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Better Left Unsaid

This is from FASTER THAN KUDZU almost exactly ten years ago—-I wrote it in early March, 2004, and the picture is from that time, too.

Me in 2004

Me in 2004. This was used on my first two books, gods and Between

Yesterday my friend Sara Gruen had to kill some people. Just a couple. But she liked ’em.

At the same time, I was watching my people have sex in a bathroom.

Honestly? I might rather have been Sara. My novels always seem to get fraught with sex and violence, but it’s often more fun and usually easier to write about the violence. You can chart violence meticulously, and the aftermath is always interesting. Meanwhile, if you chart sex, it reads like a biology lesson, and the aftermath is always finding your pants.

Truism: You never realize how much sex you have put into novel until the day you know your mother is reading the MS.

Meanwhile, my Printer has its eye on a new career — it wants to become a COMPLETE PIECE OF CRAP. It is very close to achieving its goal. It is inserting extra blank pages at random and making the edges of the paper CURL like the ends of 50’s girl hair.

Author shot from my third novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

Author shot from my third novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

I need a new one. *cuss cuss* Ask me how interested I am in spending a bunch of money to replace my POS printer….go on, ask.

*waits while you ask*


I had to go get an “author photo” taken for the book jacket and like every human being on the planet, I ALWAYS hate pictures of me. There are pictures of me on this very website that make me want to crawl under the sofa and live with the dust camels. So I went to see Liz, a photographer friend of mine from the way back back. Elizabeth Osborne is a total and complete raving genius extraordinaire, which won’t all fit on my one butt cheek or BELIEVE ME, I would tattoo it there. She managed to make me look like a grown-up with a real hair cut.

Also I get to put a big fat CHECK by one thing on my to do list. So now all I have to do *checks list* is…

I think this is around 2007?

Author shot from my fourth novel, Backseat Saints

1)Do all Line Edits
2)Write Second Novel
3)Successfully Raise 2 Children to be Kind, Happy Adults
4)Make Supper
5)Drink the rest of this Shiraz before it goes bad.

Eep. Better get right on that. I pick 5.

Fast forward to February, 2014

I recently went to an event where the coordinator had used that VERY first black and white picture from 2004 on all the promo materials.

Me: WOW! Where did you dig up that author photo?

Event Coordinator: Google. Why don’t you use it on your site? I hope you don’t mind me saying, but it’s a much better shot of you. The author photo that comes with your media kit is not nearly as flattering.

Me: *laughing* I am sure I DO look a little fresher in that one— I am 35. The ones on my site show me now, at 45.

Her: *gets the panic eye, smiles brightly and SO UNCONVINCINGLY* Oh. Um. You haven’t changed a bit! NO, REALLY! I didn’t mean THAT. Ha ha heh ha, I meant I, um, I always like black and white photos more than color.

From A GROWN UP KIND OF PRETTY, my fifth book

This is from A GROWN UP KIND OF PRETTY< my fifth novel[/caption] I laughed it off, letting her off the hook, mostly because I have HORRID foot in mouth disease and say TERRIBLE THINGS I wish I could take back, instantly. But I tell you, between 35 and 45, I HAVE learned. A little. For example, I HOPE YOU DO NOT MIND ME SAYING, as sentence start---it always bodes ill. A woman recently said to a pregnant friend of mine, “I hope you do not mind me saying, but you seem very, very large to only be as far along as you are.” My friend, who is chuffy and cool-headed looked right at her and said, in a tone both firm and polite, “You know what? I do mind you saying.” Here is some wise advice for living, culled from the ten years spanned by these photos: If you hear yourself beginning a sentence with, “I HOPE YOU DO NOT MIND ME SAYING” --just stop talking. Immediately end the sentence with, “BUT I HAVE TO PEE.” Then evac to the restroom and lock yourself in a stall and reconsider, because whatever your mouth is about to unleash is probably NOT kind or all that helpful. SO, what’s the worst I HOPE YOU DO NOT MIND ME SAYING thing you ever accidentally said out loud to someone? OR what’s the worst “helpful” thing a person ever said to you? [caption id="attachment_3234" align="alignleft" width="265"]Current author shot---on Someone Else's Love Story Current author shot—on Someone Else’s Love Story

BOOKS I READ in 2014 (I am marking ARCS so you know they are not pubbed yet. If you want a thing for NOW, GO READ THE GODS OF GOTHAM. FANTASTIC!)

In Progress: The Home Place by Carrie Le Seur (ARC )

The Gods of Gotham by Lindsay Faye
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trolloppe
The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla
Help for the Haunted by John Searles
Southern Sin Edited by Lee Gutkind and Beth Ann Fennelly
Heap House by Edward Carey

Queen Lucia E. F. Benson
How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer (ARC)
Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen
Invisible Sisters by Jessica Handler
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Stardust by Neil Gaiman (Audio)

29 comments to Better Left Unsaid

  • I think all your author photos are lovely, but did I read that incorrectly or do you only have one butt cheek?

    Wait, that might turn out to be the thing I shouldn’t have said.

  • Jill W.

    I didn’t realize how long I have been reading your blog, but I remember this post. Where does time go? Personally, I think your most recent picture is the loveliest.

  • Oh Trudy now I want to read Candide again!

    “‘Sell one of the horses,’ replied the old woman. ‘I will get up behind Miss Cunegund, though I have only one buttock to ride on, and we shall reach Cadiz.'”

    I KNOW RIGHT JILL where do the time GO??? WHERE DO IT GO?

  • On a rare trip to South Africa last month, I visited my cousin. His wife’s sister was there too, which was pretty coincidental as she was there last time I’d seen them in 1984. She had no recollection of meeting me, but I told her I remembered her clearly, “Of course, you looked a lot younger then.” She recoiled and my wife said patronizingly “You have to forgive my husband.” I was not particularly repentant. How could she not have looked younger thirty years ago? But my wife was not pleased with me.

  • Valerie Norris

    Two things said to me.
    Years ago, when I was REALLY pregnant and had (in a hormone-crazy moment) had my long hair cut off and permed, a young and drunk new co-worker saw my wedding photo and said, “Wow, you were really pretty once.”

    Recently, an uncle I hadn’t seen in years greeted me with, “Valerie! You got old!” Note–he’s probably 80.

    I love your hint about “I hope you don’t mind me saying…” Great advice. Keep writing!

  • Oh! How I love you, Joshilyn Jachson! And I hope you don’t mind me saying. 😉 My favorite thing someone said to me when I was pregnant was, “You know, you hardly look pregnant. You could just be fat!” She clearly meant it as a compliment…I think. At least I offered her the benefit of the doubt and tried to take it as such. Regardless, it’s been good for a guffaw for a decade since. So, however she meant it, I appreciate it still.

  • cakeburnette

    Wowsa. All of your author photos are stunning. If YOU don’t like photos of yourself, and you are obviously extremely photogenic, then I suppose there is hope that all of the ones I hate so much might not be as horrid as I believe them to be.

  • Brigitte

    I still regret an incident from 2nd grade, though I was a stupid kid . . at least this taught me the difference between “always be honest” and “blurt out every true thing that crosses your mind”:
    I, for whatever reason, felt the need to tell my dear friend she was a little fat. She slapped my face and never spoke to me again.

  • Chris of the Woodwork

    My very (un)favorite?

    When my uncle, whom I visited under pressure from my mother, looked at me from his rocking chair and said, “You really are FAT, Clarissa Ann!”

    Hands down my most disliked relative from then on.

  • Chelsey

    I used to work behind the desk at a public library. I am always friendly with patrons and tend to adore my “regulars,” those people I’d see daily or on a regular schedule. Anyway, I was about 60lbs heavier than I am now (can I get a woop woop?) and I had just begun my weight loss journey, when one of my regulars, an older gentleman, says to me…

    Him: “You’re glowing, you seem so happy today!”

    Me: “Aww, thank you. I AM really happy today.”

    Him: “Well, it’s no wonder you’re what 6 months along? Do you know the bundle’s gender yet?”

    Me: *laugh* “No, Mr.Smith, I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat. I do really appreciate your compliment though.”

    I said this as genuine as I could. He was a nice man but he was the third person that week to ask if I was pregnant. He looked mortified and apologized, but we laughed it off. He even brought me a daisy the next day with a note asking if he could “remove his foot from his mouth now.” That was probably the worst thing someone should never have said to me ever, and I’ve been called some pretty terrible and hilarious things over the years as I’ve worked with the public.

    Joshilyn, all of your photos look lovely. I’ve always thought your smile in your author photos makes you look like you know something we don’t and your newest one with your glasses and scarf makes you look like a fashion forward badass. Keep rocking it! 🙂

  • Corey

    Your current author photo is my bestest favorite. Nailed it with flair and a hint of sass.

  • Martha Jedlicka

    I hope you don’t mind me saying… Is that the southern version of “Don’t take this the wrong way…”?

    My colleague said to me “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you must come from a large family because while you’re always willing to pitch in without being asked, you’re kind of bossy. Oh, in a good way! Like assertive!” I’m the youngest of four and two of them are brothers, so I have thick skin and was able to laugh it off. She, on the other hand, turned beet red and couldn’t look me in the eye for days.

    I once accidentally told a client who sold inexpensive clothing that I had no problem with cheap clothes! I was drunk-ish at a business meet and greet, and mortified the next day. He was a client! Gawd, my stomach still sinks when I think of it.

  • Lori B.

    My 7-year-old daughter is in the habit of saying, “No offense, but…” I try to cut her off right there. She can say some doozies.

    The worst thing said to me? I am short, 5’1″, and gained 70+ lbs. with my first baby. One older lady at church could not get over how much I gained. She insisted I was going to have him any minute when I was only about 6 months along at the time. She spent the last 3 months of my pregnancy asking if I was sure of the date and if my doctor was sure I was having just one. It was trying. At one point I wanted to ask her if anyone had said such nice things to her when she was pregnant, but alas my Southern upbringing prevailed. I usually managed to say “Bless your heart,” smile, and stuff another cookie in my mouth during coffee hour.

    Latest time I’ve put my foot in my mouth? The other day my friend’s aunt was in town. There is a family issue going on, and they had told me some of it. I was curious about another part of it, so I said, “It might be none of my business, but…” That sentence beginner also bodes ill. My friend looked at me, laughed and said “Might not be?” We’ve known each other for 20 years, so I just busted out laughing. She’s knows I’m nosey and reminded me of it, which is something I should be reminded of often.

  • Tassie

    My mother’s version of I hope you don’t mind me saying is “I HATE to tell you, but…” and then she tells you, and usually she likes doing it. I am always tempted to cut her off and say oh I wouldn’t want you to do anything you hate, so don’t tell me.

    That Books I Read list, is that present tense or what? Like books you are currently reading or plan to read. Cause if it is books you have finished reading in just 2 months, I hope you don’t mind me saying, I hate to tell you, but, I’m only telling this for your own good, you need to put down the books and go outside and play. You’re gonna ruin your eyes.

  • Kristin

    You have beautiful author photos and your personality shines through and makes you look even more lovely. Now this will sound super fangirl, but I am glad that I got a picture with you on this last book tour.

    When I was in high school, I ran into one of my childhood (male) friends. We had moved to the neighboring town when I was 10, so I was probably 16-17 when I saw this old friend again. The first thing he said was “You sure have gotten fat!” The next thing out of his mouth was “Do you want to go on a date sometime?” Ummmm, NO THANKS!

  • I agree with Corey: most recent photo is the best.

    One that makes me crazy that my dad says to me is “I know you’re going to take this the wrong way, but…” Then don’t say it!

    The first time my mother-in-law visited us she said, “Don’t worry, Nikki, I’ll show you how to clean the shower properly.” Didn’t technically start with “no offense but” but the sentiment was there.

  • Holly Gault

    The most recent photo, because you look both hawt and confident. In all the others you were working towards that.

  • Traci in TX (formerly of GA)

    My Grandmother, the Queen of Back-Handed Comments, once said to me: “Well, you are looking very… “healthy”.. how much weight have you gained anyway?”

  • Bridget

    I once meet my brother’s mother-in-law at the airport(back when you could do such things) to help her with her connections. As she deplaned, the first words out of her mouth were “I hate your hair!” (I’d recently cut it). My response was “Good to see you too Maureen.”

    And your latest author pic is RIGHTEOUS!

  • Jennifer

    I teach elementary school, and I adore teaching the Pythagorean Theorem and which elements are volatile and how “gh” used to sound back in the Anglo-Saxon day, but I am probably serving society best by interrupting students who start a sentence with, “Don’t take this the wrong way,” or “I hope you don’t mind me saying,” or “No offense, but.” Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, little dogey, there’s a reason you are using that phrase, and it is exactly the opposite of the phrase! Step away from the insult. (Also, I teach them to use “Friend and I” as a subject phrase and “Friend and me” as an object phrase, and where apostrophes may and may not show their curly little butts, and for these things I know the dear Lord will reward me in heaven.)

  • I’m thinking (very admirably) that your butt cheek must be much smaller than mine. I’m pretty sure I could get all that on mine.

    Also? That was TEN YEARS AGO?!! Are you SURE??? I swear it was last month.

  • Holly nailed it. You can see the progression from, “I’m really sweet, you might like my book, maybe?” to “Is this what a successful author looks like?” to “Yes, I am a serious author, but also, I have cleavage – sorry,” to “Yeah, I like me, but I don’t need you to like me too, because I’m secure like that,” ending with “Of course you love me. How could you not?!”

    Worst thing said to me: About 15 years ago I had very long hair, long down to my knees. Some guys were doing construction work at my office and one commented on my hair, asking if I’d ever cut it. I told him when I graduated from high school it was very short, above my ears. He didn’t believe me so the next day I brought in my senior photo. He looked at the photo, looked at me, and, big brown eyes glimmering with sorrow, asked, “Why didn’t you take care of yourself?”

  • When I was in college, a boy I thought was cute was describing his ideal girl to me.

    I said, “Oh, you mean someone like ME, only prettier?”

    And he said, “Yes!” (I ought not to ask these things.)

  • Karen

    The black and white one looks like you went to Vassar or Smith. Classic.
    The latest one looks like you’re sassy and proud of your bosom. And why wouldn’t you be?

  • Being a chatter box, I have often stuck my foot in my mouth. . .though normally I’m pretty adept at removing it with some self-deprecation or humor or both. The last time remember sticking my foot in my mouth was the LAST TIME I visited my then regular yoga place. It’s been ten years, but I clearly remember (by way of a compliment) telling the substitute yoga instructor that I had asked about her recently, “I’ve been looking for you. I hadn’t seen you in awhile so I just asked about the instructor with the dancer’s body, you know. . .lean, flat chest?” She did not kick my rear end with her lean, flat-chested dancer body, but I never went back again. Ever.

    I teach middle school–I am subjected to LOTS of worst things aimed at me on a daily basis. . .

  • Melissa

    I hope you don’t mind my saying, but I love your author pictures. (How’s that?)

  • I just found out that you and I have the same birthday! I am so excited to find this out! My “better left unsaid” moment was when a woman gave me her card and told me she would “fix” my hair for me. I may not have been salon fresh but I also wasn’t a tragic “before” makeover photo.

  • edj

    My fav author photo is the latest! You look fantastic!

    I’ve stuck my foot in it a few times. But the times that remain greenest in my memory are the ones said to me. Just this week, I baked an apple cake with cream cheese frosting and took it to some Iraqi friends. The man said, “Why do Americans have to put cinnamon in everything? I don’t like cinnamon.”

  • Berry

    Not really on topic, but I thought you might appreciate this both for the humor and for the Joshilyn Jackson book in the center. 😉