suggest that there won’t be women
out there who love science best. Of course there are. And actually, I know and love quite a few of them. But why make the other
82% feel like crap for not choosing science? MUST we choose it simply because
we can? Simply because others aren’t?

I read an article where the author makes a conscious effort not to talk clothes or hair or pretty with little girls. And while I love a lot about the article, I was left with a
question: What if a girl loves fashion? What if she loves make-up? What if she
wants to cut hair? Are those desires unacceptable now? Are those subjects not
“smart” enough? Not educated enough?

The coveted high heels
Because I have a little girl who loves all of that stuff.
And trust me, this is not me thrusting girliness upon her. I was a Tomboy with
a capital ‘T.’ I loved sports and taking things apart and running around
without a shirt because my brothers could. So imagine my surprise when my own
daughter is not like that. When my own daughter insists on cute girly froofy
skirts that poof when she spins. When all she wants for her birthday is a pair
of high heels (I don’t even wear high heels!).
 
“But these jeans!” I say, “Don’t you want to
wear jeans? Like Mama?”

Nope, she’s having none of it. She knows what she likes, and
who I am to discourage that simply because the world says she should love
science, and sports, and stuff that is not cutesy? Stuff that is “educated.”

I have just read so many articles and seen so many ads (I’m
talking to you, GoldieBlox with your anti-pink Super Bowl ad)
on what you should and shouldn’t say to little girls, and what you should and
shouldn’t give. I worry that the swing from healthy encouragement of letting girls
be who they choose to be has switched to discouraging little girls from doing
things that are esteemed to be “girly.” Pink is not okay. Dresses are
oppression incarnate. Choosing to teach or study English, or heavens, stay at home
to raise children is letting societal stereotypes guide your life.

I assure you, it is not. And with that, I claim pink to be an
acceptable color, dolls to be acceptable toys, and dresses to be acceptable
attire.

In no way do I mean to belittle women who choose science. I
LOVE science! I think it’s great when women choose that—as long as it is their
choice and not society forcing it upon them. I am sure there are girls who did
not get the encouragement that I did. Girls who maybe would have gone into a
science. And for that, I am sorry. Just as sorry as I am for girls who are put
down for liking pink.

I defend the rights of girls to choose science or NOT. The
rights of girls to love pink, blue, orange, black, fuscia, or all of them. To be a girly
girl, a tomboy, or a mix of the two as they so choose.
Society would vilify these words. Tell you they are insults. But I disagree! To
be Girly is a joyous and beautiful thing. I know because I see it daily with my
own daughter. To be a Tomboy is exciting and a daily adventure. I know because
I lived it.

There is room for all of it, and we need to find a way to
encourage the one without denigrating the other (whatever your preference may
be).

RED BUTTERFLY Winner!

Jun 30, 2014 Uncategorized 2 comments

And the winner is . . .

Jessie Oliveros!

Congratulations!! You’ve won a pre-order of Amy Sonnichsen’s RED BUTTERFLY, which is set to release Feb. 3, 2015.

I have sent an email, and I’ll get you all set up as soon as I have your address.

Hope you all have a great Monday!


Passionate Discussions on Social Media

Jun 23, 2014 Uncategorized 8 comments

***Five days left to enter for a chance to win a pre-order of RED BUTTERFLY (link)***

I am a person with strong opinions. Only natural considering my family loves to discuss. After meals, we’d sit around the family room and “passionately discuss” (my husband’s euphemism for the sport). I never thought much about it until my then-boyfriend, now-husband sat in with us. He was shocked that we hadn’t all leaped over the coffee table to beat each other up. I was shocked at his take on the evening.

But since that time, I have thought a lot about how a discussion can come across. Especially in the last few years, given the explosion of social media. I love discussing things passionately, but I have been amazed at how quickly a discussion turns to mud-slinging on the internet.

Instead of discussing issues, people turn to name-calling. Anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a jerk, and a whole slew of much more vulgar insults. To make things worse, intent of the Written Word can be much harder to interpret than that of the Spoken Word. Plus, it’s easier to be rude when you don’t have to look your audience in the eye, and it’s double easier when you can post that rudeness anonymously.  The exchanges can leave you feeling like this:

Which is why I’ve hesitated to join in. Instead, I’ve kept my posts/tweets/status updates innocuous.

Once, I broke my silence. Expressed my confusion on a current Media to-do. I sincerely wanted to understand and said as much, asking commenters to keep it civil.

From that, I had a “friend” explode on me. It was crazy. She unleashed her anger on me over a slew of subjects that had nothing to do with my post, and before I could even figure out what had gone wrong, she unfriended me. And I don’t just friend anyone on Facebook. This was someone I knew well. Someone I truly considered to be a friend. It made me sad.

More thinking ensued, and in the end, I determined that I can’t avoid discussion forever. But I refuse to let others dictate my behavior. As such, I have come up with three rules of conduct for social media:

1. Treat others the way you would want to be treated (the Golden Rule, yo).

This means you gotta show respect. People will have different opinions than yours, but going all kinds of piranha-crazy-fish on them isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. When someone can express their views passionately yet respectfully, I’m much more likely to listen. 

2. Let your work gel before hitting “send.”

Does what you are typing really need to be said? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Let it sit for a few hours and see if you still feel that responding to something is the best choice. But ask yourself: What am I accomplishing with this tweet/facebook post/response/social-media-message-of-choice? Are you really convincing others of something, or are you speaking to dead air? Are you venting, or are you defending something that needs defending? Time gives better perspective.

3. Accept that you cannot possibly please everyone.

No matter how nicely you say something, you will find people who just don’t want to hear what you have to say. People have their own reasons for doing what they do. I’ve found people ready to be offended at nothing. We can’t change others, we can only change ourselves. But if we are respectful in what we say on social media, try to consider other’s points-of-view, well, in my book we will be happier.

What suggestions do you have for engaging in social media debates?


“The Butler” and Standing Up for What You Believe

Jun 16, 2014 Uncategorized 5 comments

This weekend I finally saw Lee Daniel’s The Butler. Yes, yes,
I’m behind in the movie-going world, but that’s what you get when you have 3
kids and a husband still in training. (Let’s just say the medical path is a long one, my
friends).

But getting back to the point, this movie had me all over
the emotional chart. You read about the civil rights movement, and the events
and the horrors, but it’s different seeing it a bit closer. So much courage! So
much patience. I am in awe of Martin Luther King Jr. and his conviction and
understanding of how to change people’s minds. He and Dumbledore would get
along great, because the answer really is LOVE. And the world desperately needs
more men and women like him.

But I digress. There is so much I could say about this
movie, but I won’t. I’m choosing to focus on one aspect. One aspect that is the
main theme, but I feel gets buried a bit by the end.

You see, the movie does this amazing job of showing the parallel
lives of Mr. Cecil Gaines and his son, Louis. Cecil is a butler at the Whitehouse.
Louis is a Freedom Rider who takes part in the sit-in at Woolworths, and other infamous
events.

Louis is out doing. He is fighting for his freedom, and for
the freedoms of all African-Americans. He is brave. He sacrifices his time, his
safety, and even his family for what he believes. And he suffers. Countless
stints in jail. Beatings. Every time he stands up in protest, he risks death.
In short, he is a hero. Very obviously. No question.

And then there is Cecil. He does not fight. He plays the
role that society expects of him. Subservient. Soft-spoken. Not allowed to
express political views at the risk of losing his job. He is paid less than
white men doing the same job, but doesn’t even dare express discontent about
that (at least at first). In short he fears. Fears for his life. Fears for his
son’s life. And yet . . .

And yet, he is a noble figure. In his own way he is fighting,
too. It is not obvious. It is not brazen. But he is fighting, and his influence
is felt. At one point Louis speaks of his father with Martin Luther King, Jr.. Louis
has been ashamed of his father his whole life, but Dr. King responds with this:

“Young brother, the black domestic defy racial
stereotype about being hard working and trustworthy. It slowly tears down
racial hatred because it’s an example of a strong work ethic and dignified
character. Now while we perceive the butler to be mainly subservient, in many
ways they are subversive, without even knowing it.”

In short, Cecil is more powerful than either of them
realized. Cecil’s honest decency. His care and concern for others regardless of
their personal views. He influenced people. He changed them.

There are so many parallels to this story in today’s world.
We are called on to stand up for what we believe in (whatever that may be).
Sometimes we think there is only one way to do that. That we must fight. We
must be brazen heroes like Louis, with courage that is obvious.

But quiet heroism. Love for others. Treating others kindly,
even when you know their views diametrically oppose yours. That is power, too.

**Don’t forget to enter for (link–>) a chance to win a Pre-order of RED BUTTERFLY**


THE RED BUTTERFLY’s Cover Reveal!! + Win a Pre-order

Jun 06, 2014 Uncategorized 16 comments

Not quite two years ago, my blogging friend and I exchanged manuscripts. I knew hers was a novel-in-verse, but I didn’t know quite what to expect. Well. Let’s just say, I was blown away. Blown!

That, of course was a draft of Amy Sonnichsen’s RED BUTTERFLY. It was touching and delicate. Beautiful and surprising! I still think about this story. And even though Amy didn’t have an agent at the time, I knew it wouldn’t be long.

Last Summer it was picked up by Simon & Schuster, Books for Young Readers, and is slated for publication in Winter 2015. And I’m THRILLED to be part of her cover reveal! Go Amy!! [And I’m sure she’d love it if you stopped by her blog, The Green Bathtub, to congratulate her!]

So first, the book blurb:


Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an elderly American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has … but what if Kara secretly wants more?

Told in lyrical, moving verse, Kara’s story is one of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights.
And if that doesn’t have you dying to read it, just look at this beautiful cover!
 

 

A.L. Sonnichsen grew up in Hong Kong and then spent eight years in China as adult. She now lives on the dry side of Washington State with her dashingly handsome sidekick, five talented children, and a luxury cat. Red Butterfly is her first novel. Learn more at alsonnichsen.blogspot.com. Twitter: @alsonnichsen

~~~

And because I love this book so much, I want to give away a pre-order of it! Just enter in the Rafflecopter below, and feel free to spread the word. This contest is open to US and Canada addresses, and will close June 27th at midnight EDT. Best of luck!

Congratulations, Amy! I’m so excited for you and your beautiful book.
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


In Which I Impatiently Await Amy’s Cover Reveal

Jun 02, 2014 Uncategorized 5 comments

This is my normal posting day, but I’m kind of excited, because Amy Sonnichsen is having her cover reveal this week for RED BUTTERFLY, and I get to be part of it!

Sooooo, I need ya’ll to come back here on Friday, June 6 to see Amy’s beautiful cover. It’s beautiful guys. And perfectly perfect! I can’t wait for you to see it, and I even more can’t wait for you to read it. Will Winter of 2015 never come?!! 🙂

I’m so in love with this book, I just can’t even . . . yeah. I can’t.

See you on Friday! and P.S. if you aren’t following Amy on twitter, you seriously should be. She tweets here: @alsonnichsen


Happy Memorial Day!

May 26, 2014 Uncategorized 1 comment

Just wanted to remember all the men and women who have served our country in the military, and give thanks.

Thank you, for your sacrifice! Thank you, for fighting for our freedoms!

Below is a picture of my grandpa:

Grandpa Sumner is circled (in case you wondered)

He had a limp from a horse-riding accident as a youth and so when he tried to join the Army during World War II, they wouldn’t take him. The Navy wouldn’t. The Marines wouldn’t. The Airforce wouldn’t.

But he felt so strongly about serving our country, that he kept trying. Finally, he was accepted into the Merchant Marines. During his service, his ship was torpedoed and he had to abandon it in shark-infested waters. Despite the chaos, he had the presence of mind to stop and grab his wallet, and because of that, he was able to help out his fellow soldiers when they got back to land (loan them money so they could get a hotel room, and eat and stuff).

I’m so proud of him and all others like him who give and have given of themselves selflessly. Thank you!


When You Have Nothing Left: On Soccer and Writing

May 12, 2014 Uncategorized 4 comments

So I started a soccer team. After watching my boys play, all the love for the game came rushing back until I couldn’t stand it. I had to play. That’s all there was to it.
 
There I am, circled. 🙂

My husband found an indoor soccer place with a women’s league, and I convinced all my friends that they needed this in their lives. And it’s kindof been awesome.

It doesn’t matter that most of the women I play with have never played before. It doesn’t matter that our team is terrible (if we can keep the other team to single digits, we feel pretty good!). We are out there taking a risk. Doing something different and having fun!

And being on the field has reminded why I love this sport so much. You have to dig deep, and run harder and faster than you think you can. Even when you have nothing left, you push yourself, because if you don’t, you’re not just letting yourself down, you’re letting your teammates down.

The ball rolls free and it’s a race. Muscles tense, you fly to beat your opponent. In that moment, you forget the ache, forget the scream in your lungs, because if the other team gets it, the opportunity is gone.

If you don’t give it everything you have, you wind up like a puppet–yanked around while you, half-heartedly chase something you will never catch.

Writing is like this. As an author, you have to push yourself harder and dig deeper than you think is possible. It takes will power to make yourself sit in that chair and write. It takes focus to get those words from your brain onto paper.

And once it’s down, that’s only the beginning. Then you have to push yourself to find the story that’s hiding in there. The one that wants to come out and shine if only you can dig deep enough. If only you can get past that voice that says it’s too hard. Or that you aren’t good enough. Or that your story’s not good enough.

Push yourself! That ball is bouncing just out of reach, and if you don’t give it your all, you will wind up chasing a dream that is always just out of reach. Always so close, but never in your grasp. Instead of shining, you become a shadow of what you could be.

We won’t always win, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing you gave it your all. You gave it everything you had and then you gave more. You didn’t quit. You focused. You conquered yourself and came out just a wee bit better.

And all those wee bits add up.

How do you push yourself?


Fun With License Plates

May 05, 2014 Uncategorized 5 comments

I don’t know what it is, but April is akin to December at our house. Busy with all kinds of fun and crazy activities. I fully plan to tell you about my travels and the awesome writing conference I went to, but not today.

Today I wanted to share a little license plate fun.

First there was the one on the gray infiniti:

See it? In front of that white car? . . .

Okay, I was driving, and just couldn’t get the picture, but this was the license plate:

NB3YOND
 
Awesome, no?
 
And then I saw this other gray car:
 

I don’t know why it struck me as so funny, that the car wasn’t pink. But now I need to know the story!
 
I ask this all the time, but I think the answer can change, so I ask it again: What would your personalized plate say today?