Today at the vaccine clinic, a newly-vaccinated gentleman asked me:

Why don’t anteaters get sick?

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Because they’re full of anty bodies.

You’re all welcome.

I was volunteering in the clinic’s waiting area, where those who’ve already had their shots hang out for 15 minutes to be sure they aren’t having any severe reactions. (These reactions are extremely rare).

This meant my new friend and I had time to share quite a few more bad / awesome jokes before it was time for him to go.

Me
Q: When does a joke become a…

It’s been more than a year since I last believed in normal.

A year since the ordinary spring afternoon when we left our jobs and our schools behind for the weekend, not understanding, yet, that on Monday we wouldn’t return.

From the start, even as I settled in to remote learning and remote working, I knew, deep down, that this was going to last longer than we were admitting, but I didn’t know just how much longer. A month? A season? Surely by the end of summer, the beginning of fall, we’d be able to get on with our lives.

We all settled in to remote learning and remote working.

President Biden. Vice President Harris.

And all Americans. These words remain the work of all of us:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Originally published at https://www.simner.com on January 20, 2021.

“Hey there, small human. It’s me, your cat…”

Photo by Janni Lee Simner and also by Sam, a feline remote learning assistant.

Hey there, small human. It’s me, your cat.

So how ‘bout this pandemic, huh? You have to admit, it’s been pretty great. It feels like winter break, only it goes on forever and your mom doesn’t send you off to soccer camp the second week just so she can get some work done. The extra scratches and cuddles have been amazing, and that Chromebook you brought home from school is the warmest sleeping spot ever.

Still, like anything in life, it hasn’t been — quite — purrrfect. As you no doubt know, I’ve recently joined the Union of Feline Remote…

You can’t write like them. You can only write like yourself.

Person writing in a notebook on a table covered in papers, with a coffee mug nearby.
Person writing in a notebook on a table covered in papers, with a coffee mug nearby.
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Sometimes I wish every bit of writing advice — every talk, every blog post, every one-on-one conversation — began with a disclaimer:

This worked for me. It might or might not work for you. Give it a try. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, don’t worry about it. Move on.

When we begin writing, there’s so much we’re trying to learn that it’s only natural to look for rules. And well-crafted stories do have some things in common, beginning with the fact that they all engage at least some readers, some of the time.

But beyond the basics of…

No contrition
Or regret.

The mob?
Stormed lives?
Totally appropriate.

Sidestepped questions?
Deadly riot?
Totally appropriate.

Defiance.
Assault.
Violence.

Ransacking.
Anger.
Violence.

His mob.
His anger.

He should leave.
Leave everyone…

As I snuggled in with my husband and my then-first-grader to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I looked forward to sharing my childhood memories of Rankin and Bass’ claymation classic.

Within five minutes of pressing play, though, all I could think was, “Why is everyone being so mean?”

The other reindeer. Rudolph’s father. Rudolph’s teacher, Comet, who first joins Rudolph’s classmates in taunting him, then cheerfully kicks Rudolph out of reindeer school for not looking like everyone else. Even Father Christmas is no help; Santa does nothing to defend the young reindeer as he’s reminded, again and again, that he…

I can’t go out there.

I see how you’re looking at me, your eyes and your Twitter feeds filled with hope. 2020 was a dumpster fire, you say. 2021 has to be better, you say.

I know you mean well, but that’s a lot of pressure to put on a brand new year.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been working hard, and I have big plans. Right off the bat in January, I’m rolling out a new president. Pretty exciting, huh? In March the economy will get a boost from my new infrastructure initiative, and in August, supporting teachers will…

The first time I told my daughter the truth about Santa Claus, she was three years old.

She came home from child care full of excitement and anxiety, hoping, hoping, hoping she’d been good enough for Santa to come. We’d never really talked about Santa in our Jewish-Quaker household, though we did visit my in-laws for a secular Christmas celebration each year. But I looked at my child now, full of earnest hope and anxiety, and I knew I didn’t want her to see her Christmas gifts as some sort of reflection on her character or worth.

So at bedtime…

“We love the things we love for what they are.”

That’s from Robert Frost’s “Hyla Brook.”

Variations on the line had been bouncing around in my head for a while before my husband and fellow writer, Larry Hammer, reminded me where it came from.

I’d been thinking about Frost (without knowing it was Frost I was thinking about) because I’d been thinking about how once we reach a certain basic level of craft, writing is no longer about avoiding mistakes or carefully not doing anything wrong.

It’s about the things we do right.

No one ever loved a book, after…

Janni Lee Simner

Author of the post-apocalyptic Bones of Faerie trilogy; Thief Eyes; more than 30 short stories; and the script for The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse video game.

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