Wednesday, October 28, 2020

I am all about writers and writing

My students know I ask that no one talk about religion or politics in my writing classes. 
We are there to learn how to write, not vent about politics and not to hurt anyone's feelings about religion.

When a group of strangers or semi-strangers gather around a table to write, to share their writing and to discuss ways to improve writing, we have no time and no desire to hear personal opinions on controversial subjects.

But, in recent weeks, I had the pleasure of having Roger Carlton as guest blogger. We are friends. We met when Roger took several writing classes with me at Tri-County Community College. I had no way of knowing and didn't care to know his political leanings.

He is astute, well-read and articulate. He has a long background in city management, and I mean large cities.

I was delighted when Roger told me he was writing for his local weekly newspaper. He became a regular columnist for the Graham Star. His writing is well researched and often gives me new ideas to ponder.

He has developed a following on this site, and I receive emails from as far as California and Florida from readers who appreciate his writing.

His last article was more partisan than others, and we had one reader who disagreed with what he said. This reader was invited to contact Roger so they could share opinions.

As a columnist, he is often guided by what his editor wants in the newspaper. I can choose to publish the columns or not.

I know Roger to be a fair and caring person as well as an intelligent and competent leader. Some of my readers have suggested his articles deserve a wider audience and have subscribed to this blog so they can get his articles in their Inbox.

I am all about writing and writers.
I believe that writers are important in all countries and in all cultures to be free to point out issues to the public, to those of us who have not thought about it or had not had the time to research the subjects. 

Writers are our encyclopedia on the world. How do I learn about climate change? How do I know if fracking is good or bad? Where do I go to find out about the dangers of coal mining? How does fossil fuel affect our future? How can we change over to sustainable energy? Somewhere it is written down and writers have published papers, books and scripts that will teach us what we need to know.

How do I know if Putin is a good leader or a bad leader? How do we know if our own government is up to evil or good? Should we accept the sound bits on TV? Do we believe what we see on Facebook and Twitter?

How do we learn about racism if we have contact only with people like us? In the past few months black writers and poets have been embraced by the public as everyone wants to know how to be a less racist person, a more understanding person of those who are of a different race.

Writers often take chances in order to give voice to the voiceless. Writers can produce changes that are needed for the good of us all. 

Of course, some writers can also manipulate and lead by hiding the truth, by falsifying facts, but those people usually don't have a long life  because the truth will come out and liars will be held accountable.

I get as angry with the TV media as anyone else. I seldom watch TV cable news. I read reputable magazines and newspapers, read books by authors who write from experience or from interviewing men and women who answer their questions. I research online to see what scientists and public health experts have learned. 

One magazine I read each month is Brain & Life. Good articles on important health issues that I would not know about if I didn't read what the writers tell me in their articles

The Week is a good one for quickly getting the important facts about politics and what is going in our government and around the world. Some are written from conservative angles and some from a more liberal angle. 

We need writers even if we don't always agree with what they say or how they say it. I believe in giving writers a podium as I have done for twenty-five years on my two blogs.

Hopefully, one day we will get beyond this all consuming time of political obsession and fear of danger. Then I hope to publish some interviews with poets, authors of novels and children's stories.

Monday, October 26, 2020

A conversation about the candidates

Roger Carlton is our guest today. He is a columnist with the Graham Star Newspaper. 

The best conversations with someone of opposing views begin with the discovery that there might be some areas of agreement. For instance, we might all agree that political ads painting your opponent as the devil incarnate don't garner many votes. These ads do more to demean the candidate who campaigns on their opponent's alleged faults rather than their own strengths.

We might also agree that the Biden Harris ticket and what it stands for is the polar opposite of the Trump Pence ticket. We can also most likely agree that any more debates will shed no illumination on the candidates and be thankful that the final two debates have been called off.  

So, maybe these agreements can form the basis for a conversation that doesn't expect to change your mind - just to give you something to think about before you vote. Following are some characteristics that this columnist thinks are important for the President of the United States and the leader of the free world to demonstrate: 

  • Trustworthiness is critical. What is the ratio of truth to outright lies, distortions, political hyperbole or just plain gaffes? Reviewing the past four years, there is one candidate who has a demonstrable record-breaking track record of excuses, blaming others and distortions of the truth. When caught, we hear about fake news or walking something back or it was just a joke. This criterion is pretty easy to judge.
  • Developing a great leadership team. Expertise that is listened to, people of integrity, people that our allies respect and our enemies fear, people who are not afraid to tell the President that he is wrong and people that are loyal because the loyalty has been earned are all characteristics of the leadership team we should expect. The group surrounding the White House incumbent has come and gone voluntarily, been fired or indicted and convicted. Hardly the team that should be continued for a second term.
  • The ability to respect expertise and develop policy based on scientifically proven facts. For those of us with friends and families that have had their loved ones die , who are experiencing the economic impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic or have their children and grandchildren failing in school, the sad conclusion is that the White House has failed to develop a national program to deal with this tragedy. No, it is not the Chinese disease. It is the world's disease and we are part of the world.
  • Showing empathy.  Empathy means you care about those less fortunate than yourself. This means the 30 million who remain unemployed and may soon be evicted. This means immigrants who want to come to this country and are willing to follow the rules. Desperate people do desperate things. To separate them from their children is not empathy. It is inhumane.
  • Having the foresight to recognize that we need to address climate change and sea level rise. Consider people in California or along the Gulf Coast. Continuing to support fossil fuel use rather than alternate energy sources will put us behind a world that is quickly moving away from the old technologies.
  • The ability to acknowledge the pain of others. Calling the folks who want to find a solution to police abuse of force a "bunch of thugs" ignores the reality of both the Black and Blue Lives Matter movements. Branding your opponent a "socialist" because he won't abandon the 20 million people who have taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act does not solve the issues of improving medical care for all our citizens and taxpayers. There are 440 people in Graham County who would not have insurance without this program and every one of them should beware of the White House goal of killing this benefit. 
  • Respect for the voters' intelligence.  Dissing a patriot like Senator McCain because he was a prisoner of war and showing disrespect for Gold Star families is a slap in the face to our military. Abandoning treaties and organizations causes our allies to lose their trust in us and our enemies take advantage. Bragging about a tax reform package that made the rich richer and did nothing for the middle class. Ignoring income inequality only angers the workers who see the corporate titans become wealthy as Midas while they struggle to put food on the table and provide a better education for their children. Paying your fair share of taxes is not being a "sucker and a loser."  It may be "smart" but it is not right and certainly does not earn my vote.

Many of the residents of Graham County rely on the Good Book for guidance when conflicts occur. Consider Mathew 7:15. "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Predictions of massive voter fraud, unwillingness to agree to a peaceful transition if you lose, creating distrust in wearing a mask until you get the disease, wild conspiracy theories that stoke up hate groups are all behaviors that seem to define false prophecy. 

We all need to look deeply into our hearts and have a conversation with ourselves and people we respect. Are the lifelong mountain values inherited from generations past best continued by the incumbent? Was America made great again in the past four years? Should we trust the next four years to someone who has had few leadership successes and many failures? The unavoidable answer to these questions is that the risk is too great. That is why the Biden Harris ticket is the best way forward.



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.

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