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Life on Capitol Hill

Former Coleman staffers pen hilarious debut novel

September 1, 2012
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

A decade ago, two small-town women, Jayne Jones and Alicia Long, found themselves working on former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign.

The two became fast friends while working the long, stressful hours of a congressional staffer, working in both Coleman's Washington, D.C. and St. Paul offices. And during those years, they've collected enough stories from their own experiences and those of fellow congressional staffers to create a humorous look at life on Capitol Hill.

Jones and Long will make a "campaign stop" to promote their new novel, "Capitol Hell," at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at Perkins in Marshall.

Both women were staffers for Coleman. Long, who's originally from Hartford, S.D., worked for Coleman, Sen. John Thune from South Dakota, and Sen. George Allen from Virginia, as a scheduler, caseworker, intern coordinator, legislative correspondent and legislative aide. Jones, a Detroit Lake native, also worked as the executive assistant to the former Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum. She teaches political science at Concordia College in St. Paul.

"Capitol Hell" is the fictional story of recent college graduate Allison Amundson, who is from a small town in South Dakota. She starts working as the scheduler of Minnesota Sen. Anders McDermott III, an ambitious politician with his eye on the White House. She befriends her co-worker, Janet Johannson, and the book is based mainly on the stories the authors heard during their time on Capitol Hill.

Jones said that she and Long were just sitting on the couch one night rehashing stories.

"(We were) thinking about all the crazy things we went through," Long said. "We just got to brainstorming and thought we could make a book."

"We said 'you know, this would make a good book,'" Jones said. So Long kicked things off with writing the first chapter and sending it to Jones. "We never had an outline and we never talked about where the story would go next."

The two emailed chapters back and forth to each other, sending suggestions.

"I would add parts into chapter one and spice things up a bit," Jones said.

"It worked out really well because we know each other so well," Long said. Plus there's a mutual respect, Long added.

The book, Jones said, was four years in the making.

Long said there's aspects about them and other congressional staffers in both of the characters, Allison and Janet.

A couple of reasons the women set the book in Minnesota was because they both loved the state and were familiar with the small towns.

"We definitely wanted to keep the characters from Minnesota," Long said.

Long said she could also relate to the character of Allison.

"I was pretty naive when I went to the Hill," Long said. She said she had just turned 22 and graduated college when she went to work in Washington, D.C.

The two said they've gotten great response to their book, which is set to be released on Tuesday, with people laughing out loud.

"We definitely set it up so we get a sequel out of it," Long said. Long said she has a whole list of new stories the two of them have received since word about their book has hit the news. They also have a website for the book (

Despite the long hours, the random errands and not making a lot of money at it, both Jones and Long said they enjoyed their time on Capitol Hill.

"It's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Long said. "You work on a ton of different issues."

"I always push my students to work on the Hill," Jones said. "I think you learn something new every single day."



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