Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Subtext and the Art of Subtle Influence

I just read an interesting and saddening post on blatant idiocy here. Go read this story of discrimination and fear. We'll wait.

So, the upshot seems to be that if you are gay, your writing cannot be trusted. Of course, the un-named 'A' is right. WAIT, before you hoist me on this petard of my own making, hear me out...

'A' was clearly afraid. Afraid of 'The Gay' yes, but more likely, afraid that she and her readers would be shown in plain black and white that being gay does not stop a person from being admirable. Nothing scares bigots more than having light shed on their irrationality. What if the gay writer said something that made sense? What if, please God no, she actually agreed with him. What if she found herself drawn to his words, moved by his arguments, attracted to his ideas. It is difficult to maintain negativity towards people we truly admire. This is the fear that causes bigots to throw up barriers, but it is a line in the sand.

As writers, we would do well to remember that words have power. Blogger A has managed to dance away from the wave that would erase her self-imposed border, but the tide is rising, and that line in the sand grows harder and harder to defend. The best thing we can do is write. Books with gay characters. Books with real people in them. Books with characters worth admiring. Blogs that are inclusive. Articles that ask hard questions. Stories that change us, that shine light into our darkest corners, that bring our own irrationality to light where it can shrivel and die. Blogger A is right: words have power, but Blogger A is wrong not to embrace  the power of words to shape us into better people.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

29 Tweets - February 19 - Clark Family Theater Troupe

The Clark family theater empire grows. 1 summer. 4 people. 16 productions. 140 individual performances. #Acting #NoSleep 

29 Tweets - February 18 - 10th Anniversary

Husband surprises wi 10th anniversary wedding celebrated in high Edwardian costume during intermission of play. #Romantic

29 Tweets - February 17 - Treading the Boards

Our family becomes a miniature theater troupe appearing in CA's First Theater Production 'The Drunkard' #Actors #Melodrama

29 Tweets - February 16 - Please Not Texas

Discovered I don't want to mess with Texas. Army exiled us there: 6 months. After, we gratefully returned 2 Monterey coast.

29 Tweets - February 15 - I Get Professional

Working at a Fat Farm I discover my talent for management and have my first professional massage. No.1 son starts school

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

29 Tweets - February 14 - Second Marriage

California! We start tradition of marrying every five years. We restate our vows at dawn, looking over Bay while bagpipes play.

Monday, February 13, 2012

29 Tweets - February 13 - Bloody Fingers

Major bout of unemployment puts spouse in Army as Korean Linguist. Kids in separate accidents go to ER to reattach fingers.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

29 Tweets - February 12 - And Now We are Four

"This is MY BABY!" a proud 15 month old declares to admirers of sister. Papa gifts Mama wi vasectomy; worry free sex FTW!

29 Tweets - February 11 - A Very Busy Year

Married. Senior in HS. Win State 4 Drama & Original Oratory. National Honor Society. Son born 5 days b4 graduation. #Happy

Friday, February 10, 2012

29 Tweets - February 10 - I was a Teen-aged Mother

One year from Drama Medalist, to Shakespeare's Katrina, to lover, to pregnant, to Senior, to Married. A hectic pace for change. 

29 Tweets - February 9 - Drama Geeks in Love

Teen years blur of theater, rodeos n boys in every town, none allowed to do more than kiss me. Then BAM! Love! Passion! CMC!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

29 Tweets - February 8 - Raped, then Beaten by Gender Politics

Breasts grow in with a vengeance. School nickname is 'Boobs'. Raped by 1st love - can't tell cuz '77 WY culture says its my fault*

* Just a note: Some girls still get blamed for rape today. Teach your son control, teach your daughters defense and teach both RESPECT!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

29 Tweets - February 7 - A Star is Born

City kids hate on Sh*t kicker me. First kiss is marred by chewing tobacco.  A new found passion for acting provides escape.

Monday, February 06, 2012

29 Tweets - February 6 - Country Mouse Moves to the City

Highs and lows of puberty struck with a vengeance. Parents divorced, remarried and moved us to the city in 12 short months.

29 Tweets - February 5 - Horse Killer and Dead Dog

Ten was tough: I was branded 'Horse Killer' by angry Gran, and suffered devastating loss of treasured dog Festus: snake-bite.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

29 Tweets - February 4 - How to Build a Reader

One bored and whiny 9yr old and one very frustrated mother add up to a summer of reading Shakespeare's Complete Works on a dare.

Friday, February 03, 2012

29 Tweets - February 3 - Choosing a Vocation

At age 7, through the good offices of RL Stevenson, the girl from the high plains discovers what she wants to be: a Pirate!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

29 Tweets - February 2 - Discovery of Love for Horses

Riding, almost b4 she could walk, E developed deep communion with equine companions: the hallmark of a blissful childhood.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

29 Tweets - February 1 - Birth

JW gave birth to a girl child on the steps of a Wyoming hospital in Feb. An omen: this child only flirted with propriety. #29TweetsProject

29 Tweets - Absurdist, Reductionist Fun!

Today I embark on a shared project on Twitter called 29TweetsProject.

The brainchild of a Scottish friend of mine, it is a challenge to tweet your life story in 29 installments - once daily thru Feb.

Yes, I will be distilling the essence of 49 years into 29 Tweets. It will be interesting to see what the 29 things are that highlight the seasons of my life thus far. Follow the hashtag: #29TweetsProject to read microcosmic views of our macrocosmic lives.

Each day in February, I will post my own tweets here as well.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Who Will Be The Gatekeepers of Self Publishing?

Recently, I have found myself overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of self-published and 'indie' authors in my network clamoring for me to read and review their books. I have had ten requests already this year. Out of the ten, only one book held my interest for more than a couple of paragraphs, and that one lost me before the end of the first chapter.

The culprit? Poor writing. Typos alone could be ignored; unfortunately, what I am seeing is basic mistakes - pronoun confusion, tense switching, extreme use of passive voice, incomplete or confusing description, etc. Many, if not most of these authors are active members of the on-line writing community and I encounter them on Facebook, on Twitter, at Goodreads, on Linked In and here. They all seem like such nice people. They all seem so committed to writing.

Of course, I am not the only one encountering this, and there is a lively discussion happening across the community on how we as writers should approach the problem. Chuck Wendig has a lovely (if profanity filled) blog post on it here.

One thing that Chuck brought up is the fact that so many self-published authors gush over the writing of other 'indies' regardless of the true quality of the writing. There seems to be such a strong feeling of camaraderie and support in the 'indie' community, which is good for authors, but does not truly serve the readers.

I have contributed to this atmosphere by politely saying nothing when given a free book that I subsequently find unreadable. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, so I just say nothing. I am beginning to think that is wrong. As I said in my comment on Chuck's blog post - I need to develop a polite but firm way of calling bad writing, bad. I am beginning to suspect that no response lets authors off the hook. Perhaps no one has told them that their writing is not up to snuff.

After all, my own mother thinks that all the drivel I write is magic. My husband will help me with trouble spots, but in the end knows me so well that his mind fills in blanks left in the story. My writing buddies that haven't yet finished a novel are in awe that I have. My writing buddies that are published have little time to spare.

In the end run, the critical eye is one of the main functions of the so-called 'gatekeepers' of publishing. These are people who don't know you and don't care how long it took you to write the book. They are judging the writing independent of any knowledge of you.

One of the things I think writers who choose to 'indie' or self publish need to do is create their own 'gatekeepers', a group of Beta Readers that can serve as honest reflections of the writing. This means finding people who do not know you, who do not know how long you have labored and who do not care if you succeed, but only whether the writing succeeds.

In the meantime, maybe the rest of us in the writing community need take the gloves off and start being direct and honest with those that have asked our opinion. Here is my version of a 'Thanks but. . . ' reply note:

Dear Aspiring Author:

I greatly appreciate that writing a book is a massive undertaking, and for accepting that challenge, I salute you. However, I do not think this manuscript is the best it can be.

Although I liked: (insert positive things here),

I was unable to read past (the first page) due to: (list of problems here).

I sincerely hope you will not give up on your dream of being an author, but reapply yourself to the craft, working and shaping your prose until you have words worthy of your aspirations.

Remember: “What is written without effort is in generally read without pleasure.” Samuel Johnson

Sincerely, Me

I would love to know what others in this community think.