<![CDATA[Write to Change the World - Blog]]>Fri, 01 Jan 2016 20:56:39 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Bravery and Honesty: Review of Lisa Shannon's A Thousand Sisters]]>Tue, 23 Aug 2011 00:41:20 GMThttp://writetochangetheworld.weebly.com/blog/bravery-and-honesty-review-of-lisa-shannons-a-thousand-sisters
A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a WomanA Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman by Lisa Shannon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When young 30-something Lisa Shannon spoke as the final keynote at a three-day fundraiser's conference in D.C. this June, I was awed by this former high-income photographer's passion and single-handed efforts to launch "Run for Congo Women" and start a political movement after watching an episode of Oprah. Her first-hand tales and photos of her Congolese Sisters' suffering and joy brought the whole audience to tears; we gave a standing ovation. (One co-host addressed the group afterward and said she stood before us to give the next speech because of the two co-hosts, she was the one who was not wearing mascara.)

When I read Ms. Shannon's book, I was awed not just by her efforts, but by her openness. As she told us in her speech and said in her afterward, one of her writing mentors helped her find the story's common thread, "...even if it meant looking petty or self-aggrandizing or just plain bad in the interest of an honest story."

While Ms. Shannon has been a brave eye-witness and advocate for women whose families have been murdered and whose bodies have been savagely abused, she is also a brave writer. She does, in fact, make herself look naive and selfish at times.

The book is too humble. I saw Ms. Shannon face to face, and hers is no ordinary work. She leaves out much of her political advocacy in Washington, as well as the time she literally lobbied with her mom in the front lobbies of Microsoft and Apple to allow legislation to pass to stop corporations from buying cheap minerals from those who massacre.

So read this book, but don't be fooled. Ms. Shannon tells a good tale about a flawed advocate, but truly she is a brave crusader and caring soul.

View all my reviews
<![CDATA[Writing Critics Shape the "Not-too-Distant" Future]]>Sun, 07 Aug 2011 20:27:04 GMThttp://writetochangetheworld.weebly.com/blog/writing-critics-shape-the-not-to-distant-future    When the lone critic makes a suggestion, it may be worth ignoring. But when family from two sides of the tree, a 1960 paperback of essays, and a 2008 article make the same suggestion, it's an attention-grabber.
    Still, who welcomes criticism?
    On a rainy Sunday, I chose to hear the critics. I churned out three pages.
    For my novel, that's a minor miracle.
    This novel, in the works since 2006, takes place in the "not-too-distant future" (what a cliche!) and features a number of boring characters. Why are the characters so flat?
    Two unrelated sets of aunts and cousins from Maryland (a border state that must inspire literary common sense) gave insightful, unsolicited answers at their respective dining room tables: there is no back-story for when and how the cataclysmic event was covered up and why the deceivers went wrong.
    "No one is all bad," said Aunt Aimee over a late dinner, referring to my story's primary creepy government leader and cover-up master. "He probably thought he was doing the right thing for the country."
    Duly filed in the brain's hard-drive. For later. Maybe.
    Yet today's dreary, overcast morning prompted a rereading a November/December 2008 edition of Writer's Journal and Christina Hamlett's article: "When Eels Go Bad, What's their Motivation?"
    While editing a client's screenplay, Hamlett lamented that the villainous eels that sought to take over the world had no back-story for terrorizing the human population. To her disappointment, the eels were not "fitted with microchips programmed by evil scientists" or "possessed by extraterrestrials." In other words, the reader was forced to accept that they were evil "just because."
   Uncovered in another mindless treasure hunt through Great Essays, a tiny paperback published in 1960 by Washington Square Press, were words that urged me to listen to these critiques of my beloved cliche-of-a-novel. From Montaigne's "Of the Art of Conversing":

            Opinions then that are opposed to mine do not offend or estrange me; they only arouse and
            exercise my mind. We dislike correction; we should meet it halfway and welcome it, especially
            if it comes in the form of a conversation and not of a school-lesson.  

    And which opinion must be welcomed? In this case, it's the opinion that even creepy government drones deserve a decent biography, an honest motivation.
     In the essay, Montaigne goes on to quote Cicero: "We must consider not only what each one says, but what he thinks, and why he thinks it." Motivation! What's the back-story?
     In light of these critiques, today for the first time in five years, characters from the not-to-distant-future arrived on the page as young teens, vividly living out their back-stories in present-day New Jersey.
    For three fun pages!

    Here's to the critics!
<![CDATA[Keep Handwriting in Our Schools!]]>Sat, 06 Aug 2011 22:39:02 GMThttp://writetochangetheworld.weebly.com/blog/keep-handwriting-in-our-schools    A lovely writing pen brightens the morning. Smooth blue ink flows onto college-ruled paper. In her book Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg recommends a fast-writing pen such as this. This pen will be perfect for a quick handwritten thank-you letter.
    As often happens, writing in this spiral notebook inspires ideas much more than computers.
    Not all believe in the benefits of writing in cursive, as seen in Indiana's modification to the state curriculum to end the mandate for schools to teach cursive to students. The reasoning? Cursive is becoming archaic and unnecessary; children need to learn to type.
    This logic to replace cursive lessons with typing has merit. Still, here are numerous objections, nuanced though they may be:

1. Writing in cursive teaches not only hand-eye coordination, but smoothly connects thoughts to the page.
2. Children deserve to be taught to sign their names, and not only the required letters, lest those change through legal choice, nick-name, or marriage.
3. Cursive provides a link to history, with government documents and old manuscripts written in script.
4. Personality shines through ink script. Art and calligraphy emerge from script.
5. Script encourages creativity in writing, as one's fingers create visual nuance in words.
6. When typing, fonts can change the style of writing, but fingers merely click the same keys -- there is no change of finger direction.
7. As part of a complete education, children should be exposed to arts and sciences that they may not immediately use. This includes drawing, biology, music, and of course handwriting.
8. Script combines flair with discipline. Teaching script allows students to focus quietly on a page.
9. Handwriting is inexpensive compared to computers.
    (a) Handwriting requires merely an implement and a page. Pen, pencil, crayon, marker, ruler on paper, in the sand, on a frosted cake top.
    (b) Computers and tablets need electricity, expensive device components, software, internet service providers (for online writing and document downloads), time to boot, calls to help desks and IT departments.
     (c) Even for inexpensive options, one must know where to locate those options and operate those devices.
     (d) Printers and ink cartridge refills are far more expensive then pens and pencils.
10. Computers cause health hazards, including headaches and carpel tunnel syndrome when wrists are not held properly. They also emit dangerous gasses.
11. Handwriting can happen at any time without needing electric recharging or booting.
12. Writing in cursive is a joy!

Let's not deprive the next generation of learning a simple skill that provides this many returns.

<![CDATA[Lesson in Selfless Writing: Homeless Journalist Wins Award]]>Tue, 02 Aug 2011 03:59:19 GMThttp://writetochangetheworld.weebly.com/blog/lesson-in-selfless-writing-homeless-journalist-wins-awardWhile memoir attracts writers who confront great pain, and conceding that it is cathartic for both writer and reader, we also desperately need journalists and novelists who will tell another's story.

ABC reported that former insurance salesman and actor Jose Espinosa, who is now homeless in Philadelphia, has just won an international journalism award for his article profiling a fellow homeless shelter resident and former light-heavyweight boxing champion Matthew Saad Muhammad. 
Readers of Espinosa's article "Fighting Back" (which appeared in One Step Away - USA, a Street News Service newspaper sold by homeless people to raise funds for their own future housing) do not learn the (likely equally compelling) back-story behind the piece's own homeless writer.

This writing is a selfless act. Maybe it's the writer's version of volunteering or giving blood to heal one's own hurts. Sharing someone else's story is giving back. And this story is a gift to readers -- third-person narrative rings true, as an objective report from the field.

Espinosa's award-winning piece will hopefully help him find a way out of the shelter. For now, he has been honored for taking the lens off of his troubles and featuring another's story.
<![CDATA[Planting Black-Eyed Susan]]>Mon, 01 Aug 2011 17:32:00 GMThttp://writetochangetheworld.weebly.com/blog/planting-black-eyed-susan    Thinking positive is like gardening; it is hard work.

    So said Bryan Dodge at the conference in D.C. (Positive thinking was required later that day -- in 105 degrees we walked Alexandria, Virginia's Old City and Waterfront like it was spring.)
    Mr. Dodge's comparison hit home -- gardening is a new addiction, and I'm not very good.
    The petunias and marigolds in my yard are happy, but the taller plants hate their new digs. They stick out their tongues and die. Casualties include three Daylilies, two gorgeous Tiger lilies, and now the Black-Eyed Susan and her 10-15 blooms.
    Black-eyed Susan was furious about being left in New Jersey last week in the heat, although she only missed one day of intense watering from my husband.
    Last Saturday, Black-Eyed Susan bravely stuck out her one remaining Black-Eye amid her crispy brown stems, asking "How could you?" and passed on. 
    Meanwhile, tall weeds (mostly terrible creeping grass from the lawn) love the garden and remain vibrant green, jolly, and menacing during the heatwave. The weeds laugh as they crowd rhododendron bushes, the latter of whom sigh in disbelief that the gardener does not not snip these tall weeds daily.

    "It's easy to be negative!" said Bryan Dodge in his Texas accent -- not a drawl, more like a fast and seasoned rodeo announcer.
    "Isn't it hard to grow flowers?" he asked. Of course it's hard. You have to weed every day, you have to water, the flowers are finicky.
    "Is it hard to grow weeds?" No! They will grow whether you want them to or not.

    How easy it is to complain or wish "if only". For many years, I've had complaining down to a science. If only things were different at work or at home. Oh, to move to Cape May's Washington Street and live in a Victorian summer retreat (if only!). Inspiration would bloom every day. If only!
    So how do we grow flowers and not weeds? All I know is that it is not easy.

    One final word of advice from my aunt's husband: "Plant Black-Eyed Susan in the spring."
<![CDATA[Awakening Our Generation's Dreams]]>Sun, 31 Jul 2011 15:20:32 GMThttp://writetochangetheworld.weebly.com/blog/carry-dreams-into-daytimeDocumenting Our Dreams

    Showering and dressing for the beach day, but in the midst we must carry dreams into daytime. Last night's dream showcased a long-ago apartment with faces past -- a new sequence to document after waking.
    Had to do it right away -- at the Bridge Conference last week, Bryan Dodge repeated the law of diminishing returns: "What you don't do in 48 hours, you will not do!"
    Certainly putting off writing dreams, grants, and blogs this morn would be forgivable before driving "down the shore," but what excuse will there be tomorrow? Early morning (per another Bryan Dodge quote: "Get up when you wake up") allowed time to write the dream, type objectives for a grant proposal's letter of intent, and type a blog (posting now because internet was down).
    As for literal dreams: why write them down? Several popular authors (J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer?) have supposedly pulled story ideas from dreams. Even if those legends are false, and even if a dream isn't worth a story, dreams can still have deep meaning. Once on paper, a dreamer can search online dream dictionaries in the waking hours for interpretation. A good friend (or my sister) may be an amazing interpreter. If you are spiritual like the Josephs and Daniels of old, you may receive divine revelation or prophecy.
    At any rate, bring all dreams into day!

Dusting off Our Generation's Dreams

    For our larger dreams: friends and family my age are pianists and artists and novelists -- skilled and trained. Still, I see all of us leaving the dreams our brain's dusty cellar shelves. Occasionally we pull the string to the dangling yellow light and dust off the dreams, but rarely do we pull them into the light of day, every day, until they are no longer dreams but living beings.
    Is this true of our whole generation?
    My basement holds paintings and sculptures too numerous to display, created by the very same grandmother and grand-aunt faces past that I dreamed of last night -- some painted in the 1930s and 40s! On my piano sits music past down from my great-aunt, a Julliard-trained pianist who played concert halls.

Did they dream bigger than we do? When will we carry these worn dreams into the daylight?

<![CDATA[Why be called a "writer?"]]>Sun, 31 Jul 2011 02:57:57 GMThttp://writetochangetheworld.weebly.com/blog/why-be-called-a-writerIn the 21st Century, people ages 6 to 60 can now tweet, Facebook, email, and text from anywhere.  This is wonderful because we are all writing! So why would anyone desire the label "writer?"

Some suggested answers:

1. We each have unique vision and messages, the latter of which are often longer than 140 characters each. To call ourselves writers is to acknowledge that our words and writing are important.
2. We owe it to ourselves to write alone in a disconnected way, be it on the computer, on paper, or on the back of a napkin. We can hone our writing craft without the burden of sharing it always.
3. We acknowledge the value and accountability of the writing, editing, and publishing professions, while always advocating for opportunities for writers to gain confidence and recognition.

Do you want to be known as a writer? ]]>
<![CDATA[Free the Blue Moose!]]>Sat, 30 Jul 2011 23:39:49 GMThttp://writetochangetheworld.weebly.com/blog/free-the-blue-moose    It's too hot to have a sweaty Blue Moose stuck in the throat.
    Walking the car dealer lot mid-day was torture. The Moose kicked and called and muffling the sound does not work. Time to get that moose out.
    Walk around in this heat (say at Lowes or the Cherry Hill Triplex) and notice the tired eyes.
    Lids droop not from hunger or thirst, but from the exhaustion of carrying around the Blue Moose.

90% Wrestle the Blue Moose!

    What is this Moose? It's the words! Everyone has a story or novel kicking inside. This morning a radio announcer said 90% of U.S. residents are wrestling this Moose (although the moose was politely referred to as a "Book." You know better.) And why don't we let it out?
    Because the Blue Moose Herd is too crowded! (Supposedly.)
    We wait our turn as the Bigshots of the Moose Herd trample the land. We assume our Moose will get squashed and we'll be ashamed.
    But there's a reason that Moose is kicking and calling. It needs to get out and be free! Its time is now!

    Once the Moose is out, it will no longer be bruised and blue! You can give it a name and call it your own.

Free the Blue Moose!! ]]>
<![CDATA[Write to Change the Future!]]>Sat, 30 Jul 2011 16:47:59 GMThttp://writetochangetheworld.weebly.com/blog/first-post    Writing May Shape Our Global Economy

     On this hot Saturday afternoon in late July, members of the U.S. House and Senate are putting pen to paper, crafting language for legislation that may impact the future of this country. With the House version of a deal to raise the debt limit defeated in the Senate, members of Congress are working overtime over the weekend to pen a compromise that enough representatives will approve to pass legislation through two Chambers that President Obama will sign. According to the president, if Congress does not raise the debt limit, our nation's credit rating will be adversely impacted and could cause another financial crisis.
   This written document, this language, may change the future of the world.
   But it doesn't stop there. The language that reporters and bloggers will use to frame the debate will influence constituents to call and write to their representatives in Congress. These news stories, blogs, emails and letters may impact decisions and help change history.
   In addition, the financial sector is watching this legislation and the media closely to see how these proceedings will influence stock prices and international trade.

   Writing Can Author Your Future

   The writers of the world -- anyone with a pen, pencil, typewriter, computer, tablet, and a lump of gumption -- have the power today.
   What the writers forget is that we have the power every day.
   Our writing can influence not only the nation's future, but our own.  A half hour writing a thank-you letter or novel chapter.  A resume tweak, a letter to the editor, a query. We are the authors of our own story, and we can change the future.