Jene' Jackson was raised all over the U.S. as a preacher’s daughter before finally rebelling. When she’s not working on her first novel and the sequels to her memoir, she’s belly laughing with friends, making art, photographing, singing jazz, or squeezing words from her teenage children while driving them home from school. She lives in Colorado Springs and even does yoga and hikes every now and then like a good Coloradan. You can connect with her on Facebook at facebook.com/JeneJ, on Instagram at instagram.com/spiralspiral, and at jenejackson.com. You can buy her book at https://www.amazon.com/Oat-Project-Faced-Finally-Summer/dp/0997925108/
Most of the time, I have to spiral into things, backwards, sideways, hurly burly; straightline goes awry. Writing has been no different. I was a reader, not a writer. Yes, I could pull “A” essays out of my head and hands in the hour before they were due. But the first time anyone ever suggested I had something unique came in college. When I apologized for what I knew would be a poor performance on a 3-hour essay test (history) because I had studied only thirty minutes, my professor said, “The content wasn’t there like usual, Jene’, but you write so well, I couldn’t tell. You have a gift for making complex concepts understandable, and you should use it.” I ignored him, of course. I was a singer, photographer, and reader; not a writer.
Over a decade later, as the stresses of parenthood made it clear I needed time alone, I began to write. Essays moved into children’s fiction. A journal published an article and I wrote several picture books that got nibbles but no bites from agents. I connected with a local writers organization and honed my craft. Then, after six years of writing for children, with one question from one friend, I spiraled into what seemed like a frivolous project that became my first memoir, The Oat Project: How I Faced My Fear and Came of Age in One Wild Summer.
When I met fellow mothers from my daughter’s school at a coffee group, they found out I had never been drunk--I was 37, a virgin-when-married mother of three children. They decided to throw a party to get me drunk, and as we planned it, one of them asked, “What else have you never done?” That question became a list of 25 “wild oats” I’d never sown--I had been a leader, preacher’s daughter who’d never rebelled--they wanted to do with me over the following summer. Rock concert, smoking (even marijuana!), dancing, watching porn and more, they were nothing compared to the fears I faced as I resisted then embraced transformation.
I wrote the whole summer, journaling and recording as it happened in composition notebooks that, when transcribed, became a 500-page manuscript. It took me eight years to edit, through the end of my marriage, my mother’s battle with cancer then death, job changes, depression and anxiety, learning to navigate single motherhood and becoming my real self. But finally, in 2016, after 18 months of morning and evening writing, I wrote “The End.” Despite solid interest from agents, I decided to publish it myself, because I knew in my gut it needed to be in the world as it was. It took several months to produce, and I stuck with my decision to make the cover a photo of the last task on the wild oats list: a tattoo. The launch party was a huge success, and though building sales has been much more difficult than I imagined, the book is beginning to find its audience. Per a request from a rockstar agent, I’m currently working on a companion guide to help others create and do their own Go Wild list.
Why does all this matter? Because life matters. So often, we writers judge every moment we are not putting words on a page. I actually don’t believe in procrastination any more. Over and over, I look back and see that where I thought I was going too slow, it was exactly the right pace, for myriad reasons. For example, a few months after The Oat Project came out, I anguished over my inability to build sales, and my therapist said, “How can you market a book about you when you don’t love yourself?” So I’ve spent the last two years working hard to face and process my trauma and wounds, to heal, and to finally, really, love myself. The result has transformed my writing and writing life.
Instead of guilt for not getting to the page, I notice roadblocks or needs that resolve when I give them attention and care. I share this with you so that perhaps it helps you to shed your shoulds, to love your self and your writer self wherever you are in the process, and to know that whatever it looks like is beautiful. I still flail and trip around and all over pages, but instead of becoming blocked or frozen, I keep going. (I’d like to fistbump you all right here.)
Apart from the need to “get it out of my head and onto the page,” I am inspired by authors who weave everyday resonance and extraordinary wisdom into fiction. Frank Herbert’s Dune series (the original six), Ursula K. Le Guin’s works, Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Summer Tree, Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury series, and Tolkien’s works: these I’ve read many times over. They inspire me to learn and grow so that my writing resonates like these, so my readers say, “I never thought about it that way.”
The Oat Project
A former evangelical Christian and virgin-when-married mother of three finds the courage to explore her wild side, at 37. Rock concert, smoking (even marijuana!), dancing, watching porn and more, the 20-plus 'wild oat' tasks she tries over one summer are nothing compared to the fears she faces as she resists then embraces transformation.
Where to Buy The Oat Project
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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