Janet Sumner Johnson
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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?


Winners!

Mar 31, 2014 Uncategorized 4 comments

The contest is over, and we have two winners of GABY, LOST AND FOUND by Angela Cervantes:

Sharon Mayhew
 
&
 
Akossiwa Ketoglo

Congratulations!! I’ve contacted you both with instructions for receiving your signed copy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Also, I’ll be taking a blogging break in the month of April as most people are busy with the A-Z blogfest, and life is extremely busy with kids activities and end-of-the-school-year stuff. You know how it is. 🙂

Have a happy April, and I’ll see you in May!


What I’m Reading: 10-y.o. Edition

Mar 24, 2014 Uncategorized 10 comments

We make frequent trips to the library at our house (luckily it’s super close), and 10-year-old always leaves with stacks and stacks of books. I try to limit him to what will fit in the library bag–but it doesn’t always happen that way. I think it’s really interesting to see what others are reading, so here is a snapshot of just a few of his recent selections*:

What does your TBR (to-be-read) pile look like?

P.S. Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a signed copy of Gaby, Lost and Found. You can find the Rafflecopter HERE.

*I may have read some of these, too. 😉


An Interview with Girlie: Angela Cervantes (+Giveaway!)

Mar 17, 2014 Uncategorized 10 comments

Back in August, one of my super sweet CP’s (Critique Partner’s), Angela Cervantes, published her debut middle-grade novel, Gaby, Lost and Found with Scholastic Press. If you haven’t read it yet, you should! It is a touching story about a girl trying to find her place when her life is flipped up-side down. Here’s the blurb:

Gaby Howard Ramirez loves volunteering at the local animal shelter. She’s in charge of writing adoption advertisements so that the strays who live there can find their forever homes: places where they’ll be cared for and loved, no matter what.

Gaby has been feeling like a bit of a stray herself lately. Her mother has recently been deported to Honduras, and Gaby is stuck living with her inattentive dad. She’s confident that her mom will come home soon so they can adopt Gaby’s favorite shelter cat together. But when the cat’s owners turn up at the shelter, Gaby worries that her plans for the perfect family are about to fall apart.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a crier, but this one had me all choked up. I’m not an animal person, but she had me falling in love with each stray as I read the adoption advertisements. Gaby is a spunky character full of heart, and I’m certain you’ll fall in love with her like I did.
 
I begged asked Angela if she’d be willing to do an interview with Girlie (my 4-year-old daughter), and she obligingly agreed.
 
So this is Girlie, and I’m going to let her take it from here:
 
Girlie: I don’t know who you are. Who are you?

Angela: I’m Angela Cervantes and I’m author of Gaby, Lost and Found, which was published by Scholastic Press. 🙂

Girlie: I like to play Diego Wii with my friends. What do you like to do with your friends?

Angela: I enjoy going for coffee with my friends and playing tennis or baseball with them.

Girlie: I’m trying to make people happy by playing with them and sharing my stuff. How do you make people happy?

Angela: I think sharing things is a great way to make people happy. I’m going to have to do more of that. I also think people really like it when you’re a good, honest friend to them and you remember their birthdays.

Girlie: People can be nice to each other and don’t throw a fit. Is the girl with the cat in the backpack nice and doesn’t throw fits?
 
Angela: The girl on the cover is Gaby and she is super nice. She’s also brave, smart and a serious animal lover. She’d do anything to help a cat or dog if it were in trouble.  I think the only time she throws a fit is when she feels an innocent animal has been poorly treated. I don’t blame her really.

Girlie: I like the kitty on the cover. I don’t have a kitty. Do you?

Angela: I don’t have a kitty either, but I’m glad you like the cat on the cover. That cat is named Feather. In this book, we find out that Feather was named Feather by the folks at the animal shelter because when she was brought into the shelter she was as light as a Feather. She and Gaby become good friends.

Girlie: You look cute in that picture and I like your skirt. Do you choose your own clothes? I do!

Angela: Thank you! I do choose my own clothes. I love picking out cute stuff to wear. I love bright colors like red, purple, pinks and yellows.

Girlie: Did you sign the book? Do we get to keep it?
 
Me: Sorry Girlie, I know you love this book, but we have our own copy. We’re going to give these ones to some people who haven’t read it yet.
 
Angela: I am always happy to sign a book for anyone who wants it. 🙂 It’s one of the nice perks of being an author.

Me: Angela, thanks so much for answering all of Girlie’s questions. She loves your book and keeps sneaking it from my room! But I have a couple of questions for you, too. As you know, I re-joined our critique group shortly after you got the offer from Scholastic, so I missed the whole writing process. How long did it take you to write Gaby, Lost and Found? And would you tell us about your revision process, too?
 
Angela: It took nine months to write Gaby, Lost and Found and another two years of revision. I believe the real magic happens during revision and I enjoy it. For me, it’s not as intense as the writing process. I go into revision knowing I have to chop away stuff. I go into writing never knowing what will happen so I definitely prefer revision. Although it can be painful– especially when you have to take out a character (I had to remove two characters from Gaby, Lost and Found) or remove a favorite scene–but it’s necessary if you’re committed to making the story stronger.
 
Me: Oooh! I love knowing secret stuff like about books, like characters that didn’t make the cut. I may have to hear about these characters at our next meeting. 🙂 Okay, so last question. I kind of have this thing about personalized license plates. So, if Gaby were old enough to drive, what would her personalized license plate be?
 
Angela: Gaby’s license plate would be GRLPWR.

Me: I love it! She definitely lives up to that. 🙂

Angela Cervantes is a poet, storyteller, and animal lover. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in various publications, including Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul. When Angela is not writing, she enjoys hanging out with her husband in Kansas and eating fish tacos every chance she gets. Gaby, Lost and Found is her first middle-grade novel. She is currently at work on her second book.

You can keep up with Angela at her website:

http://angelacervantes.com/

Now for the Giveaway! I have two signed (paperback) copies of Gaby, Lost and Found to give away to two lucky visitors. Just enter in the Rafflecopter below! The giveaway is open through March 31st. Good luck!
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway