So not only did you teach me about writing memoir, you also taught me about reading and thinking about how others write memoir. Thank you so much! Rebecca
Showing posts with label Pandemic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pandemic. Show all posts

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Writers are enjoying community in far west Netwest region

One thing writers usually know or realize is that we all need a community of writers. 
Whether online or in person, we crave the company of and conversation with others who write. For most of my life, I wrote alone with no other writers with whom I could share my work. I didn't know any other writer when I lived in south Georgia. For years I wrote personal essays, some poetry and short stories which no one ever saw. I had no one except family to read my work. I believe family is of no help with deciding if my writing is good or not. My poetry was criticized because it did not rhyme. No one in my family group enjoyed free verse poetry. My true stories were criticized because I didn't include my siblings in the narration. 

Nancy Simpson, Program Coordinator and co-founder of NCWN-West

But, when I moved to North Carolina in 1995, and joined the NC Writers' Network- West, I automatically became a part of a fantastic writing community. Nancy Simpson, poet and teacher, founder and Program Coordinator of NCWN-West, encouraged me, advised me, and supported me in writing and in taking leadership roles. The others in the poetry groups and prose group did the same. I took classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School with excellent writers who were instructors. I began publishing my poetry the year after I arrived in the mountains of North Carolina.

Some have said that writers don't need NCWN-West now because we have the Internet, but they are wrong. Here in the mountains of Appalachia, we need the community of writers who live near us. We have always been a very generous group that wants to help each other improve and get published. 

We have a monthly poetry group that meets in Young Harris, Georgia. We also have a monthly poetry group that meets in Hayesville, NC. 

Coffee with the Poets and Writers meets monthly at the library in Hayesville, NC. All groups are open to the public. 

When the pandemic hit, we had to stop meeting in person for two years. We moved to Zoom to hold meetings online. Our monthly Writers' Night Out has become a Zoom event with writers from distant states joining us. 

Mountain Wordsmiths meets monthly, on Zoom, at 10:30 AM and has become popular with our members from all nine NC counties and north Georgia counties. 

I am happy we were able to keep our community going through Zoom meetings even though some of our members have not been that comfortable going online. It was of utmost importance to keep our members safe during the worst of COVID-19. Now that we can get vaccinated and practice social distancing and wearing masks, it is safer to meet in person. 

I think our writing community has survived the pandemic and it will continue to be a stable program for writers in the remote mountain areas of North Carolina and north Georgia. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Guest post by Roger Carlton. 

There is much good in the world. In 1847, the Choctaw Nation managed to collect $170 and send it to the starving peasants in Ireland's County Cork to help ease the impacts of the potato famine. This was a lot of money for the Choctaw who had been forcibly removed in the Trail of Tears just nine years before. There is a monument in County Cork to celebrate this generosity. 

Today, more than 173 years later, Irish families have sent $2.7 million to the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation to help ease the impacts of the Coronavirus. "The Choctaw showed such decency and humanity and we are still grateful" said Michael Corkery who contributed $200 to the fund. That gratitude after so many years defines good.

There has also been much bad in the world. Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Kent State massacre. Four students were killed and nine injured when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on Kent State University students who were protesting the Vietnam War. There was an iconic picture of a student screaming as she knelt over the body of a fellow student. Arguably this event which was covered extensively in the media changed the tide of public opinion. The ensuing national student strike may have played a role in the downfall of the Nixon Administration although Watergate was the final blow.

The bad here is obvious. The lesson to be learned is that gun violence, whether by protesters or government, has no place in political discourse and  the freedom of speech guaranteed by our democratic way of life. We should be able to demonstrate and express our opinions without violence. Our leaders should not encourage nor praise groups that are known to have a tendency or history toward violence.

The ugly is also apparent as governors struggle to balance the need for caution in returning to some degree of normalcy in our social and economic lives. The desire of many to express their individuality by ignoring the need to wear masks or remain a reasonable distance apart achieves nothing but momentary satisfaction.  The most recent example happened at the Michigan State Capitol. Some protesters of Governor Gretchen Witmer's extended stay at home order carried long rifles, Nazi Swastikas and Confederate flags. They demanded to be let into the building. Some of the legislators wore bullet proof vests. While this behavior represents only a small percentage of the people at the event, it is clear that such ugliness should not be encouraged or tolerated.

While the history of this pandemic continues to unfold every day, we should all try to remember that the good far outweighs the bad and the ugly. There are certainly heroes and villains, acts of generosity and greed, leadership and pandering. For those threatening or using violence to express their displeasure...chill out. The risks are too great.  

Sunday, April 26, 2020

How Do Our Leaders Make Tough Decisions?

Our guest writer today is Roger Carlton, columnist for The Graham Star newspaper in Robbinsville, NC. Thank you, Roger, for more thought provoking words.  
Roger Carlton

The higher up you are in government the tougher the crisis management job. Mayors and County officials must make local decisions like closing certain roads and how much to invest in emergency medical services. Governors must make state-wide decisions like closing schools and limiting the number of people who can gather. The President must decide how to allocate critical supplies like ventilators and face masks, when to activate medical ships and where to send them and shutting down airports.

President Truman decided to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing or maiming more than 200,000 people. This ended World War II and saved more than 1 million lives if we had to invade Japan. He famously said "The buck stops here." Attorney General Janet Reno mishandled a crisis when she blew up 76 Branch Dividians near Waco Texas. She accepted responsibility and moved on.

 The Governor of Louisiana and Mayor of New Orleans failed when they allowed Mardi Gras to go on and are now paying the price. Their strategy was cry that they weren't warned. Local officials in South Florida and the Governor blew it when they allowed spring breakers to mingle on the beaches. Unfortunately the hotel and restaurant lobby overcame the medical experts. Florida is paying the price now.

More than three years ago, this column was about the election of President Trump and a concept known as "loyal opposition." This means that he was our president and while you may not support his policies and actions, he was still our president and leader. During the past three years, his ability to earn respect and support has been an inverted Bell Curve. Straight down to a Pollyanna ignoring of the expert warnings of a pandemic and then straight up to supporting three relief bills and then down again with a thinking out loud blunder suggesting a quarantine of nearly 20 million people in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Overall, to be fair, his performance has improved and that is showing in his approval ratings.

Suggesting that we need to get people back into churches by Easter and get the economy going is a difficult choice. If we lessen the current strictures on our lives, many more people will die from the virus than necessary. There may also be a lessening of the risks to our economy if the 3.2 million people who filed for unemployment last week and millions more this week, might begin to be able to go back to work.  Dying people and their grieving families versus people who can't put food on the table. How would you like to have to make that choice?

The thought process that most top leaders follow is called "utilitarianism."  Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and Thomas Hobbes all influenced this thinking in the late 1700's  when the Industrial Revolution was tearing up traditional societal norms. Utilitarianism instructs leaders that ethical decision making is creating the greatest good for the greatest number of people. To make decisions in this context requires expertise, contemplation and empathy. It also steps on justice and individual rights. Tough stuff when you think about it.

We must remain hopeful. This too will end and then we can evaluate which leader did well and which did not. Each of us can do our part by being responsible with precautions. We must support and thank our first responders who are at risk and the workers in stores that remain open who are also 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Our Broken Health Care System has Proven Inadequate

As we all continue to distance ourselves from other people and sanitize everything we touch or that comes into our houses, I can't help but worry about all the older and chronically ill people who have been exposed to the COVID-19, and the families of those who have died. 

I can't help but wonder how many would have been saved had we begun fighting this months ago. I can't help but think that what I've said for many years, we have a broken health care system, has proven to be so true, and now we hear that from many people who didn't make much noise in the past.

I knew our health care system was not the best in the world when my family members (four or more) died from medical mistakes. It became horribly evident to me when the best health care system failed my husband. 

His care was a grotesque medley of mistakes from the wrong diagnosis in the beginning to the end of his life after a team of doctors in Emory Hospital incorrectly diagnosed him with an infectious disease. They filled him with antibiotics, even after they were told he was fighting cancer. I knew the cancer had come roaring back, but those smart physicians refused to contact his cancer doctor in Blairsville. Hospitals and physician practices are in competition. I didn’t know that, but learned the hard way.

I wish it had not taken a pandemic to prove my words. Our hospitals, poorly prepared, with insufficient supplies and far too few nurses, evidently had made no preparation for the day when a health crisis would explode this country. From what I have read and heard these past weeks, scientists and smart medical people who tried to warn us were ignored. In 2015, Bill Gates said we were not prepared for a deadly virus that would be coming.

 Our pompous leaders fell way behind on preparing us, and we the people buried our heads in the sand, not wanting to believe we were not the best. We have heard and preached to ourselves that we are the best until we believed it. Or, we did believe it until a few weeks ago.

I am sympathetic to Senator Sanders who has proclaimed for years that we need a new method of health care. We need a central system where all people can be fairly treated. But that is not the basics of this problem to me. 

My husband and I had insurance and could see doctors, but the administrators are more dollar-minded than healing-minded. Even now hospitals have been fighting over who will get the supplies needed in this crisis. With no federal oversight, it has come down to governors trying to purchase the needed supplies. Hospitals in NYC are overrun with sick people while some hospitals, where there are fewer patients, still have masks and gowns. The governors in those states hold on to them because they fear what will be coming. It makes for states competing with each other and our citizens paying the price.

I imagine some hospitals hoarded their ventilators because of what they expect will happen in their area soon. Small hospitals like Phoebe Putney in Albany, Georgia, were swamped with coronavirus patients and were not prepared at all. Not enough nursing help, not nearly enough ventilators, and not enough protection for the medical staff. Where could they go for help? We had no plan in place for such a disaster. 

This deadly virus will kill thousands of people and I think many could be saved if only we had proactive people in leadership. But, I was told by a city government employee, government is always reactive. That is why two or three people have to die at an intersection before a stop light is installed or any effort is made to prevent what might happen next.

I have been accused of over-reacting, but I would rather over-react by taking precautions than wait and and see. By then it is often too late.  

We need more people in leadership who look for approaching problems and prepare for them, not wait until they have to react, as we are doing now.

What do you think? Are you one to act on your concerns before they become major? Do you think our leaders in this pandemic acted soon enough?