Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Let Me Check My Schedule...

So it is time for desperate measures.

My writing has floundered far too long. I figure HERE with two weeks until our next insecure writer's group meeting...

Hi. I'm Hart.
Hi Hart.
And I am floundering.

*fish slap*

I am going to try a desperate tactic. I've fallen into a series of bad habits... some shows I like, some YouTube channels I follow, so discussion groups I participate in which fall into the “Squee fan girl” category rather than the writer one... I am reading a ton and that is good, but I am NOT exercising the discipline I need otherwise.


WRITE (or edit) 6:30-7:30 (I can shift by half an hour but that is all the flexibility there is)
PLOT: In the bathtub for half an hour before I switch over to reading (this can be edit plotting or original plotting, but a half hour devoted to plot)

I will DO this thing!!!

In Other News

The Boy Project

I think starting in August I am going to begin a “lasts” feature... My son—my baby, otherwise known as Thing 2—and I started our steps for college application this weekend—sent his ACT scores, put deadlines on a spread sheet, signed up for which is how his school submits transcripts... And I realized this is my last year with him really at home. I mean he may come back, but I know him. He is not my kid who will live at home as an adult. (I can see my daughter living with me if her dad weren't there, and she is still finding footing, so mostly lives with us anyway). But my baby will be leaving in just over a year.

But in perfect timing mode I saw a recommendation about documenting “lasts”. So I am going to. It won't probably be weekly, but I think I will be glad later I've done it.

Love This Blog!

And there is something I've been bad about. I share stuff on Facebook, but why NOT share with all of you when I see stuff I really love (which I do all the time), so I am just going to make a point on Fridays or Saturdays of sharing the week's gems, craft, philosophy, humor... possibly occasional politics, but I will try to limit that to the truly “make you think” stuff.

Part of all of this is trying to rejuvenate myself a bit. I used to love blogging because... honestly, I used to be interesting. I'm not sure what the heck has happened. Maybe a person just only gets so much of that. But I feel like most of the last three years I've just complained or tried to get back on track. So I am trying to settle back in and find what works again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It's About Time!

So HWMNBMOTI and I watched Gone Girl on Saturday night and it got me thinking about something that I actually think about a lot when I read, and think I want to think about MORE when I write.

You guessed it. Time.

Now the thing about time is people seem to have really strong opinions about how time plays out in books. Some people really want time to flow in one direction. Other people (like me) love a story that does some wonky backward/forward stuff, provided it is done well.

James Michener

The first book I remember really noticing this done elegantly is The Source. This was the first of Michener's location novels where he goes through time in one place to give us a sense of history. The clever thing I loved though, was that it traveled backward (archeologists digging down) and forward (from the first civilization built at the water source).

Tom Robbins

Tom does some of the bendiest stuff with time I've ever seen. He slows it and speeds it and makes it a character and it's fantastic, but his novels are all on a sort of surreal plane—the reader knows he's playing. It is just our job to enjoy the trip.


I've seen some mysteries jump between the solving and the happening of the crime—I can like that a lot, done well. Harry Dolan's latest, The Last Dead Girl, does a bit of this and I love it.

Done Wrong

I've seen a lot of books with flashbacks or “finding papers or a journal” that manage to pull up the old story, but I find them clunky a lot of the time. Not always... if done as a mystery I can get along with it—learning with the MC. But I've seen it done badly enough to know to BE CAREFUL!

But What is RIGHT?

This is the trick, right? I know I've seen it done well and done poorly, so how do I make sure I fall on the right side of this?

The reason I'm asking as, after watching Gone Girl, it occurred to me that Medium Wrong, which so centrally heads toward Amanda's mother's story, MIGHT best be told in a bit of parallel... I think... But I want to make sure I am not clunky and awkward about it.

So do you like stories that mess with time?
Not counting specific time travel, what are your favorites?
Any words of wisdom as I think about doing this?

ALSO, if you are near Ann Arbor and write mysteries, Aunt Agatha's is hosting a writer in residence day at the Ann Arbor Bookfest for a few lucky authors to get one on one feedback.  Check here for details.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mesothelioma and Heather's Story

So I am helping a cancer survivor with an awareness campaign today. She is approaching her 10 year survival marker (YAY!!!) and is celebrating by trying to spread the word about the cancer and its treatment by sharing her story. Since two of my grandparents lost cancer battles, I felt it was a good cause to help spread the word for.

For starters, you probably are wondering what the heck Mesothelioma IS. I know I didn't know until Heather approached me about helping her out.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of cells lining the body's internal organs, known as the mesothelium. Pleural (or lung) is the most common sort (about 70%) but if can also be in the abdomen (peritonial) or heart (pericardial).

Asbestos exposure increases risk and treatment runs the same gamut as most cancers: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. If you want to know more about the cancer broadly, this website is helpful.

Most cancers have pretty good survival rate for stage two or lower—even stage three, depending on the cancer, but this one, unless caught in stage one, is typically less than a two year survival prognosis, though cases are different. [For reference, stage one is small and localized, stage 2 is larger and starting to spread, stage three means it has spread to another organ or system and stage four is fully systemic.]

In 2005 Heather Von St. James was given just 15 months for her own diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma—she'd given birth to her daughter just three months earlier and she found the odds unacceptable... but you should probably hear her story from her... Heather's Video.

Take a few minutes to give it a watch and share the story. People with early asbestos exposure should be particularly vigilant.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lessons from Journalism in the Age of Twitter (Tumblr, Whatever)

So most of you probably have heard about the John Green events last week, but in case you haven't, in a nutshell, this is what happened:

A young woman on Tumblr Posted:

I bet John Green thinks people don't like him because he's a dork or a nerd or whatever, when in reality it's because he's a creep who panders to teenage girls so that he can amass some weird cult-like following. And it's always girls who feel misunderstood, you know, and he goes out of his way to make them feel important and desirable. Which is fucking weird. Also he has a social media presence that is equivalent to that dad of a kid in your friend group who always volunteers to 'supervise' the pool parties and scoots his lawn chair close to all the girls.

Hard to find the guy not smiling. Honestly, he looks nice to me
And then a bunch of internet instigators kept tagging John Green demanding he defend himself (not to mention several very famous authors defending him). Finally he'd had enough, and he DID respond with this:

His entire response, btw, which included a note that he didn't want anyone sending hate to the OP:

"You want me to defend myself against the implication that I sexually abuse children?
Okay. I do not sexually abuse children.
Throwing that kind of accusation around is sick and libelous and most importantly damages the discourse around the actual sexual abuse of children. When you use accusations of pedophilia as a way of insulting people whose work you don’t like, you trivialize abuse.
I’m tired of seeing the language of social justice–important language doing important work–misused as a way to dehumanize others and treat them hatefully.
So we all seek (and seek to share) the jolt that accompanies outrage and anger. As studies have shown, the complicated dopamine rush that comes with righteous indignation is very powerful, and I’m indulging it simply by responding to the outrageous accusation that my work is somehow evidence of sexual abuse.
But the outrage cycle is exhausting, and while there are wonderful examples of outrage fueling long-term, productive responses to injustice–We Need Diverse Books and the UPLIFT both come to mind–too often the Internet moves from jolt to jolt, from hatred to hatred, ever more convinced of our own righteousness and the world’s evil. And getting caught up in that is very painful.
I realize that will seem privileged to many of you (and it is), or like an excuse (maybe it’s that too), or lacking in empathy (maybe so), and I’m sure there is plenty here to deconstruct and reveal my various shortcomings (which are legion).
But this stops being a productive place for me to be in conversations if I’m not allowed to be wrong, if my apologies are not acknowledged alongside my misdeeds, and if I’m not treated like a person.
I think at this point it’s impossible to continue to use tumblr in the way I’ve used it since 2011. My life is different (in ways that are both good and bad); this community is different (in ways that are both good and bad); the world is different (in ways that are both good and bad).
So if this blog begins to look more one-way, with more original content and less reblogging/commenting/answering asks/etc., that’s why.
I want to emphasize that I am ridiculously lucky to work on stuff I love, from Crash Course to The Art Assignment to writing books. And I trust that many nerdfighter communities–whether vlogbrothers or Dear Hank and John or the Wimbly Womblys or the kiva group–will continue to be open and collaborative and constructive. Also, I’m not angry or anything like that. I just need some distance for my well-being.
Thanks for reading. DFTBA.

EDIT: To be clear, sending hate to people who say this stuff is counter-productive and only continues the outrage cycle, so please don’t abuse anyone. Thanks."

And then he started getting a bad time about being insensitive to the poor girl and yelled at not to victimize her again...

Erm yeah...

So here is my assessment of all that (because I'm wise and all that):

A young woman perceives what she perceives and has a right to that. But there are things you say about people that fall into hurtful territory at least and slanderous at worst. So the girl DID deserve to have the effect of her words explained.

But see John is a video guy... he is used to his four minute platform, a chance to build up his audience and educate us. I think that training failed poor John here. See, his response WAS thoughtful and educational. By the third paragraph. He GOT to the kind lesson. But he was offended first and in the age of the tweet, THAT was what people responded to.

So here are some things that could have saved the pain:

REMEMBER we are in a 140 Character Age! That doesn't mean he couldn't post his whole response, but it makes the order critical. In fact ideally he gets in a full summary in the first sentence and THEN expands:

“I'm sorry your experiences make you feel people who care about young adults are creepy, but your hurtful words suggest something untrue.” (135 characters—took a little work)

There is only the room there is...
REMEMBER the Journalism Rules!

One of my first degrees is journalism and unlike ALL other forms of writing, journalism rules require you to start with the MOST important details and trickle from there. The reason was that made the guy formatting the paper's job easier—if he needed an extra inch, he could just chop the last inch of any article. But the reason it applies HERE is we've all developed such short attention spans. You never KNOW when a person is going to quit reading, but you better bet it is before the end. Front load the main message.

REMEMBER the Image You Want to Present!

Do you want to be the guy on the defensive? Or do you want to be the patient teacher? Are you the ranting loon or the author who rose above it all? A statement of compassion right up front buys a lot of good will.

So there you go. Now you're smarter. Or something... Anybody else have advice to add or cases where a fiasco might have been saved with a bit more thought?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

When We Mirror Our Characters: An Insecure Post

Welcome friends to first Wednesday and the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

So I failed my WriMo in June. There's that... but on a more positive note, I started a serious edit of Also Appearing... where Leah Clarence feels like an extra in her own life. She has friends and family but always feels like she is in the background—like life is happening around her.

And then she falls in love... not real love necessarily, but that first teenage wallflower infatuation approximation of love... And he likes her back. And she feels special. And real. And like she is finally in a starring role in her life. And then suddenly it's over, but for just that brief moment she felt ALIVE. Living her life, not it living her... and she becomes desperate to get that feeling back without having any clue where it came from in the first place.

That is me.

I had a hole and my life went on around me. And then I got to writing and fell in love and dived in and was intoxicated with the magic of it. And at the moment I feel like I've been doing drugs and sleeping with strangers to try to get back something I must never have understood in the first place... Well not literally... But the Everly Brothers keep singing You've Lost that Loving Feeling...

So I am hoping this editing process, where Leah finally learns to live life on her terms, will help me with the process of getting my writing life back on my terms.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

If you are feeling kind, you should go check out the OTHER writers in the Insecure Writer Support Group.

And I totally forgot I was sharing VR Barkowski's arc winner today!  Lee Jackson from Tossing it Out--VR will be in touch!