Monthly Archives: January 2017

Write!

That’s what this whole blog is about. Write! String words together, make them constructive, make them sensical, make them more than a thought, give them attitude, admit they are me; they are my thinking.

We are at the end of January. I’ve written. I’ve read. I’ve revised. I’ve submitted. I’ve followed. I’ve commented, on politics, on free speech, on the economy, on policy issues, and probably more if I was to break it down. The importance is that I write. I write every day. Maybe not here, maybe not on my stories, but I do write. I seek to explain, entertain, inform, and defend.

I find this past eighteen months instructive in understanding the imperative that Memory Is Tyrannical. Oh. Yeah!  Let me amend for the current century: [ apologies to Rosenstock-Hussey] Raw facts are  tyrannical. They can be bullying. Why? Because there is no time!  In today’s world of instant blogging, posting, tweeting and messaging there is no time beyond the blur of information, no time to verify facts.

So,for the sake of my blood pressure and for my sanity,  I’m back in time. From this perspective the past looks quiet. Calm. Unassuming. There is the meme going around Facebook I’m glad I grew up before social media. Most of which claim the giddy feeling because they grew up in the 70s or 80s. Ha! No, before that, back when there were only two, maybe three channels on the TV and they the pictures were black and white. Back when we were informed via newspapers via teletype. When phone calls across the US were a big deal, never mind from continent to continent. Not quite the covered wagon, pony express, not quite.

It’s 1954. The Congo. The more educated black part of the population is beginning to understand that it is not enough to ‘act’ white, or more, correctly, Belgian. It is not enough to be educated the way the Belgian government allows. Now is the rise of the evolue, the most prominent is Patrice Lumumba.

It is 1954. The United Nations. Dag Hammarskjöld is the second Secretary General. He is considered a technocrat, an administrator. He takes over a demoralized organization, traumatized by the ‘red scare’, the McCarthyism in the US, the clash of communism versus capitalism.

The turmoil, politically and culturally,  in Congo, over a hundred plus years,  is a story of personal gain oppressing a native people, of national interests obscuring sovereignty, and of  the willingness of world to allow it all to happen.

 

Roiled

Roiled. A state of mind-my mind. Hmm…I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wrote, well, gee, yesterday. About reality and wordsmithing, joy and raw history. I worry. I wasn’t always a worrier. I was mostly unconscious as a kid–and sometimes, no, lots of times, I miss that. But I’ve had kids, have a husband and a life, and possessions and so now I am a worrier. Sigh. Probably goes well with that Type A + personality that is high in Command.

And what I’ve been thinking about and worrying about is words more than anything else. I just reread Cheryl Klein’s MAGIC WORDS chapter POWER AND ATTENTION on writing across cultures…but I think this chapter also speaks to writing across time. She states six basic principles. And if I were to distill them, I’d say what she asks is that you write truthfully, in the moment, in the character and don’t let your own self get lost in the story.

Sometimes I think almost everything we write is across time; a different type of diversity than we usually consider. You may write it as contemporary, but by the time you sculpt that idea into a workable story, develop characters, write dialogue, craft settings and worlds, it is no longer contemporary, even if you are writing in the present tense. Even if you write about the future, it is already past, because the idea is now out there.

Between my middle grade mysteries I am writing non fiction. Not science. Not biography although it started out that way. Sort of like my one picture book story, I think I have one and only one nonfiction in me, I think. It started with my admiration and fascination with Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary General of the US, remembering as an adult the impact his death in 1961 when I was a kid. And while I was fascinated, his story is not really one for kids in that you can almost believe although he was small and grew into adult hood, in truth,  he was never a kid. So I needed a story around his story and I chose where his life ended. It ended not by him,  not on purpose, not willfully, though from the publication of his journal, when he took the job as S-G, he had made his own peace with God and with the future. It ended because of politics. Of national interests. Of personal gain. Of disrespect for another human being.

The story is of the Congo. Of all the nation state stories in the history of the world, Congo stands out among the most sad. From the moment Leopold II of Belgium decided he needed and wanted to rule something bigger and more prestigious than Belgium, Congo became not a home of a people, not a land graced with much of the earth’s wealth, not a nation, or even several nations, it became one person’s property. And, although Leopold II is gone, it is in many ways, still one person’s property.

Here we sit, I sit, in these United States, in a country that has a covenant of over two hundred years giving me, all of us, the right to rule ourselves. Yes, it is through others. Yes, we do not all agree. But we have that right.

I will not be writing the current history. Doubtless not even the next generation will, although many will try. Probably someone who was born in this decade will be writing this story, will have access to the news, the tweets, the posts, the blogs, the pundits, the instagram, and all manner of communication and will be able to distill the story, be far enough away from the story not to get lost in the story.

I am writing the history of a story that started more than a century ago. And I worry. I worry not about getting lost in the story, I worry about telling the story in current terms, not telling it in the time it happened, not telling it in the language of the people who lived it, not telling it truthfully.  I worry and  that roils my thoughts and disturbs my writing.

 

Reality 2017

In all the tweets, posts, punditry, reporting and news broadcast words, our most important, valuable and unlimited commodity, are woefully abused. My Mom, a self proclaimed wordsmith, a skilled user of words, always said it was not just understanding the definition and spelling [always my main drawback—thanking the gods for spellcheck] but the using the word appropriately in a thought or sentence.

I was amazed when a speaker on Sunday in DC said, “We are America.” Seriously? She is college educated, from an excellent school. Let’s be real, there are 318.9 million people in the US. At the event there are maybe half a million, maybe more, across the country one or two million. The important point could have been correctly stated as a cross-section of America, or a glance at America. But no. How presumptuous and how insulting to those not there and not in agreement?

The same goes for the election. Various sources state between 220 million and 200 million in the US are eligible to vote. Statistical Brain http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/ states the total number of American eligible to vote 218,959,000, the total registered to vote 146,311,000 and the total who voted? 132,899, 423. Turnout rate of all voting age citizens? 55%.

We know that Mr. Trump did not receive a mandate. But then, in her loss neither did Mrs. Clinton, albeit a majority of those who voted. The cross section of that vote showed a preponderance in just a few states, not across the land, so again, not a mandate of popularity.

We are not a democracy. At the federal level we are a republic, a federation of states of varied population. Much like democracy according to Winston Churchill- “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”—the electoral college system is an imperfect system. Credibly though it protects the minority from the majority.

What we are missing in all this spin about mandates and popularity is the question, Why do so few exercise their obligation and their right to vote? Why does it seem that there are those who would be more likely to march? protest? than to vote? Why are there those who are discouraged from voting? And, please, do not offer the trope of I.D laws or voting restrictions by conservatives. The numbers of minority voters soared in 2008. “The voter turnout rate among eligible black female voters increased 5.1 percentage points, from 63.7% in 2004 to 68.8% in 2008. Overall, among all racial, ethnic and gender groups, black women had the highest voter turnout rate in November’s election—a first.” so apparently where there is a will, there is a way.

My own perspective is that there is a loss of joy in being American, of the accomplishment of those who came before us. How many of our population know American History? How many know the ideals of the revolution, our fight in 1814 when we almost lost Washington DC, of the courage of Dolly Madison, of the Federalist Papers, of the former presidents, of the McCarthy Era and the fight to remain a free and just county following rule of law? With each peaceful transfer of power from one leader to the next, from one party to the other, we show our success. There is so much to love about America in 2017.

I have stated before that news is raw history, some say the first draft, which makes it even more important that we are truthful in our words, that we are understanding of the import of those words, and that we appreciate the usage of those words. we have, in many ways done a disservice to the present, let us not compound that disservice for the future.

 

Winter

Winter, the season, officially started at 5:44 AM on Wednesday, December 21, 2016.

For me winter starts when it snows. then you can get a cosy fire going, enjoy the fascination of wood burning, and do nothing for hours whiling your time away feeling like a closet arsonist. And, it is a time to find your flannels, long-sleeved tees, and be appropriately dressed to never leave the house.

So, winter is perfect for writing, minus the whiling hours of staring. For me, it was the perfect time to edit. I don’t like to edit. It’s a thing. I don’t re-read books. I don’t memorize whole sentences/paragraphs, let alone phrases. Unless they are part of the vernacular, then no, they are not part of my lexicon. The whiling thing, however, feels so wasted and this year I printed off both my middle grade novels that are mostly done, but we all know, a novel is never really done, and I sat with pen and highlighter in hand to check all the spacing, spelling, paragraphs, consistencies, and chapters so that I could follow through on my 2017 #oneword resolution. Choose.

You know a submission is ready when you can’t think of another thing to do to it, when everyone who’s read it, beta readers, critique partners; all say, send, done. So, okay.

The snow that God gave is beginning to go away. It’s cool, but not cold. Winter is not over, but that feeling of quiet and alone time, of do not disturb time, of me time is now swiftly exiting stage right. This is a new time. #submittime #choosetime. Find the names, follow the rules. PRESS SEND!

PS. that sweet little voice is E, ‘no, thank you’ is the translation 🙂