10 Things About Me

Hello there!

While working on launching my urban fantasy book series and working on re-branding my fiction, I thought I’d make a more personal post. Take the focus off of writing and let you get to know me a little bit better.

So, here are 10 things you may or may not know about me.

1. To start off, you already know that Jessa Forest is my pen name, not my real name. When I was in the process of picking out my pen name, my first choice was Jessica George, after my great grandfather. But that name was already taken.

2. I hate wearing skirts. I went to private school and we had uniforms and “required” uniforms on the extra special days we had to look extra fancy. In high school girls were allowed to wear khakis like the boys but my mom only bought me those horrible, pear shaped khaki slacks from Goodwill while all the other girls’ moms bought them the tight, sexy khakis from the Gap or Old Navy.

I am not saying that thrift store clothes are bad. No, no no. I LOVE shopping at Goodwill and any other thrift store you name. Take me there, I will spend all my money. What I do not love are the awful, fake linen pants that 80 year old men wear. That’s what I looked like. That’s what my mom let me leave the house looking like. (I should also note here that I didn’t have friends in high school…)

So I ditched the dumpy office worker slacks and only wore skirts. Now that I have a choice in what I wear, I stick to jeans.

Ever since then I’ve hated wearing skirts. Because I wore them so much. Even when I could pick out my own skirts I still hated them. But I do like dresses, a dress is a completely different garment.

3. I am a perpetual student. I have a BA in Sociology, an MFA in Creative Writing and now I’m working towards a BS in Laboratory Science. Yes, I voluntarily went into debt for all that schooling. It’s taken me a long time to figure out what I want to do with my life and I spend most of my 20s floating around meaningless jobs and I didn’t put my heart into anything. It wasn’t until 2017 that I really narrowed down what I wanted to do and started on a path towards that.

4. I don’t like people. Really. I’m not saying that to be mean, I just don’t like people. I am an introvert. I’d rather be alone (with my cats) than with people, even my immediate family. I don’t like going into grocery stores. I don’t like sitting around people in movie theaters (back when people still went to movie theaters) there have to be at least 3 chairs between you and me for me to be happy. I don’t like parking close to other cars in parking lots, I’m that car way at the back of the lot, I will push my full grocery cart all the way over there just so I don’t have to park next to you. Nothing personal, I’m sure you’re very nice. There’s a lot more I can say about this but it would take way too long.

5. I don’t drink. This month (July 2020) I celebrated 1 year of sobriety. Yeah, I’m sober. How boring, right? Party pooper. Yeah, when I drink bad things happen. To quote the glorious Amy Winehouse, “I’m quite a horrible drunk.”

6. I struggle with depression and anxiety. I use writing to make sense of the world, my emotions, and writing keeps me from self-destructing. I was diagnosed with depression in my early teens and I’ve had various different treatments for it. For me, the best thing has been finding a therapist who I can really talk to. I went through 8 different therapists before I found someone who I could connect with and build trust through that connection.

I also struggle with imposter syndrome and self-sabotage. I guess that means I’m a real artist.

Note: I am not a healthcare professional, what works for me might not work for you. If you’re struggling with anything, please go find help, call someone, talk to someone.

7. I’ve always been obsessed with horror and monster movies and I’ve always loved reading but I never thought I could actually write fiction, like I never thought I could come up with an actual story, until I was in junior high and I read Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’s In the Forests of the Night and Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. Until I read those books I’d only been exposed to hard sci-fi and extremely literary fiction. Then I discovered the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton and thought, “Okay, it’s not so crazy that there are supernatural creatures in modern times.”

8. I do not want children. I have never wanted children and my husband is okay with that. I believe we live in a world where the human race does not need to reproduce to survive. I have zero interest in carrying on my “family line” and, personally, I don’t think I’d make a good parent because I’m too selfish. My “biological clock” has never and probably will never start ticking.

If it does, I will adopt a child who needs a home, I don’t need to contribute to the species. But I also don’t like children, I’ve never had the desire to take care of a growing human and be responsible in any way for them. All my friends who have kids know not to ask me to babysit.

When I was five and my mom explained where babies come from, I asked her if there was an operation I could have to not get pregnant. At five years old I was asking for a complete hysterectomy. That is how much I don’t want kids.

If anyone says, “Oh, you’ll change your mind in a few years.” Or, “Oh, it’s different when it’s your own kids.” just know that 1) I don’t think it’s different when it’s your own kids (my mom used to get me with that line until she realized I wasn’t going to change my mind and that it’s okay for a woman to not want kids). And 2) people have been telling me that I’m going to “feel differently in a few years” for the last decade. I still haven’t felt differently.

9. I wasn’t always a cat lady. When I was growing up mammals weren’t allowed in the house because my father thought they were filthy. So my mom got an iguana instead thinking she would be easier to clean up after…haha. I named her one of the two stereotypical iguana names: Iggy. And we had her almost nine years before she succumbed to mouth rot. She loved the Arkansas summers but not so much the winters and those were the days when you couldn’t look up how to properly care for an iguana on YouTube. Not making excuses, just saying. After Iggy died my mom and I switched to cats (against my father’s wishes, we snuck them in while he was out of town) and I briefly tried raising a ball python but she escaped her enclosure and had many grand adventures in the walls before starving to death. I do not do well with reptiles. Cats are hardy and can take care of themselves.

Right now I have 3 cats: Titain is going to be 14 this year, Leela is 10, and Tiny Rick is 8. Tiny Rick is also Mr. J’s cat and has Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. He sneezes a lot and he is the most loving cat you will ever meet (I know everyone says that about their cuddly cat). The other two are way more stand-offish and love only me. They hate Mr. J and he hates them. When we all live together they make each others’ lives miserable. Life balances out.

10. I like a wide range of musical genres and instruments. I love everything from bluegrass to symphonic metal. I’ve also tried learning how to play the violin, viola, guitar, and harmonica. I suck at all those things. I can read music okay and I’ve always wanted to play an instrument but I’ve never been able to physically play (violin is hard and I am not coordinated) or I’ve really, really tried but just lost interest (harmonica sounds lovely but…I’m lazy). I had resigned myself to the fact that maybe I’m just not cut out to play music in this life.

Then I said fuck it and bought a recorder. Yeah, one of the plastic things you had to play Hot Cross Buns in elementary school and scar your ears for life. It’s actually really fun. And there’s a wide range of, well, ranges, and styles. You can make a recorder sound like anything. I found a really great YouTuber named Sarah and have been watching her recorder lessons religiously. I’ve developed a whole new appreciation for baroque and renaissance music.

Right now, I’m working on teaching myself Soprano and Tenor recorder because they use the same fingering. I am having a little trouble with Tenor because my right wrist tends to buckle and then my tendonitis flairs up and my wrist hurts for a month straight. But I’m practicing. It’s really cool to say I’ve found an instrument I can make a connection with and can play (poorly, maybe barely competently) just for fun.

#TeamRecorder

Thanks for reading! Y’all stay safe and keep on keeping on.

Girl + Muse =

the title poem of my chapbook Girl + Muse. Written back in 2009ish, my pre-grad school days, this poem is over 10 years old now. Still love her very much.

Read the full chapbook and download it for free here.

Girl + Muse +

morning. We woke up

and you performed

another extraordinary miracle:

wings split

the paper thin skin

taped across your shoulder blades,

your wet spine

glistened through jauntily

angled prisms knotted

to your ribcage

with flayed nerves

and slippery veins.

As you flew around the room

you said: “No. That’s not how

it happened.”

I woke up alone.

*

Photo by 🇻🇪 Jose G. Ortega Castro 🇲🇽 on Unsplash

Research Road Trip: Queen Whilamena State Park

(I’ve edited and re-published this post from last year because I wanted to add more pictures and remember a fun road trip while I am sheltering in place. I hope all of you who read this are safe and healthy and I wish nothing but the best for you during these difficult times. I love you all!)

Last Summer (as I write this) I drove down to Mena, Arkansas with the intention of hiking in the morning at Queen Whilamena State Park and driving around in the afternoon exploring the teeny-tiny towns surrounding the state park.

The drive down was really pleasant. But then it started raining. Thankfully, by the time I got to the Queen Whilamena Lodge and Restaurant the rain had stopped BUT there was fog EVERYWHERE!

I had not checked the weather on my phone. I didn’t even think about the possibility of anything but clear skies and humid air (Summer in Arkansas, y’all). But that is not what I got.

There was a fleeting moment where my heart sank and I thought, “I drove all this way and now I have to go home…”

But then I took another look at the fog, which was literally getting thicker by the minute and I thought, “HOLY SHIT THIS IS PERFECT WEATHER FOR A HORROR NOVEL!”

I mean look at that! That’s amazing!

If I’d gone on a “normal” day I’d have hiked, got some nice pictures of trees and buildings, and gone home with nice things to think about but this–the fog, the rain–gave my setting character. Or my setting looked at me and said, “Acknowledge that I am a force of nature!” while slapping me in the face.

And there was this really nifty fungus on the trail that was all glistening and fleshy. I almost walked face first into a MASSIVE spider webs trying to photograph it.

A new beginning to Havoc’s Moon bloomed in my mind. I got to make rough stage blocking for an action scene and took pictures of this one specific outcropping from multiple angles for reference later. I was so inspired IT WASN’T EVEN FUNNY!

So the moral of this story here is think about what your setting is like in bad weather. You never know what will happen. But also, it’s important to visit, if you can, where your book is set because you’ll get to think about concrete details you may not have considered from your chair at your writing desk.

And I learned that my main character’s favorite food is not pizza like I thought it was, but fried green beans.

You never know what’s going to happen when you go out on location.

Good luck and happy writing!

Characters Talking

I never had imaginary friends growing up.

I had stuffed animals who I imagined were alive but they were grounded in reality and fluffiness. I never made anyone up on my own, the voice in my head was my own and very alone.

Until I decided to do nanowrimo in 2016 and I said I don’t care what I write, I’m going to write 50,000 words of prose and I don’t care what that prose is.

So, as a poet not knowing anything about writing fiction, I began to write and out of my writing came my first imaginary friends.

And the reason why I call them imaginary friends and not just characters is because as I wrote their story they started deviating from my plot and making their own decisions.

I would write a scene and hate it. I would write another scene and hate it too. And then I asked my character point blank: “What the actual fuck is wrong with you? Why aren’t you doing what I want?”

And that character talked back to me. He said, and I quote: “Becasue it’s stupid. I don’t want to do that.”

And that is how Away from my Heart of the Forest Cycle was born. He told me “no.” I asked him what he wanted to do instead. And he told me. So I wrote that. And I liked it a lot better than what I had tried to come up with.

SO the moral of this story is LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS.

If you’re stuck somewhere and slumping around writing, check to see if your characters are working with the scene or not.

Don’t force your characters to do something that they wouldn’t normally do unless you have a really good reason. Because you want your plot to go that way is not a good enough reason.

If your characters want to do something that seems completely crazy to you, let them do it. You can always cut it out later or change it if you don’t like it.

You gave your characters life by writing their stories. Let them live.

You are not losing your mind if your characters talk back to you 🙂