If you're in the greater Space Coast area, this weekend's LightFest Stroll Through the Lights event is not to be missed!

With 2.5 million lights on display, this is your only chance to walk through the lights instead of viewing them from your car. The event will also feature entertainment, kids activities, horseback rides, bounce houses, Santa visits, crafts, lots and lots of yummy food--and a jumpstart on your holiday shopping with local vendors, including me.

So come ready to have some fun and get a jumpstart on your gifting! I'll be running all my holiday promotions at my booth, and I'll be accompanied by a couple other great speculative fiction authors, too--Jaimie Engle and D. Ryan Gish. Get a sneak peek of the event tomorrow night on Jaimie's Facebook Live post at 6 p.m.!

Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the cheer continues until 10 p.m. More deets here: http://www.spacecoastlightfest.com/stroll-through-the-lights/.

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It's Black Friday!

Black Friday is one of my favorite holidays. I know, there is something wrong with me.

blackfriday

My sister and I used to wake up in the middle of the night for a mad dash of shopping and bonding, we would get all our holiday shopping done in one fell swoop, and then we'd wrap it up with the clink of a peppermint mocha--all before most of the world had even gotten out of bed.

Besides, as a firm believer in celebrating one holiday at a time, Black Friday is the official start of the winter holiday season! The decorations, the music, the food, the love--it all starts on Black Friday.

And God knows, this country desperately needs to spread love right now.

As an author, I am biased, but I believe deeply in books' power to spread empathy, understanding and wonder in this world.

So I've got a fun little holiday initiative to share with you--my own little way of passing forward a little much-needed cheer.

Here's how it goes:

  1. Gift wrapping!
    I have some pretty, shiny, non-denominational holiday wrap right here, and I'm dying to use it. Buy Mud for a loved one through this form on my website between today and December 24, and I will personally gift wrap it for you. I'll even do a little ribbon bow.

    And yes, it is safe to assume that I am wearing my Santa hat while I wrap your gift.

  2. Signed, sealed and personalized!
    I will sign every copy of Mud ordered through my website form and address it to the person you specify. If you have a special message you want included, I'll do that too! Just include it in your order notes.
  3. Give one, get one!
    Because it gives me joy to get my book in your hands. So when you order one copy of Mud for a loved one, you can order a second copy for yourself (or a second loved one) for 50% off. That means your second hard cover is $12.49, or your second paperback is just $7.99.
  4. You give, I give, Jack!
    This is the best part of all. For every copy of Mud purchased between now and December 24, I will donate a dollar to the Florida Writers Foundation.Every hard cover. Every paperback. Every ebook. No matter where you buy it--just email your receipt to hello@ejwenstrom.com.

    The Florida Writers Foundation promotes literacy by enhancing  writing skills in children and adults. To accomplish this goal, it partners with existing programs and initiatives as well as  developing programs of its own.

To start spreading the holiday love right now, click here and place your order!

P.S.--This is just the start. I'm working with a number of other speculative fiction authors to bring you an awesome holiday book collection giveaway in December--along with fun graphics, quotes and teasers from the existing and soon-to-come Chronicles of the Third Realm War universe.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

In celebration, I've collected a few quotes about how important gratitude is for fostering creative spirit. Enjoy!

gratitude-3 gratitude-2 gratitude-1

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arrival

Last weekend I watched Arrival. (It's lovely and amazing, go see it.) Throughout the film, 12 alien spaceships hover over the Earth. Inside them, aliens wait behind protective glass for humans to come to them.

This in itself sends humanity into a terrified frenzy, exposing a variety of cracks and fractures within the goodness we like to believe is at humanity's core. Politics, secrets, and fear fuel a range of negative responses from the world's people and governments, while the the aliens wait patiently.

The worst monsters are the ones hiding inside us and the people around us. 

 

It's a message that hits hard right now, because I see its truth everywhere I look. I have tried to keep politics away from my author-ing this election year, and I don't want to break that now. So I'm going to skirt the politics itself and just say this: A big and very serious consequence of this election has been a normalization and emboldening of racism, sexism and bigotry. This frightens me to no end--and most of it is not even directed at me, because, white privilege.

This is a blog about monsters and speculative fiction. But if there is one thing that this genre tells us over and over again, it's that the worst monsters are not dragons, they are not AI, they are not hydras or demons or demogorgons. It's us.

The trouble with monsters within ourselves is, they are particularly difficult to fight. 

They cling deep into us with bias and determination. Often, we become so comfortable with them inside us, we do not even realize they are there.

How does one fight such a thing, in ourselves or in the people around us?

I actually found a pretty great answer in this Vox article, and I consider it the most important article I've read all month.

The article delves into a research study that used the issue of transgender rights to see if a simple conversation that calls on empathy could make a difference.

The canvassers, who could be trans or not, asked the voters to simply put themselves in the shoes of trans people — to understand their problems — through a 10-minute, nonconfrontational conversation. The hope was that the brief discussion could lead people to reevaluate their biases.

It worked. The trial found not only that voters’ anti-trans attitudes declined but that they remained lower three months later, showing an enduring result. And those voters’ support for laws that protect trans people from discrimination increased, even when they were presented with counterarguments for such laws.

The article goes on to say:

This is the direct opposite of the kind of culture the internet has fostered — typically focused on calling out racists and shaming them in public. This doesn’t work. And as much as it might seem like a lost cause to understand the perspectives of people who may qualify as racist, understanding where they come from is a needed step to being able to speak to them in a way that will help reduce the racial biases they hold.

I strongly encourage you to read the full article for yourself.

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4

It’s ADD Awareness Month. And as it happens, I have ADD.

I don’t generally talk about it much. This is, in part, because the term gets thrown around so much. Oh my God, I’m so ADD. It’s something people say when they lose something or have a moment of distraction.

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And it’s fine, it’s not offensive like when people use the word “retarded,” but it takes the meaning out of the term.

Every time I hear it, I have the impulse to say, “No, I have ADD.” But it’s just really not worth an argument. To jump in on a label being thrown around like it’s a trend just feels flaky, and I already feel flaky often enough without that.

It’s also in part because there is in fact a stigma attached to ADD, and I enjoy being taken seriously at work.

This is furthered by the fact that the type of ADD I have (inattentive) does not show the stereotypical symptoms we’ve come to associate with this disorder – even as a child, I’ve never been the bounce-off-the-walls, rambunctious, impulsive type.

I wasn’t the kid who made the teacher want to pull her hair out. I was the kid the teacher loved, because I sat quietly to the side and didn’t cause problems. Ironically, this was a prime symptom of my ADD type. Inattentives are daydreamers. Space cases. We’re masters at looking like we’re paying attention, while in our heads we’re out chasing figurative butterflies.

But in the spirit of awareness, this seems like a good time to step out of my bubble a bit and talk about my ADD. It’s undeniably shaped my life’s narrative and personal identity. It still affects my life as an adult.

And hey, that’s worth talking about.

Diagnosis and Identity

If I had found out I had ADD as a younger child, I think it would have made a big difference. Primarily, I probably would have been much more willing to believe that I was dumb because of my ADD, and I think society would have been much more willing to tell me so. I’ve seen it happen with other kids I’ve known, when they get put in the LD (learning disabilities) Center.

(Let’s be clear: Intelligence and learning disabilities are totally separate things. You can have ADD, dyslexia, whatever, and still be a genius.)

So it was probably a real blessing that I didn’t start showing red flags until around age 14, even if it did cause some serious disruption to my life at the time.

My grades began to drop at the same time as I started getting migraines, which for a while caused my parents to speculate that I could very likely have a brain tumor. Which is a story all on its own. For now, let’s just jump right to doctor 8 or 9, the one who finally thought to separate the two things and recommend LD testing.

By that point, after about a full year of being told I was simply not paying attention, I wasn’t being careful enough, wasn’t trying hard enough—that I was simply too smart to be getting these grades—all the while knowing that I was doing my damnedest to do well, and worse, that despite my grades I knew all the material (we’re talking D’s in calculus classes while crushing AP exams with 4s), finding out there was something real going on was a huge relief.

I scooped up every book I could find on the topic to understand what was going on with my brain.

Learning to Cope

I tried a few different medications. They helped me focus, sure, but they also made me bored and, worse, I developed a terrible temper, the kind where you scream, cry, throw things across the room. The kind where you see yourself acting insane, but can’t stop it.

Around my senior year in high school, I decided to try going without medication.

It was good timing.

As my life became less externally structured in college and beyond, I learned how to structure it in ways that worked better for me, based on my strengths and weaknesses and ADD tendencies.

For example, I cling fiercely to the force of habit (keys go in the basket in the hall as soon as I get home; I write every morning at 5:30) to ensure that important things don’t get lost and my most important actions are completed.

I’ve learned that writing things down by hand increases my odds of remembering them about 237%, and writing it down on my hand increases those odds to roughly 1011%. The more I could condense things like keys, or calendars, or membership cards—the more I could make them things that I touch frequently—the less likely I was to lose them.

(Though my husband is quick to point out that our definition of “lost” is very different: To me, it’s only lost if you are unable to find it after aggressive searching, for 24 hours or more, at a time that you desperately need it. To him, it’s lost if, at this particular moment, you’re not sure exactly where it is. Sounds awful nit-picky, to me.)

And, I’ve learned to trust my gut. There are times when I want to say something in a group, but my gut says it’s not the right thing for the moment. The times I have gone against my gut (Be assertive! I tell myself, Speak your mind!).

I end up regretting it, and realize later that there was in fact a good reason not to say it—I just was unable to articulate it to myself in the moment. It’s like I know things without recognizing them, as if certain pieces of information have been tucked away into the wrong brain-file.

Tapping into my Superpowers

But ADD isn’t all bad. The better I’ve come to understand it, the more I’ve learned to appreciate it as part of who I am. Even better, I’ve learned how ADD can be a strength.

My mind’s tendency to wander is like a creativity hyperdrive. I’ve learned my tendency to be quieter than others to observe first, and speak only when I have big to contribute (this one’s a double-edged sword, in an extrovert’s world, but it works for me). And I’ve learned how to tap into hyperfocus almost on demand, which lets me dive deep into a project and block out everything else—literally even when someone is standing right there, saying my name repeatedly.

Regular exercise has always been one of my life’s foundations, and knowing it was an important aspect of managing my ADD has been a strong incentive to maintain this as an adult.

And habit. I cannot say enough about the power of habit to ensure consistency in my life.

Knowing my Limits

That’s not to say my ADD doesn’t still affect me. When life gets particularly stressful, or there is a lot going on, I lose things. I start injuring myself doing dumb things like slamming my hands in doors and walking into coffee tables. This is when I lose my car keys for three days, only to find them in the freezer.

It also makes me extremely resistant to disruptions of my routines, especially when I don’t get advance warning. My life is built on those habits—it’s what makes my life function—and when you take them away I start to feel unanchored.

I hate this about myself. Spontaneity is often a good thing, challenging my thinking, getting me out of my bubble. I have to deliberately force myself to let go of my frustration to be able to enjoy these moments in life. And I’m not going to lie, sometimes I fail at it.

Let's Stop Labeling

Having an ADD label attached to me has not always been easy. Even after my diagnosis, I had teachers who refused to fulfill simple requests like an extra textbook to keep at home (so I could do my homework without worrying about forgetting my book at school), arguing that really, I just played too many sports. Others, ironically, got angry that I was so smart (“This is a class for seniors, not sophomores,”).

But would I change it? You know, I don’t think I would.

My ADD is deeply entwined into my identity—it’s not a set of conditions, it’s just part of the various gears, parts, and pieces of how I function, as the unique individual that I am. We all have weaknesses. We all have strengths. These are mine.

And ya know, I love the person that they have shaped me into.

But for the love of God, let's stop the labeling. Let's stop telling kids with ADD that there is something wrong with them that has to be drained or drugged or fixed.

Let's frame ADD differently. Let's talk about the unique strengths that come with ADD. Let's talk about ways to better engage ADD students and treat this condition without medication. Let's educate teachers so they don't antagonize their students for asking for the kind of help they need.

More and more kids are being labeled with ADD. We can argue over whether this is a trend of over-diagnosis or whether we're just understanding how to recognize it better, but regardless, that label is going to shape these kids for years to come.

If we could just frame how we present these diagnoses differently to empower kids to understand their strengths, and to cope better with their weaknesses, I think we'd need a lot less Ritalin and see a lot more ADD kids go on to thrive and accomplish amazing things.

Learn more about ADD Awareness here.

Do you have ADD, or another learning disorder? How do you cope?

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