Welcome to IdeaJones.com

Articles, radio stories, ads, columns, corporate communications, novels or scripts – we’re never short of ideas. We also have a small shop at Etsy.com.


Joey Jones is the published author and editor of many newspaper and magazine articles, radio stories, advertisements and commentaries, and has ghostwritten everything from speeches to love letters. She is a past Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting semifinalist and Fade In: Screenwriting Awards quarterfinalist. She also gathers sound and conducts interviews as a freelance field producer in the Sacramento area, and her on-air performance as “The Dying Fish” can be heard in the Water Education commercial series.

Mark Jones makes a living producing radio shows (check out Connections on Capital Public Radio’s Music Station). As Martin Jenkins, he’s heard weekday evenings on CapRadio’s four news stations, and Sunday mornings on 91.3FM KUOP Stockton/Modesto. Mark has also sung, acted and directed local theater and TV.


We’re about the story. Whether it’s the facts and figures of nonfiction, or the deeper truth of fiction, we want to find just the right words, sounds, and/or images to get it across.

We’re also about the process. “Do the work right, and on time.” Life’s too short to make things harder than they have to be.


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How To Shovel Shit

I considered a few different titles for this post, then it came to me, a picture of my worst summer job.

Mom was a landscaper and avid gardener. For a time, she and my dad would buy old houses, rehabilitate them and sell them (it wasn’t called “flipping” yet. And flipping sounds so effortless. This was hard work for all three of us).

Then Dad announced he had accepted a promotion and we were moving to Reno, NV. Reno has things to recommend it (the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen), but it’s hardly a gardener’s paradise. My parents had a house built, about 45 minutes from downtown Reno (at the time — now I understand it’s more like 30). It wasn’t near anything, surrounded by semi-desert, scrubby manzanita bushes, tumbleweeds, sand and hard-packed dirt, miles of it. There was a lake of sorts, mostly quicksand. The nearest town was Stead, an abandoned military base.

Mom couldn’t live without plants around her. She’d had no desire to move to Nevada. We were living in Scotts Valley near Santa Cruz, CA, an area so verdant that people said if you dropped a seed you’d better pick it up unless you wanted it to grow right there. Green everywhere, trees you often couldn’t see the tops of, wildflowers. Gardener’s heaven.

But now we lived in a little patch of ranch-style houses with long dirt roads. There weren’t enough houses to make it worth anyone’s while to pave the streets at that time. The main road to highway 395 was paved, but everything else was dirt so hard it could have been concrete. There weren’t many homes when we lived there, and the ones that were there usually had tiny lawns watered frugally from wells (each house depended on its own well) and perhaps a few hardy flowers.

Desperate for a garden, Mom undertook negotiations with the desert. She rented a big cultivator to break up the ground and began amending the soil, only it was more like reconstruction. We broke up clods with hoes and rakes and tilled in a long list of additions to add everything our soil didn’t have, which was everything.

Then Mom found out the sewage treatment plant in Reno would let you have a truckload of composted sewage for little or nothing. We had a big pickup, used to pull a horse trailer, haul hay for our little herd of horses… now it became a sewage truck. Mom and Dad returned with a large load of black stuff that smelled, well… if you’ve ever run across a Porta-potty left in the hot sun for days, like that on steroids. It remains the worst smell I’ve ever run across (which is *not* a challenge, universe, just an observation).  Mom told me with a bright smile that I would “get” to help her put it in the garden and she’d even pay me (I had regular chores but didn’t get paid for those. I did get paid for “extra” work I did).  My going rate was 50 cents an hour, but when I turned down the job, this went to 75 cents an hour, her final offer.

That summer, I filled wheelbarrows full of dark, stinky sludge, trundled it over to the area where the garden would be, scraped the sludge out and spread it with a rake, working it into the soil. Now, that probably isn’t allowed. It would be seen as a health hazard. But then, it was seen as a sensible way to dispose of waste material, by everyone but the ten-year-old girl with a bandanna tied over her nose and mouth, out in the sun trying to pull up enough dirt to mix with sewage to tamp down the smell.

I’ve had other jobs I hated over the years, but none to compare with that one. Mom even kicked in a bonus for doing a good job. It wasn’t enough.

But here’s what I learned:

*if you leave shit lying around, it doesn’t get any better. It just becomes uglier, smellier shit.

* Shit can’t be prettied up to smell like something else. If you put, say, peppermint extract on your bandanna, you will smell shit with a hint of mint. And the longer you leave it, the more aggressively shitlike it will smell.

* It can be composted and used to fertilize something better, but turning it into something better will be hard, smelly work without an ounce of fun to be had. There’s no song you can sing, no game you can play with yourself, that will make dealing with shit enjoyable. But if you have shit, you have to deal with it.

* If you don’t have to deal with it all at once, you have choices. You can elect to exhaust yourself and plow through to the end, excited about the day you no longer have to deal with this shit, or you can do a bit at a time and reward yourself for dealing with the shit, knowing it’ll take longer but be less tiring.

This has served me well over the years. While it’s true I don’t have to rake poop (if you don’t count picking up after the dogs) now, life just contains a certain amount of shit. It’s part of the natural process. Ranting against it doesn’t change that. Grab your shovel.

Shit you deal with becomes fertilizer. Shit you don’t deal with becomes lower-grade, more disgusting shit.

A friend once told me that people can’t bear feeling helpless. Causes anxiety and any number of problems. But if you find something you can do about the situation, however small, it eases your tension. So when you’re standing out in the yard in your beat-up sneakers, the ones you are going to throw away as soon as you can, holding your rake, watching that truck pull up, don’t look at the truck. Don’t think about how much it holds. Move one wheelbarrow full of shit and decide if you want to move another right away when you’re done with that one. But move that one wheelbarrow full of shit.

Because every life contains a certain amount of shit, and it isn’t going to be fertilizer unless you use it.

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Confessions Of A Fangirl

I never did the “fangirl” thing at the point in your life when it’s normal to do so. Never had a subscription to Tiger Beat as a girl (more about that in a second), never hung posters on the wall or hugged my pillow and pretended to kiss some singer or t.v. guy. Maybe it’s because I started performing when I was about four years old. Nothing national. I was never on a show anyone outside of the area would have heard of. My biggest shows were a local Bozo The Clown/kid’s show sort of thing and one stage show with Cantinflas, a comic actor from Mexico. But I grew up with people putting on makeup and costumes, so I knew the people on television were playing pretend.

And yet my first crush was on Mr. Ed, the talking horse. Go figure.

We tended to live at a distance from other people. I couldn’t just have a friend over, although there were a couple of kids I would hike to meet halfway (both were boys). It wasn’t until almost junior high that I had a close female friend, and she did buy teen magazines and put up posters, of Donny Osmond. Every wall, the ceiling, there might have been some on the floor. Every surface bore his smiling, wide-eyed visage.  I went into the closet to change, hoping to change into my pajamas without eyes staring at me, only to find out she lined her closet with his posters, too.

That was my introduction to fandom. In high school, I had some fans of my own. Acting in a traveling theater troupe, performing at schools, hospitals and events, I found out that my most popular role was a bigger hit than I knew. While trying to buy a new bra in a department store, a little boy testing a Big Wheel found me in the lingerie department and squealed, “It’s The Donkey! The Donkey is buying a bra!” I was a shy kid (how I ended up performing is a whole ‘nother story in itself), and the last thing I wanted was a lot of attention in public. No, the *last* thing was to be noticed while buying underwear.

Kids flocked to the lingerie department, all happily talking very loudly about how The Donkey was buying a bra, what kind of bra was dangling, forgotten, from my limp hand, and begging me to sing.  I asked them please to go back to their parents. I begged them to just let me shop. But fans don’t hear things like that.

It took me time to understand that in that moment, I was no longer a person. I was no longer a teenaged girl trying to buy underwear. I was something different, set apart, both more and less than the people around us. I think I finally did sing a song (and friends will tell you that I don’t usually sing in public, “public” being where anyone can hear me). I seem to remember doing a little dance. Then I ran away and hid in the changing room.

So I went through my teen years without ever sighing dreamily over Mark Hamill (and if I were going to sigh dreamily over someone at that point, it would have  been Mark Hamill). I didn’t buy teen magazines and read and re-read them. It’s just a developmental phase I didn’t go through.

When I started writing a novel that included fame as a component, and identity, it just seemed natural to explore fandom. Luckily, there were some very nice people, some of whom became friends, who were willing to lead me around and show me the landscape. I even participated, joined some fan Facebook pages, created fan art, even wrote part of a fan fiction that will *never* see the light of day (it’s awful).

I went into chat rooms to talk about a band I was a huge fan of as a kid (and still like). Went to concerts. All that stuff. And it was fun.

Every so often, I’d run across someone who was clearly taking it too far. It had assumed more importance than it could support the weight of, and eventually it was bound to collapse. Often that person would attack (not physically, thank God) someone else. Or try to befriend someone only because of a perceived connection to the object of desire. Why? Because of a perceived threat to a fantasy or idea. People will kill to defend an idea. Occasionally I found myself saying, “If this is important enough to you to get this angry, you need to set it down for a while and do anything else.”

Like most things we say to one another, this was something I needed to tell myself. At some point, my own involvement started to matter to me. I let myself have that adolescent experience but neglected to keep my adult perspective on it. I never went off on anyone, but I got my feelings hurt in a very adolescent way (no offense meant to actual adolescents. Being an adolescent is just a point in the journey, unless you insist on sleeping on the benches in that train station long after your train has left it).

My initial reaction was an emotional one. It was only when I took it out and looked at it that I realized that my emotional reaction was more fitting for someone far younger than I am. I’m an adult, with adult responsibilities and an adult’s life. Fandom, which had been sometimes fun, sometimes surprising, always quirky, had started to matter. Finding out that I wasn’t really part of “the group” the way I thought I was mattered.

See, as a kid, we lived far enough away so that I couldn’t really just have kids over to play, or hang out easily. I usually had someone to eat lunch with if I wanted to, and got along fine with most of my classmates, but I didn’t have close friends, partially because my family had too many secrets (secrets I don’t bother hiding any more, but at the time? Our lives revolved around the dysfunction at home).  I didn’t hang out with friends. I participated in organized activities.

Now, I do both. I have actual friends (some of them also “fangirls,” some not) and see them or chat with them when we can manage it. I also participate in events and activities, like art shows. Being in fandom too long took me back too far, past the enthusiasm and enjoyment of adolescence and into the emotions and over-reliance on “the group.”

I’m a weird old lady, and I was a weird young lady, and a weird kid. Some people are designed to belong to a pack and some, like me, aren’t. Also, I’m an introvert. More people are extroverts and while I do like some of them, I’ll never fit in to a pack of extroverts. I was not just okay with that, I was comfortable with it, until I tried to fit in again.

Now I’m back to writing and sculpting and being a happy introvert. I matter to the people I matter to, and the rest don’t matter (at least to me). And my journey in fandom is over. I’m an enthusiast, and I still like the music, but I’m not a fan. I’m just not cut out for it.

But boy, it was interesting while it lasted.

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A Piece of Peace

Peace Square Tie Dye IdeaJonesHi — I guess it’s current events that have me working on peace symbols. Here are some events from 1966:

  • Sniper atop the tower at the University of Texas kills 12 and wounds 31.
  • Riots in Watts, Cleveland and Atlanta
  • Civil rights marcher James Meredith shot.

Sound familiar? Here’s the good news — while it feels as though current events are unique, each generation laments how the world it going to ruin. We remember the past through filters of our own youth. Looking back, we’re always younger, probably fitter, definitely less aware of mortality. I told Mark the other day that what I really want is to move to Santa Cruz circa 1966. He said that Santa Cruz might be doable, but 1966 wasn’t. Would I really want to return the world to 1966, with the same social problems we have now but less progress on them?

With pollution but less being done about it? People I have come to care about shoved back into their closets, or kicked off the bus? No, of course not.

The world is always what we make of it. ItPeace Neon Peace IdeaJones’s as good as we decide to be. Which means there’s hope. So I keep making peace symbols and giving my pennies to charities helping people and pets in need, and hoping.

Look at Opening Doors, a small charity helping refugees resettle in the Sacramento area. Just as we’re hearing a lot about how we should just boot anyone who comes here back, there are people helping those who have fled violence and hunger to start over in America.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ” That’s from our Declaration of Independence. We’ve spent all the time since trying to decide who is included in “all.” Does it mean dark people? Women?

Like the Biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” it’s hardly ambiguous, yet we argue over the meaning. Both are ideals to strive towards, and imperfect human beings fall short of them, but they give us a goal. Like the idea of peace. We may never achieve perfect peace. We’re not even sure what it would look like if we did. But it gives us something to reach for, a destination to head toward. It gives us hope.

I hope that for today at least you are at peace.

By the way, these designs are available on jewelry and wrapping paper (our Zazzle.com shop, zazzle.com/IdeaJones,  or on bags and clothing (our Redbubble.com shop,    http://www.redbubble.com/shop/ideajones). A portion of each sale goes to charities helping people or pets in need.

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Seductive Ignorance — Art and Politics

Usually, I don’t talk much about politics. It’s an old habit — I was a journalist and one of the cardinal rules is that you don’t talk publicly about politics. The reason, for a reporter, is that if you do, you can’t be sent to cover anything connected with politics. People will say you’re biased.

Well, all humans are. But if you have ethics, you try to keep an open mind and listen to what people have to say. I once covered the campaign on a very divisive issue, and I had strong opinions about it, but I’m proud to say that listening to the story (it was for radio), you wouldn’t have known where I stood. I took heat from people on both sides for supporting the other side, a good sign as it meant I was being objective. Everyone was mad at me.

Current events are such that I could no longer wear my reporter’s muzzle. I know friends who do. That’s the job. They have “the calling” to be journalists, which is often a hard job, reading through the research to get the facts, keeping a straight face while people try to lie to you, keeping long hours, going without sleep, and there’s not the kind of job security there used to be. Newspapers and magazines have cut back, and tv news is mostly sound bites.

I tried every time out of the gate to do a good job as a reporter. If you take the money, you do the job to the best of your ability. But I never had the calling, the insatiable urge, to be a reporter. And now, I can’t keep silent. I just can’t. It’s too important. Racism is making its return. It never goes away completely, but it was limping. Now, it’s open again, hostile, angry. People are shouting at each other, not listening. You see it on the news and then think that’s how it is everywhere, but of course it isn’t. There are still good people, and it’s time for us to stand up and be heard.

00 Bliss Front 1 2100 pix wide IdeaJones This is the first overtly political sculpture I’ve ever created. It began as a polymer clay piece, very heavy. The expression came out just the way I wanted it, eyes bulging with anger, closed tightly to avoid seeing what it doesn’t want to see, no ears to be bothered by what it hears, mouth wide open, spewing rust and ragged edges and creating the chains that it will in the end enslave it.

But it wasn’t quite “there.”  All of my sculptures get names, because most of them have faces. I think of them as “kennel names,” like those given to purebred dogs. They have official names, like Emily Morningstar’s Quiet Riot of Glendale, and they have nicknames they’re called by the people around 00 Bliss Side View 2100 pix wide IdeaJonesthem, like “Puffy.”  So this one was “Bubba.” I would talk to Bubba while working on it, urging it to cooperate. My friend Mary named it “Voldemort,” like the Harry Potter villain. She also had a suggestion — the chains were too shiny. Valid point (though not the Voldemort label. It has a nose!).

It took time to “pickle” the chains, chemically aging them. They are recycled metal, but somehow were in pristine, shiny condition. Not any more! I soaked them in vinegar with a piece of rusty metal. And the surface wasn’t quite there. So I treated it the way I do my other pieces and layered it, layers of paper of different types, then painted with acrylics.

In the end it was definitely Bubba and not Voldemort. It’s just what I wanted it to be. The surface (like a dark green wood) has a satin finish and begs to be touched, but there’s that dangerous mouth…

That’s the problem with ignorance and hate. They’re seductive. They tell us that we are better than other human beings, more deserving. That it’s okay not to have to think about anything very hard — those easy answers that feel right, even if the facts say otherwise, are comforting because they don’t challenge us. But in the end, we can’t chain someone else without at least chaining ourselves. The razor wire we spew cuts our own mouths as it comes out. As we get angrier and angrier, adrenalin flows, cutting off our judgement, making us feel strong and vital.

We’ll find out soon if Bubba is about to be in his first show. His official name is “Bliss,” from the old saying that ignorance is bliss. You see how euphoric some of the people are who are screaming at strangers at political rallies, and you see what the saying is about. It isn’t blissful later on when you have to pay for what you’ve said and done, but in that moment, fired up, excited, ignorance does become a sort of bliss.


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Art, Peace and Charity

Hi — we’ve been very active on our Facebook page (facebook.com/IdeaJones), but it’s been a while since we checked in on our website.

There’s a lot going on! First, if you get a chance to go to Blue Line Gallery in Roseville, CA, we’ve got a sculpture on exhibit: 00 His Own Man On Exhibit Ideajones

Second, our charity for the summer is Opening Doors, a charity helping refugees resettle. They provide everything from “welcome kits” with necessities (the refugees usually arrive with nothing) to volunteers helping drive people to appointments. A portion of each sale we make this summer will go to buy items for Opening Doors.

Among the items we have are silver necklaces in our Zazzle shop featuring our digital paintings, including these peace signs:

Peace Neon Peace IdeaJones Peace Square Tie Dye IdeaJones















We also have items in our Redbubble.com shop and will be posting items to our Etsy shop as well. We’re hoping to buy a lot of welcome kits in September!

We have a brand new sculpture, just finished — pics to come. We should find out soon if it’s about to go into its first show.

Hope your summer is productive, fun, or both.


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