Goodbye, Butterfly

sipping mud puddles,
drumming butterfly feet
taste not life’s shortness

— Jean Detjen

No photo description available.

(‘Bye Bye Butterfly’ by Naza)

Be, See

see the toiling bee – 
a part of, not apart from
the human story

— Jean Detjen

No photo description available.

(‘Bee Tattoo’ by Traci Noles-Ross)

Winter Ice

ebony mirage –
white stars and red paint,
hawk feather paintbrush

— Jean Detjen

No photo description available.
Artwork by drawingtenthousandbirds

I wrote this (deeper than I thought it would be) haiku two winters ago while lying down with a bag of ice on the back of my head over matted hair covered in blood. This was the second time I’ve been surprised at the sight of bright red blood on my fingers after slipping on black ice in my own driveway. The first time I needed stitches under my chin in the ER, this time I was a bit luckier (though very achy after such a hard fall). 

When I was about 5 or 6, I suffered a wicked fall on ice as a while skating on a creek in my backyard.  My horribly broken leg caused many months of physical and emotional misery. I remember being afraid that I would slip on my crutches and re-injure myself. My mother recalls that winter as one where I withdrew and was very sad.

Ice can certainly look beautiful but can also be a devilish trickster. As a result of the injury just before I wrote this haiku, I suffered over a year of chronic pain from concussion and whiplash. Is writing a poem about something that has hurt you multiple times making peace with it? Maybe. Perhaps I ought to do more writing about other things I need to forgive and find out.

Soul Grove

birch bark scrolls
wait in the soul grove,
anticipating a tug
on their tender newsstand.
peeling layers
of ancient wisdom,
shining bright,
forever young,
stories hidden
under the curls
meticulously penned
from a muddy pool
on a loaned plume.
sonnets haphazardly scratched
on a bumpy nub,
elegance awakened.
freckled parchment flutters,
branches unfurl,
dancing and bowing,
slender limbs reaching,
at something
beyond the tips
as roots beneath
mirror new depth.

– Jean Detjen

Image may contain: tree, outdoor and nature

Artwork by Anatoly Dverin




I would, if I could, bring back
into fashion the moon and the
stars, the dawn and the sunset.
I rarely hear anyone speak
of them. One would think these
perpetual wonders had
passed from sight.
There is peace and rest in the
contemplation of these miracles
that nature paints on the
canvas of the sky.

But we do not want peace
and rest; we are enamored of
noise and motion. A St. Vitus
dance has seized us.
Things must change. The nerves
have a limit of endurance.

Tonight, I looked at the moon
for a while. There was a
faint circle around it.
A friend came by and asked what
I was looking at. I pointed
to the moon.
“I don’t see anything.”
“The moon,” I said.
He chuckled and went on. He will
report me as growing queer.

The mystery of the night!
And our own mystery! Who
knows what we are? No science
has yet grasped us.
The moon – the beautiful, mystical
moon – playing nightly
to empty seats!

Max Ehrmann (1872-1945)

[Supermoon 2016 photo by Alan Larson]

Thoughts from the Scrib Room: What is Your Manuscript Worth? Probably More Than you Think

What is a published manuscript worth? As all writers know, it’s rarely easy creating good writing. Author, editor and poet Katerina Stoykova Klemer understood this all too well:

and so on.”

MANUSCRIT by Jean Mirre
Original abstract painting: MANUSCRIT by Jean Mirre (France)*

And so on, indeed. It’s one thing to produce a solid, concise, interesting piece of writing. Quite another to garner fair compensation when freelance writing is your bread and butter.

Imagine if we began referring to all written works as “manuscripts”. Would it change our perspective and boost our confidence as writers? Would publishers look at us differently if our email subject lines said something like: “Valuable Manuscript Attached!” or “Environmentally Conscious Scribe Submission Sans Papyrus” or “Do Not Open This Manuscript If You Do Not Respect Scribes.”

The word “manuscript” conjures up intellectualism, aesthetics, value and respect. Aren’t each of those components a given for artful writing? (Yes, writing is a form of art.)

Consider that Scribes were the intellectuals of Ancient Egypt, ranking high up alongside priests and educated dignitaries. These ancient people had great respect for Scribes because the written word was recognized as having great power. In essence, Scribes were the protectors and developers of the culture itself. Their contributions were central to academic research and the smooth running of the state and society at large.

Much of ancient writing was also incredibly beautiful and visually captivating (as any archaeologist, font fanatic or hieroglyphics expert can attest). Form followed function, yet while carved messages remain, complexities crumble into dusty shape-shifters as new editors pick and choose how to interpret their meaning.

A bit of interesting “scrib crib” research, as I like to call it: Scribes were “considered to be members of the royal court and as such did not have to pay tax, undertake military service or perform manual labour.” (Source:

WOW. Just let that sink in for a moment. Gather yourself and reflect upon the influence you possess. The multi-faceted power of words is still true today, of course!

In today’s world, a manuscript is defined as the work that an author submits to a publisher, editor or producer for publication within respective format guidelines.

It’s important to understand that your writing is a creative commodity that has a long history of intrinsic value. And POWER, lest we forget! This is particularly important to recognize if providing for your (and possibly also your dependents’) basic financial needs. Your self respect needs to be fed and protected, too. Demanding a fair wage for your sweat equity is only right. (Good thing sweating makes you smarter!)

Fellow bloggers/writers and those who respect us: $100 minimum for a modest size post of 250-500 words (which would typically take about an hour or so to compose) is fair compensation for a freelancer. Longer pieces should demand a comparatively higher rate.

If you are providing your own photos, video clips, graphic design elements, motion graphics, original source interviews, etc. then you can charge more for these value-added extras.

You should charge more still if adding promotion via your own social media channels. Your personally cultivated network of contacts brings additional value to the table. Businesses pay a lot of money for mailing lists. If your contacts are aligned demographically with your client’s target market, then your network is especially golden to them.

Keep in mind also that it takes additional time and know-how to put out strategic social media content. Each platform/channel has its own ever-changing protocols. Once you think you’ve unlocked “best practice” secrets the rules change. This is the nature of this often beastly arm of marketing. Keeping up with the fickle social media world and learning how to effectively integrate its monstrous potential is a valuable skill.

If you are an “expert” in a particular arena beyond general freelance writing/blogging, your rate should jump even higher. You’ve worked hard to gain expertise and likely have a lot of money and time invested in your education, training, and related experiences. This boosts your market value.

Every element you bring to the table is worth something. YOU are worth something. Own it! You do right by yourself and your profession by respecting your craft and not second guessing your value.

Stop giving it away. People who try to take advantage of you and your skills are not worth writing one word for. (At least not a word I can publish here.)

*Note: I love visual artists as much I love writers. In addition to being a freelancer, I also represent a variety of talented artists from around the world. My friend Jean Mirre from France painted ‘Manuscrit’ shown above. This and many other fine original works of art are available for purchase. See more of Jean Mirre’s work here:  Please Follow me on Instagram to see the work of additional fine artists, random photography and more: Thank you for looking!


Books, Covers, Junkyards, Revelations


Since early August, there has been a trend on Facebook and Twitter that has people listing their first seven jobs. I wasn’t going to join in and do it initially, but thought it might be an interesting exercise and hoped my sons Brendan & Eric might get a kick out of it. So I posted my list on Facebook and got so into the exercise that I lost count and had to stop myself at number nine.

I’ve had some shitty jobs. No doubt about it. “Not the princess life I imagined,” commented a friend after reading my descriptive list (which didn’t include adolescent babysitting jobs that were unusually horrid and involved one particular red haired demon child and his cheapskate, hoarding mother.. another story for another day).

So back to job number nine* (number nine, …number nine, …) which is significant only because it was so detestable that it led me to impulsively run out the door and into one that was in many ways worse. But the new challenge involved wine and I was seduced by the romance of the stories (and sample kit, of course).

My new job as a fresh out of college wine consultant at which I most resembled a Beaujolais Nouveau was a life changer in many ways. It was tough being on a 100% commission structure with no benefits. Even tougher was making cold calls in a sterile cinderblock room as the sole female amid a group of grey-haired men, all old enough to be my father. (One of them claimed to have survived being struck by a lighting bolt which turned his hair prematurely white – Ha!)

I hated the cold calling. I hated the up and down looks I got every day that made me worry about whether or not my skirt was too short or too tight. And I hated being told I should “just show up” at a potential client’s home without confirming a wine tasting appointment. That just seemed lame and unprofessional. And it was. The strategy backfired. But it led to my revelation. The life changing one I mentioned at the preface of this post.

So, here’s some more background info so you get where I was at this time. While I knew I had the potential to do well in wine sales, I was making frighteningly little money and my small savings was starting to run out. There was no backup, no financial support system other than moi. I lived in a apartment by myself that was more expensive than I could afford and I needed to find a way out of my lease or else starve.

I decided to make a plea to my landlord (whom I had yet to meet in person) and just be honest about my situation in hopes he would release me from my 1-year lease with several months left. So I made an appointment to see him.

Upon arrival at the landlord’s house, I was feeling rather confident that I could make a convincing case. Within a few short minutes he told me how people often mistook him for Clint Eastwood, showed off his handcrafted Italian loafers, and suggested we discuss things over lunch as he was famished. Caught off guard, I meekly agreed. He led me to the garage where he unveiled his shiny Excalibur which whisked us off to a fancy lunch at Elsa’s in downtown Milwaukee.

For over an hour I heard more Clint Eastwood doppelganger and designer wardrobe stories and couldn’t get a word in about my reason for being there. “What the hell have I gotten myself into?!” I kept thinking. UGH!

Finally, we got back to his house and I put on my assertive (yet desperate) hat and pleaded my case. In a nonchalant manner, he agreed to let me out of my lease and gave me back my security deposit. He then suggested I move into his abundant home with plenty of extra room for me and all my belongings. “My daughters would like you,” he said in a hair-raising almost-whisper. EEK!

Scared out of my wits I hightailed it out of there and never looked back, thankful I made it out of there relatively unharmed. But the creeped-out feeling lingered and I was smart enough to not leave my forwarding address and changed my phone number. Being anyone’s concubine was never going to “make my day.”

The next part sucked even worse. With no other affordable options in sight, I had to move into a tiny hole of a room on Milwaukee’s east side, sharing a house with three other young women. My upper floor bedroom was so small that my Queen size bed and dresser couldn’t fit in it. I slept on a mattress on the floor and used plastic crates to store my clothing and other belongings.

Back to the vines and rushes I went after a few miserable sleepless nights, still feeling optimistic that I could be successful selling the elixir of the gods.

But it was hard. And people were jerks. Not just the leering good ol’ boys in my cubicle kingdom decorated only with a dun plastic phone and black index card box filled with coffee stained leads. The biggest jerks were actually the phony “yuppies” (remember that term?) I dealt with who took advantage of free tastings to impress their pretentious button-up, seersucker wearing friends.

More than once I drove up to two hours as expensive gas drained out of my vehicle and expensive wine was quaffed with not a single purchase. They just wanted free alcohol, free fun, free jokes at my expense. Some were even no-shows, the ultimate of rudeness. I was living on fumes, and I was losing money with every trip to fancy homes with doorbell chimes too many times unanswered.

I was sick of the lack of courtesy, respect, and basic human kindness. No more unconfirmed appointments. I’d rather lose a potential sale than waste my time and precious gas money.

While milling this all over in my head one sad, late, dark night on a lonely Wisconsin country road, I became lost and was going about 10 miles over the speed limit in what I thought was a 55 zone. I got pulled over and issued a ticket that I could ill afford. When the officer pulled away, I collapsed on the side of the road and became a sobbing, mucous dripping ball of sadness.

Getting those emotions out felt good. It left me exhausted, yet determined. The next day I looked at my schedule and groaned at the thought of a drive to Burlington for another wine tasting party. I confirmed the appointment and set out on the road again.

The drive wasn’t too bad. I was encouraged to learn via billboard education that Burlington was the home of a Nestle Chocolate factory. I love chocolate, must be a good omen!, I joked to myself. But the internal hope and humor faded when I could not find the address. Driving back and forth on what should have been the destination based on the numerical address given provided no visual of a residence that I could see.

Crestfallen, I assumed the worst, that some Preppy Handbook zealot had played a mean trick on me and given me a fake address for pink and green kicks and giggles.

Frustrated, I pulled into a nearby gas station to make sure I was on the right road. The clerk told me I was on the correct street and knew the people I was scheduled to see. “They own the junkyard there, nice people.”

Junkyard owners. Dammit. Am I being punished? Should I just drink all the wine in my sample case, gorge on some Nestle chocolate bars, run out into an adjacent cornfield and give up? No. I will not lose hope, I will go into this with an open mind and see what happens, I said to myself.

What happened was beautiful. And absolutely life changing.

wine bottle overalls
Would you like wine with your overalls?

I found the junkyard main building and knocked on the door. A big, burly, overall wearing man welcomed me with a firm handshake, a warm smile, and introduced himself as “Bubba.” (No, I’m not making this up.)

Bubba then pulled me in to meet his clan of family and friends. His gracious, gregarious nature was infectious. Within minutes he was rolling intoxicating wine language and history off his tongue that surpassed in authenticity and depth anything I had read or learned elsewhere. The man truly loved wine, and he knew the good stuff! Bubba even brought out some special bottles from his own collection to share with me.

I soaked it all in with utter gratitude and awe. The excellent wine, the genuine, humble, hospitable people, the inherent goodness of what I was experiencing.

Bubba bought several cases of wine from me that day. It was by far my biggest sale ever. I will never forget that experience and how it taught me to never judge a book by its cover.

Cheers to you always, Bubba! Thank you for what you taught me in your glorious junkyard.

For reference, here is my initial #first7jobs post that prompted the telling of this story.
My first 7 jobs (not including pre-16 babysitting):
1. Marc’s Big Boy (Oshkosh, WI) – take-out server, hostess [owners were crooks, treated staff badly, illegal practices, horrible!!]
2. Thom McAn Shoes (Park Plaza Mall, Oshkosh, WI) – retail sales [decent job experience though my boss was usually high on cocaine, saw too many hammertoes and bunions, laughed a lot with a friend who worked there with me, had fun flirting with the guy across the court at the Bresler’s Ice Cream Shop]
3. Pioneer Inn & Marina / Caboose Cabaret (Oshkosh, WI) – food/cocktail waitress, hostess [always a busy place, fun people, overall good memories, very social group and we often went out together after our shifts to “The Corners” in downtown Oshkosh]

4. Mayan Dude Ranch (Bandera, TX) – lived in a tin roof shack over an entire summer, worked my hinder off as a resort worker 6 days a week doing everything from waitressing, themed costume events, dance lessons for guests, tiny bit of singing in shows, and more.
5. Schultz Pharmacy (Oshkosh, WI) – sales clerk [weird place, odd vibe, Farside-ish, but surprisingly stress-free for the most part]
6. Telemarketer (Oshkosh, WI) – Brief stint raising money for a “Beatlemania” concert to (supposedly) benefit Special Olympics (which was actually a sham… can’t remember name of the agency but I do recall that the (very nice!) guy heading it absconded with all the money and was never seen again. (Now I know why it was so easy for him to be generous treating the staff to multiple happy hours after work. Ha!) None of us callers had any idea the guy in charge was a con-artist. To this day I mistrust all telemarketers.
7. Mercy Medical Center (Oshkosh, WI) – Public Relations Intern [professional, career focused, but an unpaid summer job, sigh…]

Extra mentions (because I can’t count)…
8. Coach’s Bar & Grill (South Bend, Indiana) – food/cocktail waitress [hard work, busy place, worst part was having to wear polyester black & white striped referee outfits that resembled Foot Locker uniforms. Most of the customers were ND students and notoriously bad tippers, but many staffers were fellow students also, hence I remember mostly good times there… and lots of free dried out pizza]
9. The Wholesale Club (Milwaukee, WI) manager trainee [horrible fit, hated every second, cringed when someone mentioned forklift training, left after the orientation was over to be a wine consultant]