Saturday, February 27, 2010

Koala Challenge 2010 - February Progress

Still not there, dammit! But not too bad, either. Here are my stats, for those counting and such:

Editing (4,000+ words on multiple projects) - 1 point

Fiction Submissions (unfortunately, no full-length which would have sent me straight up the koala ladder, but still not bad at 2 submissions) - 2 points

Essay Submissions - 1 point

Article Submissions - 1 point

New Fiction Written (not counting all the non-fiction words, dammit again) - 2 points

Altogether it's 7 points from the lofty Koala. Not bad, not as good as I wanted... Need to set a better writing schedule for March and my goal is to submit at least 4 articles and 1 or 2 essays along with upping my fiction word count. We'll see how it goes. Snipe at me when you see me lolly gagging around the blog-o-sphere, please :-)

How is your writing going?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Freedom of Speech and the Age of Irresponsibility

Freedom of Speech is the rallying cry of pretty much any group with anything to say – good, bad, or indifferent. On the one hand, I’m not a big fan of censorship. On the other hand, though, I am a big fan of consequence. And I do notice that the ones screaming about their right to say what they want the loudest are usually the same ones using their words as a club to bludgeon someone else.

In the internet age we all have the ability to create a platform. To be heard, and to have our opinions and views counted by more people than we could have reached without the support of the media in years past. This can be a great thing for people who otherwise had no voice.

There are two local cases here that have me thinking a great deal about what our rights are, what the boundaries of our speech should be, and what the general perception of the term ‘Freedom of Speech’ is, as opposed to what it is in reality.

In one case, a politician for a town’s local government was getting skewered pretty good on one of the small paper’s message boards. This is par for the course, but there was one user who never failed to comment and was pretty derogatory... all of which is fine, she’s a public official and it kind of goes with the job description for a political career. However, the user decided to go after her 15 year old son in a fairly vulgar way.

The politician sued to have this user’s true identity released (presumably to go after charges or at least file an order of protection). I can’t say I blame her. It’s not a large town and the user was taking things a little too personally not to live there... which means he was some anon. web person who was scaring a 15 year old boy and probably lived within a few miles of the boy’s home. The politician won the motion to have his name released, but the anon. internet person is appealing.

There was a huge hubbub over this that she didn’t have the right to get his real name. That it infringes on the internet user’s right to privacy. But to me, hiding behind a screen name doesn’t give you the right to say anything you like. Certainly not to a child, and it was clear that the anon commenter knew he was speaking to a 15 year old. To me, that’s like saying if you wear a ski mask while you rob a bank, no one has a right to find out who you are. Just because you wanted to do something anonymously, doesn’t mean you have the right to do it.

Another case just made the news yesterday. A teenage boy got suspended from high school because he made a fanpage on facebook calling one of his female teachers a ‘lewd’ name. The whole fanpage was set up to call this teacher a name so bad that the news wouldn’t even print it. Okay, color him stupid... along with the thirty-something other kids who signed up as fans.

So why was this news? Because the mother is suing the school district stating that they didn’t have the right to suspend this kid because of something he did outside of school. Excuse me while I bounce my head off the desk.

So, instead of taking this situation and letting the kid, I don’t know, learn something maybe. His mother is basically showing him that he can do anything he wants and there shouldn’t be any consequences. So, if he does something equally stupid and disrespectful to say a future boss, then the boss would be WRONG to fire him.

I’m not a proponent of suing, but I almost wish the teacher would sue the kid and his family. I mean, how the hell is she supposed to teach these kids, if they’re all laughing at her and treating her without respect? And then you’ve got this idiot mother telling them that it’s ‘their right’... Oy. Worse than that though, if she keeps coddling this kid and telling him he’s not doing anything wrong – what happens to the kid when he’s 35 and he gets fired for pissing off the boss? What happens when his parents are gone and no one else is around to take his consequences?

There seems to be some consensus of people who think that freedom of speech means that you’re allowed to say whatever you like and no one is allowed to punish you for it. Nice theory, I suppose... except nothing in this world comes without consequence. The right to state your beliefs is an absolute, but the backbone and courage to do so has to be powered by the speaker. The state can’t give that to you and neither can the government, and there are consequences. It might be as insignificant as turning some people off who might have otherwise been friendly to you – it might be as large as losing your job or creating very real enemies. If you want to shout something from the rooftops, go right ahead. But the responsibility for dealing with the fallout that might be thrust on your life is all yours, my friend. So pick your battles wisely. And if you’re going to whine about the unfairness of the consequences, maybe you didn’t earn the right to speak in the first place.

How about you guys? What do you think the parameters are on freedom of speech? What is your take on the anonymous commenting and is it a right to stay anon no matter what you say?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Literary Announcements for Writers and Such...

A few announcements for those of you who are writers and book lovers - so, basically anyone who reads this blog:

Chuck Sambuchino is currently hosting the Dear Lucky Agent Contest on his awesome Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s Blog. I’m not just calling it awesome because he might be reading this... no, really, it has nothing to with sucking up, though *cough, cough*, couldn’t hurt.

I’m guessing most of my writer friends already have him bookmarked, anyway. But there’s always great information over there so, if you haven’t checked it out, you really should.

This contest is specifically for middle grade and YA authors who have a finished manuscript. There will be more contests, for other genres, so if your work doesn’t fit into this one, keep him bookmarked for future reference. The contest is open until Sunday, February 21st, so get your hustle on and go enter. The Koala will be pleased.

My Second Announcement:

Linda Weaver Clarke dropped me a line to let me know she’s having another book giveaway in honor of St. Paddy’s Day. And really, is there anything better than free booksies? (Okay, fine, books made of chocolate that you can devour both figuratively and literally, but still). Here’s the announcement:

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, a review of the final book in the Family Saga series, "Elena, Woman of Courage: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho" is being reviewed at Suko’s Notebook. Drop by and enter the contest, which ends March 7th, just in time for St. Patrick's Day (March 17th). Remember the luck of the Irish! Perhaps your luck will double if you find a four leaf clover. Good luck, everyone!

Sometimes Facebook is Better Than Fiction...

Funny Facebook Fails
see more funny facebook stuff!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Back To Basics

There are many things about parenthood that are difficult. Some will put you out of your element. Some will just test your faith. You want to hear an odd little secret? One of the hardest things for me was teaching my kids reading and writing. I know, right? Are you confused and perplexed and wondering what my flippin’ problem is? I was pretty astounded myself. I figured English would be a gimme – they had such an edge on that one with a writer for a mother.

The problem was fairly simple – I had to go back through steps that I didn’t remember anymore. I didn’t remember learning the basics and the fact that I write all the time didn’t help, if anything I think it actually hindered the process. It was frustrating trying to explain something that I took so much for granted.

I love language. I love etymology and the way way words fit together. But I didn’t fully realize how much of this I know by rote – the weird spelling rules, placing commas, sentence construction. Oy. I hit a few points where I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and say, “Just memorize that bit, there’s no reasoning here, English is just a hodgepodge of contradictions!” Which is probably true in some cases, but it’s also one of the reasons I like it.

Explaining it to a kid who has no reference wasn’t easy... my oldest got the worst of my teaching skills here. Fortunately, she’s also naturally good with English and language, so she managed just fine with my convoluted attempts to explain the ‘why’s’. By the time my youngest started school, I had a pretty good system down. It’s become much easier for me to help him write in complete sentences and learn spelling and all of that, but I had to go back to the basics first.

I took an article writing course this past fall to brush up my skills and help me get my footing. I’m working on expanding my freelance writing into different markets and, while I like the business-to-business and ghost writing I’ve done over the last few years, I really want to start cracking into other paying venues, preferably with my byline. Great course, by the way, if anyone’s interested in expanding their writer’s toolbox, I highly recommend classes with Christina Katz.

When I started, the main objective for me was to get tips on querying for regional markets, and to brush up on the business end of that market. I didn’t realize I was so rusty on the actual article writing process, and I was more than a little annoyed with myself. I’d spent so much of my writing time devoted to long fiction that I’d forgotten how to structure an article well and even found I was making mistakes that, once they were caught, made me literally slap my forehead. So I had to go back to the basics again.

I’ve got my Strunk and White and Chicago Manual of Style on my desk now – they were gathering dust on a shelf. I’m trying to just peruse here and there and brush up, because it never hurts to get a refresher. So how about you guys? Anything you found yourself having to brush up on? Do you specialize in a certain area of writing and, if you do, do you find it difficult to switch gears (say from fiction to non-fiction, or long fiction to short)? And once you get to a fairly advanced level in your craft, do you find it hard to explain the basics to people?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

They Cracked The Code

My daughter’s Language Arts Class has been discussing commercials: what the main point of any commercial is (for to sell you stuff you may or may not need) and how they use the power of persuasion to achieve their purpose. Personally, I’m pretty impressed with the lesson plan. I know some adults who haven’t quite gotten this concept, let alone the 12 year olds in my daughter’s class.

The culmination of this lesson is that each student has to develop their own product, write a short essay about the purpose of the product and who might use it, develop a storyboard for a commercial selling their product, and then execute their commercial. I sooooo wish I had such a cool teacher when I was in sixth grade. Our projects involved poster board and glitter glue and culminated in us fidgeting in front of our classmates.

My daughter brainstormed a number of ideas to start with – my favorite one was Rent A Brother. Her commercial idea centered on having her youngest brother bat puppy dog eyes at the camera, therefore enticing your parents into more allowance, less punishment, and possibly a puppy. (A born salesman to even attempt to con people into this, as the same brother hasn’t reaped her near as good of results and has probably gotten her into more trouble than she’s apt to get into on her own). Her teacher, however, ix-nayed this idea, as I guess renting people should be frowned on even if it is just make believe – and, he didn’t want them to treat it as make believe. He wanted them to come up with a real idea for a real product.

Her second favorite idea was an energy drink. She came up with a name, logo, and intricate storyboard. When she came up with her commercial concept, she cast her younger brothers as the stars. Unfortunately, she forgot to tell them that. She also forgot to tell them that she’d scheduled their rehearsal for most of Saturday and filming would take them away from TV, games, and whatever else they might’ve wanted to do.

This, of course, led to a rather large argument – which I tried valiantly to stay out of. You know lots of wheedling back and forth, righteous indignation, that sort of thing.

Daughter: Come on. I’ll help you with any homework you want. When you have to do this project, I’ll even play a song for it.

Oldest Son: I won’t even be in 6th grade for two years. Your teacher might be dead by then.

Daughter: He’s not that old, he’s not even as old as mom. (I still haven’t figured out why this is the line in the sand on old age, but there ya go).

Oldest Son: Still, that’s two years... what else you got?

Daughter: (voice rising in an obvious indication that the dramatics are about to begin) What do you want?!!!

Oldest Son: Fifty bucks.

Daughter: FIFTY?!!! Okay, fine. Fifty bucks.

Oldest Son: You don’t have fifty bucks. You have four dollars and a bunch of change. (Leans back on the couch with his arms under his head and a very smug, I-just-tricked-you look on his face)

Daughter: (blink, blink, blink... shuts and opens mouth getting good and frothy mad)

Me: She’s not giving you fifty dollars. How about if you do it out of the kindness of your heart and consideration for your sister who loves you and needs some help?

Daughter: (crosses her arms and grins triumphantly)

Oldest Son: (looks at youngest brother who’s been watching the argument with interest). That’s mom code for we have to.

Monday, February 01, 2010

January Progress - Koala Challenge

I talked a bit about the Koala Challenge a few posts ago. You can click on my lovely, little Koala Badge in the sidebar and it will take you to McKoala's blog to check things out from the marsupial's headquarters.

I found out about and decided to do the challenge on January 18th, and as you can tell by my badge, I only got four points :-( I'm not completely ecstatic with that, but it gives me a good kick in the pants to try to climb that Koala ladder this month.

I'll keep my badge for the previous month in the sidebar, and change the status on the last day of each month (provided my status actually changes). I've also included the links for other participants. My linking has more to do with a handy-dandy way for me to find the blogs I'd like to visit... but feel free to visit them, too, cuz, ya know, they're cool.

How about you? Did you do the Koala Challenge and, if you didn't, how is your writing progressing?