Welcome to IdeaJones.com

We are members of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

Joey Jones has published and edited 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, and her on-air performance as “The Dying Fish” can be heard in the Water Education commercial series. You can read Joey’s political humor blog, Dear Donny: Presidential Pen Pals, by clicking the link, and see some of her artwork in our Redbubble shop, or fine art exhibits.

Mark Jones produces radio shows (like Connections on CapRadio’s Music Station). As Martin Jenkins, he’s been heard on CapRadio’s four news stations, and sometimes—during fund drives—on the Music Station. Mark also writes radio ads and stories, and has sung, acted and directed local theater and TV.

We’re about the story and the process. Do your best work, and on time. Life’s too short to make things harder than they have to be.

Like quirky, snarky, sweet artwork? Find some at our Redbubble shop.

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The Stink of Success

Cartoon of Donald Trump next to steaming pile of court documents surrounded by flies, guarded by two Secret Service officers.

December, 2023

Dear Donny:

I can’t believe it’s almost New Year’s Eve already! This is when people say “time flies,” but for one thing, time isn’t flying. It’s somehow both dragging like a snail going uphill through a molasses flood in the winter, and simply disappearing. It’s weird how time seems to have changed since the start of the pandemic. Also, we seem to be stuck in amber, or a time warp, or something. Covid is still around, we’re still worried about crazy people rioting… and another Presidential election cycle is underway.  Not that you ever stop campaigning. You spent most of your time as President either playing golf or appearing at rallies.

Also, “flies” might be a sensitive word for you about now. Did you know that #TrumpStinks became the leading hashtag on social media for a while? Donny! You’re #1! And #2, apparently. Sorry! It’s just so hard not to make jokes. Word is you are, shall we say, inconsistent in the personal hygiene area.  No wonder Melania’s been keeping her distance for a while. Donny, soap and water is a great aphrodisiac. Trust me on this. Better than money, even.  If you’re throwing money at a woman and she’s stuffing it up her nostrils, it’s a sign. 

I’m a little old to be making poop jokes, but here we are, Donny. You’ve taken all of us in directions we never expected. It’s my first letter in a long time , but here I am poking fun at your personal troubles.  I’m sorry, Donny! And you have so many troubles, all those charges against you and multiple court cases pending. I know you’ve been through a bunch of lawyers already (or a herd? What do lawyers come in, a pod, or something? How about “a quarrel of lawyers?”), but at least one should have told you that continuing to do a thing when you’re already facing prison time for doing it is not the best legal strategy. It’s like inviting the judge to watch you rob a bank.

I bet it’s Rudy’s idea. He used to be an attorney, right? He used to be your attorney, didn’t he? Then he was his own attorney, and now he’s not anybody’s attorney at all. I mean, he may still technically be a lawyer – it’s amazing what you have to do to actually get disbarred – but he’s been suspended and I can’t imagine anyone hiring him. And he sure needs to be hired by somebody. He owes those two election workers a pile of money. I read that he asked you for money. Did you give him some? I see where you’re raising millions and millions. That is a surprise, Donny. Most people charged with all the stuff you are would have trouble getting a loan from their own mothers. But good for you.

The Book Club has been reading the charges against you. We weren’t sure whether to tackle the trials by how serious the charges were, or when they were likely to go to trial, or what. So many choices! Donny, I’ll say it to anyone who criticizes you: you have been the biggest gift to literacy since Gutenberg invented movable type. All those books people have written about you, or for you, the impeachment hearing report, articles, court cases – Donny, a team of mountain climbers couldn’t scale the Everest that is words about you.

Not to make light of the seriousness of the charges, Donny. You may prove to be the single biggest criminal ever to walk U.S. soil. And to think, you were President! You’re an inspiration to every young criminal. No U.S. President has ever even been suspected of the number of charges you’re facing. Conspiracy to defraud the government (so basically the taxpayers), conspiracy to interfere with an election, racketeering, hiding confidential documents, falsifying business records… ninety-plus charges. Go ahead, Donny, make it an even hundred. At this point, you’re so close anyway.

How are you going to balance running for President again and being in court all of the time? At some point, they’re going to expect you to show up. We looked it up, Donny, and you can’t just not go. For some charges, you can be tried without being there, but it has to be by agreement and prosecutors are picky about that.

So I don’t need to ask what your plans for 2024 are. Your calendar is full. Rallies, trials, looking for Melania, whatever nefarious plans you have going… I never thought about it before, but being a mega-villain has to be time consuming.  Is Mar-a-lago your lair? I’ve never known anyone with a lair  before!

But seriously, Donny, take time to shower, on the regular. It’s not good for your skin to skip it, and it might lure Melania out from her hiding place.  If you really want to rake in the cash, get a soap company to sponsor you. Shower with the stuff every day. Maybe twice a day. Years ago, you promised to drain the swamp, but from what I hear, you’re pretty swampy. Maybe this, like charity, begins at home.

And definitely take a nice, long shower before we meet for pancakes. We should do that soon. I wish I could be more encouraging about your future, Donny, but it’s not looking good. There is some good news, though! I checked and they only say you get an opportunity to shower regularly in prison, not that you have to or how often “regularly” is. So there’s that.

Happy new year, Donny! Let me know if you find a soap sponsor. I even have a slogan you can use for free: “Clean up with Donald Trump!” Just use it. When people talk about a “campaign trail,” they don’t mean skid marks.


Your Pen Pal

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Inside the Writing Life: Am I A Writer?

Do you write? Congratulations, you’re a Writer! It’s really that simple. Now, becoming a PUBLISHED writer is harder. I was a freelance writer for years (magazines, newspapers and radio), and now that I’m transitioning to fiction, it’s really no easier. The querying process can be brutal on your ego, and for some reason one negative comment often outweighs a hundred positive ones. But…

none of this has anything to do with whether or not you’re a Writer
(and if you are, put that big capital W at the start of it. You earn that W over and over). Any Writer has questioned whether or not s/he’s even a small-w-writer, let alone a Writer. That you care enough about the quality of what you write to have doubts earns you that capital W, so long as you don’t let your fears stop you and you actually write.

Don’t want to publish a book but you like to write? Write, and you’re a Writer, whether you publish or not. Self-published? Writer! Taking a break, whether it’s a day, a week, or a month (life can be hard, let’s face it), but you’re thinking about writing and the minute you can get half an hour of your own, you’re there, putting pen to paper or fingers on keyboard or whatever your method is? Writer!

Enjoy that part of it. Enjoy being one with every human being who has contributed to that precious thing, human literacy. Enjoy the fact that there is less of a difference between you and Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Stephen King, or any successful writer you admire than there is between you and anyone who hasn’t earned that big W. You’re members of the same club.

If you dream of writing but haven’t yet started, start. Earn that big W. No matter how awful (and trust me, any Writer worth mentioning has cranked out some really smelly junk while learning the craft, it’s inevitable), the moment you start, you earn your W. The only thing that might cause it to tarnish or fall off is if you stop. So long as you’re writing, you’re a Writer.

If you yearn to be published, to add “Author” to your shiny Writer badge, do so. Online for free, self-published, or, if you have the stamina and determination, chase that “traditional publishing” big A. But no matter how you get it, it will never erase the importance of that big W, so keep that W shiny.

And if you’re doubting yourself because the people in your life aren’t supportive, repeat after me, “Phooey! They don’t understand.” They don’t. Maybe they’ve chosen not to pursue their dreams, or to honor their talents, or they don’t appreciate the music and beauty of well-crafted words, or whatever, but they don’t hear the siren call. You can’t make them hear it, and you may not be able to make them understand, none of which drains even a teaspoon of importance from that beautiful, shiny, big W.

What polishes your W and keeps it shiny? Writing, of course — if all you can come up with is 30 minutes a day, 30 beats zero, go for it! Editing really polishes that W. I’m great at editing the work of others, but only mediocre at editing my own, so I rely on the help of people who see my work more clearly than I do (since I’m standing so close), but learning to be as objective as you can about your own work and make it better makes your W glow. Plotting, research, all can polish your W (but won’t earn it unless you use it to write).

Earn that W. Keep it polished. Add to it whatever you wish (in my case, I felt as though when I’d been paid to write for magazines, newspapers and radio, I’d earned a special badge, like for Girl Scouts, and it’s sewn on my mental sash). Enjoy it. You earned it. Give yourself the credit you deserve. Going after your dreams takes some courage and effort in a world that doesn’t respect most dreams or dreamers. Wear your W with pride.

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Showing Up When It Matters

The January 6 Committee hearings were televised tonight and will continue during the next week. We’re in Watergate territory again. When I was little, the school library left the Watergate hearings on tv all day, so if we wanted to watch it during lunch or on a class visit to the library, we could. It was history. The adults around us knew, and talked about, how important it was, that nobody, even the President of the United States, was above the law.

Nixon wasn’t accused of anything half so bad as what took place on and around January 6, 2021.

One of the stated reasons for televising part of the Watergate hearings was transparency, the idea that our government shouldn’t address something so important in secrecy. The other reason, discussed but not front and center, was that elected officials were looking for public support to deal with what Nixon had done. Had people not watched the hearings, listened, and been appalled enough to contact their legislators, Nixon and his co-conspirators would have gone unpunished, and their actions would have become normalized, part of the day to day operation of political campaigns.

Few people are willing to lose their jobs over issues no one cares about. Politicians, despite some evidence to the contrary, are people. If few of us care about the events of January 6, if we’re willing to forget and move on, why should members of Congress risk their jobs? If it’s not a priority for us, why should it be a priority for them?A thing that doesn’t get mentioned enough is that our “rights,” those freedoms we argue about but count on, require our government to be functioning and strong to enforce them.

If anyone who doesn’t like the results of an election can then try to overthrow the elected government, we enable the dictators who want to force their views on everyone regardless of the will of the people. We normalize force as the way our government operates and make violence just another tool in a politician’s tool kit. All the other things we argue about, gun laws, reproductive rights, voting rights, all of it, are meaningless unless we have a functioning government to enact the things we demand and enforce them.

Listening to the Capitol Police officer who testified was heartbreaking. The harrowing account of what she and fellow officers went through would chill the blood of any reasonable person. The documentary footage was sickening, jumped-up, white supremacist, military cosplayers bragging and plotting. Trump was right, there were conspiracies — but his followers weren’t responding to conspiracies, they were bringing them. The footage of them desecrating our capitol will never cease to disgust me. That we might shrug and so tell the world that we condone what they did is frightening. The very thing we use to sell democracy, the idea of the peaceful transfer of power, is at risk. They spit on it, on the Constitution, on everything that makes us American.

So this matters. It matters a lot. It matters so much that if we don’t show up and show we understand that, nothing else we talk about matters. We will have voted for fascism and dictatorship, and said that we want whatever lives the people who can force themselves into power are willing to give us.So yes, I’ll be watching. I expect it to be mostly a bit dull and sometimes a little confusing, but I’ll show up, and I’ll talk to my friends and neighbors, and contact my elected representatives to tell them what I think and what I want, because it’s important. I’m showing up for my community. I’m showing up for myself. I’m showing up because if I don’t, the people in power will rightly assume I don’t care, not about my rights, not about any of it. I hope you’re showing up, too.#January6th#Election2022#politics

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Mirror, Mirror

Three young women at a high school graduation.

High school graduation day. This is the only photo I have from that day. I’d meet Mark a few months later, so this is basically what I looked like when he met me.

Not looking for feedback on how I looked — for one thing, that was years ago and my avatar photo is much closer to what I look like now. For another, I’m older, and my self-worth doesn’t hang on my appearance (one of the big benefits of growing up). To talk about why I posted this, I have to tell you one important thing about this picture: I never felt even passably pretty, not one day in my entire life.

If asked, I’ve always rated my looks as *shrug* “Okay.” If pressed, I’d add, “Well, I haven’t noticed anyone making the sign of the cross or building torches, so I guess I’m all right.”

My family definitely thought I was on the homely side. Mom started working on my looks when I was still a toddler, battling my fine, straight hair. I got my first home perm when I was three. The rods yanked painfully at my hair, and the solution burned my skin and stank like moldy road-killed skunk. I had to sit very still in an uncomfortable chair in grandma’s kitchen, choking on the fumes. If I fidgeted, Mom or Grandma would remind me that, “A woman has to suffer to be beautiful.”

I was put on a weight loss diet for the first time when I was five. I was a solidly-built little kid, strong from dancing (started lessons at three). We were a family of stress eaters, so various family meltdowns meant I got Hostess snack cakes (I still have a fond spot for Ding Dongs and Snowballs) whenever things were stressful, as they often were. Mom was in a perpetual binge/diet cycle, and we tried them all. Whatever was in the women’s magazines, that’s what we ate. The Grapefruit Diet (both the one where you eat little but grapefruit and the one where you take grapefruit pills), The Hard-Boiled Egg Diet (you live mostly on hard-boiled eggs and celery), Metrecal (a diet “shake” that tasted like Milk of Magnesia and tin can), and a diet supplement with a name that hasn’t aged well, “Ayds.” These were advertised as candy that made you lose weight and contained benzocaine. We drank cabbage soup and tried Weight Watchers. Before I hit high school, I was an expert in it all.

What did all of this accomplish? I was probably at a healthy weight most of that time — I was an active kid — but my weight went up and down. When I hit puberty, my mom blamed my weight and put me on yet another diet. My breasts were “too big,” so we went to war with them, trying to reduce them by any means, but they just wouldn’t go. By high school, I had a naturally hourglass figure, which I was taught to be ashamed of. It brought me attention I didn’t want (as a shy person, an introvert, and convinced I was “wrong” in almost every way, I didn’t want to be the focus of attention — yes I was a performer, but that wasn’t my idea, long story). I got creeped on starting at about age 12 by adult men who insisted my junior high student body i.d. card was a fake. Teenaged boys groped me like my body was a public park (a girl’s best friend is the ability to deliver a biting insult or a good, solid punch). All the time, Mom tried desperately to fix me. Instead of telling me I was fine and they were the problem, she put me on diet after diet, seeking to make my curves go away.

As a young adult, I continued to have to Defend The Castle from creeps. I wore baggy clothes. I gained weight (much to my mother’s dismay — she lamented that I had “let myself go”). I parried propositions, and all the time I rebelled (give me those Oreos, damn it!), I also hated my appearance. A lifetime of fad dieting had left me with a messed up metabolism, I perfected the family stress eating habits, and ballooned up until I reached 400 pounds at my heaviest. My sense of self-worth (what of it I had) came from being “useful” and “a good person,” defined largely as being useful to other people and good to them — not myself.

When Mark and I married, my mother’s wedding gift was a case of diet drink mix. Even then, people who were trying to live on that diet were dying (it would help lead to changes in how “replacement nutrition” diets are used). I had told her I was seeing a therapist and dealing with the issues that made me eat instead of trying to lose weight — and she gave me a case of diet drinks that were killing people. Dying for beauty, indeed!

This is what we do when we reduce a person’s value to appearance. First, we declare that there is only one right way to look, whether that’s thin, light-skinned, or what have you. We set up a standard almost no one can reach, naturally or at all. Everything from our noses to our feet gets measured against that standard and there are only two groups of people: people who don’t meet that standard, and people who do but worry about “slipping” in some way so they no longer can. You might attain it briefly, but God forbid you age. Aging is not on that approved list.

In order to be “okay,” you have to meet that standard. At the least, you have to be seen to be actively trying, although that won’t get you to “okay,” just “barely acceptable.” Even though I work out more than the average American, I would get comments about my weight from perfect strangers. People I hardly knew or didn’t know at all would ask me, “Are you really going to eat that?” For quite a while, I only ate salads, and sparse ones at that, in public, because being judged perpetually gives you the feeling that you are being judged constantly. God forbid some random stranger saw me eating a cheeseburger! How was he to know I hadn’t had one in months?

Getting crow’s feet? Run to the plastic surgeon. Run! How can you be okay if you have a wrinkle? Hair is a whole ‘nother subject and again, almost never right. Long, short, gray, not gray, curly, straight or none at all — boy, there’s a whole list of things our hair is supposed to be, or not be. Don’t even get me started on hair where it’s “not supposed” to be.

Next, we reduce that person to nothing but the ability to match that arbitrary standard or be seen to be actively striving to meet it every damn moment. That person’s opinion, accomplishments, everything are judged through that lens. As one young woman told me, “It wouldn’t matter if I cured cancer unless I looked hot while I did it.” But if you look good, that’s not okay, either — when I was a young journalist, I wore glasses I didn’t need when interviewing people. Ugly glasses, at that. Otherwise they didn’t take me seriously.

Especially for women, every single thing you ever do, think, are is judged through that beauty lens. We’re supposed to chase being sexually desirable (with all the baggage and problems that can bring) but, we’re also supposed to pay all the freight for how other people handle that. If you’re insulted for being judged not desirable, well, that’s your problem, isn’t it? If you get creeped on or dismissed because you are, hey, you’re responsible for handling the reactions you get. Someone makes you an offer you don’t want to accept? Let him down easy, no matter how insulting that offer was, or the problem isn’t him, it’s you, you bitch.

Finally, we move the target and keep moving it. Beauty standards change. Companies who make money selling us things declare this characteristic “in” and that one “out.” Over the years, flat chests, big chests, and medium-sized chests have all been in or out for men or for women. Same with hips, hair, the lot of it. By moving the targets none of us ever get to be okay for long and the cash keeps flowing. By the way, I have to wonder what this does to people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes. Good Lord, if I, a straight woman, find those standards punishing, what must it be like to be anything left or right of the Approved Gender List? Yikes.

Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to be reasonably fit and keep yourself clean and as put together as you decide to be. That’s healthy. But most of our relationship with our bodies and faces is not healthy. It encourages self-loathing and self-harm. The moment we look at someone else and say, “Wow, look at her,” either in praise or condemnation, we imply that the world gets to weigh in with an opinion on every single one of us, that judging is the primary way we want to engage with each other. Worse yet, we encourage doing that to ourselves.

Welcome to the world in which little kids are worried about being “sexy,” diets and plastic surgery are more and more common for young people, and our problem with creepsters does not seem to be getting better. The system we have supports self-harm, self-loathing and abuse, plain and simple.

At my heaviest, as a reaction to my totally dysfunctional family and my relationship with them and with myself, I weighed 400 pounds. I weigh a lot less now, although I’d still qualify as obese. That girl with an hourglass figure has become a woman who shops in the plus sizes. I’d like to say I’m totally fine with that, but while that’s mostly true, it’s not 100% accurate. There are moments when I lament my figure. I eat a healthy diet, I exercise, but as has been explained to me, my metabolism is very messed up and losing enough weight to no longer be considered “fat” would require strict, stringent and even somewhat punishing efforts.

I’m not working on that. I’m working on living in a healthy way, both physically and mentally. I’m working on just being okay with myself, however I show up. I’m working on not giving a rat’s ass what anyone thinks of my appearance with the exception of two people, myself and my husband, who loves me as I am and likes me more than anyone else he knows, so what else do I need?

I don’t think I’ll ever feel “pretty,” but that gets less and less important. I like myself. My hair is what it is and I like it. My body is what it is and I’m grateful for it. I’ve hopped off that hamster wheel of constantly trying to reach a moving target to be okay with myself, and I’m extending that grace to other people. Hopefully, if I help take just a bit of that pressure off myself and others, we can all be more okay, and that’s a target worth pursuing.

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