Mike Jung

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Trust

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2014 at 11:25 am

I’ve struggled with the experience of friendship throughout my life. I don’t understand all of the reasons for it – lately I’ve been considering the possibility of undiagnosed neurological conditions – but whatever the reasons might be, finding a circle of friends who I love, trust, and feel a true sense of belonging with has always been difficult and painful for me.

I’ve had something like that experience a couple of times, but it’s been much more common for me to try and force that feeling of belonging when in the company of the wrong people – not bad people, but people with whom it was probably impossible for me to truly connect in the ways I need to. And so I’ve spent time as a hanger-on with groups of friends that didn’t always treat me well; I’ve attempted to push my way into groups that kept their doors closed to me; and I’ve attempted to deceive myself into thinking that my feelings of belonging in some groups were stronger and more meaningful than they actually were.

I suppose it’s possible I’m doing that now; my ability to perceive and gauge those dynamics is a sputtery and broken thing, which of course has contributed to my lifelong social troubles. I don’t believe I’ll ever be free of that specific difficulty. However, I have circles of friendship within the world of children’s literature that are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and I don’t believe my trust and faith in those circles are misplaced.

I don’t know if that’s because I have a better understanding of where to place my trust, or because I’ve finally found the right community of people for me. Probably both, right? I think I truly am starting to live as a social being in a way I’ve always wanted to. These still relatively new friends who I love and trust so much? I think I can let myself feel that way about them. I think that might be okay.

Brothers

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2014 at 10:23 pm
I spent the weekend with my brother and his family, which (as always) got me thinking about our different life trajectories. Both of my brothers and I are pursuing creative lives to some extent; my older brother, who was the most creatively disciplined of us all in our youth, has yet to break into any of the creative profession fields; my younger brother, who initially didn’t seem to have any plan at all, is a wealthy Hollywood screenwriter, and is clearly the most accomplished of the three of us, at least when applying the traditional measures of success; and then there’s me, the early prodigy who stumbled, fell, nearly stayed down, and ended up becoming the late bloomer.

I try not to play the comparison game, which of course is nearly impossible, given the fact that I’ve had these two brothers for nearly 45 years now. The old psychological dynamics and triggers are hard to escape without severing the connection entirely. Still, I may finally have grown and matured enough to feel more securely anchored in my own life, my own pace, my own experience. My life is far from perfect, but then that was going to be true no matter how events unfolded. I haven’t scaled the mountaintop in some of the ways my younger brother has, but I managed to scrabble and claw my way out of the crevasses I’ve occupied in the past.

My life trajectory seems to point up, at long last. I may not measure up to the standing and benchmarks of other people in the world, but my many “failure to launch” years finally seem to be over, and no matter how complicated it is to have those thoughts and feelings agitated (as they inevitably are in the presence of my brothers), I’m moving forward now. It’s a relief to be able to maintain an active awareness of that, rather than watch it sink miserably into a big old cesspool of anxiety and regret.

Sometimes people disagree with me

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I don’t constantly post stuff that’s political in nature, but I’m not terribly shy about it. People respond, of course, and it’s been interesting to discover who among my FB friends disagrees with the things I post, and in what way. That should be expected, I suppose – my FB friends collectively skew in the politically progressive direction, but it’s a big old world. People have lots of different opinions. So I’ll discover that specific people I already like, respect, and previously knew only in a writing-related context have ideological differences with me, sometimes in ways that I’d probably have to work very, very hard to get past if I wanted to try and establish a NEW friendship. But in these cases, the friendship is already there, and thus far the newly discovered differences in opinion haven’t affected my feelings of friendship and affection for the people who hold those opinions. It’s not a large number of people, but it’s not zero either. That’s a good thing, right? I think that’s a good thing.

Toughness

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2014 at 8:21 am

I’m not naturally tough in the way our society tends to define it, which has been a complicated thing throughout my life. I’ve experienced plenty of moments in which an ability to step up and be confrontational, respond forcefully to aggression, and not turn the other cheek would probably have been a good thing. These days I worry about it most in relation to my son – he’s a sweet, gentle, affectionate boy, and we live in a society that does not value those qualities in boys and men. Our society celebrates and rewards the alpha male who takes what he wants without asking, conceals emotion and stiff-arms vulnerability, and stands with a fist. I’ve never even come close to being that kind of person. I believe I can teach my son kindness and generosity, at least in the flawed and sputtering way I do everything, and I believe we need more men of kindness and generosity. However, I don’t know how to teach him toughness that intersects with kindness and generosity in a way that mirrors my values; I really don’t know how to teach him toughness in any way. That worries me.

Jay

In Uncategorized on July 15, 2014 at 10:18 pm

The very first time I met Jay Asher was at the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2010. We were in a big crush of people in the banquet hall, it was chaos, I introduced myself on the spur of the moment, and I’d be shocked if Jay remembers. I remember thinking he seemed a bit withdrawn, and wondering if it was because he faced a constant stream of random people like me saying “OMG YOU’RE JAY ASHER” and whatnot.

We met in a more substantial way two years later at my first-ever faculty gig, at the 2012 Kansas SCBWI conference. We had a couple of real conversations, and I thought “oh, he’s an introvert! Which is awesome because I AM TOO!” I hadn’t suspected that before just because, you know, Disco Mermaids, eighteen bazillion speaking gigs, etc., am I right? It’s easy to overlook the truth in the glare of the lights, I suppose.

We keep running into each other here and there, and something I like about Jay is the fact that he appears to truly grasp the gigantic scope of what’s happened to him. He’s clearly grateful and happy about his career, but he also gives the distinct impression of a man thinking “dude, this $*%& is intense and out of control!” Which seems like an eminently sane and human response. It seems real, you know? I like people who are real. I’m glad I get to hang out with Jay every so often, even if it’s usually just for a short while.

Moment of Gratitude: Reflecting on the Agent Hunt

In Uncategorized on July 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Moment of gratitude: I accepted an offer of representation from the fabulous Ammi-Joan Paquette back in 2010, and I’ve yet to feel anything other than slobberingly good about that decision. However, signing with Joan was the culminating moment of an agent search process that showed me what a kind, generous, and encouraging community of professionals I was about to join, because I received so many offers of help in my agent search.

I didn’t ask anyone for a referral because I felt really, really uncomfortable with the idea of imposing on anyone like that, but luckily for me people offered me those referrals on their own. More than one of them were from EMLA clients, which played no small role in my final decision, but they weren’t the only ones. Pretty much all of those referrals came from people I’d only communicated with online, although I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many of those people face-to-face, and I consider all of those people my friends, whether we’ve met in person or not.

Here’s another one of those moments in which I suppose I could take some credit for myself, because it’s true that I’ve always tried to be a positive, supportive, and emotionally honest member of the kidlit tribe. I try very hard to maintain the belief that people deserve to be lifted up, even in the relatively small ways that I’m capable of. However, that kind of effort isn’t received well in every professional arena. It can be met with suspicion, dismissal, or scorn. It can be perceived as weakness.

The kidlit tribe doesn’t appear to see it that way, however. I’ve tried to be kind and generous, but the reason I’m able to keep trying is because this business is filled with people whose kindness and generosity far surpass my own. I’ve benefited enormously from that collective spirit of kindness, and every so often it knocks me into a state of slack-jawed amazement. It did during my agent-seeking years, and it still does today.

Memorial Day

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2014 at 6:33 am

I haven’t served in the military and I’m not from a military family, so the true meaning of Memorial Day is not one I’ve had to experience on a deep emotional level. I don’t know that this is good or bad; I suspect it just is what it is given that we all have our unique paths through the world, although I’m not opposed to the idea of facing less tragedy in life rather than more. I also don’t believe this particular void in my own life experience bars me from having and expressing my opinions about the way our military forces are recruited, deployed, and treated upon their return – it’s one of those rights that our servicemen and servicewomen are explicitly charged with protecting, after all.

However, it’s easy for me to put aside thoughts of grief and loss relating to military service when I’m not the one who’s had to experience them, and while being reminded of those things doesn’t require a terribly high level of commitment or risk, it sure seems like a worthwhile thing to spend at least part of this holiday on. I know our military families have experienced tragedy on a horrifying scale, and continue to experience it on a daily basis.

I can’t truly imagine what it feels like to suffer that particular kind of loss, but no matter how I might feel about decisions made by our military leaders and actions taken by our soldiers on the ground, I can try to genuinely honor the sacrifices made by them and their families, because at their extremes, those sacrifices are so, so much greater than the sacrifices most of us make during the course of our own daily lives.

Dad

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2014 at 10:18 pm

I left home for college in the fall of 1986, and I was not ready. I was emotionally immature and psychologically damaged; I’d spent far too much of my high school tenure in self-hating isolation; and my lack of success in both the academic and social fields felt absolute. Predictably, I experienced a wretched first year that resulted in academic suspension. Read the rest of this entry »

Sacrifice

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm

I’m gonna write while the rest of the family is at a second grade birthday party. Now, there are definitely some pluses to skipping the second grade birthday party, primarily the fact that hanging around and making chitchat with other parents for 2+ hours is a pretty good match for my personal description of hell, being the deeply introverted, socially maladjusted individual I am. But I’m also missing out on things like the jubilant expression on the 2.42 year old’s face as he pings around inside a bouncy house, or the deep satisfaction on the 7.67 year old’s face as she scores her first slice of cake. I’m doing it anyway, because I want this career, and I intend to have it. But the sacrifice is real, and it’s not easy; it’s never easy.

Arthur

In Uncategorized on March 10, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I’m pretty sure it was sometime around this day in 2010 when Arthur A. Levine sent me a Facebook friend request. It’s probably easy to imagine working with Arthur as a very “yes Arthur, whatever you say, Arthur” kind of scenario if you don’t actually know him as a person – his gargantuan editorial achievements and place in publishing history are impossible to dispute, after all, and viewing him solely through the lens of those things undoubtedly results in a highly distorted, non-reality-based image. It’s easier to be intimidated or awestruck by an archetypical construct of a Legendary New York Editor than by the editor as a real person, you know what I mean?

Lucky for me I actually got to know Arthur as the genuine, wonderful human being he is first. I much prefer to see him through the lens of his humanity – it’s a more accurate way to perceive anyone, and personally I prefer working with a real, live human being to working with a fantasy person built from assorted shards of reputation, fandom, and media coverage. It’s true that I have no basis for comparison – I’ve only published one book, and while I’ve worked with other editors on short pieces, novels are a whole different can of hungry caterpillars. But it’s hard to imagine working with an editor who I trust more than I trust Arthur.

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