graphic memoir

notta is turning into a graphic memoir. it’s really rough though. maybe too much train of thought?
i’m kinda just writing pages as i figure out who i am.
maybe i will get a bunch of pages done and then realize what i want to say & how to say it.
so read with an open mind & open heart & not too much of an editorial gaze.

i’m also working the art out. these pages are different from the original four i did (check them out over on my notta not-a-boy page) as my art process has changed since i did them.

also! i have totally re-thought out my novel, chasing ghosts, that i have been working on these past bajillion years. it’s morphing into a serial killer cannibalistic roadtrip romp…so that’s going to maybe motivate me to finish it.

don’t go

as soon as i graduated high school, i started leaving people. the week i graduated, i packed a bag and left behind all the people who i figured didn’t care anyway. who would be sad to see me go? it was not something that ever occurred to me would happen much less was it something i would worry about. 

four years later i did it again. i left behind everyone i knew without a second thought. i mean, i wrote down their addresses (it was the nineties) and later checked on them in social media when that became a thing, but i once again left assuming no one would miss me.

i don’t even know how many times i did it throughout the nineties and into the next century. i would pack up a car with all my stuff and maybe a dog or two and just take off. to kentucky. to georgia. to texas. to colorado. to illinois. and finally to wisconsin. i would write down addresses and phone numbers and have some drinks and. just. go. 

no second thoughts. these boots are made for walking. born to run. i didn’t believe i had made an impact or that there would be any tears shed. i just went forward, no looking back.

i landed in viroqua by accident even though she lived there. i met her while i was in madison and she was visiting. i must’ve given her my phone number because she kept in touch after she went back to chicago. she kept in touch as i went from madison to manitowoc to illinois. she would call me up and i would listen to her rants while wondering why she was calling me.

i never really trusted her.

i never really trusted anyone who seemed to like me.

to paraphrase groucho marx, it was difficult for me to trust any club that would have me as a member. 

then i got kicked out of illinois and needed a new place to land. 

i tried to go anywhere but viroqua.

i’m not sure why i had such a block against living near her, but i did. maybe i was afraid of commitment. maybe i still wondered what she wanted from me. maybe i just did not understand what friendship was and dreaded swimming in those treacherous waters.

but fate intervened, and i landed in viroqua.

where i became a reluctant friend.

i kept pushing her away. even though we spent so much time together that we joked we were a blended family, i was often phoning in my friendship. i kept a laundry list of why i didn’t want to be friends with her. i kept score of all the mistakes she made while i reluctantly admitted ways she was there for me. i seemed to delight in any new evidence to prove to myself that she was a lousy friend. i couldn’t wait for the day that she tired of viroqua and moved away. like me, she didn’t seem to stay put. unlike me, she didn’t want to make small town wisconsin her home. it was only a matter of time before she left me in peace.

then the scales tipped and i finally had definitive proof that she was a terrible friend. i could justify not only pushing her away, but shoving her—hard—and closing the door behind her.

by the time i decided to give her another chance, she had moved on. she had left me for someone else. not just a new friend, but a boyfriend—one whom i had not lost any love for. the chasm between us grew deeper and longer.

she and the detestable boyfriend started planning to move away from viroqua, and i was all, “good riddance.”

for many years i have been working on healing my damage. this involves, surprise, letting people matter to me. letting people into my heart. 

it’s not easy. it’s not like i can just set my heart out to thaw in the warm sunshine. 

it’s more like i take my heart out of the freezer, then i start to worry about bacteria and spoiled meat, and what happens if no one is in the mood for heart? so i put it back in the freezer. 

it’s been a long process. 

despite my fears, my heart has begun to thaw. so now all of a sudden i realize i do want a friend. so now all of a sudden i realize i do love her and value her.

i didn’t think she’d really go.

then she dropped on me, casually, that the house closing is not even two weeks away.

the house closing.

on the house she and the despicable boyfriend bought.

like my dog who got hit by a car right after i learned to love him…she bought a house three states away just when i realized i was able to let a friend into my heart.

just when i admitted to myself that i don’t want her to go.

my newly thawed heart broke. 

i guess i should have seen that coming. after so many times of half-assedly thawing it before throwing it back in the freezer, how strong could it be? turns out it’s pretty easy to break a damaged heart.

it’s not like in the movies where i can just admit that i need her and that i don’t her to go…and she stays.

it’s not like she will change her mind and come back to me just because i have realized that i don’t want to lose her. just because i have realized how much she means to me. 

she’s not going to leave the deplorable boyfriend at a rest area and run into my arms.

i’m alone again. broken-hearted despite years of trying not to get my heart broken.

isn’t it ironic.

up top: “follow your song” 9X12 mixed media on watercolor paper…$75

thoughts on goddesses and monsters

a rant/essay inspired by books about wild women

am i a creation goddess or a destruction goddess? am i both? is there a difference?

i put “wild women” into the search on my library’s website and got a variety of results. 

one book of wild women were nature writers. why did they feel so tame to me? maybe because they were just reporting. influencing but not doing? was i jealous that i never pursued a career in the natural world? or is it the fact that even though i identify as wild (feral at the very least) i do not identify as a women? (or is it that i don’t identify as feminine?) and often find myself annoyed by the more frivolous characteristics of women? 

another book of “wild” women was a random collection of quotes. as soon as i read a quote indicating that women who don’t wear makeup are lazy, i closed the book and returned it to the library, my opinions on the frivolous characteristics of women confirmed.

reading another book i found while looking for wild women stories, women and other monsters by jess zimmerman, i realize i never fantasized about being the princess, the damsel in distress. i devoured faery tales like a fiend, but i never thought about being the princess. so what drew me to faery tales? the dark side of them? the suffering through life for some kind of reward? definitely the magic of them. i have never outgrown the magic found in faery tales…or the darkness.
while reading zimmerman’s book, and something i’ve come to realize while working on my own projects, i am drawn to the antagonists of mythology like a bear to honey. i love the idea of being a siren or a medusa. i identify with being a punishment to mankind. the idea of it intoxicates me. i don’t want to be the princess…i want to be the witch. 

what the fuck, right? 

but to take the male gaze and use it to destroy those lookers. turn them to stone? that is magic. 

once during my life i did succumb to the male gaze. i consider it the low point of my life…it only lasted, what? like fifteen or sixteen years? it started when my soul mate broke up with me because i was a fuck-up at relationships. i hopped a greyhound from hip & cool austin, texas to get off in not so hip & cool lexington, kentucky. i was heartbroken and my self esteem was in the toilet. 

i started dating a redneck and was too easily influenced to start shaving off my body hair and wearing underwear and being generally more “presentable”…for him.

i embraced…or, rather, attempted femininity. waiting tables in short skirts (but still wearing doc martins)…losing weight…wearing tight tops to show off my far from ample bosoms—but also my naval ring!

this went on for years even after i left kentucky for wisconsin. then i became a mom and was told by my preschool age son that i better shave my legs (after a just a couple of days of growth.)

i promptly threw away my razors.

fuck the male gaze.

you know, sometimes i get to a public place and realize i have no idea what i look like that day? mostly i just hope i don’t have any boogs hanging out. i don’t worry someone might not be attracted to me. i assume no one will be. i’m unencumbered by the male gaze. it’s a warm and safe pocket for me. low stress. low maintenance. perfect.

my best guess for my being often oblivious to the male gaze is, again, that i do not consider myself a woman. i mean, i know on a logical level that i am a woman. i used to menstruate, i have breasts, i have the plumbing assigned to women and used it to gestate and give birth four times. yet…i feel a disconnect. i feel like womanhood is a club i was not invited to join. i have felt this way for as long as i can remember. when i was around five, i remember thinking i knew i was a girl…but i did not know i was not a boy. 

little girls were a mystery to me. watching them…and then watching women as i got older, they continued to be a mystery to me. i still obsessively watch female friend tv shows and movies, as if i will glimpse the secret that keeps me locked out. 

friendships with girls…and then women as i got older, left me feeling like i was pretending to be someone else. the minute a woman speaks to me, i take on a role. like i’m actually a non-woman in drag and afraid that i am not passing.

i say a non-woman, because i do not consider myself a man either. like the cliche that women like to put on people like me, i am more comfortable being friends with men. i am one of those “not like other girls.” at first, men are easy. at first, men are mostly just fun. it only gets tricky when they start thinking of me as a woman. i have had boyfriends of sisters and friends hit on me way too many times under the assumption that i would be a good idea seeing as i like to drink beer and make inappropriate jokes. i know my being a good idea would get old fast. that it’s a bad idea. they are with a woman and want to cheat on her with me…because i am like them? but with boobs and a vagina? 

plus, i wasn’t hanging out with them to get laid. i just wanted an easy friendship that didn’t mean i was always on guard, afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. but friendships with men usually ended when i didn’t suck their cocks after all.

in zimmerman’s book, the only book about wild women that i found i could actually get into (so far), she talks about how easy it is for a woman to be considered monstrous, that the ideals for femininity are a thin line. 

women are supposed to be fragile. dainty.

i am not. i was once called a “stout young lad” by a man with alzheimer’s that i was caring for when i was twenty. it really didn’t bother me that much. after all, i don’t think of myself as a woman. i am me. big hands, big feet, built like a linebacker. these are the genes i inherited from my father. not my mother’s bird bones and small features. i was happy to get my dad’s build. he was unstoppable. my mother on the other hand, was breakable. i did not want to be breakable. i saw what it did to her.

i don’t mind being a monster. i like it. it’s fun to upset people and cause them discomfort by doing something as simple as not shaving my pits. however, i find i want to be a beautiful monster. mostly because beauty means power. there is a power to beauty that i regret i did not take more advantage of when i was younger and convinced i was hideous (but really was not.) when i was in my twenties, i shaved my head and dressed in boy’s clothes because it would be ridiculous for someone like me to pretend to be pretty.

“So when I said, ‘I don’t like romance,'” writes zimmerman, “it was the equivalent of a dieter insisting she just doesn’t want dessert. I did want it–I just thought it wasn’t allowed.”

this is something i struggled with all my years. embracing my cynical self because i thought my romantic self would come off as ridiculous…laughable…. if i admitted that i wanted to be loved, i would be a joke. i looked at myself and saw a hideous misfit. who would love me? better to make fun of romance and be cruel to any man who pretended to love me.

i call myself a siren…or now a retired siren…because of what i do to the men who are crazy enough to be drawn in by my song. i crash them on the rocks. i destroy them. all of them. 

i seduce them with my sexuality (that i have no problem admitting to…sexuality is not the same as beauty) and then i ruin them. i’m even proud of this. proud that i have made so many men cry. that i have made so many men miserable.

the only man i can think of that i respect is the one who, after one night together, told me he didn’t want to pursue a relationship with me.

i said, because i had heard it many times, “you just want to be friends?”

and he replied, “no. i don’t want to be friends.”

i never saw him again. he survived the rocks of me. good for him. the others were not so lucky.

i don’t plan on crashing any more men on rocks because i don’t plan on being in relationships with any more men who deserve to be smashed on rocks. hence the “retired siren.”

but then reading the chapter on harpies in zimmerman’s book had me grinning at the harpies’ terror inflicted on men. i would love to be a harpy. i want to sprout wings and terrorize the male driven world with my pretty face and grotesque womb (surely it is pretty fucking grotesque after four kids.)

my new life goal: to have not the men i date fear me; but to have all the other men fear me. especially the ones who think i have not earned a place as a writer and an artist just because i am a woman, thereby “inferior” to them. and if i am put on the same plane as them, or–god forbid!–if i am more successful & influential then they are…then surely i am a scene stealing harpy. 

i wouldn’t mind at all being that kind of monster.

i think i am a goddess of creation and one of destruction…but i am also a monster because i want to create what most people think should be destroyed, and i want to destroy what many have spent their lives creating. i am wild whether i write about nature or not. i am wild because i refuse to draw attention to my face and want you to look at my brain instead. i am a monster because i won’t stay put in my role as mother and long ago fled my role as wife. i am a monster because i refuse to stop trying to change the world. 

the illustration above was inspired by/borrowed from one of the illustrations in women & other monsters, illustrated by samira ingold

new moon on monday

i had a dream this morning that i was being challenged by another mom on my momming choices.
i chose a less conventional approach to motherhood, and she was telling me that everyone else did it this other way.
but i didn’t care.
i was confident that i was doing right in my choices.

when i woke up…this somehow transferred to my artistic choices.
as my favorite art instructor asked me, “is this what you really want to be doing?”
a question that i now apply to most of my life
& ask myself again today about my art & writings
while applying the message of my dream…
confidence in my dancing down the road less travelled
to a beat of my own.

it’s a new moon on monday, y’all.
a powerful new moon from what i have read.
all new moons are good for fresh starts
this one seems even more powerful?

in the spirit of this new moon
i present to you my collection of writings
& the assurance that i am just getting started….
soon they won’t all fit in one camera shot 🙂

also! more messages from the universe via homemade business cards:

it’s in the cards

i kinda feel like i’m crawling out
of a hole
i buried myself in a few years
i kinda feel like i’m waking up
from a long

i signed up to read, have a table, & display art at viroqua’s ridges to rivers book festival. whoa. just like that. i didn’t think twice. it’s like i believe in myself? crazy.
realizing i would have a table, i was all like–i better make some business cards!
so i started inking out messages from the universe…& some contact information from me.

how i spent my valentine’s day

as proof to my romantic
& painfully…obliviously…optimistic nature:
i have always loved valentine’s day
it took me many many broken hearts to grow calloused
towards the day
even yesterday, amidst my angst, i still kept peeking
out my front window
hoping for flowers from some secret admirer….
i planned to just mope all day
but instead my pain came out in my art.

up top: “looking for grubs in all the wrong places” 9X12 mixed media on watercolor paper…$75
above left: “a fool for love” 8X8 mixed media on watercolor paper…$55
above right: “so what; who cares” 6X6 mixed media on watercolor paper…$35

here is the before shot as i began my search for messages from the universe in inkstains:

in other news…my wardrobe: suited better for ink? or more exciting with pastels?

what’s in a name

random essay by me

when i was born, they named me mary jo connell. in my family, i already had a cousin named mary and would soon have another cousin named mary. it is the go-to catholic name for girls. every family needed one apparently. my cousin mary katherine became mary k. my cousin mary theresa became mary t. i was mary jo. 

always mary jo. 

named for my mom’s best friend. a name not usually found in the midwest and not the usual catholic combo like my cousins’. in the era i was born, the name mary jo would make you think of petticoat junction. during my time as a kid, tv would produce another southern woman named mary jo on the show designing women. i gathered that mary jos were sassy and southern with cute accents.

not like me.

in first grade there was somehow another mary jo (what? seriously?) so my teacher asked me, “do you want to be mary jo or jojo?” why jojo? i still don’t know. but i chose mary jo. changing my name at that junction seemed terrifying…like most of public school did. i figured it was best to stick to the evil i knew. plus jojo was surely not approved by the catholic church. 

i wonder about that other mary jo. did she resent me for stealing her name? she didn’t stay at our school long. maybe because of the name conflict? but while she was there she was totally mean to me, ripping up the note i sent greg liles right in front of me (i think you’re funny; do you like me yes or no?). but can i blame her? i was party to the sentencing of her time (or life?) as a jojo.

my bus driver, a farmer who needed winter time income, was the first one to call me mojo. i don’t know why. but i liked that one. too bad mrs. doris didn’t offer me that name. i have used mojo from time to time, but most of my childhood i was mary jo. except for one semester when i thought i should try to be normal and told everyone to call me mary.

i was not a mary. mary’s are good and mild mannered. they are virginal. i am strange and angry. i am offensive. i am prone to rocking the boat when you are sure the storm has passed and it is only smooth sailing ahead.

i was a mary jo.

and then i became an mj. you know, like spiderman’s girlfriend.

expect every pothead ever greeted me with, “mj! maryjane! right on!’

when i was in my early twenties, i played around with pen names. em joe jones was my favorite. kind of a tribute to my favorite supporting actor, m. emmet walsh. i always thought i would be best as a supporting actor, a back up singer. i usually aimed for those low-hanging stars.

mojo jones was another pen name i used. i totally wanted to get rid of that connell. get rid of the catholic. i wanted to be free of dysfunction and abuse and all the chips that lived on my shoulder. 

plus i had a theory that the best authors were not found anywhere before the middle of the alphabet. 

in my later twenties i would land in kentucky by total accident. in kentucky they loved my name even if they didn’t really get me. 

i stayed there longer than i should have…maybe because of my southern name.

while i was there, my boss at a bbq restaurant told me that in the south you either added or subtracted syllables when pronouncing words. he called me merjo.

when i was 28, i eloped with a guy i had known for less than two months. this made it so i could finally leave the beginning of the alphabet and go squat in the middle where i felt i truly belonged. no longer a connell, i became a mccarty. surely everything would go better for me now.

when i divorced my husband a year and a half later by going to the divorce hut in lexington and filling out some papers, i kept the name.

years later he would gloat about this, like it proved i still loved him.

but it was actually for alliterative reasons. mj mccarty.

recently i learned that mongolians valued alliteration above rhyme, and i was like, that just further proves i am genghis khan reincarnated…a theory i have because we both believed we were a punishment sent by god.

i especially love assonance. sometimes just so i can say “nice assonance.”

i also kept the name to avoid being a connell again.

i left kentucky sometime later and moved to wisconsin, where, starting from scratch i told everyone my name was mj. so, barring government workers who still called me mary because that’s what the documents say, i was a solid mj in wisconsin. 

then i remarried. i gave up my mccarty to become a walker because i thought that that was what love looked like. you know, sacrificing your identity for someone else.

mj walker.

it sounded too much like tj hooker. plus the asshole govenor of wisconsin was named walker, so…. the minute i divorced my second husband, i took back my mccarty. 

“don’t you want to have the same name as your kids?” people tended to ask me.

“look at them,” i answered. “no one is going to doubt they are mine.”

because i gave birth to like four mini-mes.

then my brother died.

i started telling everyone my name was em. because m was the initial of me and my brother. we were the m’s of the family. now i was the only m. i thought about going by just the letter m, you know, like 007’s boss, but i didn’t want to be just one letter. so i spelled it em and told everyone it was for phonetic reasons.

i also added connell back in to show tribute to my brother. most of my family who had fallen away wandered back to catholicism to tribute my brother…which made me wonder if i died tragically, would they become witches? but not willing to be catholic again, i added connell back into my name.

for a brief time i tried on the name em connell mccarty.

but there were problems right away. people assumed the em was short for emily (why not emma?), and I felt being an emily was just as bad if not worse than being a mary.

and the connell was just too bulky. i don’t think i’m a three name person after all, maybe that’s why mary jo had to be shortened to mj in the first place.

while tweaking around with my name, i remembered how much i liked it when a past coworker would try to pronounce mj as a word instead of initials. it sounded to me like it would be spelled emje. so i put the j back in but kept the e and even added another one.

problem now was that no one knew how to pronounce my name when they saw it spelled. 

so i gave up and told them it was basically mj.

just spelled funny.

and that is how i became me.


emje mccarty.

bonus round:

there are several songs about mary. but who sings a song about mary jo?

a. belle & sebastian

b. tony orlando & dawn

c. adam ant (formerly of adam & the ants)

d. all of the above

up top: “lost at sea” 6X6 mixed media on watercolor paper…$35
directly above: “call of the wild” 8X8 mixed media on watercolor paper…$55

raining cats & dogs

i haven’t been feeling like drawing
so i haven’t been drawing
as i try to honor when i just need to
but soon it will once more
be raining cats & dogs

up top: “the end of the day” 6X6 mixed media on watercolor paper…$35

written in the stars…

my horoscope says y’all should check out my art & writings.
contact me ( for an autographed copy of this or any of my books
& artwork.

left: “the night began like any other” 6X6 mixed media on watercolor paper…$35
middle: “ships in the night” 8X8 mixed media on watercolor paper…$55
right: “float on” 9X12 mixed media on watercolor paper…$75

“story prompts”

is what i think i should call this latest series of inkstain scry work…
i like the idea of my pictures being worth a thousand words. can you think of a story to go with one of them? if i sit with it a little bit, i am sure i could.
a little fodder to get the brain moving, i guess.

& after:

coming soon:

up top: “my magic monday” 9X12…$75

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