Sunday, December 6, 2020

Write Your Memories into Family Stories

Write Your Memories into Family Stories
with Glenda Beall
Online with Zoom 
To register, contact the Institute of Continuing Learning
See the calendar for the winter session Here.
Tuesdays    1:30 pm – 3:30 pm      January 26 – March 2
 (6 Sessions - $20)

Remember: You must be registered for a class 5 days prior to the class starting in order for the ICL office to process your registration and invite you to the meeting

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Positive Thoughts on the Future

Today I am posting an excerpt of a column Roger Carlton wrote a few weeks ago. 

...The only thing to do for the next few months until the inauguration is to remain calm. 
Our democracy has survived many challenges over the past 200 plus years and it will survive the current times. Following are a few reasons for remaining calm that we should all think about:
  • The younger generations have awakened to their civic responsibility. Whatever the reasons this has happened, they will take over and fix the mistakes that the older folks made. This is our history and it is called the pendulum effect. Whenever we go too far to the right or left, the pendulum swings back to the center.   
  • We will most likely have a more conservative Supreme Court. Just remember that the Court interprets laws and does not enact laws. It takes years for litigation to make it to the Supreme Court. In most cases, laws are not tossed. Just chipped away at or affirmed regarding finer points. There will be grand arguments to be won and lost. There will be an emotional rough ride but unjust laws are eventually overturned. The key example is Plessy v. Ferguson that said separate but equal schools were legal. Brown v. Board of Education reversed that earlier decision.
  • The dreaded liberals and socialists, if they win the contest, will not increase your taxes if you make less than $400,000 per year. They will not take your guns away. Certainly, some fair program that provides medical insurance to everyone, without taking away choice for those that can afford it will be enacted.
  • To those that fear four more years, most likely the majority of the House and Senate will be held by the opposing party. That is why the Founders brilliantly adopted a system with the Executive, Legislative and Executive branches keeping each other in check.
  •  We will deal with climate change, a gradual transition away from fossil fuels and other existential (life threatening) threats. This will happen whether by gradual planned transition or crisis created need. Technology marches on whether we like it or not. If you don't get that, think about Kodak's rejection of the electronic camera because it would take away from their wet film sales. 
  • The dominance of and failed promise of the social media to educate rather than incite will come under control. We should always reject P.T. Barnum's quote "Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public." The American public has pretty good taste most of the time and the majority does not fall for lunatic conspiracy theories.

The next few months will be stressful. We should remain calm no matter what happens unless the behaviors of our leaders are so egregious that our right to protest peacefully must be exercised. Nearly four years ago, this column was about something called the loyal opposition. We don't have to agree with those in power. We do have to remain loyal to our democracy. Remember that the Constitution does not begin with I the President, it begins with WE the people.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

What is Narrative Nonfiction?

I have been teaching and writing creative non-fiction for many years. Today I read an article by Trish Nicholson, an article on non-fiction books. She uses the term narrative nonfiction.

This is one definition:  Put together, 'narrative non-fiction' is a true story written in the style of a fiction novel. Literary nonfiction and creative nonfiction are also terms used instead of or in association with narrative nonfiction. They all refer to the same thing – using literary techniques and styles to tell a true story.

Another way narrative non-fiction is described:  ​Traditional nonfiction is a straight forward survey of a given topic. They are written in clear, concise language in an expository style. Informational fiction presents facts and information within a fictional story. Narrative nonfiction tells a true story with no made up parts in the form of a narrative.

What are the elements of a nonfiction narrative?  The elements within narrative nonfiction are similar to those found within novels, including: 
  • well-developed characters
  • engaging dialogue, 
  • story that follows a narrative arc, 
  • an identifiable theme,
  • the use of literary devices such as symbolism and imagery.
I found a fabulous video about narrative nonfiction.  
If you write memoir or other nonfiction, the author on the video gives some good advice.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

I attended a terrific writing conference this past week.

I spent the last few days at a writers' conference. 
The NC Writers' Network held their fall conference online, on Zoom, and I could attend from my home. I used my computer and listened in with my phone. Ed Southern, Charles Fiore, and Deonna Kelli Sayed work for the Network and they put together this fine group of instructors and participants from everywhere.

One of the best parts of online meetings is seeing all those participating. Although we have over 100 members in our NC Writers' Network West, I have not met many of them. But with Zoom, I have met several writers from the northern most county of our group, Henderson County.

I was very disappointed that we didn't have many of our local members attend the conference. It was most informative and one of the sessions that impressed me was Touring and Promoting Your Book on a Budget. The instructor was Lyndsay Hall who was in Los Angeles, her home. Lyndsay is the founder of Savilla Writers House. She is young but so savvy on her subject. 

Lyndsay plans book tours for authors. In her presentation, she gave us many tips on how to promote and reach people even during this pandemic. As I have been saying for years, an author today must get online, use the Internet to find readers. She spoke about community building and much of this is done through online media. Lyndsay spoke about authors she has worked with and has the experience she recommended to us. I will refer to my notes and the recording I will receive from NCWN for classes I teach and to help myself and my students when they need to get the word out about their books.

Another session our local writers would have benefited from was by Betsy Thorpe, an editor, with an impressive background. She explained the duties of an editor who works for a traditional press.

She told us about POD publishing and about small presses. She pointed out that with POD, (Print-on-demand) books never go out of print. The writer doesn't have to order tons of books to warehouse in his home.

Author beware when looking to self-publish a book. It is easy to get conned into an agreement where the author is paying far more than he receives for the service offered. Sometimes a publisher will offer packages for different prices and a list of services for the author. 

I have seen authors ripped off by publishers who help you self-publish. They might promise great marketing and distribution, but when that service is needed, the author finds he is expected to pay for airline tickets across the country to attend some festival he never heard of. Often these companies continue to ask for money from the author. So, we must be careful.

Betsey Thorpe praised Blair Publishing because they do many of the things a big publisher does for an author such as copy editor, line editor, book jacket design and press releases. This company only publishes ten books a year.

Over one million books are self-published each year. I was surprised when she said the 18-29 year olds were reading more than other age groups. I thought over 65 would read more, but not so.
I also learned that the category of books that are selling best are audio books. I know that is what I buy now. Paperbacks are next best selling category.

Another note from this conference. Publishers prefer books under 100,000 words whether it be memoir or a novel. The reason is the cost of paper and all the costs to create a book. The cost of the book must be kept down so the book can be sold at a reasonable price most people feel they can afford.

I appreciate the NC Writer's Network holding this online conference. If life were normal NCWN would have held their annual Fall Writing Conference in a major city in the state. I feel one of the blessings of this horrible virus is that I have found online writing classes and they have made a huge difference in my life. I expect to teach another one in January, 2021.

Have you taken any online courses during this pandemic?
Do you have any positives in your life because of the pandemic?

Friday, November 6, 2020

Gracious Winning - Gracious Losing

Roger Carlton wrote this article  before election day. It is about winning and losing. He is a columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper.

Writing this week's column presents a real challenge. Timing is everything. The election voting will be over before the Graham Star appears. The election itself may not be over for weeks. The Supreme Court did not decide Bush v. Gore until December 12, 2000. Simply stated, the decision was that Florida could not do a statewide recount because the process violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This was because every county in Florida utilized a different process to manage the recount. The Supreme's decision was by no means unanimous and there were more conservatives than liberals on the Court at that time.

So, this column is about winning and losing with grace and dignity. In sports this is called sportsmanlike conduct. In life, how you handle defeat may be called courage to start over or it may be called sour grapes. How you handle winning may be called gloating or it may be called bighearted. In politics winning may result in a scorched earth winner takes all scenario or a generous realization that shared power in a democracy enhances solving challenges. Where we go over the next few weeks in these polar opposite possibilities is anyone's guess.

There are many examples from which we can learn. The Lincoln Douglas debates were a series of seven verbal contests that took place in 1858. The issue plain and simple was slavery and the state's rights to decide. The debates were intense and civil. There was a dignity about the arguments that we just don't enjoy today.

Lincoln and Douglas ended up as the main Presidential candidates in the 1860 election. There were two other candidates from the Southern Democratic Party and the Constitutional Union. Lincoln won with 180 Electoral College votes against 123 for his three opponents. His inaugural speech was made after seven states had left the Union and formed the Confederacy. Steven Douglas' concession speech graciously stated "Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I'm with you Mr. President."

Al Gore was gracious after the Supreme Court decision. The very act of conceding demonstrates love of Country more than love of self. Mr. Gore said " What remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside."

President Ford pardoned disgraced President Nixon. This was done because the Country needed to heal from the Vietnam conflict and from the Watergate scandal that sank Nixon's presidency. Many historians think that the pardon was a major factor in President Ford's loss of his second term election. The pardon was a selfless act.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote. She conceded by saying "We must accept this result and look toward the future. Donald Trump is going to be our President. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead." That must have been a bitter pill to swallow.

It is part of our soul as Americans to be magnanimous winners. World War II was won at great cost. We knew that it was our responsibility to rebuild a devastated world. Hence the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and the occupation of Japan which helped the former enemy to restructure their government and create a democracy. 

We can only hope that the next few weeks will demonstrate gracious winning and gracious losing.

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.