Thursday, November 29, 2007

Me(me) Blog tag: Give me the blogging life

I've been tagged for this meme by Janet Riehl, Riehl Life; Village Wisdom for the 21st Century. and I'm tagging Mary Cunningham;Cynthia's Attic Blog

Here are my answers to the blog tag about the blogging life:

It's All About Me(me) Blog tag questions and answers:

1. How long have you been blogging?

I'm quite new to the world of blogging and learning slowly as I fight for time out of a busy schedule that includes publishing, marketing, and writing new books. I published my first blog post on June 5, 2007 just after returning from PMA's Publishing University and the Book Expo of America in New York.

2. What inspired you to start a blog and who are your mentors?

While in New York, I heard lectures on the value of blogging as a marketing technique. Enthusiastic bloggers convinced me that it is also easy, fun, and a great way to meet people, which has proven to be true. Other bloggers have mentored me, especially Janet Riehl, who has become a great support and encouragement as well as giving me good examples to follow.

3. Are you trying to make money online, or just doing it for fun?

I have to say both. As I've already said, blogging was touted as a way to get myself and my books and even my company more widely known. If it will help sell books, I'm all for it. But the benefits reach far beyond that. It IS fun, and it opens up my world to a whole new community of friends I may never have met otherwise.

4. What 3 things do you struggle with online?

I detest spam, pop ups, and especially those flashing lights and dancing graphics that some sites have. Worse, though are the online predators taking advantage of the unsuspecting, especially young people. I wish there were no predators on social sites like My Space and others so that our kids could safely surf the web and enjoy cyber friendships without fear of cruelty and exploitation. I wish that on the internet as well as in real life, we could only find knowledge and wholesome entertainment and interaction. I'd wish away pornography and violence, if I could, but of course that is not the way life is, and why I am not God. As I learned in physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So my wishes are mere fantasies of what I perceive to be better for us—for me—when looking at the little picture.

5. What 3 things do you love about being online?

I love the new friends and contacts I've made by visiting other people's blogs and from their posts on mine. I love the things I learn from them, from their blogs, and websites. I love the easy access to the world and answers to the questions I pose; answers readily available at my fingertips.

Tag, Mary Cunningham, you're it!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving thanks, Living thanks

The day after Thanksgiving finds me in a contemplative mood, with much for which to express gratitude. Family, friends, shelter, warmth, food, and freedom should never be taken for granted as I tend to do throughout most of the year. An e-mail newsletter from James Ray, speaker and author of The Science of Success stated that gratitude is the mother of creative vibrations, that life is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that "you are the prophet." In other words, we are in charge of our lives, and our gratitude has a lot to do with creating a positive outcome.

I have believed this to be true for a long time, maybe most of my life. Even though I have seen the evidence that it works, it's still easy to let difficulties and set backs spawn negative emotions, doubt, and blame. Thanksgiving is a good time to get me thinking of the many things I have, and to realize that it is in my power to create more good things by living a grateful life. I can walk, I am in good health, I have eyesight, in fact all my senses are still working, and I have the ability to read. For those things I give thanks everyday.

In another e-news letter I received today from Dan Poynter, author and publishing guru, I was made aware of statistics about the decline of reading in today's world. An article in USA Today titled, Americans close the book on recreational reading, gives statistics backing up the claim that Americans of all ages are reading less and less as the years go by. Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, Dana Gioia is quoted, "We've got a public culture which is almost entirely commercial- and novelty-driven." He calls the decline "probably the single most important social issue in the United States today."

I am concerned. I treasure books as a means to expand my mind and horizons. Those who don't, I believe, are missing something important. The question is, "What can be done?" Gioia suggests that the media has the power to make a difference. He cites cases where a brief mention of a book or a poet in a movie or TV show resulted in a spike in sales of that work. "I guarantee that if we could expand the coverage in the media, you'd immediately see people responding," he says. "People are looking for things to do that aren't dumb. I don't think that Americans are dumber than before, but I do believe our public culture is."

I ask myself what I can do, and in my mind I hear, "Let's write more news items about books and authors. Let's visit our schools and entice students to become readers and writers." Recently, members of two local writers groups got together to present an assembly to our high school students. We were well received and thanked afterward by the kids. Maybe we could do more of these programs. Working with our teachers from elementary through college to conduct presentations and seminars in the classroom might be a small start in the right direction. I'd not only like to see more kids enjoying recreational reading, but also taking an interest in writing. I haven't looked for any studies to prove this suspicion, but it seems to me that a large percentage of authors today are over 50 years of age. It would be great to see more young people joining the ranks.

I'd like to hear more suggestions for what we, the ordinary citizens, might do to increase an interest in books.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Connecting the past to the future

I’m surprised at how long it’s been since I posted anything here. I won’t make excuses, though, as I recently was given sage advice against doing so. “Your friends don’t care, and your enemies won’t believe you.”

It’s been on my mind to expound on the trip my daughter, grandson, and I made to Colorado. I experienced a wonderful blending of generations that long weekend—the end of September – October 1.

It’s sobering to realize that I am now part of the older generation. My parents and all of my aunts and uncles have passed on. At a family reunion on Saturday, us “kids”—my siblings and cousins—enjoyed discussing the old times when our parents were young, hard-working couples who enjoyed getting together, often at our grandparents' home. We reminisced about our school days and our classmates. And of course we shared stories and pictures of our grandchildren, some of whom were present. On Monday, I had the opportunity of speaking with children at one of Loveland’s many elementary schools. Interacting with kids puts a spring in my step and joy in my heart and makes me feel young all over again.

I listened to a videoabout an author, Velda Brotherton, who writes family history and folk lore of the Ozark Mountains where she grew up. I began thinking of the importance of connecting the past with the present, by introducing the elderly to the children, as a way to affect the future. Although I don't write historical fiction or nonfiction, I think those who do provide us a great service as they give us a glimpse into the past. Velda said, "Our old folks are a national treasure, but we don't treat them that way." I agree. She also said, "our past is our future." If we can just connect our youth to the treasury of our seniors, I believe we can enrich the future with lessons from the past.

After listening to Velda's video, I caught up on reading Janet Riehl's blog. She recently interviewed her father, Erwin Thompson, age 92, author, musician, dancer, and brush-clearer. What an inspiration! I was particularly struck by his stories about square dancing. When his wife was a girl scout leader, they often got kids together for dances. It sounds like a great opportunity for the older generation to mentor the younger one. And what fun! Wouldn't it be great to get a group of senior citizens, along with members of younger generations together, with a band, once a month to learn various dances.

I feel like I'm rambling a bit, plus I'm almost late for an engagement, so I'll sign off for now and write more later.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

True Fiction Holds up Ideals Worth Pursuing

As I said in an earlier post regarding writing True Fiction, "Last, but surely not least, are these three related ideals; the author must be true to his or her conscience, purpose, and audience." When I began calling my work "true fiction," I was borrowing from John Gardner as well as Wallace Stegner. Gardner (On Moral Fiction)defines "true art" in which he includes fiction, as art that improves rather than debases the human situation. It "ought to be a force in bringing people together, breaking down barriers of prejudice and ignorance, and holding up ideals worth pursuing."

In an age when reading is becoming a lost art for many of our children, what little they do read ought to have value. There is plenty of what Gardner calls "escapist" fiction available to young readers. Escapist fiction, Gardner says, used to be conservative, but in 1977 when he wrote "On Moral Fiction", he noticed "…signs that things are changing. As cynicism, despair, greed, sadism and nihilism become increasingly chic, more and more meanness creeps into escapist fiction." I wonder what he would say about the video games, movies, and some of the books written especially for children today. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying they are all bad, neither am I saying that children should not be allowed to view certain videos or read certain books. Kids must be given credit for their wisdom in sorting out what is of value and what is not. Yet I feel very responsible as I write for kids to give them something worth their time; something that will "hold up ideals worth pursuing."

Gardner took a lot of flack for this book I am citing, for he wasn't above naming contemporaries whose writing he judged to lack morality. He was accused of being "sanctimonious and pedantic." However, I think some, in their furor, may have missed his point. He wasn't promoting religion, didacticism, or even spirituality. He said emphatically, "Didacticism and true art are immiscible." As Wikipedia states his case, "Gardner meant 'moral' not in the sense of narrow religious or cultural 'morality,' but rather that fiction should aspire to discover those human values that are universally sustaining."

Ever keeping in mind my audience—children who are alert, curious, and impressionable—I write with empathy and compassion for what they think, feel, and have to deal with in their everyday lives. I write exciting stuff that will encourage them to keep reading and will also build their confidence in themselves and understanding and tolerance for others. I write what I hope will stimulate their thinking about their situations, their world, and their aspirations. From birth onward, each of us is seeking an answer to the questions "Who am I? and Why am I here?" Everything we read, view, and experience is data to be processed and integrated or discarded in our search for the answer to those two questions.

My goal when I write fiction is to influence by example, never preaching, but contributing positively to this life-long journey.