Saturday, October 17, 2020

Good Advice for the New Writer

I am reposting this article from 2012. Peggy Tabor Millan wrote this piece on marketing and it holds true today. I have writers contact me often saying they have written and published a book. I soon find they did not make any kind of marketing plan. Peggy tells us what we must do as a writer and as the friend of a writer. Pay it forward.

If you are a friend of a writer, write reviews for the author wherever possible. Remember how you like to know about the book from a reader before you purchase it? If you like a book and you write a good review, you will help the author reach a bigger audience and help his book to sell. Most of us writers don't make money on our writing, but our hope is that people will read our work and appreciate what we do.

Recently several people wrote reviews for me here.  It is easy. Just click on the line that says 
comments. Usually a number precedes the word.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Kathryn Stripling Byer featured

Tonight while reading Bill Griffin's post about wild flowers and nature here in the mountains, I was pleased to see he featured two poems by Kathryn Stripling Byer, a friend who is missed by all who knew her. I was fortunate to meet Kay because she lived in western NC and was a friend of Nancy Simpson who was my mentor.    Nancy was my first poetry teacher and the class was at John C. Campbell Folk School.

Kay and I were both from south Georgia and we had much in common. I have almost every book she published, and I go back to them often to read and visit with my friend. Poetry lasts long after we are gone and I feel blessed to have known Kay and to have her signed books on my shelves.

I enjoy reading Bill Griffin's posts, and I think you who love trees, flowers, plants and all of nature would like his writing. The latest post brings up the urge to hike in the woods, check out the plants and trees as they turn to autumn. 

My trips now are taken by car instead of walking in the woods. So I enjoy seeing nature all over the world by watching TV and surveying my own little plot of woods here in the mountains of western NC.

Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Three strikes and are you out?

Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper in Robbinsville, NC.

This past week will go down in history as the week of multiple bombshells never seen before in Presidential elections. We are in uncharted territory as we have been for the past few years. One major revelation this close to the election could swing the results. Three in a row has created shock and awe not just in the conservative world, but in the entire world.

The release of President Trump's tax returns was inevitable whether voluntary or by a leak to a major newspaper. His success as an artful business deal maker has been brought into question. His being smart enough to find every loophole and gimmick to eliminate paying income tax over many years may be smart, but it is not right.

 Many of his supporters who struggle to put food on the table while seeing their paychecks diminished significantly by tax deductions can now wonder about supporting a candidate that lives a lavish lifestyle while paying little or no income taxes. Paying a fair share of taxes does not make one a “sucker and a loser.”

To be fair, his companies pay a lot of state and local taxes - as do we all. The real question to think about is to whom does the President owe, with personal guarantees, more than $425 million coming due during his potential next term and will that burden impact his decision making?  Perhaps we can sum this up by quoting famous author Herman Wouk. "Income taxes are the most imaginative fiction being written today." Problem is that we want truth and not fiction from the leader of the free world.

The second bombshell was the slugfest misnamed "debate." This columnist firmly supports a respectful political discussion about issues. We certainly have an unending list of challenges facing our democracy. My parents and mentors taught me about decorum and decency. If you want to win a debate you listen to your opponent and then disassemble their argument. That is being defensive. Another way to win a debate is to be persuasive with fact-based arguments. Despite preparation by both candidates, the event quickly devolved with interruptions and low blows regarding the struggles of family members. There were also more than 125 untruths and distortions from both candidates. No one won this debate. In fact, everyone lost this contest. It was a shameful eye opener for any thinking person.

There is a saying in baseball that is very easy to understand. "Three strikes and you are out." It remains to be determined if this oft-used quote transfers to politics. Regardless of political leaning, we must all be empathetic to the President, his family, members of Congress and key staffers who have tested positive or been hospitalized for the COVID 19 virus. No caring person wishes this curse to fall on our leaders. 

We all should have compassion for the 210,000 people in the Unites States who have died since this tragedy began to unfold last March. Yet it is difficult to erase from our memories the total mismanagement and disdain for the impacts of the pandemic. The scientists who gave us sound advice were ignored by so many who now suffer from the disease. Can we or should we put that behind us as we start early voting? That remains to be seen. 

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Monday, October 5, 2020

The Ever Changing Meaning of Words

This article by Roger Carlton, columnist for The Graham Star Newspaper. 

The definitive source on the meaning of words is the Oxford English Dictionary. The Philological Society of London called for a new dictionary in 1857. Don't feel bad. I had to look the word up and it means "the branch of knowledge that deals with the structure, historical development and relationship of a language or languages." So, a group of philologists got together and decided to codify the entire English language in a single document. The project was estimated to take ten years.  

Twenty-five years later, the group that started the process decided to contract it out to the Oxford University Press and Professor A.H. Murray. The project was renamed the New English Dictionary. Consensus was reached that a 6400-page four volume work could complete the ten-year task documenting all words from 1150 AD to the date of publication. 

Five years later, these erudite wordsmiths had progressed only to the word "ant." The task was made difficult because existing words gained new meanings and new words were being created. To close the loop on history, Professor Murray died before the 10 volume 400,000-word masterpiece was completed in 1928. The 22,000-page Second Edition was published in 1989, weighing in at 150 pounds and 20 printed volumes. The amazing compilation of English words is currently being rewritten for the third time and has gone completely on-line as a subscription service.

You might be asking where this column is going. Here goes. One word from the thousands that make up our complex language might help explain a lot about the frightening tension we are experiencing in our society. That word is "tolerance." The word means to most of us that we have an ability to accept the existence of opinions or behaviors that we do not necessarily agree with. 

Well-meaning people are taught to tolerate behaviors that make them uncomfortable because we are a pluralistic society that "takes all kinds to make a village." We are taught to "turn the other cheek." The "melting pot" concept that made my grandparents learn English quickly has been replaced with the "salad bowl" notion that we should mix together but maintain our individualism.

So now, we well-meaning folks who believe in tolerance are being told by the tolerated that this is demeaning. Think about that for a minute. We have learned by and large to tolerate ideas like Black Lives Matter, alternate facts and fake news. Lack of leadership at all levels of government and business is tolerated by many. The Supreme Court keeps protecting the rights of minorities of all sorts and most of us accept their rulings. Media bombards us with images that would have appalled our parents.

The point is that the tolerated groups no longer just want to be tolerated. They don't even want to be accepted. Being tolerated or accepted means that someone is being nice to someone considered of lesser value. The tolerated want their different behaviors and beliefs to be the norm.
Perhaps we need a new word for the upheaval currently underway. Let's try "absorption." How much absorption of these unfamiliar behaviors can we handle, and what will our democracy look like when the great sponge we call America becomes unwilling to absorb any more? The election results should tell us a lot about the voters' willingness to continue to absorb.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Sorry if you missed the dialogue class on Zoom today. Carol Crawford taught her first Zoom workshop and her students, including me, had an informative two hours with an editor who knows her stuff.

We hope to have Carol teach again in a few months. As we hunker down this winter, would you like to experience an excellent writing class with a well published writer, editor and poet? Let me know what you are interested in learning more about.

If you are an instructor of poetry or prose with a resume', please email and let's get to know each other. 

We are not offering classes or workshops in Writers Circle around the Table, the actual studio, because of COVID and some other problems, but we can continue bringing writers the best writing teachers by using Zoom online. 

Thanks to Carol Crawford and those who attended today.

Thursday, September 24, 2020


Roger Carlton is our guest on this blog. He has another thought provoking post about our political situation today. CAN WE HANDLE THE TRUTH is a good question we must all ask ourselves.
Roger is columnist with the The Graham Starr newspaper.

Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men" famously said "You can't handle the truth." This line has stuck with me since the 1992 legal drama directed by Rob Reiner was released. Two hard to handle truth moments arose last week in an article in The Atlantic magazine and with the release of Bob Woodward's new book Rage about President Trump. The first question is whether or not we were told the truth? The second question is what are we going to do about it when we vote in the upcoming election?
The Atlantic magazine has been published for 163 years. Early writers included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The publication's editor in chief is Jeffrey Goldberg who has won many journalism awards and is viewed by his peers as having impeccable credentials. This publication is no National Enquirer that reports weekly about miracle diets, impregnation by Martians and the imminent death of some famous person.

The September 3, 2020 edition carried an article about the President's disrespect for the military. The President was quoted describing military personnel as "losers" and "suckers." Earlier statements disparaging Gold Star parents and describing Senator John McCain in the context of "I like people who weren't captured" were used to show a pattern of disrespect.

Response to the article was strong. The Biden campaign jumped on it to their advantage. The Trump campaign said comments were taken out of context and it was fake news. If there was a weakness in the article, it was that the people who spoke to Mr. Goldberg were not named. This was not about distorting the truth; it was fear of retaliation from the White House.

Rage is the summation of 18 face to face interviews with the President. Woodward is a modern-day reincarnation of Edward R. Murrow. Woodward has covered presidents since Nixon. Along with his Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein, their book All the President's Men exposed the Watergate scandal and eventually led to Nixon's resignation. One thing is certain, Woodward is an impeccable researcher and may be my generation's most famous journalist.

Edward R. Murrow was a TV newscaster and commentator who sank Senator Joseph McCarthy in a journalistic evisceration that would probably not pass an editor's scalpel today. McCarthy was a serial liar who ruined the lives of many people by labelling them Communists. The times were scary at the beginning of the Cold War with Russia just as they are today with economic malaise and COVID 19 deaths.

If there is a weakness in Woodward's Rage, it is regarding a journalist/author's responsibility to release news that has a critical impact rather than wait until the book is released. Since the President admitted he knew in January 2020 about the dangers of the Covid 19 virus from sources in China and told Woodward in one of the interviews, why didn't he report on that revelation immediately?  Would not releasing the President's own admission about not wanting to alarm the public have shamed the White House into doing something much earlier and saved many lives? Woodward's response that he is an author and not a reporter seems weak. His stronger response is that many other reporters were covering the White House's denial of the severity of the crisis.

So, what are the ethics that both The Atlantic article author and Woodward should be guided by? The Society of Professional Journalists has a Code of Ethics. This guidance says "Journalists should take responsibility for their work. Verify information before releasing it." The Code also says "Consider sources' motives before promising anonymity." One final piece of advice is "Journalists should balance the public's need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness."

It seems to this columnist that both bombshell revelations last week met the test of journalistic ethics. The air is escaping from the Washington balloon at a faster pace due to these extraordinary journalistic works. The real question is whether or not anyone has changed their mind enough to change their vote? That is something to think about. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Political sign pollution and proliferation

This post is by Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper. Thank you, Roger, for contributing to this site.

We tend to think of pollution in terms of air and water quality. After all, we need to breathe, drink clean water and be protective of our pristine Lake Santeetlah. Noise pollution like dogs barking incessantly or loud machinery can add to our woes. Visual pollution is an irritant to some folks. One person's business necessity like sky high triple billboards along I-75 in Georgia is another person's ugliness blocking scenic views.  Additional forms of pollution barrage us with spam, phishing scams, unsolicited phone calls, junk mail and messages left on our windshields.

This column is about political signs. NCGS 14-156, 136-18 and 136-32 all deal with political signs. NCDOT Rules which are as long as the Blue Ridge Parkway also give guidance on the subject of signs. If your local jurisdiction is into regulation, there may also be county or city rules. Don't worry about that in Graham County.

Distilling all this with detail would require far more space than available. Here are a few key rules.

  • Signs advertise candidates or issues that will be on the ballot. The content cannot be controlled as this violates the First Amendment.
  • Signs cannot go up until the 30th day before "one-stop" voting begins. That means that political signs can start to be planted on September 15th in North Carolina. Expect an apocryphal locust plague of these signs to be planted in the next few days. 
  • Signs must be removed within 10 days after the election by the candidate. 
  • Signs must be at least three feet from the edge of the pavement. Signs placed on Duke Power poles are placed on private property which must have permission.
  • Signs must not block the view and are limited in height to 42 inches above the pavement. The sign cannot be bigger than 864 square inches. That is six square feet. Anything larger on public right of way is illegal.
  • No sign shall block or replace another sign. Tell that to the people placing the signs in front of Walgreens.

Here is the big deal. It is a Class 3 misdemeanor to steal, deface, vandalize or remove a political sign that is lawfully placed. This infraction carries a fine of up to $200 or 20 days in jail. Marijuana possession in small amounts or hunting without a license are Class 3 misdemeanors so be careful when you are hunting without a license, doing up a doobie or political sign stealing. To our Legislature, they are all equally egregious violations.

Be patient all you folks who get torqued over political sign pollution. Anyone can take down the signs if they remain 30 days after the election without fear of paying the fine or going to jail. Let's hope the candidates do that on their own.

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